Facebook parenting — God help us

At the risk of sounding like a grandmother, which I quintupitally am, I have to say I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past several days being thankful I’m not raising any teenagers. This is thanks to the story of Tess of the d’Overmuch and her Facebook quest for relief from being grounded. If you’ve missed this exciting adventure, Susan Dominus summarizes it in today’s New York Times:

They feel her pain. At the Spence School and Greenwich High and Fullerton Union High and Nyack High and Narragansett High, teenagers and near-teenagers, hundreds of them, are waving a virtual flag for Tess Chapin, a 15-year-old from Sunnyside, Queens, who has been grounded for five weeks. A few days after founding the Facebook group — “1000 to get tess ungrounded” — Tess had nearly reached her stated goal, with 806 members by Friday morning; after this column about her quest was posted on nytimes.com, she surpassed it.

This is teenage rebellion, electronic style — peaceful, organized and, apparently, contagious.

So basically, Tess explains on her group page, she made an honest late-night mistake. Her parents flipped, and they grounded her for five weeks — “thats my childhood right there,” she wrote. “please join so I can convince them to unground me. please please please.”

Interesting she should mention childhood. Tess’ groundation, as she terms it, occurred after an honest late-night mistake involving drinking booze and missing a curfew, behaviors that are wisely left until childhood is past, which her parents, if not her friends, understand. To their everlasting credit — and bless their hearts for having to raise what must be a bright and feisty daughter in such a public arena — they seem thus far disinclined to let Facebook group rule.

If your parents didn’t care,” pointed out a sophomore at Ithaca College, “they would have just let you rot.” Someone agreed with Tess that “parents can be stupid.” A friend of a friend expressed hope that she and her parents would take something “grand” away from the experience. A close pal chimed in, “I love you, but your parents are not gonna unground you for convincing 1,000 people to join a group.”

It is to this last theory that Ms. Iselin Chapin (mom Jennifer Iselin Chapin, a fund-raiser for the Natural Resources Defense Council) subscribes.

“What’s your fallback strategy?” she asked her daughter Thursday night, sitting across from her in the living room of their two-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside.

“O.K., one: drive you so crazy that you’re going to unground me,” Tess replied.

Her mother shook her head. “That’s not going to do it, sweetheart.”

Times writer Dominus suggested early on that perhaps another group might be started in support of “Parents Who Believe in Consequences for Serious Lapses in Judgment and Care Enough About Their Kids to Enforce the Rules,” and reported that within an hour a Times Online reader had done just that. And bless that reader’s heart, too.

I think raising kids in the relative obscurity of pre-internet times was infinitely easier and surely effective, for proof of which I offer three excellent grown children, parents of three flawless teenagers and — in the case of son and daughter-in-law who deserve an extra blessing of hearts — two gorgeous girls who won’t be teenagers for another 6 or 8 years.

My eldest granddaughter came across the country to enter college last fall, offering joy and a learning experience to her creaky left coast grandparents. We are diligently learning about what 19-year-old college art students create, wear, enjoy and pierce. She is extraordinarily grounded and gifted and fast approaching the end of child/teenagehood — though she did exemplify the complexities of it all when assuring her mother she was not homesick while asking that she (the mom) please not talk about the dogs.

I have conceded that most of today’s teenagers will miss the pleasure of things like thank-you notes (they don’t write, they Facebook and they text,) and think it’s just as well my own college art major was in the dark ages. We did life drawing and paintings of little arrangements of bottles and fruits for starters. The college art life today is tough. My granddaughter took us on a walking tour of her dorm and its collection of depictions of violence and terrors, which prompted me to remark that there is so much angst in today’s art.

“Well, Gran,” she said with a note of weary indulgence, “we ARE teenagers.”

Big City – Teenager Taps Facebook to Protest a Punishment From Her Parents – NYTimes.com.

Banished by Facebook — the new justice by internet

I have been exiled from Facebook Land, a status that really should have a status bar all its own. Actually, it was just one post that got summarily banished — but still…

Facts of the case: I posted, not long ago, a brief story of interesting discoveries made by the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation that were reported in a segment on MSNBC. The foundation, headed by Dr. David Waters, DVM, PhD, works to extend longevity in pets and people through collection of vast amounts of data, much of it canine data. The news involved a 13-year-old Rottweiler named Kona.

