The MOVEMBER Experiment (sort of)

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November has come and gone and you probably heard about a lot of men doing the Movember thing…it’s where they grow a mustache in an effort to bring awareness to prostate cancer. I think it is sort of the equivalent of everything turning pink during breast cancer awareness month, only not as widely advertised. If you want to know more about Movember, check out the Movember Foundation. Apparently the “rules” say it should be a mustache, but I think it should be expanded to all facial hair, but what do I know?

Anyway, that brings me to my experiment. I don’t do mustaches…I have grown out the facial hair in past and shaved all but the mustache and I just couldn’t walk out of the bathroom with that look on my face. I mean, my ugly mug doesn’t need any more help in disrupting traffic and scaring small children. So, why punish people with a mustache hovering between my nose and upper lip?

I, therefore, have taken it upon myself to expand Movember to include all facial hair. Now, that being said, it isn’t all that unusual for me to allow the hair to grow a little during the winter months for short periods of time because I get lazy. I don’t really like shaving, so it is a good excuse to just let myself, I mean face, go. This year I had a purpose, a goal, if you will. I wanted to try a look I had not done previously but I know my dad has a one time and, apparently, was rather popular in the past.

The photo above shows the four phases of the month. #4 is the standard beard and doesn’t take much upkeep. I have been known to wear this look for weeks, so it wasn’t all that much of a stretch for this little experiment. #3 is also an old reliable for me. I have also been known to wear this on my face for weeks at a time and, again, not much of a stretch.

That brings me to #2. I am talking about them in reverse order here because that is really the order I wore them on my noggin. I had never worn #2 in the past, but because it wasn’t much of a change from #3 I thought it was a relatively easy look to pull off. I have to say that it wasn’t much of a favorite among the family or co-workers. I didn’t really like it all that much either since my two-tone facial hair seemed to get highlighted by this particular iteration of cowboy style. Maybe if I had been living in the dusty southwest and had a cowboy hat on I could have made it work.

Finally, that brings me to #1. Oh, the Mutton Chops….yeah, I can see why these are no longer popular. The looks I got from strangers…perhaps they thought I had escaped from a mental institute. The looks I got from co-workers…well, that mostly falls into the camp of “So, when are you going to change that?” (I am not sure if they were talking about my facial hair or my face.) Last but not least, the looks I got from my family. To quote my sister, “It is slightly entertaining, but mostly just creepy.” Of course, my mom just puts both her hands on my cheeks and says, “When is this going to go away?” Ah, but my wife, but especially my wife…the look of horror on her face when I came out of the bathroom before heading off to work said it all! She actually stated, “I can’t believe you are going to leave the house like that.” Mind you, I only sported this look for FOUR DAYS, but she definitely expressed over that time the desire for it to never be repeated again.

I guess I’ll never do that again…or perhaps I will. It’s all in fun and, after all, it’s just hair and it, unfortunately, just grows back. So next year, how about I go with the Friendly Mutton Chops? (you can look that up if you like)

What do you think? Do you participate or know someone who does? What facial hair style to you like, either to try or like on men?

“Never again”…and the world stands by

The news about the Rohingya population in Myanmar (Burma) continues to astound me. As someone who has taught about genocide to high school students, this struggle for life is heartbreaking. I wrote about genocide in the past (Duck, Duck, Genocide) and it would appear that the United States (and the West) is taking the same position is has in recent years, calling genocide “ethnic cleansing” just so it doesn’t have to do anything about it. The United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”  is pretty clear, but there are too many ways to avoid committing to stopping genocide. This is one area where we seem to pick and choose how we will respond – sometimes we do something, most of the time we do nothing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, when he said “Never Again” after the Holocaust, continue to ring hollowly in the collective memory of the world. I would venture to say that we have not learned from history and we are doomed to repeat it, at the expense of humanity.

Here are a few articles to get you up to speed if you need to know more about this:

No Such Thing as Rohingya: Myanmar Erases a History

Rohingya Crisis: US calls Myanmar action “ethnic cleansing”

US Denounces Violence Against Rohingya as “Ethnic Cleansing”

When will the world stop sitting back and watching as peoples, and histories, are erased?

