Monthly Archives: April 2012

A few more links

•A writer argues that farming with animal products is never environmentally friendly. I don’t know if her analysis holds up (I’ve heard similar criticisms made of farming for a vegan diet) but I thought it was worth reading.
Here’s a twist on the Undead Sexist Cliche that it’s women’s fault if men don’t get their act together: Men aren’t working because they oppose a government that uses taxation to give all their money to lazy women! Which is the rationale one Iowa senator gave for drug-testing women who get child support.
•Conversely, John Calvin reminds us that charity and welfare aren’t about whether the poor are deserving.
•A senator complains that he doesn’t want to legislate, he wants to “message.”
•The head of the Southern Baptist Convention and his charges that the president (and pretty much every other black person who speaks about it) is “politicizing” the Trayvon Martin killing.
•A good post about the Ann Romney controversy, pointing out that our culture doesn’t value either work-at-home or work-outside mothers.
•A Salon article predicts that firing John Derbyshire won’t change the tone of many right-wing publications regarding race.
•Katie Roiphe, enthusiast for sexual harassment, recently got a lot of attention for an article on women’s alleged urge for sexual submission (and what it says about feminism). Two responses critique the article.
•The Founding Fathers were actually okay with medical-insurance mandates.
•Under some voter ID laws, women who change their names after marriage (or divorce) have to prove they’re who they say they are.


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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

How’d I forget to mention—

How nice it feels to be back here with TYG after a weekend apart.
In times past I used to snicker at TV shows where couples were all weepy about being parted for a whole week (waaah!). But being back with her within arm’s reach (not at this exact minute, but in general) feels so wonderful.

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Back among the living though I don’t feel like it just yet

I’ve never shared the opinion of some of my friends that travel, in the last analysis, is an annoying obstacle keeping you from getting home. I like travel. Nevertheless, I feel incredibly happy to be home from my weekend trip and incredibly wiped out, despite the easy drive home today (straight up I-85 from Greenville to Durham. It’s a cakewalk).
The trip itself was great. Courtney and Neil are old friends of mine whom I haven’t seen since my wedding last year, and I’ve never met their charming nine-month-old Baer (happily it turns out he has zero stranger anxiety so we got along great). We played the Culture Quest quiz (sample questions from last year here)—I don’t think my performance was anything to boast of, though—hung out, and visited an excellent local used-book store (picked up a Theodore Sturgeon collection I already have, a vegetarian history and a DVD of Black Orpheus). But fun though it was, I think my lingering over-socialization from last week‘s trip to help out Mum still has me drained (even so I enjoyed myself—no regrets about the visit). Which probably has something to do with why I couldn’t focus my mind on blogging at all this weekend.
But now I’m back, so a couple of items:
•My latest And column is out, dealing with the long-running conservative theme of how mothers who work outside the home are horrible, selfish creatures—after all, it’s not like they need the money, they could be there for their kids if they just pinch a few pennies. My favorite example of this theme (though it didn’t make the article) was the blogger “War Chick” who asserted that if saving money requires selling your house and moving into a trailer, Moms will still discover that being there 24/7 for the kids is worth it (said blogger was about to start her MA degree—the post didn’t explain how she’ll work this into the kids-first lifestyle she claims to revere).
•As I said last month, I decided to try rewarding myself if I made most of my writing goals for this month and see if that improved my performance.
Unsurprisingly, given all the away-time, it didn’t. But I’ll try again for May and see if I do better.
What I did get done: The first draft of Yellow Face and Honor and Glory; five chapters of the rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer; I reviewed and made some changes to Tale Spinners and Leave the World to Darkness based on editor feedback; and finished the ghost-writing job I’ve been working on. I did work on the other goals but not to completion.
On to May and better success!


Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Politics, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Me vs. the bookmarks, round #?

