Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tormented by Bullies

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Kids being harassed to the point of attempting - or succeeding - suicide is not only tragic; it is happening everywhere. From big cities to tiny towns, there are bullies. In third grade, our class bully was a larger-than-average guy with a buzz cut and a scowl. I avoided him purely because of his reputation. When I finally was side-by-side in line with him, I mustered the courage to speak and found out he was actually civil. Later, I learned he was abused at home and acted out at school.

A few years later, and no longer afraid of the quintessential bully, I learned that pubescent friends, (particularly girls) can be cruel. Tweens tend to be insecure, hormonal, and territorial - which can be a deadly combination. My experiences seemed to correlate with scholarly observers who determined that somewhat uncivilized behavior may occur in otherwise domestic social groups sharing similar demographics. In other words, adolescent girls can be bitchy.

As a working adult, I have held jobs that gave me contact with teen socialization. I've observed, as technology improved, social interactions changed, transforming the benign teen angst of yesteryear to today's vicious, high-tech, vitriolic hatred. A rumor that was spread by word-of-mouth 30 years ago, can now zip around the world in mere minutes. Hearsay could be scoffed as twisted words, but now those words are in print or photos on the web. Kids could only harass peers for a limited spectrum of taunts. We didn't have access to WebMD, pornography, and Wikipedia to provide fodder for contrived accusations and ailments.

Even low-tech, person-to-person bullying seems more hateful and potentially more damaging than ever because of the exposure kids have to television and movies. Some may see people acting out on reality television shows and assume bad behavior is the norm.

A few years ago, a parent told me about her daughter being harassed by a girl at high school. The rift was trivial, but the aggressor was on the warpath. She would stalk the victim by driving by her home or the recreation center during extracurricular activities. At one point the victim feared the angry teen would use the car as a weapon. When the defensive mother talked to the other mom, she was met with an attitude similar to the teen's - like mother, like daughter.

Just this week, one of the adult students in my class talked about the trouble her 13-year-old daughter is facing. Her daughter is quiet, shy, soft spoken, and by her photo, very attractive. For three years, another girl has tormented this woman's daughter. The two played soccer together and the aggressor would deliberately trip the weaker girl. The mother talked with the coach and ultimately pulled her daughter from the team. She then realized it wasn't fair to punish her daughter for the actions of the other player.

Now, the two girls ride the same bus to school. The aggressor threatens and teases, making the victim cry. The mother has tried to encourage her daughter to stand up to the bully, but the daughter won't. At the same time, she doesn't want her daughter to lose her sweet nature, anyway.

Because the daughter usually meets a close friend to ride the bus together, the bully now accuses the girl of being a lesbian. The daughter has actually talked about committing suicide because she is so tormented and ashamed. The mother has been to the teacher, the school administrators and the school board to no avail.

As I and a couple of others listened in shock, I spoke up. I noted that even if the girl was a lesbian, it shouldn't matter. (Maybe she should threaten to kiss the bully?! I have an old friend that belonged to Dykes on Bikes - I'd love to sic her on this bully!). The girl has nothing to be ashamed of, though at that age, sexual identity is such a personal and precarious topic. Everyone wants to "fit in" and doesn't want to appear different.

Regardless of what the taunts are, and regardless of the victim's temperament, the most important thing is for the individual to realize the bully is the one with the problem. Someone should not have to change their personality and become aggressive to ward off victimization. I encouraged my student to let her daughter know that self-confidence is her biggest mode of defense. If she knows that the bully is wrong, at least, perhaps, she will stop contemplating suicide.

I just gave my students an assignment that included contemplating Rudyard Kipling's "If" along with a few quotes. He was spot on when he said, "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." And, like drugs, words can heal or they can kill.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Keeping the process simple

Instead of engaging in a long diatribe about current events or subjects that rattle my brain, today I bring you an observation - a ponderance or, in more common terms, "WTF?"
The onset of the '70s brought in instand foods. "Just add water," and coffee, hot cocoa, soup, oatmeal, and a deluge of other palatable items were available. In many homes, a tea kettle was a staple and a flip of the stove switch provided hot, boiling water in a quick moment.

Within a short time, quick foods were followed by quicker cooking methods via the microwave. A cup of water takes roughly the same amount of time to boil on the stove as it does in the nukerator, but the image of a mug circling the inside of a box, illuminated by a single bulb, and screened by a black web of fibers seems far more Jetson-esque. Cookbooks addressed the new contraption, telling the modern cook how to create multi-course meals. Those that never bought into the idea of baking a cake in the microwave, found the appliance indispensable for baking a potato, popping popcorn, and reheating leftovers.

