Sexualizing 13-year-olds

On their birthdays, no less.

I guess seeing Honey Boo-Boo Child and the rest of the toddlers in tiaras should have prepared me for this. But no, not even the teeny-tiny shorts and obnoxious “I’m too pretty to do math!” t-shirts made me ever think that this birthday card could come to be.

If you can’t click the link, it’s a birthday card that clearly states, “You’re 13 Today!” So, no, it’s not intended for a 30-year-old woman. Even if it was, it would still be despicable—it’s crazy sexist and stupid, not to mention that it features ugly art—but as it is, it’s downright abominable.

Beneath that simple header, the card reads, “If you had a rich boyfriend, he’d give you diamonds and rubies. Well, maybe not, but maybe next year when you’ve bigger boobies!”

I wish it was just a joke, but it’s apparently a read birthday card for real 13-year-olds intending to—what, let them know they aren’t good enough for diamonds and rubies unless they have large breasts? Or that value is found in such items rather than anything else—or that a man will not love them unless they have said large breasts?

I cannot even begin to address how wrong this thing is. The phrase “you’ve” makes me think it might be a British card—I never heard my American friends saying “you’ve” unless it’s something like “You’ve got broccoli in your teeth” in the present, not the future, tense—and I’m all about dark British humor. I really am. I love it. But this isn’t humorous.

If it were between grown women, I guess I could get it—like I said, it would still insinuate all of the sexist and materialistic sentiments above—but it’s for a teen girl who is just beginning to develop, who is so self-conscious already she thinks everyone in the world is looking at her, who is so impressionable that hearing something like this could leave an imprint on her for life.

Think I’m going overboard? Ask Lindsay Lohan what her life might be like if someone hadn’t told her she’d be great with “bigger boobies!”

There is a chance it’s a joke card—I don’t know how, since the age is clearly stated—but even if it is, some idiot is going to think it’s funny and buy it for an impressionable young girl.

Anyone who buys this card should be punched in the face. So should the person who designed it. Of course, as a pacifist, I’d gladly settle for burning all of these stupid things and ensuring they never be handed out to anyone, ever.

Way to breed terrorists, Mom and Dad!

Do four-year-olds really need to play violent video games?

This past Wednesday was not nearly as crowded, and therefore unbearable, as our first week at my daughter’s gymnastics studio. We were actually able to find a spot to park it where we could really watch her, and though I was pleased that she was having a good time (she smiled the whole time, even when she struggled with certain moves), there were plenty of things that still irritated me—from the surrounding parents and their cruelty toward their own children (one mom kept flicking her little girl, who had to be younger than three, in the mouth for spitting on her!) to the examples of why we have such violence in our culture.

A little boy who looked about four—he was definitely much younger than my six-year-old—sat down next to us playing some sort of video game. I think it was on his mom’s phone, but I didn’t get a good look and I’m not familiar with most game systems. The game this kid was playing wasn’t flying fruit or Angry Birds or Spongebob; it was a violent Lego game that involved shooting everyone in sight. It even included blood spatter to make it look more authentic.

Really, Mom and Dad? This is what you give your four-year-old, who certainly doesn’t need these images in his mind? This is what you provide as entertainment, even as studies show that violent video games alter brain function in boys, even as bullying is rampant in this country and the world’s not getting any more peaceful from our part? Are you trying to raise a terrorist, folks?

Surveying this room of people—parents who ignored their kids to play on their own cell phones as said children dangerously perched on the bars of the mezzanine viewing area or the stairs or the bleachers, falling and being told by distracted parents as they cried, “See, told you not to do that;” the flicking mom, the violent video game kid, and everyone else in the room—I tried not to feel judgmental (even as I could feel their fat-hating judgment from afar, as I always can; we all have something to judge, don’t we?). I tried to remind myself that everyone is doing the best they can with what they know, that I don’t know any of them personally and have no idea what they are going through.

But then I just turned to my husband and said helplessly, “This is why we’ve stopped evolving.”

Jeff Foxworthy proves that we don’t need school

The only time you’ll ever need to know something is on his show!

Jeff Foxworthy himself is not proof that we don’t need schools, but the television show that he hosts, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, sure is. Have you watched this thing? It’s painful. An adult is asked a bunch of questions that the average fifth grade student would know, and he or she has a team of fifth graders to rely on for help. The few times I’ve seen the show, the adult is typically wrong and the kids are right—and if the adult fails to rely on the kids, he or she loses, and it’s a giant, embarrassing joke.

On the one hand, I’m constantly slapping my face. I was one of those teacher pleaser students who had to memorize everything in order to avoid getting into trouble and disappointing anyone other than myself, which left me with some pretty flawed views of the world and myself—but also left me with plenty of useless knowledge. I usually know the answers on the show and feel like calling the adults on it idiot, moron, imbecile…

Yet that phrase—useless knowledge—is key here. It’s truly useless. Knowing it has not made me a better person or gotten me a better job. And most of the people on the show look pretty happy and healthy. None of them have been homeless, to my knowledge (though that in and of itself isn’t an indication of success, either, but often one of sheer bad luck—or even voluntary poverty, depending on the person). They have all had jobs, families. They’re pretty successful, despite the fact that they don’t know what the hell a palindrome is. (It’s a word that’s spelled the same forwards as it is backwards for those of you who’ve forgotten; again, pretty useless to know, except for within a television show.)

