Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

What You Should Know About Martial Arts
October 8, 2017

There are many myths, misconceptions and downright bizarre attitudes and behaviors that many people have about martial arts. The purpose of this blog entry, is to dispel that nonsense and at the same time, be educational.

Let’s start with the weird behaviors:

  • Don’t laugh. While people who study martial arts typically enjoy it, we also take it seriously. We train in public or private because like most things, you use it or you lose it. It’s not cute, and it’s not funny. This is both a sport and an art form, and it’s intense. Martial arts can and will inflict serious bodily harm upon someone, and in many cases permanently injure or kill a person. The history of the majority of martial arts styles across Asia are rooted in monasteries and the military, and that’s not the kind of thing you joke about.
  • Don’t mimic us. You should never try to do something you see a martial artist do without proper training, no matter how easy you may think it is. Secondly, mimicking us makes you look like a fool, and it’s extremely rude. A couple of years ago, I mentioned to my Japanese language teacher that I had studied Kenpo, and she actually mimicked what she thought was Kenpo… I just sat there staring at her and eventually said to her, “What are you doing?” It was upsetting enough that I never talked about Kenpo or any martial arts during class ever again.
  • Don’t ask us to show off. Unless you are going to give me a huge wad of cash for showing off, don’t ask me to “show you some moves”. They aren’t moves, they are techniques and skills, and they aren’t for your entertainment. If you want to watch martial arts that badly, go watch Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan, or some other dude who made money off of making us look silly.
  • Don’t ask us if we can do things that aren’t humanly possible. Like spinning around in the air ten times, bending or breaking steel, or any other superhuman thing you saw in the movies. Those things aren’t real, they will never be real, and I personally don’t wish they were real. As much respect as I had for Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films, there’s a moment where he rubs his hands together vigorously and touches Daniel’s injured leg to “heal” it with his “energy”, and physics says a big fat NO to stuff like that.

Myths and Misconceptions:

  • Martial arts are not about fighting. Setting aside the military history, martial arts in both technique and culture are not about fighting. Most people who study this don’t get into fights. We don’t seek out fights, and we go out of our way to avoid them. Not just for our own safety, but because we know our own strength, and would rather not have to hurt another person unless we have no choice.
  • What happens in the movies is not legitimate martial arts. Creative at times, based on martial arts, but not martial arts. The Thai film “Chocolate” is one of a select few martial art movies I actually like, because it’s the most realistic looking one I’ve ever seen. But the superhuman behaviors of those enormously high jump kicks, or wall climbing, are usually CGI or performed by stunt workers with special effects assistance (Jackie Chan does his own stunts though). The star martial artist in the real world would not get attacked by each enemy one by one. They’d get swarmed by the pack and probably die. If a group of people who intended to hurt me ever approached me on the street, I’d run like hell, because I cannot fight off a group and even the most skilled martial artists can’t either.
  • Most of us aren’t very talented. Anyone who is not trained in or knowledgeable about something will say a more skilled person is talented. That’s a nice compliment, but with some rare exceptions, we aren’t talented. I don’t see myself as talented. Martial arts at its core, can be learned by just about anybody. It’s a rare few who take it to the next level and create their own style from it. I was always a fast learner and the form came relatively easy for me, but that’s actually how I am with most things. When it comes to creating my own style, I’m at a serious loss. Martial arts weren’t intended to be tweaked and mixed up, they are passed down from teacher to student in the same way over and over again to preserve the core of that style, so mixing things up is a bit strange.
  • We aren’t a bunch of badass mofos. I’m definitely a badass mofo when it comes to creative writing, but in regard to martial arts, definitely not! We aren’t these macho men and women walking around in full leather and firing death glares at everything that moves. I wear dresses and make-up.
  • Weapon usage and defense against them. Some styles use weapons like swords, short swords, double sticks, bo staffs, and others. Some styles are strictly focused on body techniques and nothing else. A lot of American teachers like to show young students ways to disarm attackers, basically take away a knife or gun and use it against your enemy. If a teacher ever tries to show you stuff like that, find a new school immediately. That nonsense will get you killed. Knife attacks are lightning quick, and you won’t have time to pull off those fancy moves when a knife is flying at you, or into you repeatedly. Same goes for guns. If you take someone’s gun away from them, you will break or possibly tear off their trigger finger, and if you shoot them, you be wounding or killing an unarmed person. We cannot always run when confronted by someone with a weapon, but running is always your best option. There’s no shame in running, because that’s how you stay alive. I do own a pair of 30 inch wooden sticks, and I enjoy training with them, but they are a dangerous weapon, which is something I always keep in the back of my mind.



Thinking of Getting a Turtle? Read this first :)
May 31, 2017

I began my journey into reptile-land back in late 2008. It all began when my mother’s boyfriend at the time suggested getting a couple of aquatic turtles from a flea-market. I told him very firmly that I liked the idea of having turtles, but I wanted to do some research about a proper setup, diet, and other things that turtles may need since they obviously are nothing like cats and dogs. He told me he understood. And a week later he came home with two tiny aquatic turtles.

They were so tiny they fit in the center of my palm. My mom liked how active the smaller of the two was, so she started calling her Hurricane. I wanted their names to match somewhat, so I named the other Typhoon. We’ve had them ever since.

After a few years of experience in turtle care, we heard from a friend that someone she knew had a turtle he wanted to “get rid of”. He’d had this turtle for a few years and was sick of taking care of her. We asked them to bring her to our apartment so we could see what condition she was in. Aside from a bad case of conjunctivitis, she was in really good shape. We said yes almost immediately. We got her in a proper setup over the next few days, treated her eyes with medicated eye drops, and after a couples of weeks she was fine. We named her Sadie.

Hurricane is a standard red eared slider. Her shell is about 7 inches long now. She doesn’t like being held, pet, or any contact with us unless it involves being fed in the early morning. If we pick her up, she starts scratching and snapping and even hisses. Hurricane cannot be handled like a typical pet at all. When I have to move her to and from her tank, I have to be quick to avoid being bitten or scratched.

