Tuesday, September 1, 2015

MY POLAND TRIP: AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP, KRAKOW


My husband and I spent the first week of August 2015 in Krakow, Poland. I am very lucky.  The first week of September 2015 we will spend several days in the Bavaria—so expect another trip blog post coming soon.

In Krakow, Poland we visited a variety of cultural and historical sites including: The Wieliczka Salt Mine, the market Square in Krakow and the Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, the Jagiellonian University, the Wawel Castle (and the accompanying dragon’s den below it), the Jewish History museum, the Vistula River, and the park which winds its way through the core of Krakow. We also made a side trip to Auschwitz.

Krakow, Poland




Auschwitz Concentration Camp

By far the most emotionally riveting experience was our tour through the Auschwitz Concentration camp; we visited Auschwitz 1 and the Birkenau concentration camps.

Prior to going to Auschwitz I was deeply ignorant of the Holocaust, especially many of the important details surrounding this tragic segment of history. I still have lots to learn. The emotions that came upon me penetrated deeply and stung for the remainder of the week.





We saw the bare, cramped “living quarters” that the victims were housed in. In the buildings of Birkenau, there were 3 tiers of wooden platforms—starting from the floor to near the ceiling—that served as “bunk beds”. There was barely enough hall space between the wooden plank “beds” that were jammed tightly within the buildings. Seven people would sleep on each bare wooden tier that served as a “bunk bed”. There were cracks in the walls of these buildings that allowed for freezing cold temperatures to seep in throughout the winter months.




Many of the Auschwitz victims would live in the concentration camp for as little as three months before they died of hunger, freezing, being shot in the back of their heads, and/or being swiftly ushered into gas chambers. Very few people would live for a year or more. Actually, since many individuals were deemed “unfit” to live, most would be forced into gas chambers promptly upon their arrival.





We walked through one room that displayed mountains upon mountains of shoes. We saw display cases full of cookware and suitcases that the Jews had brought with them to the camp. Many of the Jews seemingly believed that they were just being “relocated” and that their lives and family structure would go on as it was before. Thus, the women brought their cookware thinking that they would be cooking for their individual families.  The Jews would also label their suitcases with numbers, assuming that they would be getting their belongings back at some point during their stay in the camp. Little did they know that they would be forced into a rigidly structured death camp, meant solely for their annihilation.





We were taken through the gas chamber and the crematorium. We even saw a room full of HUMAN HAIR which we were told was used and sold by the Nazis as “MATTRESS FILLER.”??!!?? The Germans didn’t want to waste human tissues that could potentially be useful or profitable—after all, the victims were already dead, so why waste it? This was their mind-set.

To me, perhaps the most cogent aspect of the Holocaust was the way in which it was orchestrated.  It became clear that this entire morbid enterprise couldn’t have happened so effectively and smoothly without large numbers of people playing different roles in a cold, calculated, incredibly silent and deceptive fashion. While Hitler is most certainly one of the most putrid characters in human history, we must remember that it took an entire nation of people who agreed with him and thought like him for such a feat to take place.

On a lighter note, we truly enjoyed our time in Krakow. We wandered through all the entrails of the city and stopped by the Jagiellonian University (Krakow University)—the place where Copernicus studied. I didn’t know that Copernicus was a polymath. He studied medicine, mathematics, philosophy, economics, astronomy and he was also a Priest (Per our Polish Tour guide who works at the Krakow University). While Copernicus practiced religion, he was still hesitant to share his findings about Heliocentrism until he got much olderand we are all familiar with the reason why he waited: fear of being burned at the stake for suggesting such a preposterous idea! We got to see a copy of his “Revolutions” which is a precious artifact of scientific progress.

Copy of the "Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres"

YOU KNOW WHO!


Inside the Jagiellonian University, in Krakow, Where Copernicus Studied :)

We went on a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine—one of the oldest salt mines in the world (1000 or so years old!) Please see the pictures below of the incredible salt sculptures.

Chandelier made of salt crystals deep inside the salt mine 



The dining in Poland was great. When you walk through the city you are assaulted with some of the most delicious smells your brain has ever entertained. We enjoyed many Pierogi lunches and we even tried some Georgian cuisine.



So far, my favorite European cathedral is in Krakow. It is St. Mary’s Basilica. This place has towering ceilings and is full of all kinds of ecclesiastical treasures. There are Biblical paintings, stained glass windows, gorgeous statues and sculptures adored in gold and the interior of the church has this unusual yet striking color scheme of steel blue and gold—quite celestial, indeed!

