Archive | March, 2008

Wheat thins, huh? Who knew?

31 Mar

A few weeks ago I edited my “About” page just a bit, including a nod to an old Sandy Duncan wheat thins commercial.  I wanted to be sure I remembered the line correctly (because I’m all about accuracy and getting the facts straight), so I googled “I love to sing, I love to dance, I love the taste of Nabisco wheat thins”.  Three of the top 5 results linked here, here and here.  I just thought it was interesting.  So do you think the common thread is the Sandy Duncan thing or the wheat thins?  Either way, they seem like cool dudes.

I wonder whatever happened to Sandy.  Did you know she doesn’t actually have a glass eye?

Conversations with Goose

28 Mar

Goose is in kindergarten. 

Goose:  Guess what?  Jakob said he’d rather die than marry me.

Mom:  Why’d he say that?

Goose:  I asked him.

Mom:  To marry you?

Goose:  No, I said would you rather marry me or die, and he said die.  I don’t think he likes me.

She’s always been remarkably intuitive.

Goose:  I know this is weird, but sometimes I wish my arm was broken.

Mom:  Why would you wish that?

Goose:  I dunno.  Maybe because Lauren broke her arm once and she’s cool.

Mom:  But it hurts to break your arm.  A lot.

Goose:  Well, then I wish you could break your arm without it hurting.

Her logic and problem solving skills are mind-boggling.

Goose:  You know what?  Someone had an accident on the bus today.

Mom:  You mean they wet their pants?

Goose:  Yep.

Mom:  Were they embarrassed?

Goose:  No, they just really had to go.

Of course, how silly of me.

Shmonsequences update

27 Mar

There is still hope for humanity!  Yesterday, the top headline in the paper’s local section:  Student gossip fades on Web site.  Apparently, so far about 25% of the nasty posts that originated from students at the local high school have been taken down, and by the students themselves no less!  Kids were actually feeling bad and then did something to try to rectify the situation. 

A school official was quoted, saying “Student leaders met to discuss the site, but decided  not to start a school-wide conversation on the issue.  They thought ignoring the site would be more productive.”  I’m inclined to agree with that.  I seriously hope it’s a passing fad, since it seems wholly unlikely that woman who created the site will suddenly sprout a conscience or moral compass and cease and desist her evil plot to destroy the world with unkindness.

When the paper requested updated site-use numbers to see if they were on the decline as well, that woman refused to provide them unless the paper agreed to print her site’s name and address.  Thankfully, the paper declined.

“It seems that traffic to the site has created a lot of irresponsible behavior and we’re not in the business of promoting that kind of thing,” said the executive editor.


And here’s one more little gem from She Who Must Not Be Named:

“Gossip, when you do it right, is a really, really good thing.”

Well then, lady, here’s my contribution to the greater good:   You’re an idiot.  Feel free to spread the word.

Consequences shmonsequences

25 Mar

My knickers are just getting bunched up all over the place lately.  Last week I came across a story about a website where anyone can anonymously post any kind of gossip about anyone else.  Here are a few excerpts:

A Web site that invites people to anonymously post gossip about each other is creating problems at (a local high school).

In the past week, students have used the site to bully, post compromising photos of their rivals and spread rumors about other kids’ supposed sexual experiences, abortions, eating disorders, diseases and drug use. Many of the messages have been viewed thousands of times.

At least two students who have been the subject of the gossip mill are afraid to go to school anymore.

“We’ve given people a forum to say what they want to say,” said Elizabeth Bloch, 25, one of the founders of the company that runs the Web site. “It’s not up for us to censor them. If a user thinks some piece of information — however nasty or … embarrassing, is true — that’s their prerogative to let the world know about it.”

The site was created in June in Wilmington, N.C., by four friends who enjoyed gossip and online social networking, Bloch said.

The friends were working part-time jobs, trying to make ends meet, when they came up with the idea to start a Web site to let users post gossip-ridden profiles of other people, she said.

Their site has no legal or ethical responsibility to protect kids by censoring gossip, said Bloch, who said she graduated in 2005 from State University of New York at Albany with a communications degree.

The site also is about teaching responsibility, Bloch said. If enough users complain about a piece of gossip and label it “BS” or “not gossip,” it will eventually be taken down, she said.

However, the site’s staff — the founders and their intern — will not remove gossip just because it may be a lie or hurtful, she said. It’s a way of keeping the subject of the gossip in line with community standards of social behavior, she said.