Typhoon is special. She is half red eared slider, and half common map turtle. She shell is 8 inches long. Map turtles are VERY different from sliders. Maps are spunky, assertive and very sensitive to their environments and how they are treated. I think of them as the most “emotional” of all aquatic species. Typhoon is pretty chill with just about anyone, adult or child. I’ve introduced her to kids, and plan to keep training her so that she can actually work with kids in an educational setting in the future. I can pick her up and hold her, rock her side to side, give her chin rubs and she’s totally cool with it.

Typhoon and Hurricane share a 55 gallon tank. A while back, Hurricane used to be very aggressive toward Typhoon, and seriously injured her chin. I knew well before that incident that aquatic turtles DO NOT like to live in groups. By some miracle these two since then have managed to sort out their differences. I do not condone putting aquatic turtles together, even hybrids, because the likelihood of aggression is too high to risk it. Aquatic turtles can seriously hurt each other, and captives have been known to kill each other. I assure you, I am moving into my own apartment later on this year, and these two will be separated.

Our theory is that the guy who had Sadie before us, took her from the wild. We live in CT, and taking a red eared slider from the wild is actually okay, because they are invasive here, and do a huge amount of damage to native wildlife and foliage. However, I also caution you who reads this – don’t take a red eared slider from the CT wilderness if you aren’t prepared to care for it. Sadie likes my mom and sits in her lap, but is very aggressive toward everyone else. Part of this is due to her size and age. Her shell is almost 11 inches long, and she is approximately 20 years old. In 2012, Sadie became gravid, which means she was carrying unfertilized eggs. All of my attempts at nesting boxes, attempts at getting her to lay those eggs outside, failed. We brought her to the vet to be induced. She bit the vet when he tried to give her the shot. My mom held Sadie by the rear-end of her shell, I put a popsicle stick in her mouth, and the vet quickly stuck the needle in her before she could get away. She laid one egg. We brought her back the next day for a second shot. The vet techs told us not to come in with them, despite us insisting that we should. 15 minutes later, one vet tech emerged with Sadie wrapped in a towel and she was as pale as a ghost. And Sadie is looking at us like nothing had happened. That vet tech practically shoved Sadie at us, and told us about what a nightmare it was to give ONE SHOT to our turtle. We were told that if she didn’t lay any eggs after this, not to bring her back and just let her do it in her aquarium. That’s what Sadie ended up doing. She laid the 11 remaining eggs underneath her basking dock. After that experience, we CANNOT put our hands in Sadie’s tank, because she will attack us. That tank is her nest, her territory, and she will defend it ferociously. In the morning when we feed her, she launches herself out of the water and bites the first thing she can get her mouth around. I am not exaggerating, turtles can launch themselves out of water similar to what alligators and crocodiles do. On a side note, every since the day we got Sadie, she’s been extremely close with our Egyptian mau mix, Spike. We let Sadie walk around the apartment and Spike follows her everywhere. Spike is the only living thing that Sadie has never acted aggressive toward.

Not all turtles are like this. Most people end up with sliders like Hurricane, that are very active, and don’t like to be handled. There are a few rare ones like Typhoon that genuinely enjoy contact with people. None of the people I know who have turtles have ever been shocked at Sadie’s aggression.

I genuinely enjoy caring for turtles, because they are fascinating animals. People tend to think reptiles in general are lazy, unintelligent and slow-moving. Watch my turtles dash across my living room floor, take apart their filters and plot their escape routes from their aquariums, and you’ll stop thinking they are dumb and lazy. Aquatics have full color vision, they can see a good distance and they even have personal likes and dislikes of various colors. Typhoon is attracted to yellow and acts aggressive toward anything pink. Hurricane like red and green, and doesn’t care either way about any other colors. Sadie likes dull, neutral colors, and tends to act aggressive toward anything vibrant. There’s no pattern to this, because I’ve heard stories about turtles that were obsessed, genuinely obsessed with colors like blue and orange. After all my years with turtles, I attribute this to personal taste, and I see nothing that indicates it’s an evolutionary advantage to have color preferences.

In short, I’ve learned so much about them that I could write a book about aquatic turtle care. I won’t spend my time doing it, but I could do it if I wanted to. I won’t go as far as to recommend turtles, or say they are “good” pets. I will say that they work for some people, and don’t work for others. Do your research about the species you want, take the time to spend a few extra dollars on a good, appropriate setup and don’t forget to ask questions. A good place to start is, which is where I started. They gave me a good boost into turtle care, and then I took off on my own. My advice however, is that if you feel for even a second that you don’t want to take the time to spend the money on the right aquarium setup, and take the time to learn about aquatic turtles, then you should not get one.

Don’t Call Geisha Prostitutes
February 1, 2015

The word geisha most likely comes from a Japanese dialect that isn’t used anymore. Nowadays, if you look up the word for art in standard Japanese, you will get びじゅつ、 (bijutsu; but it really means fine art). For person, you will get ひと. I’m going to operate under the assumption that geisha was from the “Old Tokyo dialect”, and it literally translates to “art person”, not “prostitute”. There are many things that are considered art forms, from classical music to calligraphy to poetry and even conversation. The most important aspect of the geisha is that they are entertainers. Even sex in it’s own way can be considered an art form, in the correct context.

I often refer to Japan as the art capital of the world. Art is so deeply rooted in Japan’s history that it pretty much is Japan’s history. All of my experiences with Japanese culture while growing up, were artistic. From studying Kenpo to the stories from Shintoism to the incredible souvenirs my god-mother brought back for me when I was little.

I won’t sit here and say that geisha were not, at times, exploited, because women have been exploited in every corner of the globe. But I won’t sit here and act like geisha are somehow worse-off than American women, or any other woman in any other part of the world. It’s been my experience that if a cultural behavior is different than what we’ve grown up with, we label it as wrong. Well it’s not wrong for a woman to be a geisha, who lives, eats, breathes and performs art. By your logic, the starving artist down the street would also be a prostitute because he sells his paintings. If you think selling your body and selling your paintings are not the same thing, there are thousands of artists lined up around the block to tell you otherwise. Art is, and always will be, an extension of the human form.

