For better or for worse, til ________ do us part

What has happened to the sanctity of marriage? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rate of first marriage is around 50 percent; second marriages are at 60-67 percent and third marriages are at 73-74 percent. I knew that the divorce rates in the United States were pretty high, but I didn’t think they were this high. It makes me sad to think that this is what marriage has come to. Apparently, the concept of “til death do us part” has become “til we decide to end things.”

As a helpless romantic myself, I always thought that marriage expressed the highest level of commitment. But now, the fact that a marriage can be so easily terminated by two signatures on some divorce papers really diminishes what that commitment means. It would seem that society doesn’t hold marriage at the same sanctity as it once did. People get into marriages too quickly or for the wrong reasons or maybe without true understanding of the life-long commitment. This then leads to problems down the road. Then consequences like broken families and negative emotional effects on children could result. That’s not always the case, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Popular culture and media only make matters worse. In the world of Hollywood, celebrity couples get divorced left and right, like it’s no big deal. What happened to wedding vows? Don’t they mean anything? In Bruno Mars’ song “Marry You,” he suggests spontaneously getting married as “something dumb to do.” Then there’s Kim Kardashian who was married for 72 days. Marriage shouldn’t be game or some impulsive that that you can just magically undo. It should be about seriously committing yourself to someone through love and support. If someone isn’t completely ready to take that path, then they should think twice before saying “I do.”

I do understand that sometimes there are extenuating and unforeseen circumstances where divorce could possibly be acceptable. Things happen and people change. But even with things like infidelity or irreconcilable differences, there’s still the chance of making things work. The couple made a commitment so they really should try to maintain it. I think things would be better if the institution of marriage was restored to what it was meant to be, untainted by high divorce rates. All couples should take their wedding vows to heart and remain faithful and loving until death. Sure, sometimes it gets hard, but if the marriage contains the love and commitment that it should, nothing is impossible to overcome. Less divorce, less broken hearts, less broken families, more love.



Do I want to keep up with the Kardashians? ..NO

It baffles my mind to see the kinds of ridiculous things Hollywood comes up with these days just to make money. It also baffles me that people are actually eating up the stuff that Hollywood dishes out. Whether it involves exploiting “strange” individuals or recording superficial drama, the American public seems to be enthralled by these kinds of pointless shows.

First let me comment on those shows that wrongfully exploit people. Take Hoarding: Buried Alive, Sister Wives and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for example. These series rely on the abnormal quality of people’s lives – it’s what makes them compelling. Viewers can pass judgment or even make fun of these people for their “different” lifestyles without feeling any remorse because “hey, it’s just a TV show.” So basically producers are making money off of other people’s oddities. It’s disappointing that society can classify this as entertainment.

Then there are shows that are simply comprised of drama and nothing else – shows like Real Housewives, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Jershey Shore. There is no plot, no benefit, and no point. What does it matter that a few people – who you’ve never met and probably never will – have a catfight or get pregnant or due crazy things? It doesn’t matter – so why do people enjoy it? Maybe because their lives are more interesting than your own? I have no idea. But at least in my opinion, this is not what I would call good television.

Finally, there are shows that are just plain ridiculous. A new show called Splash ­follows a bunch of celebrities as they learn how to dive. What is that? I mean sure, it might be entertaining is the celebrities fail and end up belly flopping, but other than that I see no other redeeming quality. Hollywood must be desperate if that’s the best they can come up with. The show Dance Moms  is also pretty absurd. It both exploits people and delights in drama. I just feel bad for those kids – they’re so young and already their lives are filled with unreasonable commotion.

The show that I despise the most though is Toddlers in Tiaras. I can’t even begin to express how frustrated that show makes me. Those moms desperately need a reality check and need to reorganize their priorities. I could probably fill a whole post with everything that is wrong with that show, but I won’t bore you with that now.

To conclude, I think much of today’s reality TV has gone downhill. I don’t think television networks deserve to be making a profit from the kinds of shows I mentioned.  They’re a waste of time and probably contribute to turning viewers brains into mush or the decline of family values. I think Hollywood’s time and efforts could be put to much better use than letting the world know that Honey Boo Boo drinks Redbull and Mountain Dew to get ready for a pageant.