For some reason, the producers of instant foods feel that there is a need for separate "stove top" and "microwave" instructions when adding hot water to dry substances. Why does one need more hot water on the stove top than in the microwave? Is water from the microwave able to absorb better?

The instructions often have the dry ingredients mixed in with the water before heating in the microwave. Do the ions in powder get jolted in order to accept the nuked water? Perhaps the dry ingredients need to be at one with the water; zapped water is only received by zapped powder, and stove-boiled water is accepted by the regular, unhindered powder.

Though I'd prefer to understand the why of it all, I find that adding hot water - conventionally heated or microwaved -to the package contents achieves the same results. Afterall, isn't the process supposed to be simple?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Ones You Love

Written almost 20 years ago, the song is as relevant today as ever. Some things, unfortunately, never change. Bottom line - when one is living a good life and chooses to ignore the needs of others, the least he can do is tend to the ones he loves.

The Ones You Love

Children cry on the street
They don't have enough to eat
Mothers wait for days on end
A hopeless situation they can't mend

Is it good for you?
Is it good for me?
I don't know how the world can sleep
It's just not right to close the door turn out the lights

They'd better be the ones you love
The children ought to get some love
If no one else should ever get enough
They'd better be the ones you love

Daddy waits there in line
A little work he hopes to find
Something wrong with times like these
It's enough to bring a man down to his knees

Is it good for you?
Is it good for me?
I don't know how the world can sleep
It can't be right to close the door turn out the lights

They'd better be the ones you love
The children ought to get some love
If no one else should ever get enough
They'd better be the ones you love

They'd better be the ones you love
The children ought to get some love
If no one else should ever get enough
They'd better be the ones you love
Thinking of the children
The children need oh some love
You'd better be thinking about the children
The children need out love
Better be, you better be thinking of
They better be the ones you love
Better be, you better be
Better be the ones you love
- Rick Astley

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stop the hatred

Hate is expressed when people are:

Scared - Greedy - Jealous - Hateful - Mean - Selfish - Ignorant - Uninformed

Hate comes in the form of:

Persecution: a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs: the persecutions of Christians by the Romans.

Denigrate: (Denigration n.) 1. to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone's character. 2. to treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle; disparage: to denigrate someone's contributions to a project.

Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

Victims of Hate

Muslims * Christians * Jews * American Indians * Cherokee * Navaho * Disabled * African-Americans * Japanese * Asian * Haitians * Romani * Cubans * Women * Homosexuals * Elderly * Latinos * Irish * Italian * Pilgrims * Gypsies * AIDS * Mentally Ill * Smokers * Poor * Short * Obese * Alcoholics * Drug Addicts * Biracial People * Ugly People * and too many others

It's time to STOP!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cordoba Initiative: Middle East meets West

In the days when Jerry Falwell was at his peak, he led the Religious Right which critics found to be a paradox, retorting, “The Moral Majority is neither.” This generation has a new misapplication of terms when referring to the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as there is no mosque being built on Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center.
The 16-acre site of the former twin towers is undergoing reconstruction with a total of seven new buildings and a memorial for those lost in the attack on 9/11.
The surrounding area is like other districts in New York, with shops, restaurants, offices, and other sites for service and commerce. Lower Manhattan has been in need of a community center, much like those in other cities, where people can view and learn the arts, take fitness classes, hold meetings, and enjoy other activities related to serving the surrounding neighborhood.
Park51 is being developed to do just that, and more. In an effort to meet current needs, unite the community within, connect with the world, and bring the world to New York, the structure. which will take over the prior site of the Burlington Coat Factory a few blocks from the World Trade Center, is going to be 15 stories tall.
The Cordoba House is part of this structure, from which the Cordoba Initiative will operate under the leadership of Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf. Unfortunately, Islamophobia has infected many casual observers, turning mainstream Americans into intolerant, fearful, uninformed activists who have not learned details of what they are protesting.
The Cordoba Initiative has a mission of outreach to “cultivate multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders.” The effort is being made to dispel the mysteries about Islam and the Muslim community, but instead of accepting the offering of peace and brotherhood, narrow-minded westerners are slapping the welcoming hand and extinguishing the light of knowledge.
Imam Feisal has accrued an impressive curriculum vitae and has worked for a number of years with the U.S. Government to improve Islamic relationships; he currently is on a trip in the Middle East, encouraging religious tolerance.
“He is the most liberal, forward-thinking Imam I have ever met,” said my friend Deonna Kelli Sayed. Her husband, a UN diplomat, will be meeting with Abdul-Rauf this week in Bahrain. I sensed a bit of dismay in her voice when she mentioned this tidbit, since she will not be there to welcome this man about whom she discusses with great admiration.
Imam Feisal is a true visionary in his efforts to create peace and understanding amid such turbulent topics. His project, the Cordoba Initiative, is being met with vitriolic backlash, much the way peacemakers before him have been addressed.
- Socrates was forced to die by poison for his belief that humans had souls.
- Jesus was crucified for his efforts to peacefully introduce new doctrine into mainstream society.
- Gandhi was a victim of prejudice, yet sought peaceful co-existence and political reform which was met with aversion.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. sought equality and peaceful race relations, but faced adversaries in mainstream America.
There is a long history of people seeking integration, peace, and unity while being met with hatred and violence. I only hope that Imam Feisal and the Cordoba Initiative can pave a new road for Western advancement, setting an example for world peace efforts.

