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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fantabulous Lacquer-Spraying Job by My Teen

Late tonight, after his attention-deficit/hyperactivity meds had worn off, my 13-year-old son Neil did a stupendously great job of spraying "lacquer" (technically, conversion varnish) on a cabinet door built by my husband, Ed:

Neil's fantabulous cabinetmaking skills

And then Neil sprayed this dovetailed drawer, which he also built completely by himself!

Neil's gorgeous dovetailed drawer

His hands are already as steady as a brain surgeon's. I guess the nut didn't fall very far from the talent tree.

Updated at 11:00 p.m.: Here's Neil the frogman, wearing a respirator to keep out nasty lacquer fumes:

Neil, the frogmanly boy

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jumpin' on the Same-Sex Bandwagon

Same-sex marriage in New YorkWell, well, well. California's Ahnuld, the Governator,supreme court has pushed the equal-rights revolution forward, and New York State is jumping on the bandwagon. I don't know why this story is just now breaking, given that David Paterson, governor of my state, apparently issued the directive in question on May 14, but here it is, from the New York Times:

Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor's legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere "should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union."

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as "a strong step toward marriage equality." And people on both sides of the issue said it moves the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state. ...

Legal experts said Mr. Paterson's decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.

The directive is the strongest signal yet that Mr. Paterson, who developed strong ties to the gay community as a legislator, plans to push aggressively to legalize same-sex unions as governor. His predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, introduced a bill last year that would have legalized gay marriage, but even as he submitted it, doubted that it would pass. The Democratic-dominated Assembly passed the measure, and the Republican-led Senate rejected it.

Short of an act by the Legislature, the directive ordered by Mr. Paterson is the one of the strongest statements a state can make in favor of gay unions. ...

While gay rights advocates widely praised the spirit of the Mr. Paterson’s policy, some saw more than a little irony in the fact that New York has yet to allow gays to marry.

"If you're going to treat us as equals, why don't you just give us the marriage license?" said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda. "So this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State."

Yes, Alan, equal treatment should be the rule, but this is a good start.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Humiliation of Alex Barton

Sometimes the way society treats those who are different in some way makes me think we're still in the Dark Ages. The blog I Speak of Dreams reported today:

Wendy Portillo is the [Florida] kindergarten teacher who directed her students to reject and humiliate Alex Barton, a fellow student. Her actions are inexcusable under any circumstances. L'affaire Barton has exploded in the autism blogosphere, because young Alex has just been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

Portillo is reported to have asked her students, including little Alex's best friend, to vote on whether they wanted to allow him to stay in class. This has traumatized the boy, who screams in terror whenever he is taken near the school.

As of this morning, Portillo has been "reassigned." According to the TCPalm, Portillo has been a St. Lucie County teacher for 12 years, and at Morningside Elementary for nine. Alex Barton's mother isn't pleased with the district's response: Barton said she thinks Portillo should be fired. "She has no business being near children at all," she said. As to the news of Portillo being reassigned, Barton responded, "That's just a slap in the face."

The school is Morningside Elementary in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. I have e-mailed the school officials there, as suggested by the Alex Barton page of the web site of the Autistic Self Advocay Network, urging that they take appropriate action:

Dear Principal Cully, Superintendent Lannon, School Board Chair Hilson, and School Board Vice Chair Miller:

I am writing you about the news reports that state that 5-year-old Alex Barton, who has apparently just been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, was humiliated by his classmates at the behest of teacher Wendy Portillo.

I am the wife of a dear 46-year-old man with mild attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), the daughter-in-law of a 72-year-old man with severe AD/HD and anxiety, and the mother of two sons, a 13-year-old with severe AD/HD, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder and 6-year-old with mild AD/HD. I live in the House of AD/HD.