The original purpose of the geisha was to entertain men. A woman entertaining men for far too long has been associated with exploitation. It is automatically assumed that any sort of entertainment performed by a woman, for a man, is sexual. But if I sing to a man, or play an instrument for him, am I really being exploited? The disturbing part about this is that if a man were to do the exact same type of entertaining, we’d see it as courting, romantic, and call him a really nice man. But a woman has to be forced to be nice to other people, making her a beast… I’d say you were fighting the wrong fight, but, this isn’t a fight.

Unfortunately, Americans are obsessed with Japan’s culture, which they define as ramen noodles, manga and anime. In my Japanese 100 course last semester, a classmate admitted that she was taking the class so that she could understand what characters say in the anime porn she watches. There is much more to Japan than that.

Memoirs of a Geisha was a huge hit because of this obsession with Japan. The film is beautifully done, and historically accurate, though some societal attitudes miss the mark. Even so, the movie still made geisha look like these exploited prostitutes, rather than woman making a living as artists. It starts with the lead character, Sakamoto Chiyo, being sold to a house with まいこ (maiko) who are training to become geisha. Sakamoto also has blue eyes, and is often criticized for it. A heavy amount of emphasis is also placed on when Sakamoto is sexually assaulted, and the bidding for the geisha’s virginity. To most Americans, that portrayal looks like an exploited girl sold into sex slavery. If you watched the film and saw it as positive, then I’m concerned for you. But in the real world, things didn’t happen that way. Or if they did, it was extremely rare.

The Japanese people believe very strongly in a right way, and wrong way to do things. There are certain things you just don’t do in Japan, and one of those things is prostitution. There were serious limits on what parts of the country could have brothels, and by the turn of the 20th century, prostitution was illegal. There are also restrictions on how much male genitalia can be shown in literary/manga porn.

I felt a little silly for doing this, because for the longest time I assumed my Japanese language teacher wasn’t married because she never wears a wedding ring. Most people from her generation and older, don’t wear wedding rings. In addition, the marital restrictions we have in America are very different in comparison to Japan. Men, AND women, were allowed to seek out the attention of courtesans. While there are clear expectations of how women and men should be in a marriage and home, they are a lot more equal than you thought they were.

Sakamoto’s blue eyes gain much disrespect, but in real world Japan this would not be the case. The sea which surrounds the country is precious, and a young girl with watery eyes would be special. The Japanese pay attention to facial features and appearance, and have more words to describe appearance than Americans do. This is not vanity, because talking about different physical features is casual. Asking someone what their weight is, or how tall they are, is a normal question. When people, especially those in the military, try to convince me Japan is sexist and racist, I get very irritated. The concept of ethnicity and race in Japan is relatively new. When the Japanese first encountered people from America and Europe, they referred to them as あおいめのひと (aoi me no hito), ‘blue-eyed people’, because they were people who had blue eyes.

I’m not entirely sure why a geisha needed to look bad in this film, or why the exploitation of a fictional character was needed to make a statement about feminism. I especially don’t understand, out of all the women in this world who are actually victims, the author chose the geisha to make his point.


How Men Can Prevent Themselves From Being Sexually Assaulted and Harassed
January 30, 2015

Several years ago while I was on the city bus, I witnessed a woman start groping the thigh of a man who was another woman’s boyfriend. He was visibly uncomfortable and seemed to have very little idea of what to do. His girlfriend stepped in, and these two women had a violent argument. The bus driver, myself and several other people were able to get this woman who had groped this man off of the bus. He was so quiet afterward, and he looked like a deer headlights. A lot of passengers tried to say she was coming on to him, or trying to steal him from his girlfriend. At one point I said to him, that was sexual harassment, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that. He said thank you, and he calmed down a little bit. This incident revived my anger toward people who believe that men are not capable of being raped or sexually harassed. In reality, nearly 50% of rape victims are men. Because our society thinks men cannot be victims, women take advantage of this, by telling these men that this is what they really want, and societal pressure discourages these men from saying no. After all, aren’t men the ones who will sleep with anyone, and who sleep around all the time?

I had to word the title of this article in a way that didn’t make it sound like it was about men preventing women from being victims of rape and harassment. I already have a blog entry on that topic. We need to talk about what men are forced to go through, and we need to do it fairly and compassionately.

1. Say No: No means no, period. When you say no you make it very clear that you do not want whatever that woman or man wants from your body. Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to invade it, or force you to use your body in a way that you don’t want to. I don’t care if you’ve never had sex before, I don’t care if you have never had a girlfriend before, I don’t care if you really like her. Don’t convince yourself that you have to meet a societal standard more than protect yourself from harm. If she tells you that she’ll accuse you of assaulting her, remember that you said no. You never consented to this behavior so even if she accuses you of something you didn’t do, you are safe.

2. Fight Back: Even when I was a kid, we were taught not to hit girls. Any woman who assaults you is exempt from that rule. You have every right to defend yourself from anyone who attacks you because that is the law. Women are not the weaklings that people think we are, we give birth, and I promise you we can seriously hurt someone if we want to.

Self defense is something that everyone in the world can learn. You do not have to be Bruce Lee, or have some sort of special talent in order to learn self defense. If you want to study a specific style, even better. Self defense also raises self confidence, and empowers you.

3. Carry Pepper Spray: Pepper spray is typically associated with being a woman’s weapon, but in reality, both genders can use pepper spray. Cops carry it, mailmen (and women) carry it. Last summer, a male college student was able to subdue a gunmen on campus by using pepper spray on him. State laws about the carrying and usage of pepper spray vary, so it is a good idea to do some research before you decide to get it. Just about everyone with at least half a brain is scared of it because it is extremely painful, and when inhaled can make a person’s throat close up. Therefore, only use it if you are in serious danger. I guarantee you, that a woman attempting to assault you will back off the instant you spray her.

Check out this cool video about how to use pepper spray: How To Use Pepper Spray

4. Be Mindful Who You Date: Don’t lower your standards, make sure that the woman you are interested in is really worth your time. A woman who is confident, respects your space, is interested in who you are, is mot likely a good woman to be around. It’s perfectly all right to ask people who know this about her personality, or what she is interested in. It may surprise you how honest people are when you do this. If someone warns you about a particular behavior, then this is a red flag. Stay away, you deserve better.

