Irony: The link between ‘flushable’ wipes and the possible 8.8 billion stars with just-right planets in our galaxy

Note: The following philosophical rant is inspired by the following pieces in news in the past couple of days http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/11/05/at-least-88-billion-earth-size-just-right-planets-found-study-says/  and http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-please-dont-flush-those-flushable-wipes/nbfgk/

IRONY:  How can ‘flushable’ wipes and the “Goldilocks zone” have anything in common?

To be fair, ‘flushable’ wipes has been a subject with little attention paid by the media markets but a costly issue that can hardly be ignored.  In short, stop flushing anything down the toilet besides personal waste and toilet paper designed to break down in the sewage!  However, even though we’ve had decades of talk about climate change and our human effect on our environment–there are still folks that don’t give a second thought to tossing their personal wipes into the toilet bowl and in turn causing clogging of pipes and pumps, causing serious blockages and repairs of systems that can reach into the millions of dollars.

Meanwhile there are scientists and astronomers that are absolutely giddy at the recent findings that suggest our planet Earth is not the only girl available to dance with at Life’s Universal Prom event.  “Astronomers using NASA data have calculated for the first time that in our galaxy alone there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone.”  The funny question follows by the study’s co-author Geoff Marcy who asks: “If we aren’t alone, why is ‘there a deafening silence in our Milky Way galaxy from advanced civilizations?'”

Wipe, Don’t Flush It

Having read both these random articles lead me to believe that there was a real connection between the two.

We may have i-Phones and devices galore that reflect our amazing technological advances in recent decades but we are having a global crisis of sorts as to what lines exist in privacy of government leaders (i.e. recent NSA leaks and the likes of German Merkel being quite upset with the U.S.A.).

We are aware that we should be striving to reduce and reuse our waste materials and yet we insist on indulging in products like the K-cup coffee and the like revolution: coffee your way in your size although I’m personally clueless on how we can go about reducing the waste onslaught into our landfills by these products.

We claim to have such instantaneous communication capabilities and a wealth of knowledge to anyone who can log onto the World Wide Web…and yet, we still cut each other off with the most vicious disdain when merging onto an interstate highway in the car.

The Good News in Short

The likelihood is we Earthlings are most probably not alone in the universe, if not the Milky Way itself.  However zealous we may be to escape the drudgery of this place in hopes of seeking out new friends in the cosmos, we must take a pause and look around us—better yet, look at ourselves.  How can I make this place a better space to live and thrive in?

It is a comfort to even sense that we are not alone in the unknown of our surroundings past our own atmosphere and humble solar system—but it is a reality check to recognize that there may be countless reasons why other possible civilizations have hesitated to engage with us.

Earth: the toddler planet who refuses to wipe properly and dispose of its waste accordingly.

In part jest and part seriousness,

“live long and prosper”,

R.V.S.Bean

I Spy the i-Generation…Momm-i, Dadd-i?

digital blog 4-1-2013

What Can I do?

If you’re a parent, please read this now or when you have a moment, “The Touch-Screen Generation” by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/the-touch-screen-generation/309250/

Quick Review

If you’re a busy parent like every other parent, here is a short review and discourse of this article. Ms. Rosin is also a parent and writes this candid piece in the wake of attending an event in spring of 2012 where a group of developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets met in Monterey, California—a short drive south of Silicon Valley—in order to show and tell about their respective games and programs.

 Today’s i-Reality

As fast our fingers can swipe on these touch –screen gadgets is how pervasive their presence in our lives have become. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not been able to keep up with the technology as it struggles to report on its policy about young children being exposed to various media (we all remember the under-2 years old not so good for TV exposure). How many of us have witnessed the child in the high-chair dining nearby with an iPad to boot? How many of us are that parent(s) who have handed over the iPhone in desperation at the post office as the line snakes around for twenty people or so?

 i AM the parent i AM!

“Norman Rockwell never painted Boy Swiping Finger on Screen, and our vision of a perfect childhood has never adjusted to accommodate that now-common tableau.” –Hanna Rosin, “The Touch-Screen Generation” The Atlantic

You are still the parent no matter what technology shows up in our world today. Truly you are still the gate-keeper for your little one(s) who need human touch more than a touch-sensitive tin screen that is derived from horrible mining conditions parallel to the “blood diamond” controversy in recent decades.

