What is ALS?

August 15, 2014 - Leave a Response

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a neuromuscular illness. ALS causes the death of motor neurons in the central nervous system. ALS is progressive, which means motor neurons do not die simultaneously, but one at a time or a small number of them at a time. The loss of mobility will also prevent adequate motion and exercise needed to maintain muscle mass, thus causing muscular atrophy. Most often, people are diagnosed after the age of 40. The average life expectancy for a person with ALS is between 2 and 5 years, however some individuals have lived less than 2 years. Others, like the graffiti artist Tempt, have lived for over 7 years, and in a rarer case, Stephen Hawking has lived with ALS for over 50 years. A large percentage of people with ALS die due to respiratory failure. ALS is always fatal.

Symptoms include difficulty swallowing and speaking. Muscles may ache or burn after routine exercise. Other signs are a limp or “dragging foot”, and a thick, deep voice, similar to cerebral palsy. ALS’s likeness to other neurological and neuromuscular illnesses makes it difficult to diagnose.

Yesterday, a local musician I’m acquainted with, posted a video of himself doing the ice bucket challenge for ALS. The purpose of the ice bucket I still don’t quite understand, but the videos that people do involve shout outs to friends/family they know to donate to ALS research. I appreciate the sudden outcry for effective treatments and a continuing search for a cure for this disease.

I have a feeling that such an outcry is late, because it takes a lot to understand what ALS is. Not just what it does physically, but what it does emotionally to those who have ALS, and what it does to their family members. There are many serious and terminal illnesses that people can go through in solitude. But when one person is diagnosed with ALS, their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, are all diagnosed with ALS too.

It takes away your energy, and it can make you feel like a burden to other people. You can’t do everything that you used to do anymore, so you have to rely on people to take care of you. And if your caregivers aren’t doing their best to look after you, you can’t always say what you need, how you need it and what is hurting you.

You cannot control your body, you can’t touch your body, and in order to get somewhere, someone has to carry you. Simple tasks like going to the bathroom without assistance, brushing your teeth and hair, even scratching an itch are now a challenge, and as the disease progresses, impossible.

If you want to spend time with your friends, you are either too tired or don’t feel like struggling to be part of the conversation. You have to stop driving because sometimes an officer might confuse your delayed speech for being intoxicated. Sometimes you may feel too embarrassed to go out in public, for fear of what people will think of you.

Sometimes, your friends or family get mad at you if you can’t write back to them or just don’t feel like it because you’re exhausted.

But most of all you are frustrated, because you can’t change it.

I once told someone I knew who had been recently diagnosed with ALS, that the human mind is very powerful. That maybe the reason why someone like Stephen Hawking has lived so long with ALS is because he lives a real life, not a prolonged one. That this does not define you, and you will always be who you are. ALS can take away many things, but it cannot take away your mind.

Since we have to live with ALS, we deserve to live well. We deserve love, patience, and empathy. We deserve to be treated like human beings. And most of all, we deserve a cure.

ALS is a horror story, and an emotional roller coaster right now. But the future of what ALS is, ought to be something different than that. It ought to be eradicated, history like smallpox. It ought to be cured.

I’m Angry.

August 13, 2014 - Leave a Response

Let me put it to you this way: I’m angry. I’m angry at a 63 year old man who had millions of dollars at his disposal to buy the best doctor in the world to treat his depression in the best way possible, and he threw it all away. I’m angry that I suffered from depression for 12 years, had a fraction of what Robin Williams had, and I took steps to improve my life and get whatever treatment was available to me. I’m angry that at age 7 I decided I wanted to die, and without the maturity or knowledge of an adult, I chose to live. Robin Williams had the same choice as me, and he chose to throw it all away.

I’m angry too because a woman who lives in the house behind mine verbally abuses her two year old son, simply because she doesn’t like it when he wants to play in the backyard. I’m angry because I have worked with refugees who have lived in filthy refugee camps after watching their family members killed in front of them, and have been forced to move halfway around the world. In spite of that hell, my students could find joy and peace of mind in something as simple as drawing and painting.

I’m angry because recently a man named Eric Garner was choked to death by NYPD officers, even after he said to them “I can’t breathe”. Where are the profile photos and long status updates for Eric Garner? Why is it, that Steve Jobs and Fred Shuttlesworth can die on the same day, but people still mourn Steve Jobs like it happened yesterday?

I’m angry that Americans mourn celebrity suicides and use the excuse “but he/she gave us so much!” I don’t like it when people hurt themselves, but I also don’t like it when a drive by happens at a local park in the inner city and someone’s child, brother, sister, friend, is killed. You know these people gave? Their blood, and we have forgotten them.

You can call it mean spirited, or lacking in empathy or sympathy, or even say that because I have suffered from depression that I should know better. Your opinion does not matter to me right now, not just because I’m angry but because these are things which need to be said. The truth sometimes sounds best coming from a high-riding bitch like me.

