I’m still alive

Or at least I think I am. This week has been one where butt has been firmly planted in chair, hands on keyboard — or on the metaphorical red pen — as I play editor during the day and writer in the evening. The result is that I’ve finished the edits on one book and am almost finished with them on another book, both for NRP (and man do I have to remember to never edit when I’m sick or stressed or both like I have been the last month and a half. My edits are horrible which is why I’ve had to do them all over again.) But a lot of work has gotten done and, by the end of the weekend, I should be caught up.

huntershomecoverIn other news, NRP will be releasing the third book in the Hunter’s Moon Series, Hunter’s Home, this Friday. The print version is in the works and should be available very soon. I’m really excited, of course, but I’m also a little worried because this book is a bit different from the other books in the series. Instead of focusing on the alphas, I introduce a new class of shifter, one that relies less on strength and more on brains, if that makes sense. Sure, there’s still sex — how can you have a paranormal romance without it — and the alphas do make themselves known in the plot.

This book focuses on CJ, who has made appearances in each of the previous books in the series, and it eventually takes her home to the Montana clan she grew up in. During the course of what happens, she discovers things about her past, and her family, she never knew. More importantly, she learns that she is much stronger than she ever expected.

VFA coverI am also about to release Vengeance from Ashes, the science fiction (mil. sf/space opera) that I’ve snippeted here. If everything goes as planned, it should be available on Amazon some time tomorrow. Before that happens, I have one scene to put back into the manuscript and there is a minor tweak to be done to the cover – and many thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt for a great cover design. As soon as the book goes live, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, here is the cover, sans the tweaks.

Yes, I am using yet another pen name. Part of it is because there are still those who will not read science fiction written by a woman. Part is so those searching for my name don’t buy the book and expect it to be urban fantasy. Anyway, there it is. Now, to find food and take something for the sinus headache so I can get to work. Back later.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Real life.

I’ve been rather lax about blogging of late and I apologize. Life has not been cooperating, to put it mildly. As I’ve commented before, the last quarter has been filled with too many fires to put out, including some oral surgery yesterday. Nothing major but, as those of you who know me are aware, I have a near phobia about dentists. So, just knowing I have to have someone poking around in my mouth – with needles and worse — sends me into a bad mind space for a day or two before it happens.

It wasn’t always like that this. Growing up, I did my usual two visits a year without more than the usual kid-like grousing. I did the whole braces thing as a teen. But, in my late teens the form of Novocain being used at the time didn’t work on me. The first time we realized it was when I needed a small cavity repaired. What should have taken a single shot to numb took three. Not fun.

Things went downhill from there. I needed some more work done. Already anxious because of the problems the last time I was in, I told the dentist. He assured me he understood and then he lowered the chair so he could get to work.

And I was faced with a poster on the ceiling — one that hadn’t been there the last time I’d been to the office — proclaiming that we would all be “Saved” when we die.

Now, think about it. I’m already anxious about the treatment and now I’m being told that I’ll be “Saved” when I die. Not exactly the way I wanted to start a long session in the dentist’s chair. Nor did it help that it took four or five shots and I still wasn’t numb. Add in the fact the dentist told me it was all in my mind and then started drilling. Yes, I tore holes in the chair arms where I was holding onto them. Yes, I probably scared everyone else in the office when he hit the nerve and I let out a yelp. And, yes, that was the last time I went to that dentist.

But, needless to say, even after as many years as have passed, the dentist still holds a place of fear in my heart and, in my mind at least, a special place in Hell. So, that’s why there was no post yesterday.

So, with  sore mouth and coffee at hand — oops, I need another mug of that wondrous brew. Be right back — Okay, now I have a mug of coffee at hand and, as I was saying, here’s the rest of the post.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about work lately. Mainly, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to get Vengeance from Ashes ready for publication. I’ve also been getting Hunter’s Home, the next book in the Hunter’s Moon series (written as Ellie Ferguson) ready to go up in both print and digital. Then there’s the editing work for NRP to be done as well as one freelance gig. As I said earlier in the week, I hope to be caught up by the first of next week. It’s meant some long days, but it is worth it to finally see the end of the backlog.

