Sunday, May 23, 2010

Books I Wish I Didn't Read

Or at least hadn't been allowed to read for a little while.

I hate the idea of censorship. My parents were very liberal with me growing up, talking to me about sex and violence at a pretty young age, essentially answering any questions I asked. It was a good strategy, especially for me, because not only did it build a sense of trust between me and them, but it ensured that I would not learn this information from other, less trustworthy people, hearing it in an unhealthy context or learning just downright lies.

I came across a website listing band books that people should read and it really made me think about the books that I read as a child. Harry Potter and the Narnia Chronicles spring to mind quickly, along with a plethora of required reading from school. However, one book and one story particularly stand out in my mind, as I don't think I should have been allowed to read them at such a young age.

A Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, on the aforementioned list, really bothered me. I read it when I was about ten or twelve, around the same age as the characters in the book. This made it all the harder when (spoiler alert) the young girl dies. I wasn't prepared for that, and it really affected me. It made me think pretty dark thoughts for that age, and though it was a good book, I really wish I'd been older when I read it. With a little more life experience and understanding, I think the death would have been easier to deal with.

"The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson is about a village basically drawing straws to see who gets stoned to death. The entire story you don't know what's going on, you just know that people are really excited to not be winning, and little children are gathering piles of rocks in anticipation. I read this in class as required reading. We read this story out loud. I'm not sure if it was the fact that the entire community killed the woman, or that no one else in class seemed bothered, but it greatly affected me. It took me a couple days to wrap my head around it and move on.

I was probably a particularly sensitive kid growing up, and maybe because of events like my mom having breast cancer and being diagnosed with diabetes I felt more closely connected to the issue of death. I would never recommend "banning" books, especially not for the reasons people ever want to, but I think it's important to take a child's age in to account when determining whether they're ready for certain concepts.

It reminds me of a relatively recent issue in my old school district. A woman was petitioning to get The Giver by Lois Lowry banned from the elementary schools. Her fourth-grader had to read the book as a class assignment, and according to the mother, she was very bothered by the issue of euthanasia.

Gee, I can't imagine why. It's not like adults aren't bothered by it, or anything. It's not like we don't argue every day as to whether it's okay or not. It's not like someone who has been taught consistently that murder is wrong would ever have an issue with "acceptable" murder.

"The Giver" is FANTASTIC, and I loved reading it as a freshman in high school. The fact is that there are some questions that children simply aren't READY to ask. They need to be asked, and they will be, but when they're ready.

Censorship is bad, but I think discretion is different and necessary. If a child has a question, it means she's ready to talk about the issue and hear the answer. If a child is forced to hear the question and then the answer, the results may not be as pleasant or healthy.

Makes me realize how hard parenting is. :|

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

Another school year has come and gone. Another year older, another year of maturation. It is time for some reflection.

This school year has been a major breakthrough in my life. I grow and mature every year, of course, that's what people my age are supposed to do. However, this year has been different.

My classes were harder. Much harder. I had to face some realities that I knew were coming, just never knew when. I always told myself that happiness was the primary goal, but I was finally forced to put my money where my mouth was and live up to that ideal. Actively ensuring that I am happy, and finding out ways to be even happier. It's so weird that I never did this before, but now that I do I'm not going to stop.

My diabetes has become real. That sounds weird. You'd think this would have happened sometime BEFORE I've had it as long as I have. You'd think that this would happen the first day. But it didn't, not for me. Maybe it's all the very public deaths lately, some attributed to diabetes, some vaguely hinting it. Maybe it's that, after being a camp counselor to lots of little kids, looking up to me, I feel a responsibility to do it right. I don't know, but for once in my life I'm making a conscious effort everyday to do right by my body.

My relationship with Erik has really matured. This is probably due to both of us growing up a little bit, but I think I finally appreciate what it means to want to spend the rest of your life with someone. I'm not necessarily saying I have to marry Erik, just that I can truly understand the desire. Trusting someone enough to always be there and support you and help you through the crap in your life, it's incredibly powerful. Just getting that emotion has been a huge part of my maturation.

