The “Happy” Bug

I had planned to write this blog with some critical observations about the hugely popular song “Happy” (from the movie Despicable Me 2 soundtrack by Pharrell Williams, aka “Pharrell”). Numerous mock-ups and imitations of his original music video have posted on YouTube from groups all over the U.S. and around the world, from colleges to Congressmen, and everybody else in between. It seemed like easy prey for my critical eye (and typing fingers) to point out how superficial were all these unfortunate, child-like, overly-optimistic, too-easily-entertained Internet wannabe sensations.

As mentioned, I had planned to blog thusly, until, having watched a few of these amateurish, low-production-value vignettes,

I caught the bug!!

Sadly, it only took a few minutes of online viewing, and I had an raging case of “Happy” fever. I simply couldn’t help but enjoy the positive, unassuming faces and unpolished choreography. I began to take greater and greater delight in the carefree, no-strings-attached, boundless joy exhibited by the participants whose uncomplicated yet contagiously sincere joy seems motivated by nothing more than swaying to the catchy rhythms of Pharrell’s redundant melody, easy-to-sing lyrics, and uplifting tone. There is something magnetic about the smiles and unrehearsed moves that makes one want to “catch” whatever they’ve got going for them!

To be fair…

you should start with the “official” music video by Pharrell. Then feel free to click on and watch some of the takes on Pharrell’s video below (a small fraction of those available online):

  1. Great Lakes Institute of Management (U.S.)
  2. Syracuse University
  3. Children in China
  4. People in Santiago, Chile
  5. People in Prague, Czech Republic
  6. People in Kampot, Cambodia (disabled citizens)
  7. People in Laval, France
  8. People in Rome, Italy
  9. People in Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) (about 40 nationalities shown)
  10. People in Jerusalem (mostly teenagers)

If I have any critique about the “Happy” song’s message, in my melodically-induced-dopamine joie de vivre, it would be to remind folks that happiness is, in fact, not the truth. Jesus is the truth–and way and life (John 14:6), as he himself has also reminded us (see also John 8: 31-32). Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can bring us genuine and enduring happiness, as well as peace and hope. If our happiness is based merely on the transitory pleasures of this fallen world, no matter how innocent or noble, it will surely not last. Rather, we will experience the same roller coaster ride of ups and downs on our journey through this time side of life as do those who don’t know the Lord at all. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, NASB). And the apostle Paul, even though in prison, writes “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4: 4, NASB). Perhaps most memorable are what have been referred to as the Beattitudes, 9 prescriptions for happiness direct from the Lord’s mouth in his hillside sermon. (As you read these, remember that the word “blessed” may also be translated “happy.”) Therein, we should find the greatest fulfillment for our souls, as well as our minds. (see Matthew 5:1-12) (Tweet This)

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Bastien (2009) showed us that music has the ability to foster productive dialogue on important issues. I’ve recently covered this in my Senior Seminar (capstone) class at ETBU as we discussed the dibilitating effects of the stigma of being diagnosed and living with HIV/AIDS, especially in developing nations (including some in Africa and Latin America). Bastien believes that African popular songs may be an effective use of mass media, in that they may help overcome resistance and help push back some of the barriers to effective discussion and get people talking. Specifically, Bastien expects this will happen in three distinct ways:

  1. Helping correct risky behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS
  2. Helping correct misunderstandings about how HIV/AIDS is spread
  3. Providing context and appeal for popular social issues (through allegories and themes in songs)

King David, who frequently made time to worship the Lord in song and verse, found happiness in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. The psalms he was inspired to write can help us do the same. For example, “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! (Psalm 32:10-11, NIV)

So… why not lower your defenses and try to “catch” a little of the “Happy” bug? And then…?

Try to spread it!

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

The Time of Our Lives

“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.’
 `I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.
 `Of course you don’t!’ the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’
 `Perhaps not,’ Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’
 `Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…”

mad hatter

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  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll.

Time is another one of those things we live with that is difficult to understand scientifically. We know about it, lose track of it, manage it, but when you try to define and explain it scientifically, it gets really weird.

The official unit of time is the second which is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom (told you it gets weird).

