Thursday, December 8, 2011

Decisions Decisions

Now that the semester is nearing an end, I'm thinking about applying to the University of Pennsylvania.  I'm hoping to get all As in all of my classes, so that should boost my chances of being accepted.  But if I am accepted, I'm not sure that I will start right away.  The thing is: money.  If I were to enter right away I wouldn't have any scholarships and would have to take out huge loans.  At my age, I don't really have time to pay off huge loans and then start a life.  I'm going to check in with the University  to see if they offer any internal scholarships for full-time students.  I know they offer scholarships for part-time students, but I really want to get this over with as fast as possible at my age.  If I am not accepted at the University of Pennsylvania, I only have to wait a year to try again during which time I would get my associate degree.  I hate the idea of waiting, though.

The University of Pennsylvania's College of Liberal and Professional studies, to which I would be applying, is geared towards adult students.  I think I would feel more comfortable with people around my same age.  On the other hand, everything I've been reading says it's better to get your associate degree first, and then transfer.  It's only an extra year, but time is precious at my age.  Also, I already know ahead of time that I won't be able to transfer a lot of my classes.  I'll probably have to go at least 3 years to the University of Pennsylvania, despite having an associate degree.  I'm going to be old by the time I graduate from the University of Pennsylvania.  Better late than never though?  Right?

If I stay at the community college through completion, I'll be eligible to try for two big scholarships--the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship which is up to $30,000 per year for up to three years, and the Hites scholarship which is about $8,000.  If I won that Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, I'd be set.  All I have to do is continue to get a 4.0 average through the time when I would apply for it, engage in community activities on the campus, and be an overall fabulous student.  That's a lot of stress for me, but it has to be done.  So, yeah, I think I'll end up staying at community college through my associate degree, but I'm still going to apply to the University of Pennsylvania after this semester's grades come in.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, Turkey Day is coming up.  I don't have anything fancy planned, just a turkey dinner with my parents.  I do get some extra time off of school, however, so that's a good thing.

I just had another round of tests, can you believe it?  The math test included extra credit questions, so I got 124%.  I barely squeaked by on the Spanish test with 92%.  I consider myself lucky to have gotten 92% as there was a lot of material covered, and it's getting more complicated.  I do hope to actually learn Spanish too, which is why I'll be studying over the holiday weekend.  I took my Interpersonal Communication test last Monday.  It was an essay test and the teacher still didn't have them graded by Monday.  That's so frustrating.  I hate waiting.  I took a Science test yesterday.  It was hard.  After the test I checked my notes.  I know I got 1 question wrong, but I got the bonus question right.  The bonus question corresponded with a regular test question which was this:  You accidentally knock over a tomato plant on its side.  After about a week or two, what will it look like (draw a picture)?  The bonus question was, "What is the exact term for this?"  The answer is "Negative Gravitropism."  Gee, everybody knows that. ;)  Like I said, it was a hard test.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More Tests, and God Bless You

Gee, it seems like just yesterday that I had a bunch of tests, and now again.  Fortunately I got As on my Spanish test and Science test.  The class as a whole didn't do too well on the Science test.  2 As, 3 Bs, 2 Cs, 7-9 Ds, and 13 Fs.  I actually thought this one was much easier than the first one.  And I did really study for it.  The other person who got an A was also an older person.  I think when you go to school as an older person, you're more serious about your grades.  I just took a math test, though, and I'd consider myself lucky to get a B.  I don't know what happened.  The material was hard for me, and my brain froze during the test.

I've changed my mind about the difficulty of my classes.  Spanish is definitely the most difficult for me now.  Learning a new language is tough.  Science is the next most difficult.  Math is... well I hope it gets easier after that test, but I fear that it will get even more difficult.  I still don't know what to think about Interpersonal Communication.  We don't have any homework now, but we have a test next week.  It will be an essay format, just to see if we've been paying attention in class.  I do have my notes.

Sneezing.  "God bless you."  Is that what you say?  There seems to be a certain protocol when saying something after someone sneezes in class.  Personally, I usually only say "bless you" to someone who sneezes when they are right near me.  It seems awkward across the room.  Most people seem to follow this rule.  But some do occasionally shout across the room.  I dunno, I think that's kind of awkward, as if you're drawing attention to a person's loud sneeze.  But I guess if no one nearby says, "God bless you," then somebody's got to do it.  And do you say, "God bless you, "Bless you," or "Gezuntite" (I'm sure I spelled that wrong, but you know what I mean.).  I say "Bless you."  "God bless you" seems a little too wordy for me.  and the other word, well I think it's German, but since I can't even spell it, I probably shouldn't say it.

I believe this tradition started long ago with the mythical belief that when you sneezed, demons were coming out of you.  I guess you would want to bless such a person.  But on the whole, it seems like a nice little polite tradition, and one that college students practice studiously.  Somehow the classroom allows for it.  I'm not sure that I would say "Bless you" to a complete stranger on a train, but maybe at college I will learn that kind of courage.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Test Results

Well, I finally got my test scores back.  I say finally because it took my Interpersonal Communication teacher 1 1/2 weeks too finish grading the tests!  Okay, so, here it is:  On my Spanish test I got 96%, on my Interpersonal Communication test I got 93%, and on my Science test I got......... 100%!  Yay!  The Science teacher laid it out for us again about who got what.  5 As, 4 Bs, 7 Cs, 5 Ds, and 7 Fs.  And only one person got 100%.  I felt a little bit honored, but it did make me a bit of a target.  News got around about who it was who got 100%.  One of them asked me, "What's your secret?"  I explained my studying techniques and the girl next to her gasped and said something to the effect that, "So you have to do flashcards all weekend instead of going out."  Gee, I don't study THAT much.  But I guess I let them down.  There is no easy secret.  It just comes from studying, and that's how you do it.

In my Interpersonal Communication class we watched a film called The Station Agent.  It's about a dwarf and his life experiences and how he befriends some people.  Well after the movie, and in conjunction with an article we had to read, we came to a discussion of hurtful words, and how some commonly used words can be very hurtful to some people.  Among them were retarded and midget.  The word midget has a history in sideshows, which is why it is so hurtful, the correct terms being dwarf or little people.  I included the word ma'am.  I hate that word.  I don't think anyone should ever use it.  It's very hurtful.  But the teacher insisted that some people like to be called ma'am.  She didn't say who, though.  I've never met anyone who likes to be called ma'am.  What do you think?  Is there anyone who likes to be called ma'am?  Anyhoo, at least I tried, and got it out there.

We also talked about "totalizing" others.  This is where you attribute a whole host of characteristics to someone based on only one piece of information about that person, and it's usually negative.  I mentioned that homeless people are "totalized."  As I volunteered at a soup kitchen for four years, I can definitely say that homeless people have to take it from everyone.  People just don't have nice things to say or think about homeless people.  Just because they're homeless doesn't mean they're worthless.  They don't deserve to be treated worse than anyone else.  There are certainly people with homes who present well who are rotten to the core--not only homeless people, and not always homeless people.  Some of them have just had hard lives--lives that most people wouldn't deal well with.  Where's the compassion?  Homeless people are just as dynamic, intelligent, and worthwhile as anyone, just less fortunate.  Okay, I'll get off my soapbox.  Just had to get that out of my system.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Test Week

This past week was test week.  Not formally, but it sure seemed like it.  I had 3 tests out of my four classes.  Spanish, Science, and Interpersonal Communications.  I feel pretty confident about my Spanish And Science tests.  On my last Spanish test I got an A, and on my last Science test I got a B.  I'm hoping for two As this time.  And as for my Interpersonal Communications class, I'm not sure what to expect.  This is the first Interpersonal Communications test that I've taken, and it was all essays.  I'm not sure how the teacher will grade.  But I do hope I get an A, as tests are 50% of the grade.

