Monday, May 28, 2012

I Got My Learner's Permit!

Now why don't I hear you clapping?
A bit of advice if you're planning to get yours: don't wait six months like I did. Make an appointment, get it the day you're old enough. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hard Working 11th Grader Jailed for Absence

Diane Tran is exhausted. She works full time at a dry cleaners, part time at a wedding venue, and squeezes in homework-dual credit U.S. history, dual credit English literature, college algebra, and AP Spanish-during the late hours of night. Sometimes she falls asleep in class after staying up until seven in the morning.
Her family is everywhere. Her parents divorced and left. She lives with her employer's family. The money she earns goes to an older brother at Texas A&M and a younger sister living with relatives in Houston.
"I always thought my family was happy," she told the press.
And why are the press caring about a girl beaten down into the dust by life? They wouldn't, nearly all these storie are trapped and unspoken. But Tran caught their attention after spending the night in the county jail.
She's seventeen.
Too young to be out of high school already, too young to vote and pour out her voice into our elective system. Too young for many jobs that might pay better. But old enough, apparently, to be arrested.
What did she do, rob a Swiss bank to support her family? No. Truancy. She drags herself to school when she can, but there are days she can't pull herself out of bed.
State and local laws don't tolerate a student missing ten unexcused days in six months, or three days for one month.
Parents whose children miss excessive amounts of school may also be prosecuted.
May? Okay, what is wrong with this situation?

The judge ordered her to spend twenty-four hours in jail and pay a $100 fine, $100 you know she needs.
His justification?
"If you let one run loose, what are you gonna do with the rest of 'em? Let them go too?"
Harsh: Judge Lanny Moriarty also ordered Tran to pay a $100 fine but others are asking that he shows leniency on the school girl
Judge Lanny Moriarty caught with a stupid expression on his face.
First of all, isn't Lanny a girl's name?
She's supposed to be an example to any other would-be truants. A theory under the stereotype that all teenagers are bratty layabouts.
I'm only two years younger than Ms. Tran. I know what it's like to take tough classes. I can't help but wonder how I would feel if this happened to me.
Even worse than the fine and jail time is the mark on her record that will show whenever she applies for college or a job. She aspires to be a doctor.
But there's still hope. Her story has caught the internet's attention and has been featured in both the US and UK news. There's a possibility the judge could be pressured into clearing it if enough people rally for her on blogs, facebook, twitter, and official news sites.
What can you do to help?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nine-year-old takes a stab at Cafeteria Lunches

Martha "VEG" Payne of Argyll, Scotland eats the same way millions of school children do around the world.  Hold out the tray, have the lunch lady plop something on, shove what part of it you like into your mouth, and hand it back. Here's her typical meal.

I can see how you'd get sick of that. Anybody can complain, but Martha decided to do something about it. With the help of her dad, she created a blog (, check it out) to critique her school's meals.
Sample rating: (Not plagarrism, you know exactly where I got it)

If soup is on and some sort of cake and you are having some sort of roll, wrap or sandwich you are allowed to have soup and a cake. The soup today was potato and leek. I really like all the school's soups. My roll was white bread with butter and grated cheese. I am not sure what cheese it is. I had cucumber and lettuce with it. Normally all the cakes are iced but today we had a choice of iced or not. I chose iced!

Food-o-meter- 9/10
Mouthfuls- 29
Courses- starter/main/dessert
Health Rating- 7/10
Price- £2
Pieces of hair- 0

She's been blogging for less than a month, but already her site has gathered 675,00 hits, growing by the second. (Excuse me, what do I have? About 1/300,000th of that? I've been at it for over a year. Jealousy is oozing from my pores right now. How exactly does one go viral?) But what's more-the school council has now granted Martha's school unlimited bread, fruit, and salads.
That's about the level my elementary school lunches were on, only I remember mine being a little bit bigger. But I do live in America, land of mass produced edible factory sludge. At least it comes in large quantities.
Speaking of which, some people are drawing comparisons between Martha and Michelle Obama.
I think I'll draw my own.
Martha: Has to live off this stuff every day, unless she packs a home lunch.
Michelle: Dines at the White House nearly every evening, unless it's ones of those days when she banquets with foreign dignitaries.
Martha:  Wants better, healthier food that will leave her feeling less hungry.
Michelle: Wants everybody else to munch on organic vegetables followed by a round of rigorous jumping jacks. After all, exercise can be fun.
Martha: Takes a picture and jots down some numbers.
Michelle: Shows up at some random cafeteria to smile, wave carrot sticks at the media people, remind the young people of America to take care of their bodies so we don't become fat and useless, and then leaves.