Time is considered by some to be the 4th dimension of space and is intricately bound with space. Time is relative to the position and speed traveling though space. For example, time on earth is different from time on the space shuttle (weird), and if you could reach the speed of light, time would stand “still”…

When we are working with time in our lives, we are looking more at the passing of time. We don’t want to define it; we want to keep track of it.

clock with lunar

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We use clocks and calendars to standardize the passing of time, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to time. The passing of time is really noticing the recurring rhythms that occur in our lives. Some powerful rhythms of time are the daily solar cycle, monthly lunar cycle and yearly seasonal cycle.


sunrise tree

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Our bodies contain internal timekeepers called biological clocks. These clocks set the timing of several physiological rhythms such as hormones, digestion, cell division, tissue repair, activity, sleep, etc. The multiple clocks are regulated by a master clock in the brain which is synchronized to 24 hr daily rhythm by sunlight. If all our internal rhythms stay in-sync with the daily rhythm, we feel better and function better.

Years ago, we worked sunrise to sunset and stayed pretty well synchronized with the 24 hr rhythm. With modern society, we’ve  altered our environment with electric lights to give us more productive time during our night. We’ve extended our working day. We are no longer at the mercy of the sunset. We can work as long as we want into the night.

He (Time) won’t stand beating.

If there is anyone trying to beat time, it would have to be college students.  College students are not known for their time management skills.  They wait until the last minute to finish projects or papers.  This makes for a lot of late, sleepless nights trying to beat the deadlines.  And of course, the fun doesn’t begin until after 10 pm. Everyone knows the movies are a better at the midnight premieres. College equals sleep deprivation.

Time won’t stand beating.

multiple clocks (2)

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Another problem is the body’s own internal timekeeper.  The biological clock has to be overridden in order to pull the all-nighters.  The light at night unsynchronizes the biological clock from the sunrise. Our body rhythms begin to get out of sync. Then after the late nights during the week, we sleep in on Saturday and Sunday which disrupts our biological clock even more. Then we have  to get up for 8 am class on Monday. The body clock has synchronized to the later time schedule and has to reset several hours to get back to normal. We have given ourselves artificial jet-lag. And jet-lag takes several days to get over so by the time our clocks are resynchronized, its back to oversleeping on the weekend again. We try to beat the internal clock in order to maintain our lifestyle. (Tweet This)

Time won’t stand beating. You know the old saying. if you can’t beat them, join them…

Now, if you only kept on good terms with him (time), he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…

Keeping on good terms with your biological time means adjusting your habits.

  • Keep lighting as low as possible during the nighttime
  • Try to get plenty of sleep each night (close to 8 hours)
  • Try to get up at the same time each day, even on weekends
  • Limit naps and caffeine during the afternoon

When you do find yourself at odds with your clock, try to get out in the sunlight during the morning hours. Morning sunlight will help resynchronize your clock to the daily rhythm.



While I normally leave the discussions of movie, tv, radio and the like to my colleague, I’m going to make an exception this week.  Over the weekend, I went to see Divergent.  I’ve read the entire trilogy, so I’ve been looking forward to its release for quite a while. (Yes, I do read young adult fiction.  I can’t read scholarly articles all the time!)

For those of you who haven’t yet read the book (or seen the movie), I’ll give you a quick overview…
In the futuristic Chicago of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, citizens are divided into five factions.  Each faction celebrates and cultivates a particular virtue in its members:


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Dauntless  – Bravery
Erudite – Knowledge/Intelligence
Candor – Honesty
Amity – Peacemaking
Abnegation – Selflessness

While Divergent is not the first (and likely won’t be the last) in the recent string of dystopian young adult fiction, I’ve appreciated the leadership discussion embedded within the story.  Throughout the books, there are implicit questions about what characteristics or virtues really make a person fit to lead.

Early in the books, all of the leaders of society come from Abnegation. It’s assumed that those who are humble and selfless are best able to make decisions and allocate resources in a way that will serve all of society.

Some characters in the story believe that the Erudite are best suited for leadership because of their high intelligence, commitment to learning, and diligent study.

There are also a number of decisions by leaders in the book that allow the reader to consider ethical dilemmas of leadership.  They are the same sort of questions we consider in my classes:

  • Do the ends justify the means in leadership?
  • Is manipulation an appropriate tool for leadership?
  • Does the leader have the greater responsibility to reveal all information to followers, or to protect them from potentially harmful information?

