3.31.2008

Tell Me About School Today

I attended a management seminar today that dealt with various facets of managing time and resources in a work environment. Much of the class dealt with interpersonal communication, and held quite a few parallels and applications to life outside the office.

One section in particular focused on asking effective questions. After several small drills to illustrate his point, it was clear to the class that how you ask a question has almost as much to do with the answer you receive as what you actually ask. The lecturer quickly parlayed this into a real world example of interacting with his 13 year old son. His standard question "How was school today?" always garnered the customary response of "Fine" from the boy.

The speaker then relayed how a minor alteration in his question elicited far more information from his son. Instead of asking a very open question which prompts a vague and summary response such as "fine", he turned his question into a statement; "Tell me about school today." This minor tweak placed the conversational onus on his son rather than allowing him the scapegoat answer of "fine."

A question like "how was your day" or "how was school" is non-specific and requests a summary without any detail. "Tell me about your day" puts the subject matter in terms of the person who experienced it, asking them to pick out the items they saw most significant. It's a small technique, but one worth trying and with apparently little downside.

3.17.2008

'Cholera Peace' Has A Nice Ring To It

...no? 'Cash Guy'? no? 'Ima Hooker'?

As much joke-like as those names may sound, they've all been used as legal monikers in the past. And as bad as those sound, they have plenty of company in the realm of weird and obscure baby names.

The least common name my wife and I considered when naming our son was Enzo, and that pales in comparison to the number of seven-deadly-sin names which have been popular since the 17 hundreds. (My family would have completely disowned me if I brought little 'Sloth Washington' home from the hospital.)

The Today Show featured a segment about terrible baby names and a book which calls them all to light:

What would compel a parent to bestow a newborn with a name like “Tiny Hooker” or “Fanny Large”? Or an amusing choice like “Wanna Towell"? It’s not just Hollywood’s elite opting for unique, embarrassing names—throughout history, normal people separated their offspring from the masses with truly terrible names.

In “Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled Their Kids With, and You Can Too!,” Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback, of the genealogy Web site Ancestry.com, share thousands of shocking names given to real people, as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Discover the funny names based around common themes, like diseases (Fever Bender, Cholera Peace), food (Bread White, Pomegranate Purple), pets (Good Dog), and if you thought Wednesday Addams was unfortunate—wait till you meet Monday Monday.
Check out the Today Show website for sampling of some painfully bad names like Lunch Magee (I kinda' like that one, actually). Scroll down for a video clip of the interview with Sherrod, explaining the census data used in writing the book and how crazy names are not just a new phenomenon (like Everly Bear)

3.09.2008

Swiper, get counseling! Swiper, get counseling!

If you've ever read any of the Dora the Explorer books you have encountered the likes of Swiper, a kleptomaniacal fox. Swiper's sole purpose in life is to steal anything and everything from Dora and her friends, apparently at any cost. The Dora crowd always seems to vanquish this thieving fox by saying aloud with the help of readers, "Swiper, stop swiping! Swiper, stop swiping!" This troublingly simple and highly effective remedy makes you wonder if Swiper has a guilty conscience or just scares easily. But have you ever stopped to think that maybe Swiper is clinically insane?

In one particular story, Dora and her friends were out to get some ice cream on a hot summer day. As they approached an ice cream truck, Swiper flew by in a helicopter in an attempt to steal the ice cream. Once again, they all yell "Swiper, stop swiping!" and he flies off.

This series of events struck me as odd on several levels. Who uses a chopper to hunt down a little girl and some snacks? A psycho, that's who. They always say that if you see a fox during the day there's probably something wrong with it, and Swiper is no exception.

A rational person would realize that the kids will clearly hear the helicopter coming and will be able to defend their ice cream, but Swiper did not. Any way, the rotor wash from the chopper would get dirt in the ice cream making it inedible, another factor for which he failed to account.

Then there's the cost to consider. Super unleaded gas is pushing $3.30 a gallon, which is a cone or small sundae right there, but I can't even imagine what JP-4 (aviation fuel) costs right now. Why not just buy the ice cream with the money he spent on fuel or even trade helicopter rides with the ice cream man for a few cones?

All of this aside, you wonder where in the hell a fox gets a helicopter in the first place. Did he borrow it? Did he rent it?... Did he kill for it?

When all is said and done, Swiper abandons his efforts at the mere sound of kids yelling in unison.

Dora, if I may, a little advice; stop yelling at him and get some mace and a restraining order. Swiper appears to have a very light grasp on reality and suffers from some distinct anti-social conditions. I mean come on, he used a helicopter to try and steal an ice cream cone! If that doesn't scream nuts, I don't know what does. One day he will realize that all you are doing is yelling at him and that words can't hurt him, and then where will you be? Probably tied up in Swiper's basement. Swiper is not stealing because he needs or wants things, he does it to interfere with your life. Dora, Swiper is obsessed with you.

So the next time that Swiper commandeer's a hovercraft to pilfer some new shoelaces or something equally ridiculous, I want you to say with me, "Swiper, get counseling! Swiper, get counseling!" Then call the cops.

3.07.2008

Childhood Spanking Leads To Risky Sex

...for the kids that is. Gayla at Super Nanny Rules had a post that caught my eye: Childhood Spanking Leads to Sexual Promiscuity.

Analysis of four spanking-related studies found that children who were spanked were more likely to engage in risky and possibly masochistic sexual practices.
From Fox News:

An analysis of four studies by Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire-Durham, found that children who suffer physical punishment in the form of spanking, hitting or slapping are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior as adults, it is reported by USA Today.

The study, presented Thursday to the American Psychological Association, suggests that spanked children also are more likely to be "physically or verbally coercing" to a sexual partner and engage in masochistic sex, including arousal by spanking, later in life.

Yet another reason to think twice before spanking your kid.

3.03.2008

Bath Time on Planet Hoth



After every bath we give my son, we immediately wrap him in a bath towel that looks like a bear. It's almost more of an outfit than just a towel; it has a hood with ears that covers his damp little head, and has arms with little paws on the end. It snaps shut in the front to keep him warm and he basically looks like he is wearing a fluffy little bear skin.

And, when I place my son in this outfit after every bath, I inevitably think of one particular scene in The Empire Strikes Back on the icy planet Hoth. If you've seen the movie, you know the scene; Han Solo cuts open a tauntaun and shoves Luke Skywalker inside the carcass of the snow lizard to keep him warm. That's what I picture whenever I towel off my son, and frankly it makes bath time a little more fun for daddy.