Reporter: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
Gandhi: "I think it would be a very good idea."
"All we are saying, is give peace a chance" - John Lennon

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Park51: Much ado about Mosque

Photo by Val Kerry

Uproar over the building of a mosque on Ground Zero continues, yet those who protest once again prove my belief: the general population are sheep that will bleat loudly while blindly following a shepherd, instead of looking for the truth.

I often get agitated with people who panic or work themselves into frenzy before assessing a situation. Why waste energy? If there’s a problem, energy is better spent in finding a solution, rather than chewing on the issue. But, alas, I digress.

First and foremost, the fret over a mosque being at a location near the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood is not necessary because Park51 is not a mosque, but is actually a community center designed to celebrate diversity and culture through arts, contemplation, and communication. Within the center, a wide variety of programs will be offered, intended to bring the best of the world to New York and the best of New York to the world. A childcare center, restaurant, culinary school, auditorium, and fitness facilities will also be included. Odd is the fact that people worry over the building of a mosque, citing it as an insult to those who died in the vicinity, yet, there are already long-standing mosques within a few blocks. A separate, unrelated, 501(3)(c) mosque will be housed at Park51 but will only be a small part of the multi-cultural, multi-storied building, and will welcome all visitors, carrying out the spirit and intent of Park51. Such a center is an honorable tribute to those affected by the attack on 9/11, and in no way defames them.

Perhaps the root of the distress is not over the building, but rather the fact that a Muslim is heading up the project. Mainstream America must get over irrational fears of Muslims. Again, the lack of knowledge is the cause of hatred and mistrust. Unfortunately for the majority of Muslims, extremists have misrepresented the religion’s true ideology. The same can be said for Christian extremists who have contributed to misconceptions about Baptists and Catholics. Every religion has its stereotypes, drawn from the actions of a few bad apples. Then there are those that twist religion to fit their mission. The Ku Klux Klan extends Christian love, but is it fair to say all Christians embrace the ways of the KKK? In the same way, many Americans have unjustly linked Muslims to the Taliban – a group that distorts its religion to carry out extremist actions.

My friend, Deonna Kelli Sayed, is a blonde-headed, American, born and bred in the South, but embraced the Muslim religion because of its values. She and I have had many discussions regarding world culture (her husband is United Nations diplomat in Bahrain ) and the purported “mosque” has been among the topics. “I wonder if we should call it a mosque, indeed,” she conveyed. “A new kind of mosque for a new kind of Muslim, a community center that embodies what Islam is about at its core: dialogue, relationship building, community development, and interfaith exchange.”

The World Trade Center stood tall and proud over the gateway of America, holding international commerce and racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. Muslim extremists chose to attack that site because of all that it represented. How appropriate for a Muslim man, reflecting the religion’s true doctrine, lead the building of Park51 which will be tribute to unity aside the new World Trade Center. “So if people want to call it a mosque, so be it,” said Deonna. “Let it be a transformative mosque, the kind that issues in a new paradigm.”