PETA strongly supports the work of the Gerald P. Murphy Foundation. I thought I’d throw that into this report. The earlier post didn’t mention PETA, but it was clear about this fact: the foundation collects data, it does not conduct experiments using animals. The story was about clues to longevity found through data analysis.

Oh, well — dogs and research were mentioned, and flags went up somewhere in cyberspace.

The post was reported as abusive. Facebook summarily removed the whole thing, and anyone who encountered the link on my Facebook page was greeted with the message that I had been cited for abuse. No way could whoever reported me have actually read the piece.

We come now to a small detail in the U.S. Constitution usually called the confrontation clause, something about facing one’s accuser – or at least knowing what one is accused of. The framers of the Constitution didn’t know about Facebook, whose policy apparently is if someone, anyone, thinks you’ve done a bad, you’re off the page, and that’s the end of that. (You want to talk to someone about it? Try finding a Facebook face you might be able to face, virtually or otherwise.)

I have no immediate plans to sue Facebook. It seems in a way a badge of honor – I mean, how many people to you know who’ve had a post kicked off of Facebook? I am a little sorry about those folks who missed learning of an innovative nonprofit thanks to someone who didn’t bother to do so.

But now that this post is headed to my Facebook status bar, and includes the magic word combination, we wonder if I will be doubly banished.

Stay tuned.

Same-sex marriage pays off, proponents argue in California trial

When all else fails, talk about money. Proponents of same-sex marriage, in the San Francisco trial now being fought over the issue, brought in the big financial guns yesterday. They were operated by economist Edmund Egan.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would reduce San Francisco’s health and welfare costs because married people are healthier and wealthier than singles, and would generate revenue for government from a surge in weddings, the city’s chief economist testified Thursday at the trial of a lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8.

Edmund Egan’s testimony was the first attempt by the plaintiffs – two same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco – to assess the economic effects of the November 2008 ballot measure that amended the state Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Egan heads the Office of Economic Analysis in the city controller’s office. He argued that married individuals are generally healthier, less likely to need health care and more likely to be insured — all of which translates into greater productivity, more taxes paid, fewer costs to the community. He said it was not possible to put a dollar figure on projected savings, but estimated sales tax revenues would be in the area of $1.7 million and the city could also expect an additional $900,000 in hotel tax revenues from wedding-related spending.

Peter Patterson, lawyer for Protect Marriage, the Prop. 8 campaign committee, said Egan had greatly overstated the measure’s impact.

The 2008 figures reflected a “pent-up demand” for same-sex weddings that would surely decline, Patterson said during cross-examination. He noted that there was a sharp drop in gay and lesbian marriages in Massachusetts in the second year after they were legalized there.

Patterson questioned Egan’s assumption that married same-sex couples would be less likely to incur health care costs than unmarried partners, saying the economist had based his statement on studies of heterosexual couples. Those studies were irrelevant to a “gay-friendly city” like San Francisco, Patterson said.

One friend of this writer, partnered for over 35 years with the man he had hoped to marry “but we missed the window,” said yesterday that he’d be happy to furnish a list of potential weddings to Patterson, with the assurance that it would take a long time for them all to be accomplished. “But I think we’re waiting for the Supreme Court to opine on our marriage-worthiness,” he said.

Same-sex marriage pays off, S.F. economist says.

World peace could happen

We could have world peace. If everyone would simply agree to begin the day — tomorrow would be a good time to start — with a group Ommmm, peace would follow.

Optimally, your group would be led by Sr. Chandru — although the Dalai Lama would do, and since he’s right here on YouTube he is accessible to an in-home group. Sr. Chandru is affiliated with the Brahma Kumaris, a lady who travels through life in white robes and a cloud of peace and serenity.  It tends to rub off, even if your personal aura is less than serene that day. This morning Sr. Chandru led a group of people of vastly differing faith traditions in a meditative Ommmm to begin a meeting of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. Peace reigned.

I know, I know, not everyone is in synch with the Brahma Kumaris. But then, not everyone is in synch with fundamentalist Christianity or mainstream Judaism or radical Islam, which is why we need to sit down to a group Ommmm. I do know the Brahma Kumaris are the only Hindu sect (I hope I’m getting this right, but they are also very forgiving) that has women priests, and they are an incredibly peaceful sort. BK Sr. Elizabeth has her own little peace cloud, and before she adopted it she was a lead singer in Beach Blanket Babylon, which is known for a lot of good things to almost anyone who’s ever heard of San Francisco — but calm and serenity are not among them.

