The Other I

January 31, 2014

Generation gap

Filed under: The English,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 2:09 pm


Yvettte Cooper, a leading Labour Party member of Parliament, told the annual Labour party conference today about her parental limitations.  

“I have to be realistic,”  she admitted.  “I have to ask my kids how to use the parental controls. “

January 29, 2014

I ain’t gonna study war…

Filed under: Survival Strategies,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 3:54 pm

I’ve been struggling with the question of war once again in response to The Game of War, a recent post on the Writer’s Treehut blog.  Then this morning I found  Ain’t Gonna Study War No More in my email, sent by a friend in memory of Pete Seeger who died two days ago.  I’ve been listening to folk songs from the 60’s and 70’s all day.

I was not prepared for the depth of feeling aroused by a return to this time in my life.  I remembered again how strongly I felt about war, about racial discrimination, about the poor.  And I thought again that we were right.

Oh yes, we were naive, and innocent, and simple.  But we were right about war.  We were right about loving each other.  We were right that we needed to care about each other.  And we were willing to go out there and fight for what we thought was right.  We were not all just sitting around in communes smoking pot and passing flowers to each other in a land of complete sexual liberty.  People literally died in the firing lines of the fight.

But we had no idea then just how unclear and how long the road for peace, for civil rights, for justice, and against poverty was.  I think we thought that the world could be turned around in a generation — our generation, in fact.  Now I look at the continued and increasing horrors of war and floods of refugees, at the environmental degradation, at the increasing difference between the rich and poor, and I never dreamed in those days that it could possibly become so bad.

We had no idea the problems we thought we could solve were so complex.  I think we still don’t.  Actually,  we don’t need to “study war no more,” but to study war and poverty and the environment and our impulse to kill each other a lot more.  We need to understand ourselves, our motivations, the conditions which bring out the best and the worst much better than we do.

Is there something about war, for instance, that we do truly find glorious and heroic?  The BBC is showing a surprisingly good documentary on World War I right now.  I learned last night that the prime minister, and at different times, members of the cabinet broke down in tears, several men even resigned their posts, as they contemplated the oncoming war.   What they saw was Germany set on control of the entire European continent.  So they saw no alternative to war.   Was there?  Were there alternatives that would have been better than those four ghastly years that killed 8 million troops and almost as many civilians?  Was there an alternative to what was basically a continuation of this war in World War II during which 66 million people died?

This very day, negotiators are gathered in Geneva struggle to find an alternative to the continuing civil war in Syria.  Northern Ireland has still not fully resolved its conflict, and Africa today is seeing the daily carnage of war.

I’m old now, and there is little I can see that I might contribute to the solutions we humans have created for ourselves.

But the truth is, young or old, none of us can do it alone.  In fact, each of us can do so little by ourselves that the great temptation is to despair.  We can touch the lives of only a very small number of people.  Our kindness can reach only a very small circle.  Our individual problem-solving must be focused or we won’t answer any questions at all.  We each must be satisfied to do our small bit, and hope that others do too.

We’re all in this together.  Even the most powerful, the most gifted, the most sainted need others.





November 28, 2013

Way more than my share

Filed under: Just Stuff,Teaching,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 3:01 pm

Thanksgiving is the only holiday in the year that I celebrate without any qualifications.  What else can I possibly say but Thank You for so much that has been given to me in abundance?

This year I’ve been thinking particularly about how much my students gave to me during my university teaching years.

They were, first of all, challenging.

I’m sure they had little idea how much reading I did to address the questions they were asking.  And how exhilarating I found it.

I also often tried to put them in contact with their own gifts, talents and abilities that many of them did not realize they had.  And once in a while one of them would come back and tell me I’d changed their lives.  Or that I was the best teacher they’d ever had.  Or some other act of appreciation that was way beyond what I deserved.

So getting up at 6:30 am to review my lecture material, or reading hundreds of student papers to give them detailed feedback, was repaid a thousand times over.

I will admit that I always seemed to appreciate the joys of teaching more during the summer break than during the bleak cold winter.

But seriously, being a university professor ranks as one of the greatest joys of my life.

And I don’t think I have ever so much as said a single thank you to those students who gave me so much.  I suspect it’s a little too late now.  But I do know on this Thanksgiving that I have been given far more than I ever earned.

Thank you.



October 30, 2013


It’s practically an article of faith for me that there’s always another way of looking at things.  Sometimes “the other way” is threatening, or surprising, or funny.

But sometimes it’s positively hopeful.

