Sun(Fun)day Night Post – Do You Have a Buddy Bench?

04-10-A

It’s a bit late on this Sunday night, so I have to keep this brief. While I was looking through my digital edition of the Washington Post over breakfast this morning, I came across this article which made me smile: Kids Don’t Have to Be Lonely at Recess Anymore Thanks to This Little Boy and His ‘Buddy Bench.’

I’m not an elementary school teacher, so I don’t know if this concept and these objects have widely caught on in the U.S.A. This was the first time I’ve heard about this myself. Do forgive me if this is widely known and I’m just a “johnny-come-lately” with it.

The concept is simple – it’s a bench where a student can go and sit during recess if he or she feels lonely and unable to connect with others. Children are coached to pay attention to the bench and, if a kid is sitting there by himself or herself, go over and invite him or her to join a group and participate.

The boy pictured above is credited with bringing this simple, yet powerful concept to the U.S. According to the article, he and his family were planning on moving to Germany and he was worried that he’d feel alone at a new school. When he toured a possible school for him, he was reassured when he noticed the “buddy bench” in their recess area. While his family didn’t move overseas, he has been able to help create this place of hospitality at many schools around the U.S.

It’s a great idea and it seems to be catching on. A Google Search brings up all kinds of images of “buddy benches.” Here’s a few of my favorite ones:

So does your school or workplace have a “buddy bench” – a place for one to go in order to show that he or she feels lonely or disconnected? And does your school or workplace have a strong enough culture of hospitality that kids or adults would invite the “buddy bench” sitter off of the seat and into the group?

Sun(Fun)day Night Post: How to Watch the Oscar Nominated Films and Who Should Have Won Best Picture

Oscar List

Since you and I may be watching the 88th Academy Awards tomorrow evening, I thought I’d get this post completed early. Plus, you’ll find a link below which both ranks all of the films nominated this year and tells you how/where to watch them now!

Or perhaps, you feel like me and may very well #boycottoscars because this year it’s blatantly #oscarssowhite . It may be useful to watch just to see how Chris Rock handles this reality.

If you’re not too busy planning what to teach in next week’s classes, you may want to hustle and watch some of the nominees between now and about 8pm Sunday night.

 Vox (pictured above) has a very cool article in which their film critic both ranks all of the nominees across the categories and lists where/how to view each one right now. For even more fun(ctionality), you can filter the films various ways and reconfigure the list as you wish.

If you like speculating on the Best Picture Oscar woulda, coulda, shoulda’s  check out this fun post from the Washington Post.  Two film critics go through the Best Picture nominees and winner for each of the last 40 years. They then speculate on who should have won each year. A few times they believe the actual best picture of the year won the Best Picture Oscar, but more often than not, this is not the case.

Here’s one year with which I really agree with their conclusion:

Oscars 1981

Can you guess which film my eleven year old self LOVED in 1981 (and my 46 year old self still loves) and which one I couldn’t even sit through today – 35 years later!

And who starred in Chariots of Fire anyway?  Oh yeah, Ben Cross, Ian Charleston and Nigel Havers.

uncommoncommunion and Today’s Border Mass

Uncommon Communion 2-17-16

I introduced my personal blog, uncommoncommunion last summer. Unfortunately, I’ve not had much opportunity to post there in the months since.

Today, in honor of Pope Francis’ historic mass this evening on the Mexico/U.S. border, I’ve posted entitled: “Pope Francis, Today’s Border Mass and St. John Paul’s Letters.” 

Please spend a few minutes checking it out and please bookmark and follow uncommoncommunion as I plan to post there much more frequently.

Stuff You Should Know: One Global Time Zone and Permanent Calendar

Calendar

In place of the usual Friday FunLink and since it’s been exactly a month since I’ve offered a Stuff You Should Know post, I’m shifting gears today.

A short while ago I saw an interesting article today in the Washington Post entitled “The Radical Plan to Destroy Time Zones.” It fits into the category of the SYSK feature because Johns Hopkins professors Hanke and Henry are seeking to implement this unification of global time as well as a permanent calendar (see above for a screen shot of it) on January 1, 2018.

The WaPo interview doesn’t quite flesh out the day to day changes that a single time would require except to observe:

While it may ultimately simplify our lives, the concept would require some big changes to the way we think about time. As the clocks would still be based around the Coordinated Universal Time (the successor to Greenwich Mean Time that runs through Southeast London) most people in the world would have to change the way they consider their schedules. In Washington, for example, that means we’d have to get used to rising around noon and eating dinner at 1 in the morning. (Okay, perhaps that’s not that big a change for some people.)