I think Krakow, Poland was one of my favorite places in Europe that I’ve been to. Even though the weather was intensely hot and muggy, we enjoyed our time there—even more than Ireland.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

MY INVENTION LAST NIGHT was already taken


Last night I apparently invented something that was already (just in the past couple years) invented! Have you ever had that experience?

I happened to be vacuuming the house using one of those vacuums with a hose and an attachment piece. I had a sudden epiphany, what if I could use my own, home vacuum as a microdermabrasion machine? As someone who has worked in the aesthetics industry for several years—at both spas and at a dermatology clinic—I know how important suction is in the field of skincare. I also know how expensive these machines cost! These machines cost a minimum of $5,000- $10,000 a piece! In addition to working at the hospital, I have been tinkering with the idea of starting my own Home Spa business sometime after the baby is born. Equipment would be my big business expense and so this was currently on my mind.

I have worked with several pricey skincare machines that utilize different degrees of skin suctioning. These machines are effective in pore cleansing, improving skin texture, reducing acne scars and they also have anti-aging benefits like stimulating fibroblastic activity in the dermis which helps with collagen regeneration. A few of these machines include: the hydrafacial machine, the microdermabrasion machine and the Isolaz Laser machine. Another field where suctioning is used is in nursing; nurses use wound vacs to help expedite the healing of wounds. 

As I thought about all the possibilities I decided that I wanted to use my vacuum as microdermabrasion machine. I thought about designing a prototype attachment to apply to the tip of the hose that could then be used on the skin. All I would need would be a plastic attachment and then the diamond-head microdermabrasion tip that could be applied to the attachment. I found a funnel in my kitchen that would temporarily serve as my first rough “prototype attachment” to the vacuum cleaner hose. I applied it to the vacuum hose—it fit perfectly! Next, I turned the vacuum on medium-low and then tested it out on my skin. The degree of suctioning was perfect! In fact, it worked EXACTLY, if not BETTER than the expensive microdermabrasion machines that I had been using at the spa all along!

I was ecstatic! I told my husband about my idea and he looked at me kind of funny. I didn’t care, for some reason I knew I had a good idea. But then, my exuberance faded dramatically as I searched the internet and saw that SOMEONE ELSE HAD ALREADY INVENTED EXACTLY WHAT I HAD JUST INVENTED IN MY HEAD!!!!  GRRR

Here it is available on Amazon:

Here is a youtube video that basically shows exactly the model that I had envisioned:


 Yeah, I know. This kind of thing has happened to us all before. We're just a bit too late. This is just a reminder that your idea might not be as dumb as you (or others) think it is—especially when you see that someone else has a pending patent on it and is starting to sell it on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

IN DEFENSE OF SLOW LEARNERS/TIPS TO HELP SLOW LEARNERS (LOWER IQ)



“The better you know something, the less you remember how hard it was to learn.”  Steven Pinker, “The Sense of Style” 2014


In his book, “The Sense of Style” Steven Pinker goes into detail about “The Curse of Knowledge”. The Curse of knowledge according to Pinker is, “A difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.”

I see Pinker’s concept demonstrated over and over again in training seminars or in one-on-one teaching sessions. That is, it is difficult for the teacher to put themselves in the position of the student. It is even more difficult for the teacher to understand the learning processes of a slow learner and the method they require to learn the material. As someone who has, at times, struggled with the learning process, I wanted to take a moment to defend the slow learner. In this post I mention what you as the educator can do to assist the slow learner.

(These are simply my own “Learning Tips” which I believe are absolutely essential to helping slower learners. I’m not referring to individuals who have been legally deemed “Learning Disabled” by a psychiatrist and now receive special treatment and accommodations for their disability. I’m referring to individuals who do not fit the criteria for this label—yet receive just as much derision and contempt from society, but get none of the accommodations. In other words, I’m referring to individuals who are smart enough “To get by” (IQ’s between 90-105) but often have a difficult time deciding what they want to do in life, securing a steady, decent-paying, long-term job and/or successfully completing a college degree. It is my thought that being a slower learner makes it hard to achieve such things.)



TIPS TO HELP THE SLOW LEARNER (My personal list)

1.  Please don’t try and reassure us by saying, “You’re thinking too hard”. THIS DOES NOT HELP!  While it may be true that we are putting a lot of mental effort into the thinking process, understand that this is the level of energy we require! Processing information takes more work for us. By parroting such a statement, you are making this assumption: that we haven’t tried the route of “not thinking so hard” before. Believe me, we have, and this hasn’t worked. Not once. In the past, when we tried making less effort and “didn’t think so hard” we were even farther away from grasping the concept. In other words, we do need to think hard and long (and many times over) to get an accurate—or near-accurate response/result on something. Telling us to “Stop thinking so hard” is not only getting old, but is dismissive and it totally misunderstands the intense mental effort that slower learners require to even keep on track, or, much more, comprehend the idea or skill.

