Thursday, April 28, 2016

With all due respect, pay attention to the words

I'm a lawyer, I blog,  I write fiction, and I'm a partner in a small publishing company.  Words are very important to me.  Very important.  You might even say VERY important.

But no matter who you are or what you do, you need to pay attention to words.  Oh sure, if the words being spoken are in a language that is foreign to you, they are just pretty sounds.  I actually like to listen to people speaking in other languages BECAUSE it lets me focus on the sounds, not the meaning.  No, I don't just mean the stereotypically pretty languages, like French or Italian.  Talk to me in Russian, or German, or Chinese, and I'll sit there entranced.  I won't understand what you're saying, but I'll enjoy hearing it anyway.

But let me get back to my point.  If the words being spoken are in a language you understand, it behooves you to pay attention to the words.  Too many of us are sloppy and lazy, and that's a mistake.

Let's start with one of my pet peeves....  Head over heels.  If you google this and you look at the images, you'll see pictures of people doing cartwheels, or handstands.
That makes no sense at all.  The phrase is HEAD over HEELS... or if that doesn't point out the problem to you, then head OVER heels.  In other words... standing up.  And that's not what people generally intend when they use this phrase.
If you check wikipedia, you'll see that the phrase began as Heels over head.  Now THAT, I understand.  It's not clear when or why it changed... but I assure you, it only changed because people weren't paying attention to the words.

And how about the phrase Cold as Hell.
As it happens, about seven years ago a scientific report came out that the earth's core is both freezing and melting, all the time, and all at the same time.  But that's a subject for another day. I doubt that many of you are aware of that report, and I'm willing to bet that nearly all of you would have said that the center of the earth was molten lava.  And yes, I know... the center of the earth is not synonymous with Hell.  So let's talk about Hell.  All the pictures I could find, and the vast majority of the references I could find, all show Hell as a hot and fiery location.  So, hot as Hell, I understand.  Cold as Hell -- not so much.

Which brings me to my final point... the phrase With all due respect.  Yes, I see you nodding your head, you're starting to get this.  Typically, people use this phrase when they are about to disagree with someone, but want to show that, overall, they think highly of that person.  And it's certainly true that  'While I generally think highly of you, I disagree with you on this point', is a lot of words.  And you run the risk that your intended audience nods off, or wanders off, before you get to your point.  Yet, when that's what I mean, that's what I say.
Because, when I say 'with all due respect', I mean exactly that.  I mean 'with the respect that I think you are due, the respect that you are entitled to' (or - to which you are entitled).  And the fact that people don't pay attention to the words, means that I can say "with all due respect... blah blah blah", when I might very well mean.. "I have no respect for you (or your position".  How do I get away with this? Because people don't pay attention to the words.

My point is... words matter.  You can't just throw them around, willy nilly.  By the way, willy nilly means without consideration, in a  haphazard or random fashion.  And that's exactly what I meant.

And now, I will have a cup of tea.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some thoughts on Corporal Punishment

Ok....  I'm up on my soapbox again, but after all, this is my blog, which means it's my soapbox.  I realize that this is a controversial topic, and you may not agree with me -- feel free to move on, it won't hurt my feelings one tiny bit.

We've all seen the recent story about the five year old child in Georgia who was paddled by the school principal.
Mom was present during the paddling, took a video of the paddling,and posted it online.  And there's no question that it's difficult to watch the video of the child screaming 'Mommy, help me'.


Georgia state law allows corporal punishment by a school, in the form of paddling or spanking a child.     

I can't tell how long mom has been living in Georgia, but the child has been attending school since September.  The corporal punishment rule is not something that is seldom discussed, or rarely used. And by the way, it's not just Georgia.. it's Georgia plus 19 other states.  Yes, less than half, but not by much.  My point is, before people decide they are shocked by this rule, they need to understand that this is not unique... not by a long shot.

The force cannot be excessive, and the parent or legal guardian is notified in advance.

The child was spanked once, and mom was present. While the media is hyping the fact that you could clearly hear the spanking, I'd suggest you slap your hand against your own thigh.  The noise is quite significant, even with rather minimal contact.  I'm quite certain it would have been in the news if the spanking left any marks on the child's skin.

The rules clearly and specifically identify certain infractions, in detail,  that can result in corporal punishment.. and spitting (the alleged infraction) appears on the list.

... and mom acknowledges that her child did spit on another child. Which turns the alleged infraction into a clear infraction.

The parent can refuse to allow the punishment, but only with a written letter from the child's doctor.

Interestingly enough, mom never says anything about this.  She states that she considered taking the child out of school in order to avoid the spanking - but never says why the child shouldn't have been punished, or even why the child shouldn't have been punished by the school.  I can find no report of mom offering to discipline the child, herself, for action that she agrees was wrong.  Instead, mom focuses on the fact that the school warned her that if she took the child out of school, the child would be suspended.