 

 

 

Milestone – 100

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The above congratulatory image came across my blog notifications with my last post and I have to say I was a little surprised to see it. I hadn’t been following my stats that closely since I hit the last milestone so I am happy to see I have lasted this long, though admittedly I probably would have gotten here faster had I not taken nearly a year-long break.

I started this blog on a whim and have found that I really enjoy it. I enjoy writing. I get to say what I want or highlight something I think is worthy of people knowing; if people are paying attention and are interested in my words, well that is just a bonus! My wife thinks me spending time on this thing is silly but, oh well, you can’t win them all over…

These days I do most of my writing while I am at work (not while working!), during my lunch hour. It doesn’t give me a lot of time to write and it takes longer than I would like to get some things finished and published, but it is usually quiet and I have a little time to focus on something I like to do. I guess in some ways, it relaxes me.

Anyway, to mark the occasion I thought I would review some of the stats I have accumulated over the last 100 posts and see where I have come from, which might just give me some direction in where I am going…or not. I read lots of blogs and there are so many out there with a singular focus, but that is not something I have ever wanted to do. Maybe that is why my “readership” is low, but who knows for sure. Maybe I just don’t choose topics that people are interested in. Either way, I write about things I care about and if others care too, great. If not, that’s ok too.

TOP 10 (Views)

These are based on views, but I am sure not all of these are based on “reads” so much as some may have something to do with hits because of “image searches.” But I guess I’ll never really know for sure.

  1. Redbox Chat – Customer Service Lost in Translation
  2. Milestone – 50
  3. Parental Detention (or, I’m Making a Point for My Child)
  4. Let’s Review…
  5. Dollar Shave Club: Review
  6. About    (apparently people wonder who I am?)
  7. Don’t Be So Bossy!
  8. Easter is Better Than Christmas – Why?
  9. Goodbye, Gramps
  10. “Can you please call the police”

TOP 10 (My Preference)

These are the posts I enjoyed writing the most and believe they are worth reading if you give them a gander or two, but that’s just me…have a click and let me know what you think!

  1. Goodbye, Gramps
  2. Gaffigan and Giggles
  3. I Kissed a Girl, and I Liked It!
  4. Eject “God Bless America” from Baseball.
  5. Bullying – Do Children Need to be Taught to Cope Better?
  6. Pet Perturbed
  7. The American Oligarchy
  8. Duck, Duck, Genocide
  9. Thankful for a Gift
  10. The Debate: What is “Life”?

Scope (or reach)

One thing that continues to amaze me is the scope (or reach) of this little blog. It amazes me that something I post could be read or viewed by so many people around the globe. I am always interested to look at the little map of views and see where people are “checking in” from. I know the internet makes things more accessible and I shouldn’t be that amazed but it just fascinates me. Looking at the stats for this particular category I can see that I my blog has been viewed from 96 different countries!

That is a pretty amazing stat to me. Of course, a majority of the views have been from North America and Europe, but there are some little countries in remote places too. Pretty cool and I hope the views from different countries continues to grow so I can add even more countries to the list. Is it possible to get at least one view from every country?

Readers/Subscribers

Here is one place I hope to grow, and quickly! More than half of the people who are listed as “followers” are from my Facebook friends. That’s great and probably most of my views come from things I post that are also posted on Facebook. But, I would like to get the number of “followers,” real followers, up. If I am reading the stats correctly, I have about 155. Not bad for someone who doesn’t post on a regular schedule, nor has a specific topic to focus on, but I would love to grow that number. If anyone has a suggestion or three about how to do that, I would love to hear from you!

Closing thoughts…

Thanks for indulging and reading my review of the first 100 posts. I appreciate everyone who has stopped by, and especially those who keep stopping by. You all give me a little jolt of confidence each time you do.

If you have been around for a while or have read more than a few words on here, I would like some feedback. What do you like? What do you not like? What do you think I should focus on, if anything? Where should I go with this from here? I am sure you all have ideas about what you might like to see more of, or less of…so shoot me some feedback. I’ll listen, I promise!

Thanks.