Of all of those males, only my father-in-law was ever treated as poorly by the education system as it appears that Alex Barton has been treated. (That is not to say that schoolchildren, on their own, never tried to treat my husband or either of my sons poorly.) Humiliation, being told one is disgusting, being made to feel that one doesn't belong—these are events that help shatter self-esteem. My father-in-law grew up when educators and psychologists and psychiatrists alike knew nothing about neurobehavioral disorders. One psychologist told his mother that the boy had "a screw loose." Teachers berated him, saying he was lazy and stupid. As he grew into an adult, still without a diagnosis, people misunderstood his odd social interactions; they did not know that social skills did not come naturally to him the way they do to people without AD/HD and without other neurobehavioral deficits. Put down all his life, by family members and coworkers and strangers and alleged friends, he became someone who is suspicious of everyone's motives; he became someone who to this day is not pleasant to be around. And yet he is a brilliant jazz and blues keyboardist and vocalist. Sadly, at age 72, he has only 1 friend and is valued by people outside his family pretty much only for his skills as a musician.

I am saddened to think of the wasted relationships that that man has been in. How much joy could he have gotten from life if some teachers, some health care providers, had taken the time to get to know the little boy behind the outsize tantrums, the talents behind the inability to ever sit still, the tender heart behind the bravado and apparent disobedience. My father-in-law himself was stunned when, back when my now 13-year-old was determined eligible, in third grade, for an IEP [individualized education program]. "My God," he said, after the meeting of my school district's committee on special education, "all of these people are here to care for my grandson, to help him." He teared up. "Back when I was his age, they said I was crazy, that I had a screw loose." I saw the hurt little boy that still hides behind my father-in-law's gruff, hard-to-like personality, made that way by years of humiliation from all sides.

My 13-year-old is a very smart guy whom I believe will grow up to make some great scientific contribution to society. But my son wouldn't be on his way to getting there had he been treated by his teachers the way that Wendy Portillo allegedly treated little Alex Barton. My son has had years of outstanding, caring teachers, school social workers, school psychologists, and teaching paraprofessionals helping him learn to break big education tasks down into manageable bites and helping him learn the social skills that are so foreign to many children with neurobehavioral disorders. I thank the universe at least once daily for the wonderful educators and school officials who make it possible for my son's intelligence and sweet personality to shine through.

After my 13-year-old's disability was diagnosed and he began taking medication and my husband and I began using behavioral modification with him, we turned to look at my husband's life. And he saw the AD/HD in himself, just as my father-in-law then saw his own AD/HD. Both men began taking prescribed medication, and both have learned new social and life-balancing skills.

And now my 6-year-old has recently been diagnosed as having mild AD/HD. He will get the same wonderful assistance from our school district. He has a grandfather, father, and big brother to lean on when it comes to learning coping skills for AD/HD.

But what will happen to little Alex Barton?

Already, he has been taught that adults who are supposed to care for him—teachers—can't be trusted, that they will help others hurt him, that they will make him cry. He has learned that other children may be his enemies, and that they can be turned against him by grown-ups. He is at a critical point in the development of his self-image and self-esteem. Will you let Ms. Portillo and other teachers continue to drop-kick his feelings? Will you let Ms. Portillo continue to teach other children that it is right or even fun to hurt fellow students?

Please, stop this tragedy now before it worsens. Find a way to make this up to little Alex. Send Ms. Portillo off to be educated on how to work with special-needs children, for Alex is not the last one she will encounter; if she cannot or will not learn such skills, she should not ever again be allowed to work with children. Educate all teachers in your district about working with special-needs children and about the fragility of children's self-esteem. Work with Alex's family to build the best IEP possible, one that will help him shine.

Please do not destroy a child's soul, for if you do, society will pay a high, tragic cost.

Readers, please consider writing the St. Lucie County school officials about this case. Please do so respectfully and eloquently, please cc the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and please do it now. Help save a boy's life.

Updated 5/28/08 at 12:40 a.m.: I have also e-mailed Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, about education standards for teachers in his state, which should include teaching them how to work with special-needs children.