These are the same kinds of questions that philosophers and students of politics, history, and leadership have been asking for centuries.  Forgive my over-simplification of these heavy philosophical works, but many of the most significant writings in history have assumed that only certain people should lead or that they should lead in particular ways:

  • Plato designed his ideal society in the Republic with philosophers as his rulers of choice.
  • Machiavelli’s Prince argues that “it is far safer to be feared than loved”as a leader.
  • Locke says no one should be subjected to the will of another and advocates for majority rule.
  • Carlyle believes that those who possess divinely inspired knowledge have the right to lead.

I’m not sure that we consistently ask such deep questions about our leaders today.  It would seem we are often more interested in results, final products, and track record rather than with character, virtue, and ethical perspective when it comes to our leaders. Perhaps we need to reframe the kinds of questions we ask during presidential debates, CEO interviews, and pastoral searches to reflect a deeper kind of thinking about who should lead.

I’m also thrilled that we (as human beings and as leaders) can possess more than one faction’s virtues.  I think I might really appreciate following a selfless, courageous, honest, peacemaking leader who also wants to study to gain additional knowledge and skill.  And while maybe that person is too perfect to exist outside of the pages of fiction, I’d like to believe that our leaders would value all of those virtues enough to surround themselves with co-workers, mentors, counselors, and advisers who supplement their areas of weaknesses.

What about you?  Who do you believe ought to lead?


They can’t sleep…

Earlier this week in my Broadcast News Reporting class we were discussing how to write a hard TV news story about the recent spree of violent crimes known as “The Knock-Out Game.” This sadistic “game” is generally perpetrated by young males in urban settings, sometimes in broad daylight. Generally, one male from among a group (or even walking all alone) will sucker-punch an elderly woman or unsuspecting man, an innocent passer-by, perhaps someone carrying something. In every case, the victim is caught completely unaware and completely defenseless. Coming from the blind side (or even from behind), the assailants hit their targets with a full force fist punch in the head, knocking them unconscious and to the ground with such violent force that some have died from their injuries. All have suffered serious injuries.

Why is this happening?

There is no theft or sexual assault accompanying the attacks. Wallets, purses, and bags are left intact, even beside the victims. There is little apparent motive, other than a few miscreants wanting to amuse themselves. But again…


Solomon (inspired to write Proverbs) tells us that wicked and evil [people] “cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:14-16, NASB). This very clearly tells us the Who, What, and Why of the story. It’s enough to get a writer going. But in class discussion another culprit became apparent, one that sees the crime but doesn’t help the helpless, one that may be as much to blame as those who strike down the innocent.

Who’s watching?

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Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

The CAMERA is!

Yes, the camera! Several students, as well as I, became increasingly convinced through our discussion that the cameras which captured the crimes for all to see, as well as the Internet and TV networks which repeatedly showed the attacks, were very much accomplices in the crimes. No doubt. First, there are the security cameras in many locations, all too effective in capturing the attacks, but not always clear enough to identify…

Who Done It?

In fact, at least one assault was videoed by the assailants themselves on a cell phone, which later got lots of TV “news” air time, having made it into social media streams faster than the news of the crime itself, far faster than any ambulance could arrive on the scene to help.

In previous blogs I’ve pointed out that research indicates that visual media inspire imitation. Vicarious learning may be a release for some, but for others, a cue to reenact and reinforce what they’ve learned. Pictures and video on social media are no exception to this, and they may, in fact, make the behaviors shared by others seem much more plausible and easy to carry out. Add the illusion of anonymity, and there is very little regard for the consequences of one’s actions.

How do we write about it?

The budding journalists in my class were clearly struggling with how to begin telling a serious news story for their audience. The challenge of crafting that LEAD SENTENCE can be daunting for anyone, especially when a story evokes a range of strong emotions, not only for the victims, but for the journalists themselves. Our discussions about WHO did WHAT to WHOM, WHERE and WHY became very spirited. But when I try to get students to nail down one strong, concise phrase that grabs our attention, sets the tone of the story, and compels us to want to hear more, many are stymied.

As I typically find in class discussions about issues that are highly evocative, there are several stumbling blocks that must be overcome.

  1. Victim blaming (lack of empathy)–likely an attempt to gain distance from the uncomfortable topic
  2. Joking–making light of the injuries and seriousness of the crime
  3. Prioritizing–inability to distinguish the most important facts from lesser important facts
  4. Newsworthy elements–inability to choose which angle to take on the story, such as impact, magnitude, proximity, oddity, etc. (There are 8.)
Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.