The Hunting Party – Strangest Reaction

July 27, 2014 - 4 Responses

As you may, or may not know, I’ve been a fan of Linkin Park for a long time. The only album of their’s that I do not like is Hybrid Theory. The more I listen to Hybrid Theory, the more I dislike it. Last month, they put out a new album titled The Hunting Party. This album officially became the first album that I hate. And I don’t like saying that, because I want to like it. I want to find something good about this album but just when I start to dig a song, it takes a really weird turn for the worst. I don’t think an album has ever weirded me out, and made me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sit still, until now.

Linkin Park’s 5th album, Living Things, was not their best, but I like it. I can see where it needs improvement, but that doesn’t hurt the overall quality. I actually can say that about all of their previous albums, even Hybrid Theory. I definitely can’t say that about The Hunting Party. And I didn’t make it pass Mark the Graves, after that one I stopped listening. I just couldn’t anymore. Now, my discomfort could be partially due to my hypersensitivity, because there are certain sounds at certain frequencies I can’t handle, and they give me the heeby-jeebies. But every single song I listened to had these weird sounds I couldn’t tolerate. Does anyone else feel this way?

It sounds like they were trying too hard to do something, and I’m not even sure what that something is. Is this a punk rock album? A heavy metal album? A rap/rock album? An attempt at sounding like the love child of Metallica and System of a Down? An… album?

“But A Thousand Suns was weird!” No, it wasn’t. A Thousand Suns was an album of epic proportions. It said something, it did something and it pushed the envelope. I am writing this not more than ten minutes after listening to most of The Hunting Party and I don’t even remember the lyrics. I don’t even understand the songs. I’m all for simple lyrics, after all, I grew up listening to Motown. Simplicity can be profoundly moving and even philosophical, but The Hunting Party never did that. The lyrics are so generic that they’re empty.

I’m all for bands switching up rolls. My favorite is 2NE1’s song Clap Your Hands (bakksu chyeo), in which Park Sandara raps. I don’t think any 2NE1 fan had ever heard her rap before that single came out. It was not only different, but it sounded great. She has a natural reggae voice, and since it’s a reggae song, it worked well. This is a great combination of a singer with plenty of self-confidence to try something new, and a great producer.

Why did Mike Shinoda try to sing like Chester? I think over the last 14 years it has been clearly established that Mike is not a rock singer, and resembles a dying cat if he screams. I don’t even remember what song this took place on… I only remember that it happened, and I think my brain is desperately trying to make it unhappen. Now all I can think of is Mike’s old blog entry about seeing The Happening, and leaving the movie theater because it was so bad. Well, I left the album.

I think my strange reaction is also due to a very old fanfiction I read many years ago about Mike Shinoda going totally insane and making this weird punk/industrial rock music, and The Hunting Party sounds like a real-life manifestation of this story. I think we’ve gone so deep into the insanity realm here, that we can’t get out. We’re screwed.

Neopets is NOT Kid Friendly Anymore

July 20, 2014 - 2 Responses

Disclaimer: I have chosen not to use sources for this blog entry, and refer to all incidents/stories described in the following blog entry as “rumors”, to protect those people involved and their right to their opinions about The Neopets Team, Neopets Virtual Worlds and Viacom.

When I joined the Neopets website, I was 13 years old. Back then, Neopets had a sidebar, no advertisements, the games room was only four categories with a Cybunny holding the “puzzles” sign, Faerieland was still in the sky and Lutari Island didn’t exist. The objective of Neopets was to take care of your Neopets, and you could have up to four of them. You could go with a Cybunny, which is really just a cute looking bunny, or take a more daring approach and create an Aisha, an alien cat with four ears. All you had to do was feed them, and they’d be fine. You could choose to groom them for contests, play with them to improve their happiness, and even paint them with a special paint brush to change their “color”. You literally could turn a an Aisha which was all yellow, into a RAINBOW Aisha. I mean, wouldn’t you just love it if you could do that to your fellow humans? Just adopt some black person and paint them with a “Caucasian” paint brush.

Okay, I don’t think The Neopets Team ever intended a racial undertone with the paint brush system. And every website has its problems. This is why Neopets has rules that if broken, result in a punishment. Back in the old days of Neopets, if you broke the rules they didn’t freeze your account like they do now. Instead, you just lost your neopoints, had your pets’ statistics set to zero and if I remember correctly, lost your trophies too. If you spent hours upon days upon months earning those things, and lost them, like most gamers you’d rage quit. It never happened to me, but at age 13, it was plenty of a deterrent from breaking the rules. Nowadays you just get your account frozen, and you have the option to appeal to get your account back. Some people deserve to have their accounts frozen. Some people however, have had their accounts frozen for unfair reasons. Allow me to share those stories with you.

A young boy, who we’ll call Tom, had a species of Neopet called a Tonu. He had painted his Tonu with a paint brush, and it had taken him a very long time to get that paint brush. So one day, he goes onto the website’s message board and starts talking to a group of boys. One of these boys sent Tom a food item, so Tom fed it to his Tonu. Then his Tonu turned into a standard yellow Tonu, and lost it’s painted color. When he asked this boy why they sent him an item that would do that, they all laughed at him, and reported his account. Tom’s account was frozen simply because it was reported multiple times.

