Archive for the 'Positive Actions' category

Twelve +/- Months of Zuska 2014

Dec 06 2014 Published by under Daily Struggles, Positive Actions

It was not a good year for blogging.  But what the heck, according to Drugmonkey's meme, here's the year in review.

January So, this is not the way I imagined breaking my writer's block.

February Not you, I bet!

March It struck me the other day that I now have a small and growing elder care section in my personal library.

April *crickets*

May I see the Google doodle today is in honor of Dorothy Hodgkin's birthday.

June My theory, which is mine: it shows why Einstein was wrong!

July Disorganization.

August So thanks, guys.

September Last night was it.

And...that was it for the year.  Prophetic, that last line, no?

I had envisioned this year as the time when I would nurture the withered stalk that had been my writing life and watch it come to blossom again, in whatever so small and self-satisfying a world it exists. But this year people I loved were in need, and/or ill, and some of them died, and then it came winter and year's end.

The days are short now and it's the time of year when the lack of light makes me gloomy but I'm going to resist that as much as possible. This week I got my basement waterproofed and as crazy as it may seem, that one unglamorous household improvement has buoyed my spirits. It's a dreary rainy day but I can tell myself: there won't be any water in the basement! So I don't care if it rains! (sorry, all you other folks who are still getting water in your basements. I know you still suffer. May waterproofing come your way soon.)

I've been through two and a half years of near continual worry and stress and grief and loss. It's no good waiting for everything to clear up in life to spare some attention for mundane happiness. And it does need attention.  The good and the bad are all mixed up together. If I don't look carefully I will miss the good bits because the bad is always eager to overshadow. I will try to focus on good things when they come along.  Whether it is a water-proofed basement or a bowl of chocolate yogurt or an entire day without migraine, I'll give myself permission to enjoy. Maybe this will help with the writing, who knows? We'll see!

One response so far

ScienceOnline and Followup to #ScioSafe

Let's start by acknowledging that I was not at SciO14, so obviously I was not at the impromptu/spontaneous #ScioSafe session. Had I been at SciO14, I am sure I would have been at #ScioSafe. I hope that I would have done a good job of listening and doing my part to help create an environment where people felt safe to speak up and share.

I have the greatest admiration and respect for EVERYONE who participated in that session. And I have great sympathy for those who might have wanted to be there, but didn't find out in time. It's too bad they couldn't have had access to such a session on the regular conference agenda, as many have noted.  I do think it's entirely possible that what occurred in #ScioSafe could only have taken place outside the official boundaries of SciO14. Okay, in an ideal universe, the board of ScienceOnline spent the past year dealing head-on with their Boron-issues, got a lot of professional advice, and brought in some top-notch facilitators to help the heal the community. They had a plenary session in which they reviewed what happened, explained exactly what steps will be taken to change the culture, and outlined concrete plans for improved communication.

Roseanne Connor once said "I'm still waiting for chocolate air!" in response to sister Jackie's statement that she was waiting for Roseanne to say she was right. Organizations will be direct, effective, and rapid in their response to Boron-like disasters sometime shortly after we have chocolate air. They have to be pushed, nagged, prodded, dragged, "incentivized", and sometimes, reinvented, to make things better. Oh, you think you are hoping to just slide by this year with the "recent events" euphemism and some hand-waving in the direction of "boundaries" and then whoosh! back to "real" scicomm and on to 2015!  Well, maybe. Except, no. ScienceOnline as an organization should be thanking its lucky stars that it has dedicated and passionate members who want to make it into what it should be - a welcoming space for everyone who wants to talk about science online.

It's easy-peasy to be just one more unwelcoming, non-inclusive, harmful kinda conference. Nobody needs to attend a Scio conference. They aren't part of professional organizations, universities don't necessarily support attendance costs, the eclectic mix of professionals, students, and academics thus far drawn to SciO have to be choosey with their conference dollars. Why go someplace where you know there are serious issues that are festering and unlikely to be fixed, especially if it's an informal sort of get-together? Might as well go to the usual unwelcoming places that are official career-builders. So kudos to the people trying to do SciO a favor and make it better.