And what's that statistic I keep hearing about how one in every three American teenagers is overweight? It usually comes on over Channel One News, which we watch in homeroom four days a week. Each time I hear that, I glance at my two friends, then at my body, and try to figure out which one of is supposed to be fat. 
I'm five foot one, weighing in at 106 pounds. Scrawny. Tell me it must be my friends, I'll put all of that behind a fist and introduce it to your face. How would you like to be called fat in the name of education?
Lots of girls are small and slim, or tall and slim. But there are nearly as many with rectangular bodies and stomachs that naturally stick out, that's the way they were born. I know very few teenagers I'd consider overweight, and those are the girls who inherited big torsos and more than substantial arms, the ones who have already tried diets, the ones who already tried exercise plans, the ones who refuse class treats. 
The ones eating the exact same lunches as the slim girls.
And what about guys? Guys are supposed to carry around extra weight. If a grown man sees a hefty boy walking around the grocery store, he'll walk up and ask, "You play football, son?"
I don't know how the White House determines fatness, but I suggest they check their scale.
Okay, rant over. Back to Martha, person this post is about. It's nice to see somebody taking a stand. Keep up the good work!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Death by Sticky Notes

Remember last year when James Tate was suspended and banned from prom after spelling out a prom invite in letters taped to the side of the school? Dangerous as that is, five students from Cascade High in Clayton, Indiana have him beat. Personally, I don't think their senior prank was all that clever. 11,000 sticky notes decking every imaginable surface in the school building. Doors, windows, offices. They got permission and coordinated times with the custodian.
She was later fired. All five students were suspended.

And what does the school superintendent have to say about this? "It had to do with accessing the building after hours without permission et cetera. It was just Post It notes; no damage, thank goodness, occurred. Nobody was injured, thank goodness. It's the unintended stuff that sometimes causes issues and so we're fortunate there was no damage but again, they didn't have permission to be on the premises and there were consequences for that."
Damage? The glue is pathetic. It's designed that way. They don't even leave a sticky strip after you peel it off.
And injuries? Really?
Ways to Be Injured With Post-It Notes:
1: Develop an allergy to paper.
2: Tape them to your eyes and stroll along the rim of a shark tank.
3: See how many you can fit in your mouth at once.
4: See how many you can fit in a shark's mouth at once.
5: See how many you can fit in the superintendent's mouth at once.

After some protests, which led to the suspensions of sixty or so more students, the punishments have been lifted.
But seriously, how could this be considered a disturbance in the first place?

Donuts and Discrimination

Today is the day I've been dreading, looking forward to, anxiously awaiting, frantically preparing for, and complaining about for the past several months.
AP geography test.
And now it's OVER!!!!!!OVE
That's a pixel party.
The test consisted of long, boring questions held in a long, boring room at our local high school. Kids from farther middle schools had their parents chaffuer them back, but ours is just down the street. My friends and I decided to walk back, even though it was cold, wet, and I was wearing my nice sandals. We weren't in any particular hurry to get back.
I jokingly suggested we stop at the bakery for donuts. It's a plan we've brought up again and again over the past three years, never actually intending to carry it out.
To my surprise, my friends began discussing how much money we had between us (four dollars total) and how long we were excused for. We were farther behind than most of the other groups, but we weren't actually required to be back until sixth period. This was about halfway through fourth.
So we took a slight detour. When we were entering the store, a large group of people who had taken the test with us were leaving. Pity. We thought we were being terribly original.
Let me explain this bakery. It's a tiny outlet place with three cases of donuts, a soda machine, and a few racks of bread and chips. Everything's cheap. I've come actually seen teenagers working there before, a rare thing in this fabulous economy. But this was 11:00 a.m., so two middle aged women were stationed at the checkout counter.
"Are you all from the high school?" one of them asked as we came in. She probably assumed we were sluffing, a logical conclusions given the time of day and our ages.
We all spoke over each other, eager to tell her how The Test was over.
"We're from-"
"-the middle school-"
"Put your backpacks down," she said.
 I was slightly taken aback. I've heard about this sort of thing before, signs restricting youths to so many at a time and banning hoodies. They're not worn universally by young people, but somehow they're seen as a sign of youth and having something to hide. That and Trayvon Martin.