In my last Science test, the teacher laid it out for us how the students did.  3 As, 5 Bs, 4 Cs, 6 Ds, and 10 Fs.  So while it was possible to get an A on the test, it was very difficult.  The guy next to me got an F.  He told me that if he got another F, he was going to drop the class.  I hope he doesn't get another F.  If he decides to stay, I was going to suggest to him that we study together after class and see if he can bring his grade up.  Who knows, it might help me too.  Science is a tough class.  It's practically like learning a new language as so many of the words and terms are new to me.  There's a lot to understand.  Our last test was on mitosis and meiosis and the male and female reproductive systems, as well as hormonal controls.  Through all this, though, I know I have my readers, and that means a lot to me.  Thank you for reading and for your support. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recently

I've been quite busy with school work lately.  In fact, it's practically all I've been thinking about.  Sometimes I feel like I just need a break.  Fortunately, I went out last night, so that helps to break things up a little.

Well, I've taken a couple of tests in a couple of classes--Spanish and math, and so far I've gotten As and A-s.  I just took a big test in science and I won't know, at least until tomorrow, how I did.  I'm hoping for an A, of course, but I think it might have been a B.  I've been reading up on scholarships and so I've put myself under a lot of pressure.  It seems like the better grades I have, the better chance I'll have at scholarships.  Some of them are really big scholarships.  The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship pays up to $30,000 per year for transfer students, that is for students who get their Associates degrees at community colleges and go on to 4 year schools.  THAT'S one that I could really use.  I'm thinking a 4.0 would give me my best shot.

I've decided that I'm going to pursue my Associates degree before trying for the University of Pennsylvania.  There are many reasons for this.  For one thing, a lot of the big scholarships are only for people who have taken a certain number of courses with the intention of getting an Associates degree.  Also, just in case I flake out of school at some point, an Associates degree would be better than nothing.  Another reason, if you have 16 units of Liberal Arts coursework (almost an Associates degree) when applying for Penn, then they don't need your GED score and high school records.  My GED score and high school records aren't the best.  I'd rather apply with a clean slate.  Another reason, in all my years away form school, I'd forgotten the math that I learned in high school.  So I have to do a lot of catching up on math before I go to Penn.  So, those are the main reasons.

Most of my classes are pretty well-behaved, but my Spanish class--oy vey!  There are a handful of students in the back of the class who are really rude.  They're loud and obnoxious and are always making rude comments about other people, including the professor.  And a bunch of the other students seem like they just don't want to learn.  The professor calls on random people throughout the class, and some just aren't prepared at all.  The bad students were also, not surprisingly,complaining about their test scores.    I feel bad for the teacher.  She tries really hard and she gets frazzled by those few obnoxious idiots.  She warned me and one of the other good students not to become a teacher.  Poor thing.  I said to her, "You're a good teacher."  And a few other students agreed, and that made her feel better.

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Week of New Semester

I had a brief two weeks off in between my last summer class and this new fall semester.  I have  a full course load this semester.  I'm taking four classes--Math, Spanish, Biological Science, and Interpersonal Communication.  I have been doing homework ALL  weekend!  Math is easy, Spanish is fun, mostly because I hope to learn to actually speak/read Spanish fluently.  Science is hard, and Interpersonal Communication is weird.

I gave a girl in my Interpersonal Communication class my blog address, so I guess I'll have to be extra careful about what I write (hope I don't get too boring).  I thought it would be an easy class given that it's pretty much a soft science, but there's actually a LOT of homework (in Spanish, tarea).

I already speak/read a bit of Spanish, so that class has so far been fairly easy for me.  There is a fair bit of homework, but it's been homework that I don't really mind, because I actually do want to become fluent in Spanish.  It should help me to be able to communicate with 1/4 of the US population for one thing.  Plus, if I ever take a vacation in Mexico, South America, or any other Spanish speaking place, I'll be able to function properly.

In other GOOD news, over my two week vacation I found out that I won two small scholarships!  This happened after I got my second A from my summer classes.  It isn't that much money, but every little bit helps.  Mostly, it just feels nice to be appreciated.  I'll have to go to a scholarship dinner called "Dollars for Scholars" to show my appreciation to the donors.  I also had to sign a release so that the school could publicize my name in newspapers.  These weren't even scholarships for older women.  I actually beat out regular college kids for these scholarships.

Overall, my classes seem okay, most of the students seem like decent people, and most of the professors seem okay.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hello!  Sorry I've been gone for so long.  Aside from the fact that I've been busy with schoolwork, my computer died, so I've been without a computer for about a week.

It's been an exciting few weeks.  I got my test back (the atomic one) and I got a B.  Phew.  And the professor actually graded on a curve, so I ended up getting an A.  After this, we got the teacher evaluation forms.  I decided to go easy on my teacher since he did give me 100% for class participation.  So I was able to overlook the fact that he laughed at me.

I have a question for you... who has a better military, the US or China?  The question came up in class and I said that the US has a better military.  The kids kept laughing at me for saying that.  They insisted that since China is a bigger country, it therefor has a better military.  It was as if they thought that I didn't know that China was a bigger country than the US.  It obviously is bigger, but does that necessarily mean that it has a better military?  I don't think so.  But I suppose I could be wrong.

So, anyway, I had a TON of studying to do for the final.  I was all nerves going into it.  But my studying paid off, and I got an A in the class.

In a couple weeks I'll be starting the fall semester.  Four classes at a time.  I don't know if I'll be able to handle it all.  I hope that taking these summer classes has given me a bit of a feel for it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Atomic Test: A Story of Academic Survival

This American History test that I just took yesterday was so hard that two students dropped the class.  The first one, that guy I had mentioned earlier who never took notes, looked at the test, decided it was too hard (I guess) and walked out.  The other one, a girl who seemed to take notes, took the test, left for break, and never came back.  It was an incredibly hard test.  Even with notes (it was open notebook).  I still think I may have even gotten a C.

This test was also inordinately stressful for me for another reason.  Part of the test was to write two essays.  And it was open notebook.  So I wrote two essays ahead of time, and wrote them in my notebook.  BUT this was a big academic sin in this teacher's eyes.  I didn't know that beforehand, but I was afraid of getting caught for having intended to copy. 

The teacher walked up and down the aisles and checked everybody's notes and study guides.  He didn't notice my little problem.  I thought about just telling him, but it was too late.  I didn't use my pre-written essays, but trying to convince him of that if he knew would probably have been impossible.  Throughout the test, he would take strolls up and down the aisles... flipping through people's notes, reading what you were writing and what you were reading.  I was in sheer terror.  Even after the test was done, I was afraid that he might take a last peek at our notebooks, just to be sure.  I threw out my essays as soon as I got home, so if he EVER checks, he'll never know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Latest

I've been studying a lot recently, and have much studying to do this weekend, so sorry I haven't blogged recently.  As for class this week--my teacher laughed at me when I tried to answer one of his questions.  From praise to ridicule.  I just hope it doesn't affect my grade.

