Review: Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most important statement I can say about this book is that every student should read this book in their freshmen or sophomore year of high school--yes, high school. Bruni's exploration into 3-Card Monte structure that is higher education when it comes to seducing students should be understood by all students as it has many long-term implications for them. Throughout the book, Bruni systematically breaks down the traditional mindset to aspire to elite colleges, noting how success in getting into them and success as a result of attending them is drastically overrated and over-played. He highlights a range of approaches and strategies that students should use to determine what form of higher education is best for them.

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The PhD Chronicles: Zeroing in on Research

Research, the centerpiece of work in graduate work is always a tricky beast.  Ideally, it should be a time in which students are able to focus solely on their topic, find meaningful and relevant literature to inform their approach, process it, conduct field research (if possible or relevant), and pull it altogether into a meaningful product known wide and far as the "term paper."  But alas, that's pretty much how it never goes. 

Papers are always composed in media res of the semester while we are busy with trying to keep up with the course work, keep up with our own work, and have some semblance of a life.  Like Facebook says our relationship with research is complicated.  But we press on.  In a well-designed course, the professor is likely to be a useful and ongoing guide in our research, providing a few opportunities to check in, provide feedback, and when necessar, course correct.  Other times, we're tossed to the wolves, praying we come through with something coherent.  

I don't feel like I'm in that latter category this semester.  I feel supported in both research papers, though trying to figure them out, devout enough time, and make it all look pretty for submission is still a Sisyphean task.  But that is, indeed, the name of the game.  

So what am I researching this semester?

In my Access & Equity course, I am exploring the issue of the digital divide and its impact on higher education.  As colleges continue to develop their digital presence in the form of online registration, library resources, course resources in the learning management system, online and hybrid courses, etc, what risks does this pose for students stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.  This paper is an annotated bibliography of the research out there and there is mixed research out there which is both useful and challenging.  Thus far, the most interesting element that I am appreciating is the distinction within the literature between access and ability.  The term "technocapital" has shown up a few times as a comparison to social or cultural capital.  In this way, technocapital is not just access to technologies, but the ability for one to leverage said technologies for beneficial outcomes.  

All of this came together pretty easy.  However, my project for the History of Higher Education was a bit more complicated.  I wanted to explore the history of the textbook in higher education but after a month of footnote and paper-chasing, I realized it is not likely the best to pursue right now as I wouldn't be able to complete it in this semester.  So, enter the:


Paper title of Wellesley College News 1-10-1918


At the same time I was coming to this conclusion, we did an activity in our class where we looked at different editions of the Wellesley College News over the decades and observed interesting differences.  This encouraged me to think about looking at this particular collection (since it is available in full at this site) and I decided to explore this college newspaper written during 1918-1920 and see what the impact of World War I and women's suffrage is upon the college newspaper.  I rather like this idea as I feel it could yield some interesting results.  It's not quite the turn I anticipated but I am excited to pursue it and see where it takes me.

In that regard, I like how research happens.  You sometimes have specific expectations and goals to accomplish and that can be derailed, which gives way to something new.  I've found the papers thus far in this program to be quite useful at getting me to think differently.  That is, they are learning experiences in themselves more than papers have been in some of my previous degrees.  Well, back to work for me!
Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

We Can Do Better; I Can Do Better

So where am I with all this?

The swirling hurt, disappointment, and rage still swirls deeply in my soul.  I knew it was possible, but just like cancer and death, it is not something I conceive of happening until it's too late.  I had hoped the country would not go down the path toward a Trump presidency in the weeks since his election, I'm more scared for this country's future and in particular, those made more vulnerable by his hateful rhetoric.  At the time of composing this post, the count was at over 700 reports of harassment

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb

And I'm mad at a lot of things, people and places--all the forces the colluded to make this election the barely-conceived win that it became--not for Republicans so much but how much the messages of Trump's campaign mixed together a message of hope that was deeply seeded in hatred, anger, fear and frustration.  I get and want change in our government like so many others;   I get and want change in our politics like so many others; I get and want a better future for myself and my loved ones like so many others.  But in the messages and plans that I came across on behalf of this candidate, they were dead-ends to me because so many of them were based on dispossessing others of their rights, freedoms, and opportunities or lacking any substantive means of execution.


Like many others, I am pained by the idea that people chose fear and anger and in some way, were comfortable with disregarding the rights of people like myself and others.  But I don't want to blatantly categorize people.  They are not Trump, though their choices do reflect or feed into and validate the hate and vitriol that has emerged from the white supremacists to the degree that some white supremacists are being offered up as Cabinet members.  For me, calling people who voted for Trump racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc is just too easy.  It lets me off the hook from understanding and humanizing them.  It reminds me of how I used to talk about zombies when I taught about monsters.  Zombies are great enemies--because you can easily kill them without remorse; their humanity is gone.  You don't have to empathize with a zombie, but I need to empathize with the folks who voted for Trump--because we're all still here and in the days to come, we may likely need each other much more than we all realize.


