KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Polishing Gems

I don’t often write here about what it is that I do for a living, because this blog is a place for me to write about politics, religion, human rights, and parenting as seen through the eyes of an editor. I’m analytical in my work, and that carries over into how I see the world. I analyze it and the people in it. But I figure that maybe you might want to know what I’m doing when I’m not blogging or parenting, so that you can understand what I bring to this blog. So in this post, adapted from comments I posted at Evil Editor’s blog, I explain how I spend my workday and how clients find me.

As a professional freelance copyeditor with 22 years’ experience in publishing, I say using the services of a professional editor is worthwhile. But why?

Authors hire freelance copyeditors because they know that their opus may have weak spots, and they want to maximize their chances of getting a publisher to buy their manuscript. If a publisher thinks it has to work too hard to whip a manuscript into a book that'll sell, it won't bother taking it on.

How do you find a freelance copyeditor, and how do you know if the critter is proficient?

After you’ve had your manuscript critiqued by a writers’ group and revised it, do an Internet search on the phrase “freelance editor” or “freelance copyeditor.” Peruse the web sites of several of the freelancers who are listed in the search results. Look for a philosophy of editing, a client list, a résumé, a project list, and affiliations with profession-related associations. E-mail a few freelancers whose sites inspire confidence. Ask about their working process, their rates, their time frames. Of those whose responses you like, request a sample edit. This generally isn’t free, but because a sample is usually 5 to 10 of your 250-word double-spaced pages, it won’t be that expensive. Choose an editor on the basis of compatibility and how well you like his or her editing; don’t choose the one who says your golden prose is perfect as is. Choose the editor you feel will help your writing sound like what you meant to say in the first place. Then get a written contract and dig in!

Now, why should you go through working with a writers’ group first? Because that will deal with the big-picture issues. You can go directly to a copyeditor, but then you’ll be paying a great deal more because your work may very well need substantive editing, which takes longer, rather than copyediting. You can find definitions of the levels of editing here.

But can’t you just ask freelancers for references and contact them? Yes, but looking at a freelancer’s client list and résumé will tell you about the copyeditor’s background, how long he or she has been in the business, and how many—and which—clients have actually trusted him or her to edit.

Isn’t this process an awful lot of work, on top of the hard work of writing? Yes. But if you were looking for a new, expensive car, you’d likely take the time to shop around for the best value and the best warranty. Why would you do any less for the manuscript you’ve sweated over for months or years?

You know what? Everyone needs an editor—even an editor! Whenever I write for publication, I always have a colleague review my work before I submit it. An editor is a second (or fourth or fifteenth) set of eyes that can spot what you can’t see because you’re too close to your work. You know what you meant to write, so you see it on the page even if it’s not there.

I understand just how precious an author’s work is to him or her. That’s why I advise taking extra care in finding the right person to work with. I work both with publishers and directly with authors, and I treat each manuscript with respect, recognizing how much effort went into crafting it. My job isn’t to slash and burn. It’s to point out areas where readers may need more information or where they’re given too much of it, to get rid of wordiness, to point out lapses in logic, to polish the author’s gem until it shines.

That’s what I do all day—polish gems.

publishing manuscript book author writing writer

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Horticultural Guy

My son Neil, who just finished sixth grade, made a video of himself creating several different masterpieces in horticulture class during the school year.

Be forewarned: You need DSL or cable to view it, and it's a Flash video. It's 15 megabytes, so it takes a while to download. If you don't have Macromedia Flash installed on your computer, you can download it for free. Also, Neil doesn't have my editing gene, so there are a couple of typos on title screens. He's the cute blond kid. ;-)


Monday, June 26, 2006

Not Good News

This isn't good. My father-in-law, A, who underwent a prostatectomy a few weeks ago, may very well have a blood clot, which could cause a stroke or a fatal heart attack.

The last few days, the veins in his legs have been bothering him, and last night, one of his legs swelled up. He put in a call to the office of the Veterans Administration hospital physician who performed his surgery. My mother-in-law, D, came upstairs to tell me this a few minutes ago. My background as a medical copyeditor prompted me to say that the problem could be a blood clot. Just after she'd gone back downstairs, she came back up to ask why I always had to be right—the physician called back to say that yes, indeed, it could be a blood clot, and it could be higher than his leg, and he should get to the VA hospital emergency room right away.

