Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop Using the #Rword

Words are powerful. Whoever said "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" was a very stupid person. The bones broken by sticks and stones heal; the damage done by words doesn't.

How often have you heard, or used, the words "retard" and "retarded" today? Do you realize what you're saying when you use those words?

We've come a long way from the days when "idiot," "moron" and "retard" were clinical terms used to categorize people with mental retardation. We now understand that these people have a mental handicap, that their brains develop at a slower pace than "normal" brains, etc. (I'm no psychologist or expert, so I'm going to stop there before I put my foot in my keyboard.) Now, the words "idiot" and "moron" are part of our daily vocabulary and very few people think about the connection to MR patients decades ago. Unfortunately, because the condition is called "mental retardation", we can't separate "retard"/"retarded" from "mental retardation" the way we've separated "idiot" and "moron" from it.

So let's stop using the r-word. Really, how hard can it be? Let's as John C. McGinley:
Hardly seems like the largest of sacrifices. Not when you consider the changes in language that you have, so willingly, already elected to integrate into your vernacular. You no longer use the words nigger, or kike, or faggot, or jap, or kraut, or mick, or wop.
(To see what else he has to say, go here: A Message from John C. McGinley - Spread the Word to End the Word Events - Fan Community Message Board - Be a part of it!)

Pledge to End the Word. Expand your vocabulary. Find a better way to insult someone. One that doesn't insult people who "are genetically designed to love unconditionally." (Especially when you're using it to refer to someone who does not have MR. That's when the insult is even greater. So just stop.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abortion, pregnancy, and slavery

So, according to Mike Huckabee, abortion is like slavery. So, if you're against slavery, then you have to be against abortion, too, for the same reasons. Because they're the same. (Read the lovely article here: Huckabee likens abortion to slavery at Missouri fundraiser - Kansas City Star.)

According to Mr. Huckabee, slavery was about having "life-or-death power over another," and it is still immoral "that one person could own another human being and have full control even to the point of life and death over that other human being."

Uh, Mr. Huckabee, did you perchance get your sex ed in Texas or Florida? Are you even aware of what pregnancy is, or how it works?

The way pregnancy works, the woman has "full control even to the point of life and death" over the parasite living inside of her. That's the way the system is set up -- that's the way God set it up to work. Did you catch that whole "inside of her" part?

If the woman does not take proper care of herself, what happens to that fetus? If the woman does not have access to proper pre-natal health care, what happens to that fetus? If the woman takes drugs (illegal or prescribed) during the pregnancy, what happens to that fetus?

YOU CANNOT SEPARATE THEM. I really wish you people would stop talking as if you could.

Just as the woman has complete control, "life-and-death power," over the fetus inside of her, that fetus also has that same "life-or-death power" over the woman. In some cases, the fetus has the power to kill the woman. It happens, often.

This is not done by "choice" by either party, this is the way the effin' system works. This is the way pregnancy was designed. The woman and the fetus are inherently tied, and cannot be separated. The life of the one is deeply affected by the existence of the other, and the potential life of the other depends on the choices made by the one.

Even after they are separated, after the baby is born, it still depends wholly on the mother -- whether the biological one or a surrogate. The mother's life is forever changed, and her health, as it was during the pregnancy (even one without complications) is affected, negatively. If that baby is going to survive, someone needs to care for it, literally 24/7, until it develops to the point where it can move and communicate on its own, and can take care of itself. That newborn has taken control of that woman's life.

Yes, for a woman who wants that baby, the risks and harms, and work, are well worth it, but that doesn't mean they are not there. (On a coincidentally timely note, Heather Armstrong's book on her experience with post-partum depression, and how it nearly killed her, was released today. Check it out.)

My point is, your argument about how one life should not have "life-or-death power" over another? God made that happen. He designed it that way. Go tell Him it's "immoral."

And must I state the obvious? When you stand on your platforms and tell me I can't terminate an unwanted pregnancy because of what you believe, how is that NOT you having control over my life?

When I first started this post, I was enraged that you would so cheaply use slavery to peddle your anti-choice views. But, now that you've made me think about it, the comparison you make is twistedly apt.

Taking away our reproductive rights and freedoms is, in fact, a new form of slavery. You are forcing women to be slaves to their bodies. You are controling our lives and our decisions. As if you owned us.

You do not have a right to own us. To control our lives in this way. If you find slavery immoral, then by that very same reasoning, you must find the anti-choice movement immoral.

Monday, March 23, 2009

On Dreams and Fear

I've been reading the book for the women's retreat at church, and thinking about my calling, what God wants me to do with my life, etc. The chapter I just finished this afternoon was on fear, and how we let fear hold us back and keep us from doing God's work: we play "the quiet game" instead of standing up to someone or speaking up about something, or instead of reaching out to someone who may need you.

Then I got on Twitter, and Paperclippe shared this comic: dreams.png (PNG Image, 550x757 pixels)


Solution to the AIG Bonuses Problem

I say we pull a Brewster's Millions on these guys. They want their bonuses? Let them have them. But -- they have to spend the bonus within a week. And they can't own any new stuff at the end of that week. Same rules as in the movie, except these guys will be allowed to donate the money to a charity if they so choose.

Isn't that "trickle-down economics"? Give money to the rich, so they spend it and help the economy? Then make them spend it!!!

If they do not succeed in spending all the bonus money in a week, then they have to pay the 90% tax, on the full amount. If they don't want to take the Republican approach and "trickle it down," then we take the Democratic approach, and tax it. Everybody wins, really.

Wanna make it even better? Make a reality TV show out of it. People can track each exec's progress on the website each one will set up (and pay for). They can vote on ways for these guys to spend the money. or which charities should get the money. Really, my plan is brilliant.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Broke

If I can get this bloody dissertation done by tomorrow night, I will consider this Spring Break a success.

So far, this looks likely. I have read the junk I need to read (almost all of it, I haven't found the last little bit of info I need showing numbers of European immigration in Chile/percentages of European descent), so all I'll need to do is plug in the pieces of info where they go.