But it's never happened in my town, not to me.
We set them on the floor.
"Don't block the door," she said.
We moved them and wandered to the donut cases. So many choices. Chocolate, yes, I like chocolate. Glazed isn't bad either, but I'm not going to spend eighty-nice cents on a plain donut, even if it is my friend's eighty-nine cents. Did they have the cream filled ones?
A woman pushed open the door with absolutely no difficulty, thanks to our correctly placed backpacks. The women at the counter greeted her.
Yes, there they are. Fat, round, and chocolatey with a small mound of cream rising up through the center. I set my sight on the biggest 89 cent one of all. Then again, I might not be able to eat all of it before we got back to school. I selected a slightly smaller one.
We grabbed our treats and took them up to the register. The other woman strode past us, a large blue hangbag over one shoulder.
I didn't say anything at the time. The right words are never there when you need them. I tend to plan out whole conversations, insults, discussions, debates, and counter-arguments in advance. If I ever happen to meet Barack Obama, I know over thirty ways to politely and tactfully insult him.
I know now what I should of asked the cashier when she told me us to put our bags down and step away.
"It's just a rule."
"To prevent shoplifting?"
"We don't want anybody bringing in weapons or stealing the merchandise."
"That makes sent. I looked up shoplifting statistics awhile back for a project. Did you know 25% of shoplifters are under the age of eighteen?"
"Yeah, most teenagers aren't up to anything good."
"Do the math. How many shoplifters are adults?"
They've got us outnumbered three to one. It's not polite, appropriate, or even logical to require one regulation of minor customers and not demand the same standard from the majority. This is discrimination, a type nobody cares to protest.
At least the donuts were good.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

If You Have Absolutely Nothing Better to Do...

Everybody's heard of planking. It's a fun, relatively stupid worldwide trend. All you need is the internet and something to lie on top of.

Now that takes some serious skill.
Some Russian teenagers have come up with their own pastime. Equally ridiculed. More purpose, more adrenaline. Less known and widespread.

Not suicide. Skywalking. The idea is to climb onto peripice of building or other large structure, take a moment to feel free, and snap a picture.
Skywalking Russia7 Skywalking   Russias Thrilling but Dangerous Photo Craze
I could never do that.
Skywalking Russia4 Skywalking   Russias Thrilling but Dangerous Photo Craze
He looks peaceful. The human guy, not the metal head. That one looks fierce.
Skywalking Russia6 Skywalking   Russias Thrilling but Dangerous Photo Craze
I do not own these photos or the copyright, some guy names Marat Dupri in Russia risked his life to get them. Enjoy.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Russian viewers will know what this is. It's already circulating around the world, including the U.S. Putin protest, riot police, kid on bike. They're calling it an viral, iconic even. Until the next image goes viral. Meanwhile in Syria...

This is why the voting age could stand to be lowered. Maybe not to these boy's age, but lower than it is now. I think fourteen is a good number. Young people don't have to live under dictators-they have to grow up under them. And they don't have the luxury of saying, "This was my vote, I brought this on myself and now I'd like to change it next election day."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Only a Kid"? So?

Benjamin Coady, a guy who knows a thing or to about history, was strolling around the Metropolitan Museum of Art a few months ago when he noticed something interesting. He'd expected to just see "art on a wall", but here was, of all the captivating things, a map of the Byzantine Empire, supposedly at it's largest. He checked the dates and found something out of place.