Since being in college, I've become very comfortable with who I am as a person. I really like myself, and, while I'm not perfect, think I'm pretty cool. However, I feel like lately I've become more confident in that reality. I'm more confident that others will see the same things in myself that I see. I've been branching out more, making more friends, developing old friendships further. These are things I used to never do. I was usually sitting in my dorm on Friday night wondering why everyone was out doing fun things except me. Feeling like I have friends that I really like, and like me for me, and there's no drama or strings attached, it's a feeling I never had before. I always felt like I missed the boat on friendship, and now I'm finally getting it.

I think, in summary, I'm finally getting the hype about life. I finally get why people think marriage is pretty sweet. I finally get why people like having friends. Life's pretty awesome, I concur.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

She's Just Being Miley

I wrote this post awhile ago about Miley Cyrus and my concern for young pop stars that seem overly sexualized. Then a video of her giving a 40-year-old man a lap dance surfaced (yes, I'm a little too in to celebrity gossip..) and it made me rethink a lot of what I originally wrote. I'm going to post it anyways, because I think these are important questions we need to ask, but I really want to emphasize that in no way do I think it's wrong for a person to be sexual, and I really dislike the practice of "slut-shaming." My concern is strictly about age and the affect being so sexual so publicly will have.

Miley Cyrus has a new music video out, and I quite like it. As someone who is not quite a music officianado, I find it's gothic feel a cool kind of edgy. It's Rihanna meets Britney Spears meets Michael Jackson's Thriller. The song's not great, but I can get over that.

In the video, Miley's in a couple crazy outfits, dancing around in a mature manner, singing about how she can't be tamed. The artistry itself is pretty cool, as I said, but I find the fact that it's Miley, a 17-year-old, singing and acting this way a little disconcerting.

I'm all about women being free to express their sexuality however they please. I don't care if teenage girls want to run around in miniskirts and low-cut tops and what have you. If they're comfortable with how they're dressed, then why should I care? So why is Miley's video a little upsetting to me? Because she's not just dressing this way to go to a car wash, she's dressing this way to make money.

Here's my rationale.

Is Miley (legally or otherwise) capable of agreeing to dressing and acting this way in the music video?

If you say yes, then I have to ask why it's not okay for other teenage girls to take provocative pictures of themselves and sell them on the internet. This is commonly referred to as child-pornography. Further more, there are 16- and 17-year-old girls taking sexy pictures of themselves and sending them to their boyfriends, then finding both of them in court for possession of child pornography. They're not even making money off these pictures, yet clearly something about these events is striking a nerve. What's the difference between these girls and Miley Cyrus? Being famous? Setting it to music?

If you say no, then that means her sexuality is being exploited by the adults in her life to make money, which is blatantly wrong. The producers, directors, and probably her parents know that Miley's a good looking young girl. Having her writhe around in a pile of feathers in skimpy clothes will certainly have grown men all over the world hammering for more. That makes money.

When she turns 18, and decides she wants to prance around naked in her next music video, I won't concern myself with it. At that point she'll be expected by our society, for right or wrong, to be an adult and be capable of making adult decisions. She'll be expected to understand the ramifications of her actions. And besides, naked pictures of her will no longer be child porn.

But I'm still concerned about the next young, money-making machine. The same thing will most likely happen to her. I can't help but feel that these choices the adults in this business are making are leading girls down the wrong path. I don't know, maybe it's just me.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to Not Attract Me.

"No-Homo" is possibly one of the most unattractive phrases an guy could ever say. Saying this means:

1. You're okay with marginalizing a huge group of people
2. You're immaturity is through the roof (seriously, I thought when I graduated high school these stupid things would be gone)
3. You're uncomfortable with youself, who you are, and expression of emotions.

When I date someone, I intend for the relationship to be an "equal partnership." A guy saying "No-Homo" is saying, "Hey, I'm insecure with my masculinity and am going to ask you to fall into stereotypical feminine roles in order to boost my low self-esteem as a man."

I made this observation of a group of people after knowing these things were true, and finding that the common factor was subtle but very-much-there homophobia. If people don't fit into the exact gender roles and ideas of sexuality that they have come to know, it scares them, because where does that mean they fit in?

