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Lessons from the mouse


Recovering from a few days spent at the Disney parks in Orlando with my two adult kids and oldest grandson. We had a wonderful time. We got along well, the weather was great, we got to all the parks and rode on everything we wanted to ride, saw a bunch of shows and fireworks and parades, and just enjoyed each other's company. The hotel had nice enough rooms, a great swimming pool and easy access to the efficient Disney bus system. The FAME conference sessions went pretty well, too.

I was feeling really good about the whole trip until I got on the car park shuttle at the Minneapolis airport. During the 10 minute ride back to my truck, two couples discussed their week in "the Magic Kingdom." It was hot. The rides were lame. The crowds were impossible. The food was inedible. All the kids wanted to do was play in the hotel pool. They dropped a bundle. On and on they complained - with their elementary-school-age kids right beside them learning just how terrible a vacation they'd just had.

How could we have had such a great experience and these folks such a poor one - at the same place at the same time? Am I just too dumb to know when I've had a bad time? Are my expectations too low?

I starting thinking about how these families and mine approached the experience in quite different ways... 

1. We read about where we were going. The Unofficial Guide to DisneyWorld is about the best $20 a person can spend to make one's trip a better one. It describes and rates everything you find in the parks including restaurants, hotels, shows, transportation systems and the rides. It gives lots of advice on how to manage your visit when the parks are busy. And it is spot-on accurate. I even bought my grandson Paul his own kids' guide which was nearly in pieces by the time we got there. He about had it memorized and knew just what things he really wanted to do. He's my kind of 6-year-old! (My bus companions seemed to be surprised that some of the rides were old, some were too scary for young kids, etc. They went in clueless.)

2. We got a jump on the day. We were at each park by the time it opened at 9AM. We went on the most popular rides first, grabbed and used FastPasses when possible, and tried to eat a bit before standard dining times. We followed a touring plan and the longest we had to stand in line was 15 minutes and for most attractions is was less than 10 minutes. We had fun at the less glamorous attractions. Mid-afternoon when it got really hot and crowded we headed back to the hotel for a nap and a swim and then sometimes went back out again in the evening. We snacked often! (For my bus companions, it wasn't a vacation unless they could sleep in until at least 11.)

3. We knew the reason for going. At least I knew my reason - to spend some time with my kids - to get a chance to talk to my busy daughter, to watch my son shop for gifts to take home to his first girlfriend, to see the excitement in Paul's eyes and voice when he talked about being chosen for Jedi training and tell his dad about it on the phone. Yeah, the rides and shows are fun, but not as much fun as seeing the whole experience through the eyes of kid who adores Star Wars, dinosaurs, and pirates. And who probably did like the hotel pool and playground as much as the parks. (My shuttle group seemed to go for the adults rather than for the kids in the group. The vacation was all about them.)

It sounds trite (and probably is) but the visit was a wonderful reminder of that happiness is less a matter of circumstance and more a matter of attitude. I chuckled the entire flight back home about my daughter's response when I asked if she wanted my upgraded first class seat or to sit back in coach with Paul. "Is this a trick question?" just popped out!

I sincerely hope my shuttle bus folks next year just find a hotel with a nice pool close to home where they can sleep in, let the kids play, and come home happy. 


A thank you from my kids.

I guess they don't realize it was their inheritance I was spending ;-) 



A funny librarian - really!

Q: Library Man, why should we read books?

A: The late, great comic Bill Hicks had an answer. Late one night after a show, Hicks went into a waffle shop somewhere in the South. He was by himself, so he read a book while he waited for his order. The waitress approached and asked, "What are you reading for?" The question stumped him. She hadn't asked what he was reading, but what he was reading "for." For what reason was he reading? His snarky reply was something like, "I guess so I don't end up as a waffle waitress working the graveyard shift." Rude, but he had a point.

malelib.jpgBrad Barker (Mr Library Man) is the librarian at Mark Twain Junior High School in Modesto. Hehas had two columns now published in the Sacramento Bee. Some chuckles!

Mr. Library Man wants you to speak up and ask questions

Ask Mr. Library Man: Call number for breakfast is 641.52

A male librarian with a sense of humor. Talk about playing against type! I hope to read more of Mr. Barker's wit.