I think on my really bad days when I feel despair at the possibility that  human stupidity,  arrogance, violence, or sheer selfishness is going to mean the end of life for all of us on this planet, I’m going to revisit this u-tube.  It was written by a 20-year-old for a contest entitled  “u@fifty.”  Maybe human creativity and generosity and a sheer love of all of life will win out after all.

Be sure to listen – and read – it all the way back to the beginning.  Or you’ll miss it.  


September 19, 2013

An unexpected downside

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 4:00 pm

Last month I read about research suggesting that using Facebook seems to make people feel rather miserable.  It’s not that lonely and unhappy people use Facebook more than happy people do.  The research found that the more time volunteers spent on Facebook, the lower their self-esteem and feelings of worth and the higher their feelings of depression and loneliness.

Even more surprising was the discovery that spending the same amount of time socializing with people directly had exactly the opposite effect.

These results reflect the experiences of young people in their 20’s, who seem to compare themselves to the presentations of their friends on Facebook, and feel they don’t measure up.  What doesn’t occur to them is that these presentations may be a little overly idealistic with doctored photographs, clever answers and masterful achievements that weren’t exactly the way things happened in real life.

I wonder if these results would find something similar among older users.   My guess is that as we get older, we get a little less naive, a little less self-centered, a little more suspicious, and that that would make a difference to how we evaluate the Facebook presentations of others.

But I can’t really say for myself.  I didn’t like the experience at all, and deactivated my Facebook account.

On the other hand, there is also research showing that working at a computer for a couple of hours before bedtime is associated with sleeping difficulties.   I had already begun to discover that for myself.  It’s one of the reasons I’m not blogging as often as I used to.

I’m reading more at night, though.

I wonder why that isn’t interfering with my sleep.

Maybe I’d better not ask.

November 19, 2012

This isn’t for old people like you, grandma…

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 2:18 pm

The weekend newspapers have several stark reminders about just how much has changed since I was young.  One paper had an entire page discussing whether parents should take their children with them on their honeymoon, and then featured places where parents might go should they decide to be accompanied by their offspring.

Today I read that children as young as three are being taught computer code like HTML and JavaScript.  The Education Department thinks every child between the ages of 5 and 7 should (I’m not kidding)  “be able to use algorithms to write simple programs, store and retrieve data and know ways in which information is represented digitally.”  Algorithms?!  At age five?

On the other hand, there was also an article on schools’ needing to teach children approaching adolescence how to write.  By write, I don’t mean how to structure an essay or tell a story.  I mean how to actually form the letters of the alphabet with a pen or pencil.  They are children who have learned to communicate exclusively through texting.  Some of them seem able to negotiate a smart phone pad with two thumbs as fast as I can type on the original keyboard.  They can send messages around the world, but can’t write an old-fashioned note using paper and pencil.

But it was the discussion of teenage-speak used on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter than made me realize that times have really changed.  I understand OMG and btw and LOL, but I would need a whole translation service to read texting.  For anyone over forty, the London Times lists the following examples to test whether you are as bi-lingual as you thought:

  • POS  parent over shoulder
  • IDK  I don’t know
  • JK  just kidding
  • G2G  got to go;
  • LN  last night
  • S^  what’s up?  (this is my favourite)
  • NMJCU  not much, just chilling, you?
  • YOLO  you only live once
  • I43  I love you   (personally, I don’t understand the logic of this code even when it’s translated)
  • IKR  I know, right?
  • 5  wait a few minutes
  • 55  coast is clear  (I don’t think I could have figured this out myself in a lifetime)
  • A?S?L?  age, sex, location?
  • DW  don’t worry
  • K  OK
  • B4N  bye for now
  • BBL  be back later
  • BG  big grin
  • BST  but seriously though
  • B&  banned
  • CTS  changing the subject
  • CWYL:  chat with you later
  • EAK  eating at keyboard
  • F2P  free to play
  • LTNS  long time no see
  • OTP  on the phone
  • QT  cutie
  • TT2T  too tired to talk

I do wonder, though, just how many of the above the average teenage could translate.  Does any reader out there have any resident teenage subjects to ask?

PS:  FYI, I failed.  I got 4 items right – QT, K, 5, and IDK.    By the grading system I grew up with, that would give me a grade of 14%.  60% would have earned me a D if the teacher was being charitable.  14% would have resulted in an automatic demotion.

I’m reminded of the grandmother who told me her three-year-old granddaughter took the TV remote from her saying “I’ll do it for you, Grandma.  This isn’t for old people like you.”

Talk about role-reversals.