“If it’s not a lie, there has to be some sort of accountability in that person’s life,” Bloch said.

I’m not even sure where to start.  First of all, I will concede that high school students all over the world have been engaging in harmful gossip and rumor mongering forever, and since the birth of the internet they’ve been using personal web pages, sites like myspace, and other forums to help spread it around.  Obviously, this is not a novel idea.  But to have a site with the specific purpose of providing a forum for any emotionally disturbed adolescent or other amoral psychopath to say all kinds of hurtful, damaging crap without any proof or evidence of its validity, and with no one to have to take responsibility or answer for it just seems so beyond wrong.

In a radio interview Bloch argues that gossip has been around since mankind began talking, and that it’s an inevitable part of life that serves a vitally important purpose in our society—to bring out the truth.  But she admits that there’s no real way of knowing if something posted is true or not.  The only “safeguard” the website has in place is a feature where readers can vote if they think something is “BS”.  Apparently, if enough people vote that it isn’t true, then the post will be removed.  Can anyone possibly honestly believe this is a reliable way of determining truth?  Let’s just put it to a vote?

And I love how she’s taken it upon herself to bring some accountability to all who might possibly be rightfully accused.  I can see the testimonials pouring in now.  “I’m so grateful to Ms. Bloch and her website that listed all of my sexual exploits for all the world to see.  It made me realize that I am indeed a slut, and now I’m getting the help I need for my sexual addiction.”  She’s really providing a service, you see.

The local school district has vowed to take disciplinary action against any student it can prove has posted harmful gossip on the site, but there is the question of the legality of the school board trying to police the activity of students off campus during non-school hours, not to mention the trouble of trying to identify the anonymous sources.  School officials are expressing frustration over not being able to better protect their students.  They’re urging parents to monitor their children’s computer usage to make sure they aren’t participating in this kind of harmful behavior.  The school district’s technology director said, “If you don’t supervise your children, you don’t know what they are doing.  It’s not that they are bad kids, but kids make bad choices sometimes.” 

I would say that’s a little generous considering the kind of content being posted:

Some students have used the gossip site to rate each others’ performance in bed, call each other derogatory names and list sex acts individual students allegedly participated in. They question others’ sexuality, post unflattering pictures and ridicule others’ physical handicaps.

But Bloch does not seem at all concerned about the kind of damage the gossip, whether it be truth or fiction, causes.

Bloch said she wasn’t qualified to discuss how things said on her Web site might affect teens struggling with self-esteem issues. No one has ever posted negative gossip about her online, she said.

Well, gee, that makes sense.  And my favorite quote of the article:

She said she’s read many of the comments (the high school) students have written about each other in postings called “g-strings.”

“One of the coolest things is that these users speak really intelligently,” she said. “There is some stuff that is not great, and some stuff that is really well written.”

Baaaaaaahhhh!  I don’t know what else to say.  I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment and free speech and all that good stuff.  Talking about censorship in any form is a very slippery slope indeed, but does that mean that stuff like this is OK?  Is it truly a necessary evil as a byproduct of preserving these invaluable rights?  Can’t we do something?

And just so we don’t have to end on a completely depressing note, madhousewife, this is for you.

We don’t need no education, we don’t need no shock control. Or do we?

25 Mar

Two weeks ago 200 students at one of our school district’s middle schools held a walkout, protesting a poor learning environment resulting from high incidents of bullying and other discipline issues.  Their complaint was that not enough was being done to enforce school policies and that there was not adequate follow through on disciplinary actions.  The demonstration was held at one middle school, but an article in the local paper quoted students and teachers from the district’s other middle schools as well, all with similar complaints of hostile learning conditions due to intimidation and classroom disruptions.  District officials quoted tried to assure the public that action would be taken, and a few days ago I, along with all parents of middle school aged children in the district, received a letter.

I’ll highlight a few main points here:

As we have listened to students, staff, and parents over the last two weeks, they have identified classroom disruptions as the number one concern.  These disruptions by a small group of students in classrooms prevent teachers from doing their best teaching and students from learning.  Previous attempts to discipline these students have not improved the learning climate for many.  We also heard that some students are not feeling safe as well because of intimidation and harassment by others.

This letter is being sent to you for two reasons:  First, we want to update you on actions taken since the walkout in response to concerns raised by students, staff, and parents.  Second, we would like to ask for your help in stressing with your child the importance of appropriate behavior and learning in every classroom.  We share the concern regarding student safety and a positive productive classroom learning environment and want to work together with you to make those happen.

