Posted in Culture, Marmoset, sociology

Superstition Part II – Black Cats

Charles Piscitello Ed.D

Happy Black Cat Day!  According to

Cats in ancient Egypt were revered highly, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats. Cats of royalty were known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat right off their owners’ plates. The goddess of warfare was a woman with the head of a cat named Bastet.


Alternatively in American Culture, it is bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.  Around Halloween time we see cartoon witches usually accompanied by their trusty black cat.  So the superstition behind the black cat isn’t entirely alien to us in America.

I began to wonder about the superstition surrounding our furry little friends a four years ago, when my sister was kind enough to host my first child’s baby shower.  Sicilians love gatherings because it gives black-catthem the opportunity to make cookies, and they love making cookies.  My sister, also loves pets, including her two black cats.

One lady refused to attend the baby shower because she heard that my sister indeed owned a couple black cats.  The lady refused even when she was ensured that the cats would be in cages in another room.

So, why are cats at the very least viewed as bad luck if they cross your path or even highly taboo for some people? lists a couple reasons why Italians would fear black cats, here are a few:

At one time the Catholic Church considered cats to be witches’ familiars or
transformed witches, always up to no good.

This is consistent with the Italian witch superstition  illustrated in Italian Superstition Part I – Toccare le palle, since witches had the power to curse a family with the “evil eye,” which rendered the males sterile.  Furthermore, the article states:

During the Middle Ages there was a flurry of superstition and cats were hung from trees and immediately killed on sight because they were suspected of being witches or witches’ familiars. This ultimately was a primary cause of the wide spread of the Black Death or Bubonic Plague in Europe because the rodent population boomed due to the natural predators of the rodents having been killed.

And specifically:

In Italy long ago if a black cat lay upon the bed of a sick person it meant that person would die.

According to which stated that in the middle ages anyone who saw a cat cross their path would

threw rocks at the furry feline until the helpless injured creature scurried out into a woman’s house, who at the time was suspected of being a witch


The belief of witches transforming themselves into black cats in order to prowl streets unobserved became a central belief in America during the Salem witch hunts. Even today the association of black cats and witches holds strong during Halloween celebrations, despite the holiday’s religious beginnings.  Thus, an animal once looked on with approbation became a symbol of evil omens in some parts of the World.

So an association with death, illness, and witches (sterility) created the superstition with many ethnic groups which brought the superstition here to the states.

It is always interesting to see the origins of superstition, we can see a link between word events, religion, values, and culture through how people perceived what is good or evil, lucky and unlucky.

Posted in Culture, education, Marmoset, sociology

Cyber Hybrid Culture Ground Rules

Charles Piscitello Ed.D

After writing my first post about the cyber hybrid culture – all hell broke loose on Facebook as it usually does.  A close friend posted a sensitive political topic about something one of the candidates “said.”  People replied with angry polarizing political posts which triggered more angry polarizing responses, and a Facebook war ensued.

I was easily sucked – posting a derogatory comment about one of the political parties “Sucking at life” because their politics was anti-life.

This triggered a young man who I don’t know personally in the face-to-face world spending the rest of the day attacking my comment (and me).  Other people began attacking him and so on.  This of course translated to people discussing these online interactions in the real face-to-face world.  Most of the people who approached me told me that they enjoyed my comments, thought they were funny, and “wanted to give me a hug for speaking up.”  But I’m sure there were many other people who avoided me because of those same comments.

In reflecting with another groups of online students through their online discussion forum, I decided that social media does not have a set of etiquette ground rules or a “netiquette” policy as it is commonly referred to in distance education.  So with that, I decided to brainstorm a set of social media ground rules:

a.) Avoid trolling, don’t start trouble because not all people know you, your personality, or sense of humor.

b.) Don’t answer attacks with anger, just present logical points or refuse to answer.

c.) Unfollow people you don’t want to see, unfreind people who are not your friends, and block people who are nasty to you.

d.) Use social media to share, network, and interact – avoid the rest of the junk.

I’m sure that much can be added to this list, but it’s a nice start in my pursuit in bridging the gab between our face-to-face world and our cyber world.  Many of these social media wars create real life social divisions in business, schools, church, and anywhere else people congregate.  It is important to understand that these worlds are connected and we must act accordingly.

