Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

#Ferguson, Part Two

I’m finding it hard to think about anything else but the goings on in Ferguson, Missouri.

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that his observation was that his conservative friends seem to be siding with the police, and his liberal friends seem to be siding with the victim and his family. That seems an accurate assessment of my Facebook and Twitter feeds as well.

I have little patience with the oversimplification of any issue to the point that it divides on party lines. I don’t blame anyone in particular (except maybe the general state of our country only having two major parties so maybe we should change that). I do uphold that justice should not be a liberal or conservative thing.  It should be an everyone thing.

When even the most conservative reports are indicating that the officer in question shot an unarmed man, I’m not sure how one spins that to make it debatable.  I’m not sure how a person says, “He shot him, even though he wasn’t armed, but…” There’s no “but” there.  I want to shake everyone who is trying to do so and yell, “What if that unarmed man were your son? What if it happened in your neighborhood?”

This may be cheesy, but I keep seeing Matthew McConaughey at the end of A Time To Kill as he described the brutalization of the defendant’s daughter, asking the jury to picture what happened to her. He ended his argument with, “Now imagine she’s white.”

Imagine Mike Brown was white.

But that’s just another problem.

Should we have to imagine that shooting an unarmed man – regardless of who he is or what he has done – is within a different demographic to be appalled by the event? Should his skin have to look more like mine, or his voice sound like my voice, or his address be next door to mine, in order for me to demand that his death be investigated and the officer be brought to trial?

The answer is no – hell, no – just in case you were confused by my phrasing it as a question.

I’m not suggesting that we convict without all the facts. I’m not suggesting that we blindly believe everything we hear (although I am personally inclined to believe people who are in Ferguson, taking pictures with their camera phones, posting firsthand accounts without having to run it through the filter of it being their job, which automatically spins it one way or another).  I’m not suggesting that we deprive the officer of due process (even though I understand the temptation to do so, as that’s exactly what he did to Mike Brown, according to even the most conservative reports of the event).

I am suggesting that we pay attention – that we never stop paying attention.

I suggest that we read things like this, even if they make us uncomfortable.

I am suggesting that we support people who have cause to press charges and people who have injustices to fight.

I am suggesting that we support them publicly by saying that we support them.

I am suggesting that we then put our money where our mouths are and support them financially so that justice can be for everyone, not just the people rich enough to buy it. Don’t know where to donate? Let me help you – The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and the NAACP.

I am suggesting that injustice is an everyone problem and that we should act like it is.

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It might be quiet here for a few days. I am watching what’s happening in Ferguson (yes, I’m even following hashtags on Facebook and Twitter – it seems I don’t hate hashtags this week). I don’t know what is going on, but I do know that unless all of us are equal, none of us are free.

Lord, have mercy.

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photo (15)

Shocking, isn’t it? Controversial?  Yes.  But it’s true.

I hate hashtags (and I am DELIGHTED that WordPress doesn’t recognize it as a word. I mean, WordPress also doesn’t recognize “WordPress” as a word, so it’s a small or possible even imaginary victory, but still).

Now, before you pull our your pointy lecturing finger, I concede that I get it.  I understand how useful they are. They are community-builders, and that is why, almost every Saturday, I happily put aside my personal feelings and post pictures on the Instagram with the tags #jointhestory and #storygrams. If I had a cat, half my posts there would be tagged #catsofinstagram (it’s possible that said cat would probably also have his or her own Facebook page, so…grain of salt), because have you clicked on that hashtag?  It will lead you to adorable and hilarious things. Hashtags are also essential when it comes to social media marketing. An added #amreading or #amwriting or #writing added to a link to a post will multiply traffic to said post. At least 75% (an estimate – and probably a conservative one) of my followers on Twitter, where all of my blog post links automatically go, found me via a hashtag. I have had people tell me that they followed me based on my frequent (if by frequent, one means once or twice a month) use of #idowhatiwant.

So I get it.  I KNOW. And I will use them – sparingly – in the manner in which they were intended to be used. I will market myself on social media.  I recognize self-promotion as a necessary evil part of the getting-people-to-read process.


I still hate hashtags. They are the sole reason I was so slow to warm up to Twitter. And now, they’re friggin’ everywhere. I cannot escape them. Oh, Twitter – what hast thou wrought?!