Another story I heard recently is a grandmother who uses the site, had gotten extremely good at a very difficult game called Bouncy Supreme. I promise you, I am horrifyingly bad at this game. The objective is to “bounce” from one platform to the next to get yourself more time to continue bouncing. She was so good at this game that she scored over 100,000 points. The highest score for that game right is 69,000 and change. The Neopets Team investigated her score, and claimed she cheated because her score was just to good not to be a cheat. While playing this game she had accumulated so much time that when someone knocked on her front door, she could get up and answer it, come back to the game and finish playing. It’s possible they thought she was cheating because she had been idle in the game for a little while. Her account was frozen. She appealed to have it given back, and was unsuccessful.

If people are very good at games and earn neopoints quickly, their accounts may be frozen for cheating as well. If someone buys a lot of items with their neopoints in a short time span, they are accused of autobuying (using a computer bot to search for items and buy them for you) and they are frozen. Neopets has a clause in the Terms of Service that says they can freeze your account for any reason, which is why they get away with this. They don’t have to prove you did anything wrong, they just have to THINK you did something wrong. They also don’t put all of the website’s rules on the website, so when people inadvertently break those unlisted rules (which has happened to me twice) they are either sent warnings or frozen. Neopets gets away with this, because a clause in their Terms of Service says they aren’t responsible for how you interpret or understand their rules.

So why does Neopets do things like this? I don’t think it’s to be mean, I think it’s a combination of population control and marketing. Anyone who is extremely good at games, needs to spend less time working for it on the website, thus Neopets can’t make money off of them. And people who are inactive for a long time, or accidentally break an unwritten rule, are frozen to control the population. There are milions of people on Neopets. MILLIONS. Their dirtiest trick is they have a rule that if you post links to other websites, you can be frozen for it. This is not about protecting kids from malware/viruses or pornography. This is about keeping people on the site for as long as possible, so that they never leave. This is why earning neopoints is such a time consuming task.

The worst aspect of Neopets though, is the censors. Neopets is not a kids only site, it is all ages, which The Neopets Team actually has said. The filters disallow words like “basement” and “advertisement” because they happen to contain the word “semen”. The filter is strangely hypocritical, because the word “weeds” is not allowed in private messaging (neomail) but is allowed on a game a called Word Poker. In addition, the word “stupid” is banned but “idiot” is okay.

Certain subjects are also banned from the site. Religion and politics are slightly understandable, though plenty of kids can have healthy opinions of and discussions about those topics. But talking about sexual orientation is also banned. That’s only in recent years, and I’m going to guess it was put in place after the site was bought by Viacom. Here’s the thing, the owner of Viacom is big on Scientology, and any money that is spent on the “Neocash” feature of the site or a premium account, goes to, you guessed it, support Scientology. So if you spend money on the website, you are being forced to support a religious practice that is actually banned from being talked about on the Neopets site. Logic, where did it go? So now Neopets is just a cash cow for idiots who believe dinosaurs evolved and died out in less than 7,000 years.

Here is where Neopets becomes dangerous for kids: Kids are easily manipulated. Plenty of scammers exist all over the site who hack into these kids’ accounts, steal their neopoints and items, then sell those items on other websites. Some people put “cookie trackers” in their user created shops, which are places where people can purchase items for smaller amounts of neopoints. These trackers are used to hack email accounts and then hack into a Neopets account and steal items, neopoints and even pets.

The worst hacking story I’ve read about is a girl who’s email was hacked, followed by her Neopets account. Her account was frozen after being hacked. They say they freeze hacked accounts to protect the owner of that account. That may in fact be true. The thief proceeded to steal all of her neopoints and rare items. Even worse, that same thief tried to transfer her pet Draik, an extremely rare limited edition pet that is very difficult to get, to another account. This girl did get her Draik back. But her items and neopoints were not returned to her. The Neopets Team accused her of giving her password to the thief, and said that’s the only way a person’s account can be hacked. That’s like saying a woman deserved to be raped because she worse sexy clothing. Not that I go around hacking but no website is impenetrable, even the U.S. government computers can be hacked, though it would probably take over a decade to do it. But why would they return her stuff to her? Because then she wouldn’t have to come back and invest hours, days, months, years, in getting her stuff back.

I am debating leaving the website permanently. I don’t want to, but I’m not sure I like being there. It’s a website and it’s not important, but two of my pets are named after real life pets, combined with the time I’ve put into the website over the last 12 or 13 years. So we’ll see what happens.

No, you can’t leave your child alone in your car.

July 16, 2014 - Leave a Response

In the last two and a half weeks, several children in Connecticut under the age of twelve have been left alone in cars on hot days. Some of these children have been removed from these situations before suffering the serious, and deadly, effects of heat stroke. Other children, unfortunately, were not found in time and passed away.

