Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where's the Line?

Our exchange student yesterday asked me what I thought of his idea for a souvenir to take home.  He thought to purchase an American flag, and have all his friends write their farewell messages and nameson it with Sharpies .  He wondered if that might be perceived as disrespectful.

Well...I'm glad he was sensitive enough to ask.  Still, I have to admit I had an incredibly visceral response.  I told him that while it wasn't illegal, it was disrespectful.  I admitted that many of the kids he hangs out with  wouldn't see a problem with it.  I confessed I probably had a very different response than many people because I have served in the military as have many in our family (husband, both of our fathers, grandfather, etc.).

He reasoned, "In Germany, we don't have the kind of patriotism you have, so nobody would care."  I answered that may be true, but this isn't Germany.

He went upstairs to think about it and came down about a half an hour later.  He asked, "would you be angry if I do it anyway?"

I said, "No, but I would be very disappointed.  Nonetheless, you need to make the choices that you think are right."

He went back upstairs again.  About 45 minutes he emerged again and said, "What about a T-shirt that says I {heart} America, with the heart picture looking like an American flag?"  I said, "That sounds like a reasonable compromise."  He grinned and went to order one on the internet.

Whew.  Why is this so hard at THIS end of things?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Innovation in China?

A lot of people get upset with the Chinese because they copy so much of our technology.  It's a familiar refrain -- we heard it said about Japan, Russia, etc.  The bottom line is that really good technology is bound to get copied.

What is interesting to think about is whether we copy technology from China?  No, by and large we don't these days.  (Let's overlook all the inventions of the early Chinese that were copied by what came to be the foundation of western civilization).

Advancing technologies require either
a)  A desperate need to do things a better way (improved agricultural practices), OR
b)  A luxury of time to think creatively.

And both situations, in order that the technology will flourish, require a government structure that encourages, allows, or permits innovative thought.  Chinese society and government are very conformist these days, which makes it hard for an Eli Whitney or Boeing Company or Apple (especially Apple) to get off the ground.

My friends who have immigrated from China, once hear, have exploded in creativity and innovation.  One of them tells me it isn't that he was afraid or constrained from doing so in China -- the ideas simply never occurred to him.

Until China's government prizes the maverick, the innovator, the type who "goes their own way", their ability to birth new technologies and companies is limited.

It's similar to what my husband discovered when he researched the idea of how countries use their air forces (remember, he's a retired USAF pilot).  In totalitarian regimes, the rulers feared their airmen.  Of course -- if a pilot wasn't loyal, he could drop bombs on the presidential palace!  Saddam Hussein kept his pilots far away and under strict control.

See a connection?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the old days, when people immigrated to America, they couldn't skype, call, or fly back to the old country.  They had committed to making something of their dreams in this new country and they bought into the whole dream.  Yes, they gravitated to places where there were already people from their home region, who spoke their home languages and dialects, but they lambasted their children if they didn't learn English and learn it well.

After living several months with an exchange student, it occurs to me that to really LIVE in another culture, you need to cut off your old one to a large degree. No skype, facebook or e-mail.  Perhaps an occasional package or letter, but no "constant contact."  I think the act that requires the most bravery for an exchange student is to live with strangers.  And you never get to understand another person's point of view if you can hang on to your home country values and views.

Tomorrow -- how can China innovate without freedom?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Different Worlds

The senior girl is home this morning since her next exam doesn't begin until noon.  I heard her folding laundry downstairs so I went to the family room.  How did I hear her, you ask?  Well, she always puts something on to watch while she folds.  Today it was Phineas & Ferb.  Yeah, she's almost 18.  At any rate, I grabbed a stack of clothes and went back upstairs to the "adult" zone where I could hear "intelligent radio" still playing.  Between those two zones I walked through a cloud of Axe cologne, left behind from the Exchange Student's 6:30 am exit.

I'm thinking there's some kind of message in there somewhere.  From kid TV to Intelligent Radio with a big cloud of peer-pressure advertising driven cologne purchase in between.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A New Song to Sing

Wow, I've been away for about six months and the whole blog has changed!

Life just got very busy, and very crazy and something had to go.  But I miss a place to express my thoughts, so I've decided to come back as I can.  No tyranny of needing to post each day or even to post anything worth reading for anyone else. Just to have a place to express.

So today's thought is that I don't have to be anyone else.  At age 50 I'm finally realizing that it's okay to be who I am. If I want to improve some things, that's okay. But I don't have to measure up to anyone else's standard of success.

You'd think I'd have discovered that earlier!