I'm concerned that being on the left-leaning spectrum, we fumbled it a lot in how we related (or failed to relate) to those that chose to vote for him.  We shared ridiculous memes, we made simplistic and often passive-aggressive ultimatums (e.g. "if you are voting for Trump, just defriend me"),  we made assumptions about the typical "Trump supporter" (we collectively decided they were "uneducated"--a term I loathe for all its elitism), we villainized him and his followers.  We did that which we are supposedly not supposed to do; we marginalized.  I get that many did so because so much of what Trump says and speaks to was marginalizing.  We denied them the complexity and contradictions that we often grant ourselves.  But how do we get out of that cycle?  How do we fight hate in a way that doesn't look exactly like what we're fighting against?  We must be as nuanced and respectful of the variations within the people that believe what happened on November 8th was a good thing as we are with ourselves.  If we fail to do that, we fail ourselves.


I use the collective "we" within this post and yet I know not everyone of "us" did all of these things; but they were prevalent enough in our actions, commentaries, and media that we are complicit (or relationally as complicit as we have judged Trump supporter in the negative aspects that he embraces).  But in reality, so much of what I write here were things I grappled with prior to or directly after the election (hard to parse things out as this election riled up so much in all of us).  So this is more about me and what I'm trying to take and encourage others to consider about what has happened.   


I also am writing this from my own position of privilege as a white, middle-class, perceived-as-heterosexual male and I'm strongly aware of this, which is why I emphasize that what I say next is geared towards other white folks--folks who are rooted invested in social justice, equality, equity, and fairness in our society for one and all.  I say this to others whites because it is our responsibility to engage in the race politics of whiteness, race-baiting, and embedded within that, class. It's not enough to sit within our enclaves of privilege, diversity, or complexity, and then judge (often on stereotypes) and deny the complexity of those who voted different from us.  And to be clear, I am not saying that we are all doing this or saying this, but that these ideas are present in our discussions and are part of what leads to our inability to help other white people understand or appreciate the stacked decks that our culture is playing with.   

For white folks like me, we work hard to recognize and understand intersectionality and complexity in the lives of non-white folks as we should, I believe, given the systematic inequality that exists and is woven into the fabric of our culture and laws.  But even in doing so, we can't forget and also work to recognize and address the intersectionality and complexity of whites who live in working class and impoverished conditions that lack access to things--particular to post-secondary education and training.  I grew increasingly frustrated to hear these groups talked about as "uneducated"--a term that in the constructs of our culture and education system, says a million different things; it's not a neutral term but one that implies a lack of intelligence.  For all the left can get right about respectful language, calling large swaths of people "uneducated" and using their voting choice as proof positive of it, just seems like a non-starter. We failed to engage and listen and learn--which isn't entirely surprising given that this is a credo directed toward white allies pretty regularly. We need to understand and when possible ally with them on common grounds of things that are important to all of us (and there are far more things that are likely to be important to all of us than not--after all, many people are suffering under the current system of politics).   

Beyond talking around and about these people, we need to find ways of better talking with them.  I saw too often people that attempted to disavow those friends who were Trump supporters and offered up ultimatums to disengage with us if they believed something different from us.  That is the epitome of intolerance and in this case, I saw many of us use it inappropriately.  The general disclaimer to defriend if someone supports Trump isn't meeting intolerance with intolerance; it's assuming what the Trump supporter believes and minimalizing the complexity of beliefs of another person (something the left strongly advocates against); it is stereotyping and refusing to engage with people that are different.  It's refusing to understand why or having the hard conversations to trace of the nuance of their position.  Not everyone did this, but how many of us actually tried to understand and parse out the nuance of a given Trump supporter.  Instead, we embraced our echo-chambers, which told us of the extreme and problematic things he was doing (often in overexaggerated tones that we accused the right-wing "news" sites of doing--Mother Jones, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous click-bait), which allowed us to believe the worse in Trump and his supporters, while not recognizing the most important things that we actually agree on.    


I feel like as white people, we need to better communicate the importance of equality, equity, and fairness for all people in this country (and the world for that matter--but hey, baby steps)  to other white folks and to understand that when we address those things, we improve everyone's lives.  Moving forward, I feel like we need to change and do this differently.  We need to work hard to bridge efforts; we need to think differently about conversations we have with those we suppose, present, or assume to be the "enemy" or representations of those things we dislike, fear, or take issue with.  

