The Problems With the Ice Bucket Challenge

By now you’ve probably seen videos of people having buckets of ice dumped on their heads, be it on the news, on Twitter or on Facebook. The challenge is part of an effort to raise awareness for the ALS Foundation. The challenge is fairly simple: Someone has a bucket of ice dumped on their head and then challenges three other people to have ice dumped on them. The process is then repeated. Get ice dumped on you, challenge three more people. The catch is if you don’t participate in the challenge you then have to donate $100 to the ALS Foundation.

Right there is the first problem with this challenge as it frames donating money to the ALS Foundation as a punishment. It essentially says, “Oh, you don’t want to have ice dumped on you? Guess you’re chicken. Guess you’ll have to donate $100 to the ALS Foundation.”

However the ALS Foundation did issue a press release calling recent donations to the group as a result of the ice bucket challenge “unprecedented.” This is good to see even if the way you are urged to donate money is framed oddly. It could also mean enough people getting ice dumped on them are saying, “Hey, this is for the ALS Foundation,” leading people to then look into the group and what ALS is and then give money.

The challenge has led to a variety of people having ice dumped on them. Conan O’Brien, Matt Lauer and Ethel Kennedy have had ice dumped on them. Maybe you’ve seen your local meteorologist participate in the challenge or your best friend from high school do the same as well. Even President Barack Obama was challenged to participate, although he chose to donate $100.

The scope of people participating in the challenge certainly seems to be very large, but at the same time there are people on social media who are participating in the challenge and not mentioning the part about the ALS Foundation. As a result the true purpose of the challenge can be lost and it seems it is starting to be lost.

The troubling part of the challenge is still the fact that it is framed as “Have ice dumped on you or donate money.” As a result people participating in the challenge can come off as “I would rather have ice dumped on me than donate to a charity that has a really good purpose.”

Although the ice bucket challenge is proving to be great for the ALS Foundation since they’ve seen a huge increase in donations, it might be time for groups to rethink using viral content for good causes. Often the efforts seem to be misguided–remember that time you were supposed to post your bra color on Facebook to raise awareness for breast cancer?–and the purpose gets lost as more people spread it around social media.

An Ode to “Mass Text”

Every year I write for Punching a Jayhawk about the worst music videos of a given year. Last year’s choice for the worst music video of the year, “Stupid Hoe,” was so delightfully bad because it was jam packed with decisions leading one to wonder how anyone thought any moment of that video was good.

As 2013 wore on, I wondered where was the delightfully awful music video for this year. How had I gotten through six months of the year and not found a flat out terrible music video?

And then “Mass Text” was unleashed upon the world. It’s okay for the first 14 seconds of the video, although Tay Allyn, the song’s singer, is texting her crush named “Drew Crush,” but then she sings the first verses of the song.

Why didn't I get your mass text?

Or perhaps you might enjoy the German translation instead.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 11.38.12 PM

The music video then continues with her asking over and over why she didn’t get his mass text because she’s in his contacts. We then see her in a school hallway as Drew Crush and his friends walk by and check all their phones as they get a mass text.

Here’s the first problem: She’s wondering why she didn’t get his mass text, but why is he checking his phone and reading the mass text if he sent it? Unless he sends his mass texts to himself.

Then she looks dejected and plays with Barbie dolls, sings a bit more and then plays with her dog. She then sits in a stairwell and writes the song we are listening to at the very moment.

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 7.12.03 PM

Allyn then sits at lunch, gazing at Drew Crush when her friends come over with the discarded lyrics of “Mass Text” and encourage her to sing at the homecoming dance. As we all know, everyone wants to hear a song about not getting a mass text when they’re awkwardly dancing at the homecoming dance.

A bunch of her friends then get her ready for the dance and the video does that cliche thing where the girl with the glasses removes her glasses and discovers how beautiful she is. The problem is, people viewing the video have already seen her without her glasses on for most of the video.

Glasses off

Allyn then arrives at the dance and performs with her friends, serving as back up dancers. Although the pink fingerless gloves with her light blue dress seems like an odd fashion choice, nothing compares to the bit of choreography that occurs a few moments later where Allyn and her dancers put their hands up to their heads in a phone gesture while she sings “Mass text, mass text.” I’m not aware you can read a text while the phone is up to your ear. Is this a feature available on iPhones?