    They go on to list several steps they plan to take with regard to implementing specific programs, training staff and enforcing disciplinary actions.  Here is the last item on the list:

    We have met with city officials this week to clarify the role of district security staff, the City Police, and the SRO (School Resource Officers are police officers specifically assigned to school campuses) in our middle schools.

      This last point is interesting in light of a post script the Superintendent includes at the end of his letter:

      PS:  A student at (one of the middle schools) was suspended on Wednesday.  The SRO and City Police were called for assistance and subdued the student at dismissal time when staff and students were present.  The student is no longer at (the school).

        My nephew attends the school referenced here, and witnessed the incident.  Apparently, the student in question had been suspended earlier in the week, and refused to leave when he was discovered on campus a few days later.  The confrontation between the SRO and the student got physical and resulted in the student being tasered three times before they were finally able to get the situation under control.  Tasered?  Three times?!  Does anyone else find it slightly disturbing that middle school aged students are getting tasered?  Perhaps it’s important to mention that the officer who initially tried to deal with the situation was a woman, and when the exchange with the student got physical, he was basically overpowering her–slamming her into lockers, against the wall, etc.  Obviously, no one should just take a beating–the officer had a right to protect herself and a duty to get control of the situation to ensure the safety of the other students as well. 

        Still, I find this tasering business more than a little disturbing.  But then I am a mother of an 11 year old sixth grader who is still very much on the small side.  I suppose middle school students range from 11-14 and are at various stages of puberty and development, making some formidable opponents in confrontational situations.  If my child were the one being beaten up by the bully, I’m sure I would be the first one screaming, “Shock him!  Bring him down!”  It’s just all very frightening to me.

        One other point made in the letter is probably the most important and I’m afraid also the least likely to be heeded by parents and students:

        Finally, and as noted above, we need your help.  We would greatly appreciate it if you would have conversations with your son or daughter emphasizing appropriate behavior at school, including following classroom and school rules and demonstrating respect for teachers and fellow students.  If your son or daughter sees or hears anything that is of concern at school or experiences any harassment or intimidation from fellow students, encourage them to tell you or an adult at school, or to use the anonymous tip-line…This number will be posted in every classroom.

          Like I said before, my son is younger and on the smaller side.  He has been a victim of some minor bullying in the past–nothing physical, just some hurtful name calling and teasing.  I’ve talked to him about it a few times and have asked if he wanted me to talk to anyone at school.  He always says no.  I think he’s afraid of the repercussions of being the “tattle-tale”, and rightly so I imagine.  I gave him all of the usual parental advice about trying to not let it bother him–the bully is a jerk and is most likely just trying to make himself feel better and may just get bored and decide to move on if he doesn’t get a reaction from my son.  But this isn’t always true.  I’ve also tried to impress upon him that if he ever felt intimidated or truly afraid for his safety, he really needed to tell me or his dad or a teacher because that was most definitely not OK and something would have to be done about that to make sure he is safe.

            What can parents really do to protect their children in these kinds of situations?  What advice would you give your child if he or she were the victim of harassment and what action would you expect the school to take?  What would you do if you knew your child was the bully?  And what’s your take on this whole tasering thing?  Scary, right?  Where do you draw the line between reasonable and excessive force in middle schools?  Should there be a different line for high school?  Or for the “real” world?  How much do (or should?) tragedies like Columbine change our views on this subject?

              Easter eggcitement

              24 Mar

              The past couple of years Easter has brought some unwelcome excitement.  Two years ago it was a frantic 911 call when DynaGirl woke up in the middle of the night (early Easter morn) with the worst asthma attack ever.  And when I say frantic, I mean frantic.  My husband later told me that at one point the 911 operator asked if he could please tell his wife to calm down.  I’m sorry, but if your child had passed out and was completely unresponsive wouldn’t you be screaming her name?  Fortunately, my husband saw the wisdom in not acting on her request.  So one police car, one fire truck, one paramedic ride and 3 hours in the emergency room later we were back at home safe and sound.

              Then last year, just a couple of days before Easter, our kitchen table bench fell on DynaGirl’s foot and broke her big toe–a break that required a trip to the orthopedic specialist (because it had broken on the growth plate) and a walking boot.  We have some lovely pictures of her in her Easter dress with that enormous black boot.  I’m not exactly sure what was the point of seeing the orthopedic specialist.  He confirmed that it had broken on the growth plate, and then said there was a chance that toe would stop growing, but that there was nothing they could do about it.  OK.  DynaGirl was slightly alarmed at the possibility of having a stubby toe.   Our conversation about it went something like this: 

              DG:  Am I going to be a freak, Mom?