For more information and a toolkit on interfaith relations, visit

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Single Ladies, little girls

For centuries, little girls have emulated their mothers or other adult female role models around them. Wearing mom’s high heels, donning make up, and exhibiting adult mannerisms are all child’s play. Yet there are certain lines children shouldn't cross, and they depend on those same role model adults to teach them their limits. Good sense tells reasonable adults to not let a six-year-old smoke, drink alcohol, or wear stilettos on the street. Why, then, have certain parents and leaders of a dance competition gotten so defensive over public outcry regarding a troop of six- and seven-year- old children dancing provocatively?
The parents and contest spokesperson have weighed in saying there is nothing wrong with the dance. They believe that the people calling the gyrations perverse, are indeed perverse themselves. Even the little girls have been asked to weigh in on the topic, which is another bad move on the parents’ part because the girls are biased. The responses from all of those in the “pro” corner are nothing more than what is expected. If parents admitted to letting their children dance obscenely, the adults would be arrested.
No one likes to have other people judge his or her parenting skills. At the same time, this was a large dance competition, and these girls practiced endlessly in preparation. Did no one step up and even question the costume choice? Mid-drift tops, short shorts, and thigh high bowed stockings are not appropriate for elementary school girls who are kicking their legs over their shoulder and hugging their ankles to their ears. Gyrating hips are exactly that. Such moves are universal for fertility and sexuality.
Denying there is any resemblance to other choreographed versions of “All the Single Ladies,” one parent stated that the inspiration for this team was the trio of Chipettes from “Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeakquel.” Parents should first and foremost, refrain from teaching their children to emulate cartoon characters, but in this case, the Chipettes were clothed conservatively and any hip gyrations are indiscernible. Unfortunately, this knocks out the mom’s effort to put a cutesy spin on the sordid tale.
To compound what seemingly was a one-time faux pas, a second video, from the 2009 competition has surfaced. Once again, little girls are dressed in mid-drift tops, over-the-knee-high stockings with bows, and similar choreography to the song, “My Boyfriend’s Back.”. The links are being booted off the Internet almost as quickly as they appear.
The team of dancers did nothing wrong. They did as they were instructed by the adults around them, and their efforts were rewarded. The public scrutiny must seem like insane criticism to these girls since they have been praised for their hard work. Their technique, precision, and execution of style were exceptional and beyond the abilities of those three times their ages.
Parents, don’t make your kids grow up any faster than they already do. Besides, nothing can compare to the knock-out version of the now controversial tune.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nashville - still waters run deep

Note: I've made multiple efforts to correct the sizing on this video to no avail. If it appears skewed on your monitor, view on YouTube.

I heard about it on the news - briefly. Tennessee was hit with terrible rains a few weeks ago; Nashville flooded. That was all. No rallying cries for aid to a community devastated by a 500-year flood; no ads for fund-raising concerts; no celebrity endorsements through Larry King interviews. Like the rain, the news dropped the flood waters and moved on to other locations.

Thanks to my sister from the Memphis area, I have been enlightened. One thing you will notice in this footage - the photos are varied. Most news stories latch onto a few photos that are shown over, and over ... and over again, as though the producers have Asperger's Syndrome.

Read more at "We are Nashville."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Greensboro Children's Museum Stepping on Tows

When I pulled into the parking lot on March 17, only a few cars were there, which was status quo for early in the evening. Yet, the sign caught my eye -- a warning that vehicles in the lot after hours would be towed. "Has that sign always been there?" I dug around in my brain trying to recall my prior visits. Everything else looked normal, and in spite of the voice on my shoulder warning me to move, I was sure I'd be fine parked in the lot across the street from the main branch of the Greensboro Public Library.
About 1 1/2 hours later, I came out of the library to find my car was gone. Sure it was my fault - I ignored the sign, thinking that the lot would be cordoned off if trespassing was a problem. The Greensboro Children's Museum is non-profit and across from the library, so I assumed there must be some consideration for community neighbors. I assumed wrong.

I am even more disturbed that The Children's Museum is going to great lengths to ensure its lot is clear of trespassers, yet the CEO has her hand out to the Greensboro City Council in hopes of getting around $500,000 to keep the museum going.

I suggest that Ms. Grant exemplify being a good neighbor before she breaches the pockets of the taxpayers. I hand-delivered a letter to the museum on Sunday, while I was there with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. I don't know if Ms. Grant has read it yet, but I invite you to do so!