There were numerous times when my mother would let me stay in the car while she was buying groceries. I was an atypical kid, so I had the common sense to get out of a car if it were too hot (and our car didn’t have child proof locks). I firmly believe in the intelligence of young children and their ability to make choices, and take appropriate actions. I also firmly believe in the science of the human brain. Children on average begin developing common sense at age ten. That does not mean the instant they turn ten years old, they magically acquire the common sense of an adult. No matter what we tell our children to do, no matter how much we teach our children, we have to operate under the belief that they do not know better, because they don’t. They are not the adults here, we are. And just because it was okay for me as an individual, that does not mean it is okay for the entire population of children throughout the United States, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

I recently had a heated debate with a group of people over this issue. Many of the people I was talking to believed children as young as eight years old can be left alone in cars. That if the car gets too hot, they can just get out of the car. If there are child proof locks, then they can climb into the front seat and exit the car that way. This suggests that it’s okay for people to take such a risk as leaving their child in a car alone. This also suggests that if a child didn’t try to get out of the car, they deserved to suffer heat stroke. It’s not that different from suggesting that a woman deserves to be raped if she wears a short skirt. Maybe some of these people thought if heat stroke starts to set in, these children’s bodies have ways of shutting that whole thing down.

There are other reasons why children should not be left alone in cars, but I’ll get to that later. First, I want to share a video report from USA Today on an incident of two small children being left alone in a hot car: Shoppers smash windows to rescue kids in hot car.

It can be argued that there were other ways to handle the situation. Such as looking for the parent and/or guardian rather than breaking into the car. I read a very long article a while back (I couldn’t find a source link) in which a mother left her son in a car alone while she ran into a store to get a couple of things. A man who was in the parking lot, saw her leave her son, called the police and video taped her son in the car. If it were me, I would have said something to her directly instead. If she was unwillingly to take her son with her, then I would call the police. Letting her make that mistake, led to a massive custody battle in which she almost lost her child. But if I see a child in a car gasping for air, I’m telling the nearest person to call 911, and I’m breaking a window. The only thing I think should have been done differently in that video, is regardless of how much the mother begged, they should have called the police anyways. She lost her second chance when she almost killed her children.

Another argument I’ve heard is that not letting a ten or eleven year old sit in a car alone, takes away their independence. As I stated previously, ten years old do have common sense, and the ability to make choices. Choices such as, getting out of the car. And if you can’t leave your ten year old in a car alone for fifteen minutes without them doing something terrible, what does that say about you as a parent? Well, not much, because there are several flaws in this argument. Not every child knows what to do in every situation (most adults don’t either). Let’s say you want your ten year old to have air conditioning, so you leave the keys in the ignition, but tell them to leave the keys alone. The child waits until you are gone, and decides to give themselves a driving lesson. This is not a farfetched thing, there are a lot of kids in that age range who have attempted to drive, even stolen their parents’ cars. This may be a hypothetical scenario, but as we all know, there are times when we tell our kids not to do something, and they do it anyways.

Suppose your child was abducted after you left him/her in the car alone. That says nothing about your child’s ability to behave themselves, but it does say a lot about how irresponsible you are. Let me be very clear: Children are abducted from all kinds of places. School grounds, front lawns, street corners, and there are many variables to those incidents and parents/guardians are not always at fault. The organization Love 146 was founded by a man who was doing an undercover investigation of a brothel in Southern Asia. This brothel was filled with girls around the ages of ten and eleven. You may want to say to yourself, “But that’s a third world country! That doesn’t happen in the United States!” I haven’t been raped, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s a common and frustrating misconception that human trafficking only happens in a third world country. Contrary to that, Great Britain has one of the highest human trafficking records in the world. You can go here hear to read all about the statistics of human trafficking in the United States: Polaris Project – Human Trafficking Statistics in USA.

I’m not saying we should shelter our children. I have seen the effects of a sheltered childhood and it isn’t pretty. I don’t think we need to scare our children into being safe either. But, at a certain age, we ought to be honest with them about what is not safe. We need to put away our pride and understand that our child’s safety is top priority over our laziness to be a parent. Leaving your kid in a car because you don’t feel like going through the mild hassle of bringing them into the grocery store, hair salon, or wherever, is laziness. So what if your kid begs you to stay in the car because they think the grocery store is boring. You don’t need to be intimidated by a ten year old, you can say no to them. And if you aren’t willing to be a decent parent, then don’t bring your kid with you to do your errands. There are things called babysitters and family members who will watch your kid while you’re gone.

If you still think it’s okay to leave a child in a car alone, then I have another video for you. Granted, the video is made by a veterinarian responding to people who leave their dogs in hot cars, but the end result of the experiment is the same whether it’s a pet or a child in the car.

Let’s Chat

July 9, 2014 - Leave a Response

I want to take a break from blogging about the usual stuff that’s too serious and instead, talk about a youtube channel I’ve been subscribed to for a very long time: Captainsparklez.

I originally found Jordan’s channel by searching for a survival gameplay series in Minecraft. After watching his Skyblock series, I ventured into his vanilla survival series. Jordan’s commentary has always been humorous, from blurting out phrases like “Mistakes were made!” and “R.I.P. in peace”, to always referring to himself as “We” instead of “I”. I think by addressing the viewers that way, the videos are more inviting.