Updated at 1:14 p.m.: Go here to find a video of a TV interview with Alex's mother.

Updated at 6:05 p.m.: Here is the latest news story about Alex from the local Florida newspaper. Click here to send a message of support to Alex.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clinton's Character Flaws

There are some female diehard Hillary Clinton fans on an e-mail list that I frequent, and they cry sexism whenever anyone calls Clinton on mistakes, lies, or poor behavior:
There are folks just waiting to jump on anything about Clinton, no matter how small or innocuous. I don't see the same behavior toward [Barack Obama], and I don't think it's because he's any more touched or special or a genius or whatever.

Nope, Obama's not a genius or more special than anyone. Hell, he pissed me off recently because he called a woman whose question he was answering "sweetie." Sweetie?! What is this, the 1950s?! Get rid of that bit of sexism immediately, man.

But I see lots of faults in Clinton because I've endured having her as my senator. For years, I've seen her lie and change her stories and change her positions to suit the particular group she's speaking to. I've seen her be petty and get down in the mud. I've never seen her rise above crap; she just gets in there and slings it with everybody else. I've seen her be fake as all get-out. I've seen her backstab. I would love to have a female president. But when we do have one, I hope to heaven that she's someone with integrity and class. Clinton ain't got 'em. Never has, never will.

I don't even see her as really having had a right to be my senator. She wasn't from New York originally. She hadn't lived here for years, hadn't aspired to be of service to a state she loved. After her husband left the White House, she scouted out soon-to-be available Senate seats, and she wanted a big-name seat, not just any seat anywhere. One of New York's was soon to be open, so she moved here to gain the necessary residential status. And then she ran for the office that she saw as her due after her husband's stint on Pennsylvania Avenue. She used us New Yorkers to build up her résumé for a presidential run.

Sure, some folks are anti-Clinton just because she's a woman. And that's stupid and wrong. But plenty more have seen what I've seen, and that has nothing to do with sexism.

Friday, May 23, 2008

She'll Fill in After the Assassination

Hillary Clinton has gone insane.

She's implying now that one of the reasons she's staying in the race for Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency is the possibility that Barack Obama will be assassinated in June, just as Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968. She's planning that if that scenario actually takes place, she'll become the replacement Democratic nominee, just as Hubert Humphrey did after Kennedy was assassinated.

She's so damn desperate to win that she's putting the idea in people's heads that she's more electable than Obama because he could be assassinated. Hey, let's just encourage all of the crazies out there, huh?

Get Clinton the lunatic off the national stage now!

Updated 5/24/08 at 1:37 p.m.: MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann nails it. Go here for both the video clip and the transcript of it.

U.S. Holds Children as Prisoners of War

This is not a lighthearted happy-Friday or happy-long-weekend post. It's a good-God-in-heaven, my-country's-gone-insane post.

United Nations officials, members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, are questioning why the United States has "detained 2,500 children under 18 in U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 513 children currently imprisoned in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq alone." The U.S. itself provided documentation [link is to downloadable Word document].

We are imprisoning children—children! The excuse given by U.S. officials? It's hard to determine prisoners' ages.

What the hell have we become?! I am beyond disgusted and appalled. In the eyes of the American government, children have no rights at all.

You can read about plenty of other shocking human rights abuses by the United States on the new blog of the ACLU, things that the mainstream media sure won't tell us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obamarific: Blog-Post Headline of the Year

Yes, we canWarning: The page at the link I'm about to send you to contains language that is not safe for work. It's from a blog by university students.

That said, I think the headline at this particular post deserves some kind of award for wit and school pride.

Young Cabinetmaker in Training

Our 13-year-old, Neil, is very good with his hands, just like my husband, Ed. He's been helping Ed out in the wood shop a lot lately. Cabinetmaking skills just might provide a good part-time job for him once he's old enough to legally be an employee.

