Thursday, February 28, 2008

True confessions

For whatever reason, I have never any luck with cameras. I've always had this unattainable dream of owning a nice (functioning) camera for more than 6 months. Alas, it is not in the stars for it to be so. A brief history of my most recent cameras ensues. 1. Beautiful 35 mm SLR: my dear friend lost it in the dark recesses of her bedroom... never to be found again. 2. Another brilliant 35 mm SLR: my little brother was playing with it, left it out in theblazing Utah sun, and fried the thing. 3. I bought my first digital camera ever 2 days before I went to Bolivia. First week into it, the hotel boy we had played cards with the night before took off with my camera and never returned to work. 4. Bought a nice digital camera a few months before I went to the DR. Unforunately, sudden torrential downpours are common in the Caribbean, and the water ruined my camera. As you can see, cameras + Heather = bad. The short-lived nature of my cameras, however, has not kept me from yearning for a new one as soon as the old one goes kaput.
My cameralessness is going on 6 months, and every time I look at my empty picture folders on my computer, I feel devastated. A sense of desparateness has crept over me, and in a craze today I thought, "Hmmm, wouldn't it be nice if I could somehow get a free camera?" This is where bells should be going off , because, as you see, it is nearly impossible to get something for nothing. But instead of abandoning this idea, this great desire to own a camera drove me to type "free camera" in the Google search bar. My delusion was in full swing when I came upon a site where you try products out for free and get a Nikon D300 as an incentive. Mind you, Nikon D300s are expensive little cameras, so I was enthused (again, remember I was in a delusional state). I filled out the survey and even agreed to one offer before I realized what I was doing. You know the type - "try this for free, but if you don't cancel and send back the product in 2 days, you will be charged the full $5,000 and will be enrolled in a program that you can never cancel..." For all intents and purposes, I was willingly squandering my privacy, free time, and sanity. I'm glad I caught myself before it was too late. Who knows what might happen next time I'm in this state. Maybe I need to invest in disposable cameras so I don't do something truly crazy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Toys will be our downfall

I don't know if anybody else is as pleased as I when they find hard data to back up their entrenched opinions and beliefs. This morning, I almost had to pull the car over because I was so enthralled with what I was hearing on the radio. Hooray for NPR, as usual. At first glance, many may not peg me as a person who is interested in toys. But I am - in a round about way. I've mostly been interested (or disheartened, rather) in the way that toys - especially electronic toys - can dull our senses and retard our social skills. We live in a culture that is so over-entertained, that practically cannot survive a minute without something to distract and entertain. We seem to crave having things in our hands and before our eyes, discontent to spend a moment in quietude. This world is brimming with cell phones, PSPs, MP3 players, PDAs, Game Boys, computers, and video games. We invent and use these things in pursuit of an enjoyable life.
To me, an enjoyable life is full of people, learning, and freedom to act. I'm not saying that these toys are antithetical to my own pursuit of happiness, but I think they detract from it more often than they add to it. All of these toys distract us from our human interactions, to the point that our social skills suffer. We close ourselves off when we put in our headphones or when we play a personal hand-held game. We have so much alone time with our electronics, which don't demand any real interaction, that we almost forget how to treat people. We choose the easy way out instead of having important conversations with those we love. We text when we could call or stop by, we watch a movie when we could serve somebody, we listen to our iPod when we could be listening to our family members.
Today on the radio, they were talking about when toys were first advertised on TV outside of Christmas. This was the turning point when play became synonymous with toys. Chudacoff said,
"It's interesting to me that when we talk about play today, the first thing that comes to mind are toys, whereas when I would think of play in the 19th century, I would think of activity rather than an object." Back in the days, kids (and adults) used to engage frequently in "freewheeling imaginative play." The reception of toys began a sad trend of the shrinking size of "children's imaginative space." [I don't believe all toys are bad and I am not saying that we should all abandon our toys completely, just so you know...]
The way we (and kids especially) spend our time can change our emotional and cognitive development. When we engage in creative activities - make believe, analytical thinking, etc. - we develop executive function, which includes the ability to self-regulate. Acquisition of this skill translates into the ability to control emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.
A study was done on the ability of kids to basically control themselves back in the 1940s. 3-year-olds could not sit still for even a minute. 5-year-olds could sit still for about 3 minutes, and the 7-year-olds could sit still for as long as the researchers asked them to. The same study repeated in 2006 showed that 5-year-olds were performing at the 3-year-old levels of 1940s, and the 7-year-olds were performing at the 5-year-old levels of 1940s. This is disturbing to me on a number of levels. First of all, I think there is great value in being still - controlling your emotions and actions. You can receive peace, inspiration, a recharge. On another level, self-regulation and executive function are much stronger predictors of success in school than IQ. Plus, lack of these abilities is highly correlated with drop out, drug use, and crime. Laura Berk said, "Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain."
I will stop here because I could go on for quite a time about this. But, I think that it is fascinating how much our activities affect us mentally, physically and socially. I wish we all would focus more on the people who are with us when they are with us instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted by the various forms of entertainment.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I have recently discovered...