If you haven't already, read the summary of the #ScioSafe session here at Doc Freeride's blog and give some serious consideration to the seven items listed in the document session attendees produced. As far as I'm concerned it's all pretty much a no-brainer, except for part of #5. I think the SciO org desperately needs to clarify what, if any, relationship they still have with Bora Zivkovic, and what, if any, they currently plan to have with him going forward. Then let the community descend with pitchforks and torches decide how they feel about that. In my dream world, Boron is invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference on using social media for science communication but when he shows up, he is put on a rocket ship and sent to Neptune. I will admit that the rocket ship to Neptune is my preferred, albeit impractical, solution for dealing with all harassers. If SciO does its job right in creating a community that is truly welcoming and inclusive and safe, and that does not support or reward bad behavior, there will be no need to ban the Borons of the world. The community will make their existence so difficult they'll seek easier places to do their dirty work.

That's what I would like to see, beyond creating a community where people feel safe to report bad things that happen to them, knowing the perpetrators will be dealt with: I would like to see a community that makes bad actors less likely. I would like to see a community that plays a role in building better communities. Not just the stick, and punishment after the fact, but something like a carrot. Actions to prevent occurrences are a start, and then it would be wonderful to be part of growing a crop of folks who create inclusive environments wherever they go, because they have the tools to do so.

I think this is part of science communication, and part of what science online can and should try to accomplish. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) offers a rotating series of mini-courses that can be taken for accreditation, to develop skills that medical writers need. There are skills that science writers need, and of course there are places you can go to take such courses. But ScienceOnline could offer something no one else does. I would like to see development of a set of courses that are offered on a rotating basis, maybe for some sort of accreditation, if SciO becomes a member organization. Participants would learn how to foster inclusivity through communication. Here are some topic ideas:

1. What is inclusive language - and will it ruin my beautiful prose? (Subtopics to be covered include: his/her is so awkward!; you people can't take a joke; lame is just an expression!; what's wrong with talking about hard & soft skills?; we just want "the best and brightest")

2. What is an inclusive lab group and what communication skills does it need?

3. How do I write about a scientist who is a woman without mentioning her knitting?

4. Is it ever okay to mention the knitting of a scientist who is a woman?

5. There's more to February and March than George Washington Carver and Marie Curie

6. Got privilege? Leverage it as an ally online!

Those are just some off the top of my head ideas, I'm sure you people working out there in real science communication can think of better ones, but you get the idea. Now go forth, my friends, and get to work. ScienceOnline isn't going to invent chocolate air without your help.

Comments are off for this post

Young and Healthy? Your New Year's Resolution: Buy More Insurance!

Welcome to 2013, Zuskateers, and yes, I want you all to buy more insurance, pronto!

I'm not talking car insurance; if you have a car, you no doubt already have it insured. I'm just going to assume you have it insured properly. I'm not talking health insurance either because whatever your situation, there's probably not a whole lot you or I can do about it, even with that socialist Obamacare that's ruining America even as we speak.

And I'm not even talking about gun insurance, which is a dream that may yet some day come true.

Nay, the insurance I speak of is life and long-term care insurance.

If you are really young and healthy, you probably have neither, and this is not good. Every day that goes by increases the risk that you/your family members will need to use this type of insurance, and decreases the likelihood that you will qualify to purchase it, at least at anything like an affordable rate.

Let me give you an example. Some time in my late thirties, my employer offered employees the option to purchase long-term care insurance for themselves and/or for family members, including parents. The insurance was also portable, meaning I/family members could take it with us if/when I left that employer. I was concerned about planning for my mother's future and so we applied for the long-term care policy for her. Myself? I was hale and hearty, and saw no need to "waste" my salary on long-term care insurance premiums. Within two years I had a stroke and that, Zuskateers, was the end of my lifetime opportunity to buy long-term care insurance.

