Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Retail... why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kindler, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is overcrowded with pissed-off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Monday, November 29, 2021

Find the spirit of Christmas that you once had

  Every year the Christmas season comes earlier. It used to be that we put up our outside Christmas lights on the last weekend of November. Shortly after, we gradually transformed the inside of our house with Christmas decorations. This culminated with the purchase of a real pine tree, which we decorated shortly before Christmas, at times as late as Christmas Eve. The earliest that we went to get our tree was a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Hanukkah’s true meaning is about Jewish survival

  Every December, Jews celebrate the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, perhaps the best-known and certainly the most visible Jewish holiday.

  While critics sometimes identify Christmas as promoting the prevalence in America today of what one might refer to as Hanukkah kitsch, this assessment misses the social and theological significance of Hanukkah within Judaism itself.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Keep your fork

  When a pessimist is told there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s likely to assume it’s an onrushing train. According to journalist Sydney Harris, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he’s prematurely disappointed in the future.”

  Pessimism and cynicism are fashionable these days, but it’s the people who see and celebrate the positive aspects of life who live best.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Unkind words are weapons

  With four teenage daughters, I frequently find myself correcting, disciplining, or simply protesting unnecessary and unkind comments certain to anger or wound a sister and evoke counterattacks that fill the air with nastiness.

  Hoping to get them to think before they speak in the future, I often ask, “What did you expect to accomplish by that remark?” and “Did it make things better or worse?” It rarely makes a difference.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

What the first Thanksgiving dinner actually looked like

  Most Americans probably don’t realize that we have a very limited understanding of the first Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 in Massachusetts.

  Indeed, few of our present-day traditions resemble what happened almost 400 years ago, and there’s only one original account of the feast.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Asian roots of umami – the ‘fifth’ taste central to Thanksgiving fare

  Thanksgiving is perhaps the quintessential American holiday. The fourth Thursday in November provides a moment to reflect on the good fortune of the past year and a chance to share a meal with friends and family. Iconic images of Thanksgiving place America’s native bird, the turkey, at the center of the feast, as are corn, pumpkins, and other indigenous species.

  Unlike other holidays including Valentine's Day, Halloween, and even Christmas, though, the flavors of Thanksgiving are savory rather than sweet. And just as there is a history to the Thanksgiving menu, so too, there is a history to the holiday’s primary taste: umami.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

‘Constructive arguing’ can help keep the peace at your Thanksgiving table

  Sex, income, religion, and politics – these are some of the biggies on the list of taboo topics during polite discussion. Even a conciliatory tone doesn’t always protect you if the subjects are spicy. When singer Katy Perry tweeted post-election encouragement in 2020 to reach out to family members who supported the other candidate, she was skewered online.

  Traditionally the year-end holidays are a time when friends and family with diverse points of view gather. In a pre-Thanksgiving Pew Research Center survey in 2018, people who reported more family discord about politics were less likely to be comfortable talking politics with their family, with 40% of respondents saying they try to avoid the subject.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Retail rage: Why Black Friday leads shoppers to behave badly

  The manic nature of Black Friday has at times led shoppers to engage in fistfights and other misbehavior in their desperation to snatch up the last ultra-discounted television, computer, or pair of pants.

  What is it about the day after Thanksgiving – a day meant to celebrate togetherness and shared feasting – that inspires consumers to misbehave?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

What is family estrangement? A relationship expert describes the problem and research agenda

  Holidays are often a time of strengthening family bonds and relationships. But for those who have difficult relationships with siblings, parents, and extended family, it can be a stressful and upsetting time. We asked Kristina Scharp to explain why family relationships sometimes break down – and some things to consider when talking to those in this situation.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Taking back Thanksgiving!

  I am genuinely elated to report that I have survived another Thanksgiving… or rather what remains of this rapidly deteriorating national holiday. I ate, I watched football, I napped. God ordained back in the Plymouth Rock days that we adhere to this sacred ritual, right? And doing so enables me to show my Turkey Day pride, get my festive gobble-gobble swerve thang on… and have gas until New Year’s from all that gorging.