Betsy Grant, CEO
Greensboro Children’s Museum
220 North Church Street
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401

Dear Ms. Grant,

On a recent evening, I was visiting the Greensboro Public Library for a monthly community meeting. I have parked in the deck before, but also have parked in the lot of the Children’s Museum as it is after hours and does not deter from patron parking. Doing so is safer than walking to the deck alone at 9 pm where traffic and security are scarce.
I was astounded to find my vehicle had been towed from the museum lot and even more shocked at the $195 fee to retrieve my car. (Not to mention scrounging up a ride to get to the towing lot.)
As a lifelong resident of Greensboro, I have been proud of how the downtown businesses seem to work together to promote the area’s revitalization. The city does not charge for parking after 6 pm and encourages visitors to migrate to downtown for evening gatherings.
The fact that your non-profit agency would collaborate with a towing agency to profit off of such an endeavor is quite distressing. Such actions are contrary to the usual camaraderie among the community. I also find it interesting that you would ask for financial support from the City of Greensboro with such adversarial actions against the local residents and the instigation of this creative method of income.
What if a parent were visiting the museum with his or her child and, upon leaving, decided to visit the library? If the towing has begun because of loitering, then merely install a chain, rather than take advantage of those that would support your ventures.
I am a patron of the Children’s Museum, taking my family, my granddaughter, and several children’s groups from a local recreation department. Just as I have frequently recommended your attraction to others, I will also spread word of your lack of community fellowship. I also plan to share this information with the Greensboro City Council, News & Record, post to my online blog, and social media connections. Rather than blindside you with dispersal of my statements, like I was blindsided by towing, I have chosen to share my story in hopes that someone else will not suffer the same financial and mental duress I have endured.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beyond Tolerance to Acceptance

During a recent class discussion, I questioned my students about their understanding of the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Immediately, I saw facial expressions change with their recognition of the relationship between the two terms. When discussing such issues in a classroom filled with adult students from a rural community, I steady myself in case there is backlash. I also make every effort to create an environment of open discussion rather than judging comments. Still, I was pleased that students nodded in agreement when considering the point that mere tolerance is not conducive to diversity. Several people in the class even noted that "the Bible doesn't say anything about 'tolerating' others; it says we should be accepting of each other."
Since the discussions in my classes, I have continued to mull over the attitudes and comments made, and from that I have drawn a few observations:

  1. Even though I am helping them polish their communication skills through writing, these students are eloquent in their expressions of diversity and acceptance.
  2. A closed mind can not expand or grow, thus any form of education, including life's lessons, comes to a halt.
  3. Fear of the unknown, which includes lack of knowledge, hinders acceptance.

As for Fred Phelps and his cult at Westboro Baptist Church, what are they so afraid of, that they find it necessary to travel from Topeka, KS to Palo Alto, CA to criticize students for celebrating diversity and acceptance? Congratulations to the forward thinking high schoolers in their efforts to demonstrate peaceful unity and for embracing those that claim to be enemies. In order for someone to be an enemy, his aversion must be reciprocated. May others learn to follow Gunn High School's example by letting their little lights shine brightly to shrink the dark shadows of hatred.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prejudice: A classroom adventure

In order to get creative juices flowing and open up dialogue among students in my English composition classes, I decided to delve into prejudice and discrimination.
The community college where I teach is tucked away in a rural county of North Carolina that has been hit hard over the years with the demise of the tobacco and textile industries. Last year’s economic downturn resulted in an enrollment spike as people try to recreate their career goals. The Ku Klux Klan still thrives here, along with moonshine, stills, and backroom gambling. The communities within the county have deep roots in heritage, family, and tradition. Newcomers are observed with discriminating eyes, yet residents are generally friendly, warm, and sincere.

I am impressed with the diversity in my classes, with students ranging in age from 17 to 60+, male and female, married, single, divorced, parents, straight, gay, and a variety of skin tones, though many would only see black and white. Everyone gets along, and I’ve never seen any negative interactions. In fact, students seem to want to help each other. Still, I know that prejudice can be a touchy subject, and with an eclectic mix of students, I wasn’t sure what the responses would be.

I opened with a passage from It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, by Robert Fulghum:

“It’s hard to judge without a lot more information. Oh sure, we go ahead and judge anyhow. But maybe, if judgment were suspended a bit more often, we would like us more.”

Pointing out that “prejudice” is derived from “prejudge,” I focused early discussion on why and how we prejudge. People learn from their surroundings, others, and by expanding their boundaries to explore beyond their limitations. We rely on what we know to guide us through the unknown. Current understanding is applied to fit into the unknown – the proverbial square peg in a round hole.