D and A just left. I hope he'll be okay. He and I have had a stormy relationship over the years, but I'd like for him to be around a while longer. He's 70.

Updated 6:47 p.m., 6/26/06: Amazingly, A and D are now back home. A doesn't have a blood clot; he has an infection in his leg. What caused it, no one knows. I've suggested that he get tested for diabetes, because he seems to get infections frequently lately.

Whew. Bullet dodged. Must've been all those good thoughts you all sent out.

sandwich generation freelancer self-employed in-laws intergenerational prostate cancer Veterans Affairs EditorMom

Friday, June 23, 2006

Clients Who Make Work Worthwhile

I love my job. I spend my workdays helping authors say what they really meant to say. And some of them give me gifts, such as the following lovely e-mail that I found in my in-box this morning from one of my clients, an orthopedic surgeon in Korea:

Hello Katharine:

Dr M again. How are you doing? I bet you have a great time.

I am so pleased to hear that my article, "_______," which was edited by you, will be published next month by Journal X.

I am preparing another article for Big-Name Journal, americal volume. So I need your sincere English editing because My English is not good and acceptance by Big-Name Journal is so difficult as you know. So please find the attached file entitled "_______." If you have any questions or any requirements, please contact me Via E-mail.

Thank you again very much for your warm heart and good jobs.

Not only is Dr. M a sweetheart of a guy but he also refers his colleagues to me. What a great way to end the week!

publishing business clients

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cow's Milk Is for Calves

I've always thought that cows' milk is for calves, not humans. I rarely drink it now; I use soy milk in my morning bowl of cereal. Research reported today (or here) seems to confirm the inappropriateness of cow's milk for humans:
Commercial cows' milk increases uterine size in young ovariectomized and sexually immature rats, according to a report in the May 1st issue of the International Journal of Cancer. ...

Similarly, in immature female rats, consumption of commercial cows' milk was associated with significantly higher uterine weights than was consumption of artificial milk. Uterine weights were, however, significantly higher in rats that received milk and estrogen solution than either of the other milk-treated groups. ...

Dr. Sato concludes that milk and dairy product consumption should be kept to a minimum. These products "contain sex steroid hormones, which promote the development of hormone-dependent cancers (prostate cancer in men, and breast and ovarian cancers in women)" [emphasis added]. Dr. Sato also does not recommend milk for prepubertal children."

Yes, people have been drinking cow's milk for eons, but only for the last century or so in the United States has the dairy lobby machine (such as the American Dairy Association and the National Dairy Council) pushed it so much. What American who's ever been near a TV doesn't know about the "Got milk?" campaign? And the United States is one of the few countries in which people drink cow's milk past childhood. The dairy machine wants you to drink milk for strong bones and teeth, and and it even claims, on the basis of spurious interpretation of research, that milk will help dieters lose weight. But here's the real scoop on cow's milk consumption and weight:
Children who drink more than three servings of milk each day are prone to becoming overweight, according to a large new study that undermines a heavily advertised dairy industry claim that milk helps people lose weight.

The study of more than 12,000 children nationwide found that the more milk they drank, the more weight they gained: Those consuming more than three servings each day were about 35 percent more likely to become overweight than those who drank one or two.

"The take-home message is that children should not be drinking milk as a means of losing weight or trying to control weight," said Catherine S. Berkey of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who led the study, the largest to examine the question in children.

The National Dairy Council has spent $200 million since 2003 to promote the idea that milk can help people lose weight. Some research has suggested that calcium or other elements in milk may cause the body to make less fat and speed its elimination, but the studies produced mixed results. ...

The researchers examined the relationship between the children's milk intake between 1996 and 1999 and their weight over a one-year period. Those who drank more than three eight-ounce servings of milk a day gained the most weight, even after the researchers took into consideration factors such as physical activity, other dietary factors and growth. The association held, even though most of the children were drinking low-fat milk.

"That was surprising," Berkey said. "Apparently this applies to any kind of milk."

But a lot of the cow's milk consumed in the United States comes from cows that have been given antibiotics and hormones, such as bovine growth hormone, so it could very well be those substances, rather than the milk itself, that are causing cancers.