Research? Doesn’t really exist yet on whether or not the good outweighs the bad in terms of a child’s exposure to these gizmos and gadgets that get smaller, smarter and faster as the months pass. What hasn’t changed is that you still are the best gauge to measure what’s right and wrong for your children. Ms. Rosin found it interesting that when she spoke with some of the children’s app developers about how they approached their home rules when it came to screen time—she got answers like “no screen time during the week”, “on the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain” and “one said only on airplanes and long car rides”.

Personally, with a toddler and preschooler now in my stewardship, my husband and I find no reason for them to need to use touch-screens right now. There will be no learning curve for them to master as this stuff is so easy that it makes watching TV seem like a chore. Seriously, I witnessed a 90-year old yesterday using “face time” on the iPad at a friend’s home. At the same time, I do allow them to utilize the touch-screens at museums and to witness peers using them—please forgive the reference, but I can’t be Amish about this subject with my children, they are aware these technologies exist (especially as one of their beloved relatives is a computer engineer).

 Complex Answers to Simple Swipes

“The reason many kids’ apps are grouped under ‘Education’ in the iTunes store, I suspect, is to assuage parents’ guilt (though I also suspect in the long run, all those ‘educational’ apps merely perpetuate our neurotic relationship with technology, by reinforcing the idea that they must be sorted vigilantly into ‘good’ or ‘bad’”. –Hanna Rosin

There are so many ways to approach this question as to whether exposure to these digital technologies will help or hinder our children. If you thought what we feed our children was a concern, this one is an alarming obsession since we ourselves are busy trying to learn the new gadget in our hands before our kid gets a hold of it and masters it in less than half the time it took us to find where to tappity-tap.

Ms. Rosin says what I feel as well:
“Every new medium has, within a short time of its introduction, been condemned as a threat to young people. Pulp novels would destroy their morals, TV would wreck their eyesight, video games would make them violent…There are legitimate broader questions about how American children spend their time, but all you can do is keep them in mind as you decide what rules to set down for your own child.”

Enjoy the Ride

As parents in the early part of the 21st century, we can’t complain about being bored with this awesome responsibility of raising the next generation who will likely see this 22nd century bring about new technologies we can hardly fathom. I hope we can impart to them the importance of love for each other, for our natural resource (Creation in general) and a healthy curiosity for the unknown and ever-changing landscape of our human creativity.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

 Book and Reading Recommendations:

  •  “Screen Time” by Lisa Guernsey and her website http://www.lisaguernsey.com
  •  “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning” by Marc Prensky and his website http://www.marcprensky.com
  •  “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv

$5.00 Per Gallon: What America May Pay For Auto Fuel If We Don’t Wake Up

$5.00 Per Gallon: What America May Pay For Auto Fuel If We Don’t Wake Up

I’m not claiming to be neither an energy specialist nor a bona fide economist but I think the latest developments in the political turmoil in the oil-rich nations across the Atlantic and beyond deserve our careful consideration.

SAME OLD REFRAIN

When we examine the last 30-40 years of international politics as it relates to the effect of war/upheaval/et cetera in these petroleum capitals of the world—oil barrel prices and such often rise without warning or constraint. Each and every time we Americans gripe and seem surprised even though for the most part we’ve escaped true debilitating price hikes and status quo cost of automotive gasoline at the pumps in some European nations.

DENIAL AND RESERVATIONS

What year is it again? 2011. Why are we still so reliant on fossil fuels in general? I fear it is for a number of very classic human flaws. One is definitely just because it’s the way we’ve always done things, despite all the technological advances we’ve made in a matter of a few decades—we are still “dinosaurs” in how we view our transportation needs. Second, since it is the most common source of fuel, it somehow manages to be cheaper in general than the initial start-up investment it would take to delve into renewal sources of energy. Third, American politicians, corporate giants and phobic environmentalists and/or crotchety landowners are the biggest blockades to our progress as an innovative energy leader of a nation.

