Archive for March, 2010

Test Coming Up

I’ve got a test coming up, so I probably won’t be able to blog much for the rest of the week. You know how much of a study nerd I am. 🙂

Have a great Thursday and Friday!

Ttys …

Categories: School Tags: , , ,

Phoebe Prince’s Suicide

I haven’t written anything about Phoebe Prince’s suicide. It’s a terrible tragedy and I just didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. You want to say something that will make it not have happened. But you can’t.

Phoebe, who had moved here from Ireland last year with her family, was in her first year at South Hadley High School. In addition to the stress of adjusting to a new country and a new school, she was mercilessly and relentlessly bullied by nine other students. They harassed her at school and on Facebook, assaulted her physically, and spread hateful rumors about her. On January 14, they finally pushed her over the edge.

The best we can hope is that Phoebe is now in a better, kinder, more loving world. But that’s small comfort to her family and friends. Nor is it a comfort to her school or to South Hadley, which must bear the shame and remorse of having failed to help her in her anguish.

Nor is it a comfort to anyone who looks at her photo and sees a smiling, eager young woman, full of hope and potential, with a joyful life ahead of her. All of that was assassinated by pointless, stupid cruelty.

Now, we’ll never know what Phoebe would have done or become. Maybe the best thing we can do is try to learn from the tragedy.

Almost all of us are capable of cruelty. High school students often lack empathy and don’t give enough thought to the possible results of their actions. Those are facts about human nature that we can’t change.

But what can we do?

There are several things that might have helped Phoebe:

  • School officials must take bullying seriously.
  • They must stay alert for bullying and punish it when it occurs.
  • They must require bullies to get counseling or therapy to help them stop.
  • They must monitor known bullies and, if needed, separate them from other students.
  • They must educate students about how evil bullying is.
  • They must promote a culture that despises bullying as many people despise smoking.
  • They must promote and show compassion, empathy, and understanding.

We can’t eliminate bullying completely. But we can at least make sure that it’s punished and that it’s considered shameful.

May God bless you, Phoebe, and wash away your suffering.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Crazy Health Facts for College Students

It’s amazing how solid facts in one era are exposed as silly prejudices in a later era.

One of my uncles gave me a book that he knew would make me laugh: Health Facts for College Students by Maude Lee Etheredge. Published in 1933, it presents the “solid facts” of the 1930s for college students.

It’s mostly written for male college students, of course. Back in the 1930s, one of the solid facts was the belief that women shouldn’t go to college. If a woman gets an education, it gives her ideas, and you know how much trouble that can cause. 🙂

The book is old, of course, and the original owner’s name is just too perfect: Virginia Woolf. I’d be amazed if the book was owned by the famous Virginia Woolf, but I suppose it’s possible. The name coincidence is interesting, and the signature looks really old, so I don’t think that anyone wrote it there as a joke.

Some of the advice is fairly sensible, such as:

As one enters college, he must face life squarely. He must make a real effort to overcome any wrong ideas or early prejudices. He must make every effort for fine, independent thinking in order not to become a parasite.” (p. 45)

In other places, it gets a little silly. Or maybe ominous, due to the author’s own prejudices:

In the United States, mulattoes have greatly increased in the past twenty-five years. Intermixing is going on to some extent among practically all races. Some of the hybrid races are inferior and some seem to be superior to the pure bred races. (p.151)

A “mulatto” is what they used to call a person whose parents were of different races. (Yes, I looked it up.) Apparently, that was supposed to be shameful. Don’t ask me why.

And then the book gets to the real punch line. You won’t believe it. This book was published in America. It’s not a nutty political tract. It’s just a book of advice for students, reflecting the common sense of the time:

It seems that we need more legislation and more enforcement along the lines of segregation and sterilization, but above all we need light through education. (p.151)

I’d say that the author needs a lot of light, but in fairness, the book was written in the early 1930s. That was before Hitler and the Nazis showed where that kind of thinking could lead. The ideas were still horrible, but the full extent of their horror had not yet been demonstrated.

Some of the rest of the book is so old-fashioned that it’s hilarious. It reassures readers that menstruation “is not an illness.” It advises that “homosexuality  can be dissipated by strong will power, by sufficient regular physical exercise, and by the entertainment of wholesome thoughts.”

Sex, of course, is just for marriage, which should be the main if not the only goal of every woman:

Do some of our ultra-modern writers and lecturers consider the health and well-being of the individual himself rather than society when they advocate free sex relations? … “Free love” as advocated by some, more often means heartaches. … It should include the care and training of children.

There was also a description of a disease called “trench mouth” that I had never heard of. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m glad that I don’t have it.

My main health goal for tonight is to finish some homework. It might not be as entertaining as the crazy things people believed in the 1930s, but it is very helpful in my classes. 🙂

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Health Care Reform Passes the House!

With the House of Representatives’ 219 to 212-vote approval of the Senate’s health care reform bill, health care reform moves one step closer to being law. America will finally join other developed nations in recognizing health care as a right, not merely as a privilege for the wealthy and the fortunate.

The House must now pass a separate bill that will make changes in the Senate’s version of health care reform. The changes will then go to the Senate for reconciliation. Under the reconciliation process, only 51 votes are needed for approval and the Senate’s Republican minority cannot block it by threatening a filibuster.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether health care reform will or won’t add to the government’s budget deficit. Nobody really knows. But we do know that it’s wrong to let people die because they don’t have money or because insurance companies want to increase their profits. What the House and Senate have passed doesn’t go nearly far enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The legislation includes no public option and is imperfect, but it will help tens of millions of people. I am thrilled. I had almost given up, but we really can make our country better.

And now, to bed. I had a lot of fun over mid-semester break (more on that later), but I’m tired and want to be fresh for school tomorrow.