I'm going to stick with soy milk, thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Waxing Rhapsodic About Buying More Free Time

Well, Peapod just delivered more free time for my family, and I am a very satisfied first-time customer. No, you have not been transported into a commercial.

I picked a larger delivery time range (3:30–7 p.m.) for my grocery order than most people would want to do because that was after my middle child was home from school (last day of this school year), because I got $1 off my order for not choosing a peak delivery time, and because I'm here pretty much all day most of the time anyway, my house also being my office. The driver was friendly and brought the bags of food up my driveway and to the front door, where he handed them off to my sons and me.

The produce was all in good condition, and the frozen foods and meats were still cold. The store warehouse was out of stock of one first-aid item and two fresh veggies, so I wasn't charged for them. The driver handed me a printout of my order and coupons for $5 off each of my next four orders. If I want to use manufacturers' coupons next time, I'll just hand them to the driver, and they'll be entered into the system and the amounts will be deducted from my bill, which is a direct debit from my bank checking account. The driver's smile threatened to wrap around his head when I gave him a $10 tip.

Next week will be a bigger test: We'll order lots more veggies and fruits and more of other items in general. This week we needed fewer items than usual because grocery shopping last week got postponed from Tuesday night to Thursday night, leaving us with more food than we normally have in the house on shopping night.

After the driver left, it took the boys and me 10 minutes of assembly-line unpacking, and we were done! The spousal unit's still at least 30 minutes away from finishing his commute home, and all he has to do when he gets home is cook dinner, instead of cooking and then shopping, then putting the groceries away with me when we're nearly zonked after a very long day, trying to be quiet as we do so because the boys are asleep. Tonight he'll be more relaxed and will smile more, which means the boys and I will also.

Smiles might not be in Peapod's online inventory, but they sure are in the grocery bags.

Updated 6/28/06: We had our second Peapod delivery tonight, and all the food was lovely, including the beautiful ruffly fresh kale. I'm hooked on Peapod!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Groceries Delivered to Your Front Door

Now, this is just too cool!

My husband (Ed) and I ordered our groceries online tonight from Peapod, which works through the grocery-store chain Stop & Shop (the largest food retailer in New England, covering Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) to deliver groceries. (Peapod also works with the Giant Food chain in Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland.) Peapod's been around for a while, but it's new to Ed and me. It was founded in 1989, starting out in the Chicago area. It expanded into other areas of the country, had some bad experiences in places that weren't ready for it, cut back, revamped, and ramped up again. Here's Peadpod's official company history, from its web site, with a little editing by me for consistency and readability:
1989–1989: Andrew and Thomas Parkinson pioneer the online grocery delivery concept, establishing Peapod in Evanston, Ill. Combining backgrounds in consumer product marketing (Andrew was a brand manager with Procter & Gamble and Kraft) and technology expertise (Thomas was the founder of a software company), the brothers establish Peapod as a lifestyle solution for busy families.

1990: Peapod partners with Chicago-area Jewel Food Stores to fulfill orders. Peapod begins test marketing to about 400 households in Evanston, IL. The company provides software and modems for customers who have to dial-in directly to the Peapod shopping system. During the early days, Andrew, Thomas and their families do the picking and packing—making deliveries with their own cars.

1991: With Evanston, IL, proving a success, Peapod expands its service to the surrounding suburbs and Chicago.

1993: Peapod launches service in San Francisco with Safeway.

1995: Peapod launches its first advertising campaign; the company gains 4,600 members. (Until this time, Peapod built its customer base largely through word of mouth.) Peapod initiates service in Columbus, OH, with the Kroger Company.

1996: Peapod reaches a customer base of 43,200. Peapod partners with Stop & Shop to offer "Peapod by Stop & Shop" in the Boston metro area. Peapod joins the Internet, launching its own Web site: www.peapod.com. Inc. magazine names Peapod to the "Inc. 500" ranking of the fastest-growing U.S. private companies.

1997: Peapod opens the first Stop & Shop wareroom in Watertown, MA, just outside Boston. In June, Peapod completes a successful initial public offering, listing its shares on the NASDAQ.

1998: Peapod initiates service on Long Island, NY, with Stop & Shop, and in Texas with Randalls and Tom Thumb. In July, Peapod delivers its one millionth order, to a customer in Chicago.

