Fuel and Food Are Quick, but the Fealty Is Forever [Feb 2013]

Fuel and Food Are Quick, but the Fealty Is Forever [Feb 2013]

“In Pennsylvania, two convenience chains stir tribal loyalties, a commitment as deep as bonds with the Philadelphia Phillies or Pittsburgh Pirates.

Don Longo, the editor of Convenience Store News, said Sheetz and Wawa were among a handful of regional chains in the country that he called ‘best in class.’ They operate convenience stores that update the old formula known as ‘Coke and smokes’ by offering self-serve soda fountains and cappuccino bars, friendly service and, especially, fresh sandwiches ordered on a touch screen.

Sheetz is the slightly smaller chain, with 226 stores in Pennsylvania and a total of 435 in the region. Wawa has 216 in-state stores and 607 over all, as far south as Tampa, Fla., and north to Parsippany, N.J.

There are clear differences. Sheetz has neon colors, pumps loud country music and is overly fond of the alliterative use of its name in products. It sells Sheetz Shweetz, a CinnaShmonster and Shmuffins. Near its corporate headquarters in Altoona, it offers employees a Shwellness Center.

To Sheetz’s country mouse, Wawa is a more suburban creature. Its décor features muted browns and blonds, and a central island of healthy food includes diced mangoes and apple slices.”

This gem of an article was so amusing, I couldn’t help but share. A perfect metaphor for class and culture in the United States.


Ten Books

I’m sharing a meme with you on my blog today, which is only acceptable since the title of this blog is What I’m Reading, and this meme is a list of books I’ve read. Honestly, I wanted to list more books I’d read recently, but I realized the books that were really important to me were the ones I first read when I was a kid. Enjoy!

Rules: list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t over think it. Don’t try to cherry pick your books so it looks like you only read classics, etc. 

1. Baby-Sitters Little Sister: Karen’s School Picture, by Ann M. Martin – This is the first book I remember being excited about. It was an end of the school year gift from my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hunt, and I remember reading it on the bus home, reading it in the bathroom, reading it ALL DAY until I was done. Clearly, this set a precedent.

2. A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter – After reading the above mentioned book, I became obsessed with Baby Sitter’s Club books, and then Sweet Valley books. I didn’t read much else, until my mom helped me pick this one out at the library. Elnora has a hard time fitting in with the fancy town kids because of her unusual clothes & mannerisms, so she escapes into the natural world of the swamp, collecting and selling moths.

3. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I bought this book out of a Scholastic Book catalog, and I was immediately entranced. I’ve read this book so many times, it opens by itself. I loved Sara Crewe, Becky, The Large Family, and all of the other wonderful characters that populate this novel.

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – This was my absolute favorite book for most of my life. Of course I wanted to be Jo March, and I actually liked Prof. Bhaer. I also thought Laurie & Amy’s scenes at the end of the novel were perfectly romantic. Don’t hate.

5. Anne of Green Gables [the series, especially the first 3 books] by Lucy Maud Montgomery – My friend Laura got me into these! Anne’s imagination, her humor, her loyalty, her crazy mishaps, “carrots!” GILBERT BLYTHE…I still want to visit Prince Edward Island.

6. The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi – I checked this book out from the middle school library many times. Susan Chilmark is a teenager in Richmond during the Civil War, her family is a hot mess (her father is dead, her mother is crazy, and her brother is a blockade runner/manager of a brothel), and through it all she is trying to figure out what patriotism and loyalty mean.

7. The Tillerman Saga [Homecoming, Dicey’s Song & A Solitary Blue] by Cynthia Voigt – Dicey Tillerman is my hero. She’s poor, she’s young, but she’s strong and she saves her family. Doug Burton, the protagonist in A Solitary Blue, doesn’t really wake up until Dicey comes into his life. These characters are woven together so beautifully; they’re so flawed and so real.

8. Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher – Lots of romance & drama in this novel, set in England during World War II. After reading this, I wanted to move to Cornwall, eat pasties, and have a daughter named Loveday. It’s overly sentimental and maybe even not that well written, but I loved this book anyway.

9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – I am haunted by this novel. A love story with a healthy dose of magical realism, it draws you in with this amazing sense of place and time. As many times as I’ve read it, Henry & Clare still make me cry.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Every time I read this book, it affects me differently. Long before the movie came out, I actually downloaded Charlie’s mix tape and listened to it when I re-read the book. For such a short novel, it really packs an emotional punch.