2.  Please don’t rush over information quickly—especially when there are a lot of steps in a sequence or a lot of depth to the concept. Also, expect us to bring a pen and pad of paper to write down the directions that you are giving us. For those of us who are slower learners, we struggle with a poor working memory. We can’t temporarily hold a lot of disparate information while at the same time encode it, store it and then retrieve it as needed. We must first refer to the “step-by-step” list that we have written down. This serves as a memory cue until we have consolidated the sequence of steps into our long-term memory.

3.  Please do not tell us to “Calm down” or “Take a deep breath” as we attempt to learn something. This will be interpreted as you trying to “Control our behavior”—and will inadvertently create more anxiety which gets in the way of learning. Sometimes the mannerisms and/or behavior that we employ help us learn the process. We have enough to focus on as it is—like the specific task or concept at hand. Telling us to also “compose ourselves” in a rigid demeanor (as defined by you) is just one additional thing to bog down our memory as we are trying to learn the important task or skill.

4.  Please don’t say “Slow Down” or “Sit still” when we are completing a series of physical tasks. Notice how you always tell us to “slow down” when the task is physical but you tell us to “speed up” when the task is mental? I can’t quite articulate this conundrum other than: Sometimes, believe it or not, in order for us to keep up mentally we end up overcompensating physically; this results in our physical bodies moving more quickly and appearing to have more rapid, out-of-sync, shifting, jerky movements. Children might rock around in their chairs or have a hard time standing or sitting still as they try to learn. Adults will have their own flavor of this kind of behavior. Don’t worry! This physical response will weaken over time, especially as we master the skill. Just give us time. If you think anyone needs to slow down—well, it is probably you!

5.  When we are learning a new task, step back and let us perform it in front of you to help us consolidate the process into our memory. Please do not “Rush us along” or “Offer pointers/tips” or “Jump in and complete aspects of the process for us.” We understand that normal/fast learners have a hard time being patient, but this is critical to our long-term learning. If you want to help us consolidate a memory where we won’t have to rely on you so much for additional prompts in the future, you should let us get the general concept under our belt first. In time we can add on extra details and/or refine the technique. What we need from you is to “watch us” instead of “jumping in and taking control of the process”. You can offer a few, specific pointers after we have finished the demonstration.

6.  Do not assume that we know something without our ability to independently “Teach you the concept” or “Demonstrate the skill” back to you WITHOUT PROMPTS!

7.  Please refrain from constantly talking to us or adding on novel information as we are attempting to demonstrate the skill.  Shut up for a moment. Offering “additional pointers” is NEVER helpful as it ends up being an extra distraction that we have to filter out. We are already struggling with the general skill at hand and the fewer instructions the better. Once we have the rough idea or “template” of how to do something, THEN, and only THEN can we add on the new pieces to refine our technique. We just need to get there first.

8.  Please be patient and encouraging as you help us learn the skill or concept. Do not resort to ridicule—or worse—being a patronizing bigot. Make sure and offer positive feedback when we complete a task correctly.

9.  Showing your impatience towards us interferes with our learning process. We get it, we have an average or slightly below average IQ while you’re working with at least a 110. We are using different mental software than you are—what do you expect?

10.  Give us a moment to think, reevaluate and correct ourselves independently before you “Burst in with the correct answer or technique”.  We get it, you already understand the concept.  Many times we will correct our mistakes or adjust our thinking pattern if you give us a few moments. By giving us a moment to reevaluate the process on our own (without your feedback) we will better encode the concept/skill into our long-term memory. It is also rewarding to know that we have accomplished something independently; this also helps raise our confidence.

11.  Understand that we are going to interrupt you as you are teaching us something. You should ABSOLUTELY expect this! Sometimes we will need to clarify something with you ON THE SPOT and if we don’t resolve our misunderstanding at that exact moment, we will forget to mention it later. Furthermore, we will be stuck on the concept we misunderstood and not be able to move on, and follow your additional instructions.  It really comes down to a poor working memory and what we can hold. If you skate on by or suggest “Ask questions at the end” please know that we will have forgotten many of the things that we wanted to ask you about during each step of the process.  There is a reason why we occasionally interrupt—and it has nothing to do with being impolite—and everything to do with the fact that we will probably forget what we wanted to ask you by the end of the teaching session.