As for Vengeance, when I snippeted the opening chapters, I said that there would more than likely be changes before the book was published. Boy was that an understatement. I’ve been stalled on the book, partly because of life but mainly because I realized I’d taken a misstep somewhere. I’ve talked with my editor about it and I’ve reread what I’ve written and realized that I was trying to show too much too soon. Scenes were initially put in that, instead of explaining what happened — both as the events in the book unfolded but also to explain events that happened before the book opens — muddied the water. There were also scenes, or at least parts of scenes, that needed to be in the book that weren’t. So now I’m going through and figuring out how to make those changes.

I also realized that I had also been planning to end the book later than it needed to. There is a natural ending point already there. One that means the book won’t turn into a goat-gagger. One that will make the sequel easier to plan and to write. The end result won’t come in as long as some science fiction novels out there — mainly those coming from mainstream publishers. But it won’t be priced at their levels either. Nor should it. No, in terms of size, this will be more like On Basilisk Station by David Weber and not his later works  like Mission of Honor in terms of word count.

I hope to have Vengeance finished in a week to ten days. Then it will go off to my editor. In the meantime, I’m still waiting to hear from my first readers. In the meantime, I’ll continue to dig out from under the backlog. But, for now, I need to go out and try to find the cause for two stations of my sprinkler system not going off this morning.

Ah life, sometimes it is just too real.

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Revisions, edits and OMG, what was I thinking?

(Before I get too far into this post, I’m also blogging over at Mad Genius Club this morning. I wanted to be nice. I really did. But it is hard not to get snarky when reading how a so-called “pricing consultant” thinks we pay much too little for our e-books. Of course, he also thinks e-books are a service, a convenience, and not a product and publishers should charge much more for this convenience than they do for actual print books. GAH!)

After having suffered through a quarter of family issues, health issues, and just issues in general, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. The stack of work needed to be done for NRP is slowly getting back down to a manageable size and the edits are going out over the course of this week and all should be out by the start of next week. The writing has also started flowing again even though the current project is whipping my butt, enough so that I asked my own editor to take some time yesterday so we could discuss what was bothering me about the project.

Part of it is because Vengeance from Ashes is a genre I read extensively but have never tried to write, at least professionally. So there are a lot of doubts about whether I’m doing it right. There’s also the worry about whether it is too much like some of the books I’ve read. So I’ve fought the plot more than usual, thinking probably a bit too hard about it instead of letting it just flow.

Then, while talking with my editor, something else dawned on me. It’s possible that I’m missing an opportunity that indie publishing/small press publishing and e-books have opened back up for authors. The serial novels are back. Novels that are published in sections. Not necessarily chapter by chapter as they once were in the genre magazines, but in self-contained sections that have full story arcs in them.

When I realized that, I looked at what I had written, taking into account the edits I already knew I needed to do. I basically have a shortish novel already — somewhere around 65,000 words. With a little work, it could be released as the first “installment” in the Ashes series. It could be priced a bit lower than my other work, mainly because it is shorter and isn’t the “entire” novel even though it can stand alone as the introduction to the series.

But is there enough of a story arc there? That’s the first question, and it’s one I asked my first readers when I sent them what I had — unedited and with apologies for that — yesterday. Now I’m waiting to hear what they have to say. Part of me is hoping they see where I’m going with the book and that they think I can, after edits, send the first section off to my editor for release.

But another part, the more traditional part, is screaming in protest. It’s not the complete book! How can I release anything but the complete book?

Yes, I’m weird and I often find my subconscious fighting with itself. That’s life as a writer ;-)

Now, as I wait to hear back from those poor souls who have been inflicted with the draft, I’m going back to editing for NRP. Be back later.

(shuffles off in search of coffee and food)

Posted in Musings, publishing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Real life really can be stranger — and less believable — than fiction

There are times — okay, a lot of times — when I see a news story and think to myself that if I wrote it, no one would believe it. The “characters” would be deemed “too stupid to live” or would simply be so far out of touch with reality that no one would connect with them. That’s exactly what I thought this morning when I checked the headlines. There really are times when I can only shake my head and be glad my parents were as grounded and caring as they were.

In this case, the parents of two children (ages one and three), decided it would be a good thing to take their kids on an around the world trip. Sounds exciting, right? Heck, I’d love to have a vacation like that. But this wasn’t on a nice cruise ship. Nope. This wasn’t even with other people. Oh no. This was mom, dad, and two very young kids on a sailboat.

