Author Archives: Dennis Hong

Can We Be Rational About SeaWorld?

Image by Shalom

I am not taking a black-or-white stance (get it?) on this issue. Instead, I will wade into the muddy gray waters this topic inevitably swirls up. I will weigh the pros and cons as logically as I can. I will share the information my personal research has uncovered, as well as the insights I gained as an educator at SeaWorld. And yes, I will explain why I do ultimately support SeaWorld’s endeavors.

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Sometimes We Need To Be Told That We Suck

Image by Kenny Louie

It’s easy to be inspired by a famous person who pursued their passions and found raging success. We read about how many times JK Rowling’s idea for a magical world of wizards was rejected, or how Tom Brady was a fourth-string quarterback in college. We see how they persevered despite the setbacks. And we think, “Wow, maybe if I just work hard enough at my passion, I can be successful like them, too.”

Well, we can’t all be JK Rowling or Tom Brady. Or Bill Watterson, or even Mike Rowe. Ultimately, these folks had talent. Tons of it. And some of us — actually, the vast majority of us — have to occupy the “sucking” end of the talent spectrum.

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Meeting Someone For The Second Time Is The Most Awkward

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When you meet someone for the first time, you have everything in the world to talk about. Your relationship, whether professional, personal, or romantic, is essentially a blank state. You get a chance to fill that slate with all sorts of wondrous conversations.

And yeah, you rarely have to worry about hugging (assuming you’re an awkward hugger, like me). Handshakes are perfectly acceptable on the first meeting.

But when you meet someone for the second time?

Now, there are expectations (not the least of which is whether or not the other person has upgraded you to hugging level). Here’s a partial list of all the things that can take a turn for the disastrous when you meet someone for the second time:

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If You Don’t Know Me, Don’t Call Attention To My Race

Image by Chris Buecheler

Guy: Soooo… what kind of Asian are you?

Girl (visibly scowling): Uhhh… the American kind?

Obviously, this was not the way to try to start a conversation with a strange woman, let alone hit on her. Let’s face it, this guy’s biggest mistake was… well, everything. But the interesting thing is, she actually tolerated him until he asked about her ethnicity.

So why was that her cue to check out? She put up with everything else (barely) up to that point. Why did this particular question send her darting away?

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Why I Gave Up Teaching

Image by Connie Ma

Today, I breathe a sigh of relief that I managed to escape the teaching profession, that I managed to find a new career where I feel I can still make a difference in the world.

But then, I realize that in expressing myself this way, I’m doing a huge disservice to all the teachers out there.

You see, when I joke that I “escaped” the teaching profession, that implies that those who still teach are stuck, that they’re in a career they hate and can’t get out of.

Nothing could be further from the truth. My teacher friends devote their lives to education not because they’re incapable of doing anything else. They do it because it’s their passion.

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I Almost Missed An Opportunity That Changed My Life

Image by Elizabeth Nemmbers

On some level, we all spend our lives waiting for opportunity. “I’m just waiting for my big break.” “I can’t believe how lucky he got. That guy gets all the breaks.” It’s as though opportunity is this giant metal claw, and we’re toys at the bottom of the carnival machine of life, each of us hoping to be the next lucky one to get snatched up to a better life.

But, this isn’t how opportunity operates. Whether you believe that God, Darwin, or just random blind luck is responsible, opportunity doesn’t just fall onto our lap and whisk us away.

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The Problem Of Modern Medicine

Image by Alex Prolmos

Doctors and modern medicine are the cornerbacks in the game of life. Their job is to play defense, to prevent you from getting sick. And in true cornerback form, when they do their job, you’ll only wonder if you even needed them in the first place. But the one in 100 times that something does goes wrong, boy, will you cry foul.

And that’s why disease prevention is such a tough sell for people. The problem of modern medicine is that people only take notice when it fails us. There’s even a psychological term associated with this state of thinking: negativity bias.

So what can we do about this?

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When Is It Okay To Wear Leggings As Pants?

Proof that the 80s are making a comeback in Paris

The researchers concluded that this is how women show aggression towards other women they see as sexual threats. While men “compete” for women via direct aggression against each other (you know, shot taking, arm wrestling, breaking beer bottles over each other skulls, and any other type of contest that purports to broadcast the length of our penis), women “compete” for men in more indirect ways — by insulting and ostracizing them.

