Friday, July 24, 2009

Some thoughts on the failures of sex education in the U.S.

I was going to simply make a note of this in the scratch pad; basically it was going to be a link dump for reference purposes, but I found myself writing a bit more. Thus I figure I could post it here and share it. Since this post is a bit long, I am putting the links to the articles I was reviewing over in the scratch pad, and I am writing my thoughts here. If you are one the puritanical ignoramuses I will be ranting about, you may want to skip reading the blog today. If you happen to think that young people should get all the education and information on sexual health available so they can stay healthy, safe, and happy, read on.

One of the things that has always irked me about the U.S. is the excessive puritanism when it comes to sexual health and education. People in this country would rather keep their kids ignorant, leading to higher teen pregnancy rates and more STDs because they don't want them to actually learn what healthy sexual expression is like. Heaven forbid the kids learn something like how to use a condom or other ways of sexual expression. The whole notion of abstinence education has pretty much been discredited, but large segments of the population keep favoring it, again illustrating willful ignorance. Yes, we do have to grant that the best way to avoid an unwanted pregnancy or an STD is to abstain. That is not in question. What is in question is what happens when a couple of teens do not abstain, and they lack the information to know what to do in that case. Just telling youngsters "don't do it" is not going to hack it. A few may abstain. Many will not. And for those that will not, I would rather they go in with their eyes open and with accurate, correct, up to date information that may very well save their lives.

Recently, while channel surfing, I came across a show on MTv called "16 and Pregnant." It's basically another reality show, only this time it features teens that, well, got pregnant way before they should have. In a way, it has all the elements of a bad reality show; it's like watching a train wreck. But that one time last week, I decided to take a look, or at least not move to the next channel so fast. On watching the show, I am not sure who, if anybody, I should be sympathetic for. On the one hand, I find it very hard to be sympathetic to the teen parents because, when they whine about how they can't see their friends anymore, or go out and party, or even graduate, my gut reply is "no one told to spread your legs" or "who made you think knocking up your girlfriend would make you more of a man?" Does it sound harsh? You bet it does. Reality is harsh. It's a jungle out there, and those kids are now paying the consequences because they decided to think with their crotches. And before anyone says that I am being mean, I will say a couple of things. One, I did not get anyone pregnant in high school, or college for that matter. Two, a lot of other young people don't get pregnant in high school. At the end of the day, no one is putting a gun to their heads and telling them to have a baby. Thus ends this part of the rant as we move on.

So, I find it hard to be sympathetic to the teens. But then we have the reality. They did it, and there is a baby on the way or already here. You have to deal with it. At least in the episode I saw, the guys were not particularly good about being men and taking responsibility. I was raised on a simple principle: if you are man enough to get a girl pregnant, you better be man enough to raise the child (I didn't say marry the girl. I said provide for the child. Different matter). To be perfectly honest, how some of those girls found those bozos attractive enough for a moment of passion is beyond me. I think it has to do with the common notion that girls, for some reason, tend to like the bad boys even when they know they are bad for them.

But as I look at things, I come to realize that a lot of those boys were not taught such a principle as owning up to their actions. Yes, we still need to teach such things to our boys. They do not learn it by osmosis. Along with that, a lot of the girls probably were not taught a lot either when it comes to avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. They probably had poor health education in their schools, if they had any. At home, they probably have poor role models as well. At least in one episode I observed, the father of one of the teens had been in and out of jail, and the mother was not much better. So clearly they were not going to get their education in the home. Therein comes the failure. Family, schools, and thus society failed those young people. Would they have all avoided pregnancy with a good education? Maybe, maybe not. But their odds would have been better. And at the end of the day, condemnation is not the appropriate response. You can lack some sympathy for their poor choices, but then you have to support them. The new young parents need all the help they can get to learn what many of us who are parents have learned. I also was concerned in watching the show how the degree of support from the parents varied widely from very supportive to outright hostile. Being supportive does not mean you approve of their wrong choice; the kids now have to bear the consequences of their bad choice. Being supportive does mean that: you will support them, reassure them they have a family they can draw upon, and you don't love your kids any less.