Continuing to whittle down my list of links…
•A useful reminder that when anti-evolutionists say “teach the controversy,” what they mean is “teach Genesis.”
•Roy Edroso has a suggestion for certain conservatives: To prove you’re not racists, just act like a non-racist instead of explaining all the time why your views on black intelligence and black violence are perfectly legitimate and not bigoted at all. Digby suggests Santorum, Gingrich and so forth stop acting like birtherism and “Barack Obama is a secret Muslim” are positions worthy of serious consideration. Gawker critiques Andrew Sullivan’s argument that research into black intellectual inferiority is being covered up by political correctness.
•An example of the “both sides are rotten” theme in journalism. Republicans are anti-woman because they oppose abortion, birth control and that make it easier for women to sue over discriminatory pay; Democrats are anti-woman because they vote against female Republican politicians. One of these things is not like the other …
•Slacktivist takes on Rick Warren’s claim that the church helps the poor more than the government does, and his efforts to reconcile Christianity and capitalism.
•Bring on the crazy! Slacktivist rips into right-wing claims that Obama’s use of “Freedom of worship” is part of an anti-religious plot, and then at the Satanic Nazi Menace!

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Short but intense

And no, I’m not talking about myself or TYG (we’re both 5′ 2″).
This week has been short because I’m once again heading out of town, albeit for fun (visiting some friends) while TYG stays behind for work (I hate that part). So I’ve been squeezing everything into the previous four days, which explains the intensity.
It didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d anticipated. When I got back from last week’s trip and relaxed in TYG’s arms, I felt great. After a day of work, the strain started catching up to me. It’s not so much the physical effort as that I score moderately high as an introvert on the Meyers-Briggs scale: I like socializing, but after a certain point, it drains me (high extroverts, in contrast, get revved up by being around people). And that trip was 3.5 days of constant socialization, on top of the previous weekend’s wedding events. I skipped writer’s group this week because I just ran out of steam dealing with people (I’ve regained enough steam to visit Greenville, don’t worry).
What did I get done?
•Several rewritten chapters of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer.
•Finished the first draft of Yellow Jack and Honor and Glory. Both very rough (my first drafts always are), but they’ll improve.
•The latest draft of Eye of White Cathay looks much better, but it still needs something to punch it up (I’m not sure what).
•My P.G. Wodehouse fantasy, Devil in the Fog (working title only), runs aground near the end. Part of the problem is, my villain’s motivations need clarifying—once I know what they’re trying to do, I’ll be able to figure out what happens.
•I whittled my fiction backlog down to 2.5 hours, compared to 17 at the start of April. I’d wanted to erase the backlog (the accumulation of all the times I haven’t put in 12 hours a week on fiction), but Thursday I realized my fiction-writing was just me staring at the screen and drifting mentally. Better to give up the fight than waste time going through the motions.
•I’m working on another Raleigh Public Record story, this time on food trucks down town (as you’ll see when I link to the story, it’s controversial issue. It was back in Destin, too).
•eHows done (and may I say how nice it is to be working on finance again instead of tech?).
•How to Pay Down a Mortgage or Save for a Dream Home
•How Multiple Credit Card Applications Affect Credit
•Weaknesses in Debt Management
•Sample of Customer Service Skills in Clothing Stores
•The Best Practices for Hiring a Sales Force
•Contingency Plans for Loss of Key Personnel Causing Team Failure
•Criteria for Judging Strategic Performance
•Why Should Performance of Both Nonperforming & High-Performing Employees Be Documented?
•Why Choose a Non Qualified Retirement Plan?
•The 80/20 Rule in Sales Team Performance
•How to Apply for a Second Mortgage

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Today’s batch of links

•The Bush White House tried to destroy a memo labeling “harsh interrogation” for what it was: Torture and war crimes.
•The Conference of Bishops argues that offering workers the option of birth-control insurance coverage is a form of oppression (but now it’s the workers who are oppressed).
•Charles Pierce suggests that the great thing about Holy Week is that authority is the villain.
•Digby scoffs at the idea Paul Ryan and his budget represent the political center.
•The down side of “stand your ground” laws.
•The government has acquired the habit of seizing computers when Americans return from overseas. Particularly when they criticize the government.
Slacktivist: “The Bible is not a Rulebook for Other People. Those who pretend that it is are always, always trying to tell you who it is that you don’t have to love. When that’s your starting point, you’re reading it wrong.”
•Echidne discusses the significance of prostitution’s gendered nature: Women as the workers, men as the customers.
•Why Obama’s JOBS act is more about loosening regulations (and not in a good way) than jobs.
•I haven’t read Ross Douthat’s new book on American religion, so I can’t comment on it. I can, however, link you to people who have read it and are happy to eviscerate it.
•Once again, a Bush official proudly boasts of his willingness to destroy evidence and use torture because he loves America so much.

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And the ebooks will inherit the Earth?

