List 34: Help Louisiana pets

This video made my heart stop:

 

I hope that woman and her dog made it to a shelter where they can be together. (Did you know that American Red Cross shelters don’t accept pets?)

If you’re an animal lover and want to help the pet victims of Louisiana flooding, here’s a list of shelters and rescues that could use donations.

Donate to Louisiana Animal Shelters 

(source: nola.com)

  • Companion Animal Alliance, Baton Rouge’s city animal shelter, took in 90 evacuated pets and was expecting more. To donate:
    • Website
    • Mail donations directly to the shelter at 2680 Progress Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70807
  • Denham Springs Animal Shelter was overrun by flood waters so quickly that not all animals could be evacuated fast enough. To donate:
  • Zeus’ Place, a shelter in New Orleans, is housing more than 60 pets evacuated from flooded shelters elsewhere. To donate:
  • Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter is a back-up shelter for the Livingston SPCA. To donate:
    • Website.
    • Donations also can be mailed directly to 1869 Ames Blvd., Marrero, LA 70072.
  • Livingston SPCA has lost at least three-quarters of its pet foster homes, supplies, and medicine. To donate:

I also have to put in a plug for the AKC’s Pet Disaster Relief Trailers, part of the AKC’s Reunite program. Each trailer has everything needed to set up a temporary shelter or reunion center for up to 50 displaced pets after a disaster. The AKC has its own trailers, and individual breed clubs can sponsor them in their state or region to have one ready. These are a boon to local emergency management agencies, which are required by federal law to have plans and resources for pets after a disaster. (That law was passed after Hurricane Katrina.) The AKC is already on the job in Louisiana. To donate to AKC Pet Disaster Relief:

One final word …

Disaster can strike anyone. I know — my own home was flooded five feet deep in 1998 in the first of a series of historic-level floods. We didn’t have flood insurance because our house was not in a flood zone. So as Han Solo says, “Don’t get cocky, kid.”

The first word of advice I have is, unless you live on a mountain or ridge top (like I do now!), get flood insurance. A good agent can help you choose an affordable policy.

The second word of advice is, have a plan for your family and your pets. As noted above, Red Cross shelters do not accept pets. In the chaos of some events, pets can go missing. Or you may just wind up having to hole up somewhere and you’ll want to have everything your pet needs in one place.

The AKC offers a handy list of items to keep ready for your pet in case of emergency. Pack these things in a plastic tote and keep it in a handy place. Check its contents at the turn of each season to ensure you have the proper gear. (Make sure you have your veterinarian’s phone number, too.)

FEMA has a wealth of information on disaster preparedness at ready.gov. Check out their guidance on pets and large animals here.

List 33: The Crimes of the King

The Trump people scare me. I know, I know — during the primaries I said they were OK. Some of them still are. But now that he’s the actual nominee and not just one of several, Trump and his ideas are seriously creeping me out.

It’s not the racists and misogynists and homo- and xenophobes (or rather, not just them) that I’m worried about. It’s the “patriots” among them and the Donald’s dog whistles for them. Calling Hillary Clinton “crooked.” Allowing his proxies to call her a traitor who should be executed. Whining that if he loses, it will be proof that the election system is “rigged.” And most recently, connecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms to a way for voters to take action if President Hillary Clinton gets to nominate Supreme Court justices.

A college friend of mine asked on Facebook how “any sane, rational human with the power to reason” could vote for Trump. A mutual friend responded, “And remember those insane and irrational nut cases who wrote, ‘But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.'”

If you don’t recognize that passage, it’s from the Declaration of Independence. “Patriots” love to compare the federal government to the reign of King George III. It’s right up there with ad hominem/genetic attacks in any argument. Seriously, try responding to a Trumpet with facts some time. Ten bucks says you won’t get a true counterargument. Instead, you’ll get, “Oh, yeah, because the [insert source here] is trustworthy. It’s a libtard mouthpiece.”

So, for a little reality check, let’s go to the source the patriots love and see how things stack up, shall we?

The Crimes of the King

King George III Modern equivalent The difference
George III dissolved elected colonial legislatures, replaced elected governors with ones of his choosing, and rejected legislation proposed by the colonies. The president decides that the country would be better off if s/he were totally in charge. S/he issues an order that disbands all state legislatures and replaces each state’s governor with a personal representative who has absolute authority to act on the president’s behalf. The president goes over state statutory codes and repeals anything s/he doesn’t like. Anybody’s legislature dissolved lately? Governor fired? No?

State laws do get overturned — through the due process of our constitutional judicial system, not one person’s whim. We may not like a SCOTUS decision, but at least each justice was appointed by an elected president and voted on by elected members of Congress.

