Y’all wonder what’s wrong with me. . . .

Hubby wanted to test the amateur radio set that he got me for my birthday (ahem). So he went into the sunroom and opened the window to the covered patio and hooked up the 2-meter quarter-wave antenna.

Yes! Why, yes, there IS a metal bucket on the roof of my $25,000 addition to my $360,000* house! See the sprinkler system’s rain sensor? And the back of the Kia hatchback? And the BUCKET. With an ANTENNA on it.

We have a crime watch patrol that drives up and down the alleyways of this pristine country club subdivision. If I ever leave my garage door open and they happen by, they CALL me on the PHONE to tell me to close the dang door–BAD PEOPLE might STEAL some of the worthless junk I carefully store in there! Well, I haven’t been able to entice a stealing truck** to come on down and get all of these piles of priceless junque YET, even when I leave the door open for hours because we’re in the back yard or we’re about to pack or whatever. Still, the crime watch people are very conscientious. They called me just the other day to verify that my door was only open because I was getting Mama’s stuff together to take out to the car (we went on a drive, and she needed her walker, her nebulizer just in case, a bag of approved food such as crackers and diet RC cola, and a backup pair of shoes).

Wait until the next time they drive by!

“Yes, um, Shalanna . . . did you know that there’s a bucket on your roof?”

“Oh, right . . . here, you can talk to the buckethead himself.” Let HIM explain it.

They fine you just for leaving your trash out on the wrong morning, kids! Just wait until they see this lovely addition to my garden statuary. Maybe they’ll think it’s a UFO and it’ll scare them away.

* {Tax assessment for this year. Neighbors have actually sold their casas for anywhere between $250K and $800K. But then they have new flooring and kitchen appliances. At least my stuff is almond and Berber carpet if it isn’t granite and hardwood . . . and not avocado green appliances and orange shag carpet that has to be RAKED, as was here when my parents first bought the house in 1967.}
** {We get lots of burglaries now that our neighborhood has been Discovered. Used to, we were invisibubble. Now that two highways have gone through north of us and west of us, they’ve discovered us and are buying up the houses to renovate. We can’t really afford to live here now, but then my parents really couldn’t, either . . . we do love the old manse, but it’s a LOT of work and upkeep, even when you don’t have to tune an antenna on the roof.}

I made trouble! And just by musing aloud in public!

Heh. What would the world do without me to stumble along and suddenly post something provocative that occurs to me? *grin* Probably have far lower blood pressure and be happier, come to think of it.

But I stirred up some protest that led to an interesting discussion about the teaching of language arts/English grammar and usage. Didn’t really know I was going to, but then I never seem to anticipate these things, do I? *duh*

At Ann Leckie‘s journal, when an offhand comment I made on a prior entry led to some consternation, there’s now a discussion of students and what helps them (or doesn’t). At Rachel Swirsky‘s journal, I actually get quoted! I’m famous. (GRIN) Don’t take me too seriously, as I’m usually just musing and I do expect to hear other points of view (which may become mine if I let things percolate for a while). Generally I don’t stir up people that much with just a few lines. Oh, do I? Surely there’s some GOOD use for that talent. I might even find it sometime.

At the time, I wasn’t thinking so much of students in general (when I typed all that jumble) as I was of students who know they’re going to become writers. Students who aim for other careers won’t be So Serious about the semicolon and colon, naturally. But I always knew I would write (whether or not you can pretend I am a “real” writer or just think I’m a scribbler is moot), so I tried to master usage and grammar and punctuation. When I was young, my teachers and parents said I didn’t have any interesting stories to tell, so I should prepare for the time when I would have some cool story (if only that time would hurry up and arrive) by becoming a master of the tools of the craft. I suppose people who are natural storytellers or who have ideas that are more in line with what sells today don’t have to worry so much. Or they find editors.