REALITY BITES

A combination of volatile social factors resulting after the Tunisian and Egyptian political fallouts are causing a ripple effect that won’t be truly sorted out for years to come, yet Americans are already grumbling about the gas pump prices as we fill up our thirsty tanks. How many times do we need to learn this lesson? Relying on fossil fuels is not the best long-term investment for America regardless of wherever we may source them from (international or domestic).

PRIDE: SWALLOW IT

Change is never easy. Especially when it concerns our cash flow and the request for more of it is laid out. There has to be a collective effort by corporations, energy industry innovators, politicians and American citizens to willingly go forward with real changes in our consumption of oil to give way to newer, more sustainable sources of power for our transportation (just one of our many energy usage needs: think electricity, home heating, cooking, etc). As for countries like Egypt and Libya, we need to allow them the space to work out their futures without being a puppet to their oil drenched strings.

RVSB

Facebook Phenomenon: Facing It

FACEBOOK PHENOMENON

In the past week or so, I’ve read and seen a couple things regarding the Facebook phenomenon as I see it. If you missed the CNBC piece on Facebook entitled “Facebook Obsession” you can look up more information on it at http://www.cnbc.com/id/39618344/
In our local paper here, The Palm Beach Post, on February 4th there was an article printed entitled “Teen Crisis: To friend or unfriend Mom and Dad?” by Tracy Correa of with McClatchy Newspapers that can be seen at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/a-teens-tough-call-should-i-friend-mom-1231753.html?cxtype=rss_news
It is amazing how Facebook has infiltrated our lives—of course, I am speaking about those who have signed onto Facebook as there are many who have chosen not to.

New Social Strand

Perhaps it’s the frenetic pace of live that we all collectively sense we are undergoing that makes a social networking program like Facebook alluring to use daily. I recall there was/is Friendster and MySpace but Facebook certainly seems to have gained much more popularity for a variety of reasons. One may be that socially-geared programs before it allowed for lessons to be learned in terms of being widely user-friendly. Second, many businesses have picked up on the advantage of signing up with a program like Facebook because of how it easily spreads the word to potential customers and allows for free or low-cost advertising.

World Wide Café Setting

I personally was one of the reluctant ones to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. It is well-documented in my statements on the internet and in my circle of family and friends that I distrust the rampant use of technology for sharing things like our financial information, consumer transactions and social networking through programs like Facebook or even a Google email account. Yet, ever the cautious hypocrite, I ended up on Facebook partly because I had just transitioned to a new season in my life as a first-time mother and CEO of the home (i.e. homemaker). After I got through the initial awkwardness of having a “facebook page” of my own, I felt like I was logging onto an international café every time I put in my password.

Mobile Café

The other feature that put Facebook in such a public forum was that somehow, sometime along the way, it found its way to applications on mobile phones. Before the catch phrase was “smart phone” and “apps”, you could not only log on your Google, Hotmail MSN or Yahoo email accounts, you could add Facebook on that refresh application option. It’s so easy to check on your “Newsfeed” on Facebook in your phone during the day. With a click you can “Like” or “Dislike” something or even go as far as to comment on something one of your colleagues put as their status.

Good for Us?

I still treasure a note that is sent through the now archaically-termed “snail mail” as I send my own hand-written sentiments to those I hold dear in this life. However, as texting was the new direct way to communicate without interrupting someone’s day too much, Facebook also serves as a non-confrontational but nice-casual way of saying hello or posting information that is either helpful or directed to a specific person or cause. For most adults, (ironic that Facebook was initially started for college students only), I think Facebook is like that corner of the playground we would all hang out at to shoot the breeze when were experiencing the waning years of our adolescence and we just wanted to bond through dialogue.

