Sunday, November 24, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Just when you thought flying on US airlines couldn't get much worse add the cell phone into the mix. Cell phones being used at 35,000 feet may be a realty. This week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considered allowing cell phone usage on American flights by lifting a ban on talking on cell phones in flight. Airlines would make the call on whether or not to allow passengers to make calls from their seats during a flight.

Surprisingly Delta Airlines is the only major American airline that claims it will not allow passengers to chat on their cell phones even if the FCC opens the door for phone usage. The largest flight attendant union also opposes cell phone calls in the air due to the problems cell phones could create in the cabin. Passengers are already crowded into shrinking coach class seats, given a tiny package of peanuts for free or the option to buy an overpriced sandwich, paying for checked baggage, and paying extra fees to sit in certain seats.

What next? Will airlines establish a "quiet zone" and charge customers extra for sitting in the "no cell phone" section of the plane?

In the end this will be a business decision for the airlines. The FCC has already determined that in flight calls are safe and do not disrupt any mechanisms of the plane; the current ban on cell phones remains a courtesy to travelers. For the moment . . . as soon as the FCC officially lifts this ban numerous airlines will no doubt rush to allow in air cell service.

I actually like the current ban on cell phones and welcome a respite from people around me talking constantly on their phones. Wi-fi is already available on most US flights, so an immediate connection to those on the ground is possible. People already get angry and violent over crying babies and seat backs reclined all the way. A loud, chatty passenger on their cell phone for hours may open the door to more in flight mayhem by annoyed passengers. And you know that type of person I'm talking about! I'll just be sure to pack my iPod and earbuds.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Coming to a Kitchen Table Near You

When my son Jack asked me to take him to a craft store to buy a loom to weave bracelets, I had to do a this my son? Mr. Football, Mine Craft, Call of Duty boy begging to spend his leaf raking money on a loom? If you know any kid between the ages of 9 and 13, you may well be caught up in this weaving sensation.

A few years back it was Silly Bands, last year Kendamas were all the rage, this year enter The Rainbow Loom that is taking over the free time of my 5th grade boy and all of his friends. Yes packs of 5th grade boys (and girls too) are weaving away like mad, hanging out in each other's basements for some quality weaving time, and taking an occasional break from their looms to head outside for some tackle football.

This kit comes with an actual plastic loom, a hook, and hundreds of tiny colored rubber bands. The boys learn the best weaving techniques from each other and from You Tube videos. But we have our share of frustrations when attempting to weave a wide bracelet didn't work out quite like the You Tube video tutorial that was shot by a 10-year old.

I have no complaints about this new fad other than a few stray rubber bands left scattered on the carpet. What's not to love? It's creative,  nonviolent, great for hand-eye coordination, and has rapidly increased my bracelet collection! (And yes, you must wear the bracelets.)

Jack is well on his way to supporting me far into my retirement through his rubber band weaving technique. I foresee a promising career as an orthodontist in his future.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why Art Matters

Hundreds of artworks on display
at the Centerville Elementary school library
As the United States moves away from an arts and humanities-based college curriculum and moves toward science, math, and career-driven majors, some countries in Europe and Asia embrace the liberal arts perspective that has previously shaped many American colleges. In elementary and middle schools across the nation, art courses are being cut and replaced with technology classes. Technology is important, but so is art.

In my own suburban Twin Cities school district art was cut from the elementary school years ago. Students are taught to perform well on their math and reading aptitude test, leaving teachers and parent volunteers to fill in the art education gap.

After volunteering to teach art for the past couple of years, I am convinced that art does matter. Kids crave something different, and not everyone is cut out for a career as a math teacher or computer programmer. Art stimulates a different part kid's brains--that creative side. Clay, paint, colored paper, blank canvases, chalk, textiles, and tissue paper are all mediums of the amateur art teacher. We art volunteers use whatever we can find left behind in the art closet; remnants of days when the school employed an art teacher.

Most kids (as not everyone is a budding Picasso) become immersed in their art projects. Past students chat about their experiences working an art project and share how it inspired them to seek out an art class or visit an art gallery.

Art is more than just coloring a picture to kill time between aptitude tests. Art in the classroom is additive sculpture built together by every child in the class; clay bowls adorned with beads, paint, and sequins; a paper vase that depicts a story; and a drawing of an imaginary animal that comes to life on paper. Art transports kids away from the ordinary and invites them to look at their world in a different way. Art shapes and fulfills our kids in ways that math and science cannot. Art does matter.
Geriatric Superheros exhibit
Mori Art Gallery, Tokyo Japan