I've started with trying to figure out how to go forward and then moved into rethinking how I do social media.  This post has helped me to flesh out what are some of the things that I am challenged by what myself and other white social justice folks have been doing in the last few months.  In future posts, I'm hoping to more concretely find actions that put in contact and collaboration with people that hold different views from me in order to better connect and relate and maybe, for us to at least understand and respect each other more in a way that this previous election seemed to fail to do.  

So that's where I'm at...how about you?


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Review: With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830

With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830 With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830 by LeRoy Ashby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ashby's mammoth text (700 pages long; 33+ hours of listening on audiobook) was a fascinating and excellent discussing of popular culture that was great in terms of timing as I listening to it just as I was revising my online Popular Culture in the US course (You can see the course preview here or the course playlist here). Ashby covers a whole lot of content, arenas of popular culture, and events within popular culture. But equally important, he ties it together well as he drifts in each chapter from sports to reading to radio to television to other arenas. In reading it, you get a much fuller sense of mesh of intersections within popular culture while also a framework for understanding how it connects to the culture at large and history. Now, I just need to find a way to integrate the book within my own course.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives

Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives by Howard J. Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like this is a book I need to read at least once a year because as much as I agree, understand, and deeply appreciate its message, I also know it's horribly easy to ignore. The message is that we--all of us--you, me, the author, and everyone--are innately biased in ways that are not clear to us. Unfortunately, many of these biases are arbitrary and many of them may incline us to think and act in ways that are against our actual beliefs. Ross traces the many different ways in which we are blind to our biases and the various ways we succumb to our biases. He also illustrates ways of overcoming some of our biases some of the time but makes clear it's probably impossible (and probably for the best) to overcome all of our biases all of the time. Rather, the goal is to reduce it in places and situations where it undermines our sense of fairness and equality. Ross comes from this with a nonjudgmental tone and works hard to help the reader understand that the bias itself is not an indicator of guilt or blame, but rather something that exists beyond our rational minds.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 20, 2016 at 06:49PM


Why is he so petty and who finds that appealing? #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #cats #catsofinstagram
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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 19, 2016 at 06:33PM


An increased in hate crimes, offering up a "registry"...all part of the 8 steps. #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #catsofinstagram #Cats

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My Most Recent Reads - October 2016

No physical books read this month and that's no surprise.  We're in month two of the semester and that I'm writing coherent sentences is considered a win, right?  However, this month was an amazing month for some powerful and impressive books.   I talk about a couple here, but I would encourage you to check out my full Goodreads list to see the others as many of them were powerful and worth the read! 


Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow


Word cloud of this blog post's words in the shape of a person reading a book.
Cory Doctorow continues to impress me and many others with his thoughts on what it means to be a creator in the 21st century.  This collection of essays (which you can download for free on his website) brings together a lot of his different works that he's written for his blog and elsewhere about the nature of copyright, open source living, and censorship.  At its center are questions about how do we as a culture decide to empower creators new and old and what does it mean to create in a technological world wherein replication can happen without significant costs.  Doctorow makes a strong case to move in the direction of openness for all creators, believing that this will be more empowering than limiting.  What's also interesting about this book is the ways in which Doctorow illustrates how he is often collaborative with not just other writers but with fans and people who appreciate his work.  In total, the book provides a great look at how one can think about being a creator in a very mindful and engaging way. 



Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson


Thompson dives into the ongoing debate about how technology is impacting humankind with a fascinating look at how the relationship between humans and technologies tends to improve and enhance outcomes in many different ways.  He doesn't negate that technologies has limitations and can make things more complicated (e.g. we can now record everything but find nothing), but there are many more areas that he argues well that technology enhances life and meaning for people from the way we play games to how we understand and approach education to how it improves our ways of communicating.  It's not necessarily a particularly better book than many of the other ones out there that make similar arguments but it does introduce some different research and materials than what's been said.  


Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth


Duckworth's book has gotten to be pretty popular by now and it's no wonder given the topic and her means of exploring it.  The first challenge of this book is that the reader is likely to be constantly comparing their experience to those in the book and wondering about their level of grit.  That's ok--just let it happy.  But more importantly, Duckworth's book provides a range of ways of understanding what grit is and how it can be developed in everyone.  It's a powerful book to help us think differently about what it is that we look for in developing youth as well as how we foster better outcomes for everyone.  If you are looking for a way to understand some of the ways in which we as humans can do great things or want a better sense of how one can improve their approaches for self development or development of others, this would be an ideal book to start with.  