August 18, 2011

Announcing a short delay before Armageddon

Filed under: The English,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 1:58 pm

In the Economist this week, Bagehot discusses a book published in 1982 by Bradford University academic, Geoffrey Pearson.  The young of Britain, it appears, have been degenerating not for decades but for centuries.

Some of the causes cited for this total break down of social structures have a surprising déjà vu quality that have been repeated for 500 years.  Inevitably, poor parenting, going soft on the punishment of criminals (let’s restore Saturday night flogging in the public square and for their own good, whipping our children more often), alcohol and drugs and the malign influence of ethnic minorities are declared to be responsible for a loss of respect for authority and traditional values.  These causes are repeated with a kind of grating regularity.

So, rather to my surprise, is music.  Not Beethoven’s kind of music, or church hymns.  But all this modern stuff that exults immorality and permissiveness  If it’s not rap, it’s rock-n roll, in 1840 “foreign music that must have come out of the jungle,” and even as far back as the 1500’s, the Puritans blamed popular songs that treated criminals as heroes.  The amoral influence of music is purportedly amplified by modern technology including everything from silent films to computer games and social networks.

All of which is not to suggest that last week’s rioting in England was trivial.  It does not suggest that the underlying causes should not be investigated and that how to deal with them should not be taken seriously.

It is to suggest, though, that just because something is new, just because it is popular with young people, or just because culture is changing that we of the older generation have some special insights about what needs to be done.  We need to ask and listen too.  We need the research and the investigations.  We need to test the validity of our own assessments before too much self-righteousness blinds us both to the problems and to the immense potential of young people today.

I doubt the “old ways” were nearly as wonderful as many of the older generation remember them to have been.

In any case, going back to the old ways is patently impossible.  For which I am hugely grateful.

PS:  I’ve always promised myself that I would resist becoming one of the older generation who thinks that the past represents some kind of Golden Era which, sadly, has been destroyed by the wild youth of today.  Right now we’re getting a large dose of Lost Golden Era exposure.  Yesterday a neighbour who himself fought in the Second World War said he felt sorry for his grandchildren and their children for the world they are inheriting.  As we closed the door behind him, Peter said to me “every age has its challenges.” 

 Yes.  And there never was a Garden of Eden.  They weren’t even allowed to eat apples there.

June 29, 2011

Smart Bell

Filed under: Intriguing Science,Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 7:46 pm

Why it delights me so I’m not sure.   Several weeks ago a thirteen-year-old boy won a contest in which young people submitted new inventions.

His invention is a doorbell that rings through to your mobile phone if the occupant isn’t able to answer the door.  You might be in the bath tub or work shop or not at home at all.  It rings through to wherever the phone is roaming.

Of course it’s wonderfully convenient if you just want a package dropped off at the side gate which you can retrieve without having to go to the post office to get it.

But it’s also a marvellous foil for burglars who can be fooled that somebody is home when they aren’t.

The invention won a prize worth about $400,000, and the inventor seems a little embarrassed.  He says he’s going to put the money into the bank to pay for his university education in five years or so.

June 22, 2011


Happiness, as you may have noticed, has become a political issue.  Stimulated by a recent spate of research,  governments are asking whether it is part of their role to create conditions that are more apt to make people happier and not just richer.          David ChernoffTrue Happiness David Chernoff

I’ve read a lot of the research and find it quite interesting to examine some of the apparent patterns of reported happiness.  Once one is securely above the poverty line – probably what one might broadly say is able to afford a lower middle-class life style – money does not generally make people happier.  Getting older does.  Around the world middle age people are happier than younger people, and old people are often the most content of all.

I personally am not interested in giving a government chief responsibility for my happiness, though I do appreciate that there are things governments can do to make people happier.

But after reading this research I have been asking myself  about what specifically makes me happy.  Like almost everyone else, my family and friends are critical.  But beyond that, each of us are individuals.  What, I have been asking myself, do I enjoy most often in an ordinary day?  Is there a pattern that we can detect in our own lives that tell us something about ourselves?  perhaps what kind of career we would find fulfilling, or even what activities we find make for the best weekends, or best retirement, or best summer holiday?

I was talking to the granddaughter of a friend yesterday who is trying to decide on her major in college as a preparation for her adult life.  We began to talk about happiness research and have agreed that each of us will keep a list of three things we most enjoy each day, and at the end of a month will analyze each list to see what we can learn about ourselves.

I hope in a couple of months time to be able to report on whether this is a useful endeavor for either young or old.