Fear mongering

Cyber-safety expert, Nancy Willard posted this on LM_Net recently and has given me permission to post it on the Blue Skunk as well. Money in fear. Tell me it isn't so...

I just got back from a trip to the east coast. I presented a full day workshop on cyberbullying in Rochester NY (275+ folks) and then a briefing that was supposed to be for congressional staff in DC, but was attended by the DC policy wonks, not staff. Then two presentations at a conference in Maryland.

EVERY place I went there was evidence of incredible Internet fear mongering!

A lady in Rochester said a FBI agent presented on Internet safety in Buffalo and said social networking sites are so horrible no teen should be using these sites.

At the briefing, the Representative, Rep Bean, who has a pretty good bill pending, said that predators are tracking down teens from the personal information they are posting online and sneaking into their room at night. NO evidence this is occurring! Teens are going to meet with these guys – and need to address this situation. But we have to do so based on the facts. I have been involved in this field for over 12 years and I have never seen one news report of an Internet predator who has tracked down and abducted a teen. I will not say “never will happen” but there is no current evidence
that this is occurring. And the news WOULD report this if it were.

Maryland State Police told the audience folks that 1 in 7 young people are sexually solicited online and (horrors) they are not reporting this to adults! This is based on 2005 data. The study did not even ask about social networking sites. Most of the inappropriate contacts were in chat rooms, which are far more dangerous than social networking sites. 43% of the solicitations came from other teens and 30% came from folks who self-identified as 18 to 25, so you know damned well that this also included lots of teens. Only 9% from folks identified as adults over 25. Of concern! But what were the teens doing in these places in the first place. 16% of the sexual solicitations came from females and it appears that most of them were under 18. So more female teens soliciting sex online than dirty old men. Teens responded to the situations by leaving the site, blocking the person, telling the person to stop, or ignoring the person. Some are telling friends. Most are not telling adults. Why did they not tell adults? Because “it was not serious enough!” They had it under control.

The IKeepSafe who are now partnering with DARE – the “just say no” program that has been proven time and time again to be totally ineffective! - and have their cute little Faux Paws cat telling kids not to talk with or go to meet with online strangers. Well for one, these materials are aimed at elementary students and there is no evidence predators are targeting them. Second, if we have 8 year olds hopping a bus to meet an online stranger at the mall, there are some pretty significant family problems to begin with. But we do have 8 year olds waddling around Club Penguin in their little penguin avatars talking with online strangers. And they are perfectly SAFE! Stranger danger messages ARE NOT EFFECTIVE! We know this. We have to help ALL young people learn to recognize the signs of a dangerous stranger.

I presented on cyberbullying in both locations. Cyberbullying is causing more kids far more harm than sexual predation. Some kids are being emotionally devastated, can’t go to school, some are even committing suicide. But the last thing you are ever going to hear me say is “Social networking is bad. Young people are being cyberbullied on social networking sites and through instant messaging. Keep them off these technologies."

newbook.jpgWhat is the other major reason teens are not telling adults??? Because adults are running about screaming “the sky is falling - social networking is evil” and teens, most of whom are making pretty good choices online, think we are all nuts. But the even bigger problem is that sometimes they really do get into difficult situations and they really do need to share that something bad is happening online. And the fear mongering is getting in the way of this. They pretty much know that adults are being primed to overreact and will. They know adults do not understand and fear this environment - and they are pretty sure the adults will not know what to do or will make matters worse. Or that adults will restrict their access, like the FBI advises. Which for teens is akin to excommunication. So we are leaving them to deal with difficult situations on their own.

And do not get me started on the state AG’s plan to fix all of these problems by requiring sites to do age verification. AGH!!!

Be prepared. I am going to have to become more politically vocal on these issues. The fear mongering is undermining the kinds of relationships we need with kids to help them stay safe and learn to make safe and responsible choices. The biggest thing we have to fear about the Internet right now is the fear mongering itself. (roughly quoting someone ;-))

Oh, part of this is also financial. They all want money - federal $$ - to support their fear mongering programs.
Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use

Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social
Aggression, Threats, and Distress (Research Press)

Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the
Internet Safely and Responsibly (Jossey-Bass)

Thanks, Nancy. Good stuff and keep up the good work. Watch for Nancy new guide to Cyberbulling for parents coming to her website soon. She sent me an advanced copy and it is very good.