My professor discusses a lot of things besides history.  He has been going on and on recently about how bad the K-12 schools have gotten and how kids who "can't" learn should simply be expelled.  I tried to make an argument in favor of the kids who aren't natural students, that "you don't know what they're going through," and he said sarcastically, "You're makin' me cry."  I also said that it is the teacher's responsibility to sort of police the kids and create a good environment.  And also that kids of a certain age are simply wild and teachers have to be able to overlook that.  I don't think my arguments got me very far, but I hope they don't affect my grade. 

We also talked a lot about religion.  I happen to know a fair bit about Catholicism/Christianity, so I'm able to hold my own in a discussion about such things.  In fact, I taught my teacher.  Since that time, he's been quizzing me about my religious knowledge, and I've been able to answer most of the questions.  I hope he doesn't hold it against me if I just so happen to know more about religion that he does.

After class, a girl came up to me and started discussion how arrogant and mean the teacher is and I agreed, but I said I hadn't noticed it until that day.  She said she noticed it the first day.  I guess I hadn't noticed it until he burst out laughing at me when I was making an attempt to participate.  He has his good points, but he does have an obnoxious side.  I just hope it doesn't affect my grade.  Are you starting to notice a theme here?  I don't much care what goes on so long as I can still get a good grade.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Class

This was the first week of my new class.  I didn't have quite as many nerves this time.  I think I am the oldest person in the classroom, but at least the teacher is older than me this time.  The work seems fairly interesting--it's an American History class from Columbus through the civil war.

Most of the students seem nice except for one really obnoxious, arrogant student.  He has salt n' pepper hair and has to be in his late twenties or early thirties.  He didn't have anything intelligent to say, but he kept talking anyway.  He said things like that Columbus had an affair with Queen Isabel, and that's why she supported him.  And upon hearing that Columbus was destitute and ruined by the end of his life, he said, "He must have been married."  He said many other stupid and obnoxious things.  He didn't take notes in class, and kept badgering the teacher for an A.  I don't even know why he's there.  The only reason that I can think of is that his parole officer made him do it.

But the teacher seems nice.  He's pretty funny too.  He seems to want to really engage the students.  27% of the grade is class participation.  There is a lot of reading to do, and that is mostly to participate in class discussions intelligently.

We watched a movie about Columbus.  One of the things that was mentioned in the movie was how the Indians were so gracious to Columbus and his crew.  They gave them food, and whatever else they liked.  But then they wanted their things back, so this is where the term "Indian giver" comes from.  If you consider the larger picture, that really isn't so awful.  If they were Americans, they would have given the people the things that they wanted, and charged usurious interest rates, thus enslaving them for life.  Of course, Columbus did end up enslaving the Indians.  He might as well have been a Wall Street broker.  He was an adventurer, but also a supreme jerk.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Final and the Museum Paper

Sorry I haven't blogged for a while.  I've been busy with school work, specifically with studying for the final.  The final was today, and I think (hope) I did all right on it.  It was in the same manner as all of the other tests which I got 100% on.  I also got back my museum paper which I got an A+ on.  Does it seem like I'm bragging?  Well... maybe.  I wouldn't have to brag if anything else in my life was going well.  As it is, my good grades are what I have.  I won't find out for a few days yet what my final grade for the class will be, but I think (hope) it will be an A.

Here is my museum paper for anyone who wishes to read it:

Two Greek Statuettes

In this essay, I will compare and contrast two Greek statuettes.  One, the Limestone Male Statuette from the Archaic period, and the other, a Marble Draped Female Statuette from the Hellenistic period.  These artworks show how art developed over time.  The male statuette is much less developed.  The face is crude and the body is flat and boxy.  The female statuette, on the other hand, is graceful and an archetype of female perfection.  Both small in size, the Archaic piece is about 10” tall, while the Hellenistic piece is about 1 ½” tall.  Though they are from the same general area—Greece, they are quite different.  The artists in both cases are unknown, as is the case in much of ancient artwork.
Both statuettes are attempts at representing the human form.  And they both intend to convey a sense of divinity.  The male statuette was made as a dedication to Apollo.  The female statuette was perhaps a goddess or symbolic of an ideal woman.
I was drawn to these pieces because I like Greek art.  The Greeks were really masters of humanism in art.  These particular works really exemplify a Greek sense of beauty and authenticity, especially the female statuette.  It’s interesting to me also that art progressed as much as it did in this timeframe.  It took the Greeks time to really master the artistic styles that they would become famous for.
Both the Hellenistic and the Archaic periods were times of change in Greece.  The Greek culture during the Hellenistic period was exposed to many different cultural and artistic influences (Hemingway), broadening the abilities and styles of the Greeks.  This particular statuette was probably a copy of a 3rd century BCE statuette.  Wealthy art patrons of the 1st century BCE were eager to fill their homes with magnificent Greek art both to demonstrate their wealth, and to demonstrate their good taste.  Greek artistic styles changed dramatically from the Archaic period to the Hellenistic period, as is evident in these two statuettes.  The Archaic period in Greece came on the heels of what is sometimes called the Dark Age of Greece (Kleiner).  Economic conditions improved, and the Greeks began to trade with other countries.  The Greek culture began to come to life again.  Greek style began to become more naturalistic during this time.  The Limestone Male Statuette was an early Archaic statuette from around 600-550 BCE, and lacks much human vigor, which is representative of the age.
The male and female statuettes express different influences in their compositions.  The male statuette is very rigid and blocky, almost like a soldier preparing to do battle.  It is reminiscent of the stiff Egyptian statues intended to convey eternal stillness.  Its arms are held close to the body and both legs are attached, creating the effect of solidity.  With the female statuette, the legs are not even visible under the long flowing robe.  Her right hand appears to be on her hip in a very human gesture of the body.  Her face is very beautiful leaving no doubt that this was either a goddess of some sort, or an emblem of female perfection.
While both pieces express a new naturalism, the female statuette excels at expressing realism.  The composition of the later statuette—the female—indicates a growth in Greek art.  It is far more human and realistic than the male.  The Hellenistic statuette is not only more human, but more three dimensional.  It fully expresses the figure from all sides.  The Archaic figure seems to want to express divinity as something that lacks ordinary human qualities, whereas the Hellenistic figure embraces and perfects human qualities.  It is much more sophisticated that the Archaic statuette.  Rather than removing the human qualities, the female figure brings what is human to a divine level.
The styles of the two are radically different, the male statuette is flat and almost two dimensional.  The back is literally flat and hasn’t been developed at all.  Perhaps in its time it was placed against a wall.  In contrast to that, the female statuette is gracefully developed all the way around, including a bun in the back of her head.  The female makes wonderful use of lines with her long flowing robe.  The folds of the robe were crafted with great skill.  The male holds his right arm over his chest almost as a kind of salute, or expression of reverence, whereas the female statuette is more open—simply standing.  She may have been a kind of stock statuette representing many goddesses at different times for different reasons.  Although rough and chipped from wear, you can imagine that both these statuettes were at one time perfectly smooth in texture.
In conclusion, both these statuettes are an expression of Greek humanism.  The Limestone Male Statuette is a precursor to the more elaborate and realistic Marble Draped Female Statuette.  And from the two different eras it is easy to see how Greek art evolved and became more refined over time, owing much of the new expressions to outside influences, and Greek innovation.
Works Cited
Hemingway, Colette, and Sean Hemingway.  “Art of the Hellenistic Age and the Hellenistic Tradition.”  http://www.metmuseum.org/.  June 12, 2011.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages. Vol. 1. Western Version.  100. 2008.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Kids are All Right

Another week of school, and I'm feeling like less and less of an outcast.  We needed something called a blue book in order to take our mid-terms on Monday.  Pretty much no one brought one.  One of the students went to the book store and got a whole bunch of them (at 35 cents a piece), and offered them to the other students, including me.  I happened to complete the mid-term at the same time as another student, so we left class at the same time.  On the way out we chit chatted a little about class, the test, etc.  And on Wednesday, I happened to enter the school at the same time as another student, and we chit chatted on our way in to the classroom.  Those things are very nice to me.  I feel as if I am not being ostracized because of my age.  It really makes a difference in terms of my comfort level with the class.  We're all just students there to learn.  The kids don't seem to feel as awkward about my age as I do.  So it's been a good week. 