This seems to me a quick and simple litmus test to separate guys I have zero desire to date from guys still in the running. I prefer emotionally stable men, ones that won't intrude in my life but rather compliment it. I don't fit a wide range of feminine stereotypes, so I need a guy who is comfortable with that. I have no desire to change fundamental characteristics of myself for another person.

"No-homo" == no chance.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

All Hail Shirley.

Recently, RPI started renovations on the side of one of our main buildings. Scaffolding was put up, along with some sheetrock to protect the passers-by from any construction, effectively building a tunnel. The next morning, there was a little bit of graffiti on the walls, most of it reference to (ahem) really old internet jokes. Then the next morning, there was more graffiti, this time a little more insightful, still some jokes. As the days went by, it was exciting each morning to see what someone else felt compelled to paint on the temporary walls.

RPI is a relatively small campus, but still, like any other school, you get so wrapped up in your majors and classes that you don't get to mingle with the wide diversity that often. I always felt a connection going through that tunnel to the students I never met, or will ever meet. There was some profanity (naturally, the most prominent being a set of boobs) but most of it was just silly and artistic. It was the campus's collective subconscious on display.

Every morning I told myself I had to take a picture of it, especially the portion that said, "The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir, beware!" because I'm such a sucker for Harry Potter. However, I've never been a huge camera carrier, and the battery is dead, and being the end of the semester I have a lot of other things on my mind. I'd read that the construction was going to go on until November, so I figured I had at least until then to take the pictures.

Last week, the walls were taken down and replaced with wire.

I find it frustrating that harmless fun had to be ended. I understand that the possibility for serious offense created a liability for RPI. If someone had chosen to graffiti the walls with racial slander or other offenseive remarks, RPI could have been in trouble for not doing enough to prevent it. But that had not happened, yet. Could it have? I'm sure. Though we're an intellectual school, I don't doubt we have our fair share of bigots.

But it's hard to not see this as an act of oppression, especially given the student body's already tumultuous relationship with the administration. We already have the impression that our opinion is not respected, and our presence merely tolerated. This just seems like further reinforcement.

I find myself asking, who started this tense standoff? Is the administration truly against us, and truly everything we think it is, or is it something more? Is this a product of our position in life? Is it our age? Is it that people just becoming adults, learning about themselves and their relationship with the world always fight the establishment? Is it that people expect us to be particularly untrustworthy and unpredictable, and we sense that?

Thankfully, my good friend Mike was there when they took the walls down, so he managed to get some pictures before they were gone forever.

Youth is an exciting time, but it's also full of heartache. I understand the older generations are cranky and jaded, but is there any chance we can come out on the other end of our youthful journey unscathed by the same afflictions?

I hope so.

IMAG0061 by mikeco57. IMAG0062 by mikeco57.

IMAG0074 by mikeco57.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

To My Mother,

Happy Mother's Day to everybody, especially my mom, who puts up with me not calling her and being a really weird, sometimes awkward kid. I love you!

(Picture from PostSecret)

In Defense of South Park

Seth Macfarlane, the creator of Family Guy, was on Larry King tonight talking about comedy and where to draw the line. He brought up several of his past, particularly controversial jokes. Then they brought on two other comedians and talked about South Park and the threat against their lives regarding their depiction of Mohammad.

I was a little disappointed because I felt that they missed the mark on all accounts. There was reference to Seth's morals, to whether the joke is worth risking their lives, and the woman babbled without making a point at all.

Honestly, I have serious issue with the fact that Comedy Central caved to their demands. You know what their actions mean? As long as the members of the religion are not going to threaten you with physical violence, you can make fun of them. It's interesting to note that this may be why there seems to be a disproportionate amount of jokes made at Christianity's expense. As far as I know, there aren't a whole lot of Christian terrorist groups whose threats will be taken seriously. I've always thought it was more because Christians are the majority in this country, but maybe the real root of it is fear.

I also have to wonder why it is Muslims expect the rest of us to follow their religion's rules? I'm not Muslim, I don't believe what they believe, I don't believe it's wrong to draw a picture of Mohammad, so why do they think I'm not allowed to? That's like the French government coming over here and arresting US citizens for breaking French laws. Everybody agrees that's wrong. The Muslim religion has no jurisdiction over my life, and the Muslim religion is no more sacred than any Christian religion. If it's okay to make fun of Christians, it's okay to make fun of Muslims.