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin


Edmin's book shows the depths and methods needed to go in order to institute transformative teaching and learning in a classroom that engages all students.  He names his approach reality-based pedagogy and its core idea is that it is impossible to teach students if you do not embed their realities into the classroom; altering how one may teach, how power is negotiated, and what it means to demonstrate learning.  Clearly from the title, there is a specific context to which he is speaking, but the application of his approach can potentially open up any classroom (e.g. it's easy to imagine how this could play out in a rural environment).  He explores his pedagogy through his own triumphs and setbacks as he aims to help his students channel their enthusiasm and interest into productive learning experiences that reflect what he hopes they will learn with how it fits within their worlds.  It's a powerful book that in many ways takes the ideas of Paulo Freire and Lisa Delpit and demonstrates particular ways one can execute them in the classroom.


Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Passing by Nella Parsen
  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson
  • Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
  • Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
  • Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
  • Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life by Joyce Carol Oates

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms by Robert Kirkman
  • Southern Bastards, Vol. 3: Homecoming by Jason Aaron


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?


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Review: The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance by William McDonough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

McDonough and Braungart's follow up to their previous book, Cradle to Cradle, is a solid book to help think more critically and creatively about developing a more sustainable world through human efforts. They highlight a variety of work that is already being done with regards to upcycling and where more work can be done. At its core is the argument is that there isn't a "waste" problem insomuch as there is a design problem that we must think more proactively about design with the full cycle of the products resources and their long-lasting implications. From furniture to clothing to waste management (or more appropriately renamed, nutrient management), they show pathways to making human practices more sustainable.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 16, 2016 at 08:44PM


This cat ain't sitting on the sidelines. #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #cats #catsofinstagram

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Review: The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead...

The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead... The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead... by Adam Rockoff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tend to be a fan of film critic memoirs mostly because they provide me with insight into the mind of the critic about key moments in their cinematic-taste development. I always appreciate when a film critic can crystallize their viewing experience and that's what Rockoff does a lot of in this book, mixing his life with a great deal of horror films--some good, some bad, and some we should probably not talk about. Sprinkled among his films and reflections are sometimes political or theoretical views that I personally disagree with but can see how and why he has inserted them. But the main reason I enjoyed this book is to see the great many horror films that I may know nothing about and wish to learn. Indeed, a book like this makes me go and add a bajillion (yes, that's an accurate count) new titles to my Netflix que. Horror fans may not agree with every choice or film that Rockoff brings up, but there is plenty of great content to sift through here.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 15, 2016 at 05:05PM


Well, he does have 9 lives.... #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife ##catstagram #catsofinstagram

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The PhD Chronicles: Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education

So here is something that I've been grappling with in my work for my PhD in Higher Education.  We've taken two classes that have strongly focused on institutional and structural privileging and discrimination, which as a white male from a middle class family, has me doing a whole lot of thinking and reflecting.  

During the discussion on the issue of how limited higher education is to racial minorities for a variety for structural issues, the professor emphasized (as did someone else) that it is important to have white allies (for the lack of a better word) in positions of power that can signal institutional priorities, especially as it relates to race.  That is, white and male allies can be highly effective in improving the diversity of their colleges by vocalizing (and following through) that it is a clear priority.  

I found it incredibly useful to hear this as a someone who is a white male practitioner/scholar because it helped me to better understand how I can help strive for equity and access and how my presence can signal a stronger investment in those ideals.  It gives me hope that I can positively contribute to improving issues of access and equity, especially as it relates to race.

However, much of this semester's discussion about representation within academia leaves me grappling with a question I struggled with in my personal narrative paper for course we took over the summer.  If I know my success as an educator/practitioner/scholar has been significantly influenced (in a positive manner) by my race (gender, sex, and perceived sexuality as well), and that the system that created this discrimination is one that I want to reject as much as possible, then is it a violation of my morals to move forward into higher positions of higher education, knowing that the deck is stacked in my favor.  Am I just continuing to perpetuate injustice by moving upward?  That is, by holding the position when I know the deck is stacked in my favor, aren't I blocking opportunities for others?  I realize that an answer is likely to be "Not necessarily, because the system is in place and therefore, if it is not you (Lance), then it is still likely to be another white person."  But that doesn't necessarily help.  It's saying it doesn't matter, but of course, if it is me, then I am knowingly cashing in on cultural and social capital afforded to my whiteness.  Is that somehow better than those that don't acknowledge, realize, or reflect on this issue?

Racism The Elephant in the room

Just like my conclusion in that previous paper, I have to assume that because I am dedicated to and invested in equity and access and that I have these internal (I guess external now) moments of doubts, that is probably a good thing to have in a privileged leader in a stratified system and I think that is what I got from the discussion, but I'm still grappling back and forth with it, so I figured I would share in case others also find themselves in this situation.    