Facebook Fallout and Fallacy

The flip-side of Facebook’s social revolution is its effect on those in the college age range and younger. If you happen to read the above article link or have read something similar, it is increasingly obvious that many pre-teens and teenagers are now logged on to social networking programs like Facebook and find it to be an easier way of hiding their social experimentation or growth. This is a tricky, perilous predicament for both the youth and the parents thereof. Every generation has tried to hide their dalliances into adulthood from their parents—I’m not going to argue that recurring fact. But, that doesn’t mean that parents should just stand by and actively allow their minor-aged children to engage on Facebook or a site similar to it. The ramifications of posting our personal messages on social sites or simple email accounts are just beginning to show how they be a negative on our transactions later in life like when a graduate is seeking a new job. I would need to write another article posting altogether to pick apart why parents should just grit their teeth and be temporarily “disliked” for banning their children from this sort of unchaperoned internet social networking.

Future of Facebook?

I’m not a computer engineer, although I do have family and friends who are in touch with the waves of technology washing over our planet and they do share with me that there are always newer and better things ahead. Facebook definitely seems to have a hold on the 20s. 30s and 40s age groups out there and perhaps with that active group following and as long as those who run the company keep reinventing their social wheel—they’ll stick around in a Google-like fashion. Nevertheless, I still trust in the human connection as being not based solely on the screen(s) that I use to tap into a website, blog, email account or social networking website: we all need consistent care in other areas of our physical and spiritual senses to feel connecting to each other in an enduring fashion. Let’s hope we can keep that lesson going as we teach our children born into this amazingly instant-information age.

RVSB

Palm Beach County’s Possible Folly: Easing Ban On Cellphones in Schools?

Generally speaking, every morning it takes me a nice cup or two of coffee to help me open my eyes and get the fuzz off my brain’s exterior.  However, this morning I was spared my routine overdose of caffeine by the Palm Beach Post’s front page article entitled “Plan to ease school district’s policy on cellphones gets fuzzy reception” that sent shock waves through my cerebellum.   If you don’t live in Palm Beach County, Florida, you can look up the article written by Ms. Cara Fitzpatrick on their website at www.palmbeachpost.com: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-school-board-gets-hung-up-535575.html

I struggled to read through the entire article without yelling aloud in back talk as I’m prone to do–especially if I’m watching political pundits on TV.  Evidently there is a group of school technology officials in Palm Beach County that are suggesting that school board members consider easing the district’s restrictions on cellphone use, possibly using them in classroom instruction.

As I must applaud the creativity of using texting to send out memos to students during the day, I also abhor the idea of further overwhelming our youth with technology that offers little benefit overall.

The reality is that as with much of the technology bingeing that our society has participated in only the last three decades, the cons come out much later after we’ve been sold on the pros of the latest gadget or concept (like the world-wide web internet).

In this particular case, school officials have essentially become perhaps a little worn down by the constant need to reprimand their students for illicit cellphone use.  At the same time, I do believe that parents are to fault for sending their children to school with a cellphone in tow.  As for you parents that may be reading this and get upset with me: then at least consider if you do deem it a necessity for your child to carry that cellphone on their person, you are also responsible for ensuring that they do not use that phone during school hours unless it is a serious emergency on your part or theirs (which, honestly, those calls should be conducted in the school administration office, not in the classroom).

One of the ideas for a revised mobile phone policy in Palm Beach County mentioned that “use of cellphones would be ‘generally banned’ in schools, but would be allowed in classrooms for the instructional purposes as determined by the teacher and principal”.  Again, we’ve already learned that computers, both desktops and laptops, offer some benefits in classroom use, but they cannot replace the instructor-student interaction necessary for proper learning as appropriate for the respective grades.  Why would we then incorporate cellphone use on top of a pre-existing educational technology with bigger screens and memory?

A funny proposal was the one I read that offers “students, parents, school employees and others would be allowed to use electronic signatures to sign documents.”  Now I think we’ve truly gone tech-stupid.  The moment a John Hancock is too much for a parent to do in person for their child just makes me angry.  You may want to argue with me on this one and I invite you to do so because perhaps I’m simply a dinosaur in this regard.  I still think I want my child to bring a paper to me in person so we can discuss what it’s asking of he/she as well as myself to sign off on.  Why would we want to treat our interaction with our children regarding their education like some faceless technology swap with our big-wigs at the office or the bank loan officer we’d rather not meed in person?