This one includes parts of southern Spain and northern Africa. That one did not.
Coady did the natural thing for a guy confident in his own knowledge: he informed the front desk.
They didn't believe him. They instructed him to fill out a form. So he did.
Several months later, curator Helen Evans emailed him back. "You are, of course, correct about the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian."
And now the story has gone viral. Because everybody is fascinated by the Byzantine Empire (What, you've never heard of Justinian? Good. I'm not as stupid as I thought I was).
Benjamin Coady is thirteen years old. He said, "The front desk didn't believe me. I'm only a kid."
This is Benjamin on an exclusive tour:

Benjamin impersonating a work of art while on an exclusive tour:

And Benjamin on a normal day:

If he were thirty, nobody would care to read it and no reporter would care to look up the spelling of 'Byzantine'. But now everybody from yahoo to upi is abuzz with responses.
"I to would be proud if he were my child. Heck, he's not my child and I'm proud of him. Nice job young man."
" Let us all take a moment to rejoice in the fact that there are still young people genuinely interested in History..."
"Wow! A teen who has actually opened a book instead of an iPad, laptop, new Playstation game. Maybe there is hope for the next generation. Good catch!"
-tcquilter, Tampa, Florida

Why is it so surprising that a thirteen-year-old knows something? I'm more impressed by his courage to speak up. And the whole idea that teenagers spend the majority of their time doing this:

It's a stereotype. Whenever I walk around with my earphones in public, whether I'm at a library or movie theater or simply walking down a street, I can't help but feel that all the adults are sorting me into a single category.
Smart people exist. Smart people occasionally do something worthwhile. Young people are not any stupider than they were thirty years ago. It may seem that way because now you read about a car crash and think "one of them" instead of "one of us". Everything's different looking back.

Funny how "them" seems to be the biggest scapegoat in history, more than Obama, communists, witches, Jews, Muslims, youth, and even the weatherman. Everything that happens must be somebody's fault, but somebody is too vague a term to pin down on some mortal human being we come in contact with.
And no, history isn't doomed either. Not unless you layoff our teachers for not teaching math and science. the ways of the future.

Politically Correct Playthings

This isn't specifically for teenagers, but all young people. Admit it-everybody has played with toys at some point. When a kid plays with a toy, they think, "Ooh, plastic thing. Fun."
But from an adult perspective, toys are horrifying. Young girls are indoctrinated with old fashioned girly-girly thoughts by the cult of Barbie. Boys are taught tough and aggressive behavior.
Tell me, when did adults become experts about on fun, of all things? Adults don't have fun. Adults drive children to football practice, pay mortgages, and complain about politicians.
A while back, a Swedish preschool drew international attention because of procedures designed to eliminate "gender bias".  The staff no longer uses the Swedish feminine and masculine pronouns, han and hon respectively. Instead they use the genderless pronouns "hen". They also banned the stories Snow White and Cinderella, because they "cemented stereotypes". Most of their books focus on homosexual or adoptive or single parent families.
Wait a second, didn't both Snow White and Cinderella have single parent/blended families?
Wander around any toy store and you'll see politically correct dollhouse families.

(Extended family dolls)
Notice something wrong? Gasp! No multiracial families. No Asian-American children. No white family with an adopted black kid. Of course you could by multiple sets to mix and match, but who has that kind of money?
Little sidenote: Whenever I see girls with those child development class dolls, they always seem to be black. I hear they make Caucasian ones as well, but all the girls I talk to say, "Black babies are cuter."
Most dollhouse families are what I call basic families-Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, and maybe Baby in Mom's arms. The small size makes sense-no company wants to manufacture a ten person family. But why don't you see single parent or blended families?
Growing up, my dollhouse set had a dad and two moms. I got mom doll number two as a Christmas present from my brother after he sent mom doll number one on a long vacation to the bottom of the sandbox. I never thought to make her a stepmom, she was always the aunt or babysitter. My mom had both a dollhouse and divorced parents growing up. She always made her dolls ideal families. I've never heard of anybody playing differently.
And, of course, somebody's going to complain that you don't see gay dolls. Again, mix and match if it really means that much to you. I had around ten or fifteen Barbie dolls and one Ken. The one thought I had in elementary school concerning gay marriage was that it would make pairing of Barbie couples a heck of a lot easier. But I never did it. Sometimes my Barbies were widows or adoptive mothers, sometimes they had husbands on business trips. Mostly I married them to those plastic Madame Alexander boys you could get in Happy Meals.