When it comes to the show, some may argue that it shows teen pregnancy as it is. It may show that to some extent, but it also exploits many of the stereotypes or images commonly associated with teen pregnancy: poverty, lack of education, dysfunctional families, so on. Such a show can very easily lead many who see it to be complacent when they say, "that could never happen to us" until it happens. And I could write another rant about "until it happens" but that would be another long post. The bottom line is that a lot more teen pregnancies could likely be avoided if parents and kids talked about sex and health in responsible, open way. When people finally take off the blinders and realize that their teens are sexual beings, and then educate them accordingly, we may actually get somewhere.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Booknote: 50 Ways to Support Gay and Lesbian Equality

I just made my notes on Good Reads for this book. It is an important book, so I am sharing the review here.

50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality: The Complete Guide to Supporting Family, Friends, Neighbors or Yourself 50 Ways to Support Lesbian and Gay Equality: The Complete Guide to Supporting Family, Friends, Neighbors or Yourself by Angela Watrous

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in LGBT issues and wondering how they can be supportive. For members of the community, this book can serve as affirmation. For their allies, this book provides lessons and advice. For anyone needing to learn more, this book will provide information and lessons. As the title suggests, this book gives 50 ways to support LGBT equality. Though the editors used "Lesbian and Gay" in the title, the book is more comprehensive and diverse looking at issues for transgender and bisexual people as well.

The book is arranged in sections, and each section contains a short essay. The authors are a diverse group representing various interests and communities. Some are activists. Others are authors. All have a common interest. At the end of each essay, specific suggestions are given for ways to support the cause. I borrowed this book from my library, but this is one I would like to have on my own reference shelf. It is informative and educational. In addition, the short sections make it a very easy book to read. You can read it through as I did, or you can browse and find what interests you. It is also a book that lends itself to multiple readings.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interesting in LGBT equality. If for no other reason because LGBT equality is our cause, and besides it being a matter of human decency, if we do not speak out, we may as well be the next ones to suffer discrimination. I think I would like to recommend this book to librarians as well in order to be better informed on the subject, and the book belongs in just about any library collection.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, July 17, 2009

Maybe she is not the girl for you?

I will admit that once in a while I read a blog post that falls under the inane category. We all do it. We may not intend to do it, but often, like a bad traffic wreck, you just have to look. This leads me to this post on "How to Lose Your Girlfriend" by Rhonda Kennedy. I thought to myself that it is a good thing I am not dating anymore (in the way singles do, that is. I still date the better half) because if I had a girlfriend who seemed so narcissistic and picky, I would run the other way. Go over and read the items on her list.

Now, here are my replies or thoughts to her list items:

  1. "Buy flowers for her twice a year." OK, I will grant that you should probably not be that predictable. However, I don't think the young lady should feel she is owed flowers either. A relationship is a lot more than whether you get them flowers or not. Over time I have learned what candies the better half likes, what wines, and what she likes to talk about other than work. While I get the point of not being predictable, remember that you can be unpredictable, or at least keep things interesting, if you take some time to do the little gestures. By the way, the better half likes flowers, preferably tiger lilies, usually any time not a holiday.
  2. "Send her calls to voicemail." We both work. If anything, my calls are the ones that often go to her voicemail. That is life. Get used to it. He is not going to drop anything for you no matter how good or hot you may be. If that is what you are expecting, then you may need to keep looking. You have a cellphone, I presume, that can tell you when you missed a call. Just be courteous to return the call. Simple. At the end of the day, it is a matter of knowing the boundaries and limits. Again, a matter of getting to know the other person, which does take time and effort.
  3. "Keep saying 'yes' to the guys." If he keeps saying "yes" to the guys, maybe the problem is not him. Maybe the problem is you, and you need to move on. But more basic, if you are expecting him to give up all your friends for you, you have a problem. You may need to seek professional help. Personally, the better half and I both have friends outside of the house. Granted, mostly work related, but neither expects us to drop them. Then again, we have a pretty healthy trust factor.
  4. "Leave the toilet seat up." This has to be the dumbest "way to lose your girlfriend" tip in the whole list. If this is really a deal breaker, and I was single, I would not want to be dating you. Grow up. I have news for you. You need the seat down. I need it up. You don't hear my whining when I find the seat down. I put it up and do my business. You can put it down and do yours. And if you are too stupid to check before you sit, and you fall in, you deserve it. I will grant that I do put the sit down; it's what I was taught to do since I was a child. But again, if this is a deal breaker for you, you have bigger issues.
  5. "Don't pop the question." She claims five years is a long time to be in a relationship without an engagement. Why don't you try six years, then come back and talk to us? We dated for six years (from '89 to 1995), and I pretty much did not pop the question until the last year. We have been married since, and we celebrated our 14 years of marriage this past June, which means we have been together for two decades, longer than many married couples who end up divorcing (maybe she got tired of him leaving the seat up?). For us, we were smart enough to know it would be forthcoming. Her point, which I think could have been said better, is not to lead someone along for a ride. But getting to know someone does take time. It is why various folks often advocate things like living together for a while, something we chose not to do even when our relatives were assuming we were "living in sin." I am not judging. For some people, that can and does work. And that is the other thing: if it is meant to be, it will work itself out. I did not have to pop the question. Everyone around us knew it was coming; we just had to find the right time. So, if you are the "I want to get married now," and you want a big rock to go with it, then odds are good the man will pretty much say sayonara babe. Why the hell would a guy want to be with such a high maintenance, needy person is beyond me. Then again, I am extremely easy going, and so is the better half.
The author's intentions is to convey that men should be considerate, honest, and loving. I cannot disagree with that. More men do need to be considerate, honest, and loving, but so do women. It does go both ways, and when there is an imbalance, like a woman who is all about "me, myself, and I," she is going to lose that boyfriend no matter what the guy may do.

I have offered my two cents. I think at the end of the day, things have worked out for us because we have been willing to work things out as needed. In a day when just throwing in the towel because of "incompatible differences" is so easy, we have lasted because we do love each other, we are honest with each other, and we are thoughtful. Like any marriage, we have our ups and downs, but then again, any relationship does as well. And I can tell you that leaving the seat up or down on the toilet is not something that will drive us apart. We worry about the important things.

Or in the words of Jerry Springer, we remember to "take care of yourselves and of each other."

Just a thought.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Giving you more signs that the economy is bad

Welcome to yet another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian, where we do our best to keep you informed so you can tell that the economy is bad. I have come across a good number of stories, so let's get right to it.

  • Things are getting bad on college campuses. Administrators are cutting funds left and right in the interest of saving money. They call it "fiscal responsibility." I call it short term thinking and ridiculous corner cutting. Case in point. Inside Higher Education reports that Florida State University has taken away its English professors' office telephones (the story they point to from the Tallahassee Democrat is here). So, if you are a student in English, and you need to get a hold of the teacher, hope that he or she was generous enough to give out his cellphone number. What I wondered when I read that was what professor in their right mind would give out their cell number to their students for class use? I am sorry, but if you expect me to use a cell phone for work, you better be paying for the phone and the minutes. My personal phone is exactly that, personal. And while there is no mention of taking away the professors' computers yet, which means students could use e-mail for instance, could that step really be far away?
  • You know things are going from bad to worse when loan sharks are asking for uncommon collateral on their loans. Reuters reports on a Latvian loan shark who asks for people's souls as collateral. Apparently it is working since, according to the article, he has had 200 people taking out loans so far since the business started two months ago. Actually, the deal is not too bad: "[Viktor] Mirosiichenko said his company would not employ debt collectors to get its money back if people refused to repay, and promised no physical violence. Signatories only have to give their first name and do not show any documents." So, he is not going to be sending people to break your legs if you don't pay. You just don't your soul back. And, catering to popular need, there is no background check.
  • Airlines are considering selling standing room only tickets. It is common knowledge that the airline industry is taking a big hit in this economy. Personally, there is no lost sympathy from me given their atrocious service and the fact that cattle gets better treatment in a slaughterhouse. The Chinese line Spring Airlines is proposing to offer "standing" seats. That way, they can "pack 40 percent more passengers onto a plane, trim costs by 20 percent and lower airfares for its customers." But hey, at least they have seatbelts. (via MSNBC here). Knowing that Americans in the United States tend to have a sheep mentality, if some airline started doing that here, they probably would line up to pay for it. After all, for all the horrible things airlines do, Americans just don't seem to be totally pissed off yet. Americans will put with a lot of bullshit for some reason. I mean, look at the poor politicians they elect (on both sides). But let us not digress.
  • Weddings can be expensive. So, according to The New York Times, it seems eloping is on the rise. That is unless you can get on some reality show, then you can let them pick up the tab for your wedding as long as you are willing to humiliate yourself in front of the cameras for anyone to see.
  • And you know things are bad when you have to worry about making sure you use the right paper for the right printer. A little library humor from Self Check. Actually this one hits pretty close to home.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Suggestions for new faculty hires at Texas Tech

