Saturday, January 31, 2009


1. Are a good way to organize thoughts.
2. Help us prioritize.
3. Can be:
....a. spoken
....b. written
....c. drawn
....d. read
....e. crossed out
.[x]f. checked off
....g. rewritten
....h. scribbled
....i. typed
....j. sung
....k. and more.
4. Look nice, especially on properly lined paper.
5. Make good meme formats.
6. Are easily turned into Outlines.
7. Provide:
....a. information
....b. amusement
....c. motivation
8. Can be used to procrastinate.
9. Are sometimes turned into poems.
10. Break down information into easy-to-understand chunks, to help us process it all.
11. Can be used to show pros and cons of important decisions!
12. Are in .txt files all over my desktop.
13. Fit on post-its, even if the post-its don't stick to anything very well.
14. Help with the shopping.
15. Remind us who to send Christmas cards to.
16. Invite others to read over our shoulders while writing them.
17. Have been seen as a threat.
18. Have been used to punish.
19. Are used by bureaucrats to...
....a. Call upon
....b. demand
....c. urge
....d. endorse, and
....e. request.
20. Don't actually seem to work for the bureaucrats.
21. Help us remember what to do next.
22. Make us look busy.
23. Add an air of authority to the listed items.
24. Give us something to read in the doctor's office.
25. Are the favored format of much of pop culture ("Top 10", anyone?)

I think I may start writing my "To-Do" lists in pictograms, just for kicks.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dirt = Crime?

This story fascinated me.

We all have things that red-flag as "criminal" or "suspicious" to our brain - things that for the most part lie in stereotypes of behaviors we've seen before. It is nothing new to say that if I see a movie about gang colors I'll be on the lookout for them when I go into the city. But does seeing evidence of criminal activity (graffiti, drug use) make us more likely to bend the rules? If so, does seeing evidence of criminal deterrence (neighborhood watch signs, impeccably clean areas) produce the opposite effect? Why?

The article mentions that the study's results show a pretty clear spike in minor criminal behaviors (cutting through a gap in fences, tossing litter) when people are presented with an area in which minor crimes (graffiti, locking bikes to a fence next to a "do not lock bikes here" sign) had already been committed. But what of an area in which no crimes were visible - it was just dirty?

I personally don't see dirt as automatically pointing to criminals or criminal behavior, although there does seem to be a strong correlation these days between how clean one's house is, and how high one's income level is, making a strong case for the poorest of us (who are also the ones more likely to commit minor crimes, if you believe statistics) also being the dirtiest - either through lack of caring or lack of cleaning products. But I don't try to add to the mess when I walk through a particularly untidy part of the neighborhood... nor do I get the urge to steal bicycles there. But how many people would? Is it possible that crimes are more common in dirty, run-down areas of cities only because that's where the criminals feel most comfortable committing them, despite the fact that police concentration is likely higher in those parts? If we removed all the police presence from the most wealthy parts of town for a few days, would crime rates rise there? What if we scattered graffiti on the walls of the McMansions?

It's an interesting study, and I'd love to see more that replicate these results in different areas and conditions. If the human mind associates dirt with criminal behavior, I want to know where that idea came from - although I'll probably still let my kids play in the mud.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Well, I was tired...

But as usual my brain doesn't sleep. I was thinking about first one thing and then another having to do with school today and the various frustrations of working with Instructional Aides who just don't "get it" and a new teacher who has simply adopted much of what the old one did without questions - which means I am stuck asking them, if I dare (and I don't, because a TSS who upsets the classroom too much is a TSS without a job).

But on to the main point - my own school experiences. I thought myself into the train of thought that goes something like this: "I wonder what my elementary school is like now... I wonder if I'd run into any of my old classmates if I went by the Shur-Fine in town now... and whether they'd recognize me... do I remember any of them? Huh, I don't think I do. There was that Lisa somebody, and Joel... Osomething? And... oh, hey, I don't think I even remember my teachers' names."

And so on. But the fact is, I really don't remember much of my childhood. There are a few fuzzy memories, tattered around the edges and entirely without context, floating in a sea of blank faces and forgotten lessons. I remember, for instance, the exact day I learned to braid while playing with a horse (it was a bright lavender horse with a pink mane and tail, and it was during afternoon recess indoors, which means it was probably raining or snowing at the time, although I can't remember that part at all). I think it was third or fourth grade, which are my best remembered years of school. I was terribly excited by the sudden realization that I could braid, and showed off my horse's newly braided tail to all the other girls, only to hear that they already knew how to braid and were not at all impressed. Thinking back on it, I realize that at least a few of them had to be lying, likely out of jealousy... but my own self-concept back then was already of being the "weird kid" and I took the girls' disinterest as yet another sign that they had excluded me from the club when it was time for everyone else to teach each other how to braid.

Isn't that a weird memory to have? I remember writing a story too - it couldn't have been the first story I wrote in school, but it was unique because we had to use just a few pictures cut out from magazines, and make a story around them. I wrote about a little girl and a herd of wild horses (I spent half the first lesson time rooting through the picture pile for one of a horse!)... and I was so proud to write my finished copy neatly on a piece of green paper (it was for Christmas, I think - the paper we "published" on was green and red) and see it hung in the hall!

The strange thing is that those few memories are all I have. After fourth grade, everything just blurs into a feeling of being entirely lost. I switched schools for fifth grade in the district next door because our elementary school hadn't had a fifth grade at that point, and I moved on to the huge, prison-block high school in sixth. I remember the high school because it was a gigantic tiny-windowed three-story brick edifice that towered over the farmland around it like some kind of sinister unnamed government project, and the interior design didn't help the effect. For a lanky, late-to-puberty, highly reflective and extremely self-conscious "freak" like me my sixth grade class was probably the worst environment I could have been planted in, and the effects of that single year are clear even a decade after, if you know what to look for. But I don't -remember- any of it clearly. Not even the dark-haired girl who tormented me endlessly, whose name I swore I'd never forget (I also swore to myself that I'd one day mash her face into a pulp in front of the rest of the class). I find it both disconcerting that most of my "formative years" seems to have gigantic gaps, and strangely comforting that I really could let all of it go when it seemed like I'd never get away from it.

Maybe memory loss isn't such a bad thing after all. If nothing else, it makes forgiving a heck of a lot easier.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Well, we let them slip THAT one through...

It seems that "thinking of the children" has gone a bit too far.

And here is a "clarification" from a (former - wonder what she did wrong?) spokesperson for the CPSC.

What's next? Banning untested pets because of allergen issues?