Now, I remember my son at that age. He was a bundle of energy and into everything. No matter how carefully I watched, unless I had him in his playpen, he could slip away at the drop of a hat. Then he learned how to climb out of his playpen by stacking his toys — and the cat — and using them to get leverage so he could flip himself out. I lost him in the house and twice he managed to get out of the backyard — which was surrounded by a six foot wooden fence and the gate was locked. To this day, I still don’t know how he did it and I thank the neighbor who brought him and his dog home.

So the thought of raising not one but two young kids on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean frankly terrifies me. So many things could go wrong and, as these parents found out, did. First, the one year old fell ill. Then the sailboat lost navigation and comms ability. At least the parents had a sat phone or something similar because they were able to call for help. Help came in the form of a navy ship that rescued them hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.

Now, think about how much worse the situation could have gotten very quickly. We are told every day how difficult the search for the missing Malaysian airliner has been because all they have to go on are general flight paths based on data taken before the jet went off radar. It is finally possible that searchers have picked up pings from the black box but that isn’t for sure yet.

Now consider that there is no “flight plan” for this family’s voyage. The one thing working in their favor was the fact they had the sat phone. So they weren’t completely out of their minds. But now, instead of saying that it might not have been the wisest thing to take two toddlers on a trip like this, they want everyone to understand this is the way they’ve lived for the last seven years.

Yep, seven years.

That means these adults — and I use the term loosely — chose this path before they were parents. After their first child was born, they didn’t look at one another, scratch their heads and think that maybe it might be wise to be close to medical treatments should something happen to their baby. They compounded the mistake when they had the second child. No, instead they thought it would be a great idea to undertake a major ocean voyage — around the world — because they wanted to.

That is the definition of selfish.

While I’m thrilled the family was found and the baby is recovering, I want to reach out and shake the parents for risking so much. We aren’t in the middle of John Ringo’s zombie apocalypse. (BTW, if you haven’t read his Black Tide Rising series, do. I’m not a big fan of zombies, but I love this series and can hardly wait for the next book to come out.) There is no overriding reason for the parents to take this sort of risk with the lives of their young children. They can’t even argue that this is a trip the kids will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. Remember, the kids are one and three. Yeah, they’ll remember this — not.

Okay, maybe these parents could be main characters in a literary piece about dropping out. But most readers I know would react the same way I did to them as main characters. They’d be waiting for Moby Dick to show up and swallow the boat, hoping as that happened that some mermaid would save the kids. Now all we have to wait to see is if the parents will  be charged for having the naval ship come out to rescue them and if CPS will file to take the kids from them.

Edited to add:

I meant to include this earlier. My very good friend and mentor, Sarah A. Hoyt, has published her first indie novel, Witchfinder. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Witchfinder as Sarah wrote it “live” on her blog. She’s finished it, cleaned it up and has now put it out as an e-book with a print version to follow. This makes something like Sarah’s 25th (give or take a few) published novel but this is the first she wrote with the intent of self-publishing it. I highly recommend it. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and, if not already, will also be available through Kobo and, I think, Smashwords.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Open mouth and insert both feet

The other day, I asked where have all the gentlemen gone. It’s one of those questions that has no right answer. Why? Because there are still gentlemen out there. Try as certain folks in our society might, gentlemen aren’t going away. Oh, we’re going to have a generation or so where they aren’t as prevalent as they once were. But people, on the whole, do still appreciate manners and courtesy and they tend to teach it to their kids. To those parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, thank you.

Unfortunately, for every ten gentlemen we never hear about we have a few who have a “name” or a “platform” who open mouth and their words go viral. The latest in a long line of “WTH was he thinking?” moments comes from Boomer Esiason. Former pro quarterback and now sports commentator, Boomer opened his mouth the other day and BOOM! went the internet. Specifically, Boomer came out condemning the choice of NY Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy to miss Opening Day for — gasp — the birth of his first child.

Yep, you read that right, Boomer — and others — voiced the opinion that Murphy should have opted to miss the birth of his child — HIS CHILD — in order to play baseball. Sports before family and all that.

If that isn’t enough to make your head spin, here’s something that very well make it blow up. It seems Boomer wasn’t satisfied with dissing Murphy for putting his wife and child ahead of a GAME, he had this to say:

Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.