Nom Nom Nom

As sort of a supplement to last week’s post, I want to talk about another sadly wasteful facet of our society – leftover food. Food scarcity isn’t really problem in the United States as much as it is in developing countries. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be conscious about how much of it goes to waste.

I know that here at Penn State, leftover scraps of food are composted into organic material. This shows that our university isn’t turning a blind eye to Mother Nature, a fact of which I’m proud. However, if I think about all the many institutions that don’t do such things, I begin to realize the enormous amount of food that gets put to no use. Much of the world goes to bed hungry, while Americans are mindlessly throwing extra food away.

My parents tell me that in some restaurants in the Philippines, employees are allowed to take any extra food home. That food then goes to feed their families and maybe their neighbors, instead of going completely to waste. Here in America though, there are laws against such acts because of liabilities involving food-borne illnesses. There are even rules about how long food is allowed to sit out. I remember watching a clerk at a Pizza Hut kiosk in Target throw away a pizza because the label indicated it had been sitting on the shelf for at least 3 hours. In these situations, throwing food away seems like the easiest option. But there has to be a better way? At least, I would hope so.

For instance, maybe there could be laws mandating that restaurants compost their leftover food. Or maybe regulations could be lightened to allow for extra food to be taken home or given to places like soup kitchens so that the food goes to those who need it. These ideas might be unrealistic (the FDA might not be on board), but it’s a start. In the meantime, individuals can do their part to reduce the amount of food waste. For example, take leftovers home from a restaurant and save it for another meal. At a buffet (like at the commons for example), only get food that you know you’re going to eat so that nothing gets left on your plate (don’t pile on food that you can’t finish). If you do have extra food, be a helping hand and put it in the compost bin yourself. These are just little things but I bet they could go a long way.

Turn the sink off – All the way!

Since we will be deliberating sustainability over the next few classes, I began thinking about little things that impact our environment. Yes, humans are pollutant. We tear down forests, we use up natural resources, we create lots of waste. But we can’t change all of these habits – people still need wood and gasoline. That part makes sense. However, there are some un-ecofriendly habits that don’t make as much sense. In particular, I’m talking about little things that create excessive waste that could very easily be avoided.

1) Letting the water run – I see this one a lot. When you’re brushing your teeth or scrubbing your face and you don’t need the water, why do you keep the faucet on? It’s not hard to turn the knob. And what’s more, people don’t shut the water off all the way so the faucet is left leaking for who knows how long.

2) Lights on during the day – True, there are many cases where lights are needed during the days. But what about signs outside establishments? If it’s bright enough outside to read the sign then using electricity to light the fluorescent bulbs in each letter is pointless.

3) Lights when no one’s around – One night, I drove by Acme (a grocery store) when it was closed. All the lights in the building were still on even though nobody was there. I guess, you might need a few lights here and there for security reasons. But you don’t need EVERY single light on?

4) Additional packaging – Who needs that extra little cardboard casing around a DVD? If it displays the same images as the plastic case, what purpose does it serve? The answer is none.

5) Not recycling – This is a bit inexcusable here at Penn State where there are recycling receptacle everywhere. It some cases, they’re right next to the trash cans. It doesn’t take much to sort some trash into a different bin.

When I see these occurrences happening around me, I get a litte annoyed. I know not everyone is environmentally conscious, but these things seem like no-brainers to me. Eliminating these poor habits doesn’t require much sacrifice. If anything, it just take some getting used to. So you don’t have to give up your car or turn off your heater to help the planet. Little things like this can make a difference. And if everyone were to alter their habits in these little ways, then it would make a big difference. The planet would be better off and Mother Nature would be happier.

Don’t let ’em clip your wings – easier said than done

After our practice deliberation in class about higher education, it got me thinking back to the TED talk we saw last semester. In this said TED talk, Ken Robinson points out that schools kill creativity. And after watching it, I remember thinking that he is totally right. Schools kill creativity – it’s sadly true and truly sad.