  But increasingly each year something else is ominously creeping into the view from my yam-tinted glasses, vulgarly tinkling on my Thanksgiving joy and ruthlessly pushing all the pilgrim imagery to the side - its name, Christmas.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Gun violence soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study finds – but the reasons why are complex

  In a new study, we found that the overall U.S. gun violence rate rose by 30% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year before. In 28 states, the rates were substantially higher between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic period from Feb. 1, 2019 through Feb. 29, 2020. There were 51,063 incidents of gun violence events resulting in injury or death in the United States in the first 13 months of the pandemic compared to 38,919 incidents in the same time span pre-pandemic.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The ‘great resignation’ is a trend that began before the pandemic – and bosses need to get used to it

  Finding good employees has always been a challenge - but these days, it’s harder than ever. And it is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

  The so-called quit rate – the share of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs – hit a new record of 3% in September 2021, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The rate was highest in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 6.4% of workers quit their jobs in September. In all, 20.2 million workers left their employers from May through September.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Nurses don’t want to be hailed as ‘heroes’ during a pandemic – they want more resources and support

  Nurses stepped up to the challenge of caring for patients during the pandemic, and over 1,150 of us have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. As cases and deaths surge, nurses continue working in a broken system with minimal support and resources to care for critically sick patients, many of whom will still die.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Hatch Act, the law Trump deputies are said to have broken, requires government employees to work for the public interest, not partisan campaigns

  Thirteen top officials of the Trump administration violated the federal law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits political campaigning while employed by the federal government. That’s the conclusion of a federal government report issued by the Special Counsel Henry Kerner.

  The officials, including then-acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “chose to use their official authority not for the legitimate functions of the government, but to promote the reelection of President Trump in violation of the law.”

Monday, November 15, 2021

The federal poverty line struggles to capture the economic hardship that half of Americans face

  Michael Chase works two jobs in southeast Ohio: one as a hotel night clerk and one as retail support – sorting through donations, setting new merchandise out, cleaning – at a nonprofit.

  His schedule is not fixed in either job, and his hours are not guaranteed. Some weeks he works back-to-back eight-hour shifts. Some weeks he works fewer than 30 hours. Neither job offers sick leave, vacation time, or health insurance.

  Chase shares an apartment with three other people, something he finds stressful. And he is not always confident that he can make his portion of the rent. Between the two jobs, Chase earns less than US$16,000 a year. While it may not sound like a lot, that places him well above the federal poverty line for a single person: $12,760.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The future of work is hybrid – here’s an expert’s recommendations

  COVID-19 has changed the way we work.

  Even before the pandemic, the U.S. workforce increasingly relied on remote collaboration technologies like videoconferencing and Slack. The global crisis accelerated the adoption of these work tools and practices in an unprecedented way. By April 2020, about half of companies reported that more than 80% of their employees worked from home because of COVID-19.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Are people lying more since the rise of social media and smartphones?

  Technology has given people more ways to connect, but has it also given them more opportunities to lie?

  You might text your friend a white lie to get out of going to dinner, exaggerate your height on a dating profile to appear more attractive, or invent an excuse to your boss over email to save face.

  Social psychologists and communication scholars have long wondered not just who lies the most but where people tend to lie the most – that is, in person or through some other communication medium.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The US was not prepared for a pandemic – free market capitalism and government deregulation may be to blame

  It’s unclear when the pandemic will come to an end. What may be an even more important question is whether the U.S. will be prepared for the next one. The past year and a half suggests that the answer may be no.

  As a medical anthropologist who has spent the past 20 years studying how the Chinese government reacts to infectious disease, my research can provide insight into how countries, including the U.S., can better prepare for disease outbreaks.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Thank you, veterans!

  A cold north wind chilled the backs of their necks as they waited outside the church. Tired, hungry, and homesick, the soldiers of the 353rd Infantry stood like time-worn statues against the tattered and war-worn buildings of stone. Some of them had dreamed of seeing France one day, but not like this. All they wanted now was a hot meal, a bath, and a good night's sleep in their own beds back home.

  It was November 11th, 1918, and these brave individuals had given their all to defend the freedoms of millions of people they would never meet. Slowly the minutes ticked by and, after what seemed like forever, the moment finally arrived. The Armistice was signed, and on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I, "the war to end all wars," was over.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Wages up as Americans are encouraged back to work and into the office – 3 takeaways from the latest jobs report

  After a lackluster jobs report in September 2021, the latest news on employment gives Americans plenty of cheer about ahead of the holiday season.