I just saw the news that Alberto Gonzales was just hired to teach at Texas Tech. According to the Houston Chronicle, Mr. Gonzales .will teach one of those "special topics" courses "on contemporary issues in the executive branch." I do have to wonder how they let the man who helped craft torture policies for the previous administration and who suggested that there is no grant in the Constitution for habeas corpus, come and teach possible future lawyers. But then I thought that I could give some suggestions on other celebrities and prominent people out there that Texas Tech may want to consider adding to their faculty:

  • Michael Vick could teach the class on "Care and Management of Companion Animals" (yes, this is an actual course at Texas Tech. See here).
  • Bernie Maddoff could teach classes on finance and maybe a "special topics" class on financial ethics (actually, I looked in the Finance Department's page, and I did not find a single course description that somehow included ethics in finance. I am sure there is a class or two on ethics in philosophy, but it is clear we need to be teaching the future financiers how to have some common decency and ethics).
  • Ted Stevens could teach a "special topics" class in computer science. After all, he is an expert on the Internet (link to YouTube).
  • Sarah Palin could teach various courses. First, a geography class, since she can see Russia from Alaska. She could also teach on reading instruction (yes, there are courses on this) because when it comes to reading, she reads all sources (news sources anyhow. Link to her infamous by now interview with Katie Couric on YouTube).
  • Jayson Blair can be hired to teach in the school of journalism.
  • Mark Sanford could teach a class on travel and tourism. I am sure he has a good idea on how to get a good deal or two on overseas travel.
And I could go on and on. You get the idea. The point is I don't think that someone like Gonzales should be put in a position to educate future lawyers and politicians, unless it is to follow in his steps and the steps of the not so constructive administration he assisted. Would you put any of the above in the positions I suggest?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Booknote: ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History

I jotted down the notes over on my GoodReads page. I thought I would share this one since the book did have some interesting parts. Makes me want to go pour some tequila.

Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History by Gary Paul Nabhan

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
It was not a riveting book, but it was interesting in parts. I think readers may learn a thing or two about how tequila and mescal (remember, all tequila is a mescal, but not all mescal is tequila) are made and the very proud history of the product. This is written by botanists and agronomists, so the book does get a bit too technical at times in details about the different plants, cultivation, land, etc. For me, these were the slow parts, but I still learned something. The chapters dealing more with the lore, culture, and history were the ones that I found interesting.

Some notes for myself from the book:

The tequila hierarchy. I actually knew this before reading the book, but it is worth noting. You have tequila blanco (white/silver. This is the one that is not aged. The one you usually use for margaritas and cocktails), tequila oro (or joven. This one is colored by things like caramel or due to seasoning in oak barrels. This one is the popular one in the U.S., usually as a mixer or for shots), reposado( can have additives, but the main thing is it is "rested" in barrels for at least two months, but less than a year usually), and añejo (the extra-aged. It can have additives, but the deal is really in the aging from 12 months up).

