Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your Hilarious Easter Photo For The Day

You're welcome.  :)

(No, I don't know this child.  I just pulled this off the 'net.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Longest Weeks Of The School Year

In order:
1) the last week of school
2) the first week of school
3) the week before Christmas break
4) the week before spring break

Yup, we're hanging in there..... *takes deep breath*

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

And This Month's Non-Existent Editing Award Goes To....

... this little gem I found on Yahoo:

"Alt-folk singer Michelle Shocked incited a mass walk-out during her concert Sunday after launching into an anti-gay-marriage diatribe that incited a mass walkout, Yahoo! reports."

Can I just scream at the screen now?
I have 7th graders who can and do write better than this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


So, I was experiencing some odd shortness of breath earlier this week, and I stopped at the local Instacare -- and actually got a likable doctor who appeared to be competent!  (I've had a few highly questionable experiences with doctors at this place, and I could see the one doctor I really don't like lurking about in the background.)

Him (as he's running a stethoscope over my chest): So, you're a teacher, huh?  What grade?
Me (smirking, because I know what will follow my answer): Junior high.
Him (pulling back and rolling his eyes): Oh!  You are a SAINT!!

Note: it's always either sainthood or insanity applied to me when a stranger learns what age group I teach.  Always.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Women Earn Even Less In Utah

I read this yahoo article online a couple of days ago.  It discusses the earning gap between men and women in the US.  Plus, it lists the worst place in the US for women to attempt to earn a "man's" wage: the Provo-Orem area of Utah.
Well, no surprises that the valley behind the Zion Curtain is still trying to pretend it's the 1950s, or, to be more correct, the fictional 1950s as portrayed on TV shows.  Actually, in a way it's almost surprising that the statistics weren't worse than this (a woman's salary there average 61% of a man's) -- at least some women have paying jobs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing Problems I Never Worry About

I read lots of tweets and blogposts from unpublished and/or self-published writers who stress over things that have never bothered me much.  I guess that being a school teacher puts me in a great spot for self-publishing.
1) Finding beta readers.  Oh my, but people do go on and on about this one.  Tweets, blogposts, online writers' groups, offline groups.  Wow.
Honestly, I never worry about it.  I just pick the desired age group and choose either current or former students (or both).  For The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay (still not quite ready for the betas, who are really more like gammas or deltas at this stage), I simply sent out a sign-up sheet in my two upper-level 7th grade classes.  I got 19 volunteers in about 6 minutes.
How will this help other writers?  Simple.  Contact a someone who teaches English or creative writing for your desired age group.  You'll have ready-made readers.
2) Finding editors and copy editors.  *eye roll*
I'm an English teacher, so perhaps that taints my view here, but I'm of the opinion that if a writer cannot find 90% of her/his own mistakes by reading and re-reading the manuscript (10 to 12 times, AT LEAST, people!), then that person needs to do some serious study of the English language, its grammar and punctuation.
After that, sending the work through 5 or 6 different beta readers should capture 90% of any plot weaknesses and remaining typos.  An editor or copy editor, then, should be a good set of fresh eyes who can catch the little problems that remain.  (For me, that tends to be overuse of certain words.)
I use other English teachers.
Of course, I'm willing to put the work in first.  So many writers right now think they can put out good work in a few months.  Usually they can't.  And it shows.
My advice to other writers?  Study English grammar and punctuation, go over your drafts a dozen times before you get readers, then contact an English teacher or two -- even if they charge you, it'll be less than another editor.
(P.S. I had a writer just the other day tell me she would NEVER use an English teacher because a teacher would be too concerned with "correctness" instead of "voice."  I wanted to smack this person.  You know, I have an MSc in literature.  I do know the difference between voice and just really bad writing.  Interestingly enough, I got a free kindle copy of one of this person's books, and it was so bad I couldn't even make it through more than 3 chapters.  Yeah, she needs to stop avoiding English teachers and get back to the books herself!)
3) Covers.  I'm fortunate enough to be the daughter of an artist and to have a rich background in understanding visual arts.  I know what I want, and if I can't create it myself, I know people who can.  And, Max, fortunately, actually enjoys the process of formatting covers (and will work for food, so we're good).
With book trailers, I just provide our lovely librarian/computer guru at school with the pics, the royalty-free music, and the script, and he does the rest.  It's awesome.
Advice to other writers?  You don't necessarily have to pay a grundle for artwork.  There are LOTS of freelance graphic designers out there.   Contact your local community college or find a silk-screen printing shop, look at the graphic artist's work and see if you can agree on a price.
Or buy something off a photo site and do it yourself.
4) Formatting for Kindle and Createspace was a problem at first -- until I spoke with a handy helper at my favorite Mac store.  Within about 10 minutes, he'd found the formatting info I needed, and everything got a LOT easier.