Posted in Culture, education, sociology, Uncategorized

Cyber Hybrid Culture (Part 1)

Charles Piscitello Ed.D

When reading my students’ discussion responses to “how social media brings us together and tears us apart,” I began to think about how we now must live in a cyber hybrid culture.

By cyber hybrid culture, I mean that in our culture we must live life in our face-to-face world while living on social media, email, and online courses.  I’ve noticed inconsistency in our presentation of self between the real world and our cyber world.

Similar to my teaching and instructional design experience in creating a hybrid/blended courses where online time supplements face-to-face time, we attempt to create the right balance between the face-to-face element and the online element.  Inexperienced hybrid/blended instructors simply try to squeeze their face-to-face course into a smaller amount of time with the same content online.  In this case, students feel that the online content is pointless busy work.

Instructors must learn to provide adequate content in the online portion and utilize the face-to-face time in a new and unique way to deliver a dynamic learning experience with knowledge of the content provided online.

smartphone-and-coffeeWe see this with exposure to social media, many times I see a classmate from college or high school, and the conversation is awkward and short.  We already know all about all the important news, babies, jobs, education, and other big life events.  With that, there is simply nothing new to talk about and we lose out on a key part of being a social being.

When done correctly, social media provides information which triggers discussion, talk radio hosts poke and prod their audience for topics and ministers can gain insight about their congregation.  At a quick glance of my smart watch, I learn a morsel of news and can tie it to face-to-face class discussion.

But most of the time, social media creates awkward social interaction, by removing an individual from the room as everyone is interacting with people who are not in the room.  We replace face-to-face conversation at the dinner table with people poking at their phone, for the same Facebook content that they’ve already read a number of times already.


As a society we are still in our infancy in blending our face-to-face and online worlds.  We must find ways to better utilize the online world without compromising our face-to-face real time interactions.

Literature review coming soon.



Posted in arnoldfest, arnoldfest2016, Culture, Health and Fitness, supplements

Suplement Sample Test – Ion

After the 2016 Arnold Fest I received this text message from my friend who attended with me.   So of course, this was moved to the top of my supplement test list.


Warning, if this is in your stash from this year’s Arnold Fest, please note, there are two servings.

With that being said, I used it twice, for my leg day on Wednesday, and back day on Friday.  I don’t think I felt the same kick as my friend, I felt a mild boost before both workouts.  I feel that there was an also kick of endurance as I continued with my workout.  The product description on states:

PERFORMIX ION embodies the PERFORMIX promise. ION uses the most advanced Multi-Phase Bead nutrient delivery system, precision engineered with ballistic Terra Intelligent Beads to disperse hard hitting ingredients in stages throughout your workout. Unlike any other pre-workout, ION releases a 2nd wave during your workout with a flood of additional anti-catabolic and metabolic energy stimulants to push you through. This innovative multi-phase system is designed to get you started, keep you going and finish strong when all others fail.*

Which is how a marketing team would write my review in their attempt to sell this product.  I would like to try a whole container to see if these continues after a few weeks.

I feel that all pre-workout supplements feel great at first and then we simply become immune to the effects of the new latest and greatest ingredient.   I did like the small servings, which you get 45 in a container, with an option of four flavors.  But with a regular price of $69, and a current sale price of $59, this stuff better work.

We’ll see what pre-workout wins my love this year.  Back to my pile of supplement samples.


Posted in arnoldfest, arnoldfest2016, Culture, Health and Fitness, Marmoset, supplements

Arnold fest 2016

Yet another Arnold fest, and another stash of supplement samples, as always, I will attempt to share my opinion about each sample via this blog.

Pretty nice stash, we went on a Sunday this year, which helped with the crowd issues this made the experience much more pleasant.  There were still many annoyances like people with babies in carriers and people with oversized backpacks.  Not to mention the little guys showing off their new “muscles,” with the best in bodybuilding and powerlifting in the room is silly – put a shirt on!

Best Vender Booths 

I’ve received millions of shirts before at Arnold Fest, never socks, I really love my MusclePharm socks and shaker bottle.