Congratulations to the House Democrats, who defied a vicious smear campaign and did the right thing. They have helped bring America into the 21st century.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Our Little Life is Rounded with a Sleep

My life, anyway.

I’m making good progress on an assignment that’s due after mid-semester break, but I am just too tired to finish it tonight. At least I got most of it done, and reached the point where I was sure I understood everything.

I usually have pretty good dreams, at least the ones I remember. Nobody’s totally sure why we dream, or why we sleep for that matter. There are lots of theories.  But I notice that everything seems to have a complement: day/night, woman/man, up/down, movement/rest … After nerve cells fire, they have to rest for a while. Same with us. We’re awake, and then we have to sleep. Kind of frustrating sometimes when there’s lots to do and most of it’s fun.

But dreams can be fun, too. I know who I want to dream about tonight … 🙂

MCAT Yes, Med School Maybe

Well, it’s official: I’m taking the Medical College Admission Test. If I apply to medical school, it would be for fall 2011, so I need to take it this spring.

I’m not really sure that I want to go to medical school, but the MCAT is just another test. This way, I’ll have my score ready if I need it. The test has two sections on science, one for reasoning, and one for writing. I suppose I should get a test prep guide and see what I’m up against.

I’ve always admired the way some doctors help people and care about their patients. But I’m not sure I could handle it emotionally.

It’s okay when your treatment works and your patient gets better. But even with the best treatment, sometimes that doesn’t happen. I know that you have to care about your patients but keep from getting too involved. Otherwise, it would tear you apart when a patient suffered and/or died. Then you couldn’t be a good doctor for the rest of your patients. So you have to be tough and I don’t know if I’m that tough.

Maybe I’ll go into research. I could do that. Or dermatology, something that is helpful but less life-or-death. Or write books. Or lose 15 pounds and become a model. There are lots of options.

P.S. All right, all right: 20 pounds. I’m not admitting to any number higher than that. 🙂

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Doing It With e

This blog is all about a problem I had with e.

There you are jumping to conclusions again! I’m not talking about the drug you get at raves. I’ve never actually tried that kind of e, though guys have offered it to me. Diet Coke and chocolate are my drugs. 🙂

No, I’m talking about Euler’s number e, which is about 2.71828.

I’ve always been a little scared of e. And horses. And spiders. Don’t ask me what all those things have in common, except that they all scare me.

I recently got a math problem wrong because of e, and I just wanted to share my mistake in case anyone else gets confused like I did.

Calculus books (including mine and a couple others that I looked at) say that when you take the derivative of e, you get the same thing:

And that’s true. Kind of. If you’re not careful, it’s how you will remember the rule. That’s where I went wrong.

What makes it confusing is that the book is showing you a special case. Some books don’t make that clear enough. The derivative of x with respect to x is 1, so what you actually get is:

I hate to admit making a stupid mistake, but maybe I can help other people avoid it. When you differentiate e, the actual rule is this:

In other words, you differentiate the exponent (whatever it is) and then multiply that times e raised to the original exponent.

This blog probably isn’t as much fun as arguing about health care reform, but it’s a lot more useful if you’re a student.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Homeworked Out

I like school, but this has been the kind of week that makes me want to run away to New York and become a bartender. Or something of which my mother would disapprove even more. 🙂

Homework, homework, homework. And not easy, either.

I got it all done but I’m totally tired. I just want to go to bed. Good night. Only good dreams for all of us!

Categories: Life, School Tags: , , ,

I Talk Too Much

Yes, I know it. I talk too much.

I can’t help myself. I have all these thoughts and I want to share them with people. So I talk. And I write. And I almost always learn something from what people say in response.

Hopefully, some of the thoughts are good. Some of the best ones aren’t mine, but at least I know about them.

One of the best sayings that I usually ignore comes from the Chinese philosopher Confucius:

Silence is a friend who never betrays.

I’ve gotten pretty good at following that advice about things that might hurt people’s feelings. For almost anything else, though, I open my mouth and words come out. I just keep my fingers crossed that the words won’t be totally insane.

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis also advises me to keep my mouth shut. Kempis was a German monk who lived from 1380 to 1471. In Book I, Chapter 10 “On the Danger of Superfluity of Words,” he says:

We like talking so much because we hope by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we seek to refresh our wearied spirits by a variety of thoughts.

I think that’s true. It’s one of the reasons I blog. I like to say what I think and hear what other people think: a variety of thoughts. But Kempis warns:

Talk concerning worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a hindrance, so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity.

Of course, he was a monk, probably writing for other monks and Church officials because they were pretty much the only people who could read. So maybe his advice goes a little too far for regular people living regular lives, especially in the 21st century. I definitely don’t want to give up talking about “Gossip Girl.” 🙂

But he has a good point. We can get so entranced by all the shiny things and loud noises around us that we forget about what’s really important. He also says:

Devout conversation on spiritual things helpeth … to spiritual progress, most of all where those of kindred mind and spirit find their ground of fellowship in God.

Although I’m a Catholic, I see that as applying to everyone. My Dad’s side of the family is Jewish. I also have friends and classmates who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and who follow many other paths. It seems to me that we are all searching for the same thing, the same kind of spiritual answer and fulfillment. Even atheists, though they deny it, want to find some kind of meaning in the world.

Truth, to me, is less a destination than a journey. Just as we seek spiritual improvement without imagining that we will ever be perfect, we seek spiritual truth without imagining that we will ever completely understand the truth that we seek. There will always be a part that we have to take on faith. Loving each other is one way we can live by that faith.

One other thing in which I have faith is that if I don’t do my studying and homework, I won’t do well in my classes! So I’d better get to that.


Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.