I concede that the “average” (everyday, normal) student through the ages didn’t study grammar and punctuation and so forth very thoroughly, and people in general are probably as literate now as they have ever been. (Consider that many jobs in the past didn’t require literacy so much as a strong back. Now we have far more office professions.) But shouldn’t someone who is a professional novelist know his or her tools? A carpenter knows his/her tools before building a house, and has practiced until he/she can use them properly. I don’t see why we can’t expect a professional writer (one who publishes a novel, no less) to be one of those people who studied grammar and usage and punctuation for himself or herself, whether or not it was taught in school.

As always, what I said was what I was thinking at the time. Didn’t really mean to imply that “the kids are baaaad,” if I did. Because really, I like the young adults of today! They’re nice people. They are bright. They are changing the world. But they are not, IMHO, maintaining the emphasis on punctuation and grammar in written language that we used to have in publishing (at least). Is this a good or bad thing? Well, to my mind, anything that does not serve clarity is doubleplus-ungood. So when we omit punctuation or use nonstandard grammar that doesn’t make a sentence easily understandable, I think we’re going downhill.

The author whose work was under discussion in that thread had written sentences that confused everyone, and was defending her book as having “nothing wrong.” A reviewer had written that her self-pubbed novel (in e-format) is riddled with errors, although the story itself (said the reviewer) isn’t bad. I extrapolated to say that nowadays, it seems that good grammar and punctuation don’t even matter. Not even to mainstream publishing (IMHO, judging by the many errors I see in published novels). I see contest entries (in RWA chapter contests and writers’ convention contests) that simply have not been cleaned up–and the judges’ sheets seem to completely give them a pass on that. It’s as if they are saying that editors and agents don’t care at all or will not notice. That it’s all about the story. I do not believe that (maybe I should), but it certainly seems that way from this vantage point. I think writers need to wake up and start caring about the mechanics of their work.

Or perhaps it will matter less and less as self-publishing becomes the norm.

That poor li’l author who was clueless now has a bunch of one-star Amazon reviews. I guess she had her fifteen minutes of fame, at the bottom of the pile-on, that is. Oh, well. More people looked at her work than I could ever hope to have look at mine, which is saying something. Not sure WHAT. She could go on to do the talk-show circuit, though. Parlay this into a mini-flash of fame. Make it her platform!

As far as my little drama burst about the kids and their resistance to learning . . . go read _Generation X Goes to College_ by Peter Sacks or _The Dumbest Generation_ by Mark Bauerlein (or any number of books about students’ lack of interest in general knowledge and gaining traditional academic expertise). It’s true that students today get inflated grades and often expect to get great grades despite not turning in the work. In the past, students would get bad grades for poor work; now, parents often intervene to get the students’ grades ratcheted up a notch. People were wondering why I said that, and thinking all my evidence was anecdotal. Well, there’s research that will tell you we do have a problem there. But it probably doesn’t matter anyhow, as the world is changing. (Ya THINK?)

The bit about the cool kids taking over publishing . . . well, that’s just me. I feel as if the cheerleaders and the jocks decided it’s cool to have a book in print, and the rules therefore changed accordingly. No longer must you be a grammar wonk or a stickler for correct usage to write books. My magical talent becomes unimportant just as I start waving the wand. Frustration city.

I understand that the next generation is going to take over and do things any way they like. But I don’t have to like it when I see a decline in the quality of books on the shelves. Who knows whether the young crowd is to blame–or perhaps people of all ages who didn’t learn how to self-edit? It seems that the shift is taking place just as a new crop of writers matures . . . but of course correlation doesn’t guarantee causation. The culprits could be a bunch of old fossils like me who were too busy smoking pot to bother learning how to punctuate. Whatever and whoever is causing it . . . I think it’s leading us down a less positive path.

On the other hand, just about anyone can go self-publish and then say he or she has published a book now . . . which is nice. It’s up to readers whether they actually want to READ the books, as ever.

I’m sure one of the reasons I feel such angst over crappy writing vs readable writing is that I can’t find much on the shelves now that I like. Nothing speaks to me. So many books start out clunky and don’t speak to me. I did get some good recommendations from a couple of people, though, and that gives me something to look for at the bookstore. It could just be a phase I’m going through as I enter my second childhood.