1999: After growing business in the Chicago market, Peapod pursues a centralized distribution model: moving from 12 store locations to one dedicated warehouse outside Chicago, in Niles, IL.

2000: In June, Royal Ahold takes a 51% ownership. Peapod names current president and CEO Marc van Gelder. Van Gelder joins the company from Stop & Shop, a subsidiary of Royal Ahold. Peapod initiates service in Norwalk, CT, with Stop & Shop. In September, Peapod acquires Streamline.com operations in Chicago and Washington DC. In November, Peapod partners with Giant Food (a Royal Ahold subsidiary) to launch "Peapod by Giant" in the Washington DC metro area.

2001: Peapod begins servicing communities in Virginia and Maryland, partnering with Giant Food. In August, Royal Ahold buys the remaining shares of Peapod, establishing the Internet grocer as a wholly owned subsidiary of the international food retailing and foodservice company. Peapod pursues a bricks-and-clicks strategy, engaging in exclusive relationships with Ahold U.S.A. grocers—Stop & Shop and Giant Food—and planning growth in markets where these grocers have a presence. Peapod replaces its Niles, IL, warehouse with a new 75,000-square foot, climate-controlled distribution center (a former Streamline.com facility) in Lake Zurich, IL.

Peapod by Stop & Shop expands service to Cape Cod, MA.
Peapod continues to grow revenues 20% despite having closed five markets not strategic to Ahold (Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Francisco).

2003: Peapod achieves profitability in four out of five markets. In April, Peapod introduces service in Hartford, CT, with Stop & Shop. In July, Peapod delivers its five millionth order, to a customer in Chicago. In October, Peapod initiates service in New Haven, CT, with Stop & Shop.

2004: In April, Peapod introduces service in Rhode Island with Stop & Shop. In July, Peapod introduces service in Mt. Vernon, NY, with Stop & Shop. In August, Peapod introduces service in Baltimore with Giant. In September, Peapod introduces service in Cromwell, CT, with Stop & Shop. Peapod names Andrew Parkinson as president and general manager. Parkinson is the company founder and past CFO. In December, Peapod introduces service in Watchung, NJ, with Stop & Shop.

2005: In April, Peapod introduces service in Milwaukee, WI. In August, Peapod introduces service in Danbury, CT, with Stop & Shop. In November, Peapod introduces service in Wanaque, NJ, with Stop & Shop. In November, Peapod introduces service in Somerset, NJ, with Stop & Shop.

2006: In March, Peapod introduces service in Medford, NY, with Stop & Shop.

Peapod had absolutely everything we wanted except for special anti–hair ball cat food and the store's own brand of cheese bricks (Cheddar, Muenster, and Swiss); Peapod wanted us to buy the more expensive brands of cheese. On his way home from work tomorrow evening, Ed will buy these items at the store. Meanwhile, sometime between 3:30 and 7 p.m., a driver will deliver the food to our house (aka my office). If Ed's not home from work by the time the driver arrives, I'll take a break from work and put away the groceries.

There's a $6.95 delivery fee for orders of more than $100, which our order is; the fee is $9.95 for orders of less than $100. Tipping is optional, but you bet I'll tip the driver for making things easy for us. We can pay on the site by credit card, debit card, or direct debit from our checking account. Next time, I'll choose the latter option because we always shop on the same day and have put aside the funds for it, so why not just put those funds in the bank account instead of carrying cash to the store? And next week, shopping online will be even easier, because Peapod will have kept track of what we bought, so that we can buy the same things if we need them again.

This seems like a wonderful service for families with kids. What we've done for years is this: Ed gets home from work at 6 p.m. On Tuesday nights, after he's cooked dinner (while I'm still working), we all eat together. He makes the grocery list and then heads to the store to shop. (No way to we want to shop on weekends, because the store's a madhouse then. And I'm not going to stop work on a weekday to do shopping while the kids are in school, with a sitter [in-laws], or with me [ack!].) Meanwhile, I wrangle the boys through bath time and into bed.

But with this service, Ed can stay home and we can double-team the boys. A much more restful evening!

I'll let you know how well we like the quality of the fresh foods after they're delivered tomorrow evening.

