Sunday, May 28, 2006

Annoyed at Credit Card Company

I was buying groceries today and my credit card was refused. Luckily, I usually carry two credit cards, so I could still pay for the groceries, but when I got home, I called the credit card company and asked them why it was refused. It turns out that the reason it was refused was that there were two charges made at approximately the same time on the card, from vastly different parts of the world. They refused the card in both locations because of this. The problem is, this was an extremely inopportune time for them to do this for the first time.

Background: My younger daughter has had a second card on this account for over a year. She is normally in Illinois; I am in Alaska. We have, in the past repeatedly charged things at similar times - and there was never a peep from the bank.

Problem: A couple of days ago, she had her purse stolen - and she is now in Uganda working on a summer internship. Fortunately, her passport, her ATM card, and her credit card were not in the purse that was stolen. But she wanted to get some more cash, since she is traveling away from the capital, Kampala, soon. I found Ugandan banks that would supposedly give her a cash advance on the credit card. And she wanted to buy a new camera, since the one she had was stolen with the purse. But, evidently the credit card bank has refused these purchases. And I am really annoyed. Why hasn't this problem ever come up before? Why wasn't I aware that the credit card bank might refuse a card for this reason? Am I clueless or is it the bank's fault? I feel so bad for my daughter. She is trying to recover her equilibrium after an upsetting event and the credit card company adds further upset to her circumstances. And it makes things very hard for her. She simply doesn't have time to go back to all of the merchants and buy the things she needs now that the credit card is working again. And, since email and phone calls have been very erratic and cut off unexpectedly, it is hard to even let her know that the credit card is working again.

And I am trying to figure out if it is the bank's fault or my own ignorance.

Friday, May 26, 2006

School Rant

From a news report: 'Neil Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, stated that he endured pressure from a private school in Houston to medicate his son Pierce with Ritalin for ADHD incorrectly diagnosed by the school. "There is a systemic problem in this country, where schools are often forcing parents to turn to Ritalin," said Bush, 47, who spent years researching the issue. "It's obvious to me that we have a crisis in this country." Neil Bush also said, "The problem is, it isn't the kids that are broken. It's the system that is failing to engage children in the classroom," and "My heart goes out to any parents who are being led to believe their kids have a disorder or are disabled."'

And I get tired of people blaming the whole problem on the teachers failing to "engage" children in the classroom. There are many kids who spend more hours outside of school watching TV and playing video and computer games than they spend sitting in the classrooms. And then they come to school and expect to be entertained and "engaged" there. Kids who used to run around and play physically when they weren't in school don't nowadays. No wonder they have too much energy. And they watch so much TV/video/computer games that they have attention spans of gnats.

When I went to elementary, junior high, and high school, I never expected it to be a 7 hour game every day. Yes, school needs to be interesting, but I am getting tired of people expecting it to be entertaining. Perhaps it is the passivity of this viewpoint that irritates me. Children and their parents expect them to be engaged BY TEACHERS in their school work; they don't expect to engage THEMSELVES in the pursuit of learning.

And while I am complaining, I would like to ask why it is that kids nowadays think that they have to talk all of the time? Whenever I lament as a sub that I have had difficulty with a class that talked a bit too much, teacher after teacher will complain that the kids are talking all of the time in their regular classes, too. You get the kids quiet, so they can listen to instruction or directions on how to do something and the second you open your mouth to speak, they start talking again. This can and does go on for 20 minutes or more and the only thing that stops it is sending one or more kids to the school disciplinarian. That works for about 5 minutes and then you have to threaten them again. Or teachers will put names on the board and take time off of recess for excessive talking. The only two other things that stop the chatter are movies or TV and tests. Even tests work for only the part of the test where everyone is working. As soon as one kid finishes, the talking starts again.

I have tried thinking about causes for this behavior and the major ones I can think of are:

1) When kids watch TV or movies or actively play computer or video games, they are not talking. In fact, they seem to be passively receptive, even when they are actively pushing buttons for a video game. So when they finish this type of activity, they have a greater than normal need to connect with other people and they talk, talk, talk.

2) Kids are not taught to listen to instructions or conversation. They are so visually oriented (TV, video, and computers again) that their auditory processing is less capable. And they have learned very well in school that, if they do not pay attention to verbal instruction given to the whole class, once they are given the assignment, all they have to do is complain that they don't understand, and the teacher will give them individual help, often complete with several answers for which they have to do little or no work.

I guess I am feeling cantankerous today. Sorry.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Myers-Briggs Type

I just took an on-line test for my MBTI type a and this is the result:
Your Type is:
INFJ Strength of the preferences %
Introverted 44
Intuitive 62
Feeling 38
Judging 33

I always have trouble with these kinds of tests, though.  I fit either both sides of most questions, or neither. There are only a very few questions that I can truthfully answer completely comfortably one way or the other. One is usually something like "You analyze everything." To that one, I always give a resounding "YES!" (and that characteristic annoys my daughters endlessly). But given my discomfort with many of my other answers, I tend to feel that the result is more dependent on my current mood than it is dependent on my personality.