April 16, 2011

All in this together

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 8:22 pm

Since my post yesterday, I’ve heard a lot of stories about the struggles of people trying to figure out the high powered universal, amazing and simple gadgets of the modern world.

What surprises me most is to discover that it is not a problem belonging primarily to the elderly who were born in the first part of the last century.  I’m beginning to suspect that many young people are often as confused by all the options, icons, and new vocabulary as I am.

I’ve heard some wonderful stories about phones, i-pads, remotes, Kindles and even about a garage door opener.  My favourite is the woman who told me she was visiting her son and his family and was failing in her attempt to change the television channel using a multi-functional remote.   Her three-year-old granddaughter took it saying kindly “This isn’t for old people, Grandma.  I’ll show you how to do it.”


As Lucy would say.

April 9, 2011

The much younger generation

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 7:21 pm

In celebration of my sister’s 65th birthday yesterday, her ten-year-old nephew composed a Haiku poem for her.

I have not received a copy of the full work.  But the first line is memorable:

You are very old.

I told my sister to put it in her will that a copy of the poem should be delivered to him on his own 65th birthday.

By which time his own grandchildren will be thinking the same thing about him.

And he won’t be thinking it at all.

February 24, 2011

Getting it wrong might be right

Filed under: Teaching,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 5:02 pm

I have a brother.  Actually, I have five brothers but anyone who knows my family will know immediately which brother I am describing.

I think almost until the day Dad died, Tom was at war with him.  Even as a child, he was objecting, disagreeing.  If I was the over-socialized good daughter, he was my dark side.  Despite absolute parental prohibitions, he hitch-hiked rides from the age of six, learned swear words I didn’t understand, and probably made up sins out of sheer spite when we were taken to church to confess our sins each Saturday.

He’s in his seventies with a grown family of his own now.  Nonetheless it took him a long time to let go of his anger.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s justified or not, he told me the other day.  It destroys you either way.

He also told me a wonderful story.  He is tutoring one day a week at a local school where the kids mostly have pretty rough lives.  Their fathers are often in prison, their role models often do not suggest to them possibilities that go beyond a successful criminal career.  They are angry, they are aggressive, they are physical.  And my brother understands them.

Last Tuesday a young boy – I will call him Joe – with whom he has been working on learning long division came into the room sullen and uncooperative.  “I can’t do these f’…g things,” he said.  

So Tom started to show him how.  The thing is that there is a new method for doing long division that is different from the one we were taught more than half a century ago.  And Tom did it wrong.

“Oh, here, this is how you do it,” said Joe.  And showed him what he was supposed to do.

I understood where he was coming from, Tom told me.  Tom’s not getting it right meant Joe wasn’t going to be criticized and humiliated by some superior adult.  Tom may have proceeded to exaggerate his confusion just a little, but Joe kept working with him.

When he got to the bottom of the page, he looked in triumphant defiance at Tom and said “See, I told you I could do it.”

February 7, 2011

Learning what we knew before we forgot

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 7:57 pm

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’

Howard Ikemoto

September 29, 2010

Gifts that cost too much

I think it takes a certain amount of wisdom as well as experience to really believe that it is possible to have too much money.  Or to be too beautiful, or too smart, or too talented, or too famous.  Or too much anything that we tend to think of as “gifts”.

A study recently published of 210 children identified as prodigies when they were young reported on the number of them that had achieved in adult life the potential suggested by their IQs as children.

Out of 210 children, how many would you guess had matured into high achievers?

I would have guessed perhaps 40-50%.  That is, something close to 100.

The answer found by the study is six.

The study found that finding everything easy, being able to compete on an academic level at the age of 11 with Oxford students, being recognized at the age of ten as a genius, put tremendous pressure on children, and they often found a way of ultimately running away from it.  One subject is alleged to be selling sex for $250/hour.  Another ran away to South America, another resorted to stacking supermarket shelves.

Many educators are now concluding that gifted children should be treated like other children with no attempt to drive them faster.

I used to wonder if I’d gone to schools that pushed me to my limit what I would have achieved.  (Not that I was a child prodigy:  I wasn’t.)  But I look now at the fault lines in my personality, at the places where I could have cracked if I’d been put under intolerable pressure.  And I’m grateful I had something closer to an “ordinary” education.

Though I also remember with almost unlimited gratitude those 3 or 4 brilliant teachers who changed my life.

August 12, 2010

Prohibition Revisited

Filed under: Just Stuff,Political thoughts,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 8:11 pm

As prohibition demonstrated, making alcohol illegal did not solve the problem of alcohol abuse.  It criminalized it and drove it underground.