George III had Parliament pass laws to govern the colonies with no input whatsoever from the colonies themselves (e.g., “taxation without representation”). The current Congress is dissolved. Instead, the president institutes a Congress consisting of the president’s campaign donors, close friends, and family members to set national policy. We can discuss the extent to which Congress actually represents us (thanks, Citizens United), but the fact remains that we elect our own Congressional delegations and can vote them out if we like.
George III imposed martial law in the colonies; forced colonists to provide room and board in their own homes, at their own expense, to British troops; brought in non-British mercenaries (Hessians) to occupy the colonies; and armed Native Americans, who attacked colonists on the frontier. When the citizenry revolts against the new measures, the president sends the Army out to occupy towns and cities with the greatest unrest. Residents of those towns have to take in at least one soldier apiece and feed him/her with no reimbursement. As the trouble spreads, the president calls in NATO troops to help out. When American expatriates overseas begin to tweet #SaveAmerica, the president notifies local Islamist extremist groups of those individuals’ whereabouts and daily routines. There’s a reason that the National Guard is under state control and that it is a crime for federal troops to be used against American citizens.

As you can see, the fetal America of 1776 bears very little resemblance to the United States in 2016. Our country has its issues; expansion of federal power is one of them. And I get that people are angered by some of those issues and frightened by their inability to counter or cope with them. Conservative pundits (looking at you, Rush and Glenn and Bill) have fed that fear and anger for ratings, the GOP let them do it because it got them votes, and now they have Trump and wonder where it all went wrong. And still they stand by a guy who sounds very much like he could try the middle column above.

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

List 32: The LibraryThing 75 Books Challenge for 2012

Y’all know how much I like to read. Y’all know how much I love the Internet. AND y’all know how much I like to make lists. So imagine my ecstasy in being able to combine these three obsessions.

On my iPhone, I use the BookCrawler app to keep track of what I’ve read — and more importantly, what I want to read. Right now, that list has 135 titles. Of course, this isn’t enough, so I’m always looking for additions.

It was on one of those quests for new books to try — specifically, steampunk titles — that I came across LibraryThing. For an Internet-loving, book-obsessed compulsive listmaker, this is Nirvana. I’d describe it, but I want you to check it out for yourselves.

Anyway, LibraryThing has a 75 Books Challenge for 2012. What is it? Gawd, are you that thick? How are you my friend if you’re that dumb? It means, dummy, that it’s a challenge to read 75 books in 2012. And list them on LibraryThing, naturally, so all 1,000+ members of the Challenge group can see what you’re reading.

It took me a while to compile my list, since I apparently have been somewhat lax in updating my BookCrawler read/unread list. But I finally put together what I think is a pretty accurate list of what I’ve read in the first seven months of 2012.

So, near as I can tell, from January through July 2012, in alphabetical order by title:

  1. 1q84, Haruki Murakami
  2. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith
  3. The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group, Catherine Jinks
  4. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
  5. Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld; Keith Thompson
  6. The Big Burn, Timothy Egan
  7. The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Mark Hodder
  8. Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
  9. Dreadnought, Cherie Priest
  10. Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, Mark Hodder
  11. Goliath, Scott Westerfeld; Keith Thompson
  12. The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman
  13. The Immortality Engine, George Mann
  14. Inheritance, Christopher Paolini
  15. Red, White, and Blood, Christopher Farnsworth
  16. The Knowland Retribution, Richard Greener
  17. The Lacey Confession, Richard Greener
  18. The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
  19. The Serpent’s Shadow, Rick Riordan
  20. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  21. The Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan
  22. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  23. The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, Mark Hodder
  24. The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
  25. Unholy Night, Seth Grahame-Smith

Rather heavy on steampunk, but that’s my current genre obsession. And I’m a little behind on the pace, but 1Q84 and Anathem are HUGE book that each took me three weeks to read — very unusual for me.

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

  1. Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (eds.)
  2. The Horns of Ruin, Tim Akers

And here’s what I have on reserve at the Athens County Public Library:

  1. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  2. Crucible of Gold, Naomi Novik
  3. The Twelve, Justin Cronin
  4. Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness
  5. A Sunless Sea, Anne Perry

So, what are you reading? And what are you looking forward to reading?

In Defense of the Grammar Police

I love The Week magazine. Every Friday, it brings me a roundup of news from around the world as reported by top media outlets. And sometimes, it brings me heartburn. As in the July 20 “Talking Points” item about Mitt Romney’s campaign, which includes this sentence in summarizing a column by the Boston Globe’s Joshua Green: “…a fusillade of attacks that portray Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy who sent U.S. jobs abroad and could care less about the middle class.”

