This video is a metaphor for how I view the trials and tribulations of life. Sometimes when that ride is sling shooting you all over the place, you grab on for dear life and scream to God for mercy.   And then laugh when it’s all over.

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Why She Hates Group Projects

by admin on April 15, 2015

I am a Medical student. One would think a certain degree of maturity and consideration for other people comes with this career choice, however, this is not true in all cases.

We were asked to do a group project for our Pharmacology class and placed in groups of five by the professor, based on the alphabetical order of our last names. Out of the four people I had to work with, three were responsible, hard-working individuals who finished their part on time (we divided the work so each of us could focus on a different aspect) as did I. The other group member, whose name is “J”, was the problem. His part of the project (which he chose) was the easiest one, but he gave us his contribution incredibly late and didn’t bother writing a summary like we all had done. Not only that, but he had tons of references (we are almost certain he copied all of the from some article’s bibliography and had not actually read them), more that the rest of us combined, even if his part was less relevant.

Only one person was allowed by our professor to do the presentation of the group’s work (in short, most of the talking), and another person would do the Power Point that would be used in this presentation (a matter of copy & paste mostly, since each member also did their own slides, we just needed them put together with a consistent format). It was extra work, but we all agreed to draw lots to see who would do it. “S” wound up having to do the actual presentation while “J” was supposed to provide the Power Point for her.

The night before the presentation, at 1 a.m., the final Power Point had not been uploaded to our group cloud. At first, “J” tried dispersing blame, saying that the earlier version of the Power Point (which we had been tweaking together as a group that morning without much contribution from him when he should have had it ready by then) was not available to him. This was not true, as I had personally uploaded it just as soon as the meeting ended. Other group member confirmed this, it was indeed in our group cloud. I also informed him that if he had not been able to find it he could have said so at any point during the previous 13 hours (the time elapsed since our group meeting).

This other group member informed “J” that he was being terribly inconsiderate, especially towards “S”, who had gone to bed already without the chance to practise her speech with the actual Power Point that would be used. “J” then complained that he “had a life” and hadn’t been able to do it, but that he would before going to bed. The presentation was scheduled at 4 p.m. but we had morning classes starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m., with two spare hours in between lessons.

As soon as I woke up I checked my phone, which I had put on silent to get some sleep, and “J” had said that the final version of the Power Point had been uploaded. I rushed to check while having breakfast, and found out that the Power Point he had uploaded late at night was an even earlier version of the one we’d been working on the day before. At first, I wanted to believe my tablet was faulty and opening the wrong file. Not true. The supposedly final file was nothing but a very early version, and it was easy to tell because the order of the slides was wrong (“J” got it wrong despite us telling him clearly the right order before he put it together).

Then I thought he’d made a mistake and uploaded the wrong file, and when I saw him in class he told me he had the right one in a flash drive with him and would upload it as soon as he could. I must also say that the day’s lessons did not require attendance, I understood however that he wanted to be there and would probably upload it during our two spare hours. When that time came he said he needed to go to a committee meeting (he had not informed us of this, but it was true) and that after that he would go home and upload it from there.

“S” and I asked him if he could lend us his flash drive for a second, so “S” could copy it and have immediate access to the final file in order to practise the presentation in those two spare hours. He kept mumbling excuses and saying he had to go home to upload it. That’s when we understood that he had not done it, or else he would have let us see the file. I called him out on this, repeating the earlier comment that he was inconsiderate, and telling him that he was in a group project and he had to mind the rest of the group too. He stormed out saying that if we wanted it done we should just do it ourselves.

That’s exactly what we did, “S” and I called an emergency group meeting, and the remaining four members finished the Power Point so “S” could finally practise with it (I should say she knew what she had to say perfectly and did wonderfully that afternoon, but the lack of Power Point had stressed her out a lot).

We debated whether to leave “J”‘s name out of the project and inform our professor but we didn’t want to be snitches, or risk a bad grade because of him so we decided not to. I also didn’t want any more trouble, and I resolved to just ignore him from then on. We also found out through Facebook that he had been at a classmate’s birthday party the previous afternoon, and that was why he had done nothing. We could hardly believe it.