I have recently discovered the greatest invention on Earth. Some people may believe that the greatest invention was video games. I am sorry to disappoint you - I'm not talking about video games. However, the invention is technological at least. It is called It is the coolest (and freest, might I mention) service. Basically, you call a number and you can jot things to yourself or other people. So, if you want to remind yourself of something, or email somebody via talking on the phone, or post to your blog like I'm doing now, you just call Jott and it transcribes it for you. You get everything you've said in e-format. You can link Jott to your daily to-do list, twitter, blog, etc. Really the options are endless. It's like having a secretary in my hand. So useful. You guys should all check it out. Your life will be a whole lot easier and people will think you're a whole lot cooler.

Powered by Jott

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dylan speaks

I wonder, how many weary friends and strangers are fainting at my door while I puruse my own happiness and pleasure? Has my hedonism drowned out their pleas? Have I been distracted, too busy to see? Have I seen my own sorrows instead of another's? Have I looked beyond the mark? Have I traveled far when I needed only to walk out my front door? Have I ever, even once supped sorrow with the poor?

"Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay.
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
There's a pale drooping maiden who foils her life away
With a worn out heart, whose better days are o'er.
Though her voice it would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more."

-Bob Dylan

Monday, February 11, 2008

Living the hyperbole

As I examine my life, I find it is brimming with "always" and "nevers." Most people would likely recognize that living life in these extremes is not realistic; however, I have only begun to see these follies. I think the most glaring "never" mistruth I have ever told was this: "I will never get a zit." Ah, the innocence of youth. Here's another one we (or at least I) tend to believe, while simultaneously realizing its utterly absurd nature: "I will never get old." In conjunction with my aversion to the norm, I recall repeating on numerous occasions that I would "never have a grandma hairdo." I now see that as you get older, your hair thins, and your options are limited - you just go with it. Also, I used to say, "I will always take a lunch break, no matter how busy I am." Well, now that just can't be true, because it just so happens that I did not take a lunch break today because I was too busy. Then there's the slew of "I'm always the one who... does the dishes ... cleans the house ... takes out the garbage..." I think we really believe that's true - but it's not. In view of the ridiculous nature of these comments, why is it that people still persist in writing, "never change" in my yearbook of life?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hot, hot, hot

I love global warming.* Who can justifiably complain about global warming when it's 75 degrees outside in February? I say that's no cause for worry. I mean, I love polar bears, the Maldives, and sea walruses, but all that pales in comparison to 75 degree weather in winter.

*These views in no way represent Heather's true feelings on global warming.

Monday, February 4, 2008

NPR dreams up in smoke

I have a theory. Many people assert that America is based on a meritocratic system, and I think in most cases I would agree. However, one area of American society blaringly contradicts this supposed meritocracy. I'm sure you're all jumping to conclusions here. Let me assure you that you are correct: that one area is NPR. I imagine that NPR finally ceded to the shouts of its employees, "Down with meritocracy! Up with nomocracy!" That's right. People at NPR ascend the corporate ladder by having cool names. (At least, it can't hurt.) It's quite obvious when you take a gander at the showing of great names. Besides, a radio personality is almost entirely defined by a name. I believe that is the origin of the phrase, "Make a name for yourself." I wonder which of these NPR hosts is king of names, so to speak: Claude Brodesser, Tom & Ray Magliozzi, Diane Rehm, John Diliberto, Steve Inskeep, Farai Chideya, Garrison Keillor, Ira Flatow, Ketzel Levine, Kojo Nandi, Cokie Roberts, Tavis Smiley, Barbara Bogaev, or Don Ganye. Clearly, Diane Rehm has a corner on the market, because not only does she has a fabulous name, she also has a rocking voice. It could possibly be the most recognized voice in America. But, if I had my choice as to who would rule the NPR world based on names, it would be Steve Inskeep, because every time I hear him introduced, I just picture the quintessential post-mission on-campus encounter: "Hey - what's your first name, dude? Oh, right. Listen, Steve, Steveinsky, dude... Haven't you always wanted to knock doors and earn money at the same time? It would be a totally new experience after being a missionary. We're offering free pizza, Steveinsky. Ok, think about it, Stevie, Steveinsky..."
Who would you vote for? (I guess I am now turning this into a democracy. Hmmm.)