Damn, but I love the Internet!


Preschool Graduation

Last Wednesday, my youngest, Jared, graduated from preschool. The whole thing was, of course, adorable, and I wanted to gather up all the graduates and snuggle their cute baby cheeks. Here is my favorite set of cute baby cheeks, in triplicate:

Walking in to “Pomp and Circumstance”

Jared (smiling at his family in the
audience) walks in to “Pomp
and Circumstance.”

Jared seated and ready to sing with his classmates

Jared waits to sing with his classmates.

Jared gets his goodie bag and diploma

Jared gets his goodie bag and
diploma from teacher Miss Connie.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Crankiness

It's a gorgeous summer day outside and it's Friday, but I'm feeling cranky. Sure, I'm perimenopausal, but there's just too much garbage going on in the world right now:

The House of Representatives approved a nonbinding resolution, 256–153, that "praises U.S. troops, labels the Iraq war part of a larger global fight against terrorism and says an 'arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment' of troops is not in the national interest." I guess they think the Haditha massacre is mere collateral damage, just as the 2,500-plus dead U.S. soldiers and the 40,000-plus dead Iraqi civilians are.

Apple Computer allegedly produces [or here] its iPod audio devices in a sweatshop in China, where workers toil for 15-hour days for a monthly income of about $50 so that millions of Americans can have slick toys with ear buds.

U.S. inflation is higher than most of us think, so the Federal Reserve may have to keep boosting interest rates. Makes me think back to when I was a young adult just starting out during the high-inflation 1980s, when I had a car loan on a Chevy Chevette [here's one—not mine] with a 21% interest rate. Don't wanna go there ever again!

My erstwhile Protestant denomination, the Presbyterians (actually the branch called the Presbyterian Church USA), is holding its biannual national meeting, the 217th General Assembly, in Birmingham, Alabama, through June 22. One of the perennial debates will go on again: whether to ordain noncelibate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as ministers, members of session (the governing body of each individual church), and deacons (who are pretty much lay ministers who extend the work of the individual church's pastor in caring for church members and the community). The assembly will discuss the report of the Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church, which contains the controversial recommendation that "the General Assembly approve a new 'authoritative interpretation' of the PC(USA) Constitution that maintains the current ordination standards of the church but grants ordaining bodies greater discretion on a case-by-case basis in determining if any departure from a constitutional standard is a departure from 'essentials,' therefore disqualifying for ordination to church office, subject to judicial review." This is fence-sitting Presby-speak for Yeah, you individual churches can make ordination decisions on your own, but you'd better be careful when you ordain GLBT members, 'cause if we don't like ya, we'll put ya through the church's judicial wringer and take back those ordinations. I call myself an erstwhile Presbyterian because I'm tired of waiting for the denomination to align itself with its more liberal contingents and stop discriminating. The PC(USA) currently commits spiritual violence against would-be leaders who just happen to be GLBT. It's time to move past the fear and loathing.

There has to be some good news out there, but I'm just not seeing it today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Breast-Feed or Else"

Says an article [or here] in today's New York Times:

Warning: Public health officials have determined that not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby's health.

There is no black-box label like that affixed to cans of infant formula or tucked into the corner of magazine advertisements, at least not yet. But that is the unambiguous message of a controversial government public health campaign encouraging new mothers to breast-feed for six months to protect their babies from colds, flu, ear infections, diarrhea and even obesity. In April, the World Health Organization, setting new international bench marks for children's growth, for the first time referred to breast-feeding as the biological norm.

I so wish there was such a label!

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has proposed requiring warning labels, on cans of infant formula and in advertisements, similar to the those on cigarettes. They would say that the Department of Health and Human services has determined that "breast-feeding is the ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants" or that "breast milk is more beneficial to infants than infant formula."

But that may not happen for quite a long time because, as the Times article says, "critics say the new campaign has taken things too far and will make mothers who cannot breast-feed, or choose not to, feel guilty and inadequate."

Of course there are some mothers who can't breast-feed, and they shouldn't feel inadequate because of that. But why worry about the feelings of those who can breast-feed but choose not to? Do medical researchers worry about the feelings of people who continue to smoke in the face of evidence that their behavior can kill them and make others around them ill?