              Mom:  Maybe, sweetheart, but you’ll be a beautiful, kind and compassionate freak who is very smart and draws great pictures.

              DG:  Will I still be able to wear flip flops?

              Mom:  Sure.

              It’s important to focus on the positive.  I think it’s still too early to tell on the toe–it looks like it might be shorter, but I imagine that might be because we’re looking for it to be shorter.  Only time will tell.  Needless to say, DynaGirl was becoming less and less impressed with this whole Easter business.

              So this year when I woke up Easter morning after a wonderfully uneventful night’s rest, I was optimistic that perhaps the Easter curse had been broken.  I busied myself in the kitchen preparing this and that, and there was no burning, breaking or exploding of any kind.  All seemed right in the world until I went into the laundry room.  Oh calamity!  Oh horror of horrors!  Oh six-legged little black beasties!  Ants!  Bah!  I spent the next hour clearing out my laundry room so that I could hunt them all down and slaughter them properly.  I killed them–I killed them all!  Well, probably not all of them, but all that I could see, and then I got out my Ortho Home Defense bug spray and sprayed down all my baseboards.  I’ve used it in the past and it works great.  I just spray it at the first sign of trouble and then I don’t see another ant all season.  The product also suggests spraying the outside perimeter of your house to keep them from coming in, but I suspect that they’re coming from underneath my house so I’m not too keen on the idea of cutting off any possible escape routes should they deem my territory too hostile to be considered inhabitable and decide to get while the gettin’s good.  It’s day two, and no more ants.  I’m cautiously optimistic.  At least Easter is over and we’re all still alive.  Well, except for the ants.  Sorry, suckahs.

              Speaking of plagues and pestilences, we had The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston on for a few minutes Saturday night.  DynaGirl asked what it was and we told her it was a movie about Moses, like from the Bible.  She sat and watched it for a few minutes and then said, “So, is this supposed to be serious?”  I’ve never been sure myself.

              Blessed are the 9s

              20 Mar

              Oooh, yeah!  Nine has always been my favorite number!

              You Are 9: The Peacemaker

              You are emotionally stable and willing to find common ground with others. Your friends and family often look to you to be the mediator when there is conflict. You are easy going and accepting. You take things as they come. Avoiding conflict at all costs, you’re content when things are calm.

              At Your Best: You feel connected, trusting, and fulfilled. You feel at peace with your place in the world.

              At Your Worst: You compromise your values to make sure peace is maintained. You give in to bullies.

              Your Fixation: Harmony

              Your Primary Fear: Causing conflict

              Your Primary Desire: To preserve things as they are

              Other Number 9’s: Marge Simpson, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Seinfeld, and Abraham Lincoln.

              And I’m liking the list of  “other number 9s” a whole lot better than the list of “other ESFJs” I got after taking the Myers-Briggs test.  Which, by the way, included Don Knotts, Terry Bradshaw, Sally Struthers, Hoss Cartwright and Donald Duck.  What the?  I don’t know how accurate that Myers-Briggs test could have been, seeing how I didn’t really understand some of the questions (which probably makes sense given my “yes” to #29–I’m just not very intellekshul, I s’pose).

              I often don’t like the results of personality tests.  (The “who are your celebrity sisters?” one was especially painful–I mean, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson?!  Ack!!)  I find myself taking them multiple times, hoping for a different outcome.  But it seems that no matter how many different answers I try to give, I get the exact same results.  It’s like they know what I’m trying to do. 

              One thing I find interesting, though, is that my results are almost always compatible to my husband’s.  Even on the Chinese calendar his rooster is a suggested mate to my ox–a match made in heaven.  Or a barnyard?  Nevermind, that just sounds wrong.

              So, what’s your number, and more importantly, are you happy about it?

              The kind of stimulating dinner conversation you get at bythelbs’s table or Insta-insult II

              20 Mar

              DynaGirl:  Eeew.  There’s a hair on my plate.

              Mr. T:  Your face is a hair on my plate.

              DynaGirl:  You smell like a hair on my plate.

              Mr. T:  Touche.

              Goose:  You are a hair on my plate.

              DynaGirl:  Touche.

              By the way, it was not my hair.

              By request: Madhousewife’s Broccoli Rigatoni

              19 Mar

              When I had my little call for recipes “contest”, madhousewife gave me this one, and it has proved to be a hit with my family.