Our two spare hours ended and we headed to class, but he was not there. A friend of mine told me she’d just seen him at the library, studying for a different subject. Apparently it was alright for him to skip class to study for other subjects, but not to actually do the work we’d been counting on him to do.

The presentation went really well, as I have said, despite his absolute lack of effort throughout the whole project. The rest of our contributions were good and “S” explained them well. That would have been the end of it, but what really inflamed me was that when a classmate asked a question about the project “J” immediately started talking, saying things that had nothing to do with the question.

This question had been very specific and referred by name to something I had researched, so I said out loud “this is MY part” so he could hear me. He ignored me and went on talking, now saying things that, while still not related to the question and a little nonsensical, bore some resemblance to yet another thing I had personally researched. This was clearly an attempt to be noticed by the professor (who talked to every one of us about our involvement in the project so there was actually no point in doing it and he knew this, just wanted to show off in front of her and our classmates). I said, again out loud (but I don’t think the professor heard me), “this is also MY part”.

He showed no sign of stopping so I just cut in, actually addressing my classmate’s question, and earning positive feedback from my professor (she didn’t make any comment on my interrupting “J” but I believe it was obvious he was just saying the first thing that came to mind and not actually contributing anything).

I had never encountered this kind of behavior before and I am honestly appalled. Not only did “J” do next to nothing at all, he never apologised, blamed the rest of us, and even tried to take credit for something that I had researched.

I am still in doubt about whether we should have raised this with our professor (we are aware that other groups had similar problems and didn’t tell her but it wasn’t this extreme) or if it was better to avoid confrontation (it could, and would get ugly with “J” involved). What really worries me though, is that we have years ahead of us, and probably more group projects in the future, and his last name is the next one to mine alphabetically. It is highly likely that we will be in the same group again.

How do I let him know that I won’t let him piggyback his way to a good grade through my work again? I could still tell on him, but that seems like a petty course of action and likely to raise more trouble than it’s worth (after all, I’ve got a good grade, just for this once I could let it slide that he earned a good grade too, but undeserved, and just remind him that it won’t happen again).

In the meantime, I would like you all to please accompany me in condemning him to the deepest pit of eHell (or whatever Hell you see fit, since I’m not sure if this is a breach of etiquette or something else entirely).    0408-15

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Stealing Baby Names

by admin on April 14, 2015

This is a question I wanted to pose to E-Hell readers. It’s happened twice in my circle, in differing time periods. I’ve been told by each side that their side was right in what they did, and the other side was wrong. I was appealed to for sympathy from both sides, but I bean dipped each time. As it happened, although I knew all the parties involved in both cases, they didn’t know each other, so no one could “learn a lesson” from the first instance. What do the E-hellions think, please?

The basic story in both cases is, a young man dies. He’s a well-loved only son in both cases. It’s tragic, and friends and family are torn with grief.

About a year or so after each of these deaths, a close, lifelong friend of the deceased and his family becomes a new father. By coincidence, in both cases, the deceased had a sister who is pregnant with her first child when her deceased brother’s friend and his wife becomes new parents. Each time, the friend of the deceased has a boy and gives the baby the name of the deceased. In both cases, the pregnant sisters of the deceased are hurt and angry and they basically stop talking to said friend, because the sisters in both cases had planned to name their soon to be born babies after their late brothers. In each case, then, the friend and his wife become hurt and angry, because they felt they had the right to use the name of a lifelong dear friend who had died suddenly. A break occurs between the families and the friends, and is never healed.

It was extremely uncomfortable, the tension over this, the first time this happened to people I knew. When it occurred again to others, a few years later, I couldn’t believe it had happened again, just the same.

Is it wrong to appropriate a name of someone who died when the deceased’s family might want it and have an occasion to use it soon? Should they have asked before using it? Or is it wrong to expect a lifelong friend to forego naming his child a name he truly wanted because the family planned to use it? Does the family have the etiquette right to say no one can use it, and expect to be obeyed?   0408-15

What a ridiculous thing to fight about.   It’s obvious that the last names of the infants are different than the sisters’ family names so no one is allowed to use the same first and middle names?   For example, friend’s baby is named Robert Micheal Smith and sister’s baby is named Robert Micheal Jones…what is the problem here?   One child can be called Robbie, the other Bob.