It’s not the politics that got me. It was the misuse of “care less.”

I am a professional writer and editor whose mother taught English the old-fashioned way, with diagramming. So I’m pretty harsh about mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation, which has earned me epithets such as “grammar police” and “grammar Nazi.” My friends on Facebook joke that they fear I will edit their posts. (Confession: I do, but only in my head. Mostly.)

I totally cop to these charges, although I dislike “grammar Nazi” as I do any such construction (e.g., femi-Nazi) because it diminishes the true horrors of Nazism. Words have power, and we all should respect that power. Alas, too few of us do anymore.

Many animals communicate, but few use language, the complex system of words that serve as symbols of intentional meaning. That old saw about a million monkeys banging on typewriters producing Shakespeare is wrong: The monkeys might accidentally hit a sequence of keys that produce a particular word, but that word would just be a random series of symbols. The “rose” typed by a monkey would definitely not smell as sweet.

Unfortunately, many people seem to think that anyone who values language, who winces at its abuse, is a snob. The ability to use language properly — to spell words correctly, to punctuate a sentence properly, to construct a paragraph that communicates just what you are trying to say — is NOT elitist. It’s as basic a skill as being able to balance your checkbook or calculate a tip. I don’t expect non-writers or editors to produce Shakespeare, but if you have graduated high school, you should be able to demonstrate that you understand the difference between “their” and “there.”

In part, I blame the demise of basic literacy on schools. Our schools no longer teach grammar; they teach “language arts” in a mishmash of reading and writing. These are two entirely separate skills, although complementary. I am a better writer because I am a voracious reader. But expecting students to learn good sentence structure simply by reading is like expecting them to learn arithmetic by doing calculus. Without the foundation of basic skills and an understanding of structure, students can do neither task satisfactorily.

And anyway, reading these days carries no guarantee of editorial quality. As publishing houses have outsourced proofreading or done away with it altogether in favor of SpellCheck, I have seen a huge increase in the number of typos and errors in the books I read, like the use of the word “palate” instead of “pallet” in the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel. Your palate is an indicator of taste. A pallet is a shipping tray, usually made of wood. (For good measure, a palette is an artist’s tool on which s/he squirts paint to be used.) So when the book says a restaurant has an area for stacking palates … well, it kinda grossed me out, even in a book about vampires.

Or take that sentence from The Week (please). The writer meant to indicate that Mr. Romney doesn’t care about the middle class. But what s/he actually wrote indicated the exact opposite: That Mr. Romney does indeed care, and has room to ratchet down his level of caring. “Couldn’t care less” = zero caring. “Could care less” = some caring. Totally different thing.

The misuse of language undermines credibility of the writer. Misspelling words in your resume is a surefire way to get it tossed in the circular file. (In the instances when I hired people, it was the first step in winnowing the candidates.) It’s like showing up at an interview with spinach in your teeth: It indicates a lack of attention to detail. In the case of The Week, the swap of “could care less” for “couldn’t care less” undermined an important point and made me question how closely the writer read Mr. Green’s article. (I tried to read the original column, but didn’t want to pay for an online subscription to the Boston Globe.)

Beyond credibility, however, the misuse of language is a real danger. Words have power. And when we lose our respect for that power — through individual neglect and through derision of those who still have it — we cede that power to others, who may twist language to their own ends. Pundits, politicians, lobbyists, Wall Street bankers, marketers — already use the power of words to serve their own ends.

They really couldn’t care less about you.

 

 

List 31: Summertime summertime sum-sum-summertime

Thursday is the last day of school. It’s the first time in memory that the boys have been out of school before Memorial Day, and so two and a half months of summer stretches before us. What to do, what to do?

I know what the boys have in mind: Play computer games all day, every day. Um, no. Ethan is going to the Rising Appalachian Warriors day camp, which sounds really cool — Capoeira, Parkour, orienteering, outdoor survival. Hoping to get Max to re-up for the Ohio Valley Summer Theater’s teen camp in June. And since I’m unemployed, I’m available to drag drive them to the city pool whenever.