“Why do some people not like the dark?” I asked.

“Because they are scared,” was the general response.


“Because they don’t know what’s there.”

I pointed out that the same bias applies to prejudice. We prejudge other people because we don’t know them. We apply what we DO know and use it against what we DON’T know because we are afraid of what we don’t understand.

The nods and smiles around the room let me know I had made a connection. The discussion continued, as will further installations in this blog to share some of the revelations from class.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Metal Storm of Destruction

When Alfred Nobel developed a way to control nitroglycerin for explosions, his intent was to make construction and blasting rock safer. He was a man with strong interest in social and peace-related issues and his invention of dynamite was intended to promote industry and progress - not as a giant step in the arms race. As a result, his fortune was used to begin the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I was reminded of Nobel's story upon learning of Metal Storm, a company that is developing new technology in weapons systems. Their concept is impressive and powerful, as shown in the video below.
Radical idiots in other countries have proven the need for defense, so I don't question those necessary, yet loathsome, tools. However, I am terrified of this next generation of weaponry. I can only wonder what these devices can do in the wrong hands, and I question if they are in the right hands now. The term "boys and their toys" also comes to mind when I consider that no women are on the executive board of this company. Men like Nobel and Gandhi head the list that proves men to be peaceful, yet it seems to take a great deal of testosterone to develop destruction. (Oxymoron intended!).
The U.S. Department of Defense may be ecstatic about the progress, but do they have the technology to defend our soldiers when these weapons are turned against our own forces - and do local police forces have the funding and know-how when these guns are in the hands of gang members and other criminals?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Technical "Support"?

God bless the technical support person that has common sense as well as knowledge of their product. I presume they are few and far between, leaving their jobs due to frustration with the multitudes of co-workers that have absolutely no sense at all. These imbeciles can’t find their way through a conversation, much less deal with the average person. Yet, the tone of their canned rhetoric often is demeaning or condescending.
My experience tonight was a carbon copy of prior encounters. The textbook I use to teach a community college course has an instructor’s companion site, and I was having trouble gaining access. To contact tech support online chat, a form must be completed that includes the ISBN for the book, the URL for the site and a statement of the problem.
I stated that I was unable to access the instructor resources at, giving the exact URL.
The conversation is self-explanatory, but I’ve added comments in parentheses:

You are now chatting with robert r
robert r: Thank you for contacting (Name of Company) Tech Support, my name is Robert. How may I help you tonight Iris?
Iris: Hi Robert - I'm trying to go from the url and click on Instructor Resources but am getting an error code Perhaps I need to re-sign in but can't find the sign in screen either
robert r: May I ask what website you are trying to do this on? (What happened to the info I just entered?)
Iris: oh yes - let me get it again I had it on the form to fill out for chat ... just a sec
Iris: http://(complete address) /ins_resources.html (five minutes pass)
robert r: Thank you, just one second please. (another five minutes)
robert r: May I ask what you are trying to access when you get to this page? (And I filled out that stupid form because ...?)
Iris: instructor resources
Iris: the first thing on the center of the page (tick tock tick tock … several more minutes)
robert r: Does it take you to a login page after you click that? (Did I mention that I might need to sign in but there's no sign in prompt???)
Iris: no i get an error message
robert r: What does the error say? (Ok – you asked for it …)
Iris: It says an error has occurred while processing your request. Contact technical support Error details: (I sent about 20 lines of technical lingo)
robert r: Ok, Just one second please. (10 minutes pass)
robert r: Have you cleared your cookies and cash from the computer?
Iris: yes (Stumped again, I suppose … another five minutes)
robert r: May I ask what web browser you are using?
Iris: not sure - IE 7 or 8 (That was in that form, too!)
Iris: I accessed the site earlier today without trouble
robert r: Have you tried to restart your computer since this problem started?
Iris: no
robert r: Ok, go ahead and try to restart it. If it still having the same issue, you can chat back and ask for me and we can go from there.
Iris: ok thanks

It seems rebooting is the universal cure-all. I don’t mind, but did he have to take 30 minutes to figure it out? And would someone please tell me what these folks are doing when the consumer is waiting? I used to give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they must be juggling several calls at once.
Now, I think they must take coffee breaks, play solitaire, or yell, “Hey Stan … This lady has a problem and I can’t figure it out.” Stan then replies, “Tell her to reboot!” That’s a sure way to make a problem disappear!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haitii profiteers