Sweeping upNeil sweeps up after
using an electric planer

Cleaning rail tongues and gluing upNeil cleans rail tongues
for cabinet doors that
Ed then glues up

And yes, that old household tool, the iron, is used in wood shops, on the steam setting, to press glue-on edge banding (precut strips of veneer) onto the cut ends of plywood that is being used to make cabinetry or furniture.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Yet Another Way to Harass Undocumented Immigrants

Who gives a damn about the value of human life, especially that of Latinos? Apparently not the U.S. Customs and Border Protection down in Texas.

The Rio Grande Guardian has reported that the next time a hurricane aimed at Texas comes roaring in, the border patrol is going to screen evacuees leaving by bus to see if they are U.S. citizens. No papers, no bus. Hurricane season starts June 1 in Texas. If you were an undocumented immigrant and you had to choose between the certainty of imprisonment—and separation from family members—and the possibility of surviving a hurricane, which would you pick?

I guess the border patrol employees won't find it hard to sleep nights despite knowing that they're responsible for a lot of deaths.

Updated 5/22/08, at 12:49 p.m.: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff now says that documentation checks won't occur in the face of a hurricane-mandated evacuation: "In the event of an emergency, and the need for an evacuation, priority number one by a country mile is the safe evacuation of people who are leaving the danger zone. Instructions to the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection are clear. They are to do nothing to impede a safe and speedy evacuation of a danger zone."

Well, that sounds good, but given the Bush administration's propensity for lying, I'm not inclined to take Chertoff at his word.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Proper Use of Bush's Economic-Stimulus Checks

Bush's economic-stimulus checksMy daughter, Becky, has found the perfect way to do her small part to stimulate the U.S. economy in the long run: She's going to use her newly arrived economic-stimulus check to pay for a refresher course and the fee for taking the state LMSW (licensed master social worker) examination.

This will qualify her for a lot more professional jobs than just having a master's degree in social work currently does. Her lack of extra funds to cover the course and exam fees, having to help support herself and her small family by continuing to work full time for the low-paying drugstore chain she's worked for since she was in high school, and having a baby have all gotten in the way of her hunt for her first profession-related job. With money to take care of those fees now available, she faces one less obstacle.

I'm glad she's not doing what Bush intended everyone to do with those checks: go shopping.

I Still Heart Miss Snark

Ah, Miss Snark, we miss ye soToday is the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Miss Snark. If you still miss her, go here to say so.

If you missed the grand era of snark about the ins and outs of publishing, go read the Snarkives (aka the archives of Miss Snark, the literary agent, accessed through the links in the sidebar on the right side of this page).

publishing manuscript book author writing writer

Friday, May 16, 2008

I Have a Dream

I'm no Martin Luther King Jr., but I have a dream.

My dream came the night of the news that the California Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage.

In the dream, I was a minister officiating at the wedding ceremony of two 60-something men. Both were balding and had gray hair. The event took place in the rural Midwest, and their friends who attended the ceremony were decked out in full hunting gear.

I don't know the dream's reason for the guests' choice of attire, and I sure can't picture a real-life same-sex wedding taking place in the rural part of any U.S. state at this point in the development of civil rights, but dreams aren't always logical. It sure did feel holy and joyful, though, when I pronounced the loving couple married.

May my dream come true soon for same-sex couples in all 50 states.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Author's Humanity

Earlier today, I looked at the properties of a Word document—a book chapter—that I'm editing. In the Author line on the Summary tab, I expected to see the physician author's name, followed by his string of advanced degrees, as is usually the case with these kinds of files.

Instead, it read simply: Dad.

I love that. He must've written his chapter on his home computer while logged in under his identity rather than one of his children's identities. He's somebody's dad, someone whom I picture having experience taking tender care of a child who's special to him. It reminds me that he's not only an emergency-medicine expert who often holds patients' lives in his hands and whose writing has often been published, not only someone of high social stature. He's also someone whose work I need to treat with respect just because he's a regular person too, a person with feelings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

China Quake and My Authors

MSNBC Flash presentation showing aftershocks to massive earthquake in ChinaThe massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake in southwest China that killed at least 10,000 has me worried. China is home to 6 of the many authors for whom I do ESL (English as a second language) editing of the manuscripts that they want to submit to U.S. medical journals for publication.