Whether or not you agree with the conclusions of the researchers, this “mean girl” behavior clearly exists. The internet abounds with women hating on other women’s outfits. And worse, it’s considered snarky and witty.

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Of Marriage Proposals And Porn

Image by Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Do you know what happens when you take sex and make it public? You get porn – stuff that people who aren’t getting enough sex drool over, and stuff that people who are sexually fulfilled smirk at, because they know how unrealistic it is.

Similarly, do you know what happens when you take a proposal and make it public? You get engagement porn – stuff that people who aren’t happy with their own relationships drool over, and stuff that people in fulfilling relationships smirk at, because they know how unrealistic it is.

Not that there’s anything wrong with porn.

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Grieving From Afar

Image by James Jordan

I’m really not sure how to refer to this woman. She wasn’t a friend, but then again, “professional acquaintance” seems so… distant. The difference she made in my life was immense, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for her.

And maybe that’s why the whole experience has been… weird. I haven’t shed any tears for this woman, and to claim that I’m distraught would be disingenuous. Yet, I am saddened by her passing. I want to say this to her family. I want to hug her husband and kids and offer my sympathies, to let them know how she touched my life, even so briefly.

Still, it’s not my place to do so.

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“Why Don’t I Receive Much Attention From Men?”

Image by Ed Yourdon

If you’re out with friends, do you look warm and inviting, like you’re having fun and hoping to meet people? Or do you look like you’re stuck someplace you don’t want to be, with people you don’t want to be with?

Start paying attention to your friends who do get attention from guys. How do they stand when they’re out? What sorts of facial expressions are they wearing? Are they smiling and laughing? Or do they stand there with a half-scowl on their face? If they catch a cute guy glancing at them, do they look back and smile? Or do they turn away without acknowledging the guy?

And, oh yeah, stop judging your friends because you think you have the goods and should be the one getting approached. Because, seriously, that’s not attractive.

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I Feel The Same Way About Meetings As My Students Feel About School

Image by Steve Koukoulas

The attitude I have towards teacher meetings is the exact same attitude my students have towards school. Deep down, on some level, they know it’s important for them to be in class, to learn new skills, to attend school every day and graduate.

But, they also know they have time to develop these skills, they have time before they need to graduate. So, they just can’t get themselves engaged in class. And that’s when they start slyly chatting with their classmates whom they haven’t seen in over a month… checking Facebook on their phones… texting people… playing Angry Birds….

I get it now.

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I’m An Awkward Hugger

Image by Matt Zhang

Meeting someone for the first time? Awesome.

What’s not so awesome? Hugging someone for the first time.

I confess, I’m an awkward hugger. To me, there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than going in for that very first hug with someone I’ve recently become friends with.

The problem isn’t the first hug itself. The problem is when to attempt that first hug—when to level up the friendship from handshake / fist-bump / touch-on-the-arm / pat-on-the-back / casual-side-hug to….

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Why You Should Be Worried If You Feel Chemistry On A First Date

Image by Mo Riza

Rapport… chemistry… butterflies… whatever you want to call it, it’s easier to manufacture than most people realize. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easiest to create rapport on a first date, when you have essentially your entire unabridged tome of personal information to draw from, with no fear of accidentally telling the same story twice.

No, to me, real rapport is when you’ve been with someone for a year-and-a-half, and you still look forward to talking to them every night, and you still find exciting things to talk about (and it’s only once every few weeks that you accidentally tell the same story again). That’s chemistry.

And that’s why I believe that if you meet someone who charms your pants off – perhaps literally – on a first date, you should exercise caution.

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I Grew Up Thinking “I Know” Is How You Respond To “I Love You”

han solo 2

As a piece of trivia, the original script actually called for Han to reply, “I love you, too.” However, Harrison Ford didn’t feel that Han, the swashbuckling, fearless bad boy, would ever say something so mushy. So he came up with “I know” on the spot, and romantic history was made.

Of course, as a seven-year-old boy, I wasn’t aware of this subtext. I wasn’t aware of the attitude that Han’s response represented. I just figured that he was expressing love the way men are supposed to express love.

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