Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Was Going to Hold on to That There Bottle of Wine

I have a theory that people are inherently lazy, and they will refrain from having to do tedious shit, even if you're paying them to do it and they could get more money by spending more time doing the tedious shit.

For instance, I spent a good chunk of change out of my ancillary funds to pull in a professional to help me clean up some really ugly manuscripts. This seemed to work out swimmingly, and I passed along said manuscripts to Outsource U, which, as we may all remember, is the solution to all of my publishing needs (because once your outsource it, you don't have to deal with it, amiright?)

Alas, I got the biggest, ugliest manuscript back from Outsource U, because, the rep says, the footnotes/numbers don't match up. I told the rep I'd do the painful line-by-line comparison, realizing that my paid professional had punted on renumbering everything (she figured the copyeditor would fix; not an illogical conclusion).

I am knee-deep in footnotes, approaching number 146 (yes, the footnote/text ratio is something like 60/40). And the problem, it turns out, is that my handy rep has deleted a random assortment of footnotes. So I'm spending my whole day fixing a "problem" which was really her self-created mistake.

I think we can say I'm the idiot here. Jesus.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How Does Nigel Stay One Louder Than Everybody Else?

Find out via this one-hour BBC radio broadcast with the lads from Spinal Tap.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Larouche-ies

They're out, in the middle of streets (near me, at least) with signs, such as the following:

No Money for Universal Health Care! More Money for Wall Street!

I flipped them off as I drove past. Idiots.

Friday, June 19, 2009

This Is About the Size of Things Here Today

The whoosh of rain coming down the freight elevator is followed by the hum of shop vacs wielded by frantic maintenance types.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure This Makes Me Old

I have just bought shoes because they are comfortable. And because they were half price.

It's a relevant question, though, whether these make me a sad, sad lady trying to get hip like the kiddies or whether they just make me old-lady practical.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Praise Be! An Even-Handed Sotomayor Piece on NPR

Have you too had your teeth set on edge by listening to the hand wringing over Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments and the furor over the plight of the New Haven white firefighter? I wish I had a dollar for every story that just laid out the complaints, then had some whining by the people making the charges. Really, how useful is it to hear Juan Williams pontificate on how "some people" are making allegations that she can't be impartial?

Thus, imagine my surprise to hear Nina Totenberg actually address the question on whether Sotomayer is a "bully" or "mean," using actual interviews with judges who have worked with her, audiotapes, and numerical assessments of how often she "interrupts," compared with other judges (answer: she doesn't, any more than anyone else, although the aired version is slightly different than the print version of this piece, so you don't get the actual numbers on that here).

I'm sure this will be shocking to hear, but the fact that she is a woman may just affect how people perceive her behavior:

Judge Guido Calabresi, former Yale Law School dean and Sotomayor's mentor, now says that when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of his male colleagues and his own questions.

"And I must say I found no difference at all. So I concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn't stand being questioned toughly by a woman," Calabresi says. "It was sexism in its most obvious form."

And what if such criticism came from a woman lawyer? Well, says Calabresi, women can be just as sexist as men in their expectations of how a woman judge should act.

Research has shown that women and men are peceived differently in authority roles. Among people with preferences, both men and women prefer male bosses, for example. And women bosses carry all sorts of expectations of how women "should" act, so when they act authoritative, i.e., like men, they are peceived as less nice.

Predicament 3: Competent but Disliked – Women Leaders Are Perceived as Competent or Liked, but Rarely Both. Respondents’ comments revealed that when women behave in ways that are traditionally valued for men leaders (e.g., assertively), they are viewed as more competent, but also not as effective interpersonally as women who adopt a more stereotypically feminine style.

Depressing, but it's nice to hear NPR do a bit more than skim the surface.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Equals Happy Hour

God, I need a drink.

I Believe This Is Unprecedented in Today's U.S. Healthcare Environment

I got a check in the mail from my doctor's office, along with a statement that I had been overcharged. Further, this was after my insurance paid for the full visit. They refunded me my co-pay.

Huh. I'm almost afraid to cash it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

“My work cuts like a steel blade at the base of a man’s penis.”

This article in the New Yorker, which discusses a book about the impact of creative-writing programs on American fiction, is timely food for thought for me as I consider writing programs and the next stage of the process. Yes! I'm looking into MFA programs! A waste of time and money when I should just be writing? Maybe.

