Thursday, October 30, 2008

Positive choices

When I took a class on interpersonal relationships (more years ago than I care to admit) the instructor stated that we always have a choice. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, there is absolutely, positively, undeniably a choice. I was among those in the class that said, "Not always - sometimes your back is against the wall, there are times ...." The teacher shook his head in opposition. "You may not like your choices, but they are always there."

After digesting his statement I realized he was right and even better, his statement is liberating. We are never stuck with one option. Even if someone has a gun to your head, you have a choice - do as you are told or don't. Ultimately you have the power of making the decision and accepting the consequences of your choice.

Taking choices a step further, you can opt to turn negatives into positives based on the choices you create for yourself, as proven by one woman's political statement. Shannon Bennett of Texas was tired of having the Obama political signs stolen from her yard. She had choices - she could have stopped putting out signs, she could have staked out the thieves, she could have whined to her local authorities. Instead, she made a better wheel - she bought 12 cans of spray paint and turned her front yard into one huge Obama sign! Innovative, positive and she's a great role model for thinking outside the box.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shawn Turschak was fed up with his McCain/Palin signs disappearing. Being an electrical engineer, he decided to send a shocking message to would-be criminals. Unfortunately, his first victim was a 9-year-old boy. Of course dad says the kid was just examining the sign. The child was also trespassing and should have been taught, like I was, if it's not yours, don't touch it! The police got involved, no one got in trouble.

Was the Chapel Hill Shocker wrong? No, just predictable. He took the easy choice and was vindictive in his quest to assault burglars. The kid probably deserved a pop on the hand but got a zap instead and there's always the danger of shocking the wrong person, sending them into deathly arrhythmia. I shudder to think about the potential for barbecued squirrels on this guy's lawn. Depending on the neighborhood, he could have ended up with a crowd for dinner. Heaven forbid the UNC Ram graze in his yard - Muttonchops anyone? He might end up with a bunch of Dookie(s) in his yard - GO BLUE DEVILS! But I digress ... The point is, Mr. Turschak was on a negative path that led to a positive charge. (Did you honestly expect me to avoid that electrifying pun?)

Realizing we have choices can make the world more enjoyable for us; creating positive choices can make us better for the world. A word of warning kids: There's still a lot of positively negative people out there - baaaaack awaaaay from the signs!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Seeing eye to eye

Through the beauty of technology, the magic of networking and I am sitting front and center, watching Senator Obama speak to a crowd in Raleigh. He remains consistent with his message, clarifies the slams issued by the opposition and keeps the energy high. All of these are expected and he delivers well. But there is something different today.

He stopped his speech, pointed to an area calling for medical personnel and stepped over to hand off water. He isn't just scanning the crowd when he speaks. He is actually looking at people, seeing them eye to eye. A short while later, he pointed to another person needing assistance. At the end of his speech, he looked into the crowd and asked about one of the victims. A thumbs up indicated all was well.

Seeing eye-to-eye on issues is visionary, seeing eye-to-eye with people is invigorating.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I believe in the underdog going for justice but in many lawsuits I wonder if the ends offer any benefit other than padding the litigator's pockets.
A court just ruled against Target, awarding $3.1 million to a woman who was falsely accused of using counterfeit $100 bills. The legal tender was issued before the clerk was even born, so his gut reaction was to issue an email warning to a half-dozen other businesses in the area. One of the other businesses receiving the warning happened to be the Belk Department Store where the Target customer works in loss prevention.
There are so many things wrong with this whole scenario that it's hard to know where to begin dissecting it - but I'm going to forge ahead.
First, I despise $100 bills. I don't carry huge chunks of cash around so I don't need large bills to keep my wallet from stretching. On the extremely rare occasion that I may opt to pay cash for something costing a few C-notes, I will ask the bank teller for them and go straight to the vendor - do not pass go, get out of jail free, run like yo' mama's screaming.
For those that choose to spend the big bills, be aware that a watchful thief will see how much change you receive and may assume there are more Ben Franklin photos hiding in your wallet.
Second, I have had my own argument with a very young sales clerk when I tried to spend an old $20. "This is counterfeit, I can't take it," the kid looked bored. "No it isn't, I just got it from the bank." I ended up giving her a newer bill and spent my old one elsewhere. So what? The kid was ignorant and working for minimum wage. We're lucky she can count change, much less recognize old bills. Oh wait, they don't actually have to figure the change any more do they?
Moving on, The woman filing suit works in security. I can't believe she doesn't have empathy for a merchant trying to be a good citizen and sending out warnings to others. Petty theft costs everyone, especially consumers. Has she never heard "err on the side of caution"?
Finally, a very public apology should have sufficed in this case. Target could have sent another email retracting their initial alert and simply saying, "Our clerk is an idiot, the bills are real." Give the woman a shopping spree to restore her dignity, make personal visits to the stores receiving alerts, say "I'm sorry."
Instead, this falsely accused woman has now potentially burdened Target shoppers with making up the losses in higher prices. Target gives millions to education, calculating a percentage of their sales profits. I wonder how much this Belk-security-guard-turned-millionaire will donate to charity.
Where's Judge Judy when we need her to knock some sense into these folks?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eat your veggies