Though I'll point out for fairness sake, Christian groups have proven through their political actions that they intend on making the rest of the world follow their religious rules as well. Their constant insistence that the government not pass gay marriage due to their own religious beliefs is just as ridiculous.

We shouldn't be talking about the creators of South Park, we should be talking about the members of religious organizations that think they're above criticism.

Dia-BEAT-this (lol)

When I tell someone for the first time I have diabetes, I try to be understanding. There's the initial shock, the processing as the person tries to recall everything they know about diabetes, and the momentary panic when they realize all of their information comes from nightly news stories about obesity and Wilford Brimley commercials. I'd like to inform everybody that that's OKAY. The fact that you don't know anything means you're life has not been afflicted in any way, and that's a good thing.

I don't mind when you ask stupid questions. I don't care if you mix up type 1 and type 2. And I won't get mad if you confuse my insulin pump with a beeper.

I don't care because I find myself in the same situation all the time. A friend may mention that a sibling has autism, or that their parent suffers from epilepsy, or that they had cancer when they were younger. I mean, really, if you can't relate, what can you possibly say?

What I find interesting is that I get two very different reactions.

I get the understandable, "Oh, that sucks." Naturally. This is a DISEASE we're talking about.

But interestingly, people will also say "Oh, that's cool." And not in a dismissive "I have nothing else to say," kind of way, but in an "I actually find this interesting and it's cool that your pancreas doesn't work" sort of way.

You'd think this is offensive, but it's not! It's weird people say this, and kind of funny in an awkward sort of way, but honestly it IS a little cool. And I find I want to say the same thing to others when in this position. Don't get me wrong, it also sucks, but I totally get the sentiment behind what they're saying. Especially at an engineering school, where I get this a lot.

Every day, I get to play around with thousands of dollars worth of technology. I keep up with the research and the advancements going on in the field. I'm experimenting on myself to perfect my treatment. I've basically been a scientist since I was 11-years-old. And yes, that's cool.

Do I suggest you tell diabetics it's cool they have diabetes? No. You will definitely get smacked. And maybe make somebody cry. Not every diabetic has a similar outlook as I do. But I get where you're coming from. Even though they suck, diseases are interesting. My diabetes makes me knowledgeable on a personal, in-depth level of a couple sciences. My diabetes gives me an interesting perspective on different areas of life, like stem cell research and health care. I assume that most diseases have a similar affect on other people, and I want to know how! I'm dying to understand what it's like to be you, and I'm dying to explain what it's like to be me. The world will surely benefit from our exchange of information.

And THAT is definitely cool.

I understand people's desire for privacy, and that it's really nobody else's business what their disease is like. But I would much rather have someone ask me questions and learn more than to either 1. pretend I didn't just drop this on you, because that's awkward or 2. pretend you DO know everything about diabetes.

Oh my god. Please don't get me started on the second one.

When you are ignorant, that's fine. Just be aware of it. Things to watch out for:

1. Seeing it on Oprah does NOT make you educated.
2. The news was almost certainly talking about type 2.
3. Your science class did not even sort of give you the big picture. Fantastic, you know what insulin is. You're still ignorant to the huge web of information that is diabetes.
4. Being a medical professional, or the relative of a medical professional, does not make you knowledgeable of diabetes. I assure you that myself and anyone I've ever met don't fit the textbook definition. Not even close.

There's really no good way to have that initial conversation, because everybody will respond differently. All I can tell you is, when you see me, always know you can feel free to ask me anything. Less ignorance is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wish-List Wednesday!

This is a list of stuff I like. And may also not mind owning.

Maybe also to be friends with that guy. Pretty awesome.

Ridiculous == awesome.

If you haven't seen the show Phineas and Ferb, go fix that right now.

Also, as a shoutout to Arty and Steve who seem to be regularly reading my blog:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Dear whomever is graffiti-ing the campus with "The cake is a lie":


I don't know what corner of the internet you guys have been living in for the past three years, but this joke is not funny. Casual mentioning of the joke is arguably humorous. Maybe even ONE graffiti instance of it wouldn't be so bad. But everywhere, guys? It's like you just realized there are these things called "memes" on the internet, and they're funny because you use them repeatedly and are big inside jokes with a large amount of people.