So last week, whenever I got back to my hotel room from working on Mum’s stuff, I logged onto one LinkedIn writing group and participated in a debate over ebooks.
The debate had started with one writer’s glum prediction that we wouldn’t even have libraries in five years as everything went ebook, and that’s something I don’t believe for a minute. Even if ebooks do kill off print publishing, unless libraries replace all their copies with ebooks (and I don’t think the money is there) and used book stores go out of business, books are not going to disappear. Hell, laser-discs are still around, and they never had the market penetration of hard-copy books (or even the VCR).
But in the ongoing debate, I began thinking about the challenges of making predictions about something like this (which I also discussed here).
•Skeptics are often wrong. Hollywood didn’t think TV would become the popular force that it is today. Nobody saw the way cable TV would grow and become so successful either. So maybe in doubting the inevitable triumph of ebooks, I’m kidding myself.
•True believers are wrong too. For all the hype high-definition television gets and predictions how the public would embrace it, my reading for various eHow articles has made me aware that the majority of TV buyers only buy HD sets because that’s all that’s available now.
Likewise, the food industry (and some columnists) have been predicting the death of cooking (frozen/dehydrated/microwavable foods are so much more convenient and scientific!) since the late forties (as detailed in the book Something From the Oven). It hasn’t happened yet.
•Timing is unpredictable. I don’t believe for a minute that print books will be gone in my lifetime, but I may be wrong. Or it might take much, much longer than any of us think, if it happens at all.
•People are unpredictable. The success of ebooks to date may indicate that they’ll end up taking 100 percent, or 90 percent of the market—but maybe not. Maybe it stops at 75 percent, or 40 or 30. Yes, they take up less space than print books, but is that the determining factor? Most opinions I’ve seen (including mine) amount to little more than personal taste.
•Our own viewpoint warps our perceptions. One “ebooks rule!” guy assured me that he never sees anyone in libraries (except at the computers) or bookstores; I see lots. Another commenter said he knows a teenager who says he’ll never read a print book by choice; others wrote in with stories of kids who love to read.
The plural of anecdote is “data” but singular “I knew a person” anecdotes aren’t even that.
•Outside forces play a role. “Well, nobody reads print books any more” could be an excuse for city governments to shut up libraries and save money, whether or not it’s true. Or if Amazon could convince publishers that print is a money-loser and they should switch to ebooks ASAP, that would change things big-time (I’m sure Jeff Bezos would love to kill off bricks-and-mortar stores for good).
•Technical changes play a role too. The few ebooks I’ve bought are those I could download to my laptop as PDFs or save from Gutenberg in Word. I can’t look at spending $80 on a Kindle as anything but a waste (for me—no disrespect intended to those who do), but I already have a laptop (though as long as they’re priced comparable to paperbacks, I’ll probably stick with paperbacks).
•Piracy. Techdirt says that despite Internet piracy, book publishing revenues are growing. I’m not so sure if that’s true for authors, though: If I lose 150 ebook sales to piracy, that might be inconsequential to my publisher’s bottom line, but it’s quite a big deal for me (though I still think SOPA is a bad idea).
In short, I’m not sure how much impact ebooks will have and how it will work out in the long run. But I don’t think anyone else does either.