Wait a minute. So Boomer thinks Murphy should have told his wife to have a C-section so he, Murphy, wouldn’t miss Opening Day. He advocates major surgery — non-elective surgery — so Murphy could play. My first thought was, naturally, WTF?!? My second was to be glad I wasn’t married to Boomer who, obviously, would put a game ahead of the health of his wife and child.

But there is more to it than that. We aren’t talking about Murphy missing 1/8th of the games for the season (which he would have if he’d missed two pro football regular season games). No, the pro baseball season runs for, iirc, 162 games. Murphy missed two of those games. TWO. Sure, Opening Day is important but missing that game and the one after it sure won’t keep the Murphy kids out of college. Two games won’t give the baby “every opportunity to succeed in life.”

I applaud Murphy for wanting to put his family over baseball. In a day and age where more and more companies are starting to grant men paternity leave, Murphy’s decision wouldn’t have caused a ripple of attention if he worked anywhere but in pro sports. Murphy showed what is truly important to him — family. Two games away from the ballpark won’t keep that child from attending college or becoming the best that he can be. The example Murphy has set for the child, the care and concern he showed for his wife, is the example of what a “gentleman”, a caring man, should be.

So, kudos to Daniel Murphy for choosing to miss two games — that is less than a week off, folks — to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Boomer, shame on you and all those echoing your comments that Murphy should have put the game ahead of his the health of his wife and the birth of his son. You, sir, are part of the problem. Your priorities are screwed and you give all men a bad name because of it. Perhaps you should think before speaking from now on, especially if the mic is open and you are on the record.

 

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

OMG, do your research

And the corollary to that is to use a little common sense.

What brought this on was something I saw while channel surfing last night. I don’t watch that much TV. I certainly don’t watch much network TV, mainly because the plots of most shows drive me up a wall. I know too much about the legal process to be able to watch shows about lawyer without wanting to scream at the TV. Most cop shows have me wanting to go out and find the writers and take them by the scruff of the neck to the nearest inner city police station and make them do ride alongs for a month. Forensic results don’t come in instantly, especially not DNA evidence that usually goes to a lab outside of the PD for testing and where there can be backlogs of months.

So, what happened last night, you ask. I happened to land on the opening few minutes of CSI. At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary — at least not out of the ordinary for a TV cop shop. Cops and civilians mingling together inside the station and well away from the public areas. Prisoners and suspects being escorted to and fro. Then, just to make sure you know something BAD is about to happen, the camera panned to a young man, a teen, who has entered the scene. He moves further inside the station and then he pulls a gun and fires point blank at a cop.

More shots are fired before he grabs a woman to use as a human shield. More shots and he empties the clip in his gun. But he’s prepared. He has another gun in his waistband at the small of his back. He pulls it and continues firing. More cops go down. Finally, at least one cop returns fire, hitting not the shooter but a civilian. Shooter finally locks himself in a small room with the injured civilian and — dum dum dum — the head of the crime lab.

Now, I have a number of issues with the scene as it played out. The first is that the kid managed to get at least two guns deep within the police department without being challenged. Since 9/11, most government buildings in major cities have metal detectors you have to go through in order to make entry. I would assume LVPD does as well.

The second issue I had is that this kid was being allowed to walk around without an escort in the depths of the police department. No and no and no again. As a defense attorney, I’d have had a field day with something like this. How can you insure chain of custody of anything if just anyone can walk in all the street and wander through the station without anyone keeping eyes on them. Who knows what they may have touched, added or removed to any file on a desk or evidence bag that might be waiting to be booked in.

But the biggest issue was that none of the cops were wearing their protective vests. Not a one. Not those who had just brought in a suspect off the streets and not the ones manning the booking desk. That might have been how the writer wanted it so there would be more carnage in the opening scene but it isn’t how things happen. It is also where I did yell at the TV and when I changed the channel to the news.

Add to the lack of vests on the cops the obvious fact that these TV cops were much worse shots than the teen shooter. They were also pretty slow on the uptake. No one, not even those coming at the shooter from the side, thought to try to get behind him and take the shot. Sure, he had the woman in front of him but he was exposed from the sides and rear. Even a head shot from the front could have been considered. Instead, innocent bystander(s) was shot.

Sure, I know, if they’d killed the teen right there, the story would have had to be changed. Sometimes, that is a good thing. It certainly was with this particular plot. When you lose all connection with reality — and you aren’t writing fantasy of some sort — then you are not doing your job.