With popularity comes opinions from your viewers, and as your popularity grows, their need to voice their opinions also grows. Jordan’s vlog, “Let’s Talk“, addressed several of the negative opinions.

People are going to have something to say about everything; it’s how people work. We cannot please everyone, and it just isn’t worth exhausting yourself trying to make everybody happy. I know that statement gets overused, but in this instance it rightfully applies.

So let’s chat about his series called “Ultra Modded Survival”. This is season three of his survival let’s play, and the second season in which he uses mods. Mods add a unique flavor and twist to Minecraft, and allow players to change their world or create objects they couldn’t do otherwise in a regular Minecraft survival game. And while mods do allow us to make things faster, better, and cooler, sometimes veteran Minecraft gamers like to take the old-school approach of making things from scratch, and needing several hours or a whole day to do it. The purpose of adding mods to his survival series wasn’t to showcase every mod in expert detail; the point was to enhance the gameplay and make it interesting. Simply put, there’s a big difference between making a singular block that acts like an elevator, and understanding the redstone mechanics behind making a piston elevator. The piston elevator will take longer, sure. The elevator block doesn’t take more than five minutes, I’d say. Notch did not create Minecraft to provide the same instant gratification as an iPhone. This is a sandbox game.

Ultra Modded Survival has too many mods, and given how it’s impossible to know every single block that comes from every single mod, it would be best to not add so many in the future. Or, for season four, not have any more mods at all. Maybe even play vanilla only in a newly spawned 1.7 world, or 1.8 world if it releases before season four starts. The other option would be to cancel the series altogether, and piss off the majority of his subscribers.

Let’s move on to the “Mianite” series. Mineplex was starting to become redundant, so this multiplayer server, Mianite, is a fresh addition to the channel. The people Jordan is playing with are interesting, charismatic and humorous. The idea of having good, evil, and neutral teams makes for interesting gameplay. There are a couple of problems with Mianite though:

1. The server is now devoted to repeatedly killing other players and griefing. It was funny the first few times, but now that’s all that seems to happen. I was considering participating in this server, but I don’t want to spend several days building my house and log on to find it completely destroyed by someone who thinks it’s “funny”. Most servers have no griefing rules for a reason.

2. Disorganized. The server seems like it should have a story, but it doesn’t. Instead, players randomly ask the “Gods” for ways to grief each other, or have random battles against other players. Why not create a tournament arena, where players can challenge each other away from their houses/builds and settle their issues accordingly? Why not have territories for each team? Since teams Mianite and Dianite oppose each other, crossing into each other’s territory could prove fatal, or rewarding if they survive. Team Ianite could have a neutral territory, like a safe zone. It would be the responsibility of the players to know who is, and who is not on their teams.

This doesn’t make Mianite a bad server. It has the potential to be very interesting and draw a huge crowd. This is a young series with a long way to go. But if there must be complaints, they should be directed at Mianite, rather than Ultra Modded Survival. Jordan puts a lot of planning into UMS to avoid the disorganized spontaneity of Mianite. If you think you can start a let’s play that does what his cannot, by all means, go make that let’s play. Or you can be respectful and offer suggestions. The only thing bullying will get you is someone who doesn’t want to continue the series, and then everyone loses.

Father’s Day Reflection

June 16, 2014 - One Response

My dad is not the worst of the terrible dads in the world, but he hurt me enough times to push me to cut off all contact with him, and refuse him entry back into my life. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have cut ties with many people, and only once have I given it a second thought. What I do not understand, is fathers who have done things which are vile and abusive, yet their sons or daughters, even in adulthood, “make amends”. How can you just let someone back into your life after they have harmed you so much?

There is no such thing as unintentionally hurting someone, even if it is a small offense. When you cast aside the well-being of another person, that is a choice you consciously make. Whether what you said or did was misinterpreted, or was done with the best intentions, it doesn’t matter, because you still hurt that person. You ought to be held accountable for that. Afterward, if the person you hurt wants nothing to do with you, or wants to make amends with you, that is up to them. They have the right to protect themselves from being hurt by you again, or give you a second chance. Simply put, your overall well being trumps anyone’s “right” to be in your life.

Why am I bothering to explain this? Well, some things are worth moving on from and worth talking about and amending. People are not perfect, and we sometimes make the wrong choices.

Then there are people, specifically fathers, who choose to hit, rape, or bully their children. In my case, I was bullied, and sometimes hit. Several people on my dad’s side of family had the audacity to tell me that I should talk to him anyways because he’s my father. The fact that he is biologically related to me, in their eyes means I have no right to protect myself from him. The only thing worse than an abuser, are people who do not advocate for the abused.

I made a disturbing discovery today, that my dad has photos of me from my childhood on his facebook page, and he talks about me as if nothing terrible ever happened between us. I did not have to look at his page, and I knew I’d most likely dislike what I’d come to find. At the same time, I’m glad I did. I am not his daughter, and he is not my father based on principle. He is pretending that we have a relationship. Over the years he has made several attempts to contact me, which I promptly ignore. This borders on behavior similar to that of erotomaniacs, as well as people suffering from psychosis.