Or it could be a hardcore midlife crisis. *flip a coin*

Think this guy has anything to hide??

Auction of editor/agent critiques for Japan charity

Hubby just got finished lecturing me about why I mustn’t bid on any of the critiques offered by editors and agents at this ebay store because “they’ll just think you are a sucker who can’t get the work to them through other channels, and they won’t take it seriously and won’t request the full–it’ll just be a waste of the $500 that I need to spend on more ham radio equipment!”

“But I *am* a sucker who can’t get an agent and therefore can’t get to Kate Seaver, a senior editor at Berkley–Berkley!–who edits paranormal romance like LOVE IS THE BRIDGE!”

(I’m not going to let him buy any more ham radio equipment for a while, either. So that imaginary $525 can stay in the imaginary bank.)

“Well, you are not to bid on those at ANY price. It would show that you have no confidence in your work. You have to go in through established channels or you won’t be taken seriously.”

It’s a moot point, as Kate Seaver’s offer has now gone over $525.

[EDIT: It went for over $700.00. SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. That is more than our first house’s house payment. That is more than my car payment. Who has that kind of cash sitting around to donate to charity, even for a critique? And the crit will probably be discouraging to the recipient . . . we’ll pray that it is not, because when that kept happening to me, I got really depressed. Let’s hope that the recipient gets more out of her/his critique.]

But others of interest are still going on. If you are single, independently wealthy, or more of a gambler than I evidently am (grin), here’s the auction store. All profits go to help people in Japan. And who knows . . . maybe your chapter will be the one that charms the editor or agent into asking for a full! Or you’ll get some useful stuff out of the critique. That would be good, too.

Click here to see the editors!

P. S. They also have lots of signed books and other author-donated goodies! Search for “critique” or “editor” or “agent” in the search box to see the specific stuff.


Be calm and visualize the ocean
(You can smell the salt air . . . feel the sand between your toes . . . hear the roar of the sea lions. Arrrr!)

Orts for your amusement (and use in trivia games)

It takes eight minutes for light from our sun to reach Earth.

(Distance between Earth and sun is nearly 150,000,000 km. Speed of light is 300,000 km/s. So, it takes nearly 500 sec, i.e., nearly 8 min and 20 sec. Formula is d=st or t=d/s. Change seconds to hours and hours to minutes after you get the time in hours.)

(And the contestant was *sort of* on the ball: she said that light travels 186,000 miles an HOUR [ahem], whereas it’s actually miles per SECOND, in a vacuum. No wonder my vacuum doesn’t pick up the dog hair.)

The League of Nations was formed during Woodrow Wilson’s administration, as was the Federal Reserve. The League of Nations yielded in 1946 to the United Nations, during the Harry Truman administration.

Jade is generally nephrite (although there’s also jadeite). I Did Not Know This.

Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States (1901– 1909), following William McKinley to become the first 20th-century leader. Abraham Lincoln (16th, 1861-1865, which is incidentally the date span of the Civil War) used to keep notes and papers in his hat (they say). Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry) is generally considered the worst-ever president (even taking into consideration all the others that you think were stinkers). {EDIT: This was one of those tossed-off remarks that the contestant makes–not actually a trivia “fact.” It’s something they’ve been told by an opinionated historian, I’ll bet.)

The only hit the Strawberry Alarm Clock ever had was “Incense and Peppermints.”

*Seven*:
Liberal Arts: (of antiquity) Grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music
Deadly Sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony
Cardinal Virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility
Wonders of the Ancient World: Great Pyramid of Giza, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse at Alexandria (alternatively, the Ishtar Gate)
Wonders of the Modern World: Stonehenge, the Colosseum, the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, the Great Wall of China, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, the Hagia Sophia, the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Tones of the musical scale: Do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti (returning to octave do)
Dwarves: Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, Doc

Aren’t these just ESSENTIAL little orts of knowledge?