In terms of the actual schoolwork--we were all required to go to a museum, find two objects to compare and contrast and write a paper about it.  I think we all did our best, but it was hard.  On Wednesday we exchanged papers and did a bit of a peer review.  After that we turned our papers in for corrections and comments, but not for a grade just yet.  We also had a mid-term on Monday.  It was the same format as the quiz, but bigger.  Unfortunately the professor didn't finish grading them all, so we won't know how we did until Monday.  We also had a couple more lectures.

As for homework this weekend--it's mostly reading.  We are going to have another quiz on Wednesday.  The lower grade of the two quizzes will be dropped.  As I already got 100% on the first quiz, I don't really need to do too well on this one.  But I will study anyway.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Studying and the Quiz

Well, the bad news is I got 2 B pluses on my written assignments.  The good news is I got 100% on the quiz.  I couldn't have done it without youse guys.  Moral support definitely helps.

I think I study more than some of the other students.  The girl next to me doesn't even have a book.  She called me crazy for actually doing the readings.  Some of the students are only hoping to get an Associates Degree which basically only requires that you pass your class.  You can graduate with a C average.  Some of them are hoping to go on to 4 year schools that have approximately the same standards.  But I won't consider this a worthwhile endeavor unless I get into the University of Pennsylvania.  That school requires at least a B average to get in, but the higher your grades are the better chance you have of getting in. 

There are at least a few others in the class who are also reading their book.  I think the other woman in her thirties is studying hard.  I guess no one in their thirties goes to school unless they're serious about it.  There's one other woman there who I think must be in her thirties.  She brought her daughter to class on Monday.  Her daughter was so sweet and so well-behaved, so it wasn't a problem at all.

The professor mentioned before handing back the quizzes that it was very easy for her to tell who was actually reading the book, and who was just going from notes taken in class.  She grades pretty easily, though, and I think some people take advantage.

It's still hard for me being so old and going to school.  I do feel a little out of place.  I guess I just have to keep my eye on the prize of the University of Pennsylvania where there will be many other adult students.  And until that time, just focus on getting the best grades that I can.

Friday, June 3, 2011

2nd Week of School

Well, it can hardly be called a week.  The one class that I'm taking now is only held 2 days a week--Monday and Wednesday.  This past Monday was Memorial Day, so we only had class on Wednesday.  I turned in 2 written assignments.  I participated in class quite a bit again.  That's an easy A for me--class participation.

About the work--one of the things that we had to do for homework was watch a couple of videos and write papers about them.  The girl next to me confessed to me that they were boring.  I basically agreed with her.  But I don't think I minded the assignment quite as much as she did.  Working some crappy job that you're essentially overqualified for while being paid pennies--that's really boring.  Mind numbing.  Soul killing.  School isn't so bad.

I have to prepare now for my first quiz.  This involves memorization.  Memorization is somehow more intimidating to me than writing papers or participating in class.  Either you know it or you don't.  At least the artwork is fairly intersting--the great pyramids of Gizeh, Egypt, a snake goddess, and a few other things.  The ancients were very expressive with their artwork.  Wish me well on my quiz.

Monday, May 30, 2011

About Me

So another blogger put up an "about me" series of fifty questions, and invited other bloggers to fill out the same.  Here are my answers:

ARE THERE ANY BAD HABITS THAT YOU HAD AS A CHILD THAT YOU STILL HAVE TODAY?
Smoking.

HOW MUCH ATTENTION WOULD YOU SAY YOU REQUIRED WHILE GROWING UP?
I needed a lot of attention, but didn't get any positive attention.

WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU HAVE?
'95 Toyota Corolla

WHAT IS YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT?
Too many to nail it down to one.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PASTIME?
Hanging out with my friends.
_________________________________________________________________________________


1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
I was named after a few people/times.  Princess Caroline, Caroline Kennedy, and the Carolinian dramas.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Probably a week ago.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
Not really.  It serves its purpose though, but kind of hard to read.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Pastrami or turkey meat.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
No.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Maybe

7. DO YOU HAVE SIBLINGS?
A younger brother and sister, and an older sister who died when she was nine and I was seven.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Maybe.  I think I could be talked into it.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Frosted mini-wheats.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
No.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
NO.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Hagaan Daz vanilla

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Basic facts and figures about a person. 

15. RED OR PINK?
Red

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
Too much to narrow it down to one.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
My sister who died when she was nine and I was seven.

18. WHAT IS YOUR ZODIAC SIGN?
Gemini.

19. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES?
No.  I love all my shoes equally.

20. FAVORITE MEAL?
Pizza.

21. FAVORITE GENRE OF MUSIC?
Depeche Mode/eighties music.

22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Periwinkle.

23. FAVORITE SMELLS?
Pantene, and other soaps.

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
A friend.

25. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Beach house.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Don't really watch sports.

27. HAIR COLOR?
Dark blond.

28. EYE COLOR?
Blue.

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No, I wear glasses.

30. FAVORITE HEIRLOOM?
Old prayer book.

31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings.

32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
About St. Therese of Lisieux. 

33. FAVORITE ARTICLE OF CLOTHING?
Beige blouse.

34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer.

35. HUGS OR KISSES?
Hugs.

36. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Cake or ice cream.

37. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
Huh?  I walk for exercise.

38. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
Computer.

39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Gardeners Art Throughout the ages.  It's a textbook for school.

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
Mousepad?  Don't use one.

42. FAVORITE SOUND?
Critters at dawn. 

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
The Beatles.

44. WHAT IS YOUR DREAM CAR?
BMW

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
Painting, drawing, communications skills.

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Orange, California.

47. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
Philadelphia area, Pennsylvania.

48. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
Being old.

49. WHAT BRINGS YOU THE MOST JOY?
Can't think of anything.

50. WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNG SELF?
Quit overextending yourself for other people--people who don't even care about you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

First Week of School

A lot can happen in one week.  I was signed up for 2 classes--English Composition and Art History.  I realized in my third day that that would be too much for me.  Summer classes are intense.  I stayed up until 4 in the morning reading my Art History assignment.  The next day in English class, I could barely stay awake, let alone think.  It's been years since I've done anything school related.  So I dropped my English class.  I had started out with such enthusiasm, but realized quickly that my grades might suffer if I felt overwhelmed.  Once I've become more accustomed to school, I think I will be able to take more classes at once.  Difficult as it was, I think I made the right decision.


school campus

My first day of school was a little bit happier.  I was challenged and met the challenge.  The professor announced that 20% of our grade would come from class participation.  Where I had previously hoped to sit in a corner and quietly write papers, I found myself trying to answer virtually every question she asked.  I even went so far as to try to convince everyone (myself included) that a toilet can be a work of  art.  If that isn't effort, I don't know what is.


walkway to school

The class--Art History--is made up of mostly youths.  There was at least one older woman there who is a stay-at-home mother.  But the kids haven't seemed at all prejudicial towards me, which has been nice.  I'm just a person there to learn, like anyone else.


school waterfountain

The class and readings have thus far been fairly interesting.  Art history is more than simply looking at pieces of art.  It's also the study of the political and religious, etc. history of the artwork.  I am already familiar with some of the background of the artwork as much of it is biblical.  It's interesting to see how artistic expression has evolved over time, becoming more sophisticated as civilization came into being.