The sad thing about this isn’t so much him, it’s the fact that I almost turned into him. We live what we learn, and a year ago I got so close to someone that I made him very uncomfortable. His unwillingness to voice his discomfort didn’t help matters. In general, there were many factors in why we had a falling out, and it was not a one-sided issue. Even though our friendship started off slow, it did not stay that way, and the negativity became unbearable. So unbearable, that without asking him if he wanted to discuss anything or move on, I told him I couldn’t be his friend, and I said goodbye. I second guessed that a couple of times, once by still supporting his art which he didn’t need from me, and several months later asking if he wanted to make amends, to which he never responded. I’ve since come to terms with the fact that he does not need me around him, and I don’t want to be around him. My father can’t do that. He still thinks he “needs” me to be his daughter, and that I need him to be my daddy. We shouldn’t push people to fix something that they don’t want to fix, or just can’t be repaired. This is not how the real world works.

Congratulations, you helped create a bully.

May 14, 2014 - Leave a Response

At some point in all of our lives, we have encountered a bully. Whether we were directly targeted, or saw someone else being targeted, it happened to us at least once. Think about how you’ve reacted to bullying in the past. Did you pretend like it was a game or humorous, did you get upset, or did you choose not to react at all? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then answer this one: Did your reaction to bullying make it stop, either temporarily or permanently?

I was expecting you to say no to that. You can’t stop bullying once it starts. Once someone has it in their mind that they hate you, that’s how it will be. Bullies feel justified in their judgments and hatred toward others because we have taught them how to do it. We give our children simple orders such as “behave yourself” with no indication of how or why. We tell our children to just ignore it. We tell our kids to suck it up, because it’s just how things are. We tell our children to shut up, compare them to other kids and hit them when they don’t do what we want them to. And above all, we tell our children to express themselves and their feelings without making it clear which feelings and expressions can hurt other people. We have created bullies.

I’m sure you are a great parent. Your kids have clothes, food, a shelter, apartment or home, and an education. I’m sure in your heart of hearts you feel like you are doing the right thing. But you don’t know everything there is to know about being a parent. No one does. The phrase “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids” won’t cut it anymore, because you always have room to learn new things. The diffusion of responsibility by saying “All parents make mistakes” is unfair to you because you are the parent, and your child does not know better than you. You don’t have room for mistakes, and you need to own up to your own behavior before you expect your child to own up to their’s. Making a stubborn mistake because you didn’t want to listen to the warning signs is exactly why your kid grew up to be mad at you. And please don’t tell me that “what was good for you is good for them”, because most of your parents’ fuck-ups are why you are socially awkward or anxious, think you are too fat, too bald or badly dressed, repeatedly compare yourself to other people your age, hate that you are getting old, regret nearly 90% of your actions or choices up to this point, and work ten hour days and come home feeling dead. It’s time to stop the legacy here.

In your head, the definition of “behave yourself” is likely long, empathetic and deeply involved in societal norms. How many six year old kids do you know of that actually think about their place in society and how they relate to other people? Children don’t develop common sense and a stronger sense of empathy until approximately age ten, but some will understand things earlier or later than that, and that’s okay. Kids don’t know the full meaning behind “behave yourself”, so when you say it to them, they either have their own definition or they are confused. A child might not ask you to clarify, rely on what they know or don’t know, and end up getting in trouble because they don’t know better. Or, they will ask you to clarify, and they get slapped in the face with “You know what I mean!” Aside from the fact that if your child knew what you meant they wouldn’t have to ask, they grow angry because you won’t be honest with them. Kids have a bad habit of turning inward, and they assume the worst: Maybe my mom/dad won’t tell me because I’m too young or too stupid to understand. You have successfully trained your child to think low of themselves. Now they can take that feeling of shame, and apply it to other kids. You’ll have to explain why, and how, your child can behave the right way several times before they understand it.

I have often felt that telling children to ignore bullying is a parent’s way of creating a simple solution, to a very big problem, so they don’t have to deal with it again. Telling a child to suck it up is even worse. While the intentions are good, making the point that a kid is picked on because they are different or an individual/unique, is blasphemous. Your child told you they were being bullied because they need your help. Saying they should ignore it means you are ignoring it too. Saying they should suck it up is like saying they, as human beings, don’t have the right to feel hurt when someone hurts them. But the most evil kind of justification of bullying, is by giving a logically sound reason for it. Your child is their own person, sure, but now they know that being themselves means they have a target on their back. Kids don’t understand things the same way as adults, so whatever you say to them has terrible implications.

There is nothing wrong with telling your child that they shouldn’t be bullied. Yes, you are accepting it’s a problem, and responsibility for helping to fix it. Yes, you are stressed out with your job, bills, groceries, housework, education for them and you, but you signed up to be a parent, and the only person who needs to suck up anything is you, the parent. There’s a reason why you have family, advice blogs/articles (like this one), child/parent advocacy groups and school administration. There are masses of people around the block lining up to help you raise your kids, and most of it is free, or required assistance by your state. There is nothing weak about asking for help. If anything you’re a hero because you’re a responsible parent. Bottom line, you can feed, shelter and clothe your kids for 18 years, and they can still grow up to be an asshole if they haven’t been taught how to treat other people.