One of the first shifts would be to go completely to 24 hour time as “am” and “pm” would just be confusing. With this in place, the mind-shift would take time (pun intended) but it wouldn’t be impossible. To translate the example above, our rising time would be about 1200 (6am) with dinner time 13 hours later at 100 (7pm) and bed time 3 hours after this at 400 (10pm). Most digital watches can already be set to show 24 hour time and adding a second set of numbers to analog clocks is commonly done as well. Clocks would still run at the same rate with the only shift at 0000 UTC on 1 Jan 2018 in which every clock in the world would jump simultaneously to 0000. Back end tech work would have to be done on computer clocks, but we already showed something similar could be achieved a decade and a half ago with the Y2K fix.

As the proponents in the article note:

I (Henry) recall when my elderly mother in Canada said to me, oh, it was hot today, 30 degrees! If she could change [from measuring temperature in Fahrenheit to measuring it in Celsius], everyone can change!

Yeah, we tried that Imperial to Metric switch back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and how did that work out for the U.S.? Yet, ambitious people with websites keep trying…

The proposal for a new calendar, dubbed the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar has it’s own Wikipedia page, running example of the new time/date, and articles in Live Science and Wired dating back to the end of 2011. And since the proponents acknowledge that there isn’t any world governing body to implement these changes, this massive (but sensible) shift would have to come through a global on-line/social media campaign. So, here I am doing my part.

Two advantages that I see – no more Friday the 13th ever again and my birthday (Jan 20th) would always fall on a Friday (yes, bummer to all of those whose birthdays would forever fall on a Monday!).

And a disadvantage for some – Halloween would have to be moved to a different date as 31 October would cease to exist. This is not as hard as one might think as we already regularly do it here in Central Ohio – to the bewilderment and ridicule of even people like Stephen Colbert:

 

Friday FunLink: Snakes? No – A Turkey on a Plane

Turkey on a Plane

I didn’t have a Friday FunLink until a few minutes ago. I was eating lunch (fortunately not a turkey sandwich) and going through my many daily emails from the Washington Post and found the photo above along with an astounding true story.

You’ve heard of Turkey in the Straw. Here’s Turkey on the Plane

It’s a great article and the photo of the turkey being transported in a wheelchair is precious.

The best quote from the article is:

Tom Bunn, a former commercial pilot who now runs an organization to help people overcome their fear of flying, told Fox News that it is quite easy to get a therapist note for such occasions.

“Any therapist can sign off on any kind of animal,” Bunn said. “Science has proven that when dogs look at you with total devotion, it produces oxytocin, a hormone that shuts down the fear mechanism. The turkey, I don’t think so.”

A big turkey dinner loaded with tryptophan always relaxes me. Would a large, living turkey sitting next to me on a plane do similarly? Ahh..no.

Stuff You Need to Know: A Very Simple Item Syrian Refugees REALLY Need

The Vaseline Healing Project

You may recall that a previous “Stuff You Should Know” featured a very comprehensive, brief video about the refugee crisis.

I was scanning through the ever-growing list of news summary emails from the Washington Post, when I came across the ultimate “clickbait” headline – “The Incredibly Simple Household Item Syrian Refugees Really Need – And the Campaign to Get It to Them.”

Turns out that item is Vaseline! As the author of the article notes:

“Samer Jaber and Grace Bandow, both doctors, returned from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where tens of thousands of displaced Syrians have settled after escaping merciless violence in their war-torn country, and wrote a joint essay about their experience. In the article, published by The Washington Post in June 2014, they revealed that countless refugees they treated needed relief from severe skin problems that could be remedied by simply applying Vaseline…

“Prior to going on my first mission, I didn’t expect that skin health would have such an impact on the daily lives of the refugees,” Jaber said. “When you think of someone living as a refugee, you think they need food, water, and shelter. You see explosions and war on the news and you think they need surgeons and trauma care. That is certainly all true, but the harshness of the environment and the difficult living conditions exacerbate minor skin conditions, oftentimes affecting the refugees’ abilities to work, go to school or take care of their families.”

Although I didn’t think about this need before reading this article, it makes perfect sense to me. I know how dry, cracked and painful my hands get this time of year if I don’t put lotion on my hands at least once daily. And unlike a displaced person in a refugee camp, I have the means at hand to remedy simple, yet painful skin conditions.

Huge kudos to Vaseline for not only spearheading a donation campaign through sales of their product, but also for launching the great website illustrated above.

So, we have food drives, sock drives, how about a Vaseline (or general hand lotion) drive too!

2015 – Best Things – An Amazing Calendar and More

2015 Best Things Calendar

I’d planned to make this post before 2015 ended, but it obviously didn’t happen. These links, especially to the calendar pictured above are too good to miss. So, let’s pretend it’s a few days ago and we’re looking back at 2015 before (and not after) 2016 has begun.

This calendar from Slate is pretty amazing. Certainly horrible things happened in 2015 – some (the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks) in the final few weeks. Yet, there were far more good things – in fact at least one per day in 2015.

Do check out the calendar. Click on a day and you’ll get more info on what happened that is deemed “good” (at least by the creators at Slate). What if you don’t think something is good on a certain date? Well, you can rate the event on a scale from “Great!” to “meh.”

