Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Unfair and Imbalanced

Image result for kent brockmanHappy Wednesday, and welcome to another week of Take It or Leave It!

It's tempting to blame the current news culture on the explosion of cable TV and social media platforms, but the roots in America go back to at least the 19th century and the cutthroat days of newspaper publishing. In the late 1890s, Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World, and William Randolph Hearst, owner of the Journal, built a legendary rivalry. Hearst had made a huge success out of the San Francisco Examiner before moving to New York to do the same with the Journal. The competition between these two men, each seeking to out-do the other, helped plant the seeds for the sensationalism we see in the media today.

I'm not sure Pulitzer and Hearst could even have conceived of today's media environment. Never before has it been so easy to obtain and consume news that totally agrees with our own political and ideological leanings. I've heard it said that we curate our media intake, and I couldn't agree more. Call them bubbles or silos or echo chambers, but the result is the same: we ingest only what we want to ingest.

But this week, I poked my head out of my silo and set my bleary, world-weary eyes on Fox News.

Yes, that Fox News.

It was a long week.

And here's the thing: I have confirmed that I don't enjoy the on-air personalities and ideologies of Fox News. I disagreed with quite a lot that was said and was always relieved when I came across a news story that bordered on neutral. Vaping illnesses, say, or the flu. I think we can all agree that those things aren't wonderful.

But my big epiphany was the realization that somewhere, my doppelganger was gnashing her teeth at the sight of Anderson Cooper, disagreeing as vehemently with the news from the left as I do with the news from the right. Our media culture actively promotes the us vs. them mentality, and that is just not healthy for any of us. I know the stakes are high, and hopefully we're all trying to do what we think is right, not merely what feels habitual. But as long as ratings still matter, I don't know if that's possible.

My brief dalliance with Fox News is a definite Leave It. And it rather put me off of cable news in general, especially in these frenetic times leading up to an election year.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Think Like a Proton

Image result for proton atomThink positive, that is! Okay, bad joke, but we all know there's too much negativity in the world these days, and I'm not just talking about those electrons zipping around. And it's easy for negative vibes to seep into our brains and poison our thinking. But there is a cure (or at least an effective treatment) and it's called...

Positive thinking. Or, if you prefer, positive affirmations. The internet and your local bookseller are teeming with pithy, uplifting quotes and wise sayings that convey feel-good messages. But according to, it's not enough to just slap together a bunch of warm fuzzies. Brains are very literal and prefer affirmations that adhere to certain rules:
  • They are in the present tense. So, no "will" or "was."
  • They use only positive words. Apparently, brains aren't thrilled about expending extra energy to change those "don'ts" to "dos."
  • They are statements of fact, as in "I am" or "I do."
Repetition is key. If you've tried to master a golf swing or tennis serve, you've probably been told that repetition strengthens the connections in the brain. Hence the old adage that practice makes perfect. And this, my friends, is where I failed miserably this week. I don't know why (maybe there's some ironic twist here), but I kept forgetting to positively affirm myself. When I did remember, I would get wishy-washy about exactly what I was affirming. My health? My happiness? My desire to manifest thicker hair and improved social skills?

Anyway, I learned that mentally half-assing some random bumper sticker slogans didn't quite cut it. But I'm not giving up, because I believe there's some truth in the assertion that we are what we think we are. Or, in this slightly more eloquent example:
"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." ~ Buddha
This week is a Keep It, and...what's that? You'd like to see the ultra-affirming opening scene from the 1995 movie Stuart Saves His Family? Happy to oblige.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

1 Week = 7 'Grams

This is no big secret, but I struggle with social media. Trying to use it to my advantage seems uncomfortably self-serving, and the existence of tween-aged multimillionaire "influencers" baffles me.  If it all disappeared tomorrow, I would #notmissitonebit.

Having said that, I was compelled to set up an Instagram account in June so I could see what son #2's teacher was posting during their school trip to Germany.  But I myself never posted, not then or in the weeks after. I occasionally thought about it, and then...meh. 

