Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Teaching

Recently, a friend thanked me for my blog, because, she said, “I always learn something new from you!” That made my entire year. That is one of the primary goals I have for this blog. I’m constantly learning new things, and I feel as though it’s my duty to pass that on.

When I was a little girl and was pressed by a well-meaning adult to reveal what I planned to be when I grew up (as if I knew—I still don’t), my stock response was that I wanted to be a teacher. If they asked me why, I’d say, “So I can yell at kids and get away with it.”

(It’s funny to realize I didn’t like kids even when I was one myself. How telling. But I digress.)

Even as a small child, I knew that I loved learning. And to me, imparting what I had learned was just a natural progression. It used to frustrate me no end when I’d come home from school, all excited about some new bit of information I had acquired, only to be told by my mother that she already knew that. (I mean, throw me a bone. Pretend you don’t know and are fascinated. Ask a few questions. Would that have killed you?)

To imply that teachers are the only ones who teach is a gross fallacy. I do love teachers, and I’m very grateful that they exist. But every one of us is a teacher in one way or another. We learn from each other, if only by example. Every time you tell a story, you’re teaching. Every time you answer a question, you’re teaching. It’s part of the societal contract.

I absolutely adore learning new things. It’s what makes life worth living. It keeps me enthusiastic, and enthusiasm, by its very nature, just has to be passed on. So, yeah, I guess you’re stuck with me and this little blog.

If I only had one piece of advice to give, it would be to never stop learning and never stop teaching.

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Freedom of Movement

There is an excellent yardstick for measuring liberty and quality of life. Simply consider how much freedom of movement you have. From that basic indicator, you can determine if you live in a police state and/or a cult, you will know how much information and education you have access to, and you will have a good sense of the level of prejudice you are being exposed to.

Your ability to travel goes hand in hand with your freedom. If you live in a country where the women cannot travel without the permission of their husbands or fathers, you live in a misogynistic police state. If you are in a religion that does not allow you to interact with outsiders or learn about opposing points of view, or worse yet, cuts you off from family, then you are in a cult. If you can’t go anywhere without having your papers constantly checked by authority figures, then you are a slave.

Inhibiting your ability to go where you wish is an effective way of controlling the information that you have access to. If you can’t even move about the internet, then someone else is controlling your narrative, and they have an agenda that is not in your best interest. If someone wants to leave and you don’t let them, then you have just reduced them to a mere object.

Also, preventing women or minorities from having access to education is a self-defeating power play. One should be able to travel in mind as well as body. If your opportunity to learn is hindered, you should wonder what the powers that be don’t want you to discover.

People who put up walls to restrict movement are the worst kind of racists. They are either attempting to keep a group out or keep a group in. Either way, they are restricting the flow of information, and preventing the masses from becoming unified. Divide and conquer.

The only things that should prevent you from being able to travel are your own priorities and your own budgetary constraints. And even that is a can of worms, because income inequality is another great way to keep us all ignorant and close to home.

The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you travel, the less you hate. The more you travel in mind, body, and spirit, the more you know what it is to be free.

Freedom

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Facts about the Caravan

There is so much panic and false information floating around social media about the migrant caravan that’s making its way northward through Mexico that I thought I should weigh in, here. People are using these migrants as political pawns. Fine. But if you’re going to base your mid term votes on this issue, please at least get your facts straight. Then feel free to make your own decisions.

First of all, lets look at the raw numbers. Seven thousand people sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Enough for an invasion. Actually, given that the population of the US is now well over 328,800,000, well, this caravan comprises less than 0.002 percent of our population.

That’s a tiny little number. Think about it. If you had acne on 0.002 percent of your face, you wouldn’t even have bothered asking the photographer to airbrush your high school yearbook photo.

And of that tiny little percentage of humanity, many of them are women and children. So no need to lock up your daughters. You’re safe. (Also, from the looks of them, they haven’t even crossed the bulk of Mexico yet, and they are already exhausted, thirsty, hungry, and hardly in any shape to mount an invasion. Could you walk 2000 miles with toddlers and then kick the butt of the most militarized nation on the planet? I don’t think so.)

Even if all 7,000 were given asylum in the US, that would come to 140 people per state. Surely we could absorb that number. Especially since they are fleeing violence and/or seeking a better life for their families, just as my grandparents did (and yours as well, most likely).

But here’s the thing. 7,000 will never be given asylum in this country, even in a more politically friendly atmosphere. More like a couple hundred at most. If that. You know how I know? Because these caravans have been happening FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS.

Yup. Years. Matter of fact, the last one happened just last April. There was also one in April of 2017. You know why you’ve forgotten about it, even though Trump predictably freaked out back then as well? Because, of the over a thousand people who participated that time, only 108 sought asylum in the US, and of those, more than half were immediately denied. So the world did not come to an end.