  I liked that bodyfortress    used the sign in process to test their product using one of the biggest R&D labs you can find, giving us two flavors of protein – Peanutbutter and Jelly vs. Mango Habanero (which was fantastic) to choose from having the testers vote for their favorite.  The also gave us weight belt key chains and “swole mate” tee shirts for you and a friend.

But overall, the best booth was Optimum Nutrition  which gave away tons of Gold Standard and Isolate protein packets, pre workout samples, BCAA samples, and a t-shirt, I was tempted to go back through again.

Sample Review: 

VPX Redline 7 hour shots are usually the first things I try.  I love them, I made sure to wait for the morning because I know how powerful these things are.  Always a great pick-me-up provides endless energy.  This specific energy shot caught my attention because there was no added color.

I paired the Optimum Nutrition Protein Water with my morning energy shot.  On face value seems like like a good idea, easy to drink, people who have issue with whey can take this product without issue, and an easy source of 20 grams of protein and 4.5 BCAAs.  But with any non-whey protein isolate, the odd, tongue numbing aftertaste is there.  These are okay sometimes, but by no means would this replace my whey protein on a daily basis.


Posted in Uncategorized

Italian Superstition Part I – Toccare le palle


I really started thinking about Italian superstition when I was at an Italian wedding with my parents and now wife.  My mother leaned over, and whispered into my ear

 “Toccare le palle”


“touch your nuts”

I did.  I giggled.  My wife asked me “what was so funny,” so I told her

“my mom asked me to touch my man parts.”

She asked


I told her

Italians believe that if a “witch” is giving you the “evil eye,” you have to touch yourself, to ward off the powers of said “evil eye.”

When I said this in English, it sounded silly, So I had to do a little research.

The evil eye or “malocchio”  noted in Dundes (1992) who references Italian folklore scholar Giuseppe Pitre explains that

In Italian scholarship there has always been an avid interest in the “jettatura” (curse of the evil eye, whereby all that the cursed looks upon will suffer bad luck), which is cast via a spell either because they envy the wellbeing of others or because they desire that evil befall them.”

In the presence of the evil eye curse, or the fear that it might appear, there are many words trinkets, and gestures to avert or exorcise the evil eye curse. The most common is the extension of the index and little fingers on one or both hands while bending the others inward, to resemble horns.  Another is when you see an individual spit when a “lady of easy virtue” stares at him (Dundes, 1992).  The crotch grab is intended to block the evil eye curse to a man’s genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset – the future fruit of a man’s loins (Lapidos, 2008).

Some common trinkets (either in plastic or a precious metal) Italians wear or carry to protect from the bad luck generated from the maloccio are; un “corno,” which is shaped like a horn, a small hand making the horns gesture, or a “humpback” a little man with a horn as his lower half, in a tuxedo and a top hat, holding a horseshoe making a horns gesture.


If you have any more Italian superstitions, feedback, corrections, arguments or whatever, please post below.  I plan on posting more about different Italian wives’ tales along with any other random ideas about culture, society, and technology on my blog

Chuck Piscitello Ed.D

Dundes, A. (1992). The evil eye: a casebook. Madison : University of Wisconsin Press.

Lapidos, J. (2008). Retrieved from Can’t Touch This – Why Italians grab their crotches to ward off bad luck.:

Posted in Uncategorized

Discussion Thread Best Practices

discussion thread

An online discussion thread can provide a great opportunity for interaction that can potentially be lost in an online college setting, providing students the opportunity to voice their opinion in a comfortable and safe place.  But, sometimes instructors lose sight of the point of these assignments, depriving students the true benefit of discussion boards.  Here are some best practices that can help an online instructor design discussion threads that will improve student involvement and enthusiasm when interacting on discussion boards.  This document provides some examples and best practices from real teachers.

TIP #1

Address the need for a discussion thread:  In Hew, Cheung, and Ling Ng’s (2010) student contribution in asynchronous online discussion, they review factors leading to limited student contribution and various guidelines to improve online discussion threads.   They noted some best practices in ensuring that discussion threads are not just busy work.  Many of these ideas I discuss in greater detail below.