Honorable mentions: The Harry Potter series, The Secret Garden, The Ornament Tree, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Diary of Anne Frank, Circle of Pearls, Memoirs of a Geisha, Angela’s Ashes, White Oleander, Lucky, Room, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Age of Miracles

Kanye West Knows You Think He Sounded Nuts on Kimmel [Oct 2013]

Kanye West Knows You Think He Sounded Nuts on Kimmel [Oct 2013]

“I’m 9 or 10 and my mother and I are on a cross-country road trip when we decide to stop for breakfast at a small diner in Mississippi. I’m too young to be aware of the charged atmosphere of racial tension, but something feels odd. It feels odd when the people in the diner—most of whom are white—turn to look at my white mother and me, her brown son, as we enter and make our way to a table. It feels odd when my mom asks if there are raisins to put in her oatmeal and the waitress irritatedly spits, “No!” It feels so odd, in fact, that my mother asks our server if something is wrong: “No!” she barks again. It feels odd when the woman throws down the bill when we’re done eating. No one calls us names. No one threatens us. The surly waitress has even specifically told us nothing is wrong. But when we return to the car my visibly shaken mom pulls a canister of pepper spray out of the glove compartment and tests it on the ground to make certain it’s functioning properly.

I think one of the most damaging effects America’s omnipresent racism has on a person’s psyche isn’t the brief pang of hurt that comes from being called a slur, or seeing a picture of Barack Obama portrayed by a chimpanzee. Those things are common and old-fashioned, and when they happen I tend to feel sadder than angry, because I’m seeing someone who engages with the world like a wall instead of a human being. Rather, I think what’s far more corrosive and insidious, the thing that lingers in the back of my mind the most, is the framework of plausible deniability built up around racism, and how insane that plausible deniability can make a person feel when wielded. How unsure of oneself. How worried that you might be overreacting, oversensitive, irrational.

There’s a form of mental torture called “gaslighting,” its name taken from a play in which a man convinces his wife that the gas lights in their home she sees brightening and dimming are, in fact, maintaining a steady glow. His ultimate goal is to drive her into a mental institution and take all her money, and soon the woman ends up in an argument with herself about whether she’s losing her mind. American race relations have a similar narrative: An entire set of minorities confident that the everyday slights they’re seeing are real and hurtful, and an entire set of other people assuring them that they’re wrong.

In response to the shooting of Michael Brown, and the rioting that has followed in Ferguson, Missouri, I wanted to share one of the best essays about racism in America I’ve ever read. I read a wonderful article in the New York Times today about how white people are uncomfortable and confused; they don’t see that the world they live in is different than other people’s, even when they’re living in the same county. They don’t see their privilege. And I think this essay really speaks to that so well; it really breaks down the wall between perception and reality.

Let’s keep having this conversation, even after the headlines change.

Possibly the most widely held sentiment among whites is the hope that it all simply goes away. “I feel for everyone involved,” said Shannon Shaw, a jeweler in Mehlville. But, she added, “I think the protesters just need to go home.”

Even when they do finally go home, this all isn’t just going to go away for the protesters. They don’t have the privilege of going home to safe neighborhoods, where this is all only happening on the screens of their smart phones.

Nipplegate at 10: How Justin Won Superbowl XXXVIII, and How Janet Lost

Reblogging my own post from February in response to an NFL spokesperson stating, “As for potential [halftime show] acts — we have only ruled out Janet Jackson.” Oh really?! Not Justin Timberlake? ISN’T THAT INTERESTING.

What I'm Reading

Nipplegate at 10: How Justin Won Superbowl XXXVIII, and How Janet Lost

“We know exactly how it happened: At the end of their live duet of Timberlake’s ‘Rock Your Body,’ the finale of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, the former ‘N Sync member sang, ‘Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,’ reached over, and pulled off the plate-and-lace combo covering Jackson’s right breast. She whipped her head back and then down, and inched her hands up toward her exposed boob (clad only in a sun-shaped piece of nipple jewelry). It was a shocked expression of theatrical proportions.

The condemnations came swiftly and loudly. Her next album flopped, and she’s all but disappeared from glossy magazines and MTV, while Timberlake is still winning Grammys and Michael Powell is presenting a revisionist history of the event to ESPN Magazine.

But how? How did this happen? How did the superstar…

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Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net In San Antonio

Mental Health Cops Help Reweave Social Safety Net In San Antonio

“[20 years ago], the police were repeatedly arresting the same people; many not only had a serious mental illness but were also addicted to drugs or alcohol and were often homeless. And whether they went to the jail or the ER, it was expensive for everyone — the jails, the hospitals and the police department that had to pay for overtime while cops waited at the hospital.