Watch what you eat…

I finished the section about nutrition in class this week. The students received the introductory information which is pretty straight forward. Vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates haven’t changed much over the years. What has changed is which foods are the “bad” foods.

You know the ones, if you eat them you’ll have a heart attack, get cancer and high blood pressure while becoming obese.

Now while Americans do have big problems with these ailments, its difficult to pinpoint the food that is causing the most damage. Years ago, many different foods were demonized and we took them off our tables in an effort to be healthier. With further study, we found that now these bad foods turn out to be not so bad, some are even good for you. Here is just a small sample…


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Eggs. They were taboo because they contain cholesterol. And everyone knows that too much cholesterol in your blood can clog your vessels and lead to heart attacks. However, it turns out that the egg’s cholesterol (dietary) is not the same as the clogging cholesterol in your blood. And the egg is packed with protein with several vitamins and minerals.


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Chocolate. Remember when chocolate caused acne and made you fat? Well, now it turns out to be heart-healthy, but you have to come over to the dark side, at least most benefits seem to come from dark chocolate. There is a Swedish study that says chocolate lowers stroke risk and 90% of Swedish chocolate is milk chocolate, so maybe milk chocolate lovers still have a chance.

glass of milk

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Whole Milk. Now here’s one that hits right at my home. It wasn’t the milk that was bad for you, but the fat in the milk. So, the switch was made to skim milk. I had to slowly change from whole to 2% to 1% then skim. My boys grew up on skim milk, four gallons a week to be exact. They don’t even care for the whole stuff, too thick. Recent studies indicate that drinking whole milk reduces central obesity.

And to add insult to injury, the study didn’t say just add whole milk, but also real butter and real whipped cream. All these years without whipped cream… dairy fat is the hero now. Instead of removing these items from our diet, we need to make sure that we use them.

whip cream (2)

Coffee. Back then it was caffeine fueled anxiety that would stunt your growth. There is still caffeine but it’s not as bad as we believed. It apparently enhances brain function. Plus there are many good antioxidants  and nutrients in coffee, and they actually add real whip cream on top of some cups.

Nuts. These were known to have good nutrition, but with a lot of fat. Now that we know there is good fat and bad fat, the nuts rise to the top of the pile. Tree nuts are usually recommended, but studies show that peanuts, which are really legumes (like beans and peas), are just as good. In fact, boiled peanuts seem to have a similar amount of the same antioxidant that is found in red wine, and you don’t have to hide a handful of peanuts from your pastor.

This is just a sample of foods that are now thought to be good for you. Just google or bing the phrase, “bad foods that are actually good for you” and you will get many hits that give these and other ideas on foods.

Just remember that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Take each area mentioned above with moderation. Overuse can quickly throw the nutrition benefits and the calories into the negative column.

And keep checking with the latest nutrition research. Maybe some favorite taboo food is on the verge of changing from a zero to a hero.



More Questions Than Answers

We tend to think of leaders as people who have all the answers.  Maybe it’s because from childhood the people who “lead” us seem to have all the answers:

  • Our parents, who have already survived childhood
  • Our teachers, who have already conquered spelling, math, and reading
  • Our team coaches, who understand the fundamentals of the game

It can be a rude awakening when we find ourselves in a leadership position and realize that we don’t necessarily have all the answers.  But, do we really want our leaders to have all the answers?

This week in class, we were discussing the idea of the leader as coach.  I’m not talking about the kind of athletic or sport coaches that many of us are familiar with.  The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Unlike a consultant or a trainer, a coach helps you to discover answers for yourself rather than delivering answers as an expert.  Our discussion in class centered around the ways that a leader can help their employees to gain competence and confidence by coaching them to find their own answers rather than always offering immediate solutions.

We talked about the reasons that coaching an employee to come to their own solution might be helpful.  My students identified some good reasons:

  • The employee might have more buy-in
  • The employee gains confidence and expertise to work independently

Apparently, though this might sound good in theory, this was a tricky concept for my students to apply.  After some very rudimentary training, I asked them to use a basic process to coach another student in class (on any subject of their choosing).  And off they went!