One would think the family whose son died would be honored that others valued their deceased son/brother so highly that they would want to remember him in a very personal manner which will last a lifetime.  It’s a way to keep the memory alive, to honor a person whose name carries with it a significant degree of respect and love.   It’s a way of communicating to the child that he is named after a role model his parents esteemed very much.   What a lovely tribute.

Do the sisters have a right to be offended at the use of their brothers’ names by close friends?   My thought on that is that if I were the parent who lost the son, I would be counseling my daughter that she does not have a right to the name of her brother, as if she owned it.   I named my son and it was his name to do with as he wished.  I “owned” it first, gave it to him and he did with it as he wished.  If he lived his life in such a way that people respected, admired and loved him enough to name their children after him, that honor is a credit to his name, character and memory.    The sisters cannot claim theft of a name that never belonged to them in the first place.    It is dishonoring to the memory of the deceased to fight over his name as if anyone other than the deceased had a right to it.

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Shawn, The Pyromaniac Housemooch

by admin on April 13, 2015

Twelve years ago my then college age daughter asked me to do a favor for a friend (not a boyfriend), a young man, ‘Shawn,’ who’d lost his home when the house he shared with several other young men burned to the ground. Could he stay the night and perhaps camp on our couch until he found his own place? We let him sleep over that night. He seemed ok. He worked in construction, was polite, he got along with me, my husband and our 12 year old son, and he could hold up his end of a conversation – an important virtue in our household. My husband is a much better judge of character then I am (he was a US Air Force brat and learned to size up people quickly because his family moved so much), so I deferred to him. He thought Shawn was OK too. A few days after Shawn came to stay with us, he was in a terrible car accident that wasn’t his fault. Someone blew through a stop sign at high speed and cut his truck in half. Shawn was lucky to be alive. Generally it takes about 8 weeks to recover from the kind of injuries he sustained and, as a family, we agreed that Shawn could stay and have the use of a guest room while he mended. We took care of him during this time. After he recovered we offered the following proposal if he was going to continue to stay with us: he could do some repairs on the property that fell within his construction skills, and pay 1/3 of the utility bill, which fluctuated, $40 to $100 per month, depending on the season. Less when we weren’t using heating or air conditioning. The heat and AC in our house is controlled in each room, so it’s not like we asked him to subsidize centralized heating and AC. Shawn accepted those terms. Repair work instead of rent, plus 1/3 of the utilities.

This wouldn’t be an etiquette hell story without things going very wrong now would it? He filled half of our 2 car garage with the contents of his storage unit – no exaggeration – floor to ceiling STUFF. He never completed the repairs, and he took it upon himself to knock down a fence because ‘it was going to fall down anyway’. He paid for his share of the utilities two times then stopped. He didn’t go back to work when he became able bodied. He didn’t need to: he got a healthy insurance settlement from the accident. He purchased 2 vehicles and took one of them apart in our drive way. Eight months after he came to us, we told him that we needed his room because my sister and her family were relocating for work and needed a place to stay (absolutely true). We gave him a month’s notice. During that month we caught him doing things like leaving up porn-ish stuff on my husband’s computer and trying to blame my son, bringing my daughter’s ex-boyfriend on to our property after being asked not to, and harassing my bi-racial niece (a college student with a full time job) about being lazy and collecting Welfare.

Once he was gone my son disclosed that Shawn like to play with fire, and had tried to get him involved with a game that involved small plastic soda bottles, gasoline, and our wood stove. We still wonder about the house fire that left him homeless. Then the phone bill came with $100 + charges for 900 numbers(phone sex). My credit card company contacted me and told me someone had tried to use my card number to buy the kinds of gadgets Shawn liked to collect. The order came from our home computer the day before Shawn left. The sale was denied. We think Shawn lifted my mail (back when your credit statement had your full account number on it). Several months on Shawn still had literally ½ as ton of junk in our garage. We moved it out and covered it with a tarp and gave him a deadline to remove it or it would go to the dump. He never came. We hauled it to the dump ourselves and paid for disposal, which is why I know there was ½ a ton of it.

