Archive for April, 2014


This needs to change. Why is it so difficult?

Just attended an active-shooter-response “training” session, required, at the college where I teach. It’s so depressing, and traumatizing, that we even have to talk about this stuff. Our K-12 schools have to have THREE lockdown drills a year. This must be fun for the children.

It’s so awful that we spend all this time and energy teaching our children, and ourselves, what to do if such a terrible thing happens; it’s even more awful that it’s more time and energy than we seem to spend trying to prevent it from happening. (And by this I don’t mean installing locks on the outside doors and having everyone go into the school through the office. I’m talking about our insistence that everyone has a right to buy a semi-automatic weapon and keep it, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, in their homes.)

The argument that if you don’t like guns don’t buy one, (this argument has actually been made to me personally by someone I’ve known since childhood), is ludicrous. I doubt the children at Sandy Hook, or Newtown, or in movie theaters or fast-food restaurants, were only affected by guns if they owned one.

Why is it, given that more people think we shouldn’t have such easy access to weaponry than think we should maintain the status quo, that we can’t change this?

A woman at my table asked whether the presenters, both law-enforcement personnel, had any statistics regarding the frequency of this in other countries. The answer was that other countries have these problems, too, in the forms of bombings and chemical attacks; that they build their schools like bunkers; that we live in a more open society and that this is the price we pay. I wanted to shout “bullshit,” but I didn’t want to make a scene.

This article points out that there are countries where fewer guns are owned but more people are killed — principally in South America and South Africa. I would have to point out the obvious – that these are relatively politically and societally unstable countries, and that we should hardly be feeling good about a favorable comparison to Johannesburg.

This article states that Americans are 20 times more likely to die from gun violence than their European counterparts, including the claim that “. . .the United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents. ‘The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a firearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,’ the report says. ‘For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the firearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”

We as Americans think of ourselves as people for whom our children’s safety is one of our most important jobs. Something must be done. And we must stop just saying that, and doing it.

Anybody with any ideas how?

She thinks so, too.


Girls Who Read


A good example of when “You Might Like” might not be an appropriate term for referral



Beware of Images


Send them money on kickstarter here.


never mind about the fact that ~65% of her crotch is missing

Look at her arm!


I know you’ve all probably seen this already. But I have to say, after another round of weird and ridiculous negative self-image crises from Only Daughter (5′, 87 lbs, fit as a fiddle), I really have to wonder what all of this image-manipulation is really doing to us.

And is there actually someone out there THIS bad at photoshop who has an actual JOB for an actual company the size of TARGET; someone who can’t actually see how bad this is? It has to be some kind of a joke. Has anyone seen it in an actual ad?




empathy vs. sympathy; there really is a difference


the email I can’t send, to the student who really needs to read it

Dear ________,

Hello. It’s been a semester since I’ve seen you. I hope you’re well.

I’m writing because I’ve heard through the grapevine that you thought I was a “tough, hard, (maybe even) mean” teacher, and I’m realizing that I did you a disservice by not making my intentions and frustrations clearer last semester. I thought that I should try to make amends for this, so here I am.

Yes, I’m “tough” — I’ve worked really hard to get where I am, and don’t actually believe that a person can “make it” as a professional musician if they’re not talented, disciplined, and willing to work. I guess you could also say that I’m a “tough” teacher because I believe that a great deal of my responsibility is to motivate my students to be disciplined and hard working.

But maybe that’s my first mistake, because, really, if a student isn’t willing to motivate themselves, they should probably be doing something else.

And yes, you’re right, maybe, by the end of the semester, I was a little “mean” to you. And I probably should have explained to you why, although I kind of thought that you would have been able to figure this out for yourself.

You’ll probably recall that at the beginning of the semester I was warm, encouraging, supportive. I was even fairly understanding when you came for your first few lessons and told me about how tough your week was, and how hard it is for you to really figure out what exactly you should be doing in your practice time, and how difficult it is for you to keep your focus. But as this became a regular occurrence — you, not having done really any work at all, but always having your long list of excuses, probably noticed that I became less encouraging and supportive, and more frustrated and perhaps, alas, a bit impatient.

I do regret that you were not prepared for your final, although hopefully you also realize that this was only because you continually neglected to meet with the head of the area and determine what exactly your final requirements were going to be as I had requested.

I also apologize for the fact that I may have actually snorted when you confessed that you wanted to switch into the piano classes because then you wouldn’t “need” to practice. That was very unprofessional of me.

I also noticed that in my student evaluation reports last semester I had positive responses from all students but one. Of course I have no way of knowing if the negative feedback came from you, but everyone else who studied with me last semester is still studying with me, and all seem quite content with my instruction and expectations. It would disappoint me greatly, and remove this circumstance from being a learning opportunity for you altogether, if you saw your failure to progress as only my responsibility.

‘Cuz here’s the thing:

I think it’s really really important for adults to be able to recognize, and take responsibility, for their own failures, rather than to pass them on as someone else’s “fault.” I don’t actually take any offense at all for being known as a “tough” or even a “hard” teacher. I actually kind of sort of always do that on purpose. Because life is hard. Being a musician is hard. Trying to make a living as a musician is really hard. You’re a college student, not a fourth grader. It is time, if not past time, for you to find it within yourself to get motivated, get disciplined, get focused, and if someone who is actually doing this for a living tells you that what they’re asking you to do is important, you should probably believe them.

And you should probably spend at least as much time trying to do something as you do making your list of excuses for why you failed. You might find that increasing the one removes the need for the other.

It might be worth a try.


(Realize as I click on some links at the bottom of this post that I wrote about this before, even more rantingly here. Three years ago even. Some things never change.)


The Ideal Woman

from The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton:

The ideal woman, in his mind, was one devoted to the project of her own enhancement, who was accomplished in the female arts of embroidery, piano-playing, pressing leaves, and the like; who sang sweetly, read quietly, and demurred to all opinion; who was a charming and priceless collectible; who loved, above all things, to be loved.”


Well at least there’s the piano-playing.


Reader Appreciation Award

Share This

Share |

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 177 other followers

Follow me on Twitter: sheriji1

Blog Stats

  • 114,561 hits