    1. Select discussion topics directly related to students’ main curriculum.
    2. Make online discussion activity mandatory or give incentives (e.g. grades).
    3. Provide added value in the discussion threads, like learning resources such as websites directly related to the main curriculum.
    4. Give students clear expectations of the purpose of the online discussion as well as instructor expectations.
    5. Use ground rules.
    6. Use controversial topics

TIP #2

Be specific in what you want from the student; many times new online/hybrid teachers have an idea in mind, and just post a simple question in the discussion thread.  We must always keep the student in mind; you are the subject matter expert, but your students are not.  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Kathy Hawker’s NRS402 Informatics for Clinical Judgment class.  Please note the great level of detail she provided her students, the due date and examples of what she expects in an answer and in a peer response.  This helps us hold our students to a higher standard.

Discussion Question

Discuss the benefits of using standardized terminologies within the EHR and what standardized terminology would be most beneficial in the exchange of data?

Discussion Requirements/Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Discuss the topic above in your posting.  Your post should be at least 250 words with at least one scholarly reference.  The reference should follow the end of your discussion in APA format.

2. Post your discussion by Thursday July 17th @ 11:59 PM

3. Read a selection of classmates postings and consider how their postings reflect/differ from your own perceptions, experiences, and opinions.  Respond to at least 2 classmates.  Your response post should be at least 100 words, with at least one scholarly reference supporting your response.  The reference should follow the end of your discussion in APA format

4. Post your 2 discussion responses to classmates by Saturday July 19th @ 11:59 PM

Suggested ways/ideas for response to classmates

* Suggest why you might see things differently

* Ask a probing or clarifying question

* Describe how the discussion topic would ultimately increase the quality of patient care

* Identify and explain a new practice insight gained from reading this discussion

* Offer and support an opinion

TIP #3

Tie the discussion thread directly to the material; make sure to align the discussion thread to the course objectives and unit objectives.  This should help the students understand why they are doing the assignment, and not interpret the assignment as just “busy work”.  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Charity Smith’s Human Growth and Development Class.

Discussion 3: Early Maturation and Vulnerability

In Chapter 3, we learn about the risks inherent to early maturation in young girls. Several ideas are presented, in terms of potential outcomes, including an increased risk for smoking/drinking, depression, eating disorders, and early sexual experiences/promiscuity.

What factors do you believe contribute to these potential outcomes?

Given that young girls are reaching menarche earlier than in previous generations, what types of prevention programs would you create in order to address these issues?

Remember: Initial responses must be 100 words and you must reply to at least two of your classmates’ posts (50 words each).

TIP #4

Make it interesting; choose a discussion that you want to have.  Although your textbook may have some good questions, try to spice up your discussion questions.  These are college students, make them think!  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Mike Polnik’s Medical Ethics course.

A 33-year-old male swallows 30 antidepressants and tells his wife, “I want to die.” She takes him to the local hospital’s emergency department where he is treated and released that same evening. In the hospital parking lot he pushes a security guard and is arrested and taken into custody. In the county jail a nurse places the man on suicide watch. The following evening, while still in custody, a psychologist speaks to the man for five minutes, then releases him from suicide watch. The man is returned to his cell and two hours later he hangs himself.

Does the emergency department have liability for discharging a suicidal patient without further treatment?

Does the psychologist have liability for releasing the patient from suicide watch after a five-minute consult?

The psychologist is and “independent contractor” of the jail. Is the county liable for his actions?

TIP #5

Use multimedia!  Link or embed a YouTube video to the discussion that you would show in a face-to-face class, have the students discuss specific questions about the movie.  Here is an example from Chuck Piscitello’s Introduction to Sociology class:

The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

Why do you think the participants listened to the authority figure and continued to shock an innocent man?  In the original Milgram experiments, over 65% of participants went all the way to 450 volts, in the above 2009 version of the Milgram experiment, 75% of participants went to 450 volts.  Why do you think there was such a sizeable increase in people willing to listen to authority in the more current version of the experiment?  Do you feel that this experiment explains authority relationships in the medical field?  Why or why not?