I have e-mailed all of them expressing my concern and asking that they write back to tell me whether they and their family members and colleagues are okay. Their replies are starting to come in.

Baojun in Hebei (aka Hubei) writes:
It is indeed that our Chinese are suffering an very heavy situation. The earthquake happened in the 14:28 p.m., and at that time, we are working in the building. Our city is Where my authors in China areabout nearly 1,000 km far from Wenchuan in the Sichuan Province, the center part of the earthquake. During the earthquake happens, we felt the building shaking, but it is not very terrible. It lasts for about 2 or 3 minutes. At that time, we all rushed out. Half an hour later, we returned to normal work, here in our city. We got the latest news that the death number is increasing; they mainly locates in south part of china. Our government are gaining all the Chinese's efforts to help the people in the center of the earthquake. I am heard that there are at least 10 medical rescue team and nearly 200 medical rescuers are sending to the earthquake center.

Ting-Ting in Shanghai writes:
The earthquake happened in the Sichuan Province, where is far from Shanghai, but some high buildings in Shanghai had some shake for several minutes. No any damages occured in Shanghai, while reported nearly 10,000 people died in the Sichuan Province. The damage and injury is believed more severe in the central site where the communication way had brokened.
I'm still waiting to hear from Hongliang and Ke-Rong in Shanghai, Yixin in Beijing, and Tak-Chuen in Honk Kong.

Updated 5/14/08 at 12:49 a.m.: If you would like to make a donation to assist survivors of the earthquake, you can do so by mailing a check to the American Red Cross, making sure to write China earthquake victims on the check's memo line. I spoke with a Red Cross representative yesterday by phone, and he said that it will be a few days before the agency can get set up for accepting donations made by credit card that are specifically intended for the earthquake victims. He asked that meanwhile, checks be mailed to this address:

MMMMMMAmerican Red Cross
MMMMMMP.O. Box 7089
MMMMMMWashington, D.C. 20090-7089

Updated 5/24/08, at 11:54 a.m.: Ting-Ting tells me that lots of his colleagues have traveled to the Sichuan Province to provide medical assistance to quake survivors. The death count is now at 80,000.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Miracles Do Happen

This weekend, I have seen a miracle unfold, and it has filled my heart so much that I am overwhelmed with relief, happiness, and gratitude.

I've written here about my very bright 13-year-old son Neil, who has severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) and depression. I've also written that mine is the House of AD/HD, because I am now officially the sole person in this household with a current population of 6 people, 3 cats, and 1 dog who does not have AD/HD. (And we're not too sure about one of the cats.) AD/HD (not severe but the mild inattentive type) has recently been diagnosed in my 6-year-old, Jared.

The family joke has always been that Neil was born a cranky little old man. He's always been way too serious and very crabby and has never seemed to find much joy in life. Even the staff psychiatrists, in meeting with my husband Ed and me about Neil during Neil's hospitalization in the children's psychiatric unit of a local teaching hospital back when Neil was 8 years old for a reassessment of his diagnoses and medications, said, without being privy to our family joke, "Well, it's not psychiatric terminology, but Neil ... Neil was born a little old man." It's always been thought that his depression stems in part from anxiety. When he was in first grade years ago, his very experienced teacher told us that she thought that Neil would be the first first-grader she'd ever see have a heart attack, because he was extremely anxious when he and his classmates were asked, at the beginning of that school year, to walk over to a classmate and introduce themselves.