At my husband’s request we took Shawn to small claims court for the unpaid utilities. We won a modest sum. I’ve never pursued Shawn for payment. Winning in court was enough. My family and I have chalked it up as a learning experience. My son learned that charming fun people may not be what they seem. We think perhaps Shawn has a personality disorder of some kind. We’ve continued to give shelter to people over the years and we are much more careful who we let stay with us.

The State of Delaware is a very small town. In the years that followed I ran into Shawn several times. Two years after the above occurred I was in a store. He didn’t see me, his back was to me and he was loudly discussing how he was messing with his current landlord. I left the store. Over the years whenever I see him I withdraw before he sees me. My son and I were in a café last year and he came in. He didn’t see us until just before we left. We listened while he talked nonstop for 10 minutes to the counter man about some money making schemes. He was still talking when we left. More recently he was at a farm auction. He said “Hi Giani.” I didn’t return the greeting. I have shunned him. I don’t know whether what I have is a classic ‘holding a grudge’ against him. I’m not angry at him. I’m not afraid of him. I never think about him when he’s not around. The best metaphor to explain how I feel about Shawn is he’s like a needy stray cat with ringworm. He’s pathetic, I need to keep my distance, and if I make the mistake of making eye contact and acknowledging him in any way, nothing good can come of it. 0410-15

 

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Laughing Amongst The Egg Shells

by admin on April 8, 2015

Last weekend the Hubbage and I hosted my sister-in-law “Bernadette”. Two or three years ago, she divorced a very angry, abusive, and viciously sarcastic man.  She is, to put it lightly, EXTREMELY sensitive to sarcasm, as well has harmless humor she deems as sarcasm.

The Hubbage is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, and his humor is mainly silly. Like, REALLY silly. Not sarcastic. Not off-color.  Add to that he has not a mean bone in his body. The only problem with his stories and jokes is that they sometimes go on a tad too long, or it’s one funny observation after another. He’s aware of this, and points to his side, where there’s an invisible ‘button’ I can push to shut him up.

More than once during the weekend, she accused both of us as being sarcastic and hurtful — even though at no time did we poke fun at her in any way. It wouldn’t even have occurred to us to do so. Yet on the last day, she gave my husband a lecture on his humor. (She’s all about confrontation, and because I’m a total wuss, I sort of admire that in her.)  But her going after my husband had me stunned.

I get that the ex did a number on her, but she’s doing us no favor by having us walk on eggshells around her.

She’s scheduled to go on a trip with us later this year.  I’d appreciate any wisdom on how to handle her without having to check ourselves every time we think of opening our mouths. 0316-15

So, Bernadette is your husband’s sister?  This story would have made sense if Bernadette is your sister and she was not used to her brother-in-law’s humor but she grew up with her brother, your “Hubbage”, so she well knows of his sense of humor long before she married and divorced the vicious ex.

In that light I can offer several observations.    The first being that if Bernadette is offended by her brother’s humor which she grew up knowing and living with and which predates her bad experience by years, then I suspect there is baggage from childhood that has not been resolved.   How well did Bernadette and Hubbage get along as children?   Did she find him funny and kind back then like you do now?  If they enjoyed a good relationship through most of childhood and early adulthood,  it is baffling why that foundation of the relationship does not carry through the bad times she had with someone else. In other words, the many years of happy times with her own brother should outweigh the few years of bad times with the ex husband.

The second observation is that some people seem to never move forward from being a victim.   While new victims desperately need tender, loving care to get them through the trauma, there are far too many people who stay in that victim role for years after the event is over.    Being the victim has become a familiar behavioral habit with patterns of thinking that never transition into a positive, “forward to the future” outlook.   It’s as if the memory tape or mental conversations are on a rewind loop that plays over and over again.   Just like recovery from an injury or surgery requires physical therapy to work those bones and muscles so they remember how they are designed to move, build strength and train them to behave differently after a long hiatus, so too, is mental recovery from traumatic events.   Victims need help breaking the habit of their thinking and move them into more positive modes of viewing the world and people around them.