There are other things to do, too:

  • Get out of town. We have several trips planned. First up is a run to Indianapolis for my uncle Bill‘s memorial service. Doesn’t sound like a rollicking good time, I know, but despite the sadness of the occasion it will be good to see my cousins. Plus my mom is coming in from California and will stay in Athens for a week, so that’s cool. Then in July we’ve rented a beach house on Oak Island, NC. This is a terrific beach town — not built up at all with touristy shit, and the island faces southeast so you get sun on the beach all day. August brings the Columbus Crew vs LA Galaxy. At some point we’ll head up to Holmes County to pick up furniture we’ve ordered, shop at Lehman’s and Heini’s Cheese, chow down at Der Dutchman or Chalet in the Valley, and buy pies at Der Bake Oven.
  • Try out new restaurants. This might be tough, considering that I’m STILL unemployed. But with students gone for the summer and Uptown thus safe for residents, I hope we’ll be able to check out Sol and The Pigskin. Elsewhere in the county, there’s the Columbus Road Deli (under new management) and Spices of Life and Gigi’s Country Kitchen in The Plains. Venturing farther afield, how about the M&M Family Diner in Logan, the Blue Bell Diner in McConnelsville, and Boondocks BBQ and Grill, also in McConnelsville? If I get a job, maybe we’ll celebrate at Nine Tables.
  • Go to the movies. Wetting my pants in anticipation of Prometheus (is it or is it not an Alien prequel? Ridley Scott isn’t really saying) and The Dark Knight Rises (love me some Christian Bale). More yummy guys inTotal Recall (Colin Farrell, all cleaned up) and The Bourne Legacy (Jeremy Renner, hawwwwwt). Looking forward to Snow White and the Huntsman, too. And there’s the usual lineup of sequels and remakes: Men in Black III, Madagascar III, The Amazing Spider-Man (does anybody else think Andrew Garfield’s head is too big for his body? Maybe it’s just his hair), and Ice Age: Continental Drift. If we lived closer to Columbus, I’d hit the CAPA Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theater.
  • Get our fest on. Ohio Brew Week is early this year — June 22-30. Boogie on the Bricks is still in July, on the 21st. I love the Ohio State Fair (this year’s edition runs July 25-August 5). And it would be so much fun to check out the Buckeye Bull Terrier Club’s show in Canfield August 3-5.

List 30: Stuff I’m sick of seeing on Pinterest

I used to love Pinterest. In some ways, I still do. But it’s getting boring, because I see the same crap over and over again. (My sister even has a board titled “Overpinned,” a kind of Pinterest Hall of Shame.)

Maybe it’s because Pinterest’s American users are so … well, girly. 83% of Pinterest’s U.S. users are female. In the United Kingdom, it’s almost evenly split between men and women, with men actually holding a slight lead.

And the difference shows. The most popular Pinterest categories in the U.S. are crafts, gifts/special event items, hobbies & leisure, interior design, fashion, and blogging resources & services. In the UK? Venture capital, blogging, crafts, Web stats/analytics, search-engine optimization and marketing, content management, and public relations. In other words, grown-up stuff. (Really cool infographic comparing US and UK Pinterest use here.)

All work and no play would make Pinterest rather dull, so I’m not advocating that we all quit pinning food porn so we can talk business. But really, can we cut back on some of the following:

Hairstyles. How many updos can you look at? Maybe it’s because I haven’t had long hair since I was 12, but fancy hairdos just don’t do it for me. And most of the women I know don’t have the time to make a fishtail braid. We’re lucky if our hair doesn’t have bits of last night’s fish in it.

Nail art. Again, maybe it’s just me. My nails are soft and somewhat brittle no matter what I do, and since I can’t stand the feeling of my nails hitting my keyboard, I keep them below fingertip level at all times. Plus they’re really wide, so nail polish just never looks right on me. But seriously — Hunger Games nails? Checkerboard nails? Leopard skin, penguins, Hello Kitty? Bet you dot your i’s with little hearts, too. GROW UP.

(Something) in a jar. Pizza — in a jar! Coffee to go — in a jar! Cheesecake — in a jar! Cupcakes, lasagna, cocktails — all in jars! Not to mention the 8 million ways to light one’s home or garden with candles, fairy lights, and other glowing things in jars. Want to be unique? Pin a picture of something really horrible in a jar, like a preserved human head. THAT would be worth pinning.

Huge house porn. My house is 1,700 square feet — about 1,000 square feet smaller than the average American house. And it’s still too big for me to keep clean. I mean, the whole damned thing is carpeted, and most of that carpet is a deep burgundy that I could vacuum hourly and it still would be covered in dog and cat hair. So whenever I see photos of impossibly gorgeous and humongous kitchens, family rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms, all I can think is: Who cleans all that?

“Yes please.” Perhaps the most overused phrase on Pinterest. If you like something so much that you went to the trouble of pinning it or commenting on it, surely you can come up with something more to say about it than “yes please.” Or maybe the fumes from your tie-dye manicure have reduced your brain to mush.