We are now beginning to realize that the same thing is true for the use of drugs that are currently illegal.  California has made it legal to grow and sell marijuana for medical use.  Now the current and former presidents of Mexico are calling for the legalization of drugsin their own country.

I strongly favour the legalization of drugs.

As we have seen, making drugs illegal doesn’t stop people from using them.  It just turns them and all the distributors into criminals.

If we legalized drugs instead, we could reduce our prison population, the accompanying costs of incarcerating them, and the “criminal training” to which inmates are inevitably exposed in prison.

And drugs could be subject to tax the way alcohol is.

Perhaps most importantly, society would put the responsibility for deciding how to use drugs safely into the hands of the individual, while simultaneously reducing the appeal to the young of engaging in what they regard as behavior rebelling against the outmoded and ignorant moralizing of the older generation.

I’ve used drugs in my life.  Now I merely indulge in an occasional drink.  But that’s not because drugs are illegal.  It’s a personal decision for quite practical reasons.

I’m unlikely to use them in any case, but my vote is to legalize drugs.  I think it would make the world a safer place.

Although I do worry what enterprises the drug gangs will move into.  People smuggling makes drug smuggling look cuddly.

August 11, 2010

Childhood grows up

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 4:15 pm

In the supermarket this morning, I overheard a conversation between a boy about age 7 and a woman who looked like his grandmother.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” she asked him.

In one of the those grown-up voices that makes one wonder sometimes if children are really only rather short adults, he answered:  “I want to be an archaeologist.”  Then after a short pause, “Or an astrophysicist.”  We moved out of earshot as he was explaining to his grandmother what archaeologists do.

What a great change since I was a child.  It’s not just computers and the internet and i-pods.  It’s the scope of possibilities.

At seven, I thought my options were to be a nun, a teacher, or a nurse.  Or just a plain old mother which even then I knew I didn’t think was exciting enough.  (I know:  I apologize to every mother for this gross misunderstanding.)  Later I added the options of social worker and secretary.

So I opted to be a Maryknoll nun because working with the poor in underdeveloped countries seemed about the most exciting challenging thing I could imagine.  And of course it came with the extra advantage of social kudos from those who thought it was truly a holy God-given vocation that had been bestowed on me.

I consider myself to be extraordinarily fortunate.

But I wonder what my young self would have answered “what do you want to be when you grow up” if I were seven years old today.  Like every seven-year-old I would have a lot to learn.  Some things don’t change.  By the time you are seventeen, you know a great deal more than the previous generation.   Yet it’s amazing how much ones parents learn by the time one is 27.

May 12, 2010

Cheers for breaking the law

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 1:19 pm

I’m not naturally drawn to breaking the law – in fact, it usually seems to me to be worth a fair amount of inconvenience not to – for myself and for society in general.  An attitude of indifference to the rule of law, if too widespread, leads to anarchy.

It goes without saying there are some times when the law is immoral.  I was five years old when World War II ended, but my second-generation German lawyer father never let us doubt that there are times when governments must be defied.

But sometimes the law is simply idiotic. Aspects of health and safety legislation here in Britain belong firmly in this category.

And so it was with great delight and relief that I read the story about three teenagers who defied the police and jumped into the River Clyde to save a drowning woman.  The police were lined up on the river bank keeping observers away but refusing to go into the water themselves to help.  “It’s not our job,” they argued.  They were waiting for the fire department to arrive.  By which point the woman would clearly have been dead.

Glasgow City Guide Photograph: Glasgow Guide: Images: Glasgow in July 2005 Along the River Clyde Along_the_River_Clyde_06.jpg Along_the_River_Clyde_06 Along the Clyde  87.8 KB 15:19: 24 True color (24 bit) 16777216   451 600 Along_the_River_Clyde_06.html Glasgow in July 2005 Along the River Clyde Along the Clyde

As I heard the story, I half expected to hear that the three teenagers, having saved the woman’s life, were then arrested for breaking the law.

But they weren’t.

Some true stories do have happy endings.

December 12, 2009

On being famous

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 3:04 pm

According to people who watch these kinds of trends, communicating by email is considered old-fashioned by the younger generation who prefer the networking of Facebook and short one-liners of Twitter.  The fastest growing group of new email-users are over 55.

I was one of the first people in our pueblo to use email in Spain.  But neither Twitter or Facebook hold any charms for me.  Mostly because I think that being well-known is a vastly over-rated achievement.  In fact, I think fame is a burden to be borne, not a goal to be achieved.