First of all, they’re shady.  They’re fake words pretending to be real words, and they promote laziness. I have the same disgruntled feelings about hashtags that I have about the use of “u” in place of “you” – or worse – “ur” in place of “you’re” or “your” (LEARN THE DIFFERENCE – IT’S NOT HARD. /mini-rant). It’s the chance to say one more thing without having to waste one of the precious 140 characters one is allowed on Twitter on a space.  It’s also the chance to avoid editing and choosing one’s words wisely so that they will actually fit into a succinct, 140-character message. One thing that Twitter lets me practice is getting across my message in fewer words – a practice one might argue I desperately need. And I suspect other people would benefit from such practice, too. So here’s a challenge – if your initial draft is 154 characters, instead of copping out by using shortcuts, Hemingway that shit so that you can use real words and still get your point across.

Second, instead of helping the message, hashtags actually distract me from the person sending it.  I have lost count of the times I have been scrolling through Instagram and see a large block of text under a beautiful picture taken by my friend Horatia (fake name – conglomerate prototype of multiple beloved friends). I say to myself, “Hey, self, let’s go see what gorgeous words Horatia has chosen to caption this stunning photograph,” only to discover upon first glance, that only five words of the caption actually came from my brilliant friend. The rest is a sea of hashtags pressuring me to go elsewhere and see other people’s pictures and words. And here’s the thing – if I gave a damn about those other pictures and words, I would be following the people who posted them. I’m not.  I am, however, following Horatia because her pictures and her words are important to me. I specifically chose to follow her because what she has to say has struck a chord with me, and when I see her name, I get excited about what she has to offer. And that’s what I want to see.

And again – I get it.  I understand that those hashtags are a way for other people to find her easily and see the glory of what Horatia has to offer the world. I support self-promotion, particularly for artists of all kinds and particularly for women, because we have been socialized to support others (particularly men) first and ourselves second (or third…or fiftieth…), and I’m all for breaking that ridiculous cycle.  But if I see more content promotion than content creation, I will eventually lose interest in the content, no matter how much I love and respect the person as a friend.

Third, I find hashtags aesthetically unpleasant. I know – I’m an old woman.  I mean, I’m not. At all.  I’m 39, which puts me in what Jill Conner Browne of Sweet Potato Queens fame (point of reference – for those who have ever enjoyed my margaritas, she’s where I got the recipe) terms the larval stage of my development as a human. But as someone who has vivid, adult-ish memories of life and reading before the Internet (point of reference – Google.com was registered as a domain name three months before I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree), in Internet terms, I am a dinosaur. And like all damn kids who need to get off my lawn, the Internet likes to screw with my expectations of how things are to be capitalized and spaced.  In this regard, hashtags are a visual nightmare. I recognize that there’s probably some legitimate, computer-codey reason why the spaces need to be left out to create a link.  But I need hashtags to evolve linguistically, because I also can’t help but notice that proper computer code stays backstage, out of sight, so as not to ruin the effect of the presentation.  Take note, hashtags.

And finally, let’s call hashtags what they are – advertising.They are the billboards of the intrawebs. And like billboards, they are effective.  They are great at directing attention to a specific corner of a saturated market. But for those of us who are acutely aware of and thus hypersensitive to the CONSTANT bombardment of people trying to sell us something, hashtags – like billboards – can really ruin the landscape. If this post hasn’t tipped you off, let me go ahead and spell it out – I am easily overstimulated. The Las Vegas Strip and Disney World? Not so much examples of my ideal vacation spot as they are examples of what I imagine Hell must be like. And I am not alone.  We might be the minority, but for those of us hindered by this affliction, repeat advertising (and the nature of hashtags is inherently repetitive) actually has the exact opposite of the intended effect. It all becomes noise, and we tend to go to great lengths to shut out noise.

So friends – please – do this old curmudgeon a favor – use hashtags, but use them sparingly.I want to hear what you have to say.  I’m probably even interested in buying what you’re selling.  I will do both these things willingly.  You don’t have to kick my cane out from under me and steal my purse.

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Two things

Okay, two things regarding the SCOTUS decision, then I’ll get back to talking about food, coffee, and the ridiculous amount of possessions I have shoved into my tiny, tiny apartment.

First, since I still don’t have nice words, I am going to direct you to someone else. This article sums up my disappointment nicely. The only time I ever took medicine traditionally used for contraceptive purposes, it was not for contraceptive purposes.  I had abnormally large cysts on my ovaries that exploded every month.  They were not cancerous, but every month they just kept getting bigger. And exploding.  The last month it happened, I landed in the emergency room because we thought something vital had ruptured. The impact so distressed the inner workings of my abdomen that I was on a mostly liquid diet (on good days, I could keep down vegetable soup) for six months. My doctor prescribed a hormone therapy drug because it regulated the hormone imbalance that was causing the abnormal growth. It probably saved my life.  This decision denies that life-saving opportunity to others. I take this personally because it is personal to me.