  In total, 531,000 jobs were added in October – outstripping the already optimistic predictions of economists. This caused the unemployment rate to fall 0.2 percentage points to 4.6%.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

East Coast flooding is a reminder that sea level is rising as the climate warms – here’s why the ocean is pouring in more often

  The U.S. East Coast has been experiencing hurricane-like flooding recently, with Georgia and the Carolinas getting the latest round. High tides are part of the problem, but there’s another risk that has been slowly creeping up: sea level rise.

  Since 1880, average global sea levels have risen by more than 8 inches (23 centimeters), and the rate has been accelerating with climate change.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Interventionists ignore 9/11 motive to our detriment

  In the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, some interventionists are ignoring the most important factor in the Afghanistan debacle: what motivated the terrorists to commit the 9/11 attacks. 

  Or, even worse, some interventionists continue to buy into the motive that U.S. officials ascribed immediately after the attacks: that the terrorists struck on 9/11 because they hated America for its “freedom and values” or because they were Muslims who were engaged in a centuries-old quest to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate, one that would put the United States under Sharia law.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Congress passes $1T infrastructure bill – but how does the government go about spending that much money?

  The U.S. Congress passed an infrastructure bill that funds more than a trillion dollars in nationwide federal spending on Nov. 5.

  The bill puts about US$240 billion toward building or rebuilding roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and railways. More than $150 billion is slated for projects that address climate change, like building electric vehicle charging stations, upgrading energy grids, and production to work better with renewables, and making public transit more environmentally sustainable.

  There’s funding for cybersecurity, clean water, and waste treatment systems, broadband internet connections, and more.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Is COVID-19 here to stay? A team of biologists explains what it means for a virus to become endemic

  Now that kids ages 5 to 11 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and the number of fully vaccinated people in the U.S. is rising, many people may be wondering what the endgame is for COVID-19.

  Early on in the pandemic, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) might just go away since historically some pandemic viruses have simply disappeared.

Friday, November 5, 2021

What American schools can learn from other countries about civic disagreement

  Few areas of American life have experienced more conflict of late than public education. The conflict has largely revolved around how public schools should deal with the difficult subjects of race and racism. The situation has become so inflamed that a national school board group asked the federal government to step in and protect school officials and educators from what they said were a growing number of attacks from angry citizens.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Unlike the US, Europe is setting ambitious targets for producing more organic food

  President Joe Biden has called for an all-of-government response to climate change that looks for solutions and opportunities in every sector of the U.S. economy. That includes agriculture, which emits over 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year – more than the total national emissions of the United Kingdom, Australia, France, or Italy.

  Recent polls show that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and willing to make lifestyle changes to address it. Other surveys show that many U.S. consumers are worried about the possible health risks of eating food produced with pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

COVID-19 threatens the already shaky status of arts education in schools

  Parents can watch their kids draw and paint at home or perform in school music concerts and dance recitals. But they may not know how their school arts program compares with others around the country.

  As a music education professor and a researcher who studies arts education policies, I know that access to and the quality of arts programs vary greatly among states, districts, and even schools within the same district.

  Additionally, I see that disruptions from the pandemic are threatening the already tenuous status of the arts in public schools.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The American founders didn’t believe your sacred freedom means you can do whatever you want – not even when it comes to vaccines and your own body

  President Joe Biden has mandated vaccines for a large part of the American workforce, a requirement that has prompted protest from those opposed to the measure.

  Meanwhile, a similar move in New York City to enforce vaccinations has resulted in more than a dozen businesses being fined for flouting the rules.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Cities worldwide aren’t adapting to climate change quickly enough

  Climate change is magnifying threats such as flooding, wildfires, tropical storms, and drought. In 2020, the U.S. experienced a record-breaking 22 weather and climate disasters that each caused at least US$1 billion in damage. So far in 2021, the count stands at 18.

  I study urban issues and have analyzed cities’ relationship with nature for many years. As I see it, cities are quickly becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather events and permanent shifts in their climate zones.