And then of course on another level of reflection, I wonder if this is another means of co-opting the conversation by making it about me or my white privilege/guilt/angst of losing the spotlight-or whatever we wanna call it.  That is, by even bringing this up, am I just redirecting conversations away from nonwhite voices?  And to get really pedantic--by even bringing up this last point, is that just another example of refocusing it on me...g-damn, circles and circle...I'll be over in the corner just getting dizzy.

And if I said something that was horribly arrogant, offensive, or misrepresented a group or faction, I apologize in advance, though I would love to hear about it for better understanding.

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act


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Politics in Social Media: Memes, Public Talk, and Snacking

As you know from previous posts centered on politics, I'm doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about courses of action that are important to me.  Within that, it means I am also starting to think differently about how I engage and act politically in social media.  I will always contend that social media is a powerful and important tool; one that has inevitably changed my life for the better, making me a better communicator, more thoughtful and sensitive person, and better aware of the world around me.  But it has me thinking differently about certain aspects of it that I need to change my approach on.  Here are some of those different approaches that are currently on my mind.

Memes

Moving forward--I'm largely done with memes.  Neutral memes that may be amusing and interesting are probably not off the table but memes in general, I'm done using.  We all like memes because they are perfect analogy machines, distilling our issue into something that is a picture and handful of words.  However, memes do not really encourage or make for better dialogue between people with differences but rather allows one to state their claim, relying on the (often faulty) logic or limited facts of the meme to be proof positive.  They are shields with which to stand behind but generally non-starters for actual conversation.  They're used as proof-positive, often with the implication that if we just share them around enough, everyone will finally get it.
Word cloud of this post in the shape of a word balloon.

In order to critique the idea at the center, one has to engage in a long and drawn out explanation which often takes time and often, the original poster is not interested in hearing.  Not only do they take time but because the meme has framed the point, one is often trapped in having to contend with the present frame, which because of its distilled nature often is a challenge to do so in an engaging way given the person who posted it feels strongly enough about the meme to post it.  

So for me, I am refusing to engage in the meme-wars.  They aren't constructive in the end I believe and therefore would rather spend my time sharing more constructive ways of publicly thinking.  That being said, I am still going to speak up when I see memes that marginalize or alienate people--not as a means of engaging the person who posted it per se (though I hope they are willing to listen) but to make sure others who see the post (especially people that might be a target of the post) know that not everyone feels that way.   

Public Conversation vs Private Messages

Social media has been fantastic in putting me contact with a great many people and enjoying the opportunity to have many interesting conversations and debates.  But in moving forward, I think I shall be trying a new tactic.  We know that when it comes to beliefs, we are often likely to dig in deeper when we are publicly challenged because it becomes that much harder to admit if our thinking is wrong in some capacity.  We stake ourselves as intelligent, professionals, or just aware and so to be shown otherwise in public means that we are likely to avoid it.  Thus, I can imagine for myself and others that as I dig into a conversation deeper and deeper, trying to defend my beliefs, I'm reluctant to give ground or to really hear the other person.  But maybe, if I move the discussion to a more personal nature--to just me and the person via private messages, email, phone calls or face-to-face, it changes the conversation.  It moves from public to private and creates better opportunities to hear one another.  

So my goal is that when I engage in conversations that seem in direct opposition to things I believe in, I will initially post my public response (agian, believe it is important that others see it that it will be an opportunity for those neutral OR those that the post targets feel supported) but if the conversation goes into a more protracted discussion, that I move that into a private realm for me and the person to better understand one another.  

Snacking Social Media

I plan to reduce my social media usage.  I still plan to use it regularly, even daily but I need to shift away from the mindless scrolling, the endless search for interesting content, the constant look for something.  I need to be more strategic and focused in going on social media--seeing it as a place to check in regularly but not constantly.  I want to hear the different voices of people I am connected with but like others, after this past week, I'm realizing how much I'm drowning in it and I'd rather not be so inundated.  So I plan to start planning spots within the day to tune in but to stop grazing while doing other things and recooperate time to do some of the actions that I am in pursuing as a result of where I find myself politically.  

Subordinated into that is going to be a reduction in how often I explore differnet news outlets; especially that includes clickbait or over-dramatic responses to what they present as news (on the left, Mother Jones, I'm looking at you; on the right, Breitbart news, I'm not having it or any "news" space that have a bajillion article links along the side and at the bottom to other tabloid news).  For me, these sites are not useful; I want to know what happened but I'm so damn tired of the hyperbolic rhetoric--that's what got us here; it won't get us out.  So I say goodbye to them.

These are some of the actions in my daily practice that I am pursuing.  What about the rest of you?  How might your relationship with social media change given your experiences over the last few months?  