Clearly, you're not in that large amount of people.

Look, if you want to be nerdy, at least do it right. Don't make the rest of us nerdy people facepalm and regret being associated with you. You're ruining nerdy things for the rest of us.

So stop.


Monday, May 3, 2010

This is What Happens Whenever I Watch TV

Erik is a huge fan of Bones, and I don't mind it, so every once in awhile I end up watching an episode or two. I have to say, I got really sick of the forensic science shows about halfway through the first season of CSI, but Bones manages to keep things interesting for the most part. Once you get over the fact that most of this is probably stretched, hoaky science that has been morphed and battered to fit into the framework of television, it's pretty good!

What I like most about it is the main character is a very intelligent, pretty, atheist woman. She has flaws, but they're appropriate. She's a little socially awkward, but not painfully so. She's very blunt, but does have capacity for empathy. It's great that the character never feels forced, and is never the butt of the jokes.

How great is it that we have a woman being portrayed in this way on television and no one is making a huge deal about it? This is apparently, for a lot of people, very normal. As a girl/woman (cue Britney Spears song here) at an engineering school that is 25% female, I find this encouraging. I'm all about girls choosing to do whatever it is they want to do, and if all girls truly wanted nothing more than to stay at home, cooking and raising children, I wouldn't care. I just want girls to know what all of their options are before making those decisions, and a character like Bones can show girls that they can be the calculating, logical scientist just as much as any man can.

Admittedly, I'm more surprised that no one gets all uppity about her being an atheist. You'd think with all the confusion about what an atheist is, and how people very rarely even acknowledge their existence, a character like this on mainstream television would be almost impossible. Maybe this means people aren't so terrified of the idea of an atheist anmore?

A particularly interesting vehicle of the story is that her counterpart is religious. They never "convert" each other, they talk about each other's religious beliefs, and they're still friends. Look! You don't even have to agree about the existence of god to get along! How novel! Bones is probably the best advertising for atheism and skeptical thinking there has ever been.

And they never show her eating babies either. So that's cool, too, I guess.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Friendship: The Barney Episode I Guess I Missed

How do you value friendship?

It's something that came up today in a conversation with my friend, Steve. I think about it often because it's always been apparent to me that I'm different from most people in this regard.

First, I'm THE MOST stereotypical only child. I had a gaggle of imaginary friends when I was younger (yeah, we'll go with that, "when I was younger") and seriously need my alone time.

Second, my parents are wonderful people but I think when they found each other, they were very happy with their relationship and didn't bother to build up their own circle of friends. Consequently, I never did this either.

Third, I am a perfectly independent person and for awhile felt no "need" for friends.

That last one is the one that changed when I got to college.

That's not to say I DIDN'T have friends in high school, I definitely did, a lot of them I still talk to. I just found it easier to talk to my parents most of the time, and therefore felt no dependence on my friends at school. Friends were nice, they were never a necessity.

Now that I'm three hours away and can't talk to my parents as readily, I've had to make friends not just for fun but because I really did NEED them.

Making friends isn't easy for me because I don't trust easily. My experience indicates that people generally trust someone until given a reason not to. I, however, don't trust anyone until given a reason to. My trust is earned, it should never, EVER be assumed.

Since I have a stronger need for friends now more than ever, I've had to let my guard down and open up to people more. I've been lucky that I chose a school with mostly people like me, so when I feel the need to spill my guts, people get it. I have felt multiple times that my trust has not been given in vain. I'm starting to understand the rewards that really come with friendship, and learn why we really need them. Seems weird to only figure this out now, at 20, but I guess better now than later.

The hardest part has been learning how to BE a good friend, though, not just HAVING good friends. Like, I should be willing to talk to my friends when they're feeling crappy, and be understanding of them. That's hard for me because my bullshit radar will sometimes go off and I'm tempted to turn into the dad from That 70's Show.

But I'm learning. And I'm getting there.

It's funny how there are some 5-year-olds out there better at this than me. >.>