Filed under Personal, Writing

Early morning linkage

Hopefully a non-linkage post will follow later in the day.
•Several good points about regulation on Slacktivist.
•FAIR catches the New York Times complaining there’s no single spokeswoman for all of feminism and points out that feminism really doesn’t need one (but having one would make reporting on women’s rights easier for the NYT). It reminds me of an observation by Echidne (I don’t have the link) about how much NYT reporting on the women’s movement goes in the “Style” section or discusses personalities of prominent leaders (or better yet, their feuds!) rather than issues. Another writer points out that the NYT’s ethics columnist feels fine setting up a panel entirely composed of white males to judge a contest.
•A feminist blogger on the insanity of our current abortion/sex policies and the enthusiasm of some right-wingers’ to value the rights of a fetus, but not the mother. Digby reports on one woman’s experience with laws that won’t let her abort, even though her baby can’t live (it died after 15 minutes). And while Nebraska supports fetal rights, it’s governor refuses to provide prenatal care for illegal aliens. Of course, lack of care harms those fetuses the state is so concerned about protecting … but I guess that protection only matters when it lets the state control the mother.
•Astonishingly, lawyers evaluating judges are influenced by the judge’s race and gender.
Lawyers, Guns and Money on the constitutionality of the Obama health-care law.
•Federal challenges to the Texas voter-ID law are met by Texas declaring that what legislators said when coming up with the law is a state secret. In Pennsylvania, most college ID cards don’t meet the voter ID law.
Censorship in Arizona and in Thailand.
•Conservative SC Governor Nikki Haley assures TV viewers that the issue in the current contraceptive mandate is that women don’t want government mandating they use birth control. Which is, of course, not the issue as government isn’t mandating any such thing.
•Police dogs make mistakes because they want to make their handlers happy.
•David Atkins reminds us that partisanship isn’t necessarily a sign of dysfunctional government, it’s a sign of political disagreement, and centrism is not a miracle cure.
•The Catholic hierarchy likes to claim that it’s been cracking down on pedophile priests since the scandal broke. Not so much.
•David Brooks defends Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Charles Pierce eviscerates David Brooks. (While I don’t have the link handy, I’ll mention the best description of Ryan, from Hullabaloo: “In his heart he’s a 14 year old boy hoping for a Penthouse forum moment with Dagny Taggart.”) Another critique of Brooks’ math, here.

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Filed under economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Whittling down some bookmarks

•The New Yorker looks at our fondness for locking people up, and the possible reasons (racism, procedural rules, the prison-industrial complex).
•The Catholic Church has been shut out of federal contracts for helping sex-trafficking victims, due to its refusal to assist them with contraceptives or abortion.
•From a month ago, Charles Pierce contemplates the idea that the Trayvon Martin case (and Jim Crow and slavery and the Civil War before it) has nothing to do with race.
•A reminder of how hard it is to survive on minimum wage. At the other extreme, no matter how much you have, someone always has more.
•Counterterrorism trainers inform the FBI the real enemy is Islam, and that they shouldn’t hesitate to break the law.
•The clown code of conduct.
•Paul Krugman explains why Obamacare is not like forcing Americans to eat broccoli.
•Slacktivist argues that mercy is necessary for divine justice.
•Craig’s list founder weighs in on voting restrictions (he’s not a fan).

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Filed under economics, Politics

Timor mortis conturbat me

This past week, as my sister observed to me, was not fun.
It’s been good seeing her and my mum, mum’s partner and her kids (who are friends of mine) but too much work moving boxes, packing, unpacking, helping mum with other stuff to be relaxing or enjoyable (lifting boxes of books is Hard Work). And the stress of seeing Mum weary and tired and not in the best health (though she has improved a lot in the excellent assisted-living facility she now occupies).
It was productive, though: We got almost everything shipped, moved to her house or donated, and none of us have to feel we were sharper than a serpent’s tooth.
The week also touched upon both my past and my present. The past in the form of all the photos mum has of her younger self, my dad in his younger days, their friends, their parents. The letter from J. Edgar Hoover to my great grandmother on the FBI’s failure to find one of my great-uncles (we never knew what happened to him after he went to the US). My Grandad’s letter to Granny worrying she was getting cold feet about the wedding. Intellectually I know all my relatives were people with lives that weren’t defined by being my relatives, but it’s still a surprise to see the proof.
There’s also the odds and ends I brought back with me. A half-million-year-old rock. A 1931 book on household management that includes advice on letter-writing, calling cards (if you arrive at a house on a day other than the mistress’ “at home day,” it’s not a lie if the servants tell you she’s not at home), coping with smallpox and making sheep’s head soup (no, it’s not a metaphor).
And then there’s the future. Or the possible future, the unsettling thought that as our parents are now (I know from discussion I wasn’t the only one with this thought) so we will be in time.
It’s more complicated than that, of course. A lot of their health issues are not hereditary. And I know I do things such as eating healthy, exercising and not smoking that my mother did not.
But I don’t know how much that makes a difference and how much Mum (and her partner) suffer just from age and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. And I could certainly come down with my own individual non-hereditary issues by the time I approach her age.
So maybe I’ll wind up with as heavy a regimen medicine and as limited a physical capacity. I’ve no way to tell, and I find the possibility a scary one.
On the plus side, it’s a lot less scary now that I have TYG. Life is so much more wonderful with her around, not only supporting me when I feel stressed or worried, but just being there. With her in my life, I can look at the future and feel confident that whatever happens, it’s going to be worth living.


Filed under Personal