5. Pull Up Your Pants and Put a Shirt On: Many women are put off by men who do this, I know I am. I don’t want to see a stranger’s underwear, or even his breasts and abs. For some reason it has become socially acceptable for men to walk around half naked. Unfortunately, when you advertise your body, women will look. And women will desire what they see. Many women are good at giggling, making a cute comment o their girlfriend about it, and moving on with their life. A lot of women catcall shirtless men, and they think it’s okay. Well, it isn’t. Catcalling is inappropriate and creepy. You don’t sexually advance on a stranger. If you really have to mow your lawn shirtless in the middle of summer, then be prepared to tell any woman who harasses you to leave you alone.

6. Report It: Reporting harassment and rape is embarrassing and frightening. Many precincts don’t treat male rape victims like they deserve any support and justice. The more men report what has happened to them, the more it will be taken seriously. The more it is taken seriously, the greater the consequences will be, and hopefully discourage women from taking advantage of men.

7. Don’t leave your drink unattended: Men have been raped by both women and men with the date rape drug, and it happens more often than you think. What makes the date rape drug so frightening is that it not only renders you powerless, but it also makes it hard for you to recall what happened to you, so you cant even defend yourself.

8. Men are victims before they reach adulthood: Thousands upon thousands boys and teens are taken advantage of by members of their family, family friends, school teachers, camp counselors, coaches, neighbors, priests, celebrities, and even their parents. Your sons need to know how to defend themselves. They need to know who is their family and in their neighborhood is safe, and who isn’t. They need to be aware of the reality that people prey on little boys, and that they are not only protected by you, but that they can protect themselves.

Statutory rape is probably one of the most ridiculous laws in America, because it makes a teen girl automatically the victim, and the teen boy automatically the aggressor. This is not fair, because in a situation where the girl is 16, but the boy is 15, the boy is considered the rapist, even if he was actually raped by the girl. Teens are going to have sex, but it is our responsibility as parents to keep tabs on who they hang out with and where they are going. Teens need to be aware of what is healthy sex and what is not.


You Do Not Have the Right to Choose
January 28, 2015

There are a specific handful of arguments that parents like to make to explain why they do not vaccinate their children:

1. It’s my right to choose whether or not my child is given a vaccine.

2. Vaccines cause autism.

3. Vaccines cause allergic reactions.

4. Diseases can be prevented with healthy food and good hygiene.

5. Vaccines are ineffective.

6. We don’t really know what is in a vaccine.

This has been a debate that I’ve followed for a long time. Since the measles outbreak in the Disneyland park in California, it has been on my mind more often. My frustration with the anti-vaccine movement lies primarily in the rhetoric used to discredit vaccines, along with the extreme lack of empathy.

No, it is not your right to choose whether or not your child is given a vaccine. You do not have the right to make diseases which were eradicated come back and infect other people. You do not have the right to put your child in harm’s way, or allow your child to catch an illness that can be spread to INFANTS who are too young to be vaccinated. Measles is deadly to infants. You do not have the right to murder babies with your poor decision making.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not, never has been, and never will be caused by vaccines. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a sensory disorder which causes developmental delays. The causes are an enlarged amygdala, which is the emotional epicenter of the brain. There are also abnormalities in the frontal lobe, which can cause intellectual delays. Autism Spectrum Disorder is passed on to a person via genetics, in other words, if your child has autism, your genes gave it to them. There has not be a “rise” in cases of autism, because we have learned more about this disorder in the last several years, including ways to properly diagnose it using MRI scans. Autism is a fascinating anomaly, and is unique to each person who has it. Do not use your anti-vaccine rhetoric to make people with autism feel guilty or ashamed. People with autism who are savants can do incredible things that the average public cannot do. Why not celebrate that?

Allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare, and at the very worst, they are a fever. Paracetamol, when taken after receiving a vaccine, can control these minor reactions. Any serious reactions to a vaccine happen at about 1 in one thousand, to 1 in one million. The amount of people who have died after being vaccinated, is so infrequent, that statistics on risk can’t even be drawn from those deaths. Logically speaking, if my choices are catching and spreading a deadly illness to other people, or get the vaccine with a 1 in one million chance of having a serious reaction, I’m going to get the vaccine. Several studies were conducted in the 1980’s to determine whether or not the Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The studies concluded that there was no direct connection between the DTP vaccine and SIDS. This means that the infants would have died of SIDS whether they had this vaccine or not. You can read more about it here:

The common cold can be prevented, or at least lessened in severity with good hygiene and healthy eating habits. However, the measles vaccine was first used in 1963, and right after the cases of people with this disease dropped dramatically. Another example is smallpox, which was also eradicated because of its vaccine. And according to,

Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they allowed their immunization levels to drop. Three countries —Great Britain, Sweden and Japan — cut back the use of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children of 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985.

People auto-immune diseases, such as HIV and Multiple Sclerosis, do not have the option to prevent illness with hygiene and health food. Their bodies do not have enough of an immune system to fight off influenza, and even colds. They must rely on the flu vaccine otherwise it can be serious and even deadly for them.

Read this to understand the vaccine creation process: Vaccines are also created using these viruses and bacteria, which are killed and placed inside the vaccine. When your body is exposed to the dead virus or bacteria cells, your immune system can safely react to it and consume those cells, thus allowing your anti-bodies to build up an immunity to the diseases those cells cause. Also check out Upworthy’s graph of 14 vaccines and how effective they are:

If you have always wanted to know what is in a vaccine, this gentle read will give you insight:


How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment and Assault
January 24, 2015

No one, man or woman, deserves to be harassed. Today I was reading an article about street harassment and I started thinking to myself, this doesn’t happen to me very often, why is that? I am in downtown New Haven constantly. I walk around town constantly. What makes me less of a target than these other women? Once I was able to answer that question for myself, it occurred to me that these women are fully capable of doing the same things that I do.