Impossible . . . impossible

I spent the ENTIRE DAY today trying to . . . um . . . well, you know those five lab tests that the doctor ordered that weren’t blood tests but were . . . um . . . [TMI]

POOP TESTS

I am not making this up. They gave me three white “margarine containers” like the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” (ahem) containers and four vials. Then I was supposed to . . . well, you fill in the blanks. WITHOUT placing the prize elsewhere, but directly there. Impossible! Impossible!

Well, just barely possible. Problem was, I started on Nexium to reduce stomach acid when I went to the doctor on Tuesday morning, and that corrected the “too much too often” trouble. So today . . . it wasn’t as simple as one might imagine. Please DON’T imagine it.

*sigh*

Finally, just before the lab closed at five, I got there with all but one vial “done.” At home we couldn’t get the top off this vial (it had reagent already in it, stuff that said it was poisonous and carcinogenic and DON’T GET IT ON YOU), so I finally just went there and asked them to open it. The techs couldn’t get it open, either. They decided the machine that makes the things had stuck the top on too tightly. So they found another of those vials (they’re apparently a SET) and let me deal with that test separately. The other tests went in today.

But I’m pretty much well, except I do have some soreness and pain around my belly button. It’s like a pinching, or a stabbing pain now and then. That is a lot better than it was.

The doctor actually kept saying, “It’s stress. The job situation, the conflict between your husband and your mom, and all that . . . it’s stress. Or maybe it’s the five Metformin–reduce that back to three and see if it helps. And here’s Nexium.” He didn’t seem worried. I’m still concerned, of course, but I’m better.

As far as stress, though–hubby has been pulled back off of his “new” assignment to do a last-ditch effort for this other project. There’s a possible government contract in it, they say. I have stopped listening to them. I think the guys in charge of that are on a manic phase and need to get some Lithium or something. Aren’t government contracts getting pulled back? *sigh*

But I’m not going to think about it. If he has to work for the [insert hated political party here] as a bootlicker, I won’t say a word. Not a single word!

A good-thinks request

I’ve been having some major/minor digestive issues for almost a month now. I suppose it’s time to tell the doctor. May I ask for your prayers and positive thoughts that it’s “nothing”? (And by that I mean not a BAD thing . . . if I have celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome or something treatable by changes in diet and drugs, that would be not so bad.)

I know stress can cause a lot of problems, and I certainly have a lot of stress with Mama and Hubster bickering at each other all the time (and when his job was a problem, it was even worse). Still, I seem to have a terrific sensitivity to acid–tomatoes, citrus, etc.–that has accompanied this problem. I forgot about the acid in the little packets of Crystal Light powder that you put into bottles of water (*facepalm*), and felt all virtuous that I wasn’t drinking a cola or soda . . . but I suspect that caused some of my problems this morning. I’ve heard that stuff isn’t so great for you, anyway.

But anyhow. All positive energies appreciated.

Feeling pretty old

Thank you to everyone who sent an e-mail or left a Facebook birthday message! That was uplifting.

What is the phase of the moon tonight? In 2011? The full, 14.1 day old moon, 99.5% lighted.

My quiz result:
You were born during a First Quarter moon.
This phase occurs in the middle of the moon’s waxing phases, after the new moon and before the full moon.
You test everything. You’re sometimes unhappy with what others think is “good enough”. You pointing out things you see wrong with the world, even if others are afraid it may cause some unrest. When something isn’t right, you’re the one who’s not afraid to make dramatic changes. You’re good at keeping your head in a crisis and reminding people that it takes a shakeup to fix things.

Quiz

OH, well. At least I got hubby to come out of the cave and drive around for a while with me. I got two birthday cards and two calls. Nothing that I need, at least nothing that you can buy without millions. I really need a house with a guest house that I could put my mother in so that she and Hubby would not spend most of their time raving how it’s unbearable to live around THAT WOMAN/ THAT MAN and how I should spend ALL my time waiting on THEM instead of the other. But that would indeed take a lot of money. So I’ll settle for a couple of pairs of shoes that should come in the mail by next week.

No cake for the fat diabetic, alas. (Sugar substitutes seem to irritate one’s digestive tract . . . especially when used in baking.)

But not dead. So still ahead of game.