"You have to post," my son told me. "Or people will think you're a bot." Well, in my defense, turning into an internet bot sounds like a great premise for a science fiction story, but I saw his point. So last week, I made up my mind to post one picture each day. 

I did, and here they are:

Ornamental grasses

Me shadow, tree shadow


A study in primary colors

Hunter moonrise

"Drafty" in here

Milkweed Monday

Nothing spectacular, but at least I finally got my feet wet. I anticipate that I will continue to post on occasion, so this is technically a Take It. And if you'd like to see what those future posts look like, you can find me on the 'gram as jensunwriter.

Happy Wednesday! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Punchy McPunch Face

One of the fun things about having sons is ending up with all kinds of gadgets and gear around the house that my sister and I never had as kids. We played wild west and had pocket knives, but our toys skewed pretty heavily to Barbie dolls, baby dolls, ballerina get the picture. We didn't have superheroes or Nerf guns. Or a punching bag.

It's been a few years now, and I don't quite remember how the Everlast 60-pound punching bag came to be a permanent resident in my home. One of the boys probably suggested it sounded like fun, and my husband is always game for a trip to the sporting goods store. It got semi-regular use for a while, but with both boys in college, it now hangs in the basement of my empty nest, largely neglected.

Strapping on cartoonishly large red gloves and flailing away isn't something I'd be keen to do in public, but safely away from interested onlookers, I felt brave enough to give it a try. After the briefest of online tutorials, I was ready to give it ago. As long as I didn't hurt myself, I figured the rest didn't really matter. It's not like I was going for style points.

I started with 5 minutes the first day and added a minute each day after. At first, I was little stiff the next morning, but that didn't last very long. And it also didn't take long for me to learn that it's fun to punch something that doesn't punch back. It's great stress relief, is good for balance, and builds muscle and bone strength, all of which are important things at this point in my life.

Image result for rocky the squirrelIt goes without saying, but punching the heavy bag for a week didn't turn me into Rocky Balboa. It didn't even turn me into Rocky the Squirrel. My footwork is terrible, and my endurance has a ways to go. But it was surprisingly enjoyable, and that makes this week a Take It.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Hamlet was talking about death, but thank goodness I'm referring to regular old garden-variety sleep. Catching some z's. Forty winks. Although the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, the general consensus is that regular, quality sleep is crucial for good health. Well-rested people get sick less often, think more clearly, and may manage their weight better.

Image result for sleepHmmm...if only there were a way to use technology to micromanage something we humans have been doing naturally for thousands of years...

Oh, yeah. There's an app for that. Actually, there are plenty of apps for that. It seems somewhat ironic that the same technology that robs us of sleep can allegedly help us improve it, but that's kind of how we do things these days.

This week, as you may have gathered, I experimented with a sleep-monitoring app. I don't have a fitness tracker right now, so my app was not connected to a wearable that could directly measure my nocturnal thrashings. It also did not record snoring, make me a cup of hot milk, or influence how often I dreamed about taking a test I hadn't studied for.

Instead, my phone sat on a spot higher than the edge of the mattress (thank you, bedside stack of books), where it sent out little sonar blips during the night that were somehow able to gauge the quality and quantity of my sleep. Yes, the same technology that maps the ocean floor can also apparently map the depths of a person's slumber. Who knew?

In the morning, the app generated a short report detailing sleep duration, time to fall asleep, light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep, and wake time. That was all kind of interesting, but I'm not convinced it was accurate, especially when I got a message that "something" may have interfered with the app's function. Darn you, rogue pillow!

After a week, I can confidently say that a sleep tracking app is not for me at this point in my life. I don't need more reasons to mess with my phone, and, as it turns out, I am entirely capable of determining on my own whether I've had a good night or a bad night. This one is a Leave It, but you might have a different experience. Regardless, I wish you good sleep and sweet dreams!

tired dog days GIF