Monday, March 30, 2015

What's It Like In Prison? And, the Reflect Project

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be in prison?

First, know the difference between 'jail' and 'prison.' Jail is usually a temporary holding place while people await trial, or for people arrested for more minor offenses such as a DUI. They stay overnight and then are released after paying their fines. Once the sentence is given (the amount of time to be locked up) the prisoner is then moved to a larger facility referred to as Prison. In a smaller town, there may be no actual jail but a few cells in the local police station where people who are arrested can be held. If necessary, they can be moved to a jail with more cells available in a larger town.

*When can you be arrested?
If a police officer sees you commit a crime, he or she can place you under arrest. You can also be arrested for breaking a state or federal law or a city ordinance.

You can be arrested if the officer has reason to believe you have violated a federal law, even if the officer did not actually see you do it.

You cannot be arrested for a traffic violation unless you are impaired, i.e., have been drinking or using drugs and it would be dangerous to allow you back on the road.

You can also be arrested if there is a warrant (document issued by the legal system) out for your arrest.

The police will typically place handcuffs on your wrists when you are arrested.

                 Outside of a prison. Barbed wire on top of the fencing, and watchtowers.

*What happens if you are arrested?
First, you will be booked in. This means, you'll be searched, issued prison clothing, and your property will be taken and held until you are released (the clothes you were wearing, wallet, watch, money, things like that). If you are intoxicated or high on drugs, you'll be put in a holding cell until you sober up. You may or not be fingerprinted.

The next day, you will have a court appearance. If you are not sentenced immediately, you will be placed in a cell that is commonly 10' x 7' in size, and you may or may not have a cellmate. There is no privacy in the cell: guards walk by and can see into the cell at all times, even if you are using the toilet.

All prisons and jails have their own specific rules, and are different if you are considered a risk to yourself or to others, or if you have broken prison rules and are being punished. There are situations when you would only be allowed out of your cell for one hour in a 24 hour period.

If you have not been sentenced yet, a typical day can go something like this: medications (if you are taking any) are passed at 6:30, breakfast at 7:00, then you and the other prisoners will clean your cells and the common areas. There is no TV or phone usage (and we're talking old-fashioned phones on the wall, not your own personal phone) until these areas pass inspection. After that, you can participate in prison programs (educational, behavioral, etc) and this is also the time to meet with your attorney and make calls.

                                Expect your phone calls to be monitored and recorded.

At 11:00 the prison is locked down and searched for anything out of order, including contraband. Contraband means items you are not allowed to have. This could include extra towels or sheets, food, or of course any kind of a weapon you may have made using whatever materials you had on hand.

Once the area has passed inspection, you will be given lunch. Meals in prison pass nutritional requirements but are not particularly healthy or interesting.

After lunch, you will again have free time, supper, and then back to your cell for lights out at 11:00. Remember, this schedule applies to people who are not sentenced yet, and each prison has its own practices.

*What about people who have had their trials and were found guilty, and sentenced?
As a prisoner, you have lost most of your rights because you have committed a crime. You do still have freedom of speech and religion and due process, and the right not to be discriminated against. You have the right to clean and sanitary living conditions and adequate food. You have the right to read, and not to be physically restrained for no reason.

For those who have been given their sentences, there will be a work schedule observed from about 7:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Jobs can include producing useful items, working in the laundry, the kitchen, cleaning, mixing paint used by the Highway Department, making furniture, or working in the prison print shop.

Pay for these jobs is very minimal, sometimes only 9c to 15c an hour, but occasionally will be a few dollars per hour. The purpose of having the inmates do a job is (1) to keep him or her occupied and thus less frustrated and angry at being locked up and (2) to learn a skill he or she might use once released. If the prisoner owes money to the state, to a victim, or child support, it is taken out of his or her wages.

Here are some careers working with Corrections:
           -some inmates have not completed their high school diplomas, some not even close. In some cases, college courses or training are taught on-site in an effort to give the inmates more ability to obtain employment once they leave.

Writer Trent Bell decided to interview prisoners and ask them what advice they have to offer. He asked them what they would have told their 'younger selves.'

It's called the  Reflect Project, and here are some bits of advice from people who made some big mistakes that landed them in prison:

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Do You Know About Copenhagen??

Copenhagen, Denmark, is the capitol and largest city in Denmark. On the map, you will see there are several islands in the country of Denmark. Copenhagen is on the island of Zealand.