Mr. Z's company recently offered a policy to employees and spouses. Before filling out the application proper, I had to answer three questions, one of which was "have you ever been denied for long-term care insurance?" and another of which was "have you ever had [cancer, heart attack, stroke, etc.]?" A yes answer to any of the three questions leads to this instruction in large bold print: Do Not Fill Out This Application. That's because a yes leads to  automatic denial.  And you don't want to be denied for long-term care insurance if you hope to someday get long-term care insurance. Not that you will be able to get it, what with the cancer/heart attack/stroke stuff. This is known as irony. Of the two of us, I am more likely to need long-term care, and need it sooner, therefore of course the insurance companies will only sell it to Mr. Z. This is why you must buy the insurance when you still can't foresee any need for it.

So Zuskateers, if you are still pre-cancer/heart attack/stroke/other medical disasters, and you have a chance to get yourself some long-term care insurance, you buy it. You make room in your budget, and you buy it. (After you make sure that it is a good policy that actually provides useful benefits.) Do you have any idea how much assisted living costs? I'm not talking nursing home care, I'm talking assisted living. Or in home care? This stuff is pricey. I assure you, it is not too early to start learning about the various types of senior living options. If it's still awhile till you need this information for yourself, you may need it for a parent or other elderly relative sooner than you think.

Just don't kid yourself that you are going to stay your same hale and hearty present self for the rest of your life. This is known as magical thinking.  Injuries, accidents, illnesses can happen in a flash and change your life forever.  Yes, you can eat well and exercise and take care of yourself the best you possibly can, but Fate can have its way with you, and that you can not control. So: long-term care insurance.

The other piece of the insurance pie is life insurance. You're young, you can't imagine what's the need. What will you do with it? You'll be dead after all, won't you? Okay, first of all: life insurance pays out immediately after a death. Those folks are prompt. So if nothing else, your family members will have ready cash on hand to cover your burial expenses. Second: are you a two-income family? You are, right? I don't think there are many 1-percenters reading this blog. What will your family do if one of those incomes is suddenly lost through death? How will your surviving partner/kids cover the bills, the rent/mortgage, everything? Hint: life insurance will help.  Are you a single parent? How do you expect your children to be cared for if something happens to you? I'm sure you have someone in mind to look out for them if the unthinkable happens, but wouldn't it be much better if these kind souls had an insurance benefit to help provide for them?  Yes, it would.

Again I use myself as an example: I have a life insurance policy that is provided through my disability insurance (that itself came through my last employer). If something happened to me, this would help Mr. Z compensate for the loss of my disability income. This insurance policy, however, is only in effect until age 65. Ideally I would purchase something else to compensate for the fact that this policy will go away someday - except, of course, insurance companies aren't thrilled about insuring people who have had strokes. Safe to say it's best to buy your insurance before you've had any major health issues.

So my young and healthy Zuskateers, your New Year's resolution: get thee to an insurance agent. Get some quotes from several agents. Learn about long term care policies, learn about life insurance, learn about the level of coverage you need now to protect yourself and your loved ones.  I mean it.

The gyms are all going to be way too crowded the first two weeks of January anyway. You might as well take this time to begin your insurance research.

10 responses so far

Are You A Mentor? Or A Dementor?

Contrary to popular belief, dementors are not just imaginary creatures who live in J. K. Rowling’s imagination and the Harry Potterverse.  Anyone can be a dementor, at any time, to anyone.  Most of us, given the choice, would likely rather be a mentor than a dementor, I think.  But can you recognize the signs – in yourself, or in another?  Herein I offer a wee guide.

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

When to Tell? Who to Tell?

The most awesome Hermitage asked in a recent post

Ignoring the fact that knowing who to even complain to, and to what purpose, is not always clear, how bad does something have to be before you are compelled to take a stand? Should the criteria be severity, or simply how easy something is to prove? Should you always do the right thing, or should your career come first?