I have had far too many arguments on the city bus with moms who yell at or hit their babies out of impatience or frustration. An example is a woman talking on her cell phone, who’s 1 year old son was babbling as babies do. She didn’t want to give up her unnecessary and vulgar phone conversation to talk to her son, so she kept telling him to shut up. If he turned and looked out the window, or moved in anyway for that matter, she would strike his leg with her hand. Lets just say my argument with her became very loud when I told her that she couldn’t do that to her son. When we don’t speak up, we let parents bully their children, which in turn trains their children to become bullies. Confronting a bully puts them on the spot, and shows them that what they are doing will not be tolerated. If you want to make someone feel bad for something they did, it should be bullying. If ten people witness bullying, and all ten people think “someone else will tell that bully to stop it”, then nothing happens. And don’t tell me it’s hard to speak up, because there is nothing difficult about caring about the state of another human being. You don’t have to model your actions off of other people; you think with your own brain and you stand up for people.

The biggest mistake we make, is comparing our kids to other kids. And we start when they are babies. If another parent’s baby starts walking before our’s, we start thinking “time to ask the doctor why my kid isn’t walking yet.” Did you know on average, girls start walking before boys? Did you know that even that is only an approximation, because no two kids develop the same way. Kids are their own people, physically and mentally. Yes, there are things to be concerned about regarding your child’s development. But, if your kid is talking (this includes ALL vocal sounds), making eye contact with you, listening to what you say, desiring appropriate affection, curious about their environment, trying to use tools, and assemble/disassemble toys (properly), then they’re doing all right. This comparison behavior is also present in television shows, like characters who want to be exactly like another character. Or on a magazine cover, with a photoshopped celebrity talking about weight loss. And my personal favorite is the 40+ year old women, who make it their personal mission to guilt me because I’m a healthy body weight. I understand that you are unhappy with your appearance, and I understand why, but attacking me won’t make you thinner, or make you feel better about yourself.

Emotions and self-expression are just as bad as they are good. Yoda may be a muppet but he was right, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Everyone becomes afraid of something, but when we don’t understand how someone else feels, that lack of empathy creates an unknown. The unknown is a scary place because we have nothing to work with when we’re there. That inability to understand the unknown becomes frustrating and then angry. That anger keeps building, so intensely that it leads to resentment and eventual hate for what we don’t understand. We take that hate, and we lash out with it to protect ourselves from the unknown, but all we really do is cause the suffering of another person. Another person who didn’t deserve it.

Unfortunately, an addict may stop taking drugs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still an addict. Addicts relapse quite often. Bullies are exactly the same. You can teach a bully how not to bully, but they’ve learned how to judge, how to express hate, and they’ll probably relapse. Even if they don’t say their judgments aloud, they will think them, or give people a “look” that that shows that hate. If they hate a certain race, they’ll avoid that race. In essence, retraining a bully doesn’t make a good person, it just makes a quieter bully.

What we can do, is stop bullying before it starts. How do we do it? We show empathy to our children, by treating them with the utmost respect and humanity, and expecting that same respect and humanity in return. If someone falls, you help them get up. If someone is crying, you offer to listen to why. You tell your children that you love them for who they are. You talk to your children about their day, their likes and dislikes, and you show a general interest in the things they do. You care about the human condition of your children, so they will enter the world and care about the human condition of other people. This isn’t just your job, this is everyone’s job. It takes a village to raise a child. We can’t stop the bullies that already exist, not completely anyway, but we can stop making new bullies, and bullying will eventually become extinct.

Groundbreaking? Really?

April 28, 2014 - Leave a Response

The definition of groundbreaking is: “breaking new ground; innovative; pioneering.”

It’s one thing when we say that the original Star Trek series was groundbreaking for its time. It was, not because of Uhura and Kirk kissing, but because of the multi-cultural cast. Understand at the time, having Nichelle Nichols on the show, in such prominence and atypical portrayal was rare. There are shows in 2014 with black characters who can’t even get that right!

I’m not about to jump on the “I hate Frozen” bandwagon. I won’t jump on the “Frozen is groundbreaking!” bandwagon either. I saw the film with my friend and we both enjoyed the story. I don’t have a problem with the movie at all, aside from the lack of non-white characters. (Disney seems to do it wrong every time they try to include a black person in their stories so maybe it’s best that they don’t torture us). Bottom line, Frozen does everything that’s already been done.

Sister Archetype: The older sister is usually one of these: Responsible, wise or mature. The younger sister is usually carefree. Elsa fits into this mold because of her maturity. She may hide from Arendelle’s people, but in her conversations with Anna and other characters, her mind is well beyond her years (approx. 18). Anna spends most of her time running all over the ice mountain biome fighting mobs.

I apologize for the Minecraft reference. Moving on.