Mass text

She then leaves her dancers on the stage, continuing to do awkward dance moves, as she walks up to Drew Crush, saying she’ll get his mass text because she’s in his contacts. They kiss, as is inevitable in this music video and then there’s this:


The music video can’t end with us having an image of Allyn and Drew Crush kissing in the context of the dance because she’s going to get his mass text it has to show us her smiling at an iPhone that’s playing video of them kissing.

So I salute you, “Mass Text” for being really bad. I don’t know how it was possible to make such a bad music video.

Monica Goes to Teavana

I went to Teavana on Thursday while at the mall and after trying tea I found a tea I wanted to get a cup of to go. Plus, Starbucks bought Teavana so my Starbucks card works there.
I told the sales associate what tea I wanted and she said “Well, this will be three dollars and some change if you get it as a cup to go. If you buy the loose leaf, you can make 20 cups out of two ounces and it saves money.” The tea was $8 for two ounces, so I asked if I could have one ounce of it.

“Oh, you have to get two ounces of a tea. We have a minimum of two ounces.”

She then gave me a catalog of their teas and I saw Rooibos Chai was $4.80 for two ounces. I asked for two ounces of Rooibos Chai.

“Well, you need to buy one of our tins. They cost $6 and $7. They help protect the tea and make it last for a year.”

“I think I’ll skip the tin.”

“But it’s refillable.”

“I’ll buy a tin some other day.”

“But the tea won’t be as good if you don’t buy this tin.”

“I’m not interested in buying a tin.”

This, by the way, is my favorite part of Teavana’s strategy. According to them, you must buy one of their storage tins for tea or TEA AS WE KNOW IT WILL CEASE TO EXIST. Teavana overall tries to sell you on all of the things they have that are a bit overpriced. You need to prepare tea? You’ll need one of our tea pots, a small one of which will cost you more than $100. You want to prepare tea on the go? Buy a tumbler we have, which will cost you at least $40. And the proper way to brew their tea is to use one of the infusers, which starts at $20. But my favorite part is how they sell their storage tins.

The sales associate scooped up some of the Rooibos Chai leaves and put it in a bag to weigh it. The bag of tea leaves weighed 2.6 ounces.

“That should be okay,” she said.

“No, it isn’t okay,” I said. “I asked for two ounces of Rooibos Chai and that’s 2.6 ounces.” Now, if it had been 2.3 ounces, I wouldn’t have complained. But 2.6 ounces is closer to 3 ounces so I felt I needed to say “That’s too far away from the quantity I asked for.”

“Well, it’s in the bag so I can’t put it back in the tin.”

I bought the tea, which was possibly a mistake. I should have walked out to let them know I don’t appreciate their sales methods. Unfortunately, I really wanted tea and purchased the 2.6 ounces of Rooibos Chai, which is very delicious. This experience is not a unique experience from what I’ve heard, which disappoints me. I like good tea and if Teavana has a tea I’m willing to fork over $16 for in order to obtain just two ounces of it, I would do that if they didn’t have such intimidating business practices. (Teavana does have tea that costs $16 for two ounces) I want to buy my tea in peace without someone trying to hassle me into buying a $20 tea infuser or a $40 travel thermos.
At least the tea is good. On a positive note, it makes me appreciate Argo Tea even more.

Fear of New Flu

(I read this at The Paper Machete on March 10, 2012. With the news of a new strain of bird flu, I felt the time was right to finally post this on my blog.)

According to an article in Tuesday, March 6’s New York Times, essentially the only thing we have to fear in the fight against bird flu, or H5N1, is that amateurs could mutate the virus.

That’s right, amateurs. Not someone at USAMRIID, the army’s biomedical research facility. Not someone at the CDC, but amateurs.

The concern stems from a group of scientists doing experiments where H5N1 was manipulated to a mutant form that spreads easier than it does today. According to the Times’ article, papers on the findings will eventually be published, although no one knows when. According to a November 20, 2011 article by the New York Times, the United States government doesn’t want the exact procedures released in the articles because it could give bioterrorists a how-to guide for creating weaponized H5N1.

The idea of people mutating viruses and bacteria in their basements might seem harmless, but according to the article there is a website called that has D.I.Y. biologists, about 2,000 of them. But if you think of it as a terrorist, there is the problem that too many Americans don’t think of people harmlessly manipulating pathogens in a garage, they think of something much more dangerous.