1. Carry Pepper Spray: Be sure to check with your local police department about what laws regarding carrying pepper spray may exist in your state. Here in Connecticut, it is legal to carry pepper spray, and you cannot be charged with assault if you use it to protect yourself. But not every state is the same. Even so, pepper spray is generally more frightening than a gun or a knife. I accidentally hit myself with my pepper spray a while back and I can tell you it is extremely painful. A lot of people know this, and simply pointing it in the direction of someone who is harassing you, or attempting to assault you, can deescalate the situation long enough for you to run away. And don’t feel bad if you spray someone who assaulted you, because their feelings don’t matter once they cross the line. Also, see this great how to video about how to use pepper spray:

2. Be Unapproachable: I know that we all want to be nice and social in public. When I am waiting for the city bus, the last thing I am interested in is being nice and social. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chat with people on occasion, but, if someone is acting inappropriately toward you, don’t feel like you owe it to them to respect their feelings. If someone says something explicit to you, they certainly don’t respect you. Tell them very loudly to get away from you. If they don’t, walk away. If they follow you, find the nearest woman and stand beside her (Also tell your children, if they are ever lost, to find a woman with a baby). Get your pepper spray ready. If he continues harassing you, call the police. If he gets to close, tries to touch you, spray him.

Another way to be unapproachable is to never stand in the same place for too long. Men who are planning to harass or assault a woman in plain view of the public tend to slowly cozy up to you. Sometimes he’ll act friendly at first, until there are about a couple inches between you and him, and it usually escalates to him trying to put his arm on you, or touch you elsewhere. If you see a man trying to get cozy, walk away five or ten feet. If you are at a bus stop, and a bus pulls up that isn’t your’s, get out of that crowd. People who are so focused on boarding the bus, won’t be very good witnesses if someone touches you. These crowds are also dangerous because this is when pick-pocketing happens, given that everyone is preoccupied.

3. Don’t Act Intimidated: City atmospheres are busy and hyperactive. There’s lots of people moving around all the time, and it can be overstimulating. Understand that this will never change. It’s your duty to act like it is not bothering you. I have a severe crowd phobia, but I doubt anyone knows that.

Men who are planning to rob someone, or assault someone, typically pace in front of their target like a lion in a cage. If you see a man doing this to you several times, make eye contact with him. Let him know that you know he exists, and you don’t take your eyes off of him. He won’t like that, because he wants to creep up on you, so you can’t defend yourself. Get out your pepper spray and make sure he can see it. Eye contact is a threatening behavior, so there is a chance he may still approach you. Warn him not to come closer or he will be sprayed. If he doesn’t listen, spray him, and get away immediately.

A few years ago, I was downtown around 7:15 pm, and a man kept pacing in front of a high school student at the bus stop. This girl very loudly told him to leave her alone, which is how I knew what was happening. I got up from my seat and walked over to her, and took out my pepper spray. He continued to pace for several minutes and I watched him like a hawk the entire time. He finally got the message that I was not going to let up, and he walked away down the street. There were several more times that we saw him downtown, but he never behaved that way toward myself or this young woman again.

4. Don’t Tell People Your Personal Information/Business: This should go without saying, but sadly, it doesn’t. If you do talk to people, don’t tell them where you go to school, or where you work. Don’t give them your phone number, address, etc. Not even facebook. Granted, I do have conversations with people who take the same buses as me, and are students at my college, because I have seen them several times. And there are people who I see downtown often who never start trouble, and even look out for each other. So conversation is at your discretion. But the people I talk to, don’t know anything about me unless I want them to.

Don’t tell people your life story, either. No one you just met needs to know what your problems are. And if you are that willing to tell people every single aspect of your life, you are an easy target to be taken advantage of. If someone tries to tell you their life story, do yourself, and them a favor by letting them know you aren’t interested.

5. Don’t Let People Push You Onto the Bus: A lot of people over the years have shoved themselves against my back because they can’t wait to get on the bus. Don’t ever let someone get away with this. This is dangerous, not just because they can push you onto the ground, but they can also push you into someone else, who can fall and get hurt. This pushing behavior is also how people ‘cop a feel’. Unfortunately my butt has been felt or grabbed during situations like this. Whenever someone starts shoving me, I start backing up into them. This makes women stop it immediately. I have driven my elbows into the stomachs of men who do this. The stomach is a very weak point on a man, and it’s a larger area than the groin and much easier to get to. I have also had many loud arguments with people who shove, which often times has made the driver refuse to let them board the bus.

6. Don’t Give People Money: I don’t care how polite this person is, how in need they may seem, DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY. I don’t care if they have a child with them, or if they are a child. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY. That money will most likely be used for drugs, not food, not a bus fare. Also, do not buy anything off of anyone on the street. Whenever you make any kind of transaction on the street, every panhandler learns that you have enough money to give away. This opens you up to someone who is desperate, and might try to rob you. In addition, if someone approaches you, and says they are hungry, and you have some food with you, offer it to them. If they refuse it, then they aren’t actually looking for food. My favorites are the people who ask me to buy them food, and I offer them some food I have, and they refuse it. Those people are just trying to steal your credit/debit card information, or see where you like to store your purse or wallet so that they can try snatching it.

Why is this a way to prevent sexual harassment or assault? People who are looking for targets, are very observant. If they see you give things away, then that means to them that you will give away your body, too. You are easy to approach, easy to deal with, and you don’t put up a fight.

7. Don’t Dress Provocatively: I know that this is very controversial, but it has been my experience that whenever I have dressed in my nicer clothing, or in skirts, tank tops, or anything that shows some skin, I have been approached far more than when I am wearing sweatpants and a hoody. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been approached while wearing a variety of clothing. But my belief is, there’s only one reason why you want to show something off. Yes, we have the right to wear whatever we want, but our actions have reactions. If you are walking around downtown, or waiting for the city bus in a skirt that barely covers your butt, and your breasts practically hanging out, you have lowered your integrity. The lower your integrity is, the more of a target you become. It’s very easy for men to say you were asking for it, when you wear a for sale sign.