The plot: Long story short, it’s based on a legend about an ice princess. There’s nothing new about Disney adapting a fairytale/legend/folklore.

True Love Cures Curse: Sure, the true love was between the sisters and not Anna and Kristof. Nice twist. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve read and seen, in which there’s a spell or curse that is cured by true love, kiss included. Sleeping Beauty is a prime example of this.

Strong Female Characters: Anna is like Scarlet O’Hara, or Lara Croft, in the ice mountain biome. I’m not saying weak female characters are a good thing, but we have plenty of strong women to look up to. Strong men are far and few between these days. I don’t think Disney has ever made a male character who is feminist – THAT would be groundbreaking.

Anna gets with Kristof: Yep, male to female pairing, as usual. Both the same ethnicity too.

So please stop calling Frozen this film that does things we’ve never seen before. It’s a movie your kids should definitely watch, because it’s so unexpected in terms of how the characters behave toward each other. Disney did tweak their formula, but they didn’t re-write it.

The Constitution Does Not Protect Hate Speech

April 26, 2014 - Leave a Response

Today on the New Haven green, a group of men and one woman were standing on the corner of Chapel St. and Temple St., preaching into a headset microphone and passing out fliers. Anyone who was standing at the bus stop was forced to listen to them because they were so loud. We could not shut them out unless we went to the other side of the green. They were basically taking advantage of our necessity to take the city bus, to force their religion on us. Freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion. Under no circumstances can you force me to hear, practice, preach or worship any part of a religion.

This morning I arrived at the green, at about 11:45. One of the men was trying to get my attention with asking if “God” is in my life and I shook my head no. He responded with “That’s very sad that you don’t have God in your life”. So I fired back, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

I carried on with my day. Upon calling my mother to see if we could meet up downtown, she told me that these people were still on the green, and had approached her in a threatening manner. In addition to the fact that upsetting my mother makes me upset, there are at least 30 people standing on that corner at any given time. None of these individuals did anything when this incident occurred.

When I got to the green, this group had moved to the fountain. The man who was preaching this time, started saying things like “Interracial marriage shouldn’t be allowed”, and “Gay people are disgusting”. So they evolved from prostituting their religion to hate speech. I called the police. Here is the conversation I had with dispatch:

Me: (I described where I was and what I had heard)
Dispatch: M’am we’ll send an officer out there but if they have a permit they are allowed to exercise free speech.
Me: Sir, I understand what you are saying but I don’t agree. The Constitution doesn’t protect hate speech. This behavior is just so hurtful.
Dispatch: Okay, we’ll send someone out as soon as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with what the officer said. He was very polite during my conversation with him. But I think hate speech often gets miss-categorized as free speech. Please see the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States#Exclusions
Hate speech falls under the categories of “fighting words”, and obscenities. Fighting words are emotionally abusive, and can evoke rage in the victim which may make that person act aggressively. Some fighting words are more obvious than others, but I promise you it took everything in my being not to walk up to that man and start screaming in his face.

I’m sure you are familiar with the Ku Klux Klan to an extent, so I’d rather touch on a hate group that you may not have heard about. “Westboro Baptist Church” are notorious for arriving at funerals where the deceased identified as LGBT, and protesting homosexuality with signs saying “God hates fags”. They even attempted to picket the funerals of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. Aside from the fact that they are tormenting the loved ones of the deceased, they are exercising hate speech, and many people have repeatedly called for them to be named as a hate group. (I am not entirely sure if that has in fact happened yet).

This may be a moot point, but I feel like religious speech can, in certain situations, be considered hate speech, or at least fighting words/obscene. My thinking behind this is that if a Christian goes up to a Muslim and says “you need God in your life”, that’s obscene. Obscenity is usually defined as a sexual act which is considered offensive or disgusting by moral and societal standards. Obscenity is also derogatory terms, like fag, nigger, etc. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the following:

“The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

Read that again, but this time replace “work” with “word”. Suddenly it applies to that statement, “you need God in your life”. Even when taken out of context, this statement is aggressive, and clearly implies that the receiver does not worship God altogether, or does not worship God based on the user’s standards of proper worship. This statement lacks value in regard to science, politics, art and literature because it’s intent is to cause harm to the receiver, or at the very least, make them feel bad because of their choice of religion and/or atheism.

Now, some people would say that no words should be censored, and we should be able to say whatever we want when we want. This makes some sense to me, because people who read too much into things and become offended by things which are not offensive, are really annoying. This includes people who read blogs with warnings about swear words, and complain about the swear words. But, without limitations on what we say, we end up with limitations on our protection as individuals and as a nation. Threatening to harm civilians and government officials, including the President, would be legal without exclusions. Westboro Baptist Church would be able to picket a six year old’s funeral with a sign that says “God hates fags”. An employer could go up to his or her employee and ask for a blowjob, and it would not be considered obscene/sexual harassment. Never-mind the reality that a society without limits on speech would lead to an extreme lack of a moral compass, and chaotic behavior.

I want to leave you with a question: Should a person or group with the appropriate permit be allowed to solicit at a bus stop? Why or why not?


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