Lydster: talking to strangers


talking to strangersTalking to strangers when we happen to connect in some way is something I tend to pursue. My daughter HATES that.

It might be me speaking to the mother of a cranky baby on a bus. Or worse, talking to the baby. Because I’m willing to play peekaboo or make faces to infants, I have about an 80% success rate in getting wailing babies to stop, if only out of their curiosity. I’m actually better with them than I was with my once-baby, now-teenager.

We went to see Bernie Sanders in Albany in April 2016, in a line going around the block. I started talking to the couple behind us about the weather, which was threatening. My daughter was mortified at first. But as we ended up spending over an hour and a half in the line, she seemed to appreciate the efficacy of conversation.


There was a report that was reported widely. Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger.

“The mood boost of talking to strangers may seem fleeting, but the research on well-being, scientists say, suggests that a happy life is made up of a high frequency of positive events. Even small positive experiences — chatting with a stranger in an elevator — can make a difference.”

Sometimes the conversation with the bank teller or sales clerk can be informative and/or fun. My daughter finds these interactions particularly cringeworthy, which, I always assumed, was the whole point of parenting.

Moreover, Malcolm Gladwell wrote Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About People We Don’t Know. It’s considered a “fascinating study of why we misread those we don’t know.” It is, in other words, the act is a social good.

Interestingly, my daughter has finally started recognizing the value of dialogue with people she doesn’t know. They’re not necessarily total strangers. It might be a kid she saw in middle school but never talked to. Now that they’re both in high school, she might take the initiative just to say hello.

Could the father be…RIGHT?

Lydster: homework is unrelenting

“It teaches time management skills.”

homeworkMy daughter was sick the second Thursday and Friday of the school year back in September. She really was ill, with her temperature spiking over 100F, always in the evening, before we took her to the urgent care place and got her antibiotics.

Obviously, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been in high school. But I don’t remember the homework being so unrelenting. And being ill is no excuse these days.

Her school district had embraced an “Attendance matters” initiative, “All day. Every day.” And if you’re not there – a high fever is reason enough IN THE DISTRICT’S RULES to keep the child home – the homework doesn’t go away.

It’s very easy to fall behind. My daughter has caught up, but it took over a week. It often involved staying up later than I would have wanted for her. I have been told that even second graders are getting homework, and are responsible for it, whether or not the child is present.

If you Google value of homework pros and cons, you’ll find some pros:

“It encourages the discipline of practice.” Maybe. “It gets parents involved with a child’s life.” That IS true. Since at least her third-grade class, I’ve been the parent who helped try to explain Common Core math, even when I was mystified by it. I look forward to school breaks and vacations as much as, or possibly more than, my daughter.

“It teaches time management skills.” Theoretically, but not necessarily, in this case. “Homework creates a communication network.” Not applicable. “It allows for a comfortable place to study.” I have NO idea how she studies with the television on.

“It provides more time to complete the learning process.” Sometimes the stuff that seemed to have made sense in the classroom actually becomes fuzzy by the time she gets home.

“It reduces screen time.” Well, THAT isn’t true. Much of her homework REQUIRES screen time to complete. The weekly AP European history quiz is online. The English papers are submitted electronically. An ad she did with some classmates REQUIRED her phone. Some research requires doing searches.

My daughter doesn’t love the homework. Her father isn’t a fan, either.

Lydster: talking about school shootings

January 17, 1989, in Stockton, California

Active Shooter DrillsAt the end of the summer, my daughter was waiting for her friends, who were late. She calls me at home, and she brings up the subject of school shootings.

She wanted to know if I had to think about these things growing up. Heck, no, but I’m better than a half-century older than she is. This got me to look up the Wikipedia page for List of school shootings in the United States. Ah, such a convenient tracking of carnage.

There were shootings back in the 19th century, but most involved zero to two casualties. An exception took place on March 30, 1891, in Liberty, Mississippi when “an unknown gunman fired a double-barreled shotgun into the mixed audience, made up of black and white students, parents and teachers. Fourteen people were wounded, some seriously.”

Six were killed in a melee in Charleston, West Virginia on December 13, 1898. I’ve written about the 1966 University of Texas shooting, the first crime of its sort that I remembered.

20th century

Hmm, they counted Kent State and Jackson State from 1970. I have no recollection of the December 30, 1974, Olean (NY) shooting that killed 3 and injured 11.

The worst shooting in the 1980s was on January 17, 1989, in Stockton, California. A 24-year-old fatally shot five children and wounded 32 others at an elementary school, before taking his own life. “The victims were children of refugees from Southeast Asia.” The shooter “had a history of violence, alcoholism, and drug addiction, and criminality.”