So, lesson of the day: do your research and use common sense in writing. Otherwise, you will have folks yelling at you and throwing your book against the wall.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Affluenza or what?

Yesterday afternoon, I started seeing a number of posts about how “affluenza” had struck again. Outraged howls went up into the atmosphere because a One-percenter had managed to get around the justice system and it was only because of his wealth and family connections. Woe is me. Woe is me.

So, being curious, I went looking for the background of the case in point. After reading the case history, I’ll admit the sentence outrages me. But not necessarily for the same reason as all those crying affluenza!. But before I get into that, let’s do a bit of background.

“Affluenza” as a defense was coined in a trial where a young man drove drunk and killed several others. His defense attorney argued, successfully, that because his parents had never taught him there were consequences to his actions, he shouldn’t be sent to prison. He had been too protected, too rich and too special, basically. The trial is still generating outrage in the community — as it should.

In this latest case, well, there’s more at play here than the headlines let on.

To start, the case ended in a guilty plea almost six years ago. A Du Pont family heir stood charged wit sexually abusing his then three year old daughter. As anyone with an ounce of sense and lots of money would do, he hired a dream team of lawyers and plead not guilty. That all changed when he failed a polygraph test. After the test he pleaded guilty and the judge imposed sentence.

And this is where the outrage comes from. The Delaware judge ruled Robert H. Richards IV “would not fare well” in prison. So, instead of sending the admitted child abuser to the pen, he sentenced Richards to eight years probation, the terms of which included reporting to his probation officer only once a month. The reasoning for this sentence? I’m guessing it’s because he told the investigators he was ill and needed medical treatment. At least I hope it’s because of that and not because of who he is and who his family happens to be.

However, I’m not naive and I know the latter probably had as much to do with it as anything else. If not more. That’s especially true since the case apparently didn’t come to the public’s attention at the time of the investigation or plea. In fact, the only reason it is making the news now is because the mother of the child and Richards’ ex-wife has now, almost six years later, filed suit against him, asking for damages for raping not only the girl but their son as well.

Now, this is one of those situations where I have to look at not only what the father did — which was horrible and he should be rotting in prison as far as I’m concerned — but I also have to look at what the mother is doing now. The cynic in me wants to know why she’s waited six years to file this civil suit against him for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress with regard to the children. It’s not like she just now learned about the assault of her children or the sentence her ex-husband received.

My sympathy is with the children. The girl, now 12 or so, may not be named in the papers, etc., but there is more than enough information there for any of her friends and schoolmates to know what happened. It’s the same with her younger brother. You see, it is now alleged that he was also abused when he was less than two years old. According to the mother’s court filings, the father admitted it during another lie detector test in 2010.

Now, either this is one of the dumbest men in the country —  Why else take a lie detector test after you’ve already failed it? — or one of the most unlucky to have had two false test results. I’m laying my bets on dumb.

But there comes a point where, as a mother, you’d better have a damned good reason for taking public a matter that your pubescent daughter doesn’t need all her friends and enemies at school knowing about. Right now, while her actions are no where near as horrendous as her ex-husband’s, they also have the very real potential of causing her children harm. I hope more than money is motivating her.

As for the question of if the sentence was an example of “affluenza” at work or not? I don’t know. My first impulse is to say it probably was. But that is the knee-jerk reaction everyone is having. We don’t know, at least I haven’t seen, the complete transcript of the plea hearing or the supporting documents that were presented. It could be that Richards did have a medical condition the judge felt would be better treated outside rather than in prison. Even so, I’d have had him wearing an ankle monitor, in mandatory counseling and weekly, if not daily, check-ins with his probation officer.

But seeing the knee-jerk reaction of the media, the use of “affluenza” and “One-Percenter” in the headlines — all buzzwords meant to inflame the emotions of the readers instead of just reporting the news — bothered me. It also bothered me that no one seems to be questioning why the mother has waited this long to file her civil suit. Most of all, I’m worried about how this sort of media attention will impact the kids.

My heart goes out to them. The dad, well, he needs to have a bit of old-fashioned justice meted out on him and mom needs to get a clue if her sole motivation is money.

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Where have all the gentlemen gone?