I will try to keep up with my blog, even though I have a lot of homework.  Perhaps I'll share a bit of art history as time goes on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI

An Expression of Catholic Doctrine

The Pope deliberately included his birth name, Joseph Ratzinger, on the title page so as to assert that the contents of this book are merely his personal reflections on Jesus’ life, and not binding on the consciences of the faithful.

One need not be a scholar to understand this book.  But I am surprised at how well received it has been among Protestants, as it is basically an expression of Catholic doctrine.  Jesus of Nazareth starts off with a good explanation of Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the temple.  Ratzinger offers some interesting insights into the symbolism of Jesus’ acts.  For example, the washing of the disciples’ feet is symbolic of the need for the constant renewal/cleansing of the Christian, who though washed in baptism still remains a sinner.

With insights such as this, “Jesus clearly presents himself as the new Moses, who brings to completion what began with Moses at the burning bush,” Ratzinger does a good job explaining the continuity of the Old Testament into the New, and how the New fulfills the Old. 

Ratzinger describes at length the type of unity that he thinks should be seen in the Church.  Not surprisingly, he and his Church hierarchy are described as being central to and at the forefront of bringing about this unity.  I really don’t agree with that, but that is the myth that he wants to perpetuate.

The Last Supper is explained as the new Passover, Jesus being the perfect Lamb of God.  The death and Resurrection of Christ being the Passover that endures.  According to Ratzinger, the institution of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Last Supper tradition where Jesus gave himself to the disciples in the form of bread and wine.  The earliest communities probably “broke bread” more according to the Passover meal traditions.  Whereas the current Eucharistic celebrations evolved over time.

Ratzinger leads us through the Mount of Olives to the Trial of Jesus.  He gives insight into the motives behind Jesus’ trial, and explains the ordinary and prophetic utterances that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.  He delves into the questions of political power versus truth, prompted by Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”  This is presented as a question that has relevance even today.  The Pope seems to have a blind spot, though when it comes to the fact of political power and injustice within his own Church.  The Catholic Church is definitely not above it all.  I think it’s fair to say that those in positions of power in the Catholic Church are at least as corrupt as the temple authorities of Jesus’ day.

The crucifixion is explained as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  Jesus’ suffering embodies Israel’s suffering all mankind’s suffering so as to transform it mysteriously.  It is also explained in terms of the new symbolism for the new Church.  The water and blood from Christ’s side are view as symbolic of two sacraments—baptism and the Eucharist.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain.”  Ratzinger describes the Resurrection as something more than mere resuscitation from the dead.  A mere resuscitation would have been no more spectacular than Lazarus being raised from the dead, or when people are resuscitated by doctors.  Christ’s Resurrection is supposed to be a whole new form of living, where the infinite meets the finite.

Ratzinger writes like a professor teaching his students.  His style is easy to read.  The book ends with a summary of Christian thought about God’s continued presence despite his seeming absence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Death of the Middle Class

A new report came out giving the frightening statistics about a dwindling American middle class.  According to Sherle Schwenninger, "middle-income jobs are disappearing from the economy. The share of middle-income jobs in the United States has fallen from 52% in 1980 to 42% in 2010."  As a card-carrying member of the middle class, this concerns me a great deal.  One of the things that has made America unique in the past is the fact of a strong middle class.  Plenty of third world countries have a strong aristocratic class while most of their citizens struggle.  That is not a good state.  It's highly undemocratic and not something that policy makers should be content with.

Poverty is the seedbed of so many ills in society.  It puts people on edge.  It makes people less able to be productive members of society.  It leads to crime and drug trafficking.  And, worst of all, it robs people of their dignity.  When I volunteered at the soup kitchen, one of the things that the guests commented on was how nice it was to be well-treated.  It, unfortunately, is not typical that poor people are well treated.  When middle class people go out to a restaurant, they expect to be well treated.  And if they aren't, they'll take their business elsewhere.  Poor people don't have that kind of leverage.

Middle class people now may not think this widening gap and the erosion of the middle class matters, because they think it won't happen to them.  But a whole lot of other middle class people who are now poor didn't think it would happen to them either.  Unemployment is increasing, and high paying jobs are being replaced with low wage jobs.  America needs real jobs if it is to truly recover from economic hardship.  Flipping burgers at McDonald's doesn't cut it.

Do policy makers care about the middle class?  On some level, policy makers, at least, give lip service to how important a strong American middle class is.  But their actions speak to something else.  Their free trade agreements decimate the middle class.  What happens with free trade is that good, high paying American jobs are outsourced to other countries at $10 per hour.  If President Obama were really serious about reviving, or at least not killing America's middle class, this would be illegal.  These free trade agreements only benefit one group of people, and that is the super-wealthy.  Meanwhile, America's middle class becomes unemployed and works at poorly paying jobs, becoming poor.  Will this not only add to the coarsening of society and the vulgarity of people?  Of course it will.  It's something that needs to be taken seriously.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Only Two Weeks to Go...

...until school starts for me.  I think I've done pretty much everything I could in preparation.  I got new clothes.  I bleached my teeth, so they won't scare the children.  I've been to a doctor for a check-up.  I still have to get my car serviced.  Now I just have to wait.  And worry.  Worrying probably doesn't need to be on an official checklist, but it seems, at times, that that is what I do best.  Once school starts, I probably won't know whether or not my head is on straight.  I hope it isn't too hard for me.

English Composition and Art History.  Those are the first two classes that I'm taking.  I'm hoping that I will do well in English, since I do have some experience as a writer.  But I don't know what the expectations will be.  And Art History?  Well, I really don't know anything about it.  It will be challenging to me.  I guess you sort of hope for classes that will be a bit of a challenge.  That just proves that you're learning, right?  Because these are summer classes, though, there will be three times as much learning is shoved into a six-week course.  Going from nothing into speed learning will be a bit of a challenge.  Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Osama bin Laden's Death

I was trying to keep my blog clean from the smear that is Osama bin Laden, but I just can’t do it anymore.

From a self-defense standpoint, I can understand and appreciate why his execution was an act of just war.  He was someone who masterminded the deaths of 3,000 civilians on September 11, 2001.  And he was plotting to do more damage to America. 

From a human standpoint, though, it’s different.  Among other things, his death makes him a martyr to his followers, a reason for retaliation.  Not that they really needed any reasons to attack the US.  Still, there’s something gruesome about killing, even when it’s “right.”  I’m not saying that the Navy Seals weren’t brave in doing what they did.  They were.

Death, to me, is always a sad occasion, even if it’s the worst person in the entire world.  And killing can never become the first line of action.  How was Osama bin Laden able to rise to power in the first place?  Undoubtedly, much of it had to do with the fact that he was super-rich.  Without his great wealth, he would have been just another guy with an opinion.  But aside from that, what pains and indignities had people suffered that they were willing to sign up with him?  Why would someone choose to be a suicide bomber?  What about their lives was so unbearable that they would rather die on a suicide mission, than live?