It is unclear when Copenhagen was founded. We know for a fact that it existed in the 11th century, but there have been relics found that date back to approximately 1 A.D. The word "Copenhagen" translates to 'Merchants Harbor.'

The city lost about 22,000 of its 65,000 residents in 1711 to the Plague. It was occupied by German forces during World War 2, but was liberated by the British. Now, Copenhagen is the 3rd wealthiest city (in 2013) in the world. It is also a safe and clean city, although expensive. You may have guessed that most people in Copenhagen, as the rest of Denmark, speak Danish. However, it is very common for people to speak English as well. Other languages include German and Greenlandic. Foreign languages are commonly taught from a young age in European schools.

The city covers about 30 square miles and including suburbs, is home to about 2 million people. To compare, Minneapolis has 3.8 million people; New York City about 8.5 million people.
 Here is where Denmark is in relation to Europe (about in the center of this picture):
Copenhagen is a pretty comfortable city, weather-wise. Temperatures rarely dip below 35F or go above 70F, although they have gotten as warm as a record-breaking 91F. Winters are typically pretty mild, but they have gotten up to 20" of snow in a 24-hour period.
You can use the Copenhagen Metro (underground rail system) to get around the city. There is a high usage of bikes, as well.
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. That means that Queen Margarethe is considered the head of state, but executive power is held by their Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmitt, who presides over Parliament.

Copenhagen is home to:
Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and formal public garden

                                          Entrance to Tivoli Gardens at night
The Royal Danish Theatre
The Copenhagen Opera House
The Black Diamond Library
Here is the Nyhavn Waterfront
This is Copenhagen City Hall

Interesting Architecture: Student Housing
 Near the Copenhagen Universities
The Oresund Bridge runs from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden, and carries both rail and road traffic. This is a unique bridge in that it involves a traditional bridge, an island, and a tunnel:
Aerial view:  It looks like a bridge to nowhere, but the "island" is where the bridge becomes a tunnel.
Denmark is home to author Hans Christian Andersen*, who lived from 1805 to 1875. Andersen wrote novels and plays, but is best known for his childrens' stories, such as The Little Mermaid, The Emporer's New Clothes, and the Ugly Duckling.  As a tribute, Edvard Eriksen built the Little Mermaid Statue in 1913, which sits on a rock in the Langelinie Prominade in Copenhagen.    
* the "sen" indicating "son" is particular to Denmark. As an example, in another country the last name would be "Anderson," in Denmark it's "Andersen".
Copenhagen is also home to:
3 hockey teams
3 soccer ("football") teams
the largest airport of all the Scandinavian countries
Interested in a visit? Here is Copenhagen's home page:

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Rocket Science

Do you have what it takes to become an astronaut?

While the idea might sound impossible, it's not. If you can excel in science and math, and are willing to go through the steps required, you might have a chance to explore life in outer space. Remember, all the astronauts that have done it had to start somewhere.

                                              "Pinky" Nelson

One of our astronauts, George "Pinky" Nelson,  was born in Iowa but grew up in Willmar, Minnesota, and considers that his hometown. He graduated from Willmar High School and achieved a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington. Nelson flew on the Challenger, the Columbia, and Discovery space flights. Read his full biography here:

                                  And a man has walked on the moon.........

First in line of command, logically, in a spacecraft is the Commander. This is the person who is in charge of the craft. This person is required to have a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or math. Advanced education (graduate school) is always a good addition for someone with this much responsibility. You would also need 1000 hours experience as a pilot in command of jet aircraft, have flight test experience, and pass NASA's space physical. That physical requires that you are between 62"-75" in height, have acceptable blood pressure, and a number of other things.

                                    Astronaut Nicole Stott

The second in line on a spacecraft are the Mission Specialists. These are the people in charge of activities that take place during the flight, and coordinating those things with the Commander. Activities for the Mission Specialist would include EVA (Extra-vehicular activity....leaving the space capsule for maintenance or exploration). A Mission Specialist will also have a degree in either: Engineering, biological science, physical science, or math. Add three years' experience or a combination of a Masters Degree plus three years' experience for the qualifications of a Mission Specialist.

                                            Astronaut Stephen Robinson during an Extra-Vehicular Activity

                                   EVA outside the Space Station

Third in line on a mission is the Payload Specialists. These people have assorted duties on board the craft, and would be third in line to join the crew if the need would arise.