Graphic artists do have a reputation for taking liberties with their designs practically creating a picture hunt game within any artwork. My OCD tendencies have my eyes picking out patterns in the most mundane places like wallpaper or mosaics however I have never been one to study a pack of brocolli like this woman did. Either the photographed brocolli was picked from a fairy garden or the artist got bored and photoshopped his (ahem) buds into the design. Either way, these folks are a bit green around the gills.
Speaking of buds, at least these were talking heads as opposed to the naughty bits people have found in advertising like Ikea, Camel cigarettes and Coca-Cola.
Are people finding this stuff because they are sexually repressed (when the design is phallic) or do they really have nothing better to do? I would say that I need to pay less attention to the nutritional charts and study the graphics more, but since I'm neither sexually repressed or bored, I'll leave the hunt to those with eagle eyes.

Virtual Jailbird

Virtual reality players need to heed mama's warning to "play nice" or else they could end up in jail. Two Japanese co-workers hooked up their avatars for some pretend time in the digital matrix but when the man divorced without warning, the woman murdered her estranged VR spouse. Jailed on suspicion of computer hacking, the femme fatale faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
As kids, we pretended to shoot each other with our lethal index fingers and I had teenage friends that sank deep into their imaginations with Dungeons and Dragons. Even adults reenact battles in historic parks. This woman took fantasy to a new level when she pretended to kill her cartoon husband. Her fault is encroaching reality by manipulating her opponent's software.
Sabotaging another person's gear is no way to win a game and her efforts should have stayed within the confines of the computer screen. Why not dream up a hot new male avatar to make the ex-hubby jealous? Or go for the virtual plastic surgery to make herself desirable and unattainable?
I don't know how the Japanese correctional system functions, but one wonders if the jailed vixen can take Mario through a Bonus Round to earn coins for bail.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Palin Pumps It Up

"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize." - Olympia Dukakas as Clairee Belcher in "Steel Magnolias"

Looks like Palin has as much pump action on her feet as with her shotgun. Her Naughty Monkey "Double Dare" shoes are being snapped up on the web by her fashion followers. Eyeglass designer Kawasaki is thanking Palin for a surge in sales. A $750 Louis Vuitton bag hangs by Piper's side, looking more like a carry-on than a purse. Even little Trig's duds are linked at Pacifier's. Shameful spending using $150,000.00 from the Republican National Committee's budget is topped off with the irony of Palin's ability to accessorize with a Democratic scarf. One could compare her wasteful spending, total disregard to the plight of the working (and out-of-work) class, self-absorbed and self-righteous nature to the last eight years of Bush-onomics but McCain vehemently denies the likeness in his quest for the Oval Office. Aside from pointing out the vulgar abuses of power and spending in the Palin pack, my real reason for noting the expenditures is to cull the herd of flighty followers that actually pander to the trends established by a fashion fascist. Far from being a fashionista myself, I notice if someone appears sharply dressed or is disheveled but labels elude me. The fact that people have zoomed in on accessories only to mimic the style is appalling. Those that would choose their wardrobe off the backs of others exhibit the same wasteful spending and lack of independent thinking the RNC’s veep candidate exudes.
Before emulating the ewe, the flock needs to check for the wool-wearing wolf.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Johnny, Get your wrench!