8. And lastly, Learn Self Defense: A woman who can defend herself physically, is a very powerful woman. Anyone can learn any type of self defense. I started training in Kenpo when I was 7 years old, and I continuously watch various self defense training videos on youtube. Visit the information desk/office at your college to see when they will have self defense classes. If they don’t do them, recommend that they do. Encourage people you know to do the same. Ask around to see if your town or city has a place that offers short term self defense training, or free classes. Visit your local martial arts school if you are interested in a particular style. You don’t have to be athletic or in shape to take these classes. You don’t have to have some special talent or be Bruce Lee. Self defense is for everyone. And don’t be afraid to hit someone who is trying to hurt you. An attacker sacrifices his/her well being the instant they attack you.


I like myself. I like compliments, too.
January 15, 2015

The Huffington Post had a very bizarre “social experiment” on their site today, regarding how a woman received compliments, and the reactions men had to what that woman said. The woman was given compliments by random men she chose to speak to. She responded to these compliments with “I know”, occasionally a “thank you”, but mostly comments which would be seen as conceited or even unappreciative. This was a failed social experiment because the language used, is a severe hot button in any conversation, whether or not it is flirtatious. There are no alternative scenarios, in which a man responds to compliments from women, including male to male and female to female conversations. We could even go as far as to include conversations among friends, and gauge those reactions too. I have a strong suspicion that the majority of the people giving compliments, male and female, would be put off by a response like “I know”.

My primary issue with this experiment, in addition to its sloppy execution. is the deep seeded undertone that if I am a woman, I am somehow too perfect or special to take a compliment. I think it is the epitome of arrogance, when a woman constantly believes that every time a man, or anyone, compliments them, it is because that person is trying to validate them. Because the general public has nothing better to do with their lives, than worry about making sure that you feel absolutely perfect all the time.

Compliments within themselves have multiple purposes. Some are, unfortunately, used to insult other people. For example, when a 40 year old women encounters a 20 year old woman, and “compliments” the younger woman’s thin waist. Sometimes compliments are fake, just to pretend there is a good relationship there, or because you are co-workers and you have no choice but to “get along”. Compliments are also used as a flirtatious behavior, just because that is one of many ways that humans court each other. But I generally believe that the majority of compliments are given as a sign of respect to the person they are given to. When I compliment someone, it is because I like that person, and I want them to know that I like them, because they are human and they deserve to be liked.

There are also phrases or terms people use in the guise of a compliment, which are really inappropriate. Telling anyone that they are hot and sexy, or constantly telling anyone that they are pretty or handsome, is a severely sexist and appearance oriented thought process (saying these things rarely, in a different context, is not what I am talking about). It has nothing to do with the personality or interests of the person being spoken to. In 2011, 2NE1 came out with a single titled “Ugly”, which targeted the over-complimenting that Korea’s society does to women, as well as the societal obsession with plastic surgery. This over-complimenting is often the use of the word “pretty”, the users of that word often desire to look exactly like the person they are referring to. This is an inappropriate validation, and 2NE1 decided that the term “ugly” needed to be redefined. Simply put, you think prettiness is based on an unrealistic, plastic body. Therefore pretty does not exist, and since you cannot perceive a non-existent thing, you do not have permission to use it to describe me. Ugly is the opposite of pretty, therefore it is real.

However, this experiment that Huffington Post reported on, did not send the same message as 2NE1 did. Instead, this article told us that if a man says something nice to a woman, and she never says thank you and simply agrees, that he should just put up with that. Well no, he shouldn’t, for two reasons: He gave you that compliment because he respects you, and has taken the time to pay attention to who you are, and if you throw it away, that is ungrateful. The other reason is that you just told women they do not need to be complimented because they do not need a man’s approval, but that agreeing with what a man says is a way for a woman to use what he says to be validated. So you are putting yourself in a situation where ultimately, you are being “demeaned” by a man, and putting this man in a situation where he is “oppressing” you. Or I could rephrase that as you believe that women need to agree with what men say about them, because they do not need to be validated by men. You are oppressing women with this logic, and you are doing it in the guise of the word “feminism”. How dare you.

This should not be a debate about whether or not I deserve to be validated by what anyone says. I don’t feel that way, because I like the person that I am. I am also glad when people care to tell me that they enjoy something about me, because meaning something to that person is a good thing. So in essence the debate should be about whether or not I deserve to be respected, and my answer is yes. Even so, when I am given respect, it is my responsibility to return that respect, either with thank you, or another polite term. Even saying something tactful such as “There are times when I feel the same way about myself”, is fine, because it is an expression of humility. When someone sees you for who you are, truly sees you, not themselves, and shows you that, that is their expression of humility as well. If you throw that back into that person’s face, as though it means nothing to you, then your right to be respected by that person has been lost. No man or woman has to ever take that from you, and your gender does not give you special permission to treat someone in a disrespectful way.


Dogs Don’t Make ‘Good’ Pets
January 14, 2015

I’m sure there are many dog lovers who are going to jump up and down in disagreement about this blog post. I’m sure many cat lovers will also being jumping up and down in triumph. But I firmly believe that certain animals do not make ‘good’ pets, and aside from still enjoying the company of my cat, I’ve come to learn that non-mammalian pets work better for people.

Dogs are not violent, dangerous animals. Some breeds work better for certain living situations than others. Some dogs are great with kids or small animals, and others aren’t. It’s called research, and given how 98% of the U.S. population has access to the internet, there’s no excuse not to do that research. At the very least, there’s probably a public library nearby that you can go to.

But the absence of that research, and the absence of common sense, are why I believe dogs don’t make ‘good’ pets. Dogs require attention, and cannot self-regulate like a cat, or a bird, or another type of reptile. Dogs have to be cared for like a human infant. If you ignore your dog, they won’t just make a mess in your home, they’ll destroy it. If you don’t train your dog well because you’ve ignored it, they bad things happen. A good example is that dog that stalked that little boy in his driveway and attacked him last year – if his mother and house-cat hadn’t been around to chase away that dog, he’d be seriously injured or dead.

