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Posts Tagged ‘personal’

So, about a year ago I wrote a blog called the Power of Words.  In that blog I discussed how words can be offensive to some and not to others.  Here is an excerpt from that blog:

“The response is also important in the power of words.  If I make a joke, or use a word that I do not think is offensive, but you are offended/hurt, does it really matter if I think you over-reacted?  This is a line you will have to draw for yourself, but for me it matters, especially for those I care about.  It is rarely my intention to offend, so yes, I think it matters a lot.  But, if you are easily offended, I would caution you to not GIVE power to so many things.  It is not a good life to lead.”

As a result of comments received on my previous blog “Mindreading 101”  I am inspired to write this blog.  It is interesting, because I am often surprised what elicits comments to my blogs.  Most people who comment on my blogs do so directly.  In other words, they do not use the comment box on the blog, but will post to me directly.  Overall comments are positive, but every so often, I get comments from readers that clearly did not like my blog.

The first blog to receive a negative comment was my blog where I discussed naked old dudes in the gym.  The negative response I received on that blog was shocking.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a discussion of naked fat old dudes at the Y would be offensive to anyone.  I was simply relaying an experience that I have on a regular basis at the gym.  An experience that I find humorous, but clearly not everyone thought it was funny.

The second blog to receive a surprising number of negative comments was my blog on how I believed it was wrong to poop in public.  As a matter of fact, this person in response to my blog called me a “moron”.  I was shocked!  I of course responded to his comment, and then read their blog, on … you guessed it, pooping and farting.  The blog is called, He Shat She Shat and I actually recommend it.  The positive thing that came out of this altercation, is that we actually discussed the disagreement in a civil manner, and although I still disagree with pooping in public, I would have a beer or coffee with this person anytime.  I would never share a bathroom with them, but coffee, yes.  The bottom line is that disagreements are healthy, and should never be shied away from.  It is how we grow as human beings.

The latest blog to receive negative comments was Mindreading 101.  Again, I was shocked.  I think I was shocked because in that blog (and I had to read it again to remember what I said) I did not say anything new or anything beyond what you would see or hear in a sitcom or comedy show.  As a matter of fact, one commenter compared it to race stereotypes, which I do not agree with, but you can read their commentary for yourself and decide.  The reality is that we all have our buttons.  As I tried to point out in the first Power of Words, and I reiterate here, is that we often find things offensive that are most personal to ourselves.  I will give you an example:  A person I know has a family member with severe autism.  This person used to listen and love the comedy of Carlos Mencia.  If you have never heard Carlos Mencia, I will tell you that this comedian has a lot of jokes about races.  Many of the jokes are quite offensive.  Now my friend, who is smart, a wonderful person, and is in my opinion NOT a racist, had no problem with the race jokes, but did have a problem with a joke told about an autistic person.  My friend now no longer listens to Carlos Mencia.  Why didn’t my friend stop listening to Mencia after the race jokes?  Simple, the race jokes were not a personal issue to them, autism was.

Mindreading 101 was never meant to be taken seriously.  Like most of my blogs, they are for entertainment purposes only.  It is a common thing that we do, play on stereotypes.  It is probably not a good thing, but it is common.  Chick flicks rarely paint men in positive lights.  And this brings me to a very SERIOUS point about selective offense.  I think we all have to be careful to what we openly complain or show uproar about.  I would bet every dime in my bank account, that if I had written the second blog (Mindreading 251 which is about men being stupid: Coming Soon)  first, I would not have received a single negative comment about making fun of men.  My point is this:  Pointing out the wrong in writing, or speech, or behavior as offensive is a good thing, and I truly appreciate it.  But don’t be selective, and overlook other offenses, such as race, sexual preference, religion, or political viewpoints.  Wouldn’t that be the definition of hypocrisy?  To be offended by a gender stereotype, but not be offended when someone calls a Democrat a Godless tree hugger or a Republican a racist.  Or even learning about the Indian race from the TV show, Outsourced on NBC.  Something to think about.

As side note, what does it mean for society when we can no longer laugh at ourselves?  Are we becoming too serious as society where everything must be politically correct and have zero offense to all people?  I don’t have the answer to these questions, but I do think about it a lot.

So, where does that leave us?  For me, it is a formal apology to all my readers that were offended by my last or any blog that I have written, maybe this one.  I am sorry.  As I stated before, I care about my readers, and have no desire to offend you.  And I thank you for commenting and speaking to me openly and honestly.  I can’t promise that you will never be offended again, but I can promise, I will continue to try to be sensitive to my audience.  Nonetheless, I am glad you are reading, I am glad you are thinking, and I hope you are growing.

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This blog was supposed to be Mindreading 251, but based on reading the latest comments, I felt the need to write this one.  So stay tuned for the next gender-biased blog.  Hopefully it will stir up laughter rather than anger, but you never know.  I will say this, I can’t wait until I am an old retired guy on the golf course.  Because if the guys I play with (most over 70) at my home course are any indication, I have a care-free, say-whatever-the-hell-I-feel-like life in store for me.  Awesome!  I’m just sayin …

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So, I am not what you might call an avid reader, but every so often I read a book that I can’t get off my mind.  The book I just completed is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Everyone should read this book, and I mean everyone.  It was actually first mentioned to me by my ex-wife’s brother and then later by my sister.  This is usually what it takes to get me to read a book for pleasure, multiple recommendations.