Here’s, for your perusal, some other “best of lists” and “looks back” from 2015:

The Year in Review in Catholicism (from Crux)

The Best Books We Read in 2015 (from The Week)

The Best Songs We Heard in 2015 (from the Week)

These 14 Characters Stole the Show in 2015 Movies (from the Washington Post)

The Crux 2015 Christmas Book and DVD List

The 13 Funniest TV Shows of 2015

I have some more lists from 2015 to share, but I’ll do so in another post…

 

 

Stuff You Should Know: An App Allowing Millions of Teens to Post Anonymously

After School App

As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t use the “Stuff You Should Know” feature lightly.

I use it for this link because it’s a pretty dramatic article about an app which sounds quite problematic.

The feature article, published the other day by the Washington Post, details this app – The After School App – which offers a location where students from more than 22,000 U.S. high schools are posting all kinds of things – all anonymously. The creators of the app are quoted in the article:

 Cory Levy, 24, one of the app’s founders, said After School gives teens a chance to “express themselves without worrying about any backlash or any repercussions.” He said the app is a new way for teens to ask difficult, uncomfortable questions anonymously and to more directly address issues such as depression, how to come out as gay to one’s parents or how to navigate the daily challenges of teen life.

Levy said the product creates a much-needed alternative to Facebook and Instagram, where teens have grown up carefully curating digital identities that might not reflect their true struggles and anxieties. After School allows them to be themselves without worrying so much about what other people will think, he said.

Not surprisingly the forum has morphed into a place where cyber-bulling, suicidal pleas, and threats of violence have been posted. While these negative and even dangerous exchanges are surely done via other, conventional social media, the issue with this platform – The After School app – is that it is difficult, if not impossible for non-student adults to gain access:

After School limits its audience to teens by requiring users to verify that they attend high school through their Facebook pages and by creating restricted message boards for each high school campus. Parents and others who want to access the app would have to lie to do so, saying on Facebook that they attend the high school. Even then, parents could be stopped by an algorithm that aims to block people from posing as high school students.

Therein lies my biggest concern about this app – parents and school officials are obstructed from seeing not only what individuals are saying, but whether a school or district has active (and perhaps negative or dangerous) activity. Again, there’s many other sites where a student can complain about teachers or others at their school. But with these, there’s a transparency which permits observation and monitoring by adults. With After School, this appears to be deliberately blocked.

There’s more to this article of value and importance, so I urge you to make it a “long read” this weekend.

 

Friday Good News! The Hug Lady and Good Political News

Hug Lady

You don’t need me to tell you that this was a bleak week in the news. Rather than share a jovial Friday FunLink, I thought I’d share two inspirational stories from the Washington Post’s weekly “The Optimist” email. I hope these stories bring you joy, inspiration, and hope during this Advent season.

First, from Texas is 83 year-old Elizabeth Laird, aka The Hug Lady. For a dozen years she’s been giving hugs to soldiers departing for or returning from war. The past ten years she’s been struggling with breast cancer and is now in the hospital receiving intensive (and expensive) treatment. Her son, Richard Dewees, put out a request for help and…

set up a GoFundMe page to help with the medical costs. He asked for $10,000. It has raised $72,316 from more than 2,000 people in just three days. Dewees, 64, knew his mother was beloved –he’s shared her with her military sons and daughters for years now — but he said “he’s stunned.”

A few comments left by donors are published in the article. The love and gratitude expressed is heart-felt:

“Ms. Elizabeth, you gave us just an ounce of humanity before we spent the next year of our lives in a place that was tantamount to hell and devoid of humanity… The gift you gave us upon departure is immeasurable.”

And:

“I love her, I deployed teary eyed and scared, (secretly) worried my almost two year old daughter would forget me [sic] she whispered in my ear that everything would be ok [and]  meant the world to me. I wish I had millions to give her.”

Another story from the same (pre-Thanksgiving) “The Optimist” email is a follow-up about Larry Hogan’s, Maryland governor, treatment for an aggressive cancer. This minute long video will bring a smile of joy to your face:

 

Here’s to a good weekend and a happier week next than this one ending.

 

 

 

Friday FunLink – The Barbie Commercial You Need to See

Barbie Video Photo

About a year ago the toy company GoldieBlox made headlines with clever ads showing how their products allow girls to do more than play with Barbie and her kin. And they even got in some trouble when the ad linked to above was originally released with an appropriately modified version of the Beastie Boys “Girls” as the soundtrack. 

Barbie strikes back as the Washington Post draws our attention to a funny and savvy marketing campaign which might persuade you as to how playing with Barbies can empower our daughters.

Take a couple of minutes to watch it and see what you think…

 

Does this “girl empowerment” Barbie make up for the unrealistic body image that Barbie portrays? Perhaps not. But I do think it’s a (previously) ridiculously high-angled footstep in the right direction.