Why is it sad? Sure, it allows for more focus on major subject areas, but at the same time it limits how our minds work. Day in and day out, we are trained to think about what a textbook can teach. So then when it comes time to be creative, we find it hard to think out of the box. Other than limiting our ways of thinking, this stifling of creativity also limits our paths in life. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but my parents always urged me to choose a career path that was lucrative. And in high school, teachers and guidance counselors would preach about working hard to get into a good college to get into a successful (good paying job). So then I chose engineering, but if I wasn’t so worried about having fortunate means later in life, I might have considered a different path. I did drama in high school and thought it was really fun. I enjoyed writing poetry and was quite good in art. But with a school system and society that doesn’t value the arts as much, life becomes hard for a starving artist. I know a couple other people who have similar sentiments. A friend of mine finds happiness in the idea of being a teacher, but is instead studying bioengineering. A contestant at the Mr. Engineering Pageant (yes it’s a thing, hosted by SWE, come see it next year!) said that his ideal job would be a sports journalist and yet he’s a chemical engineer. (I’m sorry all my examples are engineering related, I guess I have quite a few engineering friends). The point is that somewhere down the line, creativity gets tossed to the wayside – thus limiting our minds and maybe limiting our choices.

The first two options of our deliberation called for emphasis on math and science and the instilment of integrity and responsibility, but nowhere did the packet bring up anything about creativity or the arts. So maybe arts like drama, and music, and literature aren’t the best tools to further society. But these things can indirectly impact our minds and the way we think, which can then lead to producing more innovators, more risk-takers, and more creative thinkers. So maybe it would be better if we brought creativity back. Why should we let ‘em clip our wings – instead lets allow our creative minds to decorate the canvas of life.

America’s got… talent?

So this week’s post might be a little cynical and maybe a little unfounded. I apologize, but bear with me. (If you disagree with I have to say, I completely understand, comment and let me know).

These days, the standards of fame can be surprising and unfair. There are so many people who are extremely talented and yet don’t get the recognition they deserve. So many starving artists, unpublished authors, underappreciated geniuses not quite making a name for themselves. So then let’s look at who does “make the cut” for fame and fortune.

There are a large number of people who are famous and make tons of money, but aren’t exactly very talented. There’s Kristin Stewart – I didn’t know you could get paid for only having one facial expression. Rebecca Black even made some dough after “Friday” hit the internet. Miley Cyrus was really big for a while but I never understood what she had to offer. In the words of a friend, she “sounds like a dying cat.” And then there are people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Why are they famous? I have no idea. It’s not just Hollywood that’s unfair. Nicholas Sparks and Stephanie Meyer are pretty famous for their books (and even movies) but I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly brilliant in their writing. I could probably go on and on about why certain people aren’t worthy of fame, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to get at.

There are certainly also many individuals in Hollywood and pop culture that do deserve high acclaim for their talent. But when I see some “less talented” people on tv and in magazines, I feel bad for the unrecognized people out there who could do so much better. I guess that’s just how the world works. Things are unfair.

Everyone says that success in the liberal arts is very competitive. You would think that that would mean only the really really good ones make it. But sadly, that is not quite the case. There are other factors that could bring in some fame – like connections, money, luck, or maybe even public ignorance. It would be better if fame was just based on talent, or skill, or uniqueness – finding those who really deserve it. But I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. Mediocre artists at least give us something to talk about.

Est-ce que tu parles français?

In many other countries, English is taught as a second language. As a result, many foreigners are bilingual when they finish school. For example, my cousins in the Philippines can communicate with me because English is part of their curriculum. I, on the other hand, have some difficulty speaking in their native tongue, Tagalog. This is the way of the world. The United States is a leader in the global economy and therefore interacts with many countries. Consequently, these countries have tailored their education systems to keep up. Even, linguist George Weber states that English is the most influential language of the world, with 115 countries using it. But where does that leave Americans? According to, only 26% of adult Americans can maintain a conversation in another language. So while the rest of the world is making it a point to learn English, only about a quarter of Americans can say they are bilingual. It seems like they are coming up to the bar, while Americans are too lazy to meet them half way.

This lack of American bilingualism isn’t a complete tragedy. English is an influential language for good reason so it’s more just a benefit than a need to be bilingual. I just think that if other countries can better themselves through language, then the United States – a country of ingenuity, innovation, and one-step-ahead-ness – surely can to. Sure, we have foreign languages in college, high school, and sometimes grade school, but not that many students can boast of a fluency in a second language by the time they’re out of school. A reason for this could be that not many students are serious about learning. Or maybe the methods of teaching foreign language are lacking. For instance, many early level language classes emphasize the memorization of vocabulary, but some people argue that it’s more successful to facilitate constant speaking rather than just memorization.