Late last week, Neil and I got into a ripsnorting argument. And in his anger and his upset, he finally blurted out what he's been holding in all of these years: Besides being depressed, he has always been anxious about just about everything. He constantly worried that "something bad" would happen to Ed or me or Jared or all three of us. He worried about his interactions with other students. He worried about his homework. The poor child was anxious about absolutely everything. And despite living in a family in which everyone talks about feelings in an effort to understand them, Neil has always kept his feelings inside. He thought that he was abnormal, he told us after the fight; he thought that not very many people have depression and that not many are anxious all the time. We were floored, because we're always talking about depression, for which I take medication, and other mental health disorders and their effects on people's lives. He apparently just couldn't get past his own feelings of shame and differentness to really have taken in what we'd always been saying. (Yes, Neil knows that I talk here about his achievements and his difficulties, and he says that that's okay with him.)

We got him in to see his therapist (the one who also monitors Ed's, Neil's, and Jared's AD/HD meds and my depression meds) on Friday after leaving a frantic call on her answering machine. Neil had come across to us as being so depressed that we were scared for his safety. (That poor boy, thinking that he had to handle this all by himself! Imagine how much worse it would be for him if he had parents who ridicule psychology and deny that there are such things as mental health problems.)

The therapist revised his diagnosis to generalized anxiety disorder and major depression (in addition, of course, to the AD/HD) and prescribed Lexapro, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). He started taking it this weekend and will be gradually increasing his dose of that and weaning himself off of the Wellbutrin that he's taken for a few years for his depression.

Lexapro is prescribed both for generalized anxiety disorder and depression, whereas Wellbutrin treats only depression. That the Lexapro works for Neil makes sense logically, because one of the reasons those with AD/HD can't control what they focus on is that their bodies don't use the natural neurotransmitter dopamine efficiently, so they don't get a reward of mildly good feelings for focusing and completing tasks, something that those of us without AD/HD do get. Though there is no antidepressant yet that works directly on helping the body handle its own dopamine better—and research has shown that a low level of dopamine is a big contributor to major depression—Lexapro (and some other SSRIs) help the body use its own serotonin, another neurotransmitter, better. And when the serotonin system is working well, that helps improve the function of the dopamine system.

Just since Saturday, since Neil began taking the lowest beginning dose of Lexapro, we have seen a huge change in him. The one of our sons who pretty much never smiles is smiling frequently—and genuinely, not just molding his face into a position that he knows it's supposed to be in occasionally to allow him pass as "normal."

What broke my heart is that this boy, whom I've wanted his whole life to hug much more often than he permits, sat down on my lap tonight and hugged me and let me hug him—for a good 15 minutes! He must have needed so much more touch from us for years than he ever got before now. It wasn't that we didn't offer it to him; he just couldn't bring himself to seek it out or to sit still for very long when it was offered. This boy is the little engine that could, continuing to chug along despite such a painful emotional life and despite all he's had to go through as we tried to find the ideal educational situation to accommodate his AD/HD.

I cried when I held him, both with joy and with a desire to go back in time and take away all of the pain that he has had to live through. That there is a medication out there—and someone who knows to prescribe it—that can allow my child to experience "everyday" happiness that the rest of us take for granted is truly a miracle. Parents aren't supposed to have favorites, but I know that in a way, I admire Neil's accomplishments more than his sister's or his brother's because he has always had to work so much harder for them. Neil has the intelligence and the potential to make some great contribution to the world as an adult. I have always felt that in my very body. When the obstetrician held baby Neil up so that I could see him right after he was born, I truly felt the earth shift on its axis, something that I did not experience with either his older sister's birth or his younger brother's birth. Now it is possible that he may actually enjoy it when he makes that contribution. And it is possible that he may also have a significant other and several friends around to share that enjoyment, because he will be a pleasure to be with.