It's time for mainstream medicine to stop tiptoeing around mothers and say that if babies are to be healthiest—over their entire life span—they shouldn't get formula, unless it's a medical necessity. I'd go even further and say that formula should be available only by prescription. And more physicians should be recommending that moms follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which say that children should be breast-fed for a minimum of 1 year. But the AAP really should be recommending that children be breast-fed until they wean themselves. After all, the average age of children worldwide who wean themselves is 4 years. Nature programs children with healthy needs for a reason, and they should be allowed to have those needs met.

Of course, it's also time to make it illegal for formula manufacturers to provide and hospitals to hand out formula samples to new mothers. It's time, too, for employers to be required to at least set aside one room as a private place for their female employees to pump breast milk to be saved, in a clean refrigerator in that room, for their babies. And it's way past time for Americans to get over their squeamishness at seeing women breast-feed in public. If a woman's breast-feeding, she's feeding her child, not waving her boobs at people as sexual enticements.

And if she's breast-feeding, she's saving health insurance policy holders lots of bucks over her child's lifetime, by providing the food her child was meant to have.

Updated 6/16/06: Watch an antiformula, pro–breast-feeding public service ad done by the Ad Council. (You'll need a broadband or cable connection.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Son's Journey Through the Public Education System

I am so proud of my middle child, Neil, who's 11.

Neil has spent sixth grade this year at a middle school in the Eastern Suffolk BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) system that serves kids with learning disabilities, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD, formerly known as ADD), high-functioning autism, Asperger's disorder, and more. For those of you not familiar with BOCES-like systems, school districts across Long Island, where I live in New York State, purchase educational services from BOCES when they can't provide them themselves. (That means my school district is paying BOCES for Neil's education, because none of its schools are set up for lots of small classrooms—6 to 10 students each—and the extra staff that entails. Though it makes housing prices high here, I love living in a relatively wealthy school district, because it means Neil gets the absolute best of everything he needs.)

I attended the meeting of the district's CSE (Committee on Special Education) this morning for its annual review of Neil's IEP (individualized education plan), which state and federal laws require. Some of the committee members have been working on Neil's case since way back when he was in kindergarten and 4—almost 5—years old and his AD/HD was diagnosed. They were so amazed at how far he's come over the years—from the little boy who'd hide under his desk in a mainstream classroom with 25 students because he was overwhelmed by all of the distractions to the preteen who, last year, was given a presidential award for excellence in education and this year (for nearly the entire school year) has been designated a Jefferson Leader, which gives him all sorts of extra privileges that other students with less self-control don't get (extra time in the gym's weight room, special field trips, etc.). His grades way back then were average or just below average; they've been mostly A's and some B's for a few years now. He's maturing, self-controlled, and empathetic and even has learned some organizational skills, all things that are hard for kids with AD/HD to be and do. He's Neil Nye the Science Guy (remember PBS's Bill Nye the Science Guy?), who wants to one day to find a cure for cancer or AD/HD. ;-)

The CSE has decided that Neil's ready to take a big step toward getting back to a mainstream school, and my husband and I agree. So this fall, he'll attend a mainstream school that has a BOCES program within it. He will attend some BOCES classes (generally 6 to 10 students in a class, with 1 teacher and 1 teaching paraprofessional, which makes it far easier for students to concentrate) and some mainstream classes. This will be a big help, because it's not the academics that are hard for Neil anymore; it's the social skills, and I think it always will be. This setting will ease him into dealing with less-controlled classrooms, lunchrooms, and school hallways.

This kid has had to take the harder road ever since he started public school, yet he still has courage and never gives up. He's gonna be one hell of a fine adult.


Friday Home Blogging

It's Friday and I'd rather be goofing off on vacation than working. That's not possible at the moment, so I'm posting recent photos from my home life.

The first photo is of my 4-year-old, Jared, in midflight from his grandparents' couch. My husband Ed and I don't let him do this from any of our furniture, but we look the other way when his grandparents look the other way. ;-)

Jared in midflight

The second photo is of my side yard. The dogwood was planted decades ago by my in-laws, who owned the house before Ed and I bought it. We put in the arbor seat and planted the wisteria, which is top-heavy at the moment. We need to trim some of it and train it back down the arbor sides. The trellis at right is covered with our not-really-tamed raspberry plants. And in the foreground is our tenth-anniversary dwarf Japanese lace-leaf maple tree. We'll have been married 13 years on July 3.