Ryan

Goodbye, Gramps

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I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. It was just a matter of time, but it’s a time you never want to arrive.

He turned 91 just this past September. He’d had several episodes of going in and out of the hospital, but he always came back out – sometimes not quite the same as he went in.

I have been extremely blessed with something I know a lot of my friends and acquaintances haven’t had – until last week, all four of my grandparents were still living. It is something really special for someone to know their grandparent(s) into adulthood. Many people only have vague memories of their grandparents while they were children, or visited so infrequently they never really got to know them. Often, the memories aren’t really memories so much as they are memories given/created by others via conversations and stories, pictures, or maybe a video. So, I am keenly aware of how lucky I have been.

I am struggling with what to write as memories come rushing back to flood my mind, and my eyes, with happiness and joy.

I guess I don’t really need to say much about those.

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I told him to smile for a selfie…this is what I got!

I just need a place to express remembrance and appreciation for a man who loved his wife (their 69th wedding anniversary was the day before his passing) and his children. For raising my dad in a loving home. For raising his family in a home of Christian faith and passing that legacy on to the rest of his family. For working hard, at two jobs (a fruit orchard and a factory) and teaching his family the value of hard work. For having a wry sense of humor and a mischievous smile. For all the time spent camping, and fishing, and playing cards, and laughing. For all the stories of life on the farm. For going back to the family farm in South Dakota and telling us about his younger life in a sod house on the prairie. For the story of outrunning and catching a jack rabbit in the orchard. For the times of sharing meals. For the quiet times sitting on the patio, sharing conversation, a sunset, a cool breeze, and sometimes even a beer. For the garden goodies he grew every year. For his mealtime prayer that never changed and I will forever hear in my head, “God is great and God is good and we thank Him for this food.”

Now, he is home in Heaven with his Savior. He is in His presence, praising the One who gave him life. He is whole again.

I am sure he is now fishing, gardening and farming, playing cards, talking with his parents and the son he lost to cancer while a toddler. He is hanging out and laughing with the siblings that have gone on before him. He is, no doubt, preparing a place for those who will come after him as well – because that is the type of person he was.

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Tools of my grandfather – bench vise and a pole saw he used on the farm.

Saying goodbye to Gramps is, after all, not really a goodbye. It’s just a “see you later.” Cliche, I know, but I believe it really is the truth. I know that one day we will sit together again and do the things we enjoyed here on Earth, because we have been given and accepted a promise.

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A few quiet moments with Gramps, hours before he joined his Heavenly Father.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I hope you have that knowledge too. The knowledge and assurance that death is not the end for a loved one, or for yourself. That one day you will be reunited, because it sure takes the sting out of death.

Am I still sad? Yes, of course. Not because I have no hope, but because of the missed opportunities I could have had with him or the opportunities my own kids will miss too. But, with the sadness comes rejoicing as well. How can I not be happy for him as he continues to live, living in triumph over death? There is still a funeral and memorial to come, but for now this will do. Goodbye is so hard to say, and yet…

“Welcome to Heaven, Harold! You are going to be missed down there because you were really loved. But don’t you worry, your family knows where you are and they are celebrating too. We have lots of time and I’ll show you around in a bit. But first, how about I show you a thing or two at canasta…”

Goodbye, Gramps.

Check Your Bias: Media Evaluation

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I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

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AllSides.com site banner

An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

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An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

In the days of outrage…

…why not jump on this bandwagon?

Since everyone is mad or offended about or by anything and something, all day, every day, I found and issue we all should be totally outraged about. Let’s add this to the outrageous pile of outrages so everyone can be outraged out of their minds! I mean, since we are all picking things to be outraged about I am going to pick this – motorcycle helmets.

 

 

Well, not just any motorcycle helmets. I am talking about the ever popular NAZI “replica” helmets. I am sure you have seen them and maybe didn’t even know they were a replica of something so abhorrent. I would even venture a guess that some of the people using them as a lid on their motorcycle noggin probably don’t even know what they are wearing. But then, I might just be naive…

It’s weird how you start seeing something everywhere when you start paying attention. I live in the northwest corner of the country so this isn’t exactly the time for motorcycle weather and yet I seem to have noticed at least one helmet per day over the last couple of weeks. I have seen them on heads. I have seen them illustrated on the back windows of pickup trucks. I have seen them in ads for motorcycles.