Of course, the desired outcome would be MUCH more likely if someone were working on her bloody dissertation right now, instead of blogging while watching reruns of NCIS.

I had a nice list of things that needed to get done this Spring Break.
  • Clean house
  • Organize office
  • Finish dissertation
  • Scribble notes for my Script Frenzy
  • Do some editing on my poor, neglected novels
  • Finish the book we're reading for the women's retreat at church
  • Start the book my Sunday school class is reading
  • Read Notorious for the book club I skipped Wednesday (since I never read the book)
Very little of this was actually accomplished.

And not much more of anything else was, either. I just flittered around, not doing much of anything, but feeling guilty about not doing the stuff. So I didn't even get to relax and enjoy my vacation, because of the guilt.* I hate it when I do that.

I just realized I have already seen this rerun of NCIS. (First repeat I've come across, actually.) This must be God's way of telling me to get to work. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm turning off the TV, closing TweetDeck, and getting to work.

(Or so I claim. I'll let you know later how it turns out.)

*The guilt, by the way: a nasty side effect of growing up Catholic. Pretty much everything else I've been able to shake, but not that.

The power of words and the definition of marriage

Look it up: Dictionaries recognized same-sex unions under 'marriage' years before states - WHO

The first year I taught third grade, a colleague lent me the book Frindle, to read to the kids. I had nothing else to read to them during SSR (Sustained Silent Reading time, after lunch), so I gladly accepted the book. Little did I know what I was in for...

The story is about this kid who butts heads with his English teacher. She's super mean and has this huge dictionary on this almost-shrine at the front of the room, because she practically worships words and language (and makes her students do tons of homework every night).

So the kid comes up with an idea, just to tick the teacher off. Instead of using the word "pen" for pen, he calls the pen a "frindle."

The kids in the class all jump on the bandwagon (at least until they all get detention, but that's secondary). The feud becomes so huge (because both characters are too pig-headed to back down) and soon the whole city is involved. People start making t-shirts with the word "frindle" on them. The local news, then the state news, then the national news start talking about this. It became a huge thing, and people all over the country started using the word "frindle."

Spoiler to follow, so skip the next paragraph if you're planning on reading this book.

At the end of the book, years after the kid has graduated (middle school and high school) and the teacher has long retired, the kid gets a package in the mail. From the teacher. It's the newest edition of the dictionary, with a note to turn to page so-and-so. Where the word "frindle" is listed, meaning "pen." Because the word became part of the general lexicon.

Will you think less of me if I tell you that ending made me cry?
Merriam-Webster said in a statement Wednesday that the edited entry merely reflected the frequency with which the term "same-sex marriage" had popped up in print and become part of the general lexicon.
This is what I love about languages. They are alive. And we control them.

What's the definition of "marriage"? Whatever we want it to be. However we use the word, that's how it's going to be used. Whatever meaning we give it, that's what it's going to mean.

Marriage is a union between two people who love each other and have made a commitment to love and cherish one another til death do them part. Whatever color, or sex, or size, or religious belief, or whatever they may be, whether a totally irrelevant third party thinks they "match" or not.

Same-sex, different-sex, it's still marriage. The dictionary has been saying so for years -- because we have.

Even more reasons why I hate the Catholic Church

Please understand that when I talk about the Catholic Church, I am referring to the leaders in the church. The people who choose to excommunicate doctors who had to make an unpleasant move in order to save a girl's life, but have not a word to say about the rapist who caused the situation.

Then the Pope goes and does something like this:

Feminist Daily News 3/18/2009: Vatican Defends Pope's Remarks on Condoms and the AIDS Crisis

And the idiots around him support him.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi defended Benedict’s remarks by saying the pope was "maintaining the position of his predecessors," that abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage are the best ways to curb the AIDS crisis, according to Reuters. International backlash has ensued.
Uh, Mr. Lombardi, obviously "abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage" are NOT "the best ways to curb the AIDS crisis" BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT WORKING.

Condoms, on the other hand, DO work. Please allow people to use them.

(Yes, I know I'm three days late on this news. STILL.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Science, schmience!

Don't penalize Texas students for any belief about science, bill says | Top Stories | Star-Telegram.com

Really, Texas legislature? Really?

Please, fight your ideological battles outside the classroom.

What's next, 2+2 can equal whatever you want? After all, if one loaf of bread and two fish can feed multitudes, then what does that say about math?

Can you hear the rest of the country laughing at us? Because I can.

If you live in Texas, please call your legislators and ask them to oppose HB 4224, authored by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Please.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Neil Gaiman on The Colbert Report

Frankly, I'm ashamed to admit I have not read anything by this gent* yet.

Video shamelessly stolen from Inkygirl.

*Gaiman, not Colbert.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Adendum to Calls for #agentfail, and other thoughts

(Yes, I do like to kick dead horses. Why do you ask?)

Alright, so the whining bugs me. The "helplessness" bugs me, too.

The other day Marcy Tweeted that she was teaching little D problem-solving skills: if you walk around the chair, you can reach your toy. It's amazing how many adults cannot follow this same thought process.

The #agentfail martyrs fall into this category.

Look, dude, if you really want a venue for your venting, then walk around the chair. Uh... ever heard of an anonymous blog? Create and "agentFAIL" blog, remain anonymous, and ask people to email you their stories, which will be posted anonymously. They can send their stories to agentfail@hotmail.com; nobody will know who you are, no agents will deploy their flying monkeys to get you. If it REALLY bugs you that much, do something about it. Don't just whine about how you can't whine the way you want to.

In other news, Spring Break Cleaning is going not so well. Because of sickness in the form of nausea. Not enough to be sick-sick, just enough to be annoying because I can't really stand up.

"I'm Sick During Spring Break." I should add that song to No Child Left Behind: The Musical! In the style of "It's Raining on Prom Night," if you were wondering.

Script Frenzy is less than two weeks away. Guess who has not done A THING to get ready? Need to figure out a Kick-Off location...