Initially, I was really getting a kick out of some of the “challenges” they chose to be coached on, but somewhere along the way, I heard a lot of the coaches telling their fellow student what they should do.

“You should open the door if you really want to be a gentleman.”
“You would plant that particular item during late spring.”
“Well, when I study for Dr. Prevost’s tests, I usually…”

You get the idea.

When we debriefed, they confessed how difficult it is to ask questions rather than providing solutions to people’s questions, problems, and dilemmas.  Almost immediately, we default to offering solutions.  Especially as leaders, we are used to be asked to “fix” the problem.

But, is delivery as powerful a method of learning as discovery?

Val Hastings from Coaching for Clergy actually points out in his trainings how often people in scripture came to deep insights from being asked questions. Consider these questions asked by Jesus:

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Which one of these three was the neighbor?”

“Who do you say that I am?”

Perhaps we should learn from this great teacher who has more followers than any of us will ever hope to have.  If you want people to follow, then ask powerful questions.  As leaders, we don’t always have to have an answer.  And even when we have an answer, perhaps we lead people to deeper, more meaningful insights and opportunities when we ask the right questions rather than always giving them answers.

When has someone led you with a powerful question?


What’s My Line?

The following are listed as “AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes” (See more here!)

  1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a…” (Gone With the Wind1939)
  2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (The Godfather, 1972)
  3. “I coulda been a contender.” (On the Waterfront, 1954)
  4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)
  5. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” (Casablanca, 1942)
  6. “Go ahead, make my day.” (Sudden Impact, 1983)
  7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” (Sunset Blvd., 1950)
  8. “May the Force be with you.” (Star Wars, 1977)
  9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” (All About Eve, 1950)
  10. “You talking to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)

To which quote can you most relate?

One of the reasons that films appeal so much to us is their ability to make connections to our lives, our past and experiences, our inspirations and aspirations. We remember iconic scenes and unforgettable lines for years–perhaps out of context–almost like fragments from actual experience.

Why does it resonate?

George Gerbner developed cultivation theory in the late 1960s. His work in this area became a seminal part of mass communication research from the 1960s through the 1990s. Although the theory has had its detractors, it has indisputably furthered the way we study mass media. Cultivation theory purports that heavy media viewers of TV (or film) will more likely believe the version of “reality” shown on TV than that they actually experience in real life. It predicts that heavy viewers will have mainstreaming effects in which their views of society will line up with that depicted on media. It further predicts a resonance effect, in which media portrayals seems to resonate (or ring true) to what a heavy viewer is experiencing, thus, lending further credibility to media’s versions of reality overall.

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

Nothing is irrelevant. Everything, no matter how subtle, has a potential effect on media audiences. I try to remind my students that writing is more than an academic exercise. They need to think about the effect of words (and actions). What seems at first like mere words on a page will soon become some form of reality for those who hear (and/or see) the results of what is written. I want them to want to critically analyze media writing and depictions, as well as their own creations, anticipating the results of mass communicated messages.

I would also remind them of what Jesus said.

“After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”12 Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (Matthew 15:10-20, NASB)

Dr. Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

To Infinity and Beyond…or at least to Mars and back


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I was eight years old when man first stepped on the moon.  Space was the new frontier.   It was every boy’s dream to become an astronaut.  Everyone looked to space for the next adventure with more moon landings and a manned space station in orbit through the next decade.

star trek

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The television series Star Trek aired around the same time frame which fueled our imaginations even more. Many TV shows came along mixed with several movies about space travel, the most significant being Star Wars.  Unfortunately the general public focused more on Hollywood’s version of space rather than the science version.

The last man walked on the moon more than 40 years ago.  Since then, manned space exploration has consisted of low earth orbit missions with the space shuttle and the international space station.  Lack of public interest along with budget cuts have kept men from going back to the moon, but Mars has revived a new interest in space exploration.


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200,000 people registered for four spots in a privately funded mission to Mars.

Some have said that we’ve had the technology to get to Mars since the1980s.  While I do think it’s sad that the interest in interplanetary travel is taken this long to come back, I’m not sure that the technology needs have been resolved.  It took only 3 days to get to the moon; a trip to Mars will take six to nine months.

While I’m not completely sure about the technology, I do know we don’t have the physiology to go to Mars.  The human body is not designed for space exploration.  The human body is “fearfully and wonderfully made” to operate in an environment of gravity and atmospheric pressure. In the weightless vacuum of space, humans run into trouble.

