Friday, April 26, 2013

Not A New Problem. Not A New Answer.

I'm so sick of the dangerous driver stereotype.
Car crashes have been around since before phones.
Alcohol has been around since before car crashes.
Teenagers have been around since before alcohol.
first car crash in the world
My grandma learned to drive when she was eleven. Her teacher was her cousin, who was six months younger. When they were done tending to all the chores that needed to be done on the mink farm, they'd drive their roofless, seat belt-less truck up and down the gully. "Just like a roller coaster," she tells me.
My dad learned to drive when he was twelve. Well, learned might not be the best word for it. He was babysitting, so his parents weren't around to teach him that night. He did drive. He just didn't get very far. Stupid tree.
I didn't get behind the wheel of a car until I was fifteen. I've been sixteen for almost six months and I still don't have my license because I'm busy getting my forty hours in. It's April and I've never been in a car driven by another sophomore. None of them will take me home from school because of the six month rule.
We're cautious. Definitely not the beer-guzzling, obsessive-texting, horrible drivers you think we are.
Get behind the wheel after too many beers and you can kill people. I don't care how old you are. I don't care how long you've been driving. I don't care what kind of superior reasoning capabilities your adult brain is supposed to possess.
Don't say we're too (stupid, young, immature, underdeveloped) pick your favorite term to understand the consequences. Don't tell me we think we'll live forever. So you're older, you've had more time to watch your loved ones die. We've lost our friends, siblings, grandparents, parents, and goldfish too, thank you very much.
 It's so Slap Me Over the Head with a Cold Dead Fish obvious, even before the assemblies. I've been listening to those public service announcements since long before I had a phone or a learner's permit. We get it. Everyone gets it. The only people I've seen texting while driving are adults.
Of course there are stories. Of course there are behind-the-clipboard statistics. Don't give me those. I've seen life without a clipboard. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rebels vs. Angels

This isn't one of my fun posts. I've wanted to say this ever since I began blogging but I couldn't find the right words. This paragraphs in blue are from an Independent article posted back in 2009.

The portrayal of teenage boys as "yobs" in the media has made the boys wary of other teenagers, according to new research.

Figures show more than half of the stories about teenage boys in national and regional newspapers in the past year (4,374 out of 8,629) were about crime. The word most commonly used to describe them was "yobs" (591 times), followed by "thugs" (254 times), "sick" (119 times) and "feral" (96 times).
Other terms often used included "hoodie", "louts", "heartless", "evil" "frightening", "scum", "monsters", "inhuman" and "threatening".
Evil. Scum. Inhuman. Monsters. When we see those words describing anyone else-an ethnic minority, a religious group, a political organization-we cry afoul. We know these groups are being scapegoated, poor them. But youth is such a broad category. Every human being who lives past the age of twelve falls into it. And if you pass that mark, you can no longer call teenagers us. But it's not quite a them either. 
So it's thatThat time of life. That's the problem with society. That's what's wrong with teenagers these days. 
The research – commissioned by Women in Journalism – showed the best chance a teenager had of receiving sympathetic coverage was if they died.
"We found some news coverage where teen boys were described in glowing terms – 'model student', 'angel', 'altar boy' or 'every mother's perfect son'," the research concluded, "but sadly these were reserved for teenage boys who met a violent and untimely death."
At the same time a survey of nearly 1,000 teenage boys found 85 per cent believed newspapers portray them in a bad light.
The only good teenager is a dead one, or at least a sweet little honors student with cancer. Honors student. Every mother's perfect son. We're viewed through the eyes of adults. You can be a school shooter or an Eagle Scout. Take your pick.
But wait! You've seen other articles, right? The ones about high school football games. I can't slam those as negative. 
"Stories about sport and entertainment, which might have balanced other negative coverage, also took a critical line. Only 16 per cent of stories about teens and entertainment were positive: only 24 per cent about teens and sport were positive."
The research found that – for all the coverage of teenage issues – the boys' voices themselves were rarely heard in newspapers. Fewer than one in 10 articles about young people actually quoted young people or included their perspectives in the debate.
Articles about education cite lawmakers, teachers, principals, and voters. But not the students themselves. Even the Sick Teen articles quote parents and doctors. 
Fiona Bawden, the WiJ committee member who presented the research at the British Library, said: "When a photo of a group of perfectly ordinary lads standing around wearing hooded tops has become visual shorthand for urban menace, or even the breakdown of society, it's clear teenage boys have a serious image problem."

