Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blog Obsession

The Boston Globe seems obsessed this week with blogs. On Tuesday, it was an article entitled MySpace vs. Workplace , a mildly entertaining but simultaneously disturbing piece about employers trolling the internet for potential employees’ blogs, webpages and MySpace pages, looking for compromising information. Never mind that serious employers probably don’t have the time to google all their job candidates and see what dirt they can find. This is news! This is exciting!

Today, the page one headline screamed Blogger unmasked, court case upended. It seems that a local pediatrician who had been sued for medical malpractice was – gasp! – blogging about his experience on his personal blog. Never mind that most people probably never heard of his blog, and never saw his blog. Most people probably don’t even know what a blog is. But the opposing counsel found about it, and used it in order to intimidate him into settling the case. This is news? Front page news?

Come on, folks.

For those who don’t know, the word “blog” is short for “web log,” a kind of on-line diary or journal that is easily created using websites such as Blogger or Typepad or other similar sites. Basically, you sign up, and then you can write your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and publish them instantly online. It’s very similar to a journal or diary, the only difference being, it’s on the internet. Then you can choose who sees your blog. It can be just for you, for you and your friends, or you can make your blog public, for all the world to see.

The problem is that some people don’t realize that the world – anyone in the world – really can see your blog if you make it public. And herein lies the problem.

Anyone – in – the – WORLD – can – read – your – blog.

ANYONE.

If you read some blogs – and believe me, there are thousands, probably millions to choose from – you will quickly realize that people feel very free to say whatever they want on their blogs. Bloggers are a pretty irreverent group. They say what they feel, and rarely say it delicately. This is the fun of blogs. You can say what you think and feel, and usually, there are few repercussions.

Usually.

The internet is a relatively new phenomenon, and we are just learning about its power and its pitfalls. People are slowly learning what they should and should not say via email, and now they will need to learn the same lessons about blogging. If you are job hunting, perhaps you shouldn’t publish photos of your wild drinking adventures on your blog or on MySpace, just in case potential employers are looking…. And if you are taking part in a court proceeding, maybe you shouldn’t make your blog about that proceeding public, just in case the opposing counsel is looking.

But while doing these things is …well… stupid… it isn’t criminal. I feel badly for the people who weren’t hired because of their blogs or MySpace pages. And I really feel badly for the pediatrician who has probably lost his professional standing because of his blog. There is nothing wrong with blogging. The problem is when the wrong person sees it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Do kids need religion?

I've been listening to a very interesting podcast on Motherhood Uncensored about raising kids without religion. Kristen Chase (Motherhood Uncensored) is a podcaster and blogger who says whatever is on her mind, and I've been enjoying listening to her podcasts for the past month or so. So this week, Kristen tackled some great questions about religion: do kids need it? is it possible to raise spiritual and ethical kids without it? are kids losing anything by not participating in an organized religion? etc. Kristen had some interesting guests speaking about this topic, and two of them were involved in writing a new book called Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion that sounds very interesting as well.

So I'm going to chime in here with my opinion on some of these topics. Obviously, for me, Judaism is an important element of my identity, and by choosing to send my son to Jewish pre-school/daycare and now Jewish day school, I/we have made it a priority for him, as well. There are things that drive me crazy about Judaism (see some of my other posts like this one and this one), but over all, I feel that there are enough positive things about it that I want my son to learn as much as he can about it while he is young.

One of the things I like that he is learning is that he is part of something bigger than himself. It's hard, in our society, where the focus is often on me-me-me (i.e. rugged individualism, looking out for number 1, competition, being the best, buying the best, the latest, the most in-fashion, etc....) to feel like YOU are not the ultimate be all and end all, that the community, G-d, the ethics and morals of the religion, are something older and wiser and MORE than just you. And that you are part of a people, part of a system, that is larger and deeper and more powerful than just you alone.

I feel that there will be plenty of time for him to question all of this when he is a teenager and an adult. Right now, it's great for him to learn some definitive things: we do it this way, not that way, because we are Jewish; we believe this way, not that way, because we are Jewish. Later on, he can sort it all out, and see if it works for him. But I think it's a lot to ask a kid -- well, we're not going to tell you what to believe, you decide! -- when they are just a kid! That's why I don't buy into this idea of "we'll expose the kids to all different religions and let them choose." Kids learn from their parents. If the parents say -- we don't really buy into any one religion, but we'll show you all these different ones, and then you can choose -- the kids will likely choose, as the parents have, nothing at all. And I feel that kids are missing something if they grow up without a set of beliefs, a feeling of belonging to a group, a sense of community, a sense of who they are in the world... I truly feel that it helps in life to have those things, and that kids without them are missing out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm Becoming My Grandmother

I've been beaten down this week by a nasty stomach bug of some sort (food poisoning? virus? no one knows) that is taking forever to go away. Not to get too graphic, but I've been spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom. WAY too much time. But the other thing that has been awful about this bug is the gas. I know, too much information, right? But I just can't stop thinking about my grandmother.

My grandmother, Nana, was my father's mom. I clearly remember eating meals with her, and she would look at something very innocuous like cucumbers, for example, and would say: "I just can't eat that." And I'd ask: "Why not?" She'd reply: "It gives me gas." I was 7 or 9 or 12, and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Gas?

Now I'm staring down 46, and now I know what Nana was talking about. Broccoli - love it - but boy does it give me gas. Salsa, things with red peppers... you guessed it. And now, this stomach bug has really got me feeling like Nana. My stomach feels huge, and I feel like I might explode. I feel like it might feel GOOD to explode! What do I do about all this gas?

I think I'm finally starting to feel better. I actually woke up with an appetite this morning. But my stomach still isn't quite up to par. And I think I might spend some time at CVS tomorrow, perusing the aisle for anti-gas medications....

Grandma, here I come!