Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free As A Bird

In addition to my regular day job, I also dabble in more personal creative pursuits, and recently decided to take the plunge and submit an original photo-illustration for consideration in an upcoming gallery exhibit in Corning, NY.

The other day, I received notification that my work, titled "Free as a Bird" was selected for inclusion in the show.

This is a first for me, and I couldn't me more thrilled. The exhibit opens Thursday, April 2; more information is available at the website for the ARTS Council of the Southern Tier.

I know it's a small gallery in a small town, and I'm only a small part of the show...but the validation of my work is great to have. I'm just tickled pink over this.

Anyway. If you're in the area, stop on by. :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh Boy

"Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood..."
- The Animals

I'm probably going to make someone angry with this one, but it needs to be said. So hang on.

I received the following e-mail from my daughter's middle school today:

This is a message for the parents and guardians of *** Middle School girls. All girls are invited to attend Girls Night Out! Wellness Fair this Thursday, March 26th from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at *** Middle School. SIS stands for Sisters in Success, which is a program aimed at middle school girls in the *** School District. The goal is to empower young women to believe in themselves and to build healthy relationships with peers, family, and strong women in the community. Thursday we will have several local women who will be providing opportunities for our girls to learn about yoga, self defense, nutrition, skin care with Mary Kay cosmetics, organic cooking, and more!

All girls are welcome to attend and may sign up with their school counselor or Mrs. ***. Each girl is encouraged to bring a special adult female with them or we can pair them up with one of the female adults from *** who will attend. Girls need to sign up by Wednesday morning.

On the surface, this seems fairly innocuous (despite the weird emphasis on "cosmetics" and "organic cooking"). But it got me wondering: why don't I ever see anything like this for the boys in the school?

It seems to be a trend. President Obama recently established the "Council on Women and Girls", and stated the following: "So now it's up to us to ... ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements — and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers never dreamed of," Obama said. "That's the purpose of this council; those are the priorities of my presidency."

Again, good goals, all. But will someone please tell me how our daughters and granddaughters currently have "limits on their dreams"? It seems to me that there has been no better time in history to be a girl in America. I'm serious. I know I'm sure to catch some flack for this, but the world is wide open to my daughters in a way that it never has been, and in a very real way, they're better off than my son.

Because our schools are, by in large, failing our boys.

To wit—the following article from Richard Whitmire, President of the National Education Writers Association:

Hardly a month goes by without another major foundation or education advocacy group reminding us of the peril our country faces if we don't send more students to college. The International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that the United States is slipping fast in international rankings. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, we rank no better than 10th in higher education attainment. Most striking among the measures is the "survival rate," the measurement of enrolled students who actually earn diplomas. Our students rank at the bottom of the developed world.

Visit the Web sites of the prominent foundations -- Gates, Lumina, Broad -- and you will see the same message that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate leaders such as Intel's Craig Barrett have been warning about for years: We need to broaden the college pipeline, and do it quickly. The latest study pointing out our educational weaknesses – and offering solutions – arrived earlier this month from the respected MDRC, which offered the Obama administration a 15-point plan for turning things around.

Interestingly, however, there's something all these groups studiously avoid talking about. These U.S. education numbers look bad primarily because the schools are failing boys. For the most part, those awful high school graduation numbers are driven by boys, not girls (32 percent of boys drop out, compared to 25 percent of girls). And the lackluster college graduation rates are due primarily to men floundering in college (men earn about 42 percent of four-year degrees). Given that men are far more likely to major in math and science – a special worry for the technical industries -- the chamber should be particularly concerned about men falling behind.

But the gender angle never gets mentioned.
Consider it mentioned here...for all the good it's going to do. Believe me, I have nothing against empowering girls and women. I want all our kids to succeed, male and female. All I'm saying is that our boys are falling behind, and it's a tragedy that they're not being given more (or, dare I say it, equal) attention. It's not an either/or situation. We can do both.

Related: "Bring The Boys Along"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It ain't braggin' if you can do it...but please stop bragging.

Over on another social networking site I frequent, someone is constantly updating the world as to his incredible achievements in the gym. We hear how healthy he feels, how much weight he's losing. It works its way into every. Single. Post.

And in conversation, he's quick to point out how great he feels, how he's as toned as he was when he was in the military, and how he considers this a competitive edge in his business (no, seriously...he's openly speculating how less-than-perfectly-fit people can possibly perform their job as well as he can). Oh, and by the way, he'll say, you should try it!

Give me a break.

I've often said there's nothing worse than a "reformed" person. People that lose weight, quit smoking, find religion, buy a Macintosh*, or become vegetarians are among the most annoying people on earth, because they just won't stop talking about how AWESOME! their particular decision is, and how everyone else is just missing out. For crying out loud, I've watched people get enthusiastic over having performed a colon cleanse.

No one is denying him his happiness. And I'm always happy for people when they improve themselves or their condition in life. Who wouldn't be? There's just something that reeks of utter insecurity when all a person can talk about is how wonderful their personal decisions are, and how YOUR life would only be better if YOU were more like THEM.

Here's the thing. I'm happy for my newly-fit acquaintance. Good for him. But quit sneering from your mountaintop, dude. The higher they are, the longer they have to fall, and I'll take silent joy in watching your inevitable tumble down the hill. That's just the way I roll.

* Guilty as charged. Having said that, the only thing worse than the computer platform wars is watching a Nikon-vs-Canon debate. Those people are insane. Especially the Nikon owners ;-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The town I live in is, like many Northeastern cities, struggling. Much of downtown resembles an abandoned war zone, although there are pockets of prosperity, and a lot going on. Sometimes, it's just hard to see it.

I attended an entrepreneurs group meeting this morning, and I know that, while things are rough right now, this town has a lot going for it, including a very low cost of doing business, good roads and accessibility to the Interstate system, cheap real estate, and a local government that will bend over backwards to attract people and businesses.

Still, it's easy to just give up and go somewhere where there's a lot of foot traffic, excitement and "buzz". 20 miles up the road, there's a town smaller than this one with a thriving business district, hardly any empty storefronts, and a supportive community that includes specialty shops, art galleries, cafes...all the things that make a downtown a true destination. I could easily double or triple my business by relocating. Granted, it would be much more expensive to do business there, but I'd almost assuredly do very well.

But I don't. I'm not a quitter. And I still believe in my adopted hometown. It's easy for me to look out my Main Street window and get demoralized. But I keep trudging along, because I still have hope. Some days, that's enough. Here's to better days ahead.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Had a bit of a scare last night as my youngest had to be admitted to the Hospital for anemia and a rapid heartbeat. Thanks to all who sent their concern. I'll keep you posted, but right now, she's in very good spirits and in good hands. Hopefully she'll be home soon.

Again...THANK YOU.