 It's true. I have no behind-the-clipboard statistics to back it up, but I know it because I see it every day in high school. I've heard my own friends echo these feelings. We know we're inferior. You've done your job, media. Now feel free to shut up.
It's not just Britain and it's not just the boys. It's all of us, all of us, today, yesterday, and forever.

Go here for the full article.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Five Things You Won't Learn in Math Class

How to Tell A Person's Gender at A Glance
This is a real word problem I had to solve:
Jordan walks to school. What is the probability Jordan is male? Write the conditional probability equations and then find the probability.
If you solve it, you get a percentage. Fortunately, I happen to sit next to a Jordan Baumgart in math, and he was able to provide me with a more solid answer.
So one day Satan decided, "Let's put the alphabet in math." They called it algebra. I've now done math with exclamation points and a negative i. 
Admit it. If I asked you to find Soh Cah Toa, you'd think it was a city in Asia. 
Useful Life Skills
All you non-architect adults out there, can you tell me how the Pythagorean theorem can be used to solve conics? I've known twelve year olds-not prodigies, just normal seventh graders-who help their parents with college math. 
How to Slay A Dragon
And here's another problem:
You are about to attack a dragon in a role playing game. You will throw two dice, one numbered one to eight and the other with the letters A and F. What is the probability that you will roll the values six and A?
The answer is 1/48. But this problem leaves out a lot of information. Does rolling 6A enable us to survive the dragon, or merely attack it? And it fails to take into account the strength of the dragon's hide, whether or not it has a breath weapon, and the type of broadsword we're using. I do not feel math class is adequately preparing us to fight dragons.
That's the 47th kid we've lost this month! 
They say math is preparing us for the future. If the world is overrun by dragons, there shall be no future. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lollipops, Velociraptors, and Other Childish Nonsense

Little Susie doing what she does best.
This is Little Susie. Remember her from all those old school cartoons? She comes up to the main character’s knee and skips around with a lollipop the size of her face. When she doesn’t have a lollipop, she skips around with a kite or kitty, which will inevitably get stuck up a tree and rescued by an adult. Then Little Sally can say, “Gee, thanks, Mr. ___ sir.,” before skipping away.
In a movie staring an adult, you can be sure the kids will do nothing useful. If it’s an old black and white film, the kid will wander into the parlor, say “Gee Golly” a few times, and then never be seen or heard for the rest of the show.
Little Timmy doing what he does best.
Remember that part in Jurassic Park when the adults are barricading the doors with their bodies and reaching for the gun with their feet and Timmy just watches? I know he's a kid, but surely he is capable of handing them the gun. In the book, Timmy isn’t so incompetent. He’s the one sitting at the computer contacting help.
His sister Lex takes over in the movie because their ages are switched. 

That's right. Teenagers do have an advantage over adults: technology. But most movies turn this into a flaw. They'll be engrossed by a tiny little screen. Phone for a girl, game console for a boy.

Instead of "Golly gee," they'll say, "Chill out", "Whatever", and sigh so dramatically it borders on a growl. In movies where Adult is a non-parent, they'll seem somewhat justified. They don't want a stepmother/uncle/dad's girlfriend intruding in their life. If Teen isn't the only child, they'll be the shepherd of two younger siblings and feel challenged.
People say I look like her. Now you know why I don't post pictures of myself.
The Littlest One, usually an innocent girl, is immediately won over. Either she just loves people, she needs a parental figure, or she simply recognizes how cool the Adult is before her siblings do.
He has a dog. What's not to like?
Adult is usually a very reasonable person, but they become understandably outraged when the Teen tries to push the limits by being with boys or sneaking out or going to that wild party. That's when they'll have their intense fight and shout something really harsh before seperating. "I wish you weren't my dad!"  "Just get away from me!" "I wish I could just go away!" "You know, why don't you just go?" "I won't miss you!" or perhaps a simple "I hate you!"
Then the Teen's life will be placed in jeopardy. Adult mightily moves heaven and earth to rescue their kid. In Ice Age 4, Manny and Peaches are actually torn apart when the continents split. Symbolism, much?
Then the Teen will realize the error of their ways. That cute boy is actually working for the enemy. The cool crowd are no replacement for your true best friend. Family is more important than anything.  The movie ends with Teen blissfully accepting the Adult's role and guidance.
Every. Single. Time.
Some movies downplay this. Pixar is usually youth-friendly. In Finding Nemo, it's Nemo who rescues himself from the dentist, but then good ol' Marlin who saves him from the net. Brave has Merida saving Lady Elinor-but Elinor's literally putting words into her mouth when Merida has to stop the clans from fighting.
Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...
I'm not going to go too deep into Pixar because most of their movies are about ageless toys and robots. But I don't feel like this post would be complete without mentioning Up.