Wow...suspension?  That seems a bit harsh.
But it turns out that the child had already missed 18 days of school. That's 3 1/2 weeks... nearly a month of school.  Georgia requires 180 days of instruction.. which means the child had already missed 10% of the total number of school days for the entire academic year, and this is only mid-April.  So now it doesn't seem quite so harsh that the school might say one more day would result in suspension.

But let's not move away from that letter from the doctor, quite yet.  Apparently, mom was worried that she'd be arrested if she did not allow the punishment.  This seems an odd concern.  Except that it turns out that mom WAS recently arrested under the truancy laws -- because the child had missed too many days of school.  While mom asserts that the child was ill, Georgia truancy laws grant exceptions for special circumstances, including illness.  But that's documented illness... and mom didn't have the documentation supporting her claim that the child was ill.

So, what do we have?
We have a child who clearly misbehaved. We have a school district that specifically allows spanking, under clear and defined criteria.  And, after meeting all the criteria,we have a school principal who spanked a child, once, in the presence of witnesses.

What do we not have?
We do not have a mother who places a priority on school attendance.  We do not have a mother who offers to impose her own discipline. We do not have any evidence of excessive force.

See where I'm going?  And by the way, I'm intentionally ignoring the odd bit about mom 'pretending to text' so that she could video the spanking.  I'm intentionally ignoring the fact that - while mom admits in interviews that her child spit at another child, the video never shows mom pointing out to the child that he misbehaved.

I'm much more upset at mom's behavior that gives the child the idea that school is unimportant, that it's ok to spit at people even if the rules say you shouldn't, and that actions don't have consequences, than I am at the fact that 20 states in the country allow schools to spank children.

We're focusing on the wrong things, people.  The important thing isn't that schools impose corporal punishment, and it's not even that this parent chose to video the event and then spread it on the internet. It's that rules are there to be followed.  Parents have an obligation to teach their children to respect rules and laws, and discipline their children when appropriate.  And if parents won't follow through... well, frankly, I think we should apologize to the schools when we pass this burden on to them, and then thank them when they do as we've asked.

It's time for a cup of tea, although even tea won't fix this problem.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I've always been very careful when someone asks for a book recommendation.  Reading likes/dislikes are very personal, and vastly different.  My husband does not read fiction, mom's not a big fan of science fiction, and I don't read romance stories.  I know someone who reads almost nothing other than mysteries, and someone else who reads only westerns.

But even if someone's reading preferences are very narrow, there are still tons and tons of books out there.. far more than can be read by any one person.  Which is why people are always looking for suggestions and recommendations on what should be read.

Occasionally, you might be fortunate enough to find a 'reading buddy'... someone whose interests overlap with yours.  My brother and I are reading buddies.  Our reading interests are so much in synch that on more than one occasion, one of us has called the other to say "Hey, I just finished reading a book that you MUST read", only to find out that our sibling is in the middle of reading that same book.

And for me, sharing my enthusiasm over a book I've read, is almost as good as reading the book in the first place.   Hmmm, well, maybe not.. but it does evoke some of the initial enjoyment I experienced when I read the book.  So having a reading buddy is a treat.  On occasion, one of us will find a book that's so good, that we'll call each other to say "I'm in the middle of this really good book... don't get it yet, let me finish it and make sure it carries through to the end, but I wanted to give you a heads-up".  Why do we do this?  I'm not sure... but we've both done it, for what that's worth.

But not everyone has a reading buddy... or their reading buddy isn't enough.

That's where Goodreads comes in.  Goodreads is a website that has nearly every book listed.  Membership is free, and at least in my experience, I don't get any emails from them that I haven't asked for, and my Goodreads membership doesn't seem to have generated any spam.  Initially, I used the website to keep track of what I've read (I hate reading books a second time)... and to keep track of books I'd heard of that I wanted to read.  But over time, I've realized that this site offers more than that. If I hear of a book but I'm not sure if it would be my cup of tea, I can check it out on Goodreads, and see what other people have to say about it.  Yeah, I know, you can do this on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or iBooks... but the reviews on Goodreads seem to be more detailed, without giving anything away.  And when I read a review, I can then check out the reviewer's profile, and see how similar their reading interests are to mine... which helps me determine how much weight to give to that review.

But recently, it hit me... I've been rather selfish.  While I enjoy the ability to check out the reviews of others, I've been too lazy to post my own.  And that's not fair.  So I've started posting my reviews.  I don't spend much time on mediocre books... after all, what can you say about 'mediocre'.  And even for books that I do like, or don't like, I'm not spending a lot of time on the review.... less time than it takes for the kettle to boil, for another cup of tea.  And inasmuch as more than three hundred thousand new books are published each year - in the US alone - it's impossible to keep up with all the new books out there.  I think we owe it to our fellow readers to help reduce that number to something a bit more manageable.

And while I'm not saying you should sign up for Goodreads, or post your reviews there or anywhere else... I would encourage you to share any good books you've read, with anyone who you think might find the information of interest.

And now that I've put up a review on the book I read a couple days ago, and I've finished this post, it's time to go make a cup of tea and ponder the next book to read.