This particular caravan just happened to be timed badly enough to be twisted into a conservative talking point prior to the mid term elections, at a time when the republicans are terrified that they will lose congressional power.

Here are some other things you need to know, according to Politifact.

  • Trump tweeted that “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with this group, but even he had to finally admit that there is ZERO evidence of that. The fact that he would even say that should show you what his motivations are. He wants you to be afraid. And that will probably work, if you are the type that thinks that all Middle Easterners are terrorists.

  • This caravan is not using trains or buses. The photos you are probably seeing floating around Facebook are from previous caravans. Most of these people are walking, and many have toddlers in tow. They’re lucky to make 10 miles a day.

  • These immigrants are not burning the American flag, nor are they carrying the Honduran flag. They also haven’t painted any swastikas on the American flag, or defaced one in any way. (It would be rather counterproductive if they did, wouldn’t it? Think about it.)

And here’s a good point from Snopes. It’s not the Mexican government’s responsibility to make immigrant decisions for the United States. They are not our servants or our lackeys. They are their own country and can do whatever they want therein. So stop being pissed off at Mexico for not turning these people around before they become “our problem”.

Another point. And I’m drawing from an article in Wired for this personal conclusion: While many conspiracies out there are trying to say that this is some grand liberal agenda, get a grip. Why would liberals want to fire up the conservative base in such a fashion? What on earth would liberals gain?

Please use some common sense, people. Breathe. Think.

And please vote.

Migrant Caravan

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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

dorothy

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Facebook Data

There’s been much ado about Facebook data of late. What do they know, and when did they know it? How is it used? And why do I keep getting pummeled with real estate ads when I’ve already bought my house?

A friend recently showed me this article that describes, among other things, how to download your own Facebook data. I was immediately intrigued. Since I am my very favorite subject, I immediately dropped everything and followed the instructions.

When you’re in Facebook, click that downward pointing arrow on the ribbon at the upper right. Then click settings. That should bring you to General Account Settings. Beneath that list of info, you should see the statement “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” Click it.

Now, if you’ve been on Facebook as long as I have, it is going to take a while to download this stuff. But it’s quite revealing when you do.

For instance, I had no idea how many apps I have been active in. Most of them I recognize from past use, at least, but some of them I don’t recognize at all. For example, what the hell is MeowShare? And Disqus?

And most interesting were the Ads Topics. These words and phrases are what companies use to target me with ads, and a lot of them are spot on. But then there are some that are really out there and unrecognizable, like “Charlton Athletic F.C” or “Mud (2012 film)”. Others are oddly vague, such as life, love, religion, cup, duck, and Louisiana. (Beats me.)

The index made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It has my birth date, my e-mail, my city, my relationship status, my family and friends, my education, my work history, all my indicated interests, and all my Facebook groups. Wow.

I mean, I knew Facebook had this information, of course. I’m the one who gave it to them. But seeing it all laid out in one neat little package was kind of freaky. And of course, I still have no idea what they actually have done with this information. The worst part is that I will never know for sure.

Am I going to get off Facebook? Probably not. This is the only way I keep in touch with many people. But now I’m going to feel as if someone is looking over my shoulder. And that’s not a pleasant feeling.

Facebook Eye

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Do You Even HEAR Yourself?

It happened again the other day. I was listening to NPR on my commute to work, and I heard something that almost made me swerve off the road. When am I ever going to learn?

I can’t even tell you what the story was about, such was my level of outrage afterward. All I know is it was some official or other asking people to come forward if they had any information about some crime or other. Here’s what got me: The official said, “You never know. Maybe he heard something at the bar, or maybe she heard some pillow talk…”

Perhaps I’m a little too raw in this, the #MeToo era. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive. Maybe most people didn’t hear that comment the way I did. But I want to know why SHE has to hear something through pillow talk, and HE gets to go to the bar.

Pillow talk? Seriously? Yes, we women are wily. We’re so sexually liberated that we lure people into our beds and get them to confess to all manner of shenanigans. Because when you put women and pillows together, my, my… nothing good can come from that.

Whereas men can only talk to each other when they’re wasted. Actually, both genders should be insulted by this bozo. The assumptions he makes about the way we all live our lives… it’s condescending. It’s disgusting.

He probably calls women “gals” too. Or “little ladies”. And he probably doesn’t even realize what he’s doing.

But you know what really, really gets my knickers in a twist? It’s that a huge number of the people reading this are probably saying, “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that it’s 20 freakin’ 18, and you still can’t see why stupid freakin’ micro-aggressions like this are a big deal. That’s what the big deal is.

End of rant.

pillowtalk
We haven’t moved very far from 1959.

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Deeply Shallow

There’s nothing more annoying to me than someone who is intentionally ignorant or oblivious. Especially when that person thinks it’s amusing or charming. You were given a brain. Use it.