In my view anonymity has great advantages over being famous.  People don’t think they know all about you, for one thing, because they’ve never even heard of you.  They aren’t envious or competitive or adulatory.  They don’t think you are wiser or richer or more informed than everybody else and don’t defer to you inappropriately or resent your good fortune.  Authorities are not going to be suspicious, and people are not going to plot to get a share of what they think you have and they want.

Besides that, fame is fickle and can turn against you in a Tweet.

Right now I think Tiger Woods might agree.

October 26, 2009

Are you anybody I know?

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 4:06 pm

This week I have received three requests to be friends on Facebook from people whose names suggest they are complete strangers to me.  Does this happen to a lot of people?

I read recently that a poll showed the majority of young people today consider email old-fashioned.  They are more at home with Facebook and Twitter.  And I wonder why I am so un-enamoured with social networks.  I checked on my Facebook profile the other day, and I have said nothing, absolutely nothing, about myself.  If I didn’t recognize my name, I wouldn’t know who it was.

I think my problem is the lack of distinction between a public and private self.  I’ve always thought of myself as someone who usually likes people, and inevitably finds them interesting.  But I don’t like the implied suggestion that somehow someone is more important or more successful if they have more “friends,” and if more people know what they are doing. It’s as if getting as many people as one can onto ones network is a value.

Of course it’s a great medium for publicity – to sell an idea, a product, a book, to develop a following for a cause.  But not to sell one’s self.

I suspect that, although this is why I don’t like social networks much, a great number of young people who use it are quite capable of separating their public and private selves, and do not find having their profile in cyberspace quite the invasion that I do.

I think it’s because I’ve lived longer.  I no longer value celebrity and see anonymity as a great prize to be protected.

August 5, 2009

Modern options

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 3:14 pm

I must admit I was shocked when I read yesterday about the anti-wrinkle products women are ordering on the internet.  They come with needles for self- injecting into ones face to eliminate the signs of aging. And from what I can tell, “signs of aging” seem to appear somewhere around the age of about 25.

To get rid of these dreadful blotches, women are injecting serums that are often completely unlabelled, and are paying $1400 per self-treatment.

I remember what it was like to be young and to worry about not having a Hollywood body.  I know what it’s like to worry about having fat thighs or sweaty hands or a wonky walk.  These worries might be made worse by mass media, but they are not new.

By and large, one of the challenges of growing up is to learn to accept ones own worth and that of others as well, and to separate it from physical appearance.

But in the process, I am grateful that I was saved the temptation of doing something as desperate and potentially self-destructive as injecting an unidentified serum from an internet source into my face.

I think maybe it is harder these days to grow up.

Anyway, what is ugly about wrinkles?  I think they show character.  They often even look wise and loving and strong.  Well, not always.  But I’ve earned my winkles with hard work.  I’m not getting rid of them.

December 4, 2008

New fangled inventions

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 9:55 pm

At 9:05 am three days ago, the phone rang.  When I answered it, a disembodied voice (the sure sign that it’s been recorded and permanently separated from its original owner) informed me that I had a text message that was being delivered to me on my land line.  “To listen to this message, press 1;  to save the message, press 2; to delete the message press 3;  for further information, press 4.”

We rarely use our mobile phone because we cannot reliably get a signal at home, so I have given our mobile number only to my family to be used in emergencies, and they only use it when we are away from home.  On the slim grounds that my suspicion that someone was sending me one of those text messages that costs the earth just to listen to and which I don’t want to hear anyway, I pressed 4 for “further information.”

“We are sorry,” said disembodied voice, “this service is not available.” 

I hung up without listening to the message.

Yesterday at exactly the same time it happened again.  This time I went straight to button 3.

This morning when the phone rang at 9:05 a.m., I finally pressed 2 to find out who was so desperately trying to contact me.  I thought that if I ccould identify the caller I could report them to some authority or other.  Or at least make sure I never bought what they were selling.

The message was a notice from a delivery service that they wanted to fulfill an order I’d made several weeks ago.

I remember when my mother used to tell me about the time before there was television, and my grandmother about times when hardly anybody had a radio or a car.  I don’t think I’ll tell stories about when you had to talk into a telephone to use it.  Nobody under the age of 20 will know what I’m talking about.

October 31, 2008

A modern alternative

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 8:20 pm

It is more than two years old, but I have just seen the video at  I think it should be entered into a file dedicated to the eternal verities of childhood.

Admittedly, this version has a modern twist.  In my day, the alternative was helping with household cleaning by sourcing water from the toilet bowl.  It was so much more accessible than water from the tap.