The death of Osama bin Laden does not bring an end to the circumstances that give rise to radicals.  People who have no hope.  People who have no hope will sometimes do the craziest things.  People who have been shut out of society and have no value to anyone.  People who have no purpose are easy prey for radical groups.  His death brings an end to an immediate threat, but not to terrorism.

The US has the most powerful military in the world.  When somebody becomes a target of the US, there is really no escape.  That kind of power is really something that the US should be afraid of.  No longer are there 2 superpowers warring against each other, but one that can make war on the entire world.  The people in the military are, no doubt, brave and decent people.  But it’s the policy makers who concern me.  Anyone who has that much power has to make a real effort not to become the aggressor.

It can be easy, when feeling wounded, to want to attack back.  But the US as a military force can easily crush the military powers of smaller countries.  All the more reason to exercise self-restraint.  In particular, the fighting that has begun in Libya.  The whole reason why the US invaded Libya was because the Libyan government was willing to kill civilians.  But US air strikes in Libya have killed at least 40 civilians.  A superpower like the US needs to be willing to dialogue with other countries.  Dialogue, not the use of military intervention, is the best way to resolve many international conflicts.  It’s also the best way for the US to prevent becoming like those terrorist organizations that we fight against.  Preserving civility and peace is a fight worth fighting too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Strange and Winding Roads of Believers

I apologize to my non-religious readers if I’ve been too “Christian” lately.  I promise to write more secular things, especially once school starts.  In no way do I wish to force anyone to believe anything.  And I apologize to my religious readers if I am too blasphemous.  I don’t really fit into any category too easily.  And so, I will attempt here to explain the labyrinth of believers and unbelievers and approximately where I fit in.

I’m more religious than people who are totally non-religious and I’m less religious than most good, practicing Catholics or Christians.  Like Anne Rice, I can’t be anti-gay, or anti-Democrat, or anti-anything else that you’re supposed to be against to be a good Catholic or Christian.  She renounced Christianity in the name of Christ.  I renounce all of that stuff as well.

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t been around the Christian block what the differences are between Christian, born-again Christian, Catholic, non-practicing Catholic, Catholic/Christian, Christian but not Catholic, Bible Christian, real Christian, Cafeteria Catholic, Orthodox Catholic as separate from the Orthodox Church.  Indeed, I don’t even understand all of it myself.

First of all, you have to distinguish between Catholic and Protestant.  Think it doesn’t matter?  It matters a lot to “believers.”   Let’s start with Protestants.

“Real” Christians are not Catholic or Orthodox, but they expect universal conformation to their orthodox beliefs.  They may be Baptist or Church of Christ or Pentecostal or non-denominational mega-church or some variation therein.  You know somebody’s a “real” Christian because they denounce those who aren’t.  And if they say, “They think we’re narrow-minded,” that’s a sure sign that they’re narrow-minded.

Then there are Fundamentalists.  Fundamentalists are sometimes also known as born-again Christians, Bible believing Christians and “real” Christians.  They may or may not be creationists, but try to adhere to what they believe to be the fundamentals of the Protestant Christian Faith.  They’re the gun-toters.  They speak gibberish in tongues.  In other words, you cannot dialogue with them.  Ironically enough, most Bible Christians have barely read any of the Bible.  They memorize a handful of verses and make up “moral” rules as they go along.  They “believe” in a book that they have not read.

Mainline Protestants are usually fairly normal people who can’t much be distinguished from worldly people.  Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I do not know.  Mainline Protestants would include Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians.  And within these groups, you will occasionally find Fundamentalists and real Christians.

As complicated as the splintered world of Protestant Christianity is, you’d think that the Catholic world would be a singular refuge from such pious disagreements.  But no.  The Catholic Church easily matches the Protestant Churches for disordered beliefs and holy infighting.  The Catholic Church goes well beyond the infighting among the laity and has factions and groups who are ordained or vowed either licitly or illicitly, traditionalist or non-traditionalist.  Groups such as Opus Dei, Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), and many others.  There are many other “good” Catholics who are better versed in these groups than I am.

As a (long ago) convert to Catholicism, I am not entirely familiar with all of the various Catholic names that different “believers” are called.  The most common derisive name for “other” Catholics is Cafeteria Catholic.  Invariably, this and other names are always attributed to other people.  You never hear of Catholics announcing to the world that they are Cafeteria Catholics and that others are so much holier.  Cafeteria Catholic refers to the fact that people pick and choose only parts of the faith to practice, and not the whole thing.  It’s what everybody does though.  It isn’t, in actual fact, limited to a group of heathens or sinners, it’s a fact of humanity.  I guess I’m a bit of an unbelieving, non-practicing Cafeteria Catholic.  I don’t even go to Church on Sundays.

And within the Catholic Church, certainly, the vowed and ordained have a very real contempt for the laity.  They view the laity as things to be used to push their various agendas, just like real politicians.  So that makes them more Christian than the laity.

And do all of these wonderful groups and factions love and respect each other?  No.  So the Catholic Church has this system wherein different people and groups of people who essentially hate each other can supposedly be united.  And that is through the Pope.  Ask what that means and you’ll get many answers that don’t agree with each other.  Ask a Presbyterian what that means, and you’ll be denounced for being a Papist.

In all, Christians, on the whole are no holier than anybody else, sometimes especially those who consider themselves holy and wrap themselves up in ten tons of religion.  The one thing that truly unites most Christians and Catholics, isn’t the Lord Jesus, it’s their love of money.  The Pope lives in a castle.  Does he share with his brothers and sisters in Christ?  No.  Poor people really aren’t welcome at Catholic Church.

Even though I’m not a “believer,” religion is clearly something that torments me.  The hypocrisy, the selfishness, and everything else that can be found in religion.  When I tried to practice religion according to their rules, I was only made a mess of.  And then, in confession, the priest blasted me.  He announced, “You have no peace.”  He couldn’t have been more giddy.  This is one of the worst problems with religious people, as I see it.  They are delighted to cause other people’s suffering and to see other people suffer.  I guess, like Charlie Sheen, it proves that they’re “winning.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Here are some pics of my garden:

Annuals


Blueberry Bush




Blueberry Flowers




Fig



Lettuce




Peach Tree




Peach Flowers/Baby Peaches

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pope John Paul II Beatification--No Controversy With Me

John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, and some people find this move very controversial.

He was someone who truly believed in the dignity of every human being.  He proved this to me personally by writing this letter to me.
Out of millions of letters that he got, he freely chose to respond to me.  As busy as he was he chose to respond to me.  Despite all of the other millions of reasons that he may have had, he chose to respond to me.  That has real meaning to me.

Some people find his beatification controversial because he didn't do enough to stop priestly abuse of minors.  But, realistically, there was only so much he could do.  The people on the ground floor had much more of an obligation to intervene, and they did nothing.  People misunderstand the true role of the Pope.  He is not called to be a policeman to the Church.  People in the Church are supposed to police themselves, and each other when need be.  Rather, he is called to be a loving spiritual father to all, and that's exactly who John Paul II was.  He spoke of a greater vision for the world, and hoped that others would rise to their calling.  He always desired for the best of humanity.