Some of us are better candidates for serenity than others, but nobody could get up from an Ommmm and charge off to battle. Therefore, with all the charging off to battle that is currently destroying the planet, perhaps an Ommm-first policy is worth considering.

I can put you in touch with Sr. Chandru.

Bone weary in America: contraceptives, celiac disease & other osteo-hazards

You might want to start paying attention to your bones.

Even if you’re not an over-50 hard-drinking guy, or a post-menopausal former-smoker gal — even  if you are, say, just a light-complexioned skinny person, your bones want you to understand they might not be able to keep you together forever.

My bones sent that message not long ago by summoning a few other medical markers. Anemia and exhaustion got my attention and lo! we discovered celiac disease. Who knew? Celiac sprue is a genetic condition half the country seems to have, now that it’s gotten half the country’s attention — and confirmed diagnoses are relatively easy to make. Because I am an asymptomatic celiac person, in my case it was just the ol’ bones sending a signal that they would like a little calcium, please.

Yesterday’s New York Times reported another new finding:

Almost half of all women who use a popular injected contraceptive lose a significant amount of bone mass within two years, and researchers now say the greatest risk is to smokers, women who don’t consume enough calcium and those who have never gone through a pregnancy.

A study that followed women who used the birth-control method — a shot of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, better known as DMPA or Depo-Provera, every three months — found that 45 percent of the users experienced bone mineral density losses of 5 percent or more in the hip or lower spine, researchers said. The study appears in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More than two million American women use DMPA, including about 400,000 teenagers.

Researchers said the bone loss was of “significant concern” because recovering bone mass can take a long time, and the hip is the most common site for fractures in women later in life.

“We can now tell our patients, ‘Don’t smoke, and take your calcium every day’ — those are modifiable risk factors,” said the senior author, Dr. Abbey B. Berenson, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women’s Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “The flip side is that if I have a patient who smokes, I’m going to be more concerned about giving her Depo-Provera.”

Your bones could be aching for attention even if you’re still none of the above. The World Health Organization now has a nifty new bone-health tool called FRAX to help you figure if you’re at risk for fractures. You can visit their site, plug in country and ethnicity for your personal profile. You can also go to KnowMyBones.com (bones people are having a good time with titles and acronyms) and find out more about healthy bones and how to keep them thus.

Dem bones, as long as you help them, gonna walk around.

Sorry, no photos in Prop 8 courtroom

So much for what proponents of marriage equality thought would have been a good idea:

The Supreme Court has indefinitely blocked cameras from covering the high-profile federal court trial on the constitutionality of California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The high court split 5-4 today, with the conservative justices in the majority.

Now in its third day, the trial in federal court in San Francisco is over the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The presiding judge, Vaughn Walker, had proposed posting recordings of the trial on the court’s Web site after several hours of delay and allowing real-time streaming of the trial for viewing in other federal courthouses in California, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Gay rights advocates were calling Judge Walker’s earlier ruling a step towards openness and transparency. Proposition 8 supporters (who hope to uphold the voters’ ban on same-sex marriage in case you’ve been on another planet and missed the back story) were clearly — and probably rightly — afraid their supporters would fear being outed and skip testifying. A thoughtful person who lives in my house suggested it could be a bad precedent.

I personally was looking forward to looking in. But the Supreme Court didn’t consult with any of us. So now we’ll wait to see what they have to say when, as expected, this case gets to their chambers on appeal.

Supreme Court indefinitely blocks cameras from Prop. 8 trial – latimes.com.

Nobody wants to talk about it

It’s the new Great American Conspiracy, the game of eternal youth. A little plastic surgery here, personal trainer there, here a test, there a scan, everywhere denial again. Death is optional, isn’t it?

Doctors are the happy co-conspirators in the game. They can always fix things up, can’t they?

Well, no. But a new study shows that doctors are just as happy to put off talking about end-of-life issues as their patients. This means that discussions get put off until they are beside the point because the patient died. Which saves all those uncomfortable moments… even if by the time he or she dies the patient has suffered distress that might easily have been avoided, the doctor has likely ordered expensive, agonizing, unnecessary tests and procedures (after all, isn’t the mandate always to treat, no matter what?) and friends and family are left emotional wrecks. All because it’s easier to be in denial than consider the possibility that we might actually — gasp — die.

It’s a conversation that most people dread, doctors and patients alike. The cancer is terminal, time is short, and tough decisions loom — about accepting treatment or rejecting it, and choosing where and how to die.