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The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 13, 2016 at 09:00PM


This lil #kitty is acting up... #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #cats #catsofinstagram

http://ift.tt/2fQnPIy

Check out other editions of The Daily Stickman Adventures. If you are receiving this via email and do not see the image posted, please click the link to The Daily Stickman Adventures.

What Am I Doing...Actions Taken

So in my last post, I said that the election for me and anyone else that was not something they liked in terms of its execution needs to do something to avoid it happening in the many problematic ways that it played out.  How's that going for all of us?  What are some of the action items you've taken up in the last few days?

Here's my run-down of what I've done thus far:


November 8: Election Day

I voted, of course but I also wrote the initial post from the other day that has got me going down this path of thinking about what to do next.


November 9:  A Day of Mourning & Reflection

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb
I stayed up through most of Election night and had trouble sleeping (maybe 2 hours that night).  Wednesday was a really hard day for me.  It was spent in a bit of a haze.  It was spent shedding public and private tears and commiserating with friends.  I cried because the loss to me represented so much that was wrong--wrong with how the election was fought and the differing reasons why those who lost, lost and those who won, won.  It was navigating a path of sadness and frustrated and fear and not letting that turn into hate and anger but into actual things that I can learn and do better by this.  It was looking in the mirror and doing my best not to villianize those who are not us.  There are many things I feel that I am right about (e.g. caring for the equity, equality, and fairness of all humans) but recognize that I have gotten a lot of things wrong in how I go about it.


November 10:  Connections

I spent a large part of my free time on this day reaching out to as many people I knew that were as heart-stricken or felt particularly threatened under the rhetoric that President Elect Trump voiced.  I wanted them to know I cared about them and that I was there to help.  In my own mind, I spent the day thinking about what it means to connect and how to engage in action that is meaningful to move foward.  I realized that I and others would need some group support and guidance so I created the Time to Act group on Facebook to help people (including myself) to find guidance, support, and feedback on how to move forward.


November 11:  Time to Act

I spent time further wordsmithing the purpose and setting up the Time to Act group before launching it and inviting friends who I thought would be interested in joining or learning from.  Since then, it's up to about 500 members and more people are joining and inviting others.  Beyond that I also began to work with a good friend of mine about looking at an opportunity to reach out to the Electoral College (we began talking about this on the 10th actually).  A petition started int he past few days had us thinking.  The petition is an attempt to get the people that compose the Electoral College to change their vote.  It is an absolute moonshot to convince them but at the time of this composing, over 3.5 million people had signed it.  I also had conversations with my partner about the actions we wanted ot take together in the days to come.


November 12:  The Actions Grows

And today.  Today has been a mixture of engaging in idea-exchange with the group; composing a list of groups I wanted to monthly donate to, working with my friend in the above-mentioned project, and forming a plan for the days ahead.  It's getting energize by hearing from others in the group about the actions they plan to take and thinking about ways to better understand and connect with people that are different from me.  


Where am I going from here?

So now I'm off to think about more ways to act and seeing what are things I can do each day to act.  As I execute or explore new methods I will be definitely sharing them here on this blog but also within the group mention above.


What can I do?

I provided some initial ideas in the previous post about what to do.  Here are some more personal actions that people can take in the aftermath of the election.  
  1. Check in with people who may be made more vulnerable by the change of things to see what it is that you can do to help them.
  2. Reach out to organizations (e.g. local Muslim centers, women's centers, immigration protection organizations) to communicate support or ask ways in which you can support and advocate for their protection in the days to come.
  3. Write letters to local, state, and federal representatives voicing your concerns about how the country is moving forward and ask what you can do and what they can do.
  4. Avoid posting memes: Sound strange? I'm starting to think memes are one of the misinformative ways in which created echo chambers as they often marginalize the other person's point of view beyond the ability to create reasonable difference.
  5. Talk with people who did not vote the way you did and listen carefully to why it was they made that decision. The goal is to listen and learn; not to defend and attack. Just a few off the top of my head.

It's Not About the Candidate

I'm already writing a blog post about the issues around the election, my emotions, and things I'm reconsidering. But I want to be clear about my views on this. I'm not necessarily hateful towards the President Elect. I ultimately want him to succeed because his failure will do even more harm. However, it is undeniable that he used a range of hateful and fearful tactics that increased the vulnerability of groups that were already subordinate in our society. In the days since the election, hate groups and individual bigots have seen his election as a justification for their disregard for human decency and respect. And for that, I do hold the President Elect accountable for, especially since he had done nothing significant to quell the hatred.

That's all for now!  I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing and hear more about your ideas.  