Dogwood, wisteria arbor, and more in the side yard

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How to Boost Flagging Approval Ratings

What to do to get attention when at least 70% of American citizens think you're doing a crummy job as president? Why, kill a terrorist leader, of course.

Yes, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, is dead. But come on, George—you've just created a martyr, in whose name al-Quaida will fight on. These words were found posted on a web site:

We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the mujahed sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The death of our leaders is life for us. It will only increase our persistence in continuing holy war so that the word of God will be supreme.

There's no such thing as winning the war on terror. Killing will always beget killing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

U.S. Army Boots Walk All Over the EU

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as portrayed by Baghdad artist Muayad Muhsin“These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over EU.”

Can’t you just imagine Rummy, pictured at left in Picnic, a new painting by Baghdad artist Muayad Muhsin, singing those words under his breath while he relaxes in his army boots, oblivious to the artistic and literary works of an ancient civilization that float by and turn into birds of love, peace, and knowledge?

Muhsin says that Rumsfeld’s army boots, which he was wearing in a photo that inspired the painting, “deliver a message from America: ‘We rule the world.’ It speaks of America’s total indifference to what the rest of the world thinks.”

The artist is right. Swiss Senator Dick Marty, who headed up an investigation for the Council of Europe into secret CIA prisons around the world, reports that Bosnia, Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey, all members of the European Union, either assisted in transferring prisoners who were alleged terrorists or allowed the U.S. to hide alleged terrorists in hidden prisons within their borders, in violation of international laws ... and some of those nations even allowed the CIA to abduct their own citizens and cart them off to the secret prisons for detention at best and torture at worst. Some prisoners say they were transferred to detention facilities in Egypt and Jordan. Bosnia and Sweden have admitted some involvement.

Doesn’t anyone in the EU remember World War II and Hitler?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Writing Discrimination into the Constitution

Says a hetero friend who has friends who aren't:

The sanctity of marriage is not threatened by the 2 percent or so of the population that is gay. The sanctity of marriage is threatened by the 40 percent of married couples who divorce. To preserve the sanctity of marriage, we need a constitutional amendment banning divorce. It should also outlaw adultery, even among the separated. And, to encourage marriage, premarital hanky-panky should be outlawed. [Then we will] have defended sanctity of marriage.

For those who choose not to live together, in the past the main wage earner paid support to the other party. This would continue, but on a more equitable basis. The recipient of the support payments should, in fairness, provide some service back to the other party. Perhaps housework, perhaps yard work, perhaps hanky-panky.

Once we solve this major threat to the sanctity of marriage, then it may be appropriate to examine what ill effects gay marriage would have on the institution.

My friend’s a retired military officer who has just 847 days to go before he retires from his civilian job. See, GWB? It’s not just us middle-aged hippie-wannabe rabid liberals or young adults like my daughter who think it would be a crime to write discrimination into the Constitution.

Besides, you’ve sullied the Constitution enough. Get your damn hands off it!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Wistful Gardener

My husband Ed and our two sons are planting our vegetable garden right now.

It's been rainy enough on several weekends here on Long Island to put off the planting till now, and the sudden appearance recently of summer's heat meant "emergency" summerizing (breaking out the oscillating fans, putting the window screens back up, and moving all the potted plants outside so they aren't in the way of the giant air conditioner that's in the middle of one living-room wall) that also put off planting.

Now my family's out there putting good things in the ground while I must work to make up for time lost last week in ferrying kids to and from school because my mother-in-law, who usually does this for me, was bringing home my father-in-law from his much-postponed prostatectomy; he had prostate cancer. (He seems to be doing okay.)

The guys are planting large-leaf Italian basil, radishes, garlic chives, regular chives, snow peas, sugar snap peas, bell peppers (a mix of red, green, yellow, and orange ones), beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and marigolds (to keep bugs away). The boys planted some sunflower, foxglove, and wildflower seeds at the back end of the garden. There's even a tiny, tiny hill, planted with cantaloupe seeds, with a moat around it. The currants we planted several years ago are still producing, and the rhubarbs keep coming back. (And the wild raspberry plants in our side yard, contained as well as possible by a trellis and string, are getting ready to produce juicy raspberries.) We have seeds for other garden goodies, but we'd have to set up another garden for them, and that's not going to happen this year. Last year we had purple eggplant (aubergine) because I love eating it; we may buy some plants later and sneak them in somewhere.