Let me put it this way: The creation of meth is also a science since the wrong balance or positioning of ingredients can trigger a toxic, dangerous explosion. In a way, meth cooks are also scientists. This, by the way, is not a conclusion I came to by binging on Breaking Bad, but that might have helped. Continue Reading

A Look at Data on Chicago Hospitals


(All data for this post comes from the Illinois Department of Public Health.)

The graph above looks at the amount of charity care given by teaching hospitals in Chicago during the 2011 Fiscal Year. The charity care expenses are for both inpatient and outpatient care. The hospitals were chosen from looking at a list of teaching hospitals from the Illinois Hospital Association and picking hospitals listed as “major teaching.” Both St. Joseph Hospital and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago barely show on this graph due to having only gave 0.7 and 0.3 percent of the respective hospitals’ expenses compared to net revenue going to charity care.

One hospital on this graph has raised a bit of controversy due to its lack of higher charity care amounts. University of Chicago Medical Center, located on Chicago’s South Side, had only 1.2 percent of its expenses compared to net revenue going towards charity care. The following graph shows the charity care amounts over a five year period. (Additional data: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007)


Over this period the amount of charity care given by University of Chicago Medical Center has stayed fairly consistent, only slightly climbing in recent years.


In this figure we see John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Chicago, which had the highest amount of charity care given, receives a majority of its revenue from Medicaid. Stroger Hospital is the main public hospital in Chicago and is operated by the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.


Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which was still Children’s Memorial Hospital during the 2011 Fiscal Year, received a majority of its revenue from private insurance but also received a third of its revenue from Medicaid. This sizable amount could be the result of Illinois’ program to ensure low-income families have insurance for their children.

Lansing Area Residents Protest Wal-Mart’s Treatment of Workers

It’s Thanksgiving in Delta Township, Michigan and the parking lot at Wal-Mart is packed at a little after 9 p.m.. The big box retailer decided to start its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and the consumers have arrived en masse to TVs, toasters and other items.

Wal-Mart is not alone in starting early with Black Friday sales. Toys R Us and Kmart also started at 8 p.m., while Target started an hour later. But the difference between those three stores and Wal-Mart is that they didn’t have protesters, even a small band of them, standing on the outer edge of the parking lot.

Although the group at around 9 p.m. appeared to be less than a dozen, they still stood on on two sides of the road, waving signs informing passing drivers of how a Wal-Mart worker earns wages so low that they have to go on Medicaid and Food Stamps. A United Auto Workers flag was held up and the drivers honked in solidarity. Jason Wilkes of UAW Local 724 led the protest and was pleased with turnout.

“With 3 days turn around [from when he decided to lead the protest], I’m pleased with the turnout,” Wilkes said.

He had no idea how many people would come out.

Wilkes decided to become the “host” for the event after finding out about the planned event from Corporate Action Net, which he said listed events at both Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in the Lansing-area, he decided to “bite the bullet” and become the host. He then informed others of the planned picketing through Facebook and other methods.

Among those that came out was Joshua Levine, an employee at a nearby Steak ‘n Shake who decided to work Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday. Levine is active in trying to support labor causes and turned out at this event, still wearing his Steak ‘n Shake uniform.

“If Wal-Mart changes [their policies], the whole industry could change,” Levine said.

What is possibly Wal-Mart’s biggest competitor in Michigan, Grand Rapids-based Meijer, has employees who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union as well as truck drivers that are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Meijer has prices that are the competitive with Wal-Mart’s prices and features a similar format as a Supercenter.

“[Wal-Mart] could viably unionize, in my mind,” Levine said

Cheryl Overley, another protester, was there with her daughter, Bronwen Overley. Cheryl Overley pointed out that in 2000, butchers at a store in Texas voted to organize, which resulted in Wal-Mart deciding to eliminate butcher department in all of its stores nationwide.

“They’d rather close a department or a store than have unionized workers,” Cheryl Overley said.

In 2005, Wal-Mart closed a store in Jonquière, Que. after the workers voted to organize.

Between 9 and 9:30 p.m., there were no Wal-Mart employees who had walked out of work and actively joined the picket. Wilkes was hoping there would be workers, as that was “the ultimate goal,” but mentioned that there had yet to be any workers turning out.

Levine said that a friend of his is employed by Wal-Mart and active with Organized Union for Respect at Walmart, but had recently been posting about great deals shoppers could get for Black Friday, suggesting that there had been intimidation, which has been reported elsewhere.

Shoppers at the Wal-Mart declined to be interviewed as they were in the parking lot. Wal-Mart’s corporate office could not be reached for comment on the protests and walkouts throughout the country.