Ultimately, the article leaves the cellphone discussion “to be continued” in this school board’s case in Palm Beach County, Florida.  It did wake me up again to the fact that our idea of how school was for us certainly is not the same for our children today.  However, I also stand firm that change doesn’t mean throwing away the template completely to make way for something that we still don’t know the true ramifications of in the future.

I’ve written before on the subject of the current epidemic of today’s children not knowing how to interact outdoors in nature unabated.  That is a direct result of a number of factors, mostly involving overuse and overstimulation of TV, video games, computers and other indoor medias that have paralyzed an entire generation of kids.  We must tread carefully as we now witness our technology becoming increasingly handheld, head held (like the annoying blue tooth, I lasted with that for a few months before I decided no thanks).

Of course I’m not saying that we can avoid it entirely.  But I know we as parents do still hold the key to teaching our children how to exercise moderation in every aspect of their lives with technology increasingly becoming a pervasive part of it for them.  Already I am curbing in my own usage and have found that it benefits me personally as well as hopefully an example for my son T.A.–and, no, he will not have his own cellphone in middle school, I can promise you that.

RVSB

Nanotechnology: The biggest new thing that no one knows about…

Perhaps my title is a bit judgemental and harsh, you may be familiar with the term nanotechnology.  However, I’m willing to bet that most of the American public has heard the word but doesn’t really understand what’s involved.  For instance, many hollywood movies and sitcoms have touched on the subject.

Personally I was unawares about nanotechnology until 2003 while on a flight from Florida en route Washington, D.C. and a gentleman beside me struck up small talk.  We swapped career stories, I had just landed a position on Capitol Hill for my local congressman in Florida and he was going to the Pentagon representing his company with a new product idea for the Department of Defense (DoD).

I kid you not, this man was explaining to me that they were working on ‘forcefield’ technology–yes, the kind we think of when watching our favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode with Captain Jean-Luc Picard says “Shields up!” (yes, I admit, I am slightly a Trekkie!)

When advising my congressman on how he should vote on a bill that contained funding for nanotechnology-related subjects, I always tried to convey that this will be a big subject eventually.  Unfortunately, even though I would include the latest articles regarding nano-type discoveries/breakthroughs in his weekly reading, I know it was not a real hot topic for him or most of our Members of Congress (unless they were entrenched in the science world).  Ironically the name seems to fit its popularity or public domain knowledge regarding it: very small.

Nevertheless, it was infectious to me, the notion that our science community was now delving into an area even smaller than what we all looked at in our microscopes in science labs as children.  I’m not even sure where nanotechnology began but it certainly seems to be an inexhaustible area of study.  For parents out there: think along the lines of Dr. Suess’ “Horton Hears a Who.”

While working in Congress I had the opportunity to look over bill language and as my legislative portfolio grew, it encompassed the area that is devoted to education and the sciences.  Our budget every year for the federal government includes funding that goes toward “research and development” of nanotechnology.  Unless you are a scientist or a huge Discovery fan, you don’t realize that your tax dollars are funneled every year toward this new branch of science and technology.

In fact, many of us may already be using products that harness nanotechnology.  Samsung, for example, has clothes washers and refrigerators that use silver nanoparticles to help kill bacteria and lessen odors. 

There is a simple website online that tries to explain nanotechnology in simple terms: “Nanotechnology is the study and use of structures between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers in size. To give you an idea of just how small that is, it would take eight hundred 100-nanometer particles placed side by side to equal the width of a human hair.” sourced: www.understandingnano.com

A short article in Discover magazine’s April 2010 issue states: “Genetic Medicine Goes Nano”-It seems a cancer researcher, chemical engineer and their colleagues have teamed up to investigate how biodegradable nanoparticlels can deliver gene therapy for ovarian cancer cells.  Their treatment study utilizes the gene for diphtheria toxin (causes cell death) but they say that attaching a specific DNA sequence to the gene helps “ensure that it targets only cancerous cells, killing them while leaving healthy ones unharmed.”  Now although that idea certainly seems wonderful alternative to chemotherapy that can harm healthy cells and has nasty side effects like nausea, loss of hair, et cetera, I’m not sure about delving into an area that is so small, so amazingly tiny that something going wrong can be easily untracked. (article source: www.discovermagazine.com)