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October's Gratitude

So this month got a bit busier than I would have liked.  I managed to stay on top of my daily gratitudes and am only slightly behind in my thank-you notes, but I have not started the process of thanking authors as I wanted to do.  So I've got my work cut out for me for November but that makes sense as well since November does include Thanksgiving, right?


Word cloud of October's gratitude entries.
In looking at the total count of gratitude notes that I've logged, I'm somewhere in 1000s which is nice to see and I'm curious what the word cloud will look like at the end of the year.  What will stick out as my biggest themes?  I've got a few guesses (certainly, my cats, my partner, my body, and access to essentials always rank high).  

In this month's cloud, I notice that learning, partner, body, opportunities, friends, and life stick out rather strongly.  Given the opportunities I had to spend with friends and professional colleagues this month, that doesn't seem so surprising.  I also realize that since I work out in the morning and it's usually after a workout that I do my gratitude journal, that body stands out as much as it does.  It is a luxury to get to have the time and resources to be able to work out my body in ways that I choose and that my body is healthy enough to push in the ways that I do.  I also found October percolate with several different professional opportunities that I am also grateful to be able to part-take in.

So this marks ten months of expressing daily gratitude and if I were to sum up the impact on me in terms of how it has affected me, I would say that it just pushes me to notice and speak up more toward being grateful to the world around me.  It can be easy to engage in a negative downward spiral of how horrible things are.  There are certainly horrible things happening all the time.  Yet as a result of many things beyond my control (my class, race, gender, geographical original) and a very few (in contrast) things that are in my control, I am not subject to horrible things and am increasingly aware of that through my own active learning and observations as well as this gratitude journey.  Thus, as I see more reasons to be thankful to people, places, and events, I speak to them even more.  

Catch up on previous months' gratitude reflections:

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Review: Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance

Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance Complete without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance by Ellen L. Walker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walker approaches the subject first by re-framing it as "childfree" instead of "childless". Linguistically, this intrigued me from the start because it speaks of how we tend to frame adults. They are lacking--"childless". In a culture that orgiastically worships children and youth, to be "childless" means you lack any connection to what's important. Curiously, the word has overlap with the word "chilly"--clearly not a conspiracy of any sort, but interestingly nonetheless as that is somehow childfree adults are described as the author points out.

The book operates as a guide for things to consider if a person is on the fence or a reinforcement of the decision for those that have decided. In fact, in many ways the author tries to play to several different audiences ("Childfree living by choice or by chance" as the subtitles reads) and I don't know that it works out as successfully if she had just charged in deep to one specific audience. She does provide a panorama view of the things to consider from coming to the decision, to engaging the world from this vantage point, to the new choices opened up to you by moving in this direction. She also emphasizes differences in relationship, wealth, and opportunities for those finding themselves along this path.

My major critique of the book is that it doesn't really have a substantial strong male presence or approach about what it means to be a male without children. I don't think she fully considered that there are different experiences for men who don't have children than women. I would argue that there is. This is not a case of one has it worse than another, but how that decision is challenged or questioned often plays out differently. For women, not having children can often mean they are looked at as less, devalued, or not seen as a complete woman. For men, the judgment comes in other forms such as challenges about our masculinity and even implications or raise eyebrows as somehow being more predatory than men who do have children. So I think she misses the boat on that one (mayhaps the book I need to write?).

All in all, she provides some good food for thought even for people who believe they are going to have children but want to think more critically about it before moving forward with the decision. I have to wonder if people had the opportunity to have a genuine conversation on the topic of whether to procreate or not, how many of them actually would--especially when we consider that about half of children born were unplanned.

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Review: No Exit

No Exit No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confession time--I haven't read much of Satre's philosophical work; though I would guess that's many people. However, after reading No Exit, I am much more intrigued. No Exit is a one-act play in which three people find themselves in a room without (wait for it...) an exit. They have been placed in here as their essential version of hell to wait out eternity. The surprise is the method in which hell is enacted. It's not filled with traditional sadists who want to throw these characters on the rack and watch them writhe in pain, but rather a balance of or rather an imbalance of the three characters is what makes it the quintessential hell. Each character seeds the anger and frustration as they each reveal their secrets and then their true selves, illustrating why they make the perfect threesome for eternal damnation. I found Satre dialogue engaging and that the characters were easy to formulate through their lines. It's a quick but fascinating read.

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What Are You Going To Do Today, November 9th?

Good morning America!

It's Wednesday, November 9th and the cards have fallen where they have fallen and if you're like most of us, you have many different views on how and why they fell the way they did.  There are millions of ecstatic Americans that their candidate has been elected and yet, there are millions more who did not vote for this candidate and even part of the base of pro-voters did it reluctantly.  After a race that has been going on for years, we awake with a hangover and utter regret.  Our regret stems not just with the outcome of last night's dirty tussle of (ballot) sheets but from recognizing that this is what always happens.  We awake, we see the results, we feel dirty about the process, but we go on.  