This morning, I saw a meme posted on Facebook that started me thinking. It said, “Chivalry never died. The gentleman in most men did. Being male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of age, but, being a gentleman is a matter of choice.” My immediate reaction was that the creator of the meme was right. Then I remembered some of the situations my son found himself — or his friends — in as they grew up. Add to that the attitude of a very vocal group of people who feel men shouldn’t be “men” and, well, it is clear that, while being a gentleman is a matter of choice, it is also a choice that some wish the males of our society wouldn’t make.

Think about it. How often have you seen a man hold a door for a woman only to be told that she could have gotten it for herself? If the woman doesn’t actually say something to the man, all too often she’ll give him a look that is meant to wither him where he stands or she’ll complain to anyone within earshot about how he was condescending because he dared hold the door for her. “Feminism” — and I use that term loosely — has caused us to forget that the simple action of holding a door isn’t demeaning to the woman. It isn’t the man beating his chest and trying to keep the woman barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. It is the man being a gentleman.

Instead of accepting the gesture for what it is, the vocal women who have to prove they are every bit as much of a man as the man is, have done all they can to remove the gentleman from our society.

What I find even more troublesome is that these same women who have fought to be treated as equals — Sorry, we aren’t equals. There are differences between men and women. We will never be “equal”. Physiology sees to that — aren’t stepping up to help people in everyday situations that gentlemen used to do. (Yes, there are still those wonderful men out there who still do but they are becoming fewer with each day.) I don’t see these women who railed at men holding the door for them or carrying out their groceries or just helping out being there to help the elderly man or woman at the store with their bags or by holding the door, etc. Instead, they are into themselves and their own “needs” and I’m tired of it.

Yes, I rush ahead to hold the door for someone older than I am — or for the woman with a child on her hip and another by the hand or who just has her hands full. But I’m an equal opportunity helper too. I do it the same thing for men. Funny, it’s more often the men who thank me and really seem to mean it. Then, as if realizing that I’m doing it because I can see they need help and not because I’m some feminist warrior bent on making them even less of a man than my sister warriors already have, they hurry forward to repay my good deed with one of their own. Sometimes that is simply by pointing out to their children that it was a very nice thing I’d just done and they need to remember and do the same thing for someone when they are older.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for equal pay if the job has the same demands and the basic qualifications are the same between the male and female employee. I’m dead set against discrimination based on sex, race or anything else — as long as none of those “qualifiers” impacts the job.

But we have done a disservice to men in our society by making them feel guilty for being “gentlemen”. Just as we’ve now created an atmosphere of fear in our schools — teachers are scared to death to comfort a child who has fallen and skinned a knee or an elbow on the playground because someone might think that reassuring hug was child abuse — we’ve created an atmosphere of distrust between men and women. And it is a shame.

Of course, I was one of those bad moms who — gasp — did try to teach her son what it meant to be a gentleman. He treats a woman with respect. He opens the door for her — and for his elders and others who might need assistance. He carries heavy packages without having to be asked. I’m proud of him for it because he didn’t let the BS he was taught in school turn him into an apologetic for being happily male.

So here’s my challenge, or maybe plea. Gentleman, don’t be afraid to come out. Trust me. There are more people out here who appreciate you than who don’t. And, women, don’t be afraid to let a gentleman know that you appreciate him for holding the door or helping you with something. Who knows, you might just find out he’s a nice guy.

Posted in Musings | 26 Comments

It’s time to push back

I don’t think there is anyone who has paid any attention to current events for the last few decades, and who has studies history, who doubts that our individual rights have been slowly eroding away. No, i’m not going to talk about what the NSA is or isn’t doing. There’s been more than enough written about that. Besides, on one level, I can almost, sort of understand the mindset of the folks who put those rules in place. But it is the idiotic erosion of rights that really bothers me.

The first doesn’t actually fall into an erosion of “rights” but most definitely is idiotic and falls close to the “rights” side of the column. Fort Worth has had in place for some time a policy where city employees (or contractors) drive through neighborhoods, checking what you put in your recycle bins. The basic justification for this is two-fold. First, it’s trash so you no longer have any expectation of privacy in it. That means they can look through it without getting your permission. The second justification the city gives for this action is that it needs to stop people from putting the wrong items into their recycle bins.