Perhaps he could have done more about sex abuse and other abuses within the Church.  But he was only human.  It would have been impossible for him to do more without the assistance of others.  Plus, as repugnant as abusers are, John Paul II believed that everyone could be redeemed.  I also think he couldn't believe some of the charges, because he had seen so much contempt in this world.  He had a hard time believing that his own could be so repugnant.



He is someone who passes my smell test, and that is very difficult to do.  Most religious people do not pass my smell test, not even close.  John Paul II was someone who in some small ways made the world a little bit of a better place, and that should be recognized.  It's uncommon.  He was someone who recognized that he was privileged in this world, and used that privilege to do good.  Some have speculated that he was instrumental in the fall of communism.  But ironically enough, even Fidel Castro was a fan of his.

What I would ask the doubters is, who would they beatify?  There is really no one left.  There is no one else who can pass so many hypercritical smell tests.  There is no one else who crossed so many boundaries, and brought people of all walks of life together.  He was not a controversial figure to me, just a truly decent person who desired for everyone's true good.  And he deserves this recognition.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I Like Religion, but Not Religious People

Is that possible?  I even thought of becoming a nun for  a time, because I liked the idea of living for God and having some meaning in my life.  But the religious people I've encountered, some were all right, but some were so mean.  I was especially surprised by how bitchy and catty the nuns could be, as well thought of as they are.  They seemed to think they had reached some level of perfection to which all others must conform.  They were constantly trying to "convert" people, in the worst sense.  I guess it almost goes without saying that they were intolerant of gays.  Many of them were totally intolerant of everything that they viewed wrong with other people, and they always made their views known.

What's really upsetting about this, for me, is that it's so totally contrary to legitimate Christianity, as I see it.  Jesus was always a friend to the outcast, and those who had been dumped on and "robbed" by society.  He healed the oppressed, he wasn't an oppressor.  Even though, according to Christian theology, he was literally perfect, he never beat up on people for their petty sins.  He wasn't constantly trying to wrestle people down into some sort of a conversion.  These are the real values in Christianity, and unfortunately I just didn't see it in the religious people I encountered.  But they were very good at making people feel bad.

I guess it can be hard to find kindness anywhere in this world.  That's why it's so disappointing that these Christian/Catholic people who pride themselves on being Christian are so cruel.  Why do they even use the title "Christian"?  For the Catholic hierarchy, I guess the answer is obvious.  They live lives of privileged leisure because of their title of priest or bishop or nun.  They are practically worshipped by so many people for  their title.  In other words, they are hooked up.  All the more reason why they shouldn't be so hard on other people.  The laity have to worry about things like working to pay for their bills, accommodating their families, and generally making a go of life without the institutional support of a multi-billion dollar multi-national.  Many of the parishes are multi-million dollar extravagances, and yet the religious people are still motivated by getting more money from people.  They want money from people who are poorer than themselves.

But do they, at least, give good life guidance?  No.  I got a lot of domineering advice and criticism from them in all the years that I went to Church, but none of it helped me in the least.

I still like the idea of religion, though.  The idea that different people from different backgrounds could come together and be friends for a least one part of the day, as it should be at Church.  Church isn't supposed to be a place of alienation and contempt.  For people who aren't sincere, it should at least be a place where they put on their best selves for at least a moment.  A place of respite for your soul.  A place where everyone's innate human dignity is valued, most especially the outcasts and those who've experienced real hardship in life.  But I never found a Church that truly welcomed me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adult Education

I did a search on "adult education" just to see if I could find anything the might inspire, inform, or enlighten me.  It's pretty slim pickin's.  There were a lot of sites devoted to combating adult illiteracy.  I'm pretty sure I'm not illiterate, but neither do I have a degree.  I'm really stuck in this hard to define position.  Though I don't have a lot of formal education, I have, in some sense, been schooled by life, and through independent study.  The classroom isn't the only place you can learn.

I did a search on "adult education blog" to see if anyone else had shared their experiences as an adult student.  Nope.  Not that I could find, anyway.  It looks like I'm either totally out of my element, or blazing a new trail.  I think I like the thought of trailblazer better.

I do think I will have quite a fish-out-of-water experience at the community college.  They don't get enough adult students to have a separate school for "non-traditional" students, like me.  At the class registration, there was only one other adult there that I noticed out of about twenty students.  I hope there are at least a few other adults in the classes I've signed up to take.  I deliberately signed up for night classes when I could, because I figured adults were more likely to take those classes.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the prospect of what I'm doing, and think I should just give up.  But, of course, I realize that the longer I wait, the older I get, and the more awkward it will be.  When I was in my twenties, I already thought I was too old for college.  I tried to go about building a life without a degree.  It almost worked, but not quite.  And now I realize if I had done it then, it would be over with.  I'd already have a degree, and it would have been a lot less awkward.  Realizing that helps me stay on course.

The University of Pennsylvania is my real goal, though.  If I can get through the awkwardness of the community college, then I can arrive safely at the University of Pennsylvania in their school that  is specifically for adults and other non-traditional students.  I'm pretty sure it will be a better social experience for me.

Less than a month to go before classes start.

The Birthers

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone.  But, unfortunately, in this case, the facts overwhelmingly prove that President Obama was born in Hawaii.  It seems still that nothing will stop the birther movement, which claims that the president was born outside of the US.  Even though I don't agree with them, I find them good for entertainment.  How much time and energy will they devote to this futile claim?  And is this the best they can do against the president?  Do they have any policy issues with which to critique him?  In a way, they make him seem like a better president than he is.  If the worst thing he's ever done as president is being born outside the US, then he's a pretty good president.  Realistically, though, if they want to really nail him, they'll have to get him on policy issues (or maybe an affair).  Or are conventional approaches like that just too difficult for them?  Sometimes, fiction is stranger than truth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Healthy America

"Not french fries too!"  I thought as I read the latest headline on how health conscious Americans are becoming.  In the past thirty years or so, Americans have become increasingly health conscious at the same time obesity is on the rise.  How can this be?  How can such healthy Americans be so overweight, and have so many health problems?  And why are they trying to get rid of french fries too?

As a committed smoker, these health trends have really affected me personally.  It had been years since I had taken the train.  But I needed to go to Philadelphia so I found myself back at the train station, like good old times.  As usual, since I was outdoors, not inside the train, I lit up a cigarette.  I got a few nasty looks from people.  That wasn't too unusual considering how health conscious and perfect Americans have become.  I was smoking away when I noticed a sign across the train tracks at the other side of the train station.  It was a "no smoking" sign.  Outdoors?!  I could understand no smoking inside a claustrophobia inducing enclosed space like a train, but outdoors?!  I looked around to see if there were any no smoking signs on my half of the train station.  Indeed there were.  SUVs and diesel trucks and many other pollutants are allowed to put untold filth into the environment, but my little cigarette is an offense?  But I had already lit up, so I decided to finish.  On the train ride, despite the no smoking signs outdoors, I noticed one brave soul who was smoking anyway.  A military man.  Someone who still had his human dignity intact.  God Bless America.

So major chemical dumps, nuclear power plants and many other much more dangerous pollutants are tolerated while smoking and french fries are out the door.  What sense does this country make?  In California it's even worse and more nonsensical.  Smoking is barely tolerated, all the while they're trying to make pot legal.  Pot is undoubtedly worse for your health than cigarettes.  But even pot smokers are prejudiced against cigarette smokers.  Being against smokers is truly the last acceptable prejudice.