How's Ed managing gardening with one arm still in an immobilizing brace because of a biceps rupture? By doing what he can with his other arm and depending a lot on our suddenly mature 11-year-old. Even our 4-year-old is being helpful, or at least not causing too many problems. ;-) Now I understand one of the reasons farming families used to have so many kids—to help out with the work!

We don't have a good camera now, but maybe we will when everything in the garden is growing well so that I can post photos for you to see.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Speak Up for Yourself

Two things will always make my fur stand on end in relationships, whether personal or business: dishonesty (both lying by commission and by omission; see George W. Bush & Co., for example) and lack of assertiveness. My colleague Dick Margulis, in discussing the latter issue, writes:

As freelance consultants we are not servants to our clients. If you put yourself in that position relative to your client, the client will devalue your services, impose on your time for favors, pay slowly or short, and generally treat you like a bathmat. Make it an adult–adult relationship, not a parent–child relationship. In an adult–adult relationship, you, as the freelance, are empowered to help the client behave in a less entitled manner. Try it. You’ll like it.

It’s not just some freelancers who act this way. I see it in certain older relatives, whom I’d expect, by virtue of their long life experience, to stand firm when sales clerks or bosses or personal physicians try to treat them as powerless children. I see it in their adult son, who, in his mid-forties, is just now realizing that his boss of 13 years doesn’t own him. I see it in friends my age who describe intolerable issues in personal relationships but do not stand up for themselves and their needs.

I see it in fellow Americans who stew about the mess this country’s in but are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being called unpatriotic.

My husband (Ed) and I bought the house we live in from his parents more than a decade ago. A couple of decades before that, they'd installed a 30-foot flagpole in the front yard, and they often flew the American flag from it.

When Ed and I took ownership of the house and his parents moved into the apartment we built into the downstairs, we continued their tradition of flying the flag, but we added a world peace flag (with the word peace in many languages on it).

When Bush stole into office the first time, we flew the American flag upside down for a week as a symbol of national distress. And then we took it down because we were ashamed of what we could see that Bush, who hides behind the flag, was beginning to do to our country and to international relations. Just after 9/11, when there was a nationwide frenzy of flying American flags, we flew only the world peace flag because we were very afraid of what Bush would do in the name of 9/11 and we didn't like the way many Americans were using the national flag to show a sort of national machismo. Our American flag won't go up again until Bush leaves office.

About 2 months ago, we ordered a custom flag—yellow with black lettering, 3 feet by 5 feet, and not cheap—that reads: Impeach Bush and Cheney Now!

Some think I should be afraid to fly such a flag. But I’m desperate for America to change course, so I’m not scared. And the older I get, the less I care what others think of my political stance. (Of course, it helps that I live in a middle-class suburb instead of in a nation under siege by foreign soldiers [think Iraq] or by rebel nationals who kill people for taking political stances.)

But most of all, I fly that flag because I want an adult–adult relationship with my government. If it treads on my boundaries, I speak up. I wish you would too.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bush the Ironic (or Is That Moronic?)

George Bush says, without a trace of irony, about Iran:

If they continue their obstinance, if they continue to say to the world, "We really don’t care what your opinion is," then the world is going to act in concert.

Keep it up long enough, moron, and some other world leader will finally say the same thing about the United States.

Bankers Still Aren't Colorblind

That this kind of stuff still goes on really frosts my shorts: The Center for Responsible Lending reports that U.S. blacks and Latinos still are charged higher mortgage rates than whites.

The spousal unit and I, two very pale and freckled white people, are in the midst of applying for a home equity loan. When we got to the checkboxes about our ethnicity, we checked the one beside the line that said we choose not to provide such information—because ethnicity shouldn't matter. One day when our daughter and her Puerto Rican fiancé are ready to buy a house, I'll counsel them to do the same. But it might not help, because she's planning to use his surname, which is Sanchez, in place of the Polish surname she got from my ex-husband.

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