Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

So today was/is Black Friday.  I actually used to go out shoppng on this day after Thanksgiving, but more recently, if I do go out, I tend to not go to the big box retailers.  The crowds have just gotten too much.

Personally, although I love a bargain as much as anyone, I dion't intend to camp out for a cheap electroic device or some other deeply discounted piece of merchandise.  And as far as getting myself to a store at 5 a.m or so, well, I just don't see THAT happening, either!  Now people are getting to stores Thanksgiving evening - go figure.  I wonder about the workers who don't have much of a choice but to show up, no matter what the holiday means to them or their families.  The stores, say, of course, they're just giving the customers what they want.

And that's the problem.  Are we so jaded that it's "worth it" to leave family time behind, brave crowds, possibly edure scuffles (although I think this year hasn't been as bad as some prevous years), worry about potetial robberies in the parking lots?

Speaking for myself, I don't think so.  And I would hope that more and more people would also see the way to get a more healthy balance back into the shopping season, and say 'no' to the overencroaching materialism that seems to be around us.  Bargain hunt, but set some limits.  If WE don't support the expansion of Black Friday, the herd mentality of camping out and all, hopefully we can get to a more sane season. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Birthday to John Adams

Let's take a moment from all Sandy all the time and wish a "Happy Birthday" to our Second President (Number 277!). 

My, how the years have flown by!  My, how the nation has grown!  Are you still keeping an eye on us, John Adams?  We surely need someone to do that.  If it is at all possible, any wisdom you could cosmically impart to us would be appreciated.

Be sure on this birthday to also celebrate a little and know you're not forgotten.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Billy Elliott and Escape

I recently had the occasion to view the film Billy Elliott. It was a wonderful film, very memorable and affecting.

Of course the rags-to-riches, escape from opressive circumstances, or break through to one's ultimate potential is pretty familiar territory.  I immediately thought of Flashdance (maybe not quite as deep as Billy Elliott, but the heroine does want to better herself through ballet!).  Other films in this genre would be Working Girl and Slumdog Millionaire (which I haven't seen).  Still others have been taken from real life stories: The Blind Side, The Pursuit of Happyness, October Sky. I've listed here films, but of course there are many other examples in literature and in real life.

It was suggested somewhere in my searching out some things about rags to riches stories and myths that the classic hero makes good with work and maybe some luck has gone somewhat out of favor. I still think this is a pretty persistent mythological story line.  The American Dream is of course to get ahead through education and effort.  Also, think of all the young folks who dream of making it in the NFL, NBA or as a music star (whatever genre).  I  think it's still very much around.

The trouble is: it's often more myth than reality.  Studies have found that America is not as upwardly mobile as many of us might think.  Sociologist Fabian Pfeffer found that parental wealth is an important factor in the socioeconomic mobility of children.  A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that children whose parents were in the bottom fifth in income tended to remain below the middle income level as adults.  You can read a bit more about this here.

Does this mean the myth has no value?  Is is just something that's a social control?  I'm not so sure.  I think that these stories can be inspiring.  The real life stories do show that such successes are possible.  But we must make sure that we always put the 'myth' in context.  Students need to know that the odds are against making it big in sports or music.  Even rising to a high position in business or academics is a long shot.  That doesn't mean that students - and the rest of us - shouldn't put forth best efforts.  It means that we need to be aware of other factors (such as the social constructs of our field). try to work around those, and of course have a Plan B. It also makes sense that we should put in place things that might help youth to achieve success.  Mentoring programs, career guidance ( for example, how many would-be sports or music stars would cosider a career in say, science, or a more behind the scenes job such as athletic training or music production), and of course, educational suppport could be important building blocks for a solid future.

Another thing we must be aware of is the dynamic between making a living and doing what one truly loves.  Billy is fortunate to be able to do what he loves at the highest level. Many will not be quite so fortunate.  Each individual must find this balance for him or her self, but we must as a society and a community dialog about this dynamic and strategize ways to work through it.

And oh, yes, I love happy endings!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I recently wrote the Sec. of  Education about getting a system of free colleges.  That was my Mother's dream for her students.  Her college (Glassboro State Normal School) was free then (1928 - 1930); otherwise her family probably couldn't have afforded tuition.

Today, I finally got to my mailbox after a few days absence and found there was a reply.  Not from the Sec. (oh, well), but from a director in their Federal Student Aid "division".  Although I will give props that this director at least had read my letter and knew the gist of it, I was still dismayed by the answer.  The director basically said this would take an act of Congress.

Well, d'oh?  Call me a bit naive, but shouldn't the Department of Ed be advocating for STUDENTS?  Has there been any thought to proposing or even advocating for such legislation?

So I thought one option for me to do would be to start a petition at

Someone started one already!  So far only two signers.  I KNOW we can get more!

For what it may be worth, please visit and sign the petition:

Of course thank you in advdance!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Whoops, NBC (Updated by a Memory)

What were you thinking, NBC?

What indeed were you thinking when you made that promo for your upcoming show, "Animal Practice?" 