A perfect love story, a cool old guy, and squirrels. Really, what more could you want? They all defy expectations. Except the squirrels. Those are...squirrels.
Then there's Russell. Wide-eyed idealist. Bright. Cheerful. Innocent. Too dumb to live. Like a squirrel.

Occasionally newer movies will juxtaposition a wise-cracking child with a ridiculously stupid adult to remind you how pathetic the adult is. Look at Failure to Launch.
Big Tripp doing what he does best:
Towards the beginning of the movie, we see Tripp living in his parents’ basement and playing video games with a ten year old.  This is the audience’s signal to belittle Tripp. The kid gets some more screen time to crack jokes, but he’s not really important. Then you find out that the kid is the son of Tripp’s deceased fiancee. Tear-jerker. Suddenly we see Tripp in a new light. He has an excuse to live in his parents’ basement.
This is character development for Tripp. Not the kid. Just like Little Susie and her imperiled kitten, he exists only for us to form an opinion on the adult.
I've been feeling nostalgic lately, so I've gone back through my favorite childhood movies. I realized most of them aren't actually about children. Just talking animals and teenage princesses.

Left to right: 16, 19, unknown, 14, nearly 18, 18, 16, and the rest never specified.
There are plenty of expections. I'm sure if I thought hard enough, I could come up with a handful of movies where the kid doesn't exist to get saved, get reformed, and provide contrast for the adult. Why don't we see more movies with competent, well developed young heroes? 

"Real children don't go hoppity-skip unless they are on drugs."
-Terry Pratchett 

Monday, April 15, 2013


National Youth Rights Day was April fourteenth. I realize this will be grimly overshadowed by what else has happened in Massachusetts today. Adults, youth, and children were injured in the explosion. One of the three who lost their lives was an eight year old boy. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the Boston tragedy. You shall be in our hearts.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Memes

Call me opinionated and one sided if you like.
I don't believe in supporting an issue until I've seen both sides of the argument. And as far as I can tell, everybody against abortion has already been born.

Children: Not A Toy

I found an article on MSN yesterday about a British mother, Isabella Dutton, who regrets having her kids. Here's a quote:
“My son Stuart was five days old when the realisation hit me like a physical blow: having a child had been the biggest mistake of my life...I felt completely detached from this alien being who had encroached upon my settled married life and changed it, irrevocably, for the worse.”
I'm sure all mothers have that "Crap, what am I supposed to do with this tiny person?" moment. Most of them don't think it's necessary to announce it to the media. This was featured news. I'm pretty sure Stuart's seen it by now. Ouch. Thanks, Mum.
Back in third grade, I got a little alien being of my own. They're called tamagotchis.
There's a red sensor on the top. When you touch one tamagotchi's sensor to another, you can get a baby tamagotchi that lives in the same device as yours. And really, that's all it does. They're pixel parasites. Unlike the adult tamagotchi, you can't play games with it (on my version, anyways. I haven't seen the newer ones). It's an accessory. It sits on the screen and looks cute.
Kids aren't tamagotchis. If you put them in the washing machine, they won't come out a little fuzzy but still usable. When you shove a baby in a drawer and forget to feed it for a couple months, there's no reset button. And oh, yeah, they're humans.
They aren't dolls either. They don't exist for you to stuff them into stupid outfits and coo over them.
Owning a tamagotchi could change your life for the worse. Third grade was the year my grandma was hospitalized for skin cancer. My family went to visit her before she went into chemotherapy. Chemo's supposed to make you live longer, so I saw nothing wrong with devoting all my attention to the little screen while Grandma and Mom discussed blood transfusions.
She had a stroke a week later. My last hour with my grandmother was wasted on an alien parasite that lived in a keychain. Biggest mistake of my life? No, I've done stupider things. And I have other, better memories of my grandma. It's called family.
I don't know what Isabella was expecting but she's far from alone. Just be glad she's content to whine about it. 57% of murder victims under the age of five are killed by their own parents. And that's only babies aged 0-5. In the United States alone, the number of fetuses aborted each year outnumbers the casualties in 237 years of military history. Children are no longer a priority in society. We've been shoved onto the back burner by education, careers, and pure laziness. Twenty countries around the world have birth rates at negative or zero. Japan's thirteenth on the list, but hey, they have tamagotchis. They can deal with it.
If you don't think you have what it takes to be a competent parent, do the world a favor and don't reproduce. And please don't pout about it to the media. There are still millions of parents out there who know better than you.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What I Did on Prom Night