I think it would be cool if more Americans were eager and dedicated to learn a new language and if we would have stronger teaching methods to support that.  If the coming generations could bring the bilingual percentage from 26 percent to over 50, that would be a pretty awesome accomplishment. We would be a better, stronger nation – true leaders or globalization.

Away From the Screen

Technology is good. It makes life easier and more efficient. But sometimes it can get in the way of things that matter more than efficiency and convenience. Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that technology has a way of distorting and even replacing personal relationships.

Over the weekend, my family and I went out to dinner. As I sat waiting for the food to arrive, I noticed two women at another table who instead of enjoying each other’s company were occupied with their cellphones. What does that action say? It says “there are more important things than you.” This may be a little harsh and probably not at all what those women were consciously. So if it’s not a conscious decision, then why do they do it? And not just them; I see this kind of thing everywhere. Why? Maybe society has become desensitized – checking email and social media is just automatic, second nature. Maybe we’ve lost the sense of meaningful presence. Maybe people try to fill a lull in the conversation by hiding behind their phones. Whatever the reason may be, it’s obvious that there’s been a change in what constitutes social interaction.

As I said before, I’m not completely outing technology. Having a smartphone is super convenient for keeping your life organized. The issue arises when we forfeit a little bit of our human nature to the world of technology:

We forfeit social skills.

A friend of mine was once in a situation where she got along really well with a guy… through facebook chat. But then, she admitted that when they actually hung out, everything was just awkward.

We forfeit sincerity.

You can fake anything through a tweet, facebook post, text, or email. There are no real facial expressions or body language to prove any sincerity.

We forfeit understanding.

Things get misconstrued when sent via satellite. And that might even lead to arguments and hurt feelings without ever having the intention to invoke those reactions.

And we forfeit good quality bonding.

Spending time with a friend or family member means taking the time to listen to them and share with them. You can’t really bond with anyone if you’re stuck looking at a screen.

To be clear, I’m not excluding myself from this judgment. I, too, am guilty of allowing myself to be distracted by my phone. And I’m not suggesting that everyone become Amish and stop using technology. I just think it would be better if knew where to draw the line. We should recognize the moments where it’s time to put down the device and enjoy life without a screen.

Don’t Grow Up Too Fast

In this semester’s blog, I plan to share my personal opinion about societal ways and norms. There are some things about the society we live in that disappoint me. These are the things I wish I could change. I don’t expect everyone to share my opinion nor do I intend to force my opinion on anyone. My goal is simply to bring to light some ideas that maybe people don’t really think about and maybe inspire others to make a change. Some battles seem impossible to win, but it’s important to try one step at a time.

So my first topic of discussion is the fact that kids these days are growing up too fast. The upsetting thing about this is that it shows that kids don’t appreciate being kids. I know for me childhood went by faster than I thought it would. Kids, hold on to what you have while you have it – less responsibility, endless energy, wild imaginations, and lots and lots of time. That’s the life right there. Why would you want to let that go?

Walking around at the mall or just out in public, I see ten, eleven, twelve year old girls ( and even some younger kids) donning the kinds of clothes that I didn’t wear until I was 14 or 15. At ten, wouldn’t you rather run around in comfortable clothes than tight fitting shirts and non-breathable skinny jeans? Who are you trying to impress? Not the opposite gender, I hope. Well my hope didn’t go very far. My sister, who is 11 and in sixth grade, tells me that some of her classmates are already dating. Now, I don’t know what this “dating” entails, but I know you definitely don’t need to be thinking about that kind of stuff in sixth grade. Really? I think you need to figure out yourself first, which is hard enough as it is, before you go chasing after someone else. Being a kid should be just about having fun, exploring the world, being practically carefree. It shouldn’t be about superficial things like stylish clothes and who to “date.” There’s enough of that in adulthood.

My message to young people, those who care for young people, or those who just wanna stay young – don’t rush in growing up. Life only gets harder with time. Don’t let the pressures of society get in the way the freedom, the limitlessness, the fun, the beauty of innocent youth.