                                             Astronaut Ron McNair

Here is astronaut Ron McNair. He achieved a PhD in Physics, and was one of 35 people selected to join NASA---from 10,000 original applicants. He was only the second African American to become an astronaut. He was a Mission Specialist on two Challenger missions: The first in February 1984, and the second in January 1986, which tragically ended when it disintegrated in midair right after liftoff.

Mr. McNair has a TRIO scholarship named for him: the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

Read more about Mr. McNair here:

Do you remember the part in "Apollo 13" where they had to devise something to serve as an air purifier using only items on board the space ship? This picture shows the real thing.

                                           Astronauts trying to catch fruit while being weightless

There are many other careers at NASA if you are not interested in being an astronaut.
Here are a few of the occupations also necessary to keep NASA up and running:

Engineering: Range, Simulation, Operations
Computer Engineer
System Engineers
Space suit design
Flight physicians
Communications specialists
Intelligence Research
Information Security
Vehicle Design
Public Relations

There are a number of locations where NASA's work is done:
ARC - Ames Research Center, California
AFRC - Armstrong Flight Research Center, California
Johnson Space Center - Houston, Texas
NSSC - NASA Shared Services Center
SSC - Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
MSFC - Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama
KSC - Kennedy Space Center, Florida
GR - Glenn Research, Ohio
LARC - Langley Research Center, Virginia
GSC - Goddard Space Center, Maryland
HQ - Headquarters of NASA, Washington, DC

Read more about NASA's requirements here:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Working With Kids

Do you find children fascinating? Do you love watching how they think, how they grow, their imagination, their active nature?

How can you use your interest in kids as a career?

Here are some professions that involve working with children:

Kindergarten or Elementary school teacher
-This would require a Bachelor of Arts in Education. You might also want to specialize in teaching Math, Science, Art, or Music, as examples, to a specific age group such as Elementary Education.

                           What an inviting place!!!

Childrens' Librarian
-You might enjoy showing children the fun of reading. A childrens' librarian can find work either in a school or in a public library. A Masters Degree in Library Science is required for these positions.

Day Care Director
-To run a daycare does not demand that you have a degree, but many who operate licensed day care centers do hold degrees in something related, such as Child Psychology, Child Development, Early Childhood Education, or Elementary Education. You would also need to be certified in First Aid and CPR and have those certifications renewed yearly. Licensed day care facilities must be checked to be sure they are safe for the children, are providing adequate care and food, are clean, and have adequate space for the number of children being cared for.

Child Psychologist
-If you would enjoy helping kids with psychological issues, you might enjoy this career. You would be required to hold a Masters, and in some cases, a PhD (doctorate) in order to practice this profession.

Speech Pathologist (Pediatric)
-Working with kids to overcome speech problems is a rewarding career. You would need to obtain your Masters degree for this career.

Attorney in Juvenile Justice
-To represent children in the legal system, you need to complete law school and pass the bar exam as any attorney does.

A physician who works exclusively with children, this requires you to earn your medical degree and your coursework to be specific to children, their diseases, their needs, as well as to work with their parents.

-Pediatric Nurse
This is an R.N. with a further certification in Pediatrics.

Two careers that may or may not require a degree are:

-If you are experienced in your sport and are interested, capable, patient, and skilled at working with kids, you'd make an excellent coach. As always, education to make you more confident and qualified is always a good idea. Some coaches are hired part time in addition to teaching.

Camp Counselor
-This also does not necessarily require a degree, just an enthusiasm and patience for working with kids.

If you think you'd like a career working with children, consider some of the above choices.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pet Rocks Are Allowed: Q and A About What College is Like

Triogenius discovered some interesting questions asked by high school seniors getting ready to go to college:

How much homework will there be?
The general rule of thumb is, for each credit, expect three hours' homework. Thus, if you have four classes at three credits each, that's 12 credits....  x 3 hours equals 36 hours of homework. Every week. The whole semester. Also, the whole class time will be lecture--you won't get time in class to do your 'homework.' It's supposed to be done 'at home.' You'll need to plan how you can manage your homework---three hours each night? Five? When? Organize your studying: have a calendar where you write due dates of assignments...and check it daily. Your instructor isn't going to remind you.

                            This student might be multi-tasking a little too much.

How big are class sizes?
Typically, a lecture class is 30 or more students, and might be double or triple that number. If it's a lecture, you are there to listen and perhaps participate. Lab classes will usually-but not always-be less students due to the hands-on teaching and learning that needs to happen.

                        Quick: If one in ten students in this lecture  hall is asleep, how many are awake?