I always thought prom was something all high schoolers did. Apparently not. According to the internet, it's supposed to be an upperclassman thing.
Huh. That didn't stop my sophomore friends from going to prom. No, I'm not talking about a sophomore girl tagging along with some generous junior boy. Two sophomores. That's how it works at our school.
Maybe it's because we live in Utah. Home of this:

The LDS church prohibits dating before the age of sixteen and even then we're supposed to go on group dates. That means you need to wait on birthdays for four different people before you can plan anything. Not a lot of dating happens sophomore year. The administration never thought to ban it.
Now, I would love to get on my soapbox here and tell you about what a wonderful time my date and I had tonight and how every sophomore girl is entitled to the same. Unfortunately for my boyfriend, he doesn't exist. But I'm sure he's stunning.
So, regardless of age, I wish you all a happy prom night and good luck finding your (future) date.

Yep Yep Yep

I feel so unqualified to write this post. I have a good life. I grew up with loving parents and a cabinet full of Land Before Time VHS tapes.
This is Ducky. If you're a child of the nineties (or eighties, or whatever we're calling that zero decade) you should remember her.

This is Judith Barsi, the voice behind Ducky in the first movie.
She was also Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.
Judith wasn't famous. Aside from The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven, most of her work was commercials. Still, at the age of nine she was making over $100,000 a year, enough to buy her family a small house. There were only three of them: Judith, her mom, Maria, and her father, Jozsef.
Jozsef had a rough life. He fled Communist Hungary when he was nineteen, got divorced by his first wife after he threw an iron skillet at her, started drinking, and then met Maria. Judith's career didn't make him happy. He kept drinking and abused both of them.
One night the Barsis invited their neighbors to a party in their new home. The conversation pretty much stayed on Judith the whole time and Jozsef became jealous. He told a guest, "Judith's just a kid and she had more money in the bank than I'll ever see. It makes me sick. Some day I'd like to strangle the little brat."
Before Judith and her mom left for the Bahamas to shoot Jaws: The Revenge, he held a knife against her throat and said, "If you decide not to come back, I will cut your throat."
On July 25, 1988, Judith was asleep in her bed. Jozsef came in with .32 caliber pistol and shot her in the head. Her mom heard the gunshot and came running down the hall. Jozsef shot her, lit the house on fire, and then shot himself.
Judith and Maria were buried in unmarked graves. It was another sixteen years before her fan club raised money to buy them tombstones.

Like I said, I feel so unqualified to write this post. I thought I'd start off with some numb statistics. You don't care that 3.6 million cases of child abuse are reported each year. They're numbers too big to grasp. Unless you know someone living through this, it's not your problem.
Then I remembered Judith. I hope this one story can reach you in a way numbers can't.
Abuse is a serious problem. Judith is remembered because she's a celebrity, but there are so many others who get forgotten. April is National Child Abuse Month. My challenge to you is to reach out to anyone who looks like they're having a rough time. Especially the children. Sometimes all they need is a friendly voice, a pat on the shoulder, a reminder that someone cares. Never underestimate the power of your own words.

"And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."
-Mark 9:42

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Could Think Up A Better Name for this Post But I'm too Busy Waiting for My Physics Homework to Do Itself

Yes, I realize this post is completely irrelevant. But it did allow me to procrastinate several more important things I could've done.
Behold, my face.
4:00-9:00 P.M.: Lucid
You sit in front of your computer, or book, or worksheet, and focus all your attention on it. You'll talk to people in the room and listen to music or the TV in the background, but for the most part you're pretty quiet.
9:00-10:00 P.M.:
Your attention wavers. You sign along to your background music and click on interesting links, but you still manage to get a lot done.
10:00-11:00 P.M.:
Start humming softly to yourself.
11:00 P.M.-12:00 A.M.:
Experiment with your tongue and see what kinds of interesting sounds you can make with it. Pull your knees up to your chest and rock back and forth.
12:00-12:15 A.M. Time to stop messing around. You attempt to get some actual work done.
12:15-12:16 A.M.: This isn't working, is it? You shut off the computer and crawl into bed.
6:30 A.M-7:00 A.M.: Drag body out of bed. Pull clothes from hamper. Shove Pop-tart inside mouth.
Go to school.
3:00-4:00 P.M.: Come home. Repeat.