I wrote a long comment that sort of turned into a mini-post.  I'll reproduce it here. My answer was written assuming that what was being complained about was harassment or discrimination.  One main point I wanted to get across is this:  DO NOT WAIT until you have been harassed or discriminated against to try to figure out what you should do when you have been harassed or discriminated against.  Read and educate yourself about your school or workplace's relevant policies and procedures, understand how things would officially be handled and what that would imply for you.  Go talk to someone at the office of diversity or the equal opportunity office (where a complaint might be likely to be handled).  If your university has a women's studies department, ask them for resources to help you understand the situation women in science face in academia and how to respond to harassment and discrimination (tell them you don't need to read high theory, you need practical stuff about dealing with douchebags).  An informed woman scientist is one who is less likely to be harassed, and more likely to be able to aid a colleague who is dealing with a problem.

Okay, here's the rest of what I wrote over at Hermitage's place.  I encourage you to go read her post and the comments there, too.  Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

Smart Girls at the Party

Via Gerty-Z - thanks so much for alerting me to this site!

Smart Girls At The Party!

As Gerty-Z notes,

the tagline [is] "change the world by being yourself". Now, that already sounds pretty awesome. BUT, if you poke around you will find that it is set up by three super-awesome women: Amy Poehler, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles. They interview women and girls who do cool stuff

Valentine is a gardener.  And there are many, many more cool videos and other things on the site.  Share this with every young girl you know!!!!!!!!!!!


2 responses so far

Hunger Relief vs. Poverty Relief: I Vote For More of Both

Last Saturday I came home from the farmer's market, made mega-veggie eggs for me and Mr. Z, and blogged about it.  Zuskateer Kea commented

All very well if you can afford it.

And she's right.  I am extremely fortunate both to be able to afford nutritious fresh produce, and to have good sources of it readily available to me. In parts of Philadelphia with high poverty rates, there are no grocery stores at all, and corner bodega shops may carry little or no fresh produce.  A recent series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about efforts to support community gardens and teach young children about gardening and good eating habits revealed that many young kids in the city don't even know what fresh fruits and vegetables look like, and can't identify them by name when they are shown them.  This is an abominable situation.  Our young children, and the parents struggling to raise them, deserve better. Continue Reading »

26 responses so far

Life, With More Pancakes

Now is the time when all good people make rash vows with a eye towards extreme personal makeovers.  I will go to the gym eight times a week, lose seventy-five pounds, cook a nutritious meal from locally sourced whole foods every night, and read Proust rather than follow the appalling antics of those housewives on Wisteria Lane!

Well, let's be realistic, shall we?  You've been watching Desperate Housewives all these years, and haven't been able to take your eyes off the train wreck yet. You're not going to stop now, no matter how stupid and offensive the storyline gets.  Really, Susan?  Holistic medicine instead of dialysis?  It was on the internet, though, so it must be a viable alternative.  If you don't get around to the Proust, at least read the TWOP commentary on DH: "Mary Alice starts off on this tangent about broccoli but ends up in this super weird, Monsters Are Due On Maple Street kind of Red Scare Paranoia thing that is, no doubt, the reason Republicans love this show so much. That and the Mexican jokes. "It's a question we all ask ourselves: Do I trust the folks who live next door? Can I count on the woman who lives down the block?"  That is not, Mary Alice, a question or set of questions that "we" all ask ourselves, with any frequency really at all. I understand that, as a murderess and kidnapper and wife of a lunatic and victim of blackmail and chopper-up of toy box-crammed corpses and associate of drug addicts you might think that this is healthy paranoia but it's really not. Not even with Paul Young's spicy self buying up all the property like we're on Park Place do those questions really count. This sort of thinking is how somebody like Bree ends up with guns."

Ah, internet. I love you, I love you not.  Connectivity to like minds, a blog to exercise the brain since chronic migraines pushed me out of the workforce, and Television Without Pity. All good. Online seduces, of course, precious sands of time dropping one by one down the hourglass - a quick login to Facebook here, a fast check of three email accounts there, just browse by that forum to see what's doing and post a comment or three, catch up on the blogs, a TWOP show summary, and call it a day. Literally.

Over the past couple of years, more and more of my life, and the interactions that have mattered to me, have moved online.  There's nothing special about me in that regard, but I've spent some time in the past month thinking about it, and whether or not I want it to continue that way.  Of course, here I am online to tell you about it.