Thankfully many of these experiments, studies and so forth where nanotechnology and organisms are involved haven’t hit humans quite yet…but then again, I really don’t know that for certain either.  For one, I don’t keep up with the news updates on nanotechnology items-many times those stories are tucked in small blips in the newspaper, a random box in a magazine or a quick one-liner in the cable news ticker running along the bottom of the screen. And second point, altered nanoparticles and such could already be in our immediate environment and we may already be ingesting or coming in contact with them completely unbeknownst to us.

Ultimately, this study and exploration of nanotechnology is so young that we may come to discover that the world on a nano-level is in a constant state of being altered, adjusted, adapting and evolving.  I must remind myself to try to learn a little (no pun intended) about the current research and development in nanotechnology, not only for my own education but to help my son learn more about this new way of looking at the world.

RVSB

Note: You can all do your own research, but here’s another simple site in case you’re interested: www.nanotech-now.com

Our children and networking websites: a glimpse of the future

Yesterday I walked into my local U.S. Post Office with my son T.A. in my arms while balancing the 4 small packages I was endeavoring to send off Priority Mail style.  Which, by the way, kudos to our USPS for putting these self-service kiosks in along with standard mail supplies so people like parents of small children can get stuff done without necessarily waiting in that long, winding line in the main area.

I set my son on one of the work tables and held him with one arm as I addressed and sealed my packages with my free hand.  All the while I am feeling proud of myself for getting this minor task done without a meltdown or acting-out by my 21 month old. 

My happy-go-lucky soundtrack in my mind is suddenly shattered by the one-way conversation I overheard as a lady walks up talking on her cell phone.  “Well, you know they are going to ask us soon enough to have a Facebook account as they’ll be 10 and 11 years old soon, and well we will have to deal with it but yeah, there is just so much danger with these things that they don’t realize…”

If she said anything further I didn’t hear the words,  had already tuned the lady out as I begin to dwell on the idea of my child wanting to have his own link to a networking site one day when he is an adolescent, a bulging teenager.  The very thought jarred me completely, I was weighed down by the realization that the challenges continue to get more complicated as our beloved children grow.

My son argues with me nowadays with grunts and wordless syllables that can most easily be pacified by a food treat or changing the subject.  What will it be like when he is going back and forth with me in long sentence diatribes about how unfair I am to keep him from connecting to the internet unfettered.

Is it so far-fetched of me to think that allowing kids to log on to the internet with no supervision is much worse than letting them drive cars at 16 years old?  Why do we as parents feel that we must accept computers and the internet as the new norm for our children? 

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur when it comes to technology, but I just don’t think that developing bodies and minds should become so dependent on them.  Should they know how to use them–of course!  Should they use the internet for all their research projects?  I truly believe the answer should be no but am willing to permit perhaps 25% from that source.  It’s not helpful to guide the next generation to get all their answers to life and interactions in friendship and love through these silly keyboards and mouse clickers.

I know some of you may be angered by my opinion and it is understandable if your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Oh yeah? Just you wait until you have to deal with this issue from your child.”  But I also know that we as parents can stick to what we believe is right for our children. 

For instance, my husband and I agreed that it was important to us that we avoid having our son watch commercial TV prior to me giving birth to him.  21 months later and I can honestly say that we have succeeded with a couple concessions, in the last few months we have allowed him to see us watching our Alma Mater college football games and we started a couple bilingual videos that he watches every other day and sometimes daily.  We also had to cut back our own viewing of TV in order to accomplish this and feel we have benefited from it as well.

It’s by no means easy to be a parent, especially in the 21st century when technology can be a useful tool and yet also a divisive instrument that can alienate families in their own home (picture family evening with dad with blackberry, child with Ipod, child with laptop, mom with cell phone texting, etc).

Ultimately, you make the choice as to what’s appropriate whether it be to allow a Facebook page for your son or daughter–I hope for you it is the choice that makes you feel at peace as you raise your child(ren).

RSVB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"