When is the right time — if there is one — to bring up these painful issues with someone who is terminally ill?

Guidelines for doctors say the discussion should begin when a patient has a year or less to live. That way, patients and their families can plan whether they want to do everything possible to stay alive, or to avoid respirators, resuscitation, additional chemotherapy and the web of tubes, needles, pumps and other machines that often accompany death in the hospital.

The right time to bring up these issues is today. When you’re 26. Or 52. Or 78 and feeling okay. Once someone is terminally ill it’s a whole new game, but to postpone talking about it, to behave as if never uttering the D-word means you’ll still live forever at that point is both foolish and costly. The reality is that we do postpone the conversation. But once a diagnosis suggests a foreseeable end to the living-forever fantasy the discussion should, for those very good reasons above, begin that day.

But many doctors, especially older ones and specialists, say they would postpone those conversations, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Cancer.

It’s not entirely clear whether these doctors are remiss for not speaking up — or whether the guidelines are unrealistic. Advice that sounds good on paper may be no match for the emotions on both sides when it comes to facing patients and their families and admitting that it will soon be over, that all medicine can offer is a bit of comfort while the patient waits to die.

Dr. Nancy L. Keating, the first author of the study and an associate professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard, said not much was known about how, when or even if doctors were having these difficult talks with dying patients. But she said that her research team suspected that communication was falling short, because studies have shown that even though most people want to die at home, most wind up dying in the hospital.

The researchers surveyed 4,074 doctors who took care of cancer patients, instructing them to imagine one who had only four to six months left, but was still feeling well. Then the doctors were asked when they would discuss the prognosis, whether the patient wanted resuscitation or hospice care, and where he or she wanted to die.

The results came as a surprise: the doctors were even more reluctant to ask certain questions than the researchers had expected. Although 65 percent said they would talk about the prognosis “now,” far fewer would discuss the other issues at the same time: resuscitation, 44 percent; hospice, 26 percent; site of death, 21 percent. Instead, most of the doctors said they would rather wait until the patients felt worse or there were no more cancer treatments to offer.

How much worse are patients supposed to feel? How many treatments will be offered, for how long, at what expense in dollars and in human suffering?

If doctors were honest about the pain, distress and discomfort involved in end-of-life treatments, if patients could be informed and then clear about what they would choose, if friends and families could be open, the savings in dollars and in human suffering would be immense. Sarah Palin didn’t want you to talk about it. Is she still calling the shots?

Second Opinion – Doctors Often Delay Conversations About Death With Terminal Patients – NYTimes.com.

Gay rights, hate crimes & social justice

Can hate crimes be erased from the U.S.? Probably not. Will same-sex marriage some day become the law of the land? Probably, eventually, so.

A few blocks around the corner from the federal courthouse in San Francisco where the latest battle for marriage equality is beginning an ambitious effort to combat hate crimes through community action was also getting underway on Monday morning.

Not In Our Town (NIOT) is a national movement planning a full-scale web organizing campaign  launch on April 6. Its focus is on mobilizing citizens in response to hate crimes, but its ultimate goal is to help build communities where such crimes won’t happen. Strategies were unveiled for a group of civic and religious leaders in San Francisco as part of the pre-launch efforts.

Not In Our Town began with a PBS documentary about Billings, Montana citizens joining together to respond to a series of hate crimes in their town. The story struck a chord with audiences, and created a model that inspired viewers around the country to hold their own campaigns against intolerance. Now in its second decade, the Not In Our Town movement continues to grow. Media company nonprofit The Working Group, which produced the PBS documentary, is the force behind NIOT’s emerging web-based organizational campaign

In the audience at Monday’s meeting, which was held at the San Francisco Public Library, were San Francisco Interfaith Council Executive Director Michael Pappas, Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang (whose specific concentration is on prosecution of hate crimes), Director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services Mike Farrah and representatives of a host of community action programs such as AfroSolo — a visual and performing arts nonprofit working, among other things, to combat black-on-black crime. Plus a wide assortment of individuals from religious and community groups. The audience mix was, NIOT representatives said, typical of groups around the country from which community efforts have grown.

NIOT grassroots efforts have taken place in communities from Patchogue, NY to Ft. Collins, CO to Richmond, CA and dozens in between. If the interest shown in the San Francisco Library — while most eyes were on the courthouse around the corner — was any indication, an enthusiastic San Francisco NIOT group will join others for the April 6 launce.

1 24 25 26 27 28 33