There are complex physiological changes that occur when humans live in a weightless environment, all body systems are affected to some degree.

Most people are aware that bones tend to lose minerals and muscles lose strength in space.  That means after the extended space flight to Mars, our muscles would be so weak we couldn’t even hold our bodies upright.

And if we could manage to climb out of the space capsule, our bones would break when we try to step onto the surface of Mars. “…one giant leap for mankind…aaaaugh!”

And by the way, our calls for help would take from 4 to 24 minutes to reach Earth depending on the orbits of the two planets. So we would tell Houston our legs broke, and wait up to 48 minutes for them to hear and return a response.

Most people don’t think about the weightless shift in body fluids.  Such a simple thing on Earth, our tissue fluids and blood tend to be in the lower part of our body.  With no gravity, the fluid tends to float up toward our head. This makes our body think we have too much fluid and too much blood pressure.  Our body will try to correct this by removing salt and water reducing blood volume by 10%. Our other body systems then have to compensate for the loss of blood function.



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The extreme environment of space affects us in other ways.  On earth, we are surrounded by a magnetic field that protects us from cosmic radiation. That protection goes away the farther from earth we get. The moon astronauts were blasted with a 1000 times more radiation than normal so imagine traveling for months in space.

If you don’t die from radiation poisoning getting to Mars, the cancer caused by the radiation would get you later.

Without major innovations in spacecraft design, any trip to Mars is, at worst, impossible, and at best, a one-way trip. Even the privately funded mission has no intention of returning.  Oh, and about the 1980s technology thing, only 42% of the spacecraft sent to Mars have made it there successfully, about 30 crashes out of 50 attempts. And those were small ships with light, non-living cargo, not food and oxygen and equipment for humans to survive for a 2 year round trip.

While it is fine to dream big, when it comes to Mars, our minds have written a check that our bodies cannot cash…


Practice Makes Perfect


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This morning, a co-worker and I were discussing how busy our Spring Semester has felt. We talked about feeling as if we are speeding ahead toward the end of the semester, fighting just to get everything accomplished. And sometimes along the way, we struggle to connect with people in meaningful ways.

These two dimensions of our work, being concerned with getting a job done and being concerned for the people involved in the work are highlighted in the managerial grid developed nearly 50 years ago by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. Though the grid has 81 possible combinations, most of the time we discuss five major styles (Blake and McCanse, 1991):

  • The Impoverished Manager – with low concern for production and low concern for people.
  • The Sweatshop or Authority-Compliance Manager – with high concern for the work, but low concern for people.
  • The Country Club Manager – with high concern for people, but low concern for accomplishing the work
  • The Status Quo or Middle of the Road Manager – with a moderate concern for both people and task
  • The Fully Functioning Manager or Team Management – with a high concern for both the task and the people doing the task

In recent weeks in Organizational Leadership, we’ve been working through various models, theories, and concepts related to “concern for people” including employee motivation and follower engagement.

Creating task-related assignments isn’t all that difficult for me, but I have discovered that it is tricky to create assignments to help students gain skills in working with people. I think many of my students struggle to see the value of these assignments. It seems obvious that we ought to be concerned about people and speak to them in ways that uphold their dignity, so many of us assume that we do so naturally. But communicating concern for a person while also communicating a concern for getting the job done is trickier than it sounds.

This week, I asked students to create a draft of an email they might use to delegate a task to an employee.  I asked them to use what we’ve learned about employee motivation and engagement to create this document. I got quite a few sample emails that told me about the new task that the boss wanted me to do.  A lot of them were straightforward and to the point.  Many of them clearly communicated the new task.  They weren’t rude, but very few of them effectively showed much consideration for the employee.

Last week, I asked students to role-play a situation with an employee where they intentionally integrated one of the leadership practices identified by Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge: Encouraging the Heart.  As I listened to their role-plays, I heard a lot about the task, but most of my students found it much more difficult to find words to recognize contributions and celebrate victories as a part of their conversations.

While I perceive that some of my students think that role-playing and writing out emails are unnecessary work, I tend to believe that many of us have to actually practice expressing concern for people in the midst of our work.  I know there are some people for whom this is a more natural process, but even then, I think it requires practice to communicate that concern in a way that each unique individual can hear and receive it.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

We seem to take for granted that practice is necessary for gaining skills in playing basketball or the piano.  But I think many of us mistakenly believe that we are automatically going to be good at the skills necessary for working effectively with people.