I think I would shelve, at least temporarily, any humor that could be construed as sarcastic.   There are so many other ways to be humorous and things to laugh about that limiting sarcasm-type humor shouldn’t feel like a deprivation.   Watch humorous movies, play games that have a high probability of causing laughter, perhaps go to a improvisation comedy club while on vacation.    It seems to me that Bernadette needs to relearn how to laugh first and then move on to being less sensitive to humor she perceives as sarcastic.  And it’s OK to gently and kindly tell her that laughter is OK and that you enjoy laughing.

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Public Shaming On Steroids

by admin on April 7, 2015

The internet can be a powerful social peer pressure tool to change attitudes and beliefs which, in turn, affects behavior for the better.  But that sword of social peer justice is two sided and often used in rather sinister ways.   People who have been foolish enough to say silly, stupid comments in public or online have found themselves trending on Twitter or Facebook with the results being public excoriation, fired from jobs, rape threats, and death threats.   Public shaming, while as old as the hills, has taken on an unprecedented vigor to destroy, instead of simply issuing a public “slap”, those whose words or actions  society has deemed unacceptable.

I’m sending you off to another web site to read the accounts of public shaming that have gone seriously awry.  Journalist Jon Ronson wrote a New York Times Magazine article,  “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life” in which he notes,  “I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.”    Read it and come back for more discussion.

Internet bullying is not new to me. I’ve been online as “semi public figure” (so says my lawyer) for almost 20 years.   I expect to get pilloried for my opinions and after years of “being in the kitchen”, I can handle the heat quite well.  Yet there have been times that a few odd balls have tried to move beyond expression of disagreement into trying to negatively impact real life.   Many years ago I authored a web page I called the “Vendor Hall of Shame” which predated EtiquetteHell.com.    These shameful vendors were true menaces to society with falsified employment histories, Better Business Bureau negative ratings, criminal records of fraud, court records from disgruntled clients, etc.   Four or five of the worst I created extensive web pages loaded with links to documents and referenced sources and were even vet checked by my attorney to keep it strictly to the facts.   This was the positive side of public shaming, i.e. using the internet to expose and warn about disreputable people who would exploit people’s naivete in order to get clients.   Journalist Jon Ronson, who wrote the previous mentioned article linked above, further recounts how he used public shaming to get his stolen identity back from individuals who could not be entreated to do so.

So, public shaming does have its place.  The problems that Jon Ronson is identifying are when the punishment no longer fits the crime and the savage glee of those who go well beyond shaming someone to active pursuits to fire them from their jobs, destroy their lives, inflict severe emotional abuse with grievous threats.   It could be argued that frauds. scammers, and con artists often earn the vitriol they receive but Ronson is referring to people who have made foolish, stupid, silly comments or images that have gone viral.

Do I think Lindsey Stone erred in posting a picture that could be easily misunderstood? Yes.   Did she deserve to be fired from her job and threatened with death and rape?  Absolutely not.   But what concerns me about her case is that several real friends did express their opinion that they considered the image “tasteless” in a restrained, civil manner yet Stone dismissed these gentle rebukes and chose to leave the image up.   So, there was a low level of public shaming that was ignored and once the image went viral, all hell broke loose. It was an extremely painful lesson on the consequences of publicizing one’s crass behavior and not listening to the good counsel of friends *but* I don’t think there is a person amongst us who hasn’t said something stupid at some point in our lives.  There but for the grace of God go we.

Twitter has a major liability issue embedded in the whole concept of terse little blasts of information and that is a too high of a probability that whatever one tweets in those 144 characters will be misunderstood and definitely taken out of context.   Too many battles appear to be waged with Twitter with news media reporting who tweeted what about this or that person and  for that reason I do not have a Twitter account.   Blabbermouth me cannot possibly convey what I accurately mean in so few words and there is something odd about presuming the world wants to know my snippets of thoughts at any given moment  No, thank you, I choose to not ride the Twitter fad.

 

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Tagging For Children’s Sports Teams

April 6, 2015

This is a subject that has been on my mind for quite some time. But now that baseball and softball season has started, it is something that I have seen come up quite a bit. Years ago the kids would at least sell something in order to raise money for their sports team. Now they […]

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Feel Good Friday – Paul And Tina Are Family

April 3, 2015

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