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Nearing the end of DonorsChoose: Can we help Mrs. T's Kids????

Nov 09 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions

Zuskateers, you amaze me.  Together you have donated $822 to help 638 kids discover the joys of science and math.  Does $822 not sound like a lot of money?  Consider that your $822 will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the folks at HP, so it's really $1644.  And consider that the Zuskateer total is 8% of what the Pharynguloid hordes of Secular Scientists for Education have managed to cough up.  Given that I am pretty darn sure that PZ's traffic is approximately eighty bazillion times mine, I think we can be pretty proud of ourselves.

But let's not quit yet!  Because Mrs. T's classroom needs help, and there is only one day left on her project, Science Is Fun When You're Learning With Pflumm!  A mere $252 will bring the following into reality:

My Students: Science should be FUN! The Agnes Pflumm books provide students with an opportunity to read about science and the scientific method while truly enjoying what it is they are reading.

My students come from a diverse array of backgrounds and cultures. The school I teach in is a Title I school so many of my students come from an inner city home. These 7th graders are eager to learn and are at the perfect age to truly experience science. I see 7th grade as a perfect time to get them excited about science by encouraging them to explore and investigate the world around them. I want these students to have an opportunity to experience science, to do science and to develop a love of science at a young age. I try to incorporate opportunities for each child to experience successful learning and these books provide many students with that success.

My Project: By utilizing the Agnes Pflumm books, students learn about the scientific method, an essential concept in science, all the while enjoying the experience of reading in the content area. Students start to develop ideas about their own research projects and begin to visualize themselves as young scientists in the making, all the benefits of a true learning experience. Students become problem solvers while learning.

These students are tomorrows engineers, technicians, scientists. Inspiring a love of science and learning now, will help them to realize that they can pursue a career in science in the future. Part of inspiring that ambition is to make learning fun.

ZOMG I would so love to see this project fully funded!  ONE DAY LEFT!  November 9 is the last day!

Find this project on my giving page here.  Or follow the link in the sidebar widget.

Comments are off for this post

OMG! 2 Days Left For Math Success!

Nov 05 2010 Published by under Donors Choose, Positive Actions

You are all so wonderful! Apparently many of you felt that WWABD is what you would do, too - the "Put Money Into Our Hands" project now has only $179 to go to be completely funded!  Yay! (And for those of you who are not able to give, I understand that, too.)

And this morning I see that the Math Success project, with only two days left till it expires, needs $51 more to complete its funding.  I just donated $25 to it (which won't show up immediately on the giving page) so all we need is $26 more and Mrs. K's classroom in Concord, NC will have the following project funded! (Giving page link in the widget at the sidebar, or go directly here.)

Math Success!

My Students: Imagine learning how to count money and tell time by doing worksheets. Now imagine being 7 years old and having to sit in one place for the duration of the worksheet. I know many adults who struggle to do this and the same is true for children. My students need hands on math experiences to succeed.

My students live in rural low income neighborhoods. They attend a Title 1 school, where many of the children receive free or reduced lunches. Many of my students live in government-supported homes. Their parents often work late to provide for them. Although they want the best for their child, they struggle to keep up with their child's learning needs. They lack the money and resources to practice the skills they learned at school. My students rely on me to provide them with adequate resources to grow as a learner.

My Project: The materials I'm requesting include a variety of math games that cover many of the skills they will need to master at the end of second grade. These skills include number sense, telling time, geometry, measurement, and fractions. The games can be played individually or in small groups. I can also send the games home as homework for my students to play. The games are also multi-leveled so I can use them to challenge my high students and support my low students at the same time. They include all the materials my students will need to complete the assignment. My students will be able to practice and apply the skills they learned in math. This will ensure that they don't forget or lose those skills later in the year.

Like many adults, children need to see the value of math in real life to truly understand and appreciate it. These games provide real life situations where my students need to apply their math knowledge. Mastering these skills in second grade will build a solid foundation in math for the rest of my students' lives. hide»

My students need Help-Yourself Multilevel Math Centers to practice their math skills.

3 responses so far

Older posts »