They aren’t real expensive, I guess, at least in comparison to some of the other helmets available. Maybe that’s why they are so popular. I have no idea really, so I am just speculating. I found them at one website with a rather curious sales description:

“German Motorcycle Helmets have been specifically designed to look like the war helmets worn by German soldiers during World War I and World War II. These rebellious-looking lids are a cool and lightweight option for protecting your noggin in style..German-style helmets are a lightweight and stylish way to fulfill the requirements of the helmet law…And most of our German helmets are classically clean in style because like a plain, black leather jacket, these helmets don’t need bright colors and flashy graphics to make them cool…”

*Emphasis above is mine.*

Should we all be upset about this? Aren’t we supposed to hate everything related to Germany (really?), Nazis, fascism, racism, murder, etc.? Shouldn’t we be offended by this because, you know, it is easy to be offended about?

Anyway, if you gotta be outraged about something, this is a great next target. What do you think? We can eradicate this menace by running every motorcycle rider we see wearing this style of helmet right off the road! That’ll show ’em! Besides, obviously someone who wears this helmet is a nationalistic racist and we are only doing the world a favor, right?

*Trigger warning* This topic may be sensitive and possible outrage you. Find a safe space and rock back and forth while humming lightly should this actually occur. May I suggest a dark, quiet room in a corner away from all of humanity?

Post Script: OOPS! I screwed up the trigger warning…I guess that should have been at the top of this post.

P.P.S. (Post post script?) I don’t really care about this topic. It was just something to write about and maybe would generate some conversation somewhere, maybe. Again, maybe I am naive. Oh well…

Positive Post-it

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What if you were given a fresh, new pad of Post-it notes that came with a requirement?

Let’s pretend I just gave you a pad and the requirement is that you could only use the notes to pass out encouragement to others, whenever and wherever you can.

  1. How would you use them? Sign them or make them anonymous?
  2. Where would you use them? Leave them in the open or hide them to be found as a surprise another day?
  3. Who would you leave notes for? Obviously you have friends and family that could use some encouragement, but have you ever considered leaving encouragement for strangers – maybe on the bus, at the restaurant, while you are shopping, or at work? Why?? Well, maybe the stranger did or said something that you noticed and deserves a compliment. There could be any number of reasons, but the cool thing is you get to decide.

With all the negativity floating around in the world these days, it would be nice to spread some love and encourage people instead of tearing them down. What do you think?

Are you up to the challenge?

**NOTE** Comment what you would do, or who you would encourage in the comments below. OR, if you want, I would really like if you could take a photo of your notes and post them in the comments. Let’s build a “blog post of positive!”

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

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Rather, they have been here all along and top administration officials in previous Executive branch positions have either ignored them and benefited from it, or allowed them and benefited from it. Either way, the evidence that the Russians are playing freely on American soil and in American cyberspace appears to be mounting – and this isn’t just a Trump issue, this is an issue that was prevalent long before him.

The interesting thing is this all took place during James Comey’s FBI. Another big questions is, if this was going on while he was the head of the FBI, why was this issue not raised during the past administration, like screamed from a mountain top! Or why wasn’t it raised during the presidential election when a Clinton was running and clearly benefitted from the arrangement outlined in the article?

There are a lot of things the need to be questioned here AND why isn’t this all over the media?

See the article and link below:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Source: FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow | TheHill

And an UPDATE:

Senate Judiciary opens probe into Obama-era Russian nuclear bribery case

 

What if you could rewrite your life?

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Ever have one of those days?

Ever have one of those days where the “What ifs…” begin to wander in and you start to think about what you would have done differently? What you would do if you could go back and start over?

I am not having one of those days; but, as my pen lay on the notepad in front of me, I had a moment of creative inspiration with an app on my phone so I decided to record it and create. I guess, for a moment, I was being philosophical.

So, tell me, have you had one of those days? Or, moments? Tell me your “blank page” moment/story in the comments – what would you do if you could rewrite your life?