God, I love that child!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Another Side of the Family

My daughter, Becky, traveled out of state with her husband and daughter recently to see her father, my ex-husband, who will soon undergo kidney transplantation because he has polycystic kidney disease, which took the life of his sweet mother, Kate, nearly a year ago. Even though the visit was for a serious reason, it presented an opportunity for capturing some great photos, which Becky has shared with me:

Ana, my granddaughter
My granddaughter, Ana,
almost 1 year old

Grandpa Don and Ana

Ana meets her Great-Grandpa Don;
she was given her middle name in
memory of her Great-Grandma Kate

Four generations: Don, Becky, Ana, and Becky's dad
Four generations (left to right):
Becky's Grandpa Don,
Becky and Ana, and
Becky's dad

ex-husband mother-in-law Kate

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mean Girls Among the Ligustrums

Ligustrum hedge—not the one I grew up withBlogging friend Imperatrix has posted about her favorite childhood imaginative play with her sister. That made me remember a drama that my own sister and I used to enjoy, one that eventually came to include playing a trick on our younger brother ... until he caught on.

My sister is 2 years younger than me, and our brother is 5 years younger than her. I don't remember how old we were when this drama was popular, but our brother was at least old enough to be able to handle a full-size (as opposed to toy) broom.

Our dad had built us girls a one-room playhouse in the backyard. We'd play Lost Girl, a drama of our own making, taking turns being the girl in question, with the other sister being the kind woman who lived in the [play]house in the imaginary woods. The story line invariably was that Lost Girl found herself without family because of some vague catastrophe, then wandered in the woods until she found Kind Woman's house. Kind Woman would take her in, and they'd have a wonderful life. (Yes, we were wishing for parents other than our own, but that's another story, a long, somber one for another time ... perhaps.)

One of the tasks of that life involved sweeping up the house. When our brother was old enough to play with us but still gullible, we'd let him be Lost Boy, sibling to Lost Girl. Kind Woman would send him out to hunt for food for the new little family, while Lost Girl helped around the house. Then when he returned with an imaginary catch, Lost Girl and Kind Woman would go outside of the house to prepare the dinner, and Kind Woman would request that Lost Boy sweep the floor.

Kind Woman and Lost Girl had plans other than food prep—nefarious plans—on their minds. They knew that the back wall of the house had been formed by placing two large sheets of plywood horizontally parallel to one another. Furthermore, they knew that there was a hairline gap between the two sheets. So while Lost Boy was sweeping inside the house, Kind Woman and Lost Girl picked waxy leaves from the long, towering row of ligustrums behind the house that camouflaged the chain-link fence on that side of the yard.

And then they did their evil deed: They fed those leaves, one by one, through the gap in the playhouse's back wall.

Lost Boy, being very young and gullible, couldn't figure out how those leaves were working their way through the back wall and onto the floor. He just kept sweeping, getting more and more aggravated, but he was determined to do his part to keep the house clean. I think that it took him a few reprises of Lost Girl to figure out the mystery. Lost Girl's and Kind Woman's eventual inability to stifle their giggles probably hastened his epiphany.

Amazingly, my brother is now one of my best friends, despite years of such suffering at the hands of my sister and me. ;-)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Reading: Getting a Round Tuit

These books are in my stack of "just started" and "want to find time to get to":

Let's see now: I should get round tuits for all of these once my 13-year-old gets somewhat used to the hormone swings of adolescence, my 6-year-old gets older, my 1-year-old granddaughter stops charming my socks off, and my husband and I aren't both working 7 days a week, with me working for both his business and mine. ;-) Not that I'm complaining—it's all pretty darn invigorating! But I used to have more time for unpaid reading for pleasure and edification before I was self-employed.

What titles do you have lying around to read, and when do you think you'll get a round tuit?

The Fat Lady Has Sung

At long last!

America has a presidential candidate who got there by being honest, by being intelligent and thinking for himself instead of being a puppet through whose mouth advisers speak, and by not stooping to play dirty politics. (Has Barack Obama brought up Monica Lewinsky and the likelihood that Bill Clinton, who, by many accounts, is still an unfaithful husband, will be a loose cannon and a liability? No, but Hillary Clinton has—go figure.)

Rock on, Obama!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

War—What Is It Good For?