I read many complaints about the costs of self-publishing, but, honestly, I use the barter system, so all I really end up paying for is publicity (free books, ads, swag, etc.).
Beta readers will do it for free, copy editors require a free book or tee shirt, Max gets taken out to lunch.  Really, it's not a bad system.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Situational Irony At The Breakfast Table

Irony is eating a piece of leftover pizza while reading a cookbook of fat-free recipes.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Attempting Aristotlean Logic With The Utah State Legislature

Many sane Utah citizens fear the days each winter when the Utah State Legislature meets.  We eagerly check the news each morning to see what idiocy has unfolded and what our unvenerated lawmakers are going to make us deal with next.  Today's little newslette item is a fine sample of why things are so messed up in Utah.
So today, someone wanted to pass a bill to make cock fighting a felony.  And, before the vote, Rep. Allen Stephenson (Republican -- of course -- from North Ogden) was asked to explain why he opposed the bill.  He had this to say:

"In a state where we can still allow people to kill their babies, we want to make it a felony to let chickens fight — the purpose for which they were raised," Christensen said. "It’s not beautiful, it’s not wonderful or any such thing."

What the heck?!
Even by Utah standards, this makes no sense, whether you are for or against abortion rights and/or for or against cockfighting.

Now, I teach my students how to make a logical argument in their writing (Stephenson would utterly fail my class with this kind of garbage), and the most advanced kids study classic Aristotlean syllogisms.
A syllogism is a pattern for a logical argument.  For a valid, true, deductive syllogism, the pattern goes thusly:
A= B
B = C
Therefore, A = C.

Using words, it looks like this very familiar set up:

Socrates is a man.  (A = B)
All men are mortal.  (B = C)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.  (A = C)

A more modern example might look like this:

Alexis is a swimmer.
Swimmers are athletes.
Therefore, Alexis is an athlete.

Simple, right?
Let's attempt to place Rep. Stephenson's "logic" into the pattern and see how well it stacks up.

Infanticide is bad.  (A = B)
In Utah, abortion is sometimes legal.  (C sometimes = D.)
Therefore, cockfighting is OK.  (Therefore, E = F.)

Um..... no.

Wait.  Let's assume that Stephenson simply confused his terms.  When he said, "killing babies," which is infanticide, perhaps he actually meant, "terminating a pregnancy by killing a fetus," which is abortion.  Let's try his "logic" with those terms:

(In his opinion) Abortion is bad. (A= B.)
Abortion is sometimes legal in Utah.  (A sometimes = C.)
Therefore, cockfighting is OK.  (Therefore, D = E.)


Watson, the only possible deduction here is that this man is clearly incapable of making a logical argument.  From this we may infer that he is unlikely to be fit to serve as a lawmaker.

Stephenson is illogical.
Illogical people are unfit to make good laws.
Therefore, Stephenson is unfit to make good laws.

And, logically, you, my dear reader, will now understand why the sane fear the days of the legislature.  Idiots + power = bad news.

Logically. :D

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Need A Pack Mule

Things load into the car for school tomorrow:
1) new can of Aqua Net
2) a cheap prop rapier and bastard sword
3) a bag of Smarties
4) my brother's vintage 1978 ski bibs and parka
5) a stuffed rat hand puppet and an over-sized stuffed flea
6) a five-foot tall teddy bear
Oh, and well, you know, lunch, a water bottle, my gradebook -- the usual.

Really, all this makes sense if you spend much time in a junior high school.  I promise.