The heart of the book explores how and why people become successful.  And as the title of the book implies, people who are significantly more successful than most.  Are they successful because of innate abilities or is there more to their story.  For example, many professional hockey players are big, strong and very agile on skates.  But did you also know that a large proportion of them are born in January, February, and March?  Is this a coincidence?  If you read the book you will find that it is not.  Another example, and there are many, is of Bill Gates.  Yes, Bill Gates is über smart, but had it not been for key events in his life, he may never have been nearly as successful.  Or how being Korean, and more specifically the Korean culture may have been responsible for multiple airplane crashes.

I highly recommend this book.  It has made me rethink education, pathways to success, and the role of environment and culture in one’s potential for success.   The book even has me consider why some people live long lives in spite of poor habits, such as alcohol, over-eating, and other unhealthy lifestyles.  In the vein of this book, I have considered my own story of success and whether I am a product of innate abilities, luck, or a series of opportunities that had they not occurred, I would not be where I am today.

Whether you would consider my story a successful one will certainly depend on your perspective.  Let’s consider for the sake of argument that my story is indeed successful.  I am a university professor.  I earned my bachelor’s at UC Berkeley, PhD from the University of Kansas, and held a postdoctoral position at Northwestern University.  If you know me I think you would say I was intelligent.  I am fortunate to remember things that many people forget, and often after only hearing it once.  One of the things that I believe I excel at is looking at a problem, analyzing the constituents of the problem and coming to a solution, both quickly and to the point of resolving the problem.  It is these characteristics that make it no surprise that I am in science.  I have gone to some of the finest institutions in the world.  And earned a 4.0 while working towards my PhD.  Based on this information it would be no surprise to you that I am a Physiology professor and that my story of success is due to my intelligence and academic pedigree, but you would be wrong.

Of my two brothers and sister, why am I the only one with a PhD?  For that matter, why was I one of the first, if not the only member of my extended family to earn a PhD.  It certainly wasn’t because of intelligence that is an outlier to the rest of my family.  I assure you, my family has the intellectual capacity similar to most.  But I do believe there were a few key events in my life that were unique:

1.  I went to a private Christian elementary school, my siblings did not.  My class sizes were small.  I received not only more attention than my public school counterparts, but I received specialized attention.  Upon arriving at home, my mom would ask if I had homework.  I would reply that I did, but I completed it in class.  She would ask me if I listened to the teacher while I was working on my homework.  I replied, I did not need to, I already understood the material.  My mother responded to this information by requesting I be given more difficult work.  The school placed me in a small group of students that were more advanced in the class and tailored a program to our skills.  Could this have happened at a public school?  I eventually advanced beyond small group and, again at my mother’s behest, I was advanced to the next grade.  A consequence of this decision is that I graduated high school at 16.  Two things came of this event:  One, I was in an institution that was flexible enough to accommodate my situation and secondly, my mom taught me a very valuable lesson, complacency is NOT acceptable.

2.  My parents divorced.  Now, I am not praising divorce, but this event had some very interesting unintended consequences.  My mom had to leave the house and with me, find a place that she could afford.  We had to move across town and lived in a two bedroom condominium.  For a time, my brother and I shared a room.  Interestingly, this condo was in a “poor” part of a very rich neighborhood.  We were now in one of the best school districts in the state.  I went to a high school that was only two to three years old when I first set foot in the building.  Had I gone to the junior high and senior high of my siblings, the age difference, class size difference, and environment was as different as night and day.

3.  A professor at Berkeley that taught me all about graduate school.  I walked into the late Professor Ned Johnson’s office with one question in mind, “How do I do what you do?”  He told me.  He wrote my first letter of recommendation.  He helped me obtain two more.  He helped me get my first job after college, a Park Ranger on Alcatraz Island as the Natural Resources Coordinator for the Bay District.  On Alcatraz I met a professor from the University of Kansas who invited me to become a graduate student in his lab.  He and the chair of the department at the time fast tracked me into the program on probation.  I had a 2.6 out of Berkeley and so did not meet the requirements of the graduate school.  Their argument, I was a minority with potential.  As mentioned above, I graduated with a 4.0 and later that chair became my PhD advisor.  He studied marmots.  I now study marmots.

These are just three examples, but there are plenty more, for example, my entire family is made up of people who never give up and complacency is not an option.  What is your story?  Have you considered all the things that have happened in your life that has allowed you to be where you are?  The opportunities?  Maybe even opportunities that you missed?  As an educator I now think of students not as smart or dumb, but hopefully more of people who if given the opportunity can be anything they want to be.  What you will find upon reading the book, Outliers, is that the stories of success are not outliers at all, but individuals that were given opportunities to be successful.  Kind of encouraging isn’t?

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I had a fantasy football draft this morning at Hooters.  I have been in this league for several years now, and all 12 members take it very seriously.  I was on the waiting list to get in this league.  This league is serious.  It was my first time at Hooters.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it did not live up to the hype.  Don’t get me wrong, lots of squished together boobies, and tight clothing, and short shorts, but for whatever reason, I expected more.  Not a happy ending, but more.  Nonetheless, isn’t it illegal to not hire someone based on their looks.  There were no uggos, not one.  Not even a chubby girl.  I’m not complaining, and I am certainly not writing my congressman, but I would think there would be at least one lawsuit.  Just one chunky, mediocre, Hooters girl wannabe lawsuit.  I’m just sayin …

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