I'm in a video state of mind this week. And you have got to see this video of Edwin Starr's 1970 hit song "War," with images from the Iraq war. The Vietnam War wasn't good for anything in 1970, and the Iraq war isn't good for anything now.


Terrorism and Imperialism 101

Yesterday I posted links to several Schoolhouse Rock videos, as music for grammar nerds. Today I point you to an excellent Schoolhouse parody video, "Pirates and Emperors," which you will find helpful if you, like many U.S. presidents, have a very limited definition of the term terrorism and are unfamiliar with the term imperialism.

Bush Schoolhouse Rock

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Music for Grammar Nerds

Even as a teenager in the 1970s, I was a grammar nerd.

I loved it that network TV hosted Schoolhouse Rock, especially the Grammar Rock segments, though Multiplication Rock segments were fun too. What could be better than grooving to "Conjunction Junction" or "Adjective"?

Take a trip back in time as you watch these video shorts. Or if Grammar Rock is new to you, I hope you fall in love with it. Share it with a child and create another grammar nerd. (Temptation whispers in your ear: You can buy the thirtieth-anniversary Schoolhouse Rock DVD here. You know you want it.)

"Conjunction Junction"


"The Tale of Mr. Morton"







publishing grammar Schoolhouse Rock

Saturday, May 03, 2008

My Granddaughter's a Genius!

Ana, my brilliant granddaughter, can now walk completely on her own! And she won't even turn 1 year old until May 14!

Updated 5/4/08 at 5:25 p.m.: It's come to my attention that astoundingly, some people don't know about a little literary device called hyperbole. Having been a mother three times over now, I just might know a wee little something about average ages for children's developmental stages, so I am dimly aware that starting to walk at age 12 months does not make a child precocious. Get a sense of humor, people, and let me enjoy my granddaughter's milestone in my own way.


Friday, May 02, 2008

You Get What You're Too Cheap to Pay For

Holy river of red pencil—or holy track changes, as the case may be!*

From the Chronicle of Higher Education comes this news, shocking in the publishing industry:
Princeton University Press has recalled all copies of one of its spring titles after discovering more than 90 spelling and grammar errors in the 245-page work. The book, Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District, by Peter Moskos, was published on Thursday in an initial press run of 4,000 copies.

In what appears to be a first, the press plans to reprint the book and have it back in stores later this month, after the errors have been corrected. ...

"I was flabbergasted and embarrassed," said Peter Dougherty, the press's director. "This is a terribly embarrassing matter for Princeton University Press." ...

He said that Mr. Moskos's manuscript had been given to an inexperienced copy editor who failed to do the job properly. "We take a lot of pride in the quality of our copy editing," he said, citing the publisher's 103-year track record. "In this case, we messed up very, very badly." ...
University presses have a reputation for paying freelancers, both copyeditors and proofreaders, very little, and back when I was closer to being a greenhorn, a few university presses proved that reputation correct by balking at the amounts on invoices I sent them for my editing services. I quickly dropped such presses from my clientele because strangely, I'm fond of being able to afford shelter, food, and living and business expenses.

The thought that comes to mind with the Princeton debacle is that you get what you pay for. But did the author, who has blogged about the mess, not review the copyedited manuscript or page proofs—or was the last time he saw his manuscript the day he handed it, unedited, over to the press at the beginning of the production process? He doesn't say. Did the press's in-house production editors not do any kind of review at any stage? Did the press not bother with a proofreader after page makeup? Is the press's budget so small that it can pay for only one set of editorial eyes per manuscript?

Princeton just can't blame this whole embarrassing spectacle solely on the copyeditor. Publishing a high-quality book takes a whole chain of professionals in various subspecialties.

*If the manuscript for the soon-to-be redone book was edited on hard copy (paper), the copyeditor would likely have used some kind of colored pencil. It if was edited onscreen, the copyeditor would probably have used Microsoft Word's "track changes" function to show edits.

publishing Princeton University Press
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