Tip #6

Interact with your students online.  In Hew, Cheung, and Ling Ng’s (2010) student contribution in asynchronous online discussion, they review factors leading to limited student contribution and various guidelines to improve online discussion thread.   They noted that we must use instructor facilitation techniques such as:

    1. Identify areas of agreement/disagreement
    2. Seek to reach consensus/understanding
    3. Encourage, acknowledge or reinforce student contributions
    4. Focus the discussion on specific issues
    5. Confirm understanding through assessment and explanatory feedback
    6. Diagnose misconceptions to enhance knowledge constructions

Tip #7

Make the assignment worth it!  If the point value seems like the students can blow it off…they will.  I’ve seen many instructors make the discussions a percentage of their grade, but each thread in the end was only worth five points each; please avoid.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dissertation so far



So, for the most part, the most nerve raking part of the process for me is over, I wrote my first chapter, where I complained about how most academics are not willing to try new technology let alone incorporate it into their classroom, I found some literature for chapter two that provided a history to technology, education, and technology in education, and a focus on the iPad in education.  I discussed my method in chapter three.  Defended my proposal, the IRB was accepted and all of my results are in.

I am now in the process of analyzing my data and writing chapter four, I feel that my findings provide good insight on how to approach technology integration (in this case the use of iPad, but any tech integration works).  I’m excited but a little sad that it’s almost over.

That’s all I have so far, just wanted to write about something today, when I really should be writing chapter four.

Posted in Uncategorized

Thirty Seven


I’ve been obsessed with the number 37 for many years.  The source of my obsession stems from Kevin Smith, in the original Clerks movie, the scene where Donate and Veronica argued over the amount of people they’ve been with (up to and including each other).  In a childish, sexual way, the number 37 was part of my life.  I started to notice the number 37 popped up everywhere, at least once or twice a day.  I grew up in Maple Heights Ohio and the zip code is 44137.  My dad was born in 1937.  My birthday is January 11th, 111, three times 37 is 111, and 37 is the root of all triple numbers,  6×37 is 222, 9×37 is 333, 12×37 is 444, and so on, so any triple number also represents 37. 

In my 20s, I worked in a convenience store during college and graduate school.  I worked with another Kevin Smith fan, who at the time was my manager Josh, who since then has become my very close friend. We worked in a store that was grossly understaffed by a variety of odd people.  The convenience store was enough of a connection to Clerks and Smith’s movie where the movie was a common theme in our daily lives, as was the daily reoccurrence of the number 37.  The number 37 almost had a calming effect on us in our daily stressful work lives.  Every time we would notice the number 37, we would make a point to tell each other, followed by another quote from the movie, usually, “in a row.” 

I have been out of the retail world for almost four years, and I’ve noticed 37 pop up in new, very different ways.  I go to two churches, my Roman Catholic Church which I belonged to since I was a kid, which I attended with my mom weekly.  And a Nazarene church which my wife has been a part of since she was a teenager.  In the past year, the old pastor from her church (it’s our church, but, it’s easier to explain which one I’m talking about with stating it’s either mine or hers) was called to do something else, providing us a new, pastor.  Pastor Mike’s first sermon was based on Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God” (ESV) and has come up multiple times in many of his sermons.

“For nothing will be impossible with God,” has been integral to my life over the course of the last year (1:37) in helping me overcome many of the monkey wrenches, kitchen sinks, and fecal matter at the fan the life has thrown my way.  So, “in a row,” this year I’ve experience my good friend Josh being diagnosed with stage four cancer, I was laid off from my full-time job in July, and my mother passed away one month before her 75th birthday in September, all while teaching as an adjunct instructor at three schools and attempting to write my dissertation. 

If I did not have faith in God, and did not believe that (1:37) “For nothing will be impossible with God,” I don’t know how I would have reacted to this chain of events.  I cannot say that any of these events were easy, but I know I could have not done it alone.  So, some will say this is a stretch, that I can take a silly dirty joke from a Kevin Smith movie and translate it to God’s message which gives me comfort, which gives me faith that through Him, we’re going to be okay.  It could be a stretch, that God knew to communicate that message to me at an early age, in a way that I would pay attention, in a way that would perk my interests and transform it to something meaningful, because, 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”