Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Information Polarization

I'm on the hunt for a magazine for my 10-year-old daughter.

For the last year we've subscribed to National Geographic's World Magazine for kids, but I've found it overly heavy on indoctrination and global warming scare tactics and abysmally short on reliable, useful information.

And as I've searched for a replacement, I've found very little by way of middle-of-the road, objective kinds of magazines out there. They're either uber liberal or they're uber conservative, with nothing in between. As if the publishing industry has become very polarized. While my political leanings tend toward the conservative, I don't want to educate my kids that way. I want to give them a balanced persepective and let them grow up to decide for themselves. But I'm having trouble finding that all in one place.

I looked at one science magazine called "Creation." It's a religion based magazine that tries very hard to refute evolution and train you to talk convincingly with your evolutionist friends on the subject. Well, I happen to be religious and I can't discount the idea of evolution out of hand, mainly because I wasn't there when it all happened. No one was. So I'll study and teach creation AND evolution AND intelligent design and when we get to the 'other side' we can ask and not be completely surprised by the answer. We won't be among the die-hard evolutionists or creationists (one or both of whom may be sorely disappointed to learn they were wrong) who are thumping themselves on the forehead saying, "How could I have been so blind!" We'll be watching the playback video saying, "Wow! So THAT'S how it happened! COOL!!"

You see THAT'S how I define open-minded. In reality, these days, open-minded seems to be defined as "If you think the way I do..."

But back to information: I've had the same problem in finding resources for teaching my children the history of Islam as we approach the Early Middle Ages in our history study. Sources either stumble over themselves to show how peaceful Islam is, how good they were to their subdued subjects, and how critical they were to the development of the Western world, or stumble over themselves to show exactly the opposite.

Sigh. I'm fearful of what I'll find when we reach American History.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nasty, Nasty Writers

And NOT those who write erotica.

I'm talking about those with the maturity of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.

I sent a rejection last night for a story that was good enough to pass through the first round of selection, but ended up being rejected by the editorial team. The next morning my inbox contained a response to that rejection that LEAPS over the border between stupidity and wisdom, landing firmly into the brown-smelly-stuff-on-your-shoes kind of idiocy that is not as rare, I'm afraid, as it should be.

You can read my rejection, the author's response, and Flash Fiction Online's Editor-in-Chief's blog concerning the whole affair here:


Jake, you ROCK!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blue Screen of DEATH!!

I got one last night.

The first on this computer. We've had it over 5 years.

That would make it certifiable as a technological dinosaur, but it's been a pretty good computer to carry us through some rough times with no major troubles. We had to replace the power supply once, the CD drive once, and upgraded our RAM once.

Unfortunately, the company who made it isn't in business anymore. They were a small local firm called Totally Awesome Computers, and they made, bar none, the best computer around with THE best warranty in the business. All we've ever had to pay for was parts for the one upgrade.

They didn't, however, go out of business because the business was failing. Instead the owner of the business failed to keep his personal-life head on straight and ended up making himself a lot of enemies in the community. After having himself painted as the bad guy in one too many situations (when in actuality he was more the irresponsible, reckless guy rather than 'bad' per se) he decided he was done doing business in Utah.

He's still in Utah.

He spent the last year or so trying to polish his image, then he ran for governor. He's ultra-conservative, but kind of an ass. He lost. Badly. He hadn't polished enough, I guess.

I, personally, wish he'd quit acting like an ass and get back into the business of making computers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


A few days ago I sent a batch of slush to my EIC (Editor in Chief) for the winnowing phase of Flash Fiction Online's selection process.

I included one that I liked but that my whole team rejected.


But it was a good story!

Since my team rejected it, I thought I'd better give it a second and maybe a third read before I sent it anyway. And after the second read I STILL liked it. I can't say for sure why my team didn't like it. The comments were pretty sparse. One thought it was more a glimpse into the mind than a story. Another thought it was demented. I thought it was a look into the deeper mind, into thoughts that aren't all that uncommon, but that no one wants to talk about. Thoughts that are there, but are never acted upon.

In the religious vernacular we might call them 'temptations.' The temptations in the story are particularly frightening, but, I think, understandable given that the main character feels backed up against a wall, and given that our senses and sensibilities are innundated every time we open the paper with stories of people who have given in to some of the most horrific temptations, I think the story is timely. Right now we seem to be seeing an upsurge of violence by people who feel cornered--they've lost their jobs, or lost their homes, or lost their spouses.

I think this story is important because it takes us into the mind of someone who is cornered, has this fleeting thought, this temptation, but overcomes it, who lets the better side of him prevail.

It's especially excellent, in my opinion, because he's not your average hero. He's rough around the edges, uneducated, un-noticeable in the wider world view. Just some guy working to take care of his responsibilities, to take care of a situation his own choices have gotten himself into, and he has this thought that if he just...

But he doesn't. And that's what's heroic about him, and what's poignant about the story.

I hope it makes it through. I plan on defending it to the teeth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jessica Day George

I just spent a lovely evening with a Salt Lake area reading group. This reading group just happens to include Jessica Day George, whose book Princess of the Midnight Ball we discussed.

Unfortunately, I hadn't read the book, but certainly plan to.

Fortunately I had been speed-reading through a couple of her books so I at least had some idea of what kind of author she is.

I have to say, I very much enjoy her work. I've read Dragon Slippers and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. I really liked both, which surprised me.

If you're reading this, Jessica, don't stop now. I promise this post is meant to be NOTHING but complimentary.

You see, I've heard Jessica speak or participate on panels several times, and each time I have been entertained by her wit. She's a genuinely funny and fun person. So when I began reading her books I expected them to have that same kind of wit. I expected something more akin to Patricia C. Wrede or Terry Pratchet.

What I got were beautifully written stories with a depth that belied what I had seen of her before. Jessica is a wonderful author of youth fiction--but youth fiction that adults can enjoy with relish.


Thanks to Jessica for her stories, and to Kathleen for inviting me, and to Lucy for driving an old blind lady safely through a snowstorm.