San Antonio’s response was to require all officers to take a 40-hour course called Crisis Intervention Training – to learn how to handle mental health crises. But even with strong programs, there’s only so much that training alone can do; there’s still the problem of where to take patients [with serious mental illness].

San Antonio tackled that problem, too. People who commit a felony still go to jail, regardless of their mental status. And those who need extensive medical care are taken to the hospital. But San Antonio built another option: the Restoration Center, a separate facility with a full array of mental and physical health services. 

San Antonio and Bexar County have transformed their mental health system into a program considered a model for the rest of the nation. Today, the jails aren’t full, and the city and county have saved $50 million over the past five years.”

This is your hopeful story for the day, and between the Middle East & Ferguson, MO, not to mention the Ebola virus, we need all the good news we can get.

The Power Of The Peer Group In Preventing Campus Rape

The Power Of The Peer Group In Preventing Campus Rape

“[David Lisak] surveyed about 1,800 men, asking them a wide range of questions about their sexual experiences. To learn about sexual assault he asked things like, ‘have you ever had sex with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force?’ When the results came back he was stunned.

All told, 120 men in the sample, or about 6 percent of the total, had raped women they knew. Two-thirds of those men were serial rapists, who had done this, on average, six times. Many of the serial rapists began offending before college, back in high school. Together, the 120 men in Lisak’s study were responsible for 439 rapes. None were ever reported.

Alcohol was the weapon of choice for these men, who typically saw themselves as college guys hooking up. They didn’t think what they had done was a crime. ‘Most of these men have an image or a myth about rape, that it’s some guy in a ski mask wielding a knife,’ says Lisak. ‘They don’t wear ski masks, they don’t wield knives, so they don’t see themselves as rapists.’

In fact they’d brag about what they had done afterwards to their friends. That implied endorsement from male friends – or at the very least, a lack of vocal objection — is a powerful force, perpetuating the idea that what these guys are doing is normal rather than criminal.”

Heard this story on NPR while drinking my coffee this morning and was totally blown away. This is just another example of why talking about rape prevention with men (something traditionally taught to women) is so important. I recently read Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This, a fantastic comic strip that breaks down sexual harassment and includes tips on how men can help prevent harassment from happening.

A program called MVP is taking this idea to the next level.

“MVP, or Mentors in Violence Prevention, matches upperclassmen with groups of incoming freshman. Throughout the school year, the older kids facilitate discussions about relationships, drinking, sexual assault and rape.

Xavier Scarlett, a rising senior and captain of the football, basketball and track teams, says he tries to get inside the heads of the freshman guys he mentors. They talk through various scenarios. What does it mean to hook up with a drunk girl when you’re sober? Would you be letting down your guy friends if you don’t hook up in that situation?

These conversations are tough, often awkward, in high school. A lot of the mentors still haven’t confronted this kind of situation in real life by the time they graduate. But once they get to college, says Iowa State University junior Tucker Carrell, a former MVP mentor, the scenarios come to life.”

I can’t recommend this article highly enough. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, take eight minutes out of your day and listen to it. Then share it with your friends, your co-workers, your kids.

More Dads Want Paternity Leave. Getting It Is A Different Matter.

More Dads Want Paternity Leave. Getting It Is A Different Matter.

While an ever-rising share of men say they want to have this kind of time with a new child, [Kumar] Chandran is among a lucky few who actually do. In the U.S., paternity leave is a luxury. It’s the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid time off, even for new mothers.

Scott Coltrane, interim president of the University of Oregon, who researches fathers and families, says more young men want time off with a new child — but just 10 to 15 percent of U.S. employers offer paid paternity leave, almost all in white-collar professions. “The main reason men don’t take it is because they don’t have wage replacement — so they can’t afford to,” Coltrane says.

Some states are acting on their own, mandating paid family leave for most workers. In California, the number of men taking it has doubled in a decade. Coltrane says that’s good for men, kids and women. “Fathers who take leave end up doing more of the routine work later,” Coltrane says. “They do more of the transportation, more of the cooking, more of the child care, more of the doing homework with the kids. It’s just kind of an early buy-in that helps men stay involved later.”

Women still don’t have paid maternity leave in the United States. Basically, this whole system of being a working parent is broken.

But still, go, Dads. Hey, since we’re talking about dads, let’s also watch this commercial, because it’s great. #howtodad