Calls for #agentfail, and other thoughts

Good grief, are we still talking about this? Seriously?

Okay, so the topic this time is a little different; this is about having an #agentfail day. And why it's so unfair that writers cannot even think about posting any sort of #agentfail because of the terrible repercussions the mean, evil agents will smite them with if they are foolish enough to dare (the whining is in the comments, not the post).

Look, people, this is just like any other job. One person is asking for the job, the other is sifting through all the people asking for jobs and picking out the few that look good. This is not an unfair balance of power; this is the way it always has been, period.

I applied for a job at Borders last summer. They never called me for an interview.

I also applied for a bunch of copyediting jobs when I quit teaching the first time. I was told my degree was in the wrong subject: I majored in Spanish, not English or journalism. The fact that I had TAUGHT English for four years mattered not a whit. Nor did my degree matter when I applied for a bilingual copyeditor position.

I applied for a job as an academic advisor with UTA's College of Education. I received a nice email telling me I was not qualified (despite my experience in education at the secondary and elementary levels, and navigating the uncertain seas of certification).

So, how we don't have an #HRfail Day?

Because that would be stupid.

If given the chance to do any of the above jobs, I would do better than the average Joe.* But these people did not even grant me an interview, did not even give me a chance to begin to tell them how I can do the job better than most, even though, on paper, I don't have the necessary requirements. All they had to do was give me a chance!

But they didn't. And that's how it goes. EVERYWHERE.

These HR departments don't "owe" me anything. I do not deserve an interview simply because I applied. I do not deserve the job simply because I asked for it. And I should not be applying for the job when I don't meet the minimum requirements clearly posted on the website.

Same with the agents. They don't "owe" you a read any more than any employer owes you an interview. They don't owe you a quick reply any more than an employer does -- I interviewed for a job over two weeks ago, and was told I'd hear back in about two weeks. Am I getting my panties in a bunch and hollering #HRfail? No, because that would be stupid and immature. (The job is at a school district. They're remodeling the admin offices over Spring Break, and the two-week mark from the interview was the Tuesday before Spring Break. Did I really expect to hear back from them the week before Spring Break?)

Another whine-fest topic is agents who Twitter when they're behind on reading queries. HOW DARE THEY NOT SPEND EVERY WAKING MINUTE DEVOTING THEIR LIFE TO YOU.

There are 168 hours in a week. The average person only spends 40-50 of those hours working. The average salaried paycheck only pays you for 40 hours. This leaves 118-128 hours for the agent to spend as he or she chooses; if we allot 40-50 of those hours to sleeping, that still leaves 68-88 hours for other stuff. Like Twitter. When, late on a Sunday night, I see an agent take a few seconds to bemoan an inbox of 400+ emails, my first thought is not, "How dare she waste her time like that?" but rather something more along the lines of, "Good golly, she has a much stronger work ethic than I do."

I refuse to grade on weekends. Not anymore. Screw it. My weekends are MINE.

Yes, I know agents work on comission. But that doesn't mean they are not allowed to have a life. Work to live v. live to work, and all that.

You can easily turn the argument around to the writer -- what are you doing on Twitter and writing whiny comments on blogs when you should be working on your writing? Polish that query letter, research more agents, edit that ms, start your next project. Or just grow up and quit whining.

Okay, now I'm done venting. So I can get back to cleaning. And, later, writing.

*And, come on! Freakin' Borders? What, I can't handle shelving books in alphabetical order and pushing buttons in the regster?? I've done it before, dude!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"With this latte, I thee kiss"

Today is Freddy's and my first wedding anniversary. (Yes, we got married on the Ides of March. We like to tempt fate.)

A month from today is the deadline to pay Uncle Sam (or ask him for our money back). Freddy and I will file our taxes together, as a married couple; sadly, many couples are not afforded that luxury.

Yes, I know doing your taxes is not the most fun thing in the world -- but you know what? Respect is pretty cool. And not being allowed to do your taxes together is a huge reminder that WE DON'T RESPECT YOU. And that is not cool.

A month from today, couples who are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore will participate in Same Sex Kiss Day. Go to Starbucks, and kiss your same-sex partner (or friend, or acquaintance...) The point? To show homophobes that gay people are, indeed, just PEOPLE. Novel concept, I know.

The more we see them, the less mystical they will be. Sounds silly, but the whole concept of not letting them get married is pretty damn silly, too. Isn't it?

By the way, March also holds another important anniversary for me -- a week and four years ago, I got divorced. And, honestly, it's a close tie as to which one of these was "the happiest day of my life."

So, yeah... "the sanctity of marriage"? We heteros have made a joke out of that already. And you know it's true, so I'm not going to make a list of all the hetero "marriages" and divorces that have made a mockery of the institution -- for those who let that sort of thing bother them.

Go to Starbucks! Kiss! Repeal Prop 8 -- nationwide!

Photo by John Woelke.

6wS: "With this ring, I thee wedded."

6 word Sunday

Photo by John Woelke.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday morning...