On the other hand, the Keirsey explanation of my type in this particular test, the Counselor type, certainly does seem to fit. I AM extraordinarily able to tell what people are thinking and feeling when I am with them. It is one of my greatest assets as a teacher. But it also makes teaching large groups of children difficult, because it is so frustrating to not be able to act on all of the input I am getting.

And now I just finished reading the Butt and Heiss explanation of my results and I am thinking that maybe there is more to the MBTI types than I have previously given credance.

Characteristics that seem particularly relevant/apropos:
1) Abstract in thought and speech -- I seem always to be trying to derive a general principle from what I am observing/experiencing.

2) Focus on human potentials, think in terms of ethical values

3) Not generally visibly a leader

4) This type has great depth of personality; they are themselves complicated, and can understand and deal with complex issues and people.

5) self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper

Things that seem NOT to match:
1) Make decisions easily -- I can agonize over purchases for weeks.

2) ... but they are reserved and tend not to share their reactions except with those they trust. -- I seem to be more open than this.

A Mixed Bag:
1) ...because of their strong ability to take into themselves the feelings of others, Counselors can be hurt rather easily by those around them -- I do have this ability, but I don't seem to be hurt easily.  It is more like I have the ability to understand the feelings, but the detachment to recognize that it isn't MY feelings.  (Which seems to be more what Heiss and Butt say.)

This has been more interesting than I expected, mainly because, as I stated above, I typically have a lot of trouble with these types of "tests". I have always wondered how a valid result could be generated when the preferences
for many of the particular answers were so slight. But it does seem to have done a decent job overall. Intriguing.

Harry Potter's Evil Cat Counterpart

This cat's name is Cookie, but that innocent name belies a truly evil connection. Note the lightning shaped scar on her forehead and the black heart. She strikes fear into the hearts of cats twice as big as she is. Lady Voldemort?

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Failure of Parenting

[rewritten from a post on GT-Talk]
Regarding the discussion about why children eat unhealthy foods, don't get enough exercise, don't know some of the basic academics that were commonplace a few years ago, etc.

I am part of the Boomer/Hippie generation and what I see happening is that my generation rebelled against rules of all sorts. In college, we protested the Vietnam War, in loco parentis became weaker and weaker from freshman year to senior year. Freshman year, we weren't allowed to have men in our rooms, except from 2:00 - 4:00 pm on Sunday and the door had to be open with all four feet on the floor. By senior year, nearly all of those regulations were completely gone. Men stayed in the dorm any time - even over night, with the doors closed.

What I see is that my generation wanted to give their children more freedom from rules, so the next generation grew up with far fewer restrictions. But now, years later, those children are the parents. Not having grown up honoring rules and regulations, they don't even know HOW to impose the rules. They don't have any intuitive feel for when rules need to be respected and when they need to be broken. My generation knew - we had grown up with (too many?) rules and restrictions. Our lives were all about breaking through society's restrictions: sexism, racism, economic disparity. So we had the perspective to know what the rules were, how to break them, and why.

But our children grew up without many of the rules and restrictions, so now they have no idea how to impose them on their children. They make some feeble attempts and think that is all that is required. You see them in the grocery store all the time:
Kid: I want [X];
Mom/Dad: No, you don't need [X];
... repeat N times ...
Kid: Cries loudly;
Mom/Dad: Gives in somehow - by buying the item or a substitute, by promising reward if kid stops crying, etc.

My mother who is 91 was recently watching some old old family videos of me with my older daughter when she was a baby. At one point, she asked me how I knew how to parent my daughter so well. I answered that, as with many things, the key is having a good role model. My mother was a good parent. I followed her example almost unconsciously. But, as my kids got older and got to the ages where breaking restrictions due to sexism, racism, etc., became important to me, I was on less sure footing. I think, to some extent, I didn't impose restrictions I should have - especially in the area of making my children assume responsibility for themselves (except academically - they are both pretty good about that).

I had my children when I was pretty old, so they are not yet parents, and I don't know how they will do at parenting, but many of my compatriots are grandparents and I teach these grandchildren. I see kids who have a lot of trouble with rules and restrictions - even those that are deemed very important by most of society.

If this analysis is anywhere near correct, it will be very difficult to get back to a better position. Some of the parenting techniques have been lost and will be difficult to recover. New parents will have to use reason and outside advice to gain expertise that my generation had intuitively, even if we chose to circumvent it in some cases. And, in our increasingly diverse society, even finding solid advice becomes problematic - one expert says one thing; another says the opposite. New parents feel powerless and confused.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Clear View

The mountains are clear right now. It occurred to me yesterday that, in some ways they resemble crinkled aluminum foil, painted over with Wite-Out. This is not a very poetical image, even though the mountains are beautiful.

When I first moved here, I was struck by how the whole vista to the south looked like an elaborately photographed Hollywood backdrop, with only the nearby trees in front of the backdrop actually seeming to be real. As I have come to know the place better, this image has faded slightly, but is still striking. The view out the window has two distinct distances - the close up and the very far away. The middle distance is shielded from view by the close.

Is there a metaphor for life here? The things in the distance are the past - mostly static and a bit unreal. What we see most closely is the present, which obscures the middle distance.

Best not take that too far.