Friday News Chum

A few news stories to keep you amused, while I start cleaning the house:

And now, back to the house…


If You’re Emo and You Know It, Slit Your Wrists (slit, slit)

My daughter sang the title of this post to me the other day, and many folks have found it funny. Yet as the father of a tween, I’ve been seeing the tendancy to “emo” more and more… and those of us on LJ or MySpace see it all the time in postings.

Well, according to Science Daily (there’s also a good article on it here), scientists may have found an explanation. In the current edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers led by Sheryl S. Smith, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, report findings demonstrating that a hormone normally released in response to stress, THP, actually reverses its effect at puberty, when it increases anxiety. The hormone normally acts like a tranquilizer, acting at sites in the brain that “calm” brain activity. In the adult, this stress hormone helps the individual adapt to stress, with a calming effect produced half an hour after the event. Tests were performed on mice of all ages. It was discovered that, during adolescence, mice have the usual receptors, but also extra-high levels of a second kind that brings an anxious, rather than calming, response when THP attaches to it.

Well, the engineer likes having the explanation. However, it does nothing to help me deal with the “emo” teen in the house. How many years is it now until she calms down?


Bringing Up Kids In Today’s World: Two Issues of Interest

Today’s news (seen while eating my lunch) brings two interesting articles about raising kids in today’s world:

The first, in the Los Angeles Daily News via the Associated Press, is about birthday parties. Specifically, it is about the tendancy today to overdo birthday parties. When I was growing up, I remember parties as a simple thing: you had a few friends over, you had a cake, you played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”. Perhaps you went to a movie. There were no goodie bags (consolation prizes) for the non-birthday kids (the losers). Today, however, things have become more elaborate as parent (and kids) try to outdo other parents (and kids). For example: A birthday party for a 1-year-old featured a gift-opening that lasted two hours…and the child slept through most of it. At another party, seven-year-olds were picked up in stretch limos to attend the birthday party of a classmate. In still another case, a 6-year-old guest at a St. Paul birthday party didn’t like the contents of the gift bag and declared: “This is a rip-off.” To counter this, a new group has been formed called “Birthdays Without Pressure“. I think it is an interesting notion, and hope they succeed. Next they can attack B’nai Mitzvah Receptions (or would that be Recepiyot?).

The second, in the New York Times, is perhaps more interesting. It talks about a movement to do away with middle schools completely. There appear to be two ways of doing this: K-8 and 9-12 schools, and K-5 and 6-12 school. In other world, the middle schoolers either go with the younger or older set. Again, there is a genesis of an interesting idea in here: reducing the pressure that occurs in middle school. I’m not sure which approach is best. The K-8 approach would shelter the kids more from older peers, thus (hopefully) reducing the pressure to conform to more “adult” activities. On the other hand, it is a bad environment to stress academics and college prep, and could be bad for the honors students and high achievers. The grouping with the older kids has the opposite problems: it pushes the kids out of kid-hood sooner. Which is best? Should there be middle school at all? Was the Jr. High School (7-9) approach better? I guess we just have to stay tuned.

P.S.: Bravo! to the NYTimes for adding the “permalink” feature for articles. I wish other newspapers would do this.


Don’t Nobody Spank Me Once For Each Year!

I kept thinking I wanted to post something today, but couldn’t think of what. Then I read the Daily News. Today’s issue has an article about a proposed bill that would make spanking your child a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, although a legal expert advising the proposal’s author said first-time offenders likely only would have to attend parenting classes. The bill, which is still being drafted, will be written broadly to prohibit “any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that,” and supposedly only applies to 4 and under.

I’m not arguing in favor of beating a child, but I do think this proposal goes way too far. As any parent will tell you, a single (and I emphasize that word, single) potch-on-the-tush does a wonderful job of cutting through a tantrum that has become a scream cycle, and often makes a child reasonable. I’m not talking beating here, or shaking to illness, or anything like that. A single potch. This proposal goes too far.

According to the article, beyond the debate among child psychologists – many of whom believe limited spanking can be effective – the bill faces questions over how practical it is to enforce. Some legislators oppose what they consider “nanny government.” Parents interviewed tended to agree. As for the Governator, he was open-minded about the bill Thursday, although he hinted about concerns about the bill’s enforceability, and he also noted that, growing up in Austria, he “got smacked about everything,” but when it comes to disciplining his four children he and wife Maria Shriver “never” resort to spanking. Robert Larzelere, who has studied child discipline for 30 years, said his research shows spanking is fine, as long as it’s used sparingly and doesn’t escalate to abuse.

It should be noted that the author of the bill, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, she does not have children and says she was not slapped as a child. But she does have a cat named Snoop, which her veterinarian told her never to hit. “And if you never hit a cat,” Lieber said, “you should never hit a kid.”

So what do you think?


Can You Go Back?

During a break at work, I happened to come across the typical schedule that Small and Feisty should be following at camp (look for the boxes at the bottom of the page, not the teen schedule). Quite a busy day.

I was surprised at how the schedule had changed from what I remember it was during my camp days. For example, we didn’t have a daily t’filah (prayer), nor do I remember a formalized nikayon tzrif/machane (cabin/camp cleanup). Most of the rest of the daily schedule is somewhat similar, although we didn’t use Hebrew names for activities. Shabbat is more changed: I don’t recall a Friday pe’ulat Shabbat (Shabbat activity) nor a Tiyeil Shabbat (Shabbat Stroll)–I think we had a free choice on Fridays. Saturdays are also changed: it appears they have moved the campfire to Beach Day, gotten rid of Lazy Day Breakfasts (unless those are how the Shabbat aruchat boker (breakfast) is done). I also don’t recall a seudah shleesheet (traditional 3rd meal) at all. But much is the same, and I’m sure she’s having a good time. She should be getting daily letters, and gf_guruilla put a package of stickers and body-shop stuff in the mail to her today. Hopefully, we’ll get a letter from her today.

At home, its wierd. Its too quiet. I think we’ve forgotten what we did in the evenings before Small & Feisty was born. Did we sit and watch TV? Do needlework? I don’t even remember anymore. I know we didn’t go out all that much. In any case, I think we’ll take advantage of the absence of the embodiment of entropy, and attempt to “throw it away”, i.e., declutter.