When I worked for a creative-writing program, making coffee, fetching snacks, and listening to MFA students enviously snipe about best-selling visiting writers who they saw as undeserving hacks--the whole enterprise seemed to me to exist to create teachers who could support their writing by training the next generation of teachers who could support their writing, and so on, ad infinitum. And my experience an undergraduate taking a class from one of these jaded MFA students didn't change that perception: we students read each other's work--giving either ostentatious and overbearing suggestions or vague and meaningless praise--and got vague scribbled feedback from our teacher. As I think I've mentioned, it was enough to send me screaming into more concrete endeavors, like accounting.

But my recent experiences with fiction-writing classes have made me much more open to the prospect of how writing can be "taught." One of the things that I had to power through was this idea that writing was something that just happened: you're either a superstar, or you're someone who's wasting time that could better be spent learning something concrete and productive, like, um, accounting. If you're not dazzling them on your first efforts, you might as well give it up. But the thing is, writing is about practice and trial and error, just like any other creative endeavor. Part of what you learn in a class is to treat writing like a process. Not everything that is given life by your keyboard is going to set the world on fire, but if you pick up some tips from people and books you love and plug away at it, your writing's going to improve. Having a class structure gives you permission to start somewhere and end somewhere better. So when I see something like this
Most readers of “The Program Era” are likely to be persuaded that the creative-writing-program experience has had an effect on many American fiction writers. Does this mean that creative writing can, in fact, be taught? What is usually said is that you can’t teach inspiration, but you can teach craft. What counted as craft for James, though, was very different from what counted as craft for Hemingway. What counts as craft for Ann Beattie (who teaches at the University of Virginia) must be different from what counts as craft for Jonathan Safran Foer (who teaches at N.Y.U.). There is no “craft of fiction” as such.

I'm sympathetic, but at the same time, I think that teaching writing isn't that different from teaching any art. Talent is talent, but "craft"--where you take it and synthesize it from--is most definitely learned. Whether it can be imparted by a teacher, as opposed to learned by reading is probably arguable. I can't say that I've picked up specific mechanics from my teachers directly through the example of their work, but I absolutely learned from them to be aware of aspects I can learn from. Perhaps this was a feature of being in a program that emphasizes "finding your own voice" over doing it the [Fill in your pet methodology] way. And the things that we learn from other students, who have different influences, can't be discounted. Mr. Experimental Fiction in my last class, for example, may not have been offering me a whole lot of useful advice on setting up my scenes or introducing my characters, but damn, did I pick up a lot from his way of describing how his characters felt.

But I thought this was awesome. It makes me want to work on an affect, you know?
Writing teachers may therefore cultivate their own legends. Once, on the first day of class, Angela Carter, who taught at Brown, was asked by a student what her own writing was like. She carefully answered as follows: “My work cuts like a steel blade at the base of a man’s penis.”

While I'm at Work, the Cat's Looking into This Ark Business

And it continues to rain. At this rate, my roofers may get to fixing things by about September.

Monday, June 8, 2009

As the Employees of My Roofing Contractor Take Turns Driving by to Puzzle over This

We can start up a pool to ascertain exactly what the heck this is about. It goes all the way around the roof, with random shingles snapped off.

My dad says wind, but I'm postulating a raccoon hit ordered by the starlings who've suffered in my basement. Or could it be human meddling wrought by neighborhood toughs who travel with collapsible ladders?

It's hard not to take it personally. This is what I get for going on vacation.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Laura and the Spinach Versus Abelard V-VI: Gardening Notes*

I'm pleased to announce that all of my bunny-proof fence is officially installed, not a moment too soon, it seems, as I've discovered some nibble marks on my basil plants. It looks all pretty and official, like I mean to be gardening with energy. I only wish this determination carried over to all of my planting beds currently overrun with weeds.

I did notice one odd thing while outside puttering, though. Because I'm an essentially lazy person, I still have the planters I used on my stoop last year by my garage. I never cleaned them out, dumped the dirt, or trashed the dead petunias, therefore they are sprouting their own spring assortment of weeds. But, incredibly enough, among the weeds in there are petunia plants, looking like they're about to bloom. Given that our winter featured sub-sub zero weather, repeatedly, what are the odds of that? Did they make wave petunias perennials when I wasn't looking?

*All of my bunnies are named Abelard, even the girl bunnies. This is because my garden statue is named Eloise. I'm a literary person.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Garden Goodness

Another year, another garden. Admire our handiwork! More tomatoes are forthcoming, and of course I have the basil going. Yum.