In 10...20 years we can expect more insane rules that regulate unpopular people to death while big corporations do whatever they want.  And health conscious Americans will continue to get even fatter and more unhealthy.  As for me, I'll stick with my french fries and cigarettes so long as I can.  Everything in moderation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Good Friday

So today is Good Friday.  It's a celebration of the day that Jesus Christ was crucified.  How can that possibly be good, you might ask.  Well, it's because of his crucifixion, his glorification of the Father, that Christian Salvation was to enter the world.  And it was only after his crucifixion that we could celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Still, sometimes, even though I know how the story goes and what it's supposed to mean, I don't know how these things are relevant to me.  I'm glad for whatever meaning and joy people can find in the Easter season, but death is just sad to me.  When you've lost someone who's really close to you, you know how much it hurts.  Perhaps if everyone's loved one were resurrected after death, it wouldn't seem so bad.

I've never been a very good Christian.  I've tried, but I've always tried to really get at the deeper meaning of these things and find myself alone in doing so.

There is no Mass said on Good Friday.  It's the only day of the year that there is no Mass said.  The reason for this is that Good Friday is the day of Crucifixion--prior to the Resurrection.  It's the day of the sacrifice.  The Perfect sacrifice.  And only after that can the Mass be celebrated.

So, anyway, Happy Good Friday.  Hope it has meaning for you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Affordable Care Act the Beginning, Not the End of Health Care Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that passed in 2010, though it seemed huge, was merely a baby step in the right direction.

And all the while this very minimal progress has been made, certain Republicans want to dash it to bits with their budget proposals.

Health Care, as other countries have recognized, is a basic necessity that should be available to everyone.  It is not something that should be solely motivated by profit, which creates so many problems.  If anyone in congress wants to deprive anyone of health insurance, they really need to start with themselves.  If they were on the receiving end of the budget penalties, then they would realize why it matters.  There are real people behind these bills, and I hope that Congress doesn't forget that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They're Rich and Beautiful, and They Have Problems Too

Catherine Zeta-Jones recently went public with her diagnosis of Bipolar II.  It's good of her to do that.  Hopefully it will help to educate the public about mental illness, and help to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.  One of the reasons why she sought treatment was because she needed to go back to work.  Untreated, she wouldn't have been able to do that.  That is one of the most misunderstood problems with mental illness--the inability to work.  It's easier to think that the mentally ill are just lazy, and that's why they won't work, rather than can't work.  When someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones comes out publicly with her struggles, it can help the world see that mental illness isn't the choice of the afflicted, but a real cross to bear that deserves understanding and compassion, rather than contempt and cruel judgement.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lent

Lent is supposed to be a time of reflection, and renewed appreciation for God's grace in our lives.  A grace might be something like being healthy, where others are sick.  Or being intelligent.  Even intelligent enough to be a scientist with no regard for religion.  It's also a time for penance.  A time to recognize our own failings, always with the hope of the Easter resurrection.  I think one of the purposes in giving something up for Lent is indeed to feel deprived of something that we like.  If we feel deprived by our own choice we might develop a greater empathy for those who are deprived through no real fault of their own.  Mother Teresa said to "give until it hurts."  So that  "we know how 'they' feel."  Mother Teresa's religious order, by the way, rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, so she didn't mean it too literally.  Anyway, as much as it hurts to go without by free personal choice, it hurts even more to suffer unnecessarily through the choices of other people.  The Lenten spirit might somehow give us a greater compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings.  And a greater healing for those who suffer unnecessarily.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

ABC Soaps Being Cancelled in Favor of Reality Shows

I'll admit, it's been about fifteen years since I've really watched a soap opera.  But that doesn't mean I didn't like having them around.  It's not that I watched other shows during that time frame.  I just watched less TV on the whole.  But these soaps were special, and so much a part of the American TV landscape.  Reality shows, on the other hand, are everywhere now, and in no way special.  They're forgettable, and I can't imagine developing an attachment to them like I did the soaps.  There will undoubtedly be a backlash against this move by ABC.  But will it be enough to save these soaps from coming to a certain end?  I kind of hope so, but I kind of doubt it.

Soup Kitchen

I once volunteered at a convent for four years, and among other things, I helped out at the soup kitchen.  It's amazing to think that in the US there are people who would go without food were it not for the soup kitchens and food pantries.  An Indian woman who volunteered there could barely believe it.  And she told her friends back in India that there was real poverty in the US.  They absolutely refused to believe her.  Her friends in India were absolutely convinced that EVERYONE in the US was wealthy and well-educated.  This is a country that is sold to the world as a land of opportunity and a democracy--a land of bounty for all.  And yet there are thousands of soup kitchens and shelters throughout the country that aren't even enough to deal with the pressing needs.  Why is that?

The economy is supposedly rebounding, but one of the things that politicians don't talk about is how they fudge the numbers.  In order to get a lower unemployment rating, they kick people off of the unemployment dole.  That obviously isn't a real cure for unemployment.  What other numbers are they fudging simply to make the country look better?  So you end up with this disparity between the image of the US throughout the world, and the truth of what is really going on in this country.  Meanwhile, millions of Americans are really suffering.  And not enough is being done, in part because of this need to project a good image.

So why did I stop doing my part?  I quite liked volunteering at soup kitchen when I did it, for the most part.  Some of the people who went there were just regular, decent people who had fallen on hard times.  There were a few people who were quite rude and hardened.  I tried to always ignore the rudeness and attributed it to the hard lives that they had led.  Many were prostitutes or drug addicts.  Thank God for the soup kitchens and shelters that are able to offer a small plate of hope to people who had been pushed so far down in society.  In a lot of ways, the nuns were more difficult for me to deal with.  They were supposed to know better.  So when they were rude to me, it was much more difficult to deal with.  I guess it just sort of fizzled.  I did it for a time, and then it was time to move on to other things.

Friday, April 15, 2011

7 Year Old Gets Plastic Surgery to Avoid Bullying

It's worth it.  As someone who has been the victim of severe bullying, I can personally attest to the fact of the lifelong damage that it does.  It made me absolutely hate school and dread going.  In fact, it's why I dropped out of high school, even though I'm a relatively intelligent human being.  Bigger bullies awaited, though, as people look down on you for not having a degree.  Schoolyard bullying is not child's play, it can ruin your entire life.  If only someone had intervened.  If only I had been sent to a different school.  If only I had had the right clothes.  Bullying can have a life-long impact on a child if nothing is done.  It made me know that I was all alone in the world and no one was really on my side.  And adults can be as bad, or worse than the kids.

Years later, when I was teaching religious education to children at day camp, there was a girl who was being bullied by a boy.  She came to me for help.  I told her to tell the nuns, thinking that, of course, they would do something about it.  They laughed it off and just said to the girl, "That means he likes you."  I was pretty disgusted.  I tried to return to teaching the class as normal, but could see how ruined this poor child was.  Why was it that bullies always won?  Why were they always accommodated?  As an adult, though, I knew I could and had to intervene.  I really had to put the pressure on that nun to do something about it.  He was expelled.  So all could be well in my class.

It really is the job of parents and educators and administrators to create a safe learning environment for all students to learn and grow in.  I guess it's human nature to ignore bullying if it doesn't affect you personally.  And, indeed, that is much of how the adult world operates as well.  But to do noting about it is really to give up on younger generations.  It's a way of saying to the victim, you don't matter.  People tend to be protective of themselves, and that same protection ought to extend to people who are weaker, or an easy target.  It really would lead to a more civilized and better world.