While I acknowledge credit is a priviledge, the credit card companies also are in business for profit. Perhaps recent interest rate and policy changes have them scrambling for creative ways to pull profits, but dipping into Haitian relief efforts is like making change from the church offering plate. With millions of dollars donated by credit card, a 3% transaction fee adds up quickly. Don't fall for the news that some card companies are waiving fees for specific charities - the lists are missing major groups such as Doctors Without Borders. Taking advantage of tragedy and goodwill is wrong. No one should profit from disaster. For more information, and to sign a petition, please visit

Automated Teller Machines

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tommy Wrenn takes on Laramie Project

On Oct. 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard succumbed to injuries sustained as a victim of a hate crime. Details of the case spread around the world, and news crews descended on Laramie, Wyoming. Even though his assailants attacked because Matthew was gay, the murderers could not be charged with a hate crime since no federal or state laws were in place. Almost immediately, efforts were made to create hate crime legislation yet, thanks to "politics," it took 11 years to succeed. In October 2009, President Obama held true to his word and signed the legislation named in honor of Matthew Shepard and another hate crime victim, James Byrd, Jr.
The Laramie Project is a collection of statements made by people in the town of Laramie, documenting details, recollections, and reactions to Matthew's attack. Moise's Kaufman and fellow members of the Tectonic Theater Project conducted more than 200 interviews over the course of a year and half. The resulting play has also been produced by HBO as a feature film.
Thanks to Tommy Wrenn, Laramie citizens were portrayed on a local stage by high school students. Just 17 years old, Tommy directed the play for his senior high school graduation project. The students on stage were only a few years younger than Matthew was when he died; many of them are headed for college just like Matthew was enrolled in the University of Wyoming. The actors told a story of a peer.
Their performance this weekend was astounding, conveying much more than dialogue of a play. The audience cheered, clapped, and offered a standing ovation to the cast and director for a job well-done, yet the energy conveyed seemed to honor Matthew and The Laramie Project as well. Hate is everywhere, and though Tommy Wrenn may or may not realize it, he stared down the monster when he chose a labor of love. The countless hours devoted to his senior project came to fruition sending out positive energy for the Greensboro, NC community. Our town has had its share of history laced with hatred; kudos to the school administrators that allowed the production, and thanks to Tommy for sharing the love. Matthew lives on in the hearts of those who have shared his story.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


As people hustle through life, someone inevitably sends out the reminder to "stop and smell the roses." Yet, how often does each person take heed? Taking time to use each sense - touch, see, smell, taste, hear - is the opportunity to relieve stress and literally take time for oneself. The additional benefits can include creating precious memories from such experiences, noticing something that is ordinarily not perceived, connecting with another human, or finding humor to lift the spirit.
Often, life can be overwhelming, and it is easier for me to slip into routine or hide away as much as I can. Yet, if I take time, (e.g. force myself) to get out of my comfort zone, my life is enriched because of new sights or sounds.
I treasure the way sunlight plays with shadows on a tree-lined street; the smell of fresh mown grass or a crisp autumn morning delights my nose; the sound of my granddaughter's voice on the phone is a gift from heaven.
I have fallen into ruts, but I also have risked being caught by the sanity patrol for seizing unusual moments. My son and I laughed while jumping through the produce section of a grocery store avoiding dark colored tiles; I have used a different door to enter my house, not wanting to destroy a spider's work of art; I have carried on intriguing conversations with complete strangers; and done everything conceivable to embarass my children in front of their friends.
Asking questions and finding answers is another way I have found to expand my senses. Just recently, I received an email about an experiment where a famous violin player performed in a subway terminal. The goal was to see how many people would stop and listen. I was curious for more details than the email provided, and in the process found out The Washington Post earned a Pulitzer for "Pearls Before Breakfast." That article then referenced a movie I had heard of, but never had the opportunity to watch. Another quick search divulged that Koyannisqatsi is available in its entirety on YouTube.
I have every confidence that if I had been in that subway, I would have stopped and listened. If my children were younger and with me, I would have sat on the floor and enjoyed it with them. I also know that, in the future, I will not escape such an opportunity. Hopefully, dear reader, you will take time to enjoy a few of the gems I have provided here. At the very least, do stop and smell the roses.