One of these days ...

(Prompted by listening to reporting on the same-sex marriage cases being heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Someday, someone is going to say in front of me that marriage is for the procreation of children.

And if they're lucky, I will only mildly ask if they're claiming my 40-year marriage, with no official children, is invalid ...
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    hall noises
Eyes (ojos)

And if we only hear from people who agree with us ...?

Casual comment on a photo posted by a friend on Facebook: "Hanging with the libs?"

TED talk found yesterday and slated to be used in class tomorrow: Eli Pariser talking about "filter bubbles," the algorithms some web sites use to show you more of the things you're looking at most often. You won't know those bubbles are in use, Pariser warns, and you can't adjust by telling the site you want to see more of other things.

A Pew Research Center article (found here: http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/) on what choices people make to find news.

A political campaign -- for the current member of the House of Representatives from my district -- that painted his opponent as an Evil Liberal because she came from a college town east of us. The approach must have worked with some voters, since they kept using those commercials.

Friends on Facebook who post comments like this: "If you're planning to vote for x, just unfriend me now." "If you think x is doing a good job, you should unfriend me." "If you ever vote for the x party, you should probably go ahead and unfriend me now."

I think I see a pattern here. And if I'm right, it's a pattern that's going to make it increasingly hard to find solutions to the problems we see as Americans -- unless you happen to believe that one end of the political spectrum has all the wisdom.

I don't. I'm one of those people who -- dare I admit it? -- thinks each side has the right answers for some of the problems. And I've found myself wistfully pulling on what I thought were my rose-colored glasses and wondering why it was easier to talk about political issues in the past.

But apparently those are not rose-colored glasses I'm wearing. Another Pew Research Center study notes that “'Ideological silos' are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions – especially conservatives – are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views."

(My editorial note: I doubt they're correct about that. I suspect a lot of their close friends take the approach I've begun using -- a refusal to discuss political issues. If I never say anything, you'll never know which way I lean on any issue. And then you can decide whether you want to be friends on the whole package of Penshark, not just my political beliefs.)

That same study suggests that I am not part of the minority of Americans: "These sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want."

Why don't you hear more from us? The Pew study says many of us in the middle have disengaged from politics. I still vote and pay attention, but I've lost count of how many times I've wondered why I bother.

And if anything, social media may be making that problem worse. (Obligatory disclaimer here: I love social media. I'm active on Facebook and Twitter and I teach about lots of social media. That doesn't change the opinion I'm about to give you.)

I don't mean just the "unfriend me now" crew. Facebook clearly tailors your news feed to give you more of the friends you click on most and less of the others. I've not seen anything confirming the same thing happens on other social media, but I'd bet on it. And I've heard stories of different people getting different results for the same search, so I suspect it's happening there as well. And then there's the ability to follow on social media only the news sites that agree with you.

So those who are convinced their side has all the wisdom can spend their time in those "ideological silos." Maybe the other side has a better idea in this case? They'll never -- or rarely -- hear that idea. Both sides can spend their time instead congratulating themselves on how wise they are.

We can keep moving in that direction. But that way lies more gridlock and more delay and more frustration. Or we can start trying to make change. Maybe that includes asking social media to stop giving us ever-larger doses of our own opinions. Maybe -- radical thought -- that includes trying to really listen at least occasionally to the views of someone who disagrees with us. Maybe we can figure out how to stop making "compromise" a dirty word.

And if none of that succeeds, perhaps the next time I hear someone on one end of the spectrum proclaiming "we're taking our country back," I will look innocently at them and ask when I get to take =my= country back.
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    radio news
Eyes (ojos)

Consider your surroundings

Dear Person Attending the Conference in My Building,
Before you decide the seemingly empty hallway is a phone booth, you might look around just a bit further. What you seem to have missed are the three currently-occupied offices in that hallway and the two others (including mine) which can easily hear conversations in a hallway where voices carry. You also seem to have missed the restrooms located a very short distance from where you're sitting; traffic in that hallway is considerably higher than you might think.

If you were having a casual conversation, it wouldn't matter as much. But the conversation you seem to be having probably ought to deserve a bit more privacy than you have just now.

I Don't Want to be Hearing This
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    hall noises

Wrong day for this ...

So I left myself with almost no time for lunch and a guarantee of a late dinner. I can live with that part -- it's my own fault.

But we're now at 30 minutes and counting of time I could have used to go get lunch ... if I'd known the people who made appointments were going to blow them off. Grr ...
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    annoyed annoyed

But then there's today ...

I'm still not back to full human after a stomach bug wiped out the second half of last week. But because I'm (fill in your words of choice -- I'll go with "close to full human"), I pushed myself into work this morning.

It was Day 1 of the Post-Midterm Break half of the semester. After three classes, I walked back from the Reilly Center with a work-study student who had the office mail. When we got to the office, I kiddingly told him I'd wait to see if I had any mail.

I did: a letter from a former student, one of those who I taught when I was still an adjunct. She started the note this way:

"A very smart person suggested a good way to mark this day would be to write a note to thank an influential teacher. I always like a good idea!" She continued by telling me that things I'd taught her in that long-ago class were still things she uses often today.

I can think of few better gifts to a teacher than to tell her that she has made a difference. And to do it on a day when I badly needed that lift ....

My thank you note will be going her way shortly.
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    radio news

Observations from an afternoon of grading

1. Social media use is not limited by age. Younger people may use more social media and almost certainly use some different apps, but assuming you can't reach people over 40 via social media is, at best, short-sighted.

2. The internet is not, in fact, the only method of communication available in 21st-century America. The last numbers I saw suggested about 20 percent of Americans are not online. Often, that's because they can't afford to be, but sometimes that's because they don't want to be. Assuming you can reach everyone via online media is also, at best, short-sighted.

3. If you can make assumption number 1 while in a classroom with a professor who clearly does use social media, you may not be paying attention. Meanwhile, the professor is coming to the conclusion that she has to hammer on assumption number 2 a bit more in the second half of the semester.
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    the sound of Steve's camera

Quotes of the night

Courtesy of two of my colleagues:

From Rich Lee:
(A)s the late David Carr said…

"Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working."

And from Felixwas:
I’d submit that journalism is more fun. To quote Dan Barry, “I get to meet with people I don’t know and ask them impertinent questions.”
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    the radio

Quote of the night

What continues to matter: Anderson Cooper on the death of Bob Simon: "I dreamed of being, and still hope to be, a quarter of the writer that Bob Simon is and has been," the CNN anchor said.
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    an occasional purring kitten

Who, me?

I just received a notice from LinkedIn that someone has endorsed me for public speaking. It's not the first time. And this person, like many of the others, has had me in class, so she has some experience with me speaking to groups.

Somewhere in heaven, my parents are laughing, really hard. Both of them remember the me who was petrified to speak in front of groups. Both of them remember me telling them I could do radio because "I can't see my audience." My father will remember telling me (more than once) that the more I spoke in front of groups, the better and more comfortable I would be at it. (To say I was skeptical is an understatement.) My mother will remember telling me how Dad progressed from awkward to poised in front of groups.

And not for the first time, I will admit this -- they were right.
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    noises from various offices

Quote of the night

"People always equate teachers and coaches who've been around for a long time as having a positive impact on the lives of so many young people. What most folks don't understand is the fact that a lot of those young people impact our lives as well ..."
Jim Melaro, quoting Mike Foster in an article in tonight's Olean Times Herald. Foster was talking about Dan Shembeda, a local businessman who recently died. Foster had coached Shembeda in high school.
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