Or perhaps we just assume that we get on-the-job experience at these skills, so we don’t need to practice them ahead of time.

That seems a lot like asking someone to attend your oboe recital when you’ve not ever actually picked up the instrument.


So, I’m going to keep looking for ways for my students (and myself) to practice effectively demonstrating concern for people without losing sight of the task at hand. Maybe you’ve got some ideas.

How do you help students “practice” new skills in your classroom?

Oh, my…

How would you finish this all-too-common expression?

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc

I am convinced that most people–my students included–would, sadly, complete it by calling on the Creator.

But not in sincerity. Rather, in vain.

Horse feathers! Poppycock! Fiddlesticks!

Do we ever really mean these expressions literally? Do we take time to think what they really mean and then speak them sincerely to someone, having considered the possible implications of our speech?

Probably not.

Why not? Likely because we think of them as merely fillers… void of true meaning, polite substitutes for their more bawdy counterparts.  In other words, people tend to use these filler words IN VAIN.

In fact, whenever we speak without meaning what we say, aren’t we referring to the subject IN VAIN? If I say “Good Morning” to you out of habit without really meaning it, did I really mean “Good”? Did I really think about it being “Morning”? Did I even consider whether you were actually having a “good morning” or not? If the answer to any of these is “No,” then I spoke this rather benign phrase to you not only innocuously, but also IN VAIN. Yes, IN VAIN.

The Third Commandment states very clearly, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Exodus 20:7, KJV). It’s a commandment, not a suggestion.

Can you imagine someone walking down the street randomly calling out names or words they don’t mean?

Whataburger! Gladys! Elm Street! Chevy Tahoe!!

Wouldn’t we think they had lost their mind?

What if someone texted you with seemingly uncalled-for proper nouns?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt! Santa Claus! Nebraska! Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!!

Would we be offended? Would we block them from messaging us? Or would we laugh and/or take it lightly, as what we’ve come to expect from our superficial communication these days? (And then maybe even return the post to them using a similarly VAIN turn of phrase?)

What is your point, already, Dr. Roe?

Our students, like most of society, have become far too comfortable in vaguely and insincerely referencing the name of our Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the One whose Name and Person should always, ALWAYS be held in highest reverence by all who breathe… since He gives us breath… and everything else we have from His generous hand. (See Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:24-28; Psalm 145:14-16)

Why do people do it?

In their intriguing study, Nabi and Clark (2008) found that “negatively reinforced behaviors on TV may be modeled anyway” (p. 407), that is, despite, and perhaps even because they are negatively modeled. Pointing to Social Cognitive theory (SCT), Nabi and Clark remind us that “vicarious learning” (p. 409) is indeed prevalent among TV audiences. Echoing Kellner’s (1980) work, in which he warns that “[TV’s] imagery is. . . prescriptive as well as descriptive,” (p. 5),  Nabi and Clark’s research help us understand that what we view may ultimately become a guide for our own behavior thereafter.

What’s the take away for our mass comm students?

It is challenging, but vital to get students to recognize where their patterns (and bad habits) of communicating come from. In fact, teaching people to become self-reflective, in general, is a daunting task, but oh, so vital.

In class, we have to begin by discussing what seems most obvious–because that’s where the pernicious influence of society begins to have its influence. We have to discuss why we do–or don’t–think of such phrases as “Oh, my God!” (or its text version, OMG!) as being just another way of showing surprise or disdain. Are we speaking TO the Almighty when we employ such words? If not, then why are we using His Name–IN VAIN? (His Name is above all Names, right? See Philippians 2:9-11.)

Or did we forget?

A few years ago a detergent maker began to advertise what was a short-lived addition to their long-known brand name. I’d like to think it was informed, pro-active media-savvy consumers who got them to change their name back and to stop running those irritating commercials. People like my students who have learned from class discussions not to take such things for granted, and from Bible-reading Christians who have learned that they will give an accounting for every careless word. (See Matthew 12:36.)

I mean, really? All-Mighty laundry detergent? Is it that good? Only God is good, said His only Son (Luke 18:19).

What was Sun Products Corp. thinking?