When I noticed the image at the end - I couldn't believe my eyes.  The next time I saw it I still could barely believe what I was seeing. After seeing again, though, I was just dumbfounded and dismayed at that final image.  WHY would you have that dark face with the conspicuous white teeth - whether it's chimp or human (it seems to be a graphic image, not live) - above the sign with the show's title.

It immediately called to mind racist mages of African-Americans from years past.  It did not give me a good feeling.

Folks, it's 2012.  We need to respect each other, not be insensitive.  Which is what that final image is, intentional of not.  NBC, I hope you change the promo for this show; it definitely needs a remake.


Years later now, when I wanted to highlight this as a related post in a newer post, I remembered what happened about the use of the said monkey (chimp, whatever...) which promoted an NBC show... During that Olympics, right after a gold medal performance by Gabrielle Douglas and a commentary by Bob Costas saluting her, the chimp, monkey  ---- whatever-- appeared next in a promo.  Well, there was an outcry about that as I remember.  And rightly so.  I think NBC tried to be a bit more careful after that, at least in some things.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Headlines to Pray for

Here are some headlines I'm praying for:

  • World Peace Declared; Drones sold for scrap metal
  • U.S. Poverty abolished; on to another country
  • Domestic Violence Eradicated;More resources free to deal with other crimes
  • Cancer Cure at Hand; life expectancy should rise
  • Dr. King's Dream Realized; tolerance of diversity is here
  • Civil Liberties Restored; snoopng gone, dissent respected
  • Math Scores Rise; students love Algebra
Being a Math professor, you know I HAD to put in that last one!

What do you think?  What headlines are you praying for?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poverty Again

Maybe Mitt Romney's remark about the poor will have some good reults. If it keeps the issue before the public (which we know has a limited attention span), it might help keep the discussion and action going.

However, George Clooney in his recent "Inside the Actor's Studio" appearnce said something I found to be a bit daunting. CLooney has been active in keeping the public aware of problems in Darfur and Haiti and trying to help the people affected. He said that shining a light on the problem doesn't make it go away. That really gives us quite a challenge. Shining a light, spreading the word on issues such a proverty or the situations in Darfut or Haiti is necessary, of course, but it just can't stop there. We, the people, the decision makers, and leaders, too, must act in order to solve these problems. So we must do something to help alleviate suffering, help those struggling, and generate better policies to create better situations in the future. I know it's tough; we all work so much, have families and other responsibilities. But I hope that we can do something. Collectively, even small actions can help. Now if I can get it together and do something... It's a challenge for me as well as for others (although I'm amazed at what some others do to help things). But I definitely should do something. I hope we all will.

Remember Civility and Civil Rights

Many recent reports make me wonder what we've descended to. A fellow was arrested because they THOUGHT he had protested against Romney in NH. Read about it in his blog here. A Ron Paul supporter was treated roughly by Gingrich security; read here. And some Ron Paul supporters have harassed a professor online (story here) . Haven't heard stories about such things on the Democratic side recently, but if they are happening, they're also shameful.

First, while there is a need for security, we should not permit security to become abusive. That's NOT what America is supposed to be about. Second, we simply MUST start respecting the right to protest and dissent. If the United States is to truly stand for freedom we have got to make sure we honor the Freedoms of Speech and Assembly among others. Third, we NEED to agree to disagree and not be so disagreeable in the meantime. We are going to have differences of opinion and it is crucial that we maintain some basic civility and respect for each other as we make our way through challenging times. We have got to remember two things: one: we're all in this together and two: the golden rule - treat others as we wish to be treated. MAYBE if we remember those things we can make some real progress.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Price of Bread

Going to the grocery store shouldn't be a challenge, should it? I'll say right out that I must count my blessings as I have a good job and am not food insecure. If you're paying attention, the data on food insecurity is really enough to give one pause.

What is really is getting to me these days is the price of bread. Specifically, a good brand of multigrain or whole wheat bread. Many of them where I shop now have a regular price of more than $4.00 per loaf. To me this is totally unacceptable. A staple, a healthy staple at that, should not be priced so that it's geting out of reach.

There has been much talk about this in the media recently and one point that comes out is that if a family is using Food Stamps or a Supplemental Nutrition Program - it's hard to afford healthy food choices. With the cost of healthy bread so high, I well believe it.

In general, the data on poverty is just staggering. And if the cost of FOOD - something we all need - even BASIC food like bread - gets so high, it's going to just make it that much harder for people and families to tread water, let alone emerge from poverty. On top if this, many states want to reduce benefits or eligibility for their programs.

Can't we do better, folks? Can't we cut elsewhere? Can't we end the loopholes so everyone pays a fair share of taxes? Can't we create more jobs here? There certainly is enough work to be done. Let's start with customer service and tech support workers. We're all tired of automated systems so how about hiring more humans! And why can't our own folks be trained in tech support instead of shipping those jobs overseas?

Let's do better so we can all eat healthy and keep rising up.