September 5, 2008

If you think we’re on the road to hell

Filed under: Political thoughts,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 4:06 pm
Tags: ,

I have been battling a familiar fight with myself not to block out in a fury everything I hear from Republicans between now and November.  My unrealistic euphoria about an Obama presidency has been replaced by an acceptance that he is going to have to make compromises that I find difficult to accept.  He think he may even have trouble getting his own best policies through a Democratic Congress.  But the more I see of McCain & Palin, the more I am convinced not so much that the Democrats have to be voted in as that the Republicans must be voted out.

And then I face the horrible possibility that I will wake up on November 7th to a McCain-Palin victory.  Because the polls seriously suggest it could happen.  And then I start trying to understand the thinking that is propelling people to look at McCain & Palin and say “they are one of us,” and decide on the basis to vote for them.

I personally know people who are going to vote Republican because they believe (as I do) that free trade is the best way to alleviate global, drastic, morally-repugnant poverty.  Others will vote Republican because they think (as I don’t) that they will better protect the nation’s security against terrorism.  I may disagree, but the voters to whom I respond with furious incoherence are those who cast their vote for those who share their religious views, the religious fundamentalists and evangelicals who purportedly represent some 25% of the American electorate.

I too have religious views, but I don’t cast my vote on the grounds that a politician agrees with me on questions related to the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, abortion, homosexuality, or extra-marital sex.  I do ask if they are committed to the separation of Church and State, and to the free choice of all citizens in matters of religion.  I know Evangelicals think they are committed loyal Americans.  How then is it possible for us to be so radically opposed to each other on such fundamental issues?

I think I got a glimpse of the answer watching a tv interview last night with a western-educated Muslim cleric who has returned to the tribal regions of Pakistan.  Two women were recently stoned to death there in “honour killings” because they refused to marry the men chosen for them by their fathers.  The cleric argued in defense of honour killings, saying that we should not impose our Western values on them.  He pointed out some of the behaviors he had observed in Western women – drunkenness, prostitution, addictions, the neglect and abuse of children, sex in groups, among each other, or with men they had met just hours before.  Forbid honour killings, he said, and this is what you will get.

Well, I suspect I am as disturbed as this Muslim cleric by some of the behaviours I observe in the Western world.  I share his fear, his disgust, his strong desire not to see the disintegration of communities I love.  And I think that Evangelicals may have similar feelings.  Abortion on demand is frightening if it reflects an attitude that says one can get rid of the inconvience of a child merely by swallowing a pill.  Drug and alcohol addictions, lack of self-discipline or rejecting commitments to anything beyond ones own immediate pleasure, especially if they are taking place among hundreds of thousands of our young people, are terrifying.  I think many Evangelicals think that the only defense against this utter self-absorption is religion.  Their kind of religion.  Apart from religion, they know of no other reason for truthfulness and honesty and generosity and hard work.

What they don’t understand is that there are people who do not believe in God at all but who live moral lives of the highest order.  There are people who behave with honesty and generosity and who work with integrity for the benefit of themselves and others not just for money but because these things are of value in themselves.  Values like these aren’t for them the currency by which one gains access to rewards and avoids punishment after death.  They are their own reward.

I personally think that a person’s religious beliefs devalues truth and unselfishness and honesty if its followers cannot find any other justification for them than a fear of hell and hopes for a rung in heaven’s ladder.  But I guess I do have some sympathy with the Evangelical who fears the country is going to hell in a hand basket and wants to stop it. 

I just happen to think that their own world, in which only they are right and anyone who disagrees isn’t worthy of holding political office, is diabolical.

August 25, 2008

Another important break through

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 4:28 pm

Several weeks ago I was looking for some information on the net and stumbled on a blog.  I write this blog, but in a feat of insularity, I don’t read other people’s blogs.  But I stumbled on late one night, and found myself laughing.  I eventually went to bed, but have been intrigued enough to go back occasionally.  I think the author is a university professor in an optics department, but he says he has very poor priorities which enables him to write the blog pretty regularly.  He finds stuff on the net that I would never discover, and he has a geeky sense of humour which I often enjoy, although sometimes find a little juvenile.   Anyway, he gives me a glimpse of the cyber generation which I also appreciate.  

Yesterday, he posted the following link: 

Do go look at it.  It’s not about anything that you can’t live a completely fulfilled, happy, meaningful life without ever knowing.  But it’s interesting.  And fun.  Or at least I think so.  