Are there cliques?
Generally, no. You'll be starting over and making new friends. You'll have no history with them, and won't that be interesting?

Is there a lot of drugs and alcohol?
You can always find drugs and alcohol, and there are always parties that will involve chemicals. It's your responsibility to avoid using them.

Do I need to worry about fashionable clothing?
No. Really. Nobody cares what you're wearing, and the majority of students have no money as they go through college. When you are in college, you finally learn that you can't judge someone based on his or her wardrobe: you have to get to know him first. That doesn't mean you should stop showering, though.

There's a reason these "students" look perfect: They are models hired by an advertising agency to appear in college brochures and websites.

Are pets allowed?
No. If you need a 'pet,' get yourself a pet rock.
                                         Ike: No vet bills, no food, no cleanup. Perfect pet.

I'm afraid I'll be so homesick that I can't handle it.
You probably will be homesick, the first few days. Your best bet is to meet some new people and/or go somewhere besides your dorm-don't just stay in, feeling sorry for yourself-although chances are your roommate will also feel the same. See if he or she wants to do something together. Join a club that sounds interesting, even if you only attend a few times. You can't help but meet people that way. Hopefully, you'll be in a first year experience class, which will help you feel comfortable. Go out and become more familiar with your campus, find a coffee shop, talk to someone in a class of yours....but don't sit in your dorm feeling sad. It won't take long and you'll feel at home on campus. It's part of growing up. You can do it.

Which is better, living on campus or off campus?
They both have their advantages, but to feel connected and for convenience, your best plan is on-campus housing, if you have a choice. Sometimes when you transfer from another college, you don't get first choice.

Do you have to go to all your classes? Do they take attendance?
You should ideally go to all classes all the time, and yes, many professors will take attendance. When your grades tank, they'll have a good idea why.

Are all professors old?
No. You need a master's degree to teach at the college level, therefore, you may have instructors who are only 25 years old. But give the older ones a fair chance: they know their stuff!

                       ....although this person might be a little too young to be an instructor...

I have no idea what my major will be. Do I really need to make up my mind now?
No! How can you be sure what you want to do when you're only 17 or 18? Lots of people 'declare a major,' and then switch it the next year.  Some will switch more than once before settling on one major. It's perfectly OK to take general subjects to get used to college, and then start thinking about a career.

Also, beware that when you switch majors, the classes you have taken may or may not apply to your 'new' major, even when they seem like similar fields. For example, credits meant for a degree in Physical Therapy do not usually apply to a degree in Nursing. That's a good reason to take generals first.

What about sororities and fraternities?
You are certainly not required to join a sorority or fraternity. Be sure to check them out thoroughly before you decide you want to join one. Many of them have social agendas and do fund-raising activities. Does that interest you? Do you think you'll have the time?

My college and/or instructors aren't going to check my Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler account, are they?
They very well may check it when you turn in your application, and possibly at other times. Be really careful what you post, especially pictures, and remember you can be tagged in photos that are posted by your friends, which can also reflect badly on you. Colleges usually have their own FB and Twitter pages, so don't assume they are full of stuffy old people who don't know what social networks are. They're not.... and they do.

What if I get sick?
Colleges almost always have an on-campus clinic. Go there and be seen. If you don't have an on-campus clinic, ask someone in Advising and Counseling for the name of a clinic where you can be seen. That includes counseling for depression: if you feel like something's wrong, get some help. It's confidential and could make all the difference for you.

And, P.S.: there are plenty of people seeking help for depression, at any age. It's not unusual, so just take the help they can give you.

If you are under age 26 and single, before you leave for college, be sure you or your parent(s) check to be sure that clinic is covered by your insurance; chances are that it is.

I'm going to need a car, right?
Nope. You only need a car to go home, if you are out of town, and you shouldn't be running home every weekend. When you do go home, you can usually get a ride with a friend; some campuses have bulletin boards with people posting that they're going home--there may be someone close to your home- and would give you a ride for some gas money.

Otherwise, your parent will probably come and retrieve you a few times a year. If you keep a car on campus, you'll have parking and parking fees, scraping your windows in the winter, gas, and maintenance to deal with: who needs that?? And BTW, your dad/brother/uncle/friend won't be any too happy to jump in a car to come down and fix yours while you're living 2+ more hours away.

If you do have a car, check with your insurance agent about dropping all but Comprehensive coverage while you're not driving it. If you do drive in your college town, there may be a discount if the area is more rural than your parents' home.

Don't worry: It will be fun. Really, a lot of work, but fun.