12.  Many slow learners are very intent on learning things and often try much, much harder than fast learners who take their learning speed for granted. We are not lazy but very earnest. Please give us the benefit of the doubt.



OVERPOPULATION and IMMIGRATION in AMERICA? And, OH I'm pregnant!?!

“Immigration is the chief reason that U.S. population is still growing—native born Americans reproduce below replacement level…”  (source indicated near end of my post)   


“When it comes to climate change, there is no shortage of scientists willing to speak out about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So if humanity is breaking “planetary boundaries” and imperiling, in the process, humanity’s future, why aren’t more scientists speaking publicly about the population trajectory and its implications?”
(source indicated near end of my post)   


 I was the kind of person who wasn’t going to reproduce unless my personal circumstances were appropriate. I didn’t want to be a single mother knowing full-well the amount of work and stress it would entail. Also, at one point I had researched the statistics of children raised in 1 parent vs. 2 parent households and I came to the conclusion based on the data, that 2 parent households were generally better. Overall, this is certainly true when considering a number of variables related to the long-term wellbeing of a child. (There are obviously exceptions to this rule, but I like large samples and large studies because they offer more predictability than relying on exceptions to rules). I am old-fashioned and think that a father-figure is essential for children—despite the current views in popular culture.

There are over 9 million single mothers in the United-States https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/. 45% of single mother headed households live below the poverty line. For single father households, 21% live below the poverty line.  I am fully aware that single mothers usually do not set out on a course to “become single mothers”. Many of these individuals are dealt a bad hand and through unfortunate circumstances end up having to raise their children alone.

I knew that I wanted to be in a stable relationship, married, and in the right position financially and emotionally to care for the needs of a baby—especially when their brain development was at its most plastic and vulnerable.  For these reasons I had been on birth control for the past 10 years—waiting for the right time and right person—if this was ever to happen. Thankfully, after two long-term relationship attempts, I did meet the right person.

With a year of marriage under my belt and both mine and my husband’s schooling complete, we decided that I should quit birth control. We both realized that I was no longer at the fertile age of 28—indeed, several years past this—and that fertility rates begin to decline for women in their mid-thirties. We were open to having children but also knew that we would never resort to expensive, extensive medical procedures to “make it happen” if it didn’t happen naturally. We decided that we could be happy either way.

To our surprise, we found out that we were pregnant one month after I stopped taking birth control pills! We are both ecstatic to welcome the arrival of our baby in October 2015! 

 My pregnancy has been very rough. This past year I have been plagued with almost constant nausea and vomiting, baby brain, radiculopathy that radiates down my right leg and intense, constant pressure in my abdomen that it feels like I’m wearing a corset cinched up so tightly that I’m going to explode. I feel uncomfortable most of the time and my motivation has sunk to an all time low. Thankfully, my husband has been very supportive. Also, I got a bunch of tests done and found out that my chances of having a healthy baby are high—Down Syndrome risk is 1/10,000 (as a woman hits her mid-thirties, she has to start being concerned about these things).

Since becoming pregnant for the very first time, I have, ironically, found myself attuned to any headline, article or study that deals with overpopulation. I have always been concerned about overpopulation and overconsumption by human beings on our planet. I still maintain my stance that humans should be conscientious in their decision to procreate.

My opinion is that a woman’s reproductive choice must be guided by facts and information—she must be socially and ecologically conscious in her choice. In other words, it isn’t a good idea to procreate with a sociopath (not socially beneficial) and not a good idea just to procreate because “My clock is ticking” or “I think having children will fulfill me”.  It isn’t a good idea to procreate on a whim or procreate thinking, “The Government will pay for my hospital bill, my child’s school lunches, my apartment rent etc.” One must think through this BIG decision first and make sure they have adequate means to take care of their little creation. 

I’m a big fan of family planning! If you have found the right person with whom to raise your child—and you are responsible, well, I have nothing to say against your choice.

Yes, I fully realize that adding more people to the planet will have an impact. This is something that I’ve had to grapple with and come to terms with. I had been averse to overpopulation, but look at me—here I’m contributing to it!

OF COURSE….THOSE ARE JUST MY OPINIONS WHICH ARE ALWAYS SUBJECT TO CHANGE….

Anyways, so my husband is subscribed to the secular humanist magazine “Free Inquiry” that Center for Inquiry puts out. My husband has been receiving it for 5+ years now. We both love this magazine so much that we find ourselves fighting for it over the breakfast table. The July 2015 issue is controversial and deals with “Population, Immigration and the Global Future”.  After reading some of the articles in this issue, I must say that I have been deeply ignorant about the status of overpopulation and immigration in the United-States.