Many tequilas are blended. Nothing wrong with that, but there is a clear difference. By law, if it is 100% blue agave (and this means no other sugars added), it has to be labeled as such. Therefore, that bottle of Cuervo, to pick a common example, is probably a blend of different agaves, and probably has additives (often sugars. By law, it has to be 51% agave). And boy, is there a diversity of agave plants. A lot of the reason that one type is used the most is pressure from the big companies for uniformity.

I found interesting how the image of tequila has changed to become more sophisticated. For a long time, Mexico did not really embrace tequila, as other than a cheap drink. Now, it is embracing it and seeing it as an element of national pride, but it was interesting to me because in large measure this was made possible by people outside of Mexico extolling the virtues of good tequila, then Mexicans abroad discovering this and telling their folks back home. "When you now give a Mexican an aged bottle of tequila, it is a prestigious present, reaffirming his identity" (74). As noted, that was not always the case.

On another little note, according to the book, Mexican connoisseurs tend to prefer white and reposado. Americans in the US prefer the oro. But the point at the end of the day is that tequila is not just for shots anymore. A good (premium) tequila is a pleasure to sip just as a good whiskey or cognac. A very premium tequila can set you back a thousand or two thousand bucks (and worth it if you can afford it, I suppose). You do have to note also that a lot of tequila's rise in popularity has been due to very good marketing techniques such as using artisans to make pretty bottles and labels in order to evoke certain images. The result of the growth in popularity, especially for the more premium brands, is that "tequilas have now displaced whiskeys as the most frequently consumed spirit in the United States" (81). Overall, read the labels, do some research if need be, then buy accordingly.

If you want to learn more about this spirit that seems to be overtaking the United States, this is a pretty good place to start.

View all my reviews.

Some links for the 4th of July 2009

In the United States, the 4th of July is Independence Day. Where I come from, it's basically when the Americans celebrate their independence, and depending who you ask, they may point out how ironic given that the U.S. keeps a colony (namely Puerto Rico, but as I said, it depends on who you ask).

Anyhow, in the interest of the holiday, here are some links for your edification and/or amusement:

Eating? Here are some ideas:
Are you drinking this 4th of July? Please do so in moderation. Here are some places to get some cocktail and drink ideas:
Of course, this selection would not be complete without a word or two about the fireworks:

Whatever you do, do not follow the example of the LAAF (Liberation Army Against Freedom) when it comes to fireworks and explosives. It is not very politically correct, but it is funny. For example:

And finally, it is said that the Declaration of Independence may have been meant to be performed rather than just read on a text. Here we have a dramatic reading (if you are impatient, the reading itself starts at 4:45, but watching the beginning is well worth it too. Just watch the whole thing). I leave my three readers with this, and for the ones in the U.S. (or Americans abroad), I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July.

Declaration of Independence reading video found via YesButNoButYes.

And for reference purposes, here is the post on the library display we did for the 4th of July and American Independence, from my workplace's blog.

Update note (7/8/09): I came across this after I made the post, but I am sure someone probably experienced one of the experiences on the list. Here are "7 Things That Will Happen at Your Family 4th of July BBQ." (via Holy Taco). In my case (not this year, but in the past, I have had the older relative who would say a racist thing or two. The stories I could tell).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian Friends 2009

July 1st is Canada Day, also known as Fête du Canada. That is Canada's national holiday, and it celebrates the anniversary of the British North America Act that united Canada as a single country of four provinces in 1867.

Here are a few links so you can learn more:

Here are some Canadian links:

And finally, a little humor, because a lot of us may want to be Canadian for a Day. In my case, there are days when I wish it could be for more than a day, but I digress. Anyhow, it is a catchy tune:

A hat tip for the video to Stephen's Lighthouse.

As a side note for myself, here is the post I made for my library's blog. It is a bit more basic than the one here, and obviously, I left out any possible humor out since it is the official library blog.