I am one of those firm believers that any breed of dog can be taught to attack people. But all animals, mammal or not, start out in life being wary of humans. Kittens and puppies are not born automatically loving humans. All pets have to be taught straight after birth that humans are safe to be around, otherwise they will show aggression. All animals are wild until they are taught to live with humans.

I’ve seen cats do some pretty nasty damage to people, and other animals. Cat scratch fever is not a myth, it is a real illness caused when exposed to the bacteria that cats sometimes have underneath their claws (kind of like the dirt under your fingernails). And cat scratch fever is not brought on by a tiny scratch or two, it’s brought on by being mauled by a cat. Despite the level of injury a cat can inflict on a person, we don’t live in fear of cats. We don’t worry about cats lurking around the corner and snatching our tiny chihuahua or child and mauling them. Maybe it’s because even though humans can do some dumb things in regard to taking care of their cats, even the most unruly cat can still be reasoned with. Dogs have to be repeatedly reminded who the boss is, and if they aren’t, they can snap. And that snap is the end of the road.

I don’t understand why, even with smaller dog breeds, anyone is comfortable with having a dog. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, I just have accepted the fact that I would not be able to devote the time necessary to the dog, to ensure that the dog is safe for myself and others to be around.


The Alternative Treatment is No Alternative
January 9, 2015

If you are a Connecticut resident, you’ve probably heard about 17 year old Cassandra, who is being forced by the CT Supreme Court to undergo chemotherapy to treat Hogkin’s Lymphoma. The decision was reached after a trial to determine whether or not Cassandra was a competent minor who could refuse chemotherapy. The result of that trial, is that despite being almost 18, Cassandra is not able to make this decision on her own. You can read NBC Connecticut’s report here: State Supreme Court Rules Teen Can’t Refuse Chemo.

There are many arguments against the Supreme Court’s ruling, most of which focus on bodily rights and the right to choose. Many say Cassandra is a mature 17 year old, and has been against chemotherapy since before she was diagnosed. Her mother, who knows that the chemotherapy will save her daughter’s life, supports Cassandra’s refusal of it. Her mother is also adamant about using alternative treatments instead.

Statistically, when Hogkin’s Lymphoma is treated with chemo, the survival rate is 85%. There doesn’t appear to be a clear statistical analysis of success rates with alternative treatments. This could be for many reasons, such as these treatments are used experimentally and by smaller groups of people. Alternative treatments are rarely offered by doctors. For cancer in general, most alternatives are used to treat symptoms and keep patients comfortable. Alternatives are also offered by independent organizations or practices, which means they could be fraudulent, or do more harm than good. Trying to find an actual instance where someone was cured of Hogkin’s Lymphoma without chemotherapy and instead alternative treatment, yielded no results. However, Hogkin’s Lymphoma has been treated with stem cells, which can cure the illness, but this procedure is far more dangerous than chemo, and hardly ever used.

Since the primary argument against the court is Cassandra’s maturity, it is important to note that no matter how mature she is, she is biologically 17 years old. Maturity and myelination of the brain are two entirely different things. Maturity comes from environmental experiences, most of which are social. Myelination is the growth and development of the brain. There are certain things a 17 year old brain cannot do as well as a 27 year old brain (27 is the average age when the human brain fully myelinates), like make important, life saving medical decisions. Cassandra is very good at focusing on what chemotherapy will do to her body right now, but what the cancer will do to her body, does not appear to be at the forefront of her mind. In addition, her reaction to the treatment was to run away from home for a week. Before that, she and her mother had missed several treatments. This is why teens are minors, and why we must protect them, not just from their parents/families, but from themselves.

That leads me to my next point, about why alternative treatments are no alternative. It’s more than statistics, it’s the fact that these “natural cures” don’t actually cure diseases. It’s the fact that this belief that if you refuse vaccines and eat healthy food you’ll never get sick, and alternatively you get very sick, very often. It’s about the fact that these folks are trading health for making a statement, and forgetting that deadly diseases like smallpox were eliminated because of vaccines. It’s the fact that this teenager will die very young without chemotherapy, and the state is being more humane than you are giving them credit for.

This is mainly a question of what is ethical, and what is not. We live in an age where assisted suicides are becoming more common, and abortions are being heavily debated. These are serious topics for discussion, because they examine when, and how, it is okay to die.

Take abortion for example – it is a huge debate about whether or not abortion is murder. Whether or not the fetus’s survival is more important than the mother’s. Regardless of how you feel about it, you cannot argue with scientific fact: The fetus is not alive. In order to be alive, you need to be able to do three things, breathe, eat, and grow. Fetuses have plugs in their noses while in the womb, so they do not breathe. The nutrients they receive are via umbilical cord, and come from the mother. The mother starves herself, the fetus does not eat. Growth is also dependent on these nutrients. Therefore, it is okay to have an abortion because you cannot murder a fetus that is not alive, and is not human. It is not okay for a mother to die because of a fetus’s imaginary life being considered more important. That is unethical.

Assisted suicide is another serious debate. People who choose assisted suicide do so because they have incurable diseases that are painful, not just physically, but psychologically and emotionally. People choose assisted suicide because the quality of life is so poor, that it cannot be improved, thus making life not worth living. Assisted suicide is best reserved for people with circumstances beyond their control, like an incurable disease. It is not for people who want to die because they are unhappy with life choices, or other aspects of their lives which can be improved or worked toward. Assisted suicide is not a cop out, it is an alternative to imprisonment because of a disease, and because quality of life is not defined by a beating heart.

You may have heard about Brittany Maynard, 29, who chose to die on November 1st last year. She was suffering from a malignant brain tumor, and was terminally ill. Radiation treatment would have kept her body alive, but as she put it, her mind was going to be eaten. Being a competent individual, she made this decision, and many people argued against it. Many people disregarded quality of life, in favor of quantity of life. You can read more about her story here: Cancer sufferer: Why I’m choosing to die on Nov 1 aged 29.