  • Spring Break is here! Oddly, I'm quite busy this morning. Not relaxing. Also, rather full week ahead -- we need to clear out all the carp in the house, so the dudes can replace the tile and redo the carpet/flooring (from the broken water pipe). We own massive amounts of carp. This will be quite a challenge.
  • Our first wedding anniversary is tomorrow!!! One year. Lots of stuff has happened in that year... Looking forward to all the stuff yet to come in the many, many years ahead.
  • Everyone else has commented on it, so I might as well: I love it when "serious" networks/shows/news anchors get their panties in a bunch over something The Daily Show said about them, and start calling out Jon Stewart on his journalistic integrity. "Oh, well, on your show, you do such-and-such." "Yes, but my show is on Comedy Central. I am a joke, but I admit it." And the saddest part? The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, as a general rule, have much more journalistic integrity than the real news networks. *sigh*
  • I have not seen Watchmen (yet), but can we please stop talking about the blue penis? We we this upset when Mystique pranced around the screen with her blue boobs and blue butt all exposed in the X-Men movies? Don't make me rant about this; it won't be pretty.
  • Had an interesting chat last night. One of my Chilean cousins IMed me on Facebook, and we talked for a LONG TIME. She was about 4 years old when we left Chile to come here, so it always freaks me out to see photos of these "baby" cousins now, as adults. But guess what we talked about? One of us mentioned the weather/temperature, so we talked about global warming, and how the US is the guiltiest party, and how President Obama is working to reverse some of the problems... and she said, "I like him. The only problem is the abortion thing." What's a girl to do? I thought I was restrained and polite; I presented all my points. I didn't win her over to the Dark Side, but we did agree that birth control is the more relevant issue and that women need access to it (and that this is what the President is doing).
  • This morning I'm picking up a wedding cake from Kathy's Icing on the Cake in Arlington. Why? Because they rock: instead of having to save the top layer of your wedding cake (to freeze and have on your first anniversary), they MAKE YOU A NEW TOP LAYER, for free, for you to have on your first anniversary. How awesome is that? And the cake is heavenly, too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

WAG #2 results, and the next Adventure!

From Nixy's blog

Last week's Adventurers:

How to join the Writing Adventure Group!

Next week’s Writing Adventure:

“WAG #3: A New Friend” Sit somewhere that you can watch strangers passing by. Choose someone that you don’t know, but you can imagine being friends with. Describe them in concrete terms, particularly whatever it is about them you find appealing (or unappealing!) Feel free to also write what you imagine that makes you warm to them, but don’t forget to describe reality as well!

Thank you Marsha for contributing this week’s adventure theme!

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. (Note, please include WAG #3 in the subject heading!) Deadline: next Tuesday, March 17th.

Also, join us on Facebook!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Science, stem cells, and suicide: what would Jesus do?

Today, I'm in Austin, with Planned Parenthood, asking my legislators to put science back in sex ed classrooms. Or, rather, to put the "ed" back in "sex ed."* So we can put an end to this.

Earlier this week, we got the good news that President Obama** lifted the ban on stem-cell research, his first step toward putting science back in science. To read the details, go here: Blog for Choice - Community, Connection, Change

Of course, this made the anti-choice side angry, because stem cells come from embryos. Now, I've already told you when life does and does not begin, so you know that, to me, an embryo does not mean "a life," unless the mother deems it so (and these are not the embryos whose stem cells are being used, are they?)

Stem-cell research can save lives. Extra-uterine, unequivocal lives -- those both sides of the reproductive rights debate all agree are people. These lives are connected to many other lives, who are also affected by what happens to that life with cancer, or heart disease, or Alzheimer's. Can the in-vitro embryos say the same? Yes, they are meaningful potential lives to the parents seeking the fertility treatments, but if that couple has already had one, or two, or three (or more) successful IVF pregnancies and they are not looking to have any more children, whose lives are going to be affected if those extra embryos never become babies, and instead are used for scientific research, to help save lives?

An interesting thought hit me the other day, when mulling all this over.

God is not against death (He's against murder, but not death). After all, He sent His son to Earth -- to die so others could live.

When you think about it, you could even say Jesus commited suicide (but He did it for a really good reason).

Jesus knew He was going to be crucified. He knew how and when it was going to happen, and therefore He knew how He could get out of it, if He had wanted to. The disciples told Him to get out of it. But He didn't -- He walked into His own death.

But He did it to save all of us. He sacrificed Himself, for us. For all of our lives.

So why are His followers so angry about a potential life doing the same thing Jesus did? God sacrificed His son for the good of the many; why can't we do the same?

What would Jesus do? Probably allow His stem cells to be used for life-saving research.

*As a friend of mine pointed out, the students are already "sexed." We need to get them educated about sex (and contraceptives).

**I'm sorry, but I just really like saying that. It makes me happy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Too smart for class OR submission guidelines

Received this from a fellow teacher today (from GoComics.com):

Yep, that's my kids. TOO SMART to follow clearly written instructions.

Kind of like I'm too good a writer to have to follow puny submission guidelines. You can't confine my ART with your "rules"!!!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Greenville Ave. St. Patrick's Day Parade

Everybody's going to watch it -- wanna be in the Parade?

Come pass out beads, candy, and condoms with Planned Parenthood of North Texas!

The Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade will be Saturday, March 14th. The parade starts at 11:00, but if you want to walk with us you have to get there early; we'll meet at 8:00. Planned Parenthood participates every year -- it's a great way to reach out to tens of thousands of people from the Metroplex! (Many of whom plan on a weekend of drunken debauchery -- they need those condoms!!!)

If you want to join us, contact Denise Rodríguez at info.public@ppnt.org or 214-363-2004 ext. 185. Please RSVP by Friday, so they can make sure to have enough t-shirts! (You must RSVP, btw.)

Go here to see some photos from last year's parade (or 2007's, if you scroll down).

This Week in Pro-Choicing*

Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day is Thursday! Have you signed up yet? (Today's the last day!)

We will urge our legislators to:
  • increase funding for marketing and advertising for the Women's Health Program, which provides family planning and other basic health care to women who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. This is a GREAT PROGRAM, and it can save the state BILLIONS -- but less than 17% of the women eligible for the program are on it. Why? Because the budget to advertise this program is so tiny, nobody knows about it. My mother is a social worker, has worked with the state and county for years, counseling low-income women and children, and she had no idea about the program
  • support Prevention Works! (HB 1694/SB 1100):

    Prevention Works! is a family planning initiative that expands access to preventive family planning health care services and education programs to help reduce unintended pregnancy, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and improve women's health overall — all while saving scarce public health dollars.

    Prevention Works! will increase outreach and education so more eligible low-income women can learn about Texas' family planning programs. By expanding knowledge about state family planning programs, it is projected that thousands of low-income women will learn about access basic, preventive services like well-woman exams, contraception, screening for sexually transmitted infections, and screening for breast and cervical cancer.