(I could also make the argument that birth control used as birth control is also life-affirming and life-saving, but I won’t. Oops.  Guess I just did.  But you can pretend you didn’t see this, if it makes you feel better.)

Second, this is a minor annoyance, but still…I’m annoyed that we keep referring to the money the company pays to insurance as the company’s money.  Frankly, I’m shocked that my highly conservative Facebook feed is doing so, given their usual proclivity to jump on the get-out-of-my-pocketbook train. This is a not a case of a company using its resources to engage in unethical practices (like sweatshop labor, for example. But if it were such a case…*cue pointed glance*…but I digress).  This is not a case of a company using its resources to encourage certain behavior. This is not a case of a company using its resources for anything. Dear Hobby Lobby, when someone works for you, the money you pay in insurance?  THE EMPLOYEE’S MONEY.  Not yours.  THEIRS.  Payment – in the form of benefits, sure, but part of the compensation package all the same – that they EARNED by working for you.  You know how you can tell it’s theirs?  If you would stop providing it when they stop working for you, it falls in the category of payment for services rendered.  It’s theirs. No corporation – regardless of their tax status – should have any more right to tell employees what to do with their benefits than they do to tell employees what to do with their paycheck.

Okay.  We now return to our regular programming.

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I have three posts to write – a Getting It Together plan, a GIT recipe, and What I’m Into – but I don’t think I can say anything nice about anything today.

Hobby Lobby, we have been having issues for a while now.  But as of today, we’re done.

SCOTUS, you’re on my list, too.

Get ’em, Ginsberg (scroll to page 60 for the dissent).

If you need me, I’ll be avoiding my conservative Facebook feed and pinning comfort food recipes and pictures of cute animals on Pinterest.

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Awful…for a minute…

Can I be awful for a minute?  I mean, just tacky and graceless and snotty?

Good.  Because I’m gonna.

I tell my students that, contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a stupid question.  I then go on to explain that any question that someone has not only already answered but also answered in writing falls under this category.

Because don’t be lazy.  Also, try to listen.

As the semester winds down, though, I want to add a couple of things to this category.

1.  Any question to which you could easily find the answer yourself is a dumb question.  Especially if you look at me, see that I’m busy doing something, and decide to interrupt and ask me anyway. For example, don’t ask me what time it is.  That is my pet peeve question.  I cannot think of a situation where I can be trusted to answer this question politely.  You can look at your phone just as easily as I can.  Also, there’s probably a clock on the wall.  Just turn your head.

You will get a look from me.  I’m not sure I can help it. It might be involuntary.  It might look something like this:


(Actually, that’s more my “stop being funny – I’m trying to look angry here!” look)

It will be the look that says, “Look how accessible this information is to you without any assistance from me whatsoever.  Don’t you feel foolish?”  I will give you a look, then I will slowly and deliberately turn my head to look at the clock or to look at the phone IN YOUR HAND while I put down what I’m doing and pick up my own phone.  Then I will sigh.  Then, finally, I will answer.  This process will take at least five times longer than it would have taken you to figure it out yourself.

Overreaction?  Maybe.  Tacky?  Sure.  But not nearly as much as what I’m thinking about you in my head.

Because don’t be lazy.

2. Any question that forces me into small talk.

This is something that not many people know about me.  I like greeting people.  I like making eye contact, saying, “hello,” and wishing them a good day as they go off to class.  I like doing my part to help set the tone for a pleasant day.  I also enjoy welcoming the residents home and asking how their day went.  It’s pretty much my favorite part of my day job.

You know what’s not my favorite?

Small talk.

When I say, “Good morning,” I mean it.  When I ask how someone’s day is, I really want to know.  It’s fine if they only want to mutter “okay” as they shuffle past.  That’s their prerogative. But if they want to have a real conversation, I’m for it.

What I am not for is answering mindless questions about what I think of the weather 4,000 times a day.  If you ever encounter anyone behind a desk, do us all a favor.  Don’t talk about the weather.  Be the one fantastic person in our day who doesn’t make us have that terribly boring “conversation.”

I mean, I will answer it.  It’s not your fault that everyone in