At this particular time in our nation’s history, as the bumper sticker says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Yeah, I know. Outrage is no fun at all. It’s exhausting, to be honest. It is understandable that you need to take a break from the news now and again. But to intentionally block it out as a matter of course, all while sitting on your hands and doing nothing, is unconscionable.

For God’s sake, vote. And take the time to educate yourself before doing so. If you don’t vote in 2018 and then complain about your healthcare being taken from you, I reserve the right to personally slap the white off your teeth.

I know it’s tempting, and rather comforting, to just tiptoe through the tulips while humming quietly to yourself, but while you are doing that, important things are happening all around you. And a lot of it, lately, is a threat to those very tulips that you’re treading upon.

Don’t brag about your ignorance. It’s not a good look. And it’s actually becoming a hazard to the health and safety of everyone on this planet.

Wake up.

tulips

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What is it With Lists?

Is it me, or are lists becoming ever more prevalent? In just a lazy perusal of trending topics today, I came across:

  • 12 most iconic swimsuit moments.

  • 5 tips to get the most cool from your car air conditioning.

  • 25 makeup tips all older women should know.

  • The deadliest snakes ever found on the planet.

  • The full list of the 43 Kmart, Sears stores closing around the US.

  • Top 10 disturbing modern experiments.

  • 10 famous historic figures who suffered horrifying diseases.

  • 81 topic ideas for starting a blog that matters.

What is it with lists?

I get it. We’re all in a hurry these days. We want our information in bite-sized pieces. We want to be able to skim over the boring bits, or the parts that don’t seem relevant to us. But jeez…

I think lists also appeal to our desire to be right. “Top ten rock bands of all time? Oooh! I bet I know!”

And let’s face it: we’re becoming lazy. We want the work done for us. What used cars give you the most bang for your buck? I dunno. You tell me.

If I were more interested in upping the traffic to this blog, I would start posting more lists. Maybe I will do that occasionally. Hmmm. But first I should probably Google the top ten reasons why that’s important in life.

top 10

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The New Dark Ages?

Back in 2013 I wrote a post entitled, “When Did ‘Intellectual’ Become a Dirty Word?” Little did I know at the time that that was just the tip of a very ignorant iceberg. I am beginning to look at 2013 as the halcyon days. Imagine that.

Ironically, I started that post by saying, “I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog.” Snort. Now it seems like that’s all I do. But I can’t stay silent. I had that luxury in 2013. I don’t anymore.

Now we are thrust headlong into a political shit storm in which our own government is trying to dismantle our public education system. While they’re at it, they are destroying every environmental victory we’ve made since the 1970’s. They’re attacking science and medicine. They’re defunding art. They’re demonizing the media and all things that allow for the free flow of information. They’re impeding travel. They are clinging desperately to fossil fuels even though they know it’s destroying our planet. They are gleefully widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

This is worse than the Dark Ages, because so many of us know better these days. This is not the road we want to take. It only leads to destruction.

I keep having these dreams where half of us are trying to reason with the other half by using facts and proof and intelligence, and the other half is not listening, and destroying everything in its path with steam rollers. It makes no sense. The inmates control the asylum. Whose idea was it to give them the keys to those damned steam rollers?

I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Word. Perhaps it’s time to buy another one.

Don’t turn out the lights, folks. The darkness is descending. And no doubt we’ll all come away with something much worse than a stubbed toe.

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Support Libraries. Support Reading. And Do Me a Solid.

At a time in our history when ignorance seems to be winning, when public education is under threat, and when people are increasingly afraid of fake news but seemingly unwilling to take steps to find reliable sources of information, it is extremely important that we support our public libraries.

Libraries are under constant threat of budget cuts. It seems logical that a city’s fiscal priorities should be its first responders and its infrastructure rather than its libraries. But that overlooks the fact that the more literate a population is, the safer it tends to be. Even something as simple as participating in a summer reading program will increase your likelihood of being on the honor roll in the fall. Libraries also serve as community centers. They are often safe places in islands of chaos.

It is important to let your city councils know how important your library is to you. Show up. Speak out.

Also, get involved with your library. Get to know your librarians. Participate in their programs. Donate books to them. Join organizations that support your library. Help them raise funds. It’s the right thing to do.

It is also important to let your library know what you want in their collection. Think of it as a living, breathing, growing source of media that exists for the citizens of your community. Suggest new titles. Promote local authors. Your librarians will appreciate your insights.

On a personal note, it would mean a great deal to me, dear reader, if you would recommend that your local library obtain a copy of my book, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude in either paperback form or the new Kindle version! Or both! I’d be honored if my book were included in its collection. And the more exposure I get, the more success I’ll have!

If you are a blog reader, you’re a reader, full stop. You know how important libraries are. You know how important literacy is. Take a moment to support your local library!

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