    Did you know that "According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, for every $1 spent on family planning, $3 is saved in Medicaid costs for prenatal, delivery, and first-year infant care. Medicaid currently pays for more than half of all births in Texas, costing millions of public health dollars each year"?

  • support Education Works! (HB 741/SB 515):
    Currently, Texas law does not require schools to provide sexuality education courses. If a school does choose to offer a sexuality education course, Texas mandates that the program must stress abstinence as the preferred behavior for unmarried persons as a way to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs. Unfortunately, most of abstinence-only sex education programs in Texas schools often give misleading or outright false information about condoms and contraceptives, leading teens to believe that condoms and birth control are not effective.

    HB 714/SB 515, also known as Education Works!, would require schools to still discuss abstinence but also require information be included alongside about testing and prevention for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and complete, medically-accurate information about the health benefits and risks of contraception and condoms.

    Additionally, these bill includes strategies to encourage young people to develop healthy communications with their parents and peers, and help build other living skills such as goal setting and responsible decision-making about sexuality.

Did you see that last part, about building living skills and about responsible decision-making about sexuality?

Look, unless they're planning on turning to a life of the cloth, everyone will have sex at some point. Do we teach this in college? It wasn't part of my liberal arts degree (and if it should be part of any non-medical degree, wouldn't it be part of the liberal arts?) Please, let's give women the information they need to take care of their bodies, regardless of when they choose to have sex.

For more info on these bills, or to take action even if you can't go to Lobby Day, visit Planned Parenthood of North Texas's site or visit Education Works!

NARAL Tweeted some interesting links today:

Where to pass the torch? Those of us who have grown up post-Roe v. Wade don't understand what the women before us had to go through to secure the rights we take for granted. While some of us write our Congresspeople when ugly bills come up, how much of a commitment are we willing to make? Will there be enough of us to carry the torch when the generation who gave us these rights retires?

And some good news! Obama Aims to Shield Science from Politics, lifting the ban on funding for stem-cell research.
"The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals," Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday.

On a slightly related note... Catholic Church, you know why I hate you? Because of stuff like this: Catholic Church Excommunicates Doctors for Aiding Raped Child. Seriously, what is wrong with you?

While I'm on the subject of bills and laws and policies, I also read a ReTweet asking me to sign a petition to keep tax dollars from funding abortions. This petition blamed the Freedom of Choice Act as the culprit; please read this article to educate yourself about the FOCA, which pretty much merely upholds Roe v. Wade:

Freedom of Choice Act - Declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to: (1) bear a child; (2) terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or (3) terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect her life or her health.

Prohibits a federal, state, or local governmental entity from: (1) denying or interfering with a woman's right to exercise such choices; or (2) discriminating against the exercise of those rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information. Provides that such prohibition shall apply retroactively.

Authorizes an individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act to obtain appropriate relief, including relief against a governmental entity, in a civil action.

(Text copied from the House version, but the Senate version says the same.) Also? According to THOMAS, neither bill has seen action since 2007 (May 4th and April 19th, respectively). We know the anti-choice side likes to deal with scare tactics and misinformation (as they do in their abstinence-only programs), but... am I the only one who finds all this a little silly? Getting your people all riled up over something that's not even happening? Isn't there a better way for you to spend your time, energy, and resources?

Trying to figure out how to close this post (looking for something a little more positive than the above), I saw this from the White House blog: Remembering Christopher Reeve.

*With apologies to Nathan Bransford for the blatant plagiarism.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Anonymous said...

First, I get two spam comments on my post on prayer. Then, on this week's Thankful Thursday,* I get this:
Let's talk about grammatical errors I have found here, and very poor writing by many english professors. Conceit and arrogance is not pretty and that is what slams doors in faces.

As far as teachers/ students: Educate yourself on ADD, And the entire autism spectrum, teachers. What many interpret as refusal to follow directions or 'laziness', could be a symptom of a developmental or other disorder.. I have worked with people afflicted with this, and it is becoming epidemic on the college level, so expect to see more of this until awareness becomes more apparent.
Posted by a very courageous Anonymous. People, please stop pooping on my positive posts! I'm trying to spread some nice in the world, and this is what you do with it? But I digress.

The best I can gather from the drivel written above is that this is in response to a comment I left on this post, about #queryfail. (In that comment I said something about doors slamming in your face.)

First of all, Anonymous, YES, let's talk about the grammatical errors you "have found here." WHERE ARE THEY? Care to point them out? I'd love to see them. Oh, wait -- you forgot to MENTION them.

And, buddy? I will be the first to denounce English teachers with poor grammar. I launch into tirades on the subject at least daily. (PS: "English" is capitalized, at least in English. Not always in other languages, but in this one, it is. Just FYI.) I agree, conceit and arrogance ARE not pretty (because a compound subject will take a plural verb, generally speaking). But, sometimes, neither is the truth, or the cold, hard facts.

I have taught at the elementary and secondary levels, in rich and poor schools. I've seen all kinds of kids, and quite a range of ADD/ADHD cases. I have also seen all kinds of lazy.

There is a difference between ADD and apathy. I am well aware of that difference, thank you. There is also a big difference between "trying and not getting it" and "too lazy to bother trying to get it." Any teacher worth her salt knows the difference -- now, I know better than most that "any teacher worth her salt" is not always a foregone conclusion, but trust me. I may not be worth bucketfuls of salt, but I'm worth enough salt.

And, seriously -- autism? Yeah, like I'd ever have a student in my class and not know he was autistic. Do you even know what autism is?

Where do you live, that you think ADD/ADHD and autism (by the way, the former is not part of the "spectrum" of the other, as your wording implies) suffer from lack of awareness? From your writing, I'd be willing to wager English is not your first language, so maybe you do live somewhere where awareness of these and other learning disabilities is not as widespread as it is here in the US -- where I live and teach, and where the author of the blog where you read my comment lives and teaches, and where the agents who participated in #queryfail live and work (which is what started all this in the first place).