And all this shit. Tattoos, fancy cakes, Dr. Oz’s Fat-Burning Cooler (which won’t burn fat and tastes like shit, I must report), Ryan Gosling, Adam Levine, smoky eye makeup, inspirational/motivational/religious sayings, crayon art, repurposed trash, desserts filled with Oreos/Reese’s PB Cups, cutesy wedding/pregnancy pictures, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids,” and that piglet in little red rain boots: No, thank you.

List 29: Things I should be doing instead of writing this

One of the habits of highly effective people, I’ve read, is to do what’s important, not what’s urgent. So instead of doing any of the following things, I am writing this blog post. Mostly because I just read an article in Wired about Klout that has triggered my innate feelings of inadequacy and insignificance. Because what could be more important than raising my Klout score from a measly 38 into … well, at least the 40s?

Already today I’ve edited a journal submission for a client, washed a few loads of laundry, read Entertainment Weekly and taken a nap. Oh, and read some of Wired. Here’s what still awaits … after I’ve done my social networking duty.

Fold the laundry. What’s already been washed and dried is sitting in baskets in my bedroom. I like to fold it up there because a king bed is a good size and height for piling the clothes for four people. I can listen to the radio while I’m folding, too. Downside is that the second I dump the clean clothes out onto the bed, both dogs and the occasional cat jump onto the bed to lie on the clothes. Somewhere in the animal rulebook it says, “Get hair on clean clothes as soon as possible.” My pets are definitely keeping up on that one.

Exercise. Most of you know I’ve been losing weight on Weight Watchers — almost 20 pounds so far. And mostly without doing any more physical exercise than I usually would do. It’s not that I don’t like exercise; I really do — once I’ve done it. Unfortunately, most of the time I can think of 8 million things that sound infinitely more pleasurable than getting on the elliptical or humiliating myself on Zumba Fitness. Like folding laundry. Or sitting on the porch with my laptop increasing my Klout score.

Looking for a job. I am now 17 weeks into my unemployment benefits. Every Sunday I log into my online account with Ohio Job and Family Services (too bad ODJFS isn’t part of Klout) to file for my weekly benefits. Every week it asks if I’ve contacted two employers. Every week I say yes. That’s a total of 34 unfruitful job searches, for those of you keeping score at home. Now, I’m a 46-year-old former executive-level writer and editor. I’ve been on NPR, for Crissakes! Just how many jobs at my experience level does ODJFS think there are in Southeastern Ohio?! Um … almost none. Even in a 50-mile radius, which is what they expected. (Never mind the salary I’d have to pull to afford five 100-mile roundtrips a week with gas at $4 a gallon.)

Cleaning the van. I vacuumed it last week. It’s already knee-deep in dog hair again. And I never did get around to removing the dogs’ nose art from the windows. Plus it badly needs to be hand-washed, ’cause it’s so dirty that the automated washes just ain’t cuttin’ it. But hand-washing would be exercise, and as I’ve already noted, I can find LOTS of things to do besides exercise. Like …

Cleaning the cat box. It really needs it. I thought that when my kids were out of diapers that I would be done with shit-and-piss duty. Not with two cats. Unless I could get them to wear diapers. Hmmm …

Weekly lunch prep. I really will do this later. Every Sunday, I prepare stuff for the boys’ lunches so I can pack them quickly at 6:45 a.m. when the coffee has not yet begun to kick in. This entails:

  • Preparing 10 drink containers of chocolate milk made with oh-so-yummy local Snowville Creamery milk and Ovaltine. ‘Cause if it’s got vitamins and stuff, chocolate is healthy! (Ask Nutella how that’s working out for them.)
  • Cutting five 1-ounce portions of Heini’s Farmer Cheese for Ethan’s lunch, because the boy will not eat PBJ unless it’s fresh.
  • Portioning 2-tablespoon dollops of peanut butter into Rubbermaid cups, again for Ethan. He will eat peanut butter. Just not in a sandwich made five hours before he eats it.
  • Weighing out 1-ounce packages of Reduced Fat Triscuits (Ethan) and cheese-flavored Sun Chips (Max) and putting them in snack bags.
  • Peeling a shit-ton of carrots, slicing into sticks and weighing out 10 2-ounce portions so both boys can have carrots every day. Max takes applesauce cups; Ethan takes an apple. That way they get two servings of fruit at lunch and I can feel like I’m a good mom, even though everyone knows I’m not.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head over to Twitter before circling through Facebook. It’s getting late, and a Klout score is a heavy burden. *sigh*