Then April 20, 1999: Littleton, Colorado, with 15 dead, including the two shooters, 21 wounded. I had to admit to my daughter that I had managed to forget the March 21, 2005 incident at Red Lake, Minnesota, where five students, one teacher, and one security guard were killed, wounding seven others, after the shooter previously killed a couple of relatives.

I do remember the guy who killed five Amish girls in Pennsylvania in 2006. The Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 made the international news. Then Newtown, CT; Parkland, FL; Santa Fe, TX. I remember that my daughter was particularly upset by Santa Fe after she and her classmates protested following Parkland.

How stressful her life, and the lives of her friends, must be. She so related to the disturbing Sandy Hook Promise ad here or here or here.

We had duck and cover, but I don’t think we took it too seriously. They have active shooter drills, and they have reason to believe it COULD happen “here.”

Lydster: Instagram, copyright, bullying

teen drama

breaking bad kids
via Aaron Paul’s Instagram
Early in my retirement, my wife and I were sound asleep in our bed at 11:30 p.m., because that’s what we do. Our dear daughter came into the room needing to talk, preferably to the male parent. Oh yeah… zzz.. that’s me.

The issue is that some young woman, who I’ll call Happy, had taken a graphic from someone else’s Instagram page. The artist, who I’ll call Art, is a friend of my daughter.

Art politely asked Happy to take the piece off her page. Happy refused. As some of Art’s friends got involved in the conversation, Happy became more adamant. She suggested that Art and all of his friends should get together and cut themselves.

My daughter wanted my advice, which I suppose I should appreciate. I recommended, regarding both the artwork and the response by Happy, was to contact Instagram.

This is not the first time I’ve learned about the Sturm und Drang involving teenagers on social media. Back in the old days, if there were bullies, you and your geographically close friends knew who they were and how to avoid or confront them.

Now, there’s a network of friends and “friends” who get intricately involved in these dramas. I am utterly fascinated, baffled and more than a bit concerned how these issues can escalate.

I know this is probably unAmerican, but I have never warmed to Instagram. It seems difficult to ascertain what pictures actually belong to whom, with photos and graphics swapped about.

Huh. I went to my Instagram account, which I hadn’t used in so long that I had forgotten the password, which is not that rare. I was puzzled to note that while I had 14 followers, I have apparently never posted anything.

It’s weird because I swore that I had submitted photos of some of my ancestors. I probably will use Instagram at some point in my purported free time. But I will have expectations that the pictures will be shared.

Oh, here’s the kicker. Because I went to visit Happy’s Instagram page, she sent me an invitation to friend her on Facebook! I declined.

Lydster: Working Girl, per Melanie G.

stolen t-shirts

Coverville.CokeShirt-frontThe fun facts in our household this season:
1) I’m no longer working; I’m retired
2) My wife is not currently at work; she’s a teacher and it’s the summer
3) My daughter IS working

For some reason, the youngest among us seems to be irritated by this situation, the ONLY person employed. For instance, she’s been grilling me about MY first job, which was delivering the evening and Sunday newspapers in Binghamton, NY when I was 12 and 13.

“No, what was the first job when you had to Deal With Other People?” That’d be working as a page at the Binghamton Public Library when I was 16.

She’s involved in this Summer Youth Employment Program conducted by the city of Albany. While I know where she works, I haven’t quite sussed out what she DOES. Something about being a non-profit co-ordinator? Wha?

They’ve been teaching the teenagers some life skills. The teens have been wrangling smaller kids. My daughter noted that she kept running into one young girl and smiled at her. The girl brought my daughter a cup of water.

I did not expect that my daughter would start stealing my clothes. Specifically, my T-shirts. To be honest, my tees are more interesting than my wife’s. Mine tend to be about social causes (AIDS, peace), sports, and especially music.

I haven’t let her steal my green Beatles T-shirt yet, but I have allowed her to purloin my Coverville shirts, and I have about a half dozen of them. She doesn’t even listen to the podcast yet. I ought to just go out and buy my daughter her own set!

I understand that she likes earning money so that, one of these days, she can buy a car. I’m assuming she has no sense of the expense of owning a car beyond the purchase price and maybe the gasoline. You know, the maintenance, and the insurance.

Fortunately, a 20 hour/week job for five weeks won’t get her there THIS summer. Then again, she’s still too young to get a driver’s permit. Oh, and who’s going to teach her to drive? It can’t be me, and my wife and I agree that it oughtn’t to be her.

A problem for another year, thank goodness. Do they still teach driver’s ed in high school?