Many of us voted; many of us didn't.  There's an assumption that at least if you vote, you have a right to complain, but those who refuse to participate in a process that feels problematic from the onset have right to not waste their effort endorsing a system that they believe generates false or manufactured hope.  Others voted for third party believing that by doing so, they supported change, and so they too have the right to complain about whoever was elected.  But here's my new standard and challenge for all who read this.  No one has a right to complain if all you have done is vote or not voted.  I'm going to go with Henry David Thoreau on this one and one of my favorite points that he makes:  


"I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote."

In my travels, discussions, and trips down the rabbit hole that is the internet, I have yet to find anyone who is anywhere near happy that this is how things have happened; to say the least, most of us are angered and disappointed by the whole process.  This is a theme repeated election after election, probably since time immemorial.  And it has to do with today, the day after the election.  The vast majority of us sit back and decide that "I've done my job; I voted."  But voting is literally the least thing you can do in a democratic republic such as ours.  As Thoreau points out, it's merely reaffirming the majority but not necessarily addressing what it is that got so many of us up in arms (sometimes, literally, in this election season).    

I know that many of us are just exhausted.  We've been assaulted with ads, news, faux-news, memes, misinformation, accusations, conspiracies, and just about everything in the 24+ month campaign season.  So many of us have been waiting for it to be over for months and have felt deep anxiety around so much of it.  We want to be free of it for now; to breathe, to relax, to just return to some level of normality.  But that won't happen.  The election cycle will continue to get longer; these theatrics will continue to get more ridiculous; the inability to find actual truth and quality news will continue to diminish.  This will continue and it will continue because today is November 9th and we are all deciding we can finally stop caring.  

So I implore all of us to not stop today.  To get up and find a course of action to take that will make us all better as nation.  

So what needs changing?  Lots--that's for sure.  I'm going to steer clear of what I generally think of the bigger issues that I see as that which needs addressing because they are larger issues that we are all likely to vehemently disagree (as the election bears out).  But I want to highlight or find some ways of improving what it is that we're doing when we participate in a democratic republic.  Maybe you have ideas or maybe you know things are wrong but are unsure of which issues resonate most with your or even where to start.  This collection of links provides some ideas about what to change and some even show you how or at least direct you towards resources to get you started. 


Some of my favorites from that list that I'm hoping to pursue in some way include:

These's two from 10 Ways to Improve American Electoral Process
“Establish an ad hoc committee to monitor the quality of public opinion polls taken and reported by newspapers, television stations and networks. This committee would have no sanctioning power over the media, but it would issue a report when it found poll results to be misinterpreted.” 
"Add a new line to the election ballot that says "Favors a New Election." If that option gets more votes than any candidate on the ballot, a new election with new candidates would be ordered."
This gem from the How do we imrpove the election process?
“Replace the debates with something less confrontational and more informative. For example, an interview conducted by an impartial interviewer who allows the candidate to give a complete answer but doesn't allow him/her to dodge the question.”
4 Simple Ways to Improve Voting had this great idea:
“Revamp voter registration. The system relies heavily on pen-and-paper forms, which lead to typos and errors in registration records. Adding more electronic options would help get more voters on the rolls and keep them there by increasing accuracy and efficiency.  For instance, online registration allows eligible citizens to register -- and to more easily check and update their records -- through a secure online portal. New York offers online registration to those with a Department of Motor Vehicles identification, but that should be expanded to include more eligible citizens. If voters can bank and shop online, it makes no sense that they cannot register to vote online, too.”
I also liked this idea from 10 ideas to improve voting, elections
“Open up voting: A few commenters complained about the party system, and one suggested allowing people to vote for more than one candidate.”
These are some of the ideas that I came across and it's a quick leap from there to finding out how to help those organizations that are involved in these efforts or to start your own organization to pursue this.  I'd love to hear from people in the comments about other ways to help or change the system.  I'm happy to do follow-up posts with additional concepts, ideas, and resources.  

If you need ways to get politically involved, there are a plenty of suggestions and methods for big and small actions.  You just need to be willing to start.  Here are two resources to help think about ways to get more politically involved (essentially a beginner's guide and a massive listing of ideas)


Today, November 9th is a start, not a finish for anyone who wants to change the system.  You can't start with the end result (the election), you start with what comes before. So you have 4 years to change it. You may be exhausted but if you want to actually change it, you need to keep going. If you want more out of this country, you gotta get out and do something, today.



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