 I had been reading articles on the internet about the declining birth rate in the United-States but I didn’t realize that this statistic was almost exclusively tied to the reproductive habits of native born American women (women who are born in the U.S. whose parents were born in the U.S. whose grandparents were born in the U.S. and so on and so forth).  This statistic is not true for immigrants—at least according to the article.

According to the article:

“Most Californians are barely reproducing themselves, but many immigrant families are averaging as many as three children. Now with 38 million people, at the current rate of growth, the California Department of Finance, Division of Demography, projects population will be 54 million by 2040. In 1970 the state’s population was less than 20 million. Nearly all of California’s population growth in just the last ten years was due to immigration and births to foreign-born women.” --- U.S. Immigration and the Limits of Supporting Earth Resources (CFI July 2015 excerpt from article)

The articles in this CFI July 2015 issue deal with immigration and overpopulation and seeks to show the inextricable link to human population and environmental/ecological issues that our
planet currently faces. From carbon emissions to decreased fertile soil and a reduced water supply, overpopulation is a major culprit. The concept is extremely easy. With more people on the planet, the more we will be affected by the consequences of too many people; too much waste and not enough space!

I thought it was interesting (and highly controversial) that this secular humanist, liberal magazine suggested that the American government consider the factor of overpopulation as a reason to make its immigration policies more stringent. It is quite bold to pose such a suggestion—especially for any media portal that considers itself to be liberal (I usually think of liberals as being more tolerant of immigration and diversity).  However, after reading all of these articles, I see that it is very difficult to argue with the evidence.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

MY NEW TRAVEL BLOG!!!


I have finally opened up a new Wordpress blog for family and close friends to visit. I have many family members who are intrigued by my travels but are less interested in reading my controversial pieces. I wanted to provide a streamlined blog focused on travel and adventure. This blog is certainly still in its rudimentary stages and it needs a ton of work. You will find posts from this blog inserted into my new blog. You will also find other posts that I am still working on or that I might not have shared on blogger.

MY NEW TRAVEL BLOG!

Yes, I will continue to use my blogger account for expressing my thoughts/opinions etc.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2002 Random Journal Entry



A random journal entry I wrote back in 2002

There was a beautiful luscious tropical area that spanned the way from Lome to Cotonou. The sides of the road were replete with coconut palms lining the sides of the road but once we hit the city all bets were off.


We are in transit to Nigeria. We arrived in Cotonou Benin at about 9:30 pm. I am totally disgusted with the appearance of both Lome (Togo’s capital) and Cotonou (Benin’s capital). They are tantamount to garbage heaps. The roads are heavily used dirt roads. They are stained with ash, oil and dirt. People are everywhere. Cement side walks are rough, cracked and paint is peeling from every wall of every house and city building. Tacky, cheap paper signs are posted everywhere. The air invades your space as its’ humidity confines you and creates an extreme discomfort between your skin and clothes and on the palms of your hands. 

Your face drips with sweat. Car and motorbike exhaust saturate the air. Your makeup drips off your face and stains your clothing. Everything you touch is sticky and tends to adhere to your skin. The traffic is in one of the most extreme states of chaos as motorbikes veer into your lane coming from the opposite direction and then head across the road in any which-way to make it to the other lane of traffic. There are no traffic lanes for cars; cars and motorized bikes will pass you on the shoulder as if it is a lane. People are walking everywhere and it always seems as though you could just accidentally run over them with your car.  The population is booming with children everywhere and almost 1 out of every 3 women has a child wrapped up and mounted on her back.

On Your Deathbed


“A life making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing at all.”  -- George Bernard Shaw


On your deathbed you will spend a lot of your time wishing that you had worried more in life. You’ll think, “Why didn’t I spend more of my time worrying about what other people thought of  me?” and “I should have spent more of my time beating myself up because I was never very popular in high school.”

You’ll even say to yourself, “I should have taken fewer risks and let other people push me around more.”

You’ll wish that you had buried yourself in a cave.

You’ll reflect on your life and say “I should have spent more of my moments listening to preachers or bullies or anyone else tell me “You’re just not good enough to get into heaven or the popular crowd without their patronizing forms of approval.”

You’ll think, “I should have spent more of my time feeling guilty and ashamed of myself for being me.”

You only have one life to live and all the traces of your inconsequential existence will be forever gone anyway; So, why didn’t you spend more of your time fretting about the fact that you’re imperfect—like everyone else? 

At the end of your life, you’ll wish that you had never lived.