What makes the previously described instances, so relevant to Cassandra’s story? Perhaps it is because the woman’s right to choose what goes in and out of her body is serious. You cannot force a woman to do something she doesn’t want to do. It sounds hypocritical, to say that a 17 year old can have an abortion without parental consent, but not choose whether or not to have chemotherapy. However, it’s not hypocritical, because it is not okay to force a teenager to live with a child she does not want, and it is not okay to force a teenager to die of cancer. Argue otherwise all you want, but it is very unlikely that Cassandra’s choice to refuse chemo was really her choice, and not her mother’s. It is quite convenient that Cassandra happened to have these views about chemo, then was diagnosed with cancer. Parents can often times be the bane of a teenager’s existence.

Now why have I chosen to bring up assisted suicide? Notice my description of it, and how it is about incurable diseases. Hogkin’s Lymphoma is a curable illness, with a survival rate of 85%. This martyrdom, of refusing chemo and choosing to die instead of accepting life saving treatment is a severe cop out. Furthermore, the vast difference between Brittany Maynard and Cassandra, is twelve years. Brittany was an adult, not just legally, but physically too. She was well beyond the expected age of myelination, and thus fully capable of making that decision. This is not something which should ever be left up to a teenager, or any child at any age. Imagine if the maturity argument was allowed to be used for a five year old, and what horror that would bring.

I am going to leave you with a description of what Hogkin’s Lymphoma does to the human body. First the lymph nodes swell. This is followed by itchy skin, night sweats, and then unexplained weight loss. The liver and spleen enlarge. Sufferers also experience cyclical fevers.

If left untreated, or treated with alternative medicine, then the cancer’s attack on the lymphatic system weakens the body’s ability to fight disease. This is not that different from having HIV, because now a cold can be dangerous, especially if it turns into pneumonia. People with this disease will not just be suffering from it, but from all of the other illnesses that they will get on top of it. They will be sick constantly, uncomfortable, and certainly unable to live life well. If the alternative treatment prolongs death and causes more suffering, then it is not an alternative.


Required Reading
December 12, 2014

What agitated me throughout elementary, junior, and high school was required reading. In elementary school, I distinctively remember books like Bunnicula, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Where the Red Fern Grows being required reading. I liked Bunnicula, and thought it was hilarious. But it didn’t apply to everyday life, or current issues, or politics, or history, or art, or anything worth teaching. It was just a very funny story. And funny stories are fine, when read at home on your own time. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was mainly a metaphor for Jesus Christ and Adam and Eve, this creepy creationism thing that never should be allowed in public schools. My tax dollars DO NOT pay for kids to learn about religion shrouded with a fantasy story. A fantasy story I might add, which should also not be allowed in school. Yes, I write fantasy stories, but what they really boil down to, are hero vs. villain and are typically violent. In 4th grade we had Where the Red Fern Grows read to us every day for a couple of weeks. It’s a story more appropriate for junior high and high school, not ten year old kids. And don’t even get me started on Red Badge of Courage. That book has been required reading FOUR TIMES in my life. Talk about over-assigned.

Another thing that agitated me, was Shakespeare. I am all for learning new vocabulary, but it’s also possible to give students vocabulary that is too difficult to understand and learn (especially when half of it isn’t even used in day to day conversation anymore). If we were to put together a performance of one of his plays, THAT would have been incredible. Shakespeare’s work was meant to be seen, not read in a high school classroom. Stories like The Great Gatsby, The Crucible, West Side Story, need to be phased out completely. They are over-read and I felt like opportunities to discuss economic and racial issues were missed.

That being said, I have compiled a list of books that I believe are appropriate and engaging for required reading.

Elementary School:

Anything by Shel Silverstein – If you want to explore poetry, respecting nature, discovery, learn empathy for your parents, then his books will do it. The Giving Tree is not just about preserving nature, but shows how parents give their everything for their children, and sometimes their children take it for granted.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – A tale of a rat, toad and mole and how they become friends and take care of each other. Why should friendship be taught in schools? Because these three friends are not the same species, so they represent diversity. Because they respect each other, and good friendship is a powerful weapon against bullying.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh – This story is dramatic, and is most appropriate for 5th and 6th grade. Within the adventure of the story (which I don’t want to spoil for you), is intense encouragement to appreciate literacy. Many topics can be gathered from this, such as discussing the history of literacy tests used to oppress voters, and if daring enough, animal rights.

Junior High:

To Kill a Mockingbird – As well known as this book is, you’d be surprised at how many young people have never read it, or even heard of it. This incredible story discusses the broken justice system which we STILL live with today, and how that system is used against black folk. There are numerous life lessons and drops of wisdom in this tale that can breed intelligence in students.

Anything and everything written by W.E.B. DuBois – The Souls of Black Folk uses fantastic vocabulary, and delves deep into what oppression feels like for black people in America. Sadly, this topic is rarely taught in schools, and it is disturbing to pretend like racism doesn’t exist.

Jubilee – In order to teach black history, and the history of slavery, you need to teach the truth. Religion was used as a justification for slavery. The rise of the Ku Klux Klan. What it was like for black folk after slavery was abolished. This story is based on the stories told to the author by her great grandmother, who was a former slave.

The Grapes of Wrath – A good history lesson about the great depression. I’m sure multiple people my age, and much much younger, have no idea what the great depression was like, or what it even is.

High School:

Catcher in the Rye – So it’s vulgar, sure, but it’s worth it. Every high schooler in one way or another can relate to the struggle of being a teenager. Struggling to fit in, with your sexuality, and with your education.

Anything and everything by John Blassingame – I know I keep bringing up books about black history, but his work is a massive collection of historical research about various topics within black history. Black history is not taught in schools enough.

History books about Native Americans – I can’t name a specific title, or author, so I’d rather talk about this as a group of books. There is very little TRUE Native American history which is taught. For example, Christopher Columbus never discovered America. Thanksgiving was founded because of the massacre of hundreds of Native Americans. Before blacks were enslaved, it was Native Americans. If anything, people should begin to learn the difference between which tribe is which, what their customs and cultures are, and that there is no such thing as a “Cherokee princess”.

Wisdom Sits in Places – This book is a non-fiction collection of stories, experiences, and maps about the Western Apache tribe. If you sit quietly and watch the world around you, you will learn wisdom from observation. This is how you become present.