It made me think again that it’s a challenge to be a parent in this modern world.  In support of the learning process of one’s offspring, one must be ready to help one’s son, or in this case, daughter, by buying a roll of toilet paper more than half a mile long.  And then help roll it out.  Forget the equations.  How do you roll out 1.2 km of toilet paper in the house?

There is also helpful advice for dealing with ruled paper.  Worth waiting for in my disruptive opinion.

November 13, 2007

Something new from something old

Filed under: The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 5:24 pm

I just got an email that my niece Laura who we saw quite often during her year studying in London last year was rushed to hospital with an acute appendicitis.  She is gutsy, strong, and in great condition, even though very fine boned, so I don’t think anybody has moved into High Worry gear.  But I have been thinking about Laura.

The paradox is that she is both recognizable and absolutely unique.  Peter has told me that the way she protects her private self with a public smile reminds him of my own strategies for preserving my privacy when we first met 35 years ago.  And I see in her many of the characteristics I know in my own sisters.  Her sense of style and clothes sense is a lot like Mary’s was.  She has Dorothy’s intuitive and literary gifts, and her sensitivity reminds me of Cathy.  

And yet Laura is Laura, not a carbon copy of anybody.  I suspect she spent most of her childhood feeling overshadowed by her older brother who is mathematically extraordinarily gifted and her own quite outstanding artistic and literary abilities not given quite the level of recognition they might have received in a family with more prosaic numerical abilities.  She also has an intuition about people that made her unusually successful as a camp counsellor for young people whose own interpersonal skills were – to put it most kindly – deficient.

The genes any of us get have been chunnering around the human race for thousands of years.  So they are not usually anything new.   The surprise is that here they are in a completely unique person. 

I know this is true for each of us.  But Laura, for me, is a rare combination both of what I know and what I’ve never seen before.  I am looking forward to knowing who she continues to become. 

July 2, 2007

It’s a gutzy country is Britain

I had originally planned to begin a short series of posts about my Catholic childhood on the farm in Ohio today.  But that will have to wait.  Right now I want to write about what it’s been like as an American living here in Britain these last few days. 

People’s responses to the failed terrorist attacks in London and the Glasgow airport are that they aren’t going to be cowed.  They just aren’t going to break.  They know what is happening, but simply are not going to stop living.  And they certainly have no intention of giving up what they consider the British way of life.  I guess it goes at least as far back as the second world war when the constant bombings killed hundreds of thousands of people, and destroyed whole cities.  Then there were the bombings by the IRA that went on for decades and had all the characteristics of today’s terrorist attacks.

During the attempt to ram a Jeep loaded with explosives into the airport, a young man who was a returning passenger saw the driver on fire in the Jeep struggling with security men.  “Hell, no,” he said- or words to that effct- , “we don’t do that kind of thing around here.”  He went over and punched the flaming man to the ground, from which position the security men were able to take control. 

“Hell, no, we don’t do that kind of thing around here” seems to me to just about sum up the attitude of the majority of people.  Yes, there’s debate and disagreement about legislation, and resources, and security measures.  Yes, I get exasperated with the spin and the excuses and the complaining sometimes.  And yes, Britain has changed a great deal since the end of World War II.  Yes, Britons girate between thinking they are abject failures and the best thing that’s happened to the human race since sliced bread.  But young and old, they are a gutsy determined people who know what they stand for.  When push comes to shove, you aren’t going to shove very far. 

I think it has been raining almost non-stop for about three weeks, and weathermen – well, my husband – say it might not stop until the wind patterns change at the end of the summer.  That’s depressing.  But this is still a fantastic place to live.

June 21, 2007

I-Rack, I-Ran, and Me-2

Filed under: Just Stuff,The Younger Generation — theotheri @ 1:53 pm

For the fourth time, someone has sent me a U-tube video of Steve Jobs demonstrating his new I-Rack.  It’s a sardonic swipe at Bush & Co, and possibly since I agree with thrust, I think it’s quite funny.

I sure hope, though, that U-tube isn’t a substitute for political action.  Only pressure on our elected officials is going to change their course of action, and only people’s votes are going to get those gangsters out of office. 

It’s beginning to worry me a little that U-tube might be the level of political discourse that is actually influencing people’s political convictions.  What I hope instead is that people are outraged by the disastrous and deceitful neo-conservative conduct of U.S. foreign policy for more substantive reasons than a successful U-tube video.   In other words, I hope that the video and others like it are a manifestation of deeper understanding and analysis, not a substitute for it.

Do you think it is?

Blog at