Before you go on your next anonymous stone-throwing trip, you might want to reinforce the walls of your glass house.

*Why on Earth would you choose that post to leave this comment? That was four posts old at the time this comment was made. Wouldn't you leave the comment on the newest post?

6wS: "Out of the wardrobe and into..."

6-word Sunday

Saturday, March 07, 2009

WAG: #2 What I didn't see

(This week's adventure didn't have a title. I'm terrible at titles, so I gave it a very lame title. Deal with it. Our adventure, if you're too lazy to click on the link, was to go outside and "soak it in." Then, we had to write about something we did not notice at first.)

I love this weather, even though the temperature is dropping enough now that I'm getting a little chilly when the wind blows. But it's soft wind, because it's warm. It's the wind that blows before a Texas thunderstorm, where it looks like it should be cold but it's not.

The sky is overcast. It's not a uniform gray; if you look at it you'll see the bunching up of the clouds, but there isn't any blue sneaking through.

The wind is soft and almost warm (it was warmer before, it has cooled down. I'm hoping for a storm, because storms are fun). The wind has that stormy smell, that soft smell that's not really a smell but a feeling, of the rain to come.

I'm sitting outside the wine shop where Freddy works. It's in this hoity-toity "village" of shops and condos. The buildings are very un-Texan: the burnt coppers, mustard yellows, olive greens, and dark beiges of the buildings are going for a pseudo-European, Under-The Tuscan-Sun feel. I'll go ahead and give it to them. At street-level the buildings house boutique shops; the second and third floors have condos that may or may not have owners yet. The windows and balconies are architecturally European, but lack the flowers you see walking along the streets of Madrid, Sevilla, Paris or Genève. At the end of the street you have the town's City Hall building and public library (which I should visit, really... I wonder if they're open today?)

Outside the wine shop they have metal chairs and these "tables," I guess we'll call them, that look more like fancy, giant empty thread spools. Kind of like what the mice used as coffee tables in Disney's Cinderella.

In front of me, slightly to the left, the rotunda in the center of the intersection has green grass (how much does the city pay to make sure that looks "pretty" in our Texas drought seasons?), purple, yellow, and white pansies bordering the bushes surrounding the tree, which is a pretty sorry, scraggly thing, but still has leaves. The tree to the right of me is naked, poor little guy.

Across the street, directly in front of me, I notice the thing I hadn't noticed before, that I really should have -- this is me we're talking about. How could I miss what should be my favorite part of this whole faux-European tableau?

It's an old-fashioned lightpost. Not exaclty like the one I always pictured at the entrance of Narnia, but close enough. This one has one light at the top of the post and three more lights coming off the base of the first. They're not the glass spheres I saw on the streets of Spain and in my hometown (Santiago, Chile -- have I not mentioned that?), and they're not the square (what do you call a 3-dimentional trapezoid?) ones you typically associate with London and Peter Pan; these are cone-shaped but not pointy at the bottom. The bottom of the light is narrower than the top, but the bottom is flat, and the top has another, fatter cone at the top, like a little hat.

My backyard has an ugly, rusted pole that originally was intended for a basketball hoop, I suppose. I want more than anything to turn that ugly pole into an old-fashioned lightpost, like the one at the entrance of Narnia, just outside the wardrobe. That lightpost fascinates me.

Join the Adventure!


While I was enjoying the outside and the wind, the following took place:
If I may...

This girl (age 10?) just fell while crossing the street. She's walking with her toes inside her sneakers, but her heels resting on the back of the shoes. The shoes are untied, and as far as I can tell they are those Wheelie shoes. (There's a plastic clicking sound every time she takes a step that rubber soles generally don't make.)

She fell and hurt her elbow, and is making a big deal of crying about it.

"Ow, ow, ow, ow!" she bellows like a wounded harp seal.

Dad helps her up, and they finish crossing the street.

"Are you okay?" Dad asks when they reach the corner.

"Ow, ow, ow, ow, (sob), ow!"

On that very corner, a foot and three quarters from where they are standing, there is a bench. Where the girl could SIT and PUT HER DAMN SHOES ON PROPERLY.

No, they keep walking to the car, with the girl clomping along, owing and sobbing, with her shoelaces untied and her shoes not even on her feet.

Spring is (almost) in the air

The first warm day of the season people are so happy to see and feel the sun that they break out their best summer gear without thinking about the consequences past midday.

As the clouds took on that threatening gray of impending rain and the wind blew around that warm pre-storm smell, girls pranced into Borders in spaghetti-strapped camisoles, sleeveless sundresses, and flimsy flip-flops.

So far the rain hasn't come down, but the temperature has. Enough to make me glad I grabbed my hoodie on my way out the door this morning.

Friday, March 06, 2009

#queryfail was NOT agents "mocking" writers!

I thought about Tweeting my thoughts on #queryfail yesterday (when people were bashing it), or commenting on Nathan Bransford's blog today (where the comments flew off in an anti-#queryfail tizzy), but I think I'm too wordy to be contained in those spaces.

Look, people: if you don't like it, don't read it. Why is this so hard to figure out?

Seriously. All the people Tweeting yesterday about how much they did not like reading #queryfail? STOP READING IT. And go do something else.

Now, to all the people with their panties in a bunch for those poor writers who "worked so hard" -- NOT reading submission guidelines or spellchecking -- and who never "gave permission" for their "intellectual property" to be "used": uh, do you know much about the purpose of a query? Let me explain it to you. See, you send an agent a query, so that the agent asks for your novel. If your query is good, the agent tries to sell your novel to a publisher. Then the book gets published.


If you can't handle less-than-140-characters of your query anonymously quoted in a thread moving almost too quickly to read, then how in 'tarnation do you expect to handle being published?

The agents were not being "mean." They were telling it like it is, and they WERE providing information to writers. They were also not "cherry-picking" queries to make fun of -- the point of it all was to show HOW MANY bad queries they get a day. The agent is sitting in front of his laptop, reading the queries as they come in. He reads a crappy one, and copy/pastes the line to Twitter and adds the hashtag #queryfail. OH MY GOODNESS THAT TOOK SO MUCH TIME.