              Broccoli Rigatoni

              1 lb. rigatoni or similar shaped pasta

              4 Tbsp. olive oil

              2 Tbsp. butter (I have to use non-dairy margarine, but it’s still gooood)

              1 bunch broccoli (or you know, 2-3 crowns–or a buttload boatload if your kids fight over the broccoli like mine do)

              4 cloves garlic, minced

              1 Tbsp. (yes, big T) dried basil

              1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used the chicken)

              Cook the pasta to your preferred state of al dente-ness.  Heat oil and butter over medium-high heat.  Stir-fry garlic and broccoli about 4 minutes.  Add basil and broth and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender (or tenderer, your call).  Add cooked pasta and mix it all up and eat it.  People who are not allergic to dairy may add parmesan cheese with delicious results.  (I also sprinkled mine with some freshly chopped green onions–mmmm.)

              Try it–you’ll like it!  Oh, and please feel free to post another recipe, if you’d like.

              “Trips to the dentist – I like to postpone that kind of thing.” True that, Johnny Depp. True that.

              19 Mar

              So I’ve got a dentist appointment in a couple of weeks.  I tend to use the same approach with my dentist appointments as I did with my college courses when I was in school.  I start off with my syllabus outlining all the things I need to read, study, and learn at various points during the term, and I tell myself I will keep up with all the materials–read the suggested reading each week, start my research paper weeks before it’s due, make up my study flash cards along the way and start going over them before the night before the test.  I honestly have the very best intentions.

              But I’m a crammer, you see.  I’m convinced I was just born that way.  So inevitably I find myself the night before my dentist appointment brushing, flossing, gargling, swishing, rinsing and repeating like a madwoman.  And still somehow my hygienist knows that I’m not a regular flosser.  Is she clairvoyant?  Are my raw, bleeding gums really that much of a giveaway?

              Actually, I’m a crammer and a liar because when they ask if I’m a flosser, I always say yes, but then I try to buffer it a bit with something like “Well, I could do a lot better–I’m not like religious about it.”  See, I’m more of an Easter/Christmas mass attender than the weekly Sabbath Day observer.  And by that, I mean I floss when I think there’s something stuck in my teeth or when I have a dentist appointment.  (I wonder how many “Hail Marys” you have to say to be absolved of gingivitis.  Or is it “Hell Mary”?  I don’t know–I’m not Catholic.)

              But hey, I’ve got two weeks, so if I start flossing today then when my dentist appointment rolls around I’ll have these beautiful pink, but not too pink, plump, but not swollen, healthy-looking gums and I’ll be able to honestly say I’m a bonafide daily flosser because if it only takes two weeks to form a habit that could be considered an accurate description, eh?

              I know the world is chock full o’ people who don’t enjoy the dentist, and I find myself firmly rooted (ha!–see what I did there?  root?  tooth?  dentist?)  in this camp.  I blame the first dentist I had (that I can remember at least).  His name was Dr. Milton Daniels (and no, I have not changed his name to protect the innocent guilty–that’s his actual name, at least I think it is unless I’m remembering it wrong).  Anyway, he was a terrible dentist, and not in the usual “all dentists suck because hey, they’re dentists and nobody likes dentists” kind of way, but in an “I have actual, undisputable proof of his sucktitude” kind of way.

              My reasons are threefold:

              1.  He was gross.  He spit when he talked, and this was before the day when dentists regularly wore masks.  Or maybe dentists have always worn masks and he just blatantly disregarded this practice, in which case that just strengthens my case.

              2.  He was rude.  He often told me how terrible my teeth looked.  Mind you, I am the first to admit that my teeth are not the ideal pearly whites everyone dreams of–I have gap issues, but they’re not crooked or deranged.  I have a very vivid memory of him saying to me, after suggesting an orthodontic consulation to my mother yet again, “You have a pretty face, but those teeth.”

              3.  He was insane.  One time I went in for a routine filling, and instead of giving me a shot of novacaine, he stuck a clothespin on my ear.  He said there was some new study out that suggested that pinching the ear dulled the nerve along the jaw or whatever, and that it should work just as well as the drugs.  The hell it did.  But I was only like 11 at the time and not terribly assertive, so I just sat there and suffered while images of Laurence Olivier from Marathon Man ran through my mind.  It’s not safe!  It’s not safe!

              Well, I better go not floss now.

              Do you have any dental horror stories to share?