Now, on its surface, this doesn’t seem too bad. It’s not a job I’d want. However, Fort Worth isn’t satisfied with that approach. After scaring people with the threat of having their recycle bins searched — and potentially being fined if they violate the rules too often — the city is going one step further. Now they are going to start searching your trash to see if you AREN’T recycling items. The plan is if they find items in your trash you haven’t recycled and should have, they are going to call you and talk with you about why you aren’t recycling.

I have a couple of issues with this. The first is that recycling isn’t mandatory. Or at least I don’t believe it is. The second is that the city has already used intimidation tactics to force people to be more careful with what they recycle. I’ll lay odds it has caused at least some folks to stop or limit what they are tossing into the recycle bin. But the real issue I have is a monetary one. Fort Worth, like so many other cities, has ongoing financial problems. There are things in the city that need to be fixed or renovated but the money isn’t there. So why is it so important that they spend additional monies on becoming the trash police instead of using that money to repair roads or improve library buildings? Then there are the issues of will the city employees be calling the cops if they find something they think might be illegal and, if they do, how will the cops prove up chain of evidence, etc.? There are so many potential issues with this new policy. But it all comes down to this: does the city have a right to tell its citizens what they can or can’t throw into the trash or that they have to recycle certain items?

That’s a pretty mild case, true, but it is indicative of the nanny state that we are finding ourselves in more and more. Worse is what one school — and a number of employers — did.

A school in Minnesota initially gave a student detention after she posted a message on her Facebook page the administration thought was threatening. Basically, the student, Riley Stratton, posted that she didn’t like a teacher’s aide because she was “mean”. The post was not made from a school computer. At the time, Riley was in the sixth grade.

But it doesn’t stop there. After she was given detention, she was called into the principal’s office because someone — allegedly a parent. Whose, I’m not sure except it wasn’t Riley’s — had alleged Riley and a boy were using Facebook private messaging and email to discuss — gasp — sex. The administration demanded Riley turn over her Facebook password and let them look at her posts and emails. If she didn’t, she would receive more punishment. Oh, and just to make sure she was thoroughly intimidated, a sheriff’s deputy was there to look at her postings as well.

In tears, scared and not wanting to get into any more trouble, Riley agreed and gave them her password. There was never a signed permission slip obtained from her parents to search her phone. Of course,“It was believed the parent had given permission to look at her cellphone,” according to Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt. Funny how that is now a district policy. I guess hindsight really is 20-20.

Needless to say, Riley’s parents were as furious about what happened as their daughter was upset. Even though Riley was brought into the principal’s office based on a complaint by a third party and not for something that was currently happening, her parents weren’t advised nor invited to be there when their daughter was, in their words, interrogated. I’d be upset too if I found out my child had been brought in to answer questions with a law enforcement officer present and no advocate there to look after her rights and best interests. And I would have done just what they did. I’d have found an attorney to take the district to court.

You see, as Riley’s ACLU attorney noted, Riley was doing only what kids have done for decades and longer. She was complaining about teachers and those who work at the school. She didn’t threaten anyone. There is no way what she said should have fallen under a Zero Tolerance rule. She was expressing her personal feelings that the aide in question was mean and didn’t like her. She wasn’t using school computers or internet to post the comment. She was at home.

There has to come a point when we finally say “enough is enough”? Our kids can’t protect themselves from bullies without fearing they will be punished for standing up for themselves or someone else. They are punished for wrong speak and wrong think. Schools have taken to policing them even when they are off-campus and not involved with school activities. Now schools, like employers, have started demanding access to private social media accounts. At least in this case, Riley and her parents found an attorney willing to take the district to court and they did “win” a settlement and the district has amended its policies.

I’ve had enough of Big Brother telling me what I should eat and drink, think and say. I know a lot of others have as well. It’s time we stand up and let our voices be heard for a change. If not for ourselves then for our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, they will truly find themselves living in an Orwellian future none of us want to imagine.

 

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Back to work

Okay, I’m ready for the winter to be over. I’m blaming everything on the winter because surely the year isn’t going to be as bad as the first few months of 2014 have been. I won’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that I’ve seen more than my share of hospitals, ERs, doctors’ office and mechanics. There’s even been an emergency vet trip.

Anyway, I’m back to work and everyone I’ll be getting edits out over the next few days. I’ve spent the last couple of days going over the work I’ve done the last month or so and realizing how out of it I’d been. So everything is getting one more pass before editorial letters go out. Then, hopefully, I can get back to not only blogging regularly but to also writing.

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