Seriously, most of the people griping about #queryfail (on the two blogs I've read tonight where it has come up) DON'T EVEN TWITTER. This was not Query Shark with unsuspecting queriers, posting the full letter which yes, would be totally recognizable -- this was TWITTER. 140 characters -- actually, 129 because "#queryfail" is 10 characters, plus a space). And many of the Tweets were not even quotes from the letters, but explanations of what the person did wrong. Look, if you weren't there, or if you don't generally hang out there, then you don't know what's going on. You don't know what it's like, how we Twitterati communicate. So don't bash when you don't know.

As a teacher, I felt the agents' pain. How many students REFUSE to follow directions, and turn in the assignment however they want to do it? TONS. Guess what happens to them?


As in, literally. A fifty if I'm in a good mood; less if I'm utterly fed up with that kid.

And guess what happens to them when they graduate into The Real World? They go on to write stupid queries that irritate agents.

(But that will make my query look golden when they open mine right after one of those gems.)

Also, as a teacher looking for a job outside the classroom, I learned A LOT from #queryfail.

You see, I've never had to apply for a real job. I've applied for teaching jobs, which is kind of a joke. I have a degree in the subject I teach; I teach a high-needs subject; I am actually certified (through an accredited university, through a full teacher certification program). I send in my application and the district will hire me.

If there is one thing you can say for teaching, it's job security.

So I've never been in a position where I've had to fight other applicants or impress the recruiter. (The fact that I want to teach is impressive enough; that I actually know my subject just blows their brains away.) Now, I'm fighting for jobs with other people who are as qualified as I am, but have more impressive resumes (because they have not been wasting their talents in a classroom).

Yesterday I sat down to write an email to a higher-up at my teacher union, pretty much asking her for a job. I've written a few of these emails lately. Before I started reading agents' blogs and studying query letters and hearing agents gripe about dumb mistakes in query letters, I would have written an email similar to this:
I want to work at TSTA. Are there any jobs open?

:) Criss.
Instead, I started out with a proper, professional salutation. I made a personal connection with the person. I Googled information I could have easily found for myself instead of asking her, and making myself look dumb and lazy. I sold myself, giving her a quick run-down of my skills/talents/qualifications, without boring her or pushing my entire resume and letters of recommendation on her. I did it the smart way, following common-sense query guidelines.

I am eternally grateful to Colleen Lindsay and other agents who have helped me learn these things.

If #queryfail was not your cup of tea, then don't follow it next time it comes around. But let's all pretend we're grown-ups and deal, please.

[Edited to add links I forgot to link. This is what happens when you write angry.]

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lobby Day is in One Week!

From Planned Parenthood of North Texas:

Your Legislators Need to Hear Your Voice!

Lobby Day is next week and we can't do it without you! Your legislators need to hear your voice of reason on issues you care about, like family planning funding and sex education in our schools.

Join us on Thursday, March 12 for Lobby Day 2009!

Sign-up here: http://www.ppnt.org/lobbyday2009.html.

During Lobby Day, Planned Parenthood supporters from all over Texas travel to Austin to meet with legislators and their staff to discuss important reproductive health issues.

Help us educate legislators about life-saving and cost-effective family planning for women and medically accurate sex education for teens.

No experience necessary! The last day to register is Monday, March 9, so register today.

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful for:
  • a fixed hot-water pipe, and an insurance company that's gladly agreed to pay for (most of the) repairs and restorations without hassle and headache
  • a healing Indiana Jones (*crossing fingers that he'll come home this weekend*)
  • a loving Freddy who understands everything and takes care of me, even if sometimes he worries a little too much
  • books and the time to read them
  • the magic of the Internetz, which connects me to writers and agents and editors, oh my! so I can lurk and learn

WAG #1 results, and the new Adventure!

From Nixy Valentine's blog:

WAG #1 results and WAG #2 guidelines below!

Wow! You guys are the best. I wasn’t certain how many would participate, but I’m really glad to see so many getting into the spirit of things. The assignment this week was to describe the sky. This was observational, so writers were encouraged to use descriptive words more than metaphors or emotive words.

For those who participated, please cut and paste the links below (and instructions for next week, if you wish) to your own blogs. This will help promote the group and give some linky love to each other, creating a fantastic cross-promotional network of WAGs!


Cora Zane - Stars Will Cry

Sharon Donovan

Adam Heine - Authors Echo

Nancy Parra - This Writer’s Life

Criss - Criss Writes

Carol - DMWCarol

Nixy Valentine

Marsha Moore - Write On!

Jesse Blair - SexFoodPlay

Jackie Doss - The Pegasus Journals


JM Strother - Mad Utopia

Next week’s Writing Adventure:

For next week, go outside, and sit for a minute. (This can be in your yard or garden, on a city street, in a park, in a shopping centre, where ever you choose!) Soak in everything you see, hear, smell, etc, for a moment, and then describe something that you did not notice at first. This can be anything! Just make it something that you overlooked when you first arrived. Keep your descriptions as concrete as possible!

Post the results on your blog, and read this post about the group for information on how to notify me so your post will be properly included in next week’s list. Deadline: next Tuesday, March 10th.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Girl in the Bathroom

I spent a lot of time in the girls' bathroom today. Monitoring. Because we all know how much girls want to talk about the TAKS test questions when they're going wee-wee.*

Two incidents of note:
  • Girl comes out of the stall, walks up to the mirror, and fixes her hair: tucks stray strands behind her ears, brushes her bangs from her eyes... and then proceeds to wash her hands. After touching her face ALL OVER.
  • After lunch, girl with braces asks to go to the bathroom to brush her teeth. When we get to the bathroom, she says she has to go to the bathroom, too, so she walks into the stall. When she comes out of the stall, she grabs her toothbrush and toothpaste from the pocket in her hoodie and brushes her teeth. Completely neglects to wash her hands.
Am I being prudish?