These kids are being told that they’re memorizing these facts for a better life, that they’ll get better jobs and earn money and who knows what else, just by knowing them and doing well in school. Not only do we know this to be erroneous now in such a tanked economy; I think it’s been erroneous all along. It really depends on how you define success.

If success means doing what you love, living life to your own standards with your own ethics, living a sustainable lifestyle, having a family, or anything that’s personal to you—well, it’s pretty irrelevant. If success means memorizing a bunch of facts so you can keep memorizing more facts to eventually be a public school teacher or college professor, then, yes, perhaps it’s helpful. But how many of us are on that track—or want to be, for that matter?

Woman Fakes Rape

How far would you go to get something you wanted?

I just read a news story that left me shaking my head. Apparently, a woman, Laurie Ann Martinez, living in Sacramento, Calif. wanted to move to a safer neighborhood, but her husband didn’t want to move from their home. So, she faked being raped in her home to try and convince her husband that their neighborhood was unsafe. She split her lip, had a friend punch her in the face, and wet her pants to make her husband think she had been knocked unconscious. She told the police that when she woke up, her pants were around her ankles, and items had been stolen from her house.

Seriously? There wasn’t any other way she could convince her husband to move? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything bad enough to fake a crime to get it. The claim was made in April. Since then, the truth has come out about the ruse.  Martinez had a friend of hers beat her up, and then hide several items from the house to make it appear she had been raped during a robbery, so that Martinez could convince her husband that their neighborhood was unsafe and they needed to move.

Did it work? Nope, not by a long shot. Instead of buying a new house with Martinez, her husband filed for divorce six weeks after the incident. And, before the “rape”, Martinez had told several co-workers what she was planning to do. The co-workers eventually told the police, and Martinez and her friend confessed to the set-up. Martinez and her friend have been charged with conspiracy and could each spend up to three years in prison if convicted.

In a bit of irony, Martinez works as a prison psychologist. At least, she did, until the conspiracy came to light. While she still has her license, Martinez was transferred into a position where she has no contact with the prisoners once the investigation into the incident began.

Flying on Budget Airlines

Anybody who has taken a short flight to a nearby destination will have considered taking a budget airline at some point or another.  There are countless budget airlines all over the world.  Europe has Ryanair, Asia has Air Asia and Tiger Airways and Jetstar service Australasia.  In exchange for low fares people who book with these airlines will need to sacrifice some creature comforts.  Many travelers will be wondering if flying on a budget airline is worth the hassle.

Those who want a comfortable ride with good entertainment and food will be severely disappointed.  Many of these airlines do not serve a meal as part of their airfare.  Instead passengers can purchase low quality food using cash or credit cards.  It should also be noted that these airlines do not have entertainment systems.  Some of them will let passengers rent them at an additional cost.  However sometimes there are not enough units for every customer that wants them.

The reality is that flying on one of these airlines will be an uncomfortable experience.  Due to this people should avoid booking them for long haul flights.  Those who do decide to book flights should be aware that some of these airlines have a reputation for canceling or delaying flights.  This could leave passengers stranded until they are able to find another flight.  While using these airlines is not ideal, they are very cheap.  Those on a tight budget may be willing to put up with a few annoyances for a low cost fare.


Suicide - Who's to Blame?

For some, it's the only answer

Before I go any further, let me state that I am not writing this post to create any debates, or to be lectured. This post is strictly my opinion and thoughts on this subject.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about suicide lately. No, not because it's something I've been contemplating. One of my former colleagues and acquaintances committed suicide this week, and it got me to thinking.

When news of the death leaked out, there was a general feeling of shock and disbelief among my friends, co-workers and acquaintances. There was also a lack of information, which bred speculation. Since the deceased was a local celebrity, as the news spread into the community more speculation, rumors, questions and misinformation ran rampant.

Once it was confirmed that the deceased had, indeed, taken his own life, the questions increased, both among those who knew him personally, and among those who knew of him and his work. The question most often asked is Why? The only person who can truly answer that question can no longer speak for himself.

We know now that he had suffered from depression for years. I don't think anyone was really aware of that, other than his family. He hid it well. At work, and in the community, he was friendly and funny. He laughed a lot, and knew how to make others laugh.  He was upbeat. He was good at what he did. On the surface, it appeared he had it made. Sadly, it wasn't enough.