"Arab and Good Person are not antithetical to one another."
- Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher 10/17/08

Growing up, I learned the term "back-handed compliment" and John McCain exhibited the epitome of this idiom when he corrected a supporter's accusation of Obama being an Arab.
"No he's not," said McCain. "He's a good guy ... he's not an Arab." Ok, I'll give McCain the benefit of realizing he was correcting the woman with "No he's not" and at the same time trying to reinforce that Obama is a good person instead of being a potential terrorist. I suppose it would be easy for any of us fumble our words and hope that people understand our intent.
Such fallibility has passed my own lips however, I am not running for President of the United States. The person that sits in the hot seat of this universe needs to choose his or her words carefully. Not only did McCain give a back-handed insult to Obama, he insulted every Arab. Way to go Johnny Maverick. Ya might wanna see if Joe the Plumber will take you on as an apprentice because your blunders are landing harder than a caribou hit between the eyes with a 30-ought-six round nose.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Breaking the Stepford Mold

As promised in my Oct. 14 blog, solutions to the educational crises in America are available. One of the struggles is bureaucracy in the national educational system. The rest of the world is changing yet schools are stagnant in their efforts to challenge, stimulate and prepare kids for the future.
I came across “The Ron Clark Story,” a movie about one educator who dared to make a difference. By watching the special features on the DVD, I learned that the story was pretty close to real life and it prompted me to do more research online.
Ron Clark is originally from Aurora, NC and after teaching there several years, he heard that teachers were needed in Harlem. He packed up, moved to New York and managed to find a position at an elementary school. The principal was hesitant, but Ron took the worst class in school and by the end of the year, their test scores were the best in the school, exceeding the gifted and talented class.
After winning Disney’s Best Grade 3-6 Teacher Award and National Best Teacher award in 2000, he was invited to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Producers in Los Angeles saw the show and contacted Ron to make a movie about his story. Ron also wrote “The Essential 55” based on rules in the classroom that hit the best seller list. The rules address issues for getting along in the classroom, teach respect and lead kids to perform better in school.
With the proceeds from the book, he opened The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta which will be a model for charter schools across the nation. He will have visitors from around the world to see innovative ideas for teaching. Looking at the list of board members is like reading a “Who’s Who” directory.
I highly recommend the movie to anyone interested in better education. For a glimpse into the academy visit

ConvergeSouth '08

Far from being a part of the flock, the participants at ConvergeSouth 2008 are definately herders. A newbie to blogging, this was my first experience at a related conference and my head is still spinning. I'll be spending a great deal of time catching up to the technology and people that I met. Perhaps this has put me in the category of "ewe" but I'm glad to be following these folks! Definately NOT a baaaaad experience.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stepford Schools

I can be picky to a fault. If something doesn’t look right, I’ll point it out or ask about it. Remember the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and how everyone was ooohing and ahhhing over the guy’s fine threads until the kid yelled out, “He’s not wearing anything!” I prefer a more subtle approach and try not to be rude but if something is bared before me, it’s got my attention.

I submitted my resume for the local school system’s consideration – I know, I’m crazy but that’s another subject. Part of the pre-employment brouhaha includes going to a website to take the Haberman Star Teacher questionnaire. By answering 50 questions, this analyzes a person’s durability as a teacher, ability to handle situations and other enlightening skills and abilities. This site describes the 10 dimensions assessed and I found a couple of them worthy of discussion.

The first one is “persistence.” To paraphrase, the test can determine if a potential teacher can work with kids who have behavioral and learning problems on a daily basis for 180 days. The description alone is enough to make a person turn and run!

Another dimension is the ability to “Survive in a Bureaucracy.” The whooshing sound is the red flag whizzing by your ear as it runs up the pole. This interesting point “predicts the likelihood that the respondent will be able to function as a teacher in large, depersonalized organization.” (sic)

No matter how you break this one down, the stench is the same – Schools have become robotic and bureaucratic, embracing the educators that can put up with it. What happened to seeking teachers who are creative, innovative and independent? I suppose if a teacher can tolerate restrictive and unbending administration, the problem kids are a piece of cake.

I must offer kudos to the one that developed this assessment. They managed to design a tool that seeks perpetuators of the biggest problem in schools and recognized that school systems actually want these people! Even better, they charge money for administering the online test. I thought drug dealers were the only ones that knew how to sell you something that is bad for you and make you believe it’s what you want.

Don’t despair – there are innovative and exciting people making huge changes in our educational system. Check baaaaack for solutions in my next entry.

And how did I do on this test you ask? I haven’t taken it yet because the sign-in information the school system gave me is incorrect!