I think his name was Tom. Or possibly Tommy.
I could have just asked for more Ken dolls, but who wants an ugly male doll when you can have more pretty Barbies in princess dresses?

Here's an interesting philosophical question. If a feminist halfway around the world reads this and nobody's around to hear her scream, do I care?
Oh well, here's some self empowered career Barbies to make you happy.
We have Barbie as an architect:

Such stylish boots. And of course she's wearing a skirt, or it wouldn't be stylish  and feminine. Do all architects dress like that? And look, now she's running for president.

Strangely enough, she lost to a guy named George whose hair wasn't nearly so pretty.

She's very patriotic and tough, you see. Here she is on a combat mission, and yet her hair is still perfect. How does she do that?
Barbie has changed over time. She used to have flat feet not built for heels.

But look at that figure. Is it approptiate for young girls to look at this doll and possibly feel inadequate? Perhaps we should sue somebody.
I read an article a while ago by a grown woman whose mother never let her have a toy kitchen in fear that it would brainwash her into male dominated submission.

This girl appears to be happy, so the brainwashing rumors must be true. Then again, maybe she's just happy because she's a toddler model being paid decent money to pose next to a toy. Then her parents can buy her a toy kitchen of her own, or perhaps save the money for something boring. Such as college preparation.

Because kids love educational learning. Except for Jack-Jack.

And Kari.
Don't get it? Shame on you. Watch the Pixar short. Yes, now.
And what about those violent toys?

I've heard of families banning play swords, too. Then the boys have to get creative.

Real original. Toys date back to every ancient civilization. Boys got wooden swords and miniature bows to prepare themselves for the battlefield. (And their parents disguised it as fun. Talk about stealth teaching!) Girls got rag dolls and hand-carved cradles, strollers, and coffins to prepare for the joy and sorrow of motherhood. That's how the world worked for thousands of years. Joan of Arc probably had a rag doll. And I believe there are several species of sticks native to France.

Though other sources suggest she spent a great portion of her childhood praying. Which is also fun.
As a child, it seemed like I was getting two things: new baby dolls and new baby brothers. Maybe that's the reason my mom kept giving me the dolls-pity.
My favorite toy, as you might have guessed, was my dollhouse. Sometimes my brothers would play with me-and stick to Tommy. I spent many hours playing Legos with them.
And by Legos, I mean three bins full of tiny bricks, a small table with several Lego platforms glued down, and a sea of Lego 'islands' and scattered pieces. This collection was begun by my older brother sometime in the mid 1990's. It still takes up three quarters of the room I'm sitting in.
Like my brothers, I had a few favorite pieces. Their names were Mary, Jenny, and The Monkey. Mary was the princess that came with the castle set. Jenny was a normal soldier or whatever with girl hair on top. In hindsight, I suppose The Monkey could have been a girl too. I never thought to ask for more girl pieces and my brothers never ordered them, so I played with the boys or got creative.
Take your average male Lego. Remove the legs. Insert torso on top of a wedge shaped brick, aka skirt, preferably teal because that goes with everything. Now you not only have a girl, but a girl one head taller than all the guys.
Got that, feminists?
And now I see these girly lego sets on the market.

Do you know what would happen if I tried to set up one of these beauty salons with my brother's legos? First he would gather all his clone troopers, knights, and pirates, and arm them for battle. As if they aren't always armed for battle to begin with. Then he would tear off all the easily breakable parts, kill all the girl figurines, and mix the heads into our lego vat so I don't find them for a couple days. In exchange, I'd have to steal some of his weapons and prepare my lego girls for war.
Sidenote to the world: People very rarely say 'tomboy' anymore. Girls can play soccer. I think we're all aware of that. And off the field, most of them wear makeup and, yes, skirts. A girl who refuses to wear any form of makeup isn't a tomboy, just noncomformist with undisguised acne. For somebody to call you a tomboy, you have to run along the river with a bow and arrow.
In other words, take your politically correct ideas into another room and let the children enjoy their childhoods.