When someone commits suicide, often times family and friends blame themselves for not paying attention; for not noticing something was wrong. Others will blame the victim themselves, calling them a coward or saying they gave up. Personally, I don't think either party is to blame. We can't know what others are going through deep down inside, even if they are our parent, child, or spouse. No matter how close you are, you cannot and will not ever know everything about that person. Everyone has their own personal demons and everyone deals with them in the manner they see fit. Whether we feel it's right or it's wrong, everyone is entitled to their own way of handling the cards dealt to them.

Instant Gratification

I want it now

Instant gratification... today's generation thrives on it. With news being readily available 24 hours a day, on tv and over the internet almost as it happens, instant messaging and emails, and resources readily available, a lot of the young people of today don't know what it's like to wait.

When I was growing up in the Midwest, news was televised twice daily, at 6 pm and 10 pm. Special reports happened only when something earth-shattering occurred, such as President Kennedy's assassination. Or, we had to wait until the next day to read it in the newspaper. In my parent's day, there were newsreels before the movie at the theater. Now, there are 24 hour news channels, and it seems like there are special reports every time anything out the ordinary happens.

I remember waiting anxiously for the mailman to see if I had a letter from my best friend from summer camp, or a birthday card from grandma. Now, the only mail I get is bills... the letters and cards are now all sent by email.

Because of the instant availability of almost everything, a lot of this generation gets upset and aggravated when they have to wait for anything. A lot of people think it is their right to have what they want now, without having to wait. I've witnessed this younger generation be rude to store clerks, waiters and waitresses, and even other customers because they had to wait.

I enjoy using the internet and having instant access to information just as much as the next person, but sometimes I think it gets a little ridiculous. These young kids... God, I'm starting to sound like my parents.


Dealing With Annoying Insurance Companies

"So what can people like me do about long hold times, incompetent staff and high policy premiums?"

One of my biggest pet peeves is phoning my insurance company. When I was younger, I was happy to wait on hold for half an hour. I didn't mind sacrificing my time as my insurance provider is deemed to be one of the best in the country. Today I'm not sure whether they are worth the hassle.

I recently went on vacation and accidentally missed a payment. This led to my insurer canceling my policy. I contacted the company to start it up again. Unsurprisingly I was on hold for 20 minutes before anybody picked up. The sales girl I spoke to was new to the job. A fact she happily told me as she was messing up my quote. 

The sales staff kept me on the phone for an additional 20 minutes and then quoted me a very high price. According to the customer services representative the volcanic eruption in Iceland has affected my policy premium. Ten minutes later she gave me a lower quote as she had made a mistake calculating the premium.

So what can people like me do about long hold times, incompetent staff and high policy premiums? The short answer to this question is nothing. Consumers can either put up with this service or shop around for a better product. Unfortunately most of the more popular insurers have the same problems with their staff and wait times. Sometimes it is easier to stay put and hope you don't have to call them ever again.

Dealing With Noisy Neighbors

People who live in the city or suburbs will have experienced a noisy neighbor at some point in their lives.  There are numerous ways that neighbors can annoy the people around them.  Some people have loud parties, others play music at all hours of the night and many people have dogs who bark all night long.  Living with large amounts of noise is frustrating and can stop many people from enjoying their home.  Thankfully there are a few things that people can do to get their neighbors to quiet down

One of the easiest ways to deal with this issue is to speak with the neighbor.  Some people are simply unaware that their noise is bothering others.  Many neighbors will try to be quiet if they know they can be heard by other houses.  However it is important to be aware that not all neighbors will be this considerate.  Some will respond in a hostile manner and refuse to do anything about their noise levels.  The more obnoxious neighbors will attempt to make more noise in order to irritate the person making the complaint.  In these situations it is important to remain calm and avoid confrontation.

If a person does not respond to this tactic it is time to make a complaint.  This can be done by contacting the police and filling out a form.  People who live in apartment building should contact their HOA.  This is a group that is in charge of building issues such as parking, garbage and noise.

The Negative Effects of Facebook on Personal Privacy

A 24 year old Austrian student wrote to Facebook asking for the records they had been keeping on his personal account.  He was shocked to receive over 1200 pages of data related to his online activities.  This incident has caused many people to question the social networking website's privacy failures.  Some are even questioning if the use of Facebook means their personal privacy has been compromised.

There is no question that Facebook is a useful tool to have.  People can use the site to share their interests with others, play games, connect with friends and relatives and promote their commercial interests.  Unfortunately this comes at a cost.  Anyone who is using this website is putting their personal data at risk.

Some people will be wondering why this even matters.  What harm can come from strangers knowing their personal details?  The reality is that putting so much information on the internet is dangerous.  Both women and men have been stalked by people who found them on Facebook.  Others have had their identities stolen and some have been the victims of scams.  One woman innocently posted that she was at work on her Facebook account.  This led to one of her "friends" coming to the conclusion that nobody was home.  They took advantage of this situation and robbed the woman.  Employers have also been known to reject job applicants because of personal information they have found on Facebook.

When push comes to shove the only way that people can avoid this is by being aware of what they post on their profile.  This is the only way to ensure that the situations discussed above do not occur.