Teenage Suicide Rate High Among Arizona Native Americans

I was dismayed when reading in the Casa Grande Dispatch the other day that the rate of suicides among Native American teens in Arizona was considerably higher based on percentage of teenagers and that this is actually a national epidemic rather than localized.  According to the Arizona Department of Health Services 49 teen suicides were reported in Arizona; 7 of which where from Native American communities.

In reading the article it would seem that not only does peer pressure, bullying and adult criticisms play a factor, but in some communities where unemployment exceeds 50% and many families are just barely living at the poverty level this puts strain on everyone from adults to children.

There are few things in life I can imagine more horrifying than one’s child taking their own life, and it is so utterly important to have open and established communication with children so that they can build that trust to come to a parent when they are feeling depressed or even begin having thoughts of suicide.  Though in many cases children will still simply hide their feelings and intentions, I do believe monitoring a child and teenagers activities and communications is important.

My heart goes out to the families suffering losses, and let’s hope a widespread education campaign and openly discussing such things with your own children can help prevent any more children from feeling like the only way to deal with their issues or life is to check out permanently.

You can read more in this Associated Press article here: [LINK].

-Justin Germino

Grounded from Gaming! Who Me?

So last week my son brought home a less than stellar progress report and some of his grades have slipped.  Computer and console games were revoked unless his grades can be brought back up in time for Report Cards in a few weeks as a result.  In addition to losing the ability to play games, he also lost the ability to watch me play games which was an activity we did together at night and weekends to unwind.  It is now that I realize just how much I gamed while my kids were watching me because now I find that I can’t play games unless I play while they are sleeping (which means I stay up late and lose sleep) or I have to game when they are not around (which is almost never).

So really I kind of feel I wound up getting grounded and now I am telling my son he had better pull his grades up so I can start playing games in front of him again.  My son is a very smart kid, but he is very prone to distraction and thinking about "other things" when he isn’t interested or bored.  Even though none of his grades are below a B we hold our kids up to pretty high standards because we know he could put more effort in.

He has two weeks to buckle down and pull his grades up, I have been helping him with Roman Numerals which was one of his weak areas and he continues to work on his grammar.  He does however have terrible handwriting and I don’t know really how much I can preach here as I myself have among the worst penmanship.

Until then, less gaming time for me until he can pull his grades up.  But I think this punishment was really a backfire and caused me more grief than him.0

-Justin Germino

String of Movie Weekends

It all started with the release of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and then goes into HOP, RIO and who knows what else.  The string of family movies have arrived and with near back to back movie releases you can bet that my Harkins T-Shirt and Harkins Cups will be getting good use over the next few months.

Sometimes it is just good to get out of the house and when the temperatures start climbing, the nice cool temperatures of a theater and the laughs in front of a big screen are just what the family ordered.

Movies have always been a big part of my entertainment, ever since I was a kid I loved watching movies and probably more than the average folk.  I paid 7x to see Jurassic Park in the theaters when it first came out.  My kids like watching movies too and obviously my love of films have rubbed off on them, so it is a good family activity.

The bad thing is the theater snacking which is not good for anyone’s waistline, and theater popcorn plus the tendency for everyone to want snacks whether it be Zours, Butterfingers, Whoppers, KitKat’s or my personal weakness Twizzler Nibs and/or Hot pretzels.  I often have to have only 1 meal a day on the days I plan on going to the theater just to try and offset the calorie intake.

It was fine when we went to the theater once per month, but now I am just going to have to start sneaking in healthy snacks like apples, nuts or something without chocolate or so riddled with sugar I can feel it eating holes in my teeth as I consume it.

What’s a theater watcher to do?

-Justin Germino

Lego Minotaurus: A Fun Family Game

For Christmas my kids received the Lego Minotaurus game from Santa and the game is quite fun and creative for the whole family.