I'm no germophobe (you know the 5-second rule? I like to extend it to 5 minutes. Or longer, if need be), but you have to draw the line somewhere! After you tinkle, you wash your hands, people! With soap! None of this sprinkling-your-fingers-with-water-and-you-think-you're-done carp.

Might I remind you, this is a public-school bathroom? Think of the quality of the toilet paper in public-school bathrooms. Do I still seem prudish?

The scary part is when you allow yourself to follow the train of thought... that girl is going to go back to the classroom and touch her test booklet and answer document, which I have to collect. With my bare hands. And that pencil she was gripping? I'm going to have to touch it, too, because she didn't bring her own pencil and she used one of ours (and the counselors will come after me if I don't return EVERY ONE of the pencils they LENT us).

Now you know how I built up my Immune System of Steel.

*PS: In case you want to know the details: when a student asks to go to the bathroom, one of the two proctors in the room walks the student to the bathroom. Students are only allowed in the bathroom one at a time, unless there is a teacher in there with them, making sure they don't talk. TONS OF FUN.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Writer v. The Editor

These two posts from The Golden Pencil* made me realize how much NaNoWriMo has changed the way I write.

I used to agonize over every word. I used to not write, because I was forever waiting for The Perfect Opening. If I did write, every sentence took forever because I wanted The Perfect Word. Even for stuff that didn't matter, like school assignments.

Now, after five years of NaNo, I just write. I don't even read my blog posts before hitting the orange button -- which is bad, because I'm a terrible typist. (Seriously. It took me 17 keystrokes to type "typist." But that's also because I got my nails done yesterday, and it always takes me a while to get used to typing with my fingers instead of my claws.)

The good thing is I'm writing. The words are moving from my head onto the paper. I'm more confident about my writing; when I go back and re-read that stuff, I like what I've written (I used to HATE re-reading my stuff, which is why I never proofread my papers for school. Now I don't proofread my blogs because I'm lazy; I like what I've written, but my ADD-brain is just ready to move on to something else.)

The bad thing is... well, I can't say "I don't proofread" because I didn't do that before either. There is no bad thing! NANOWRIMO IS THE GREATEST WRITING EXERCISE EVER!!!

(Okay, there is one bad thing. My husband is not too fond of November.)

While watching the Oscars, I was thinking about what I would say in my acceptance speech.** (This was, coincidentally, right before Kate Winslet told us about her rehearsals with Shampoo-bottle Oscar.) In my speech, I decided I would have to thank Chris Baty and the rest of the NaNoWriMo/Office of Letters and Light team.

I have a half-finished novel that is still in the half-finished stage that I started my first year teaching (when my Guardian Angel had me stumble into the Borders Books on Westheimer in Houston, AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT a critique group was meeting. The dude working the info desk took me to the deep, dark corner where they met, and those amazing, lovely people invited me to join them. And write with them. And SENIOR YEAR went from a long-forgotten file on a floppy disk to A NOVEL). This was 8 years ago, people. And it's still half-finished. It has not yet been NaNoed.

Since that first November of 2004, I have written three novels (one of them took two Novembers) and one stack of drivel (which might could perhaps someday be salvaged into something resembling A NOVEL. Actually, UNA NOVELA, since that was my NaNo-in-Spanish year). I don't think of myself as someone who wants to write, because I do write. I am a writer. Thanks to Chris Baty.

Now I just need to work on the other little carp that keeps getting in the way, and edit all those beautiful, completed novels into something worth submitting. So I can start earning my millions.

PS: November's a long way away, but April is just around the corner! Have you signed up for Script Frenzy yet???

*Who used to have her own blog, but now is part of this Bizzia thing? Don't ask me, the posts arrive in my Google Reader and I don't question from where. Until I have to link to them.

**which used to be for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress; now it'll be for Best Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay

Sunday, March 01, 2009

WAG: The Sky Is The Limit

This is my first post for the Writing Adventure Group, created by Nixy Valentine and some other awesome writer ladies. Expect to see one of these posts about once a week...

Of course I would leave this to the last minute, which happens to be a day when the temperature is in the 30-40s.

I took a photo of the sky Thursday, at sunset, when the sky was all different colors and this one cloud looked like an oil painting. And when it was warm outside. But I didn't have time to sit down and write, so this photo doesn't count.

Today, it's cold. (I hate cold.) And windy. But at least it's sunny. The sky is a full blue, not a wimpy pale blue but a full, rich blue. And it's fully blue, without a single cloud in the way. You can see a sliver of the moon (not enough to photograph, though). Depending on the kind of person you are, it's either a clipped toenail God forgot to pick up after giving Himself a pedi, or, if you look a little more closely, you can see it's just the Moon, in profile, sneaking out in the daytime to see what we're up to. You can see its eye and nose. First I thought it was laughing, but now I think it has its lips pursed. We must be upsetting it.

Maybe it's annoyed by the dogs barking next door. They sound like yippy dogs. I'd be annoyed too.

So that's the sky.

The sky itself looks boring today, all plain and cloudless. It's a pretty shade (and if I knew more about shades, I'd tell you which shade of blue it is. I know enough to know it's not royal blue, and I really wouldn't call it cyan. And that's a printer-ink color anyway, not very nature-y. I'd like to say it's cerulean, because I like the way the word sounds and I want to use it, but I have no idea what color cerulean is. A shade of blue, but that's it. Maybe when I go back inside to my Internetz-ed laptop I'll Google it.)

(Sorry, had to scroll up to see where I'd been before I went off on that tangent.)

The sky itself is boring, but when it's the background to the greens and browns of the trees out here, it works nicely.

The sound of the water fountain helps, too. I'm not one of those who's into artificial ambient recordings, but when it's actual water trickling, yes, it's soothing. If you made me listen to a recording of this at work or elsewhere, I'd probably go batty after a while.
Then again, the ambient recording wouldn't have the yippy dogs in the background, would it?

Join the Writing Adventure Group!