Minotaurus like the other Lego board game is a bit different from traditional board games in that you “build” the game board before you play the game.  This involves both putting the blocks together based on the default instructions or being creative and making your own mazes and labyrinths that players have to navigate in their attempt to avoid being captured by the Mintoaur.

My four year old and seven year old both enjoyed playing Minotaurus and the objective is to take turns rolling dice and moving your man a number of spaces toward the end goal which is in the center of the maze.  To add challenge there are several additional colored “blocks” you can add into the dice.

Gray Side

When you roll the gray side you pick and place a blocking wall on the game board instead of moving your unit.  This can be used to block off other players from reaching the goal or blocking the Minotaur from getting access to your own men

Black Side

If a player rolls the black side they move the minotaur a default of 8 spaces (12 if playing a more aggressive version of the game) instead of moving their own man.  They can control the Minotaur and move it to capture opponents men or make it more perilous to move through a specific certain of the maze.

Green side (optional)

This is a special option rule that allows units to jump green walls if rolled, it works kind of like the walls being “hedges” instead of actual walls and can make for interesting results when a person can evade capture by jumping a wall to escape.

Summary

Overall Minotaurus is a fun and engaging game which makes for a great family game night if you have younger kids.  The fact that you can change up the layout of the board allows you to cater the game to any level.  You can for instance make the maze longer and harder for the adult player sections and easier for the youngest kids.

Lego makes some quality board games and I think it is important to have some family activities unplugged from the computer where the family can sit around a table or floor together and just talk as a family while they play an entertaining board game.  I know this game is coming to us when we go to a cabin with the family for a summer vacation.  At  around $23.00 Minotaurus is a game that provides hours of entertainment and well worth the price.

[az_easel item=”B002WCNKUQ”]

Akismet Continues to Spam Valid Comments

I had switched to GASP (Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin) for WordPress combined with Simple Trackback Validation with Topsy Blocker to deal with my WordPress comment spam.  My technology blog is now taking in about 150-200 comments per day if I left all my plugins disabled and about 80% of them are spam bots or backlink stealers not true users looking to provide value and engage in conversation.

Akismet was still left on my personal blog which only gets about 3-5 comments per day and I was dismayed to find that one of my long time readers had most of their comments end up in my spam folder without me realizing it.  What’s worse is that I went to my spam folder and accidentally clicked “empty spam” before thoroughly looking at what comments were marked spam.  This means I can’t recover any of those comments that weren’t spam.

This was the last straw for me and I would rather manually spam or trash 20 spam comments than have 1 valid reader comment get pushed to the spam folder by accident.  Nothing turns readers off more than thinking their voices aren’t heard or that the blog owner doesn’t care enough to respond to their comments.  Blogs are about communication and two way conversations, this is the difference between regular news articles where the author rarely if ever interacts with comments and a blogger who should engage and build a relationship with their readers.

Kikolani wrote a fantastic article on the WordPress commenting system that I highly recommend all bloggers read or even if you aren’t a blogger and just visit blogs and leave a comment it is good to know how the WordPress commenting system works so you can leverage it properly and respectfully when commenting on blogs.

Her article is spot on target and talks about some great plugins that bloggers should use to augment and improve the default commenting system, though she recommends and mentions Akismet, I personally would not recommend using this plugin for the propensity to catch false positives.  For users who still get spam comments when using GASP and Simple TrackBack Validation, there is also the wp-captcha free plugin which is an additional method of blocking spam which displays a capture only to specific visitors based on criteria in the plugin.  These should minimize your spam comments but you will get a few spam comments but this is far better to having to weed through a spam folder to find the valid comments.

If I have a repeat offender who I know abuses the system I add them to my blacklist on WordPress by blocking their email address and URL so that their comments will auto spam even if they make it through the GASP plugin.  I only do this for commenters who are blatant spammers and not for users who just don’t properly use name@keywords using keywords instead.

Bottom line you need to think about how to handle your comment system and you need to do this when your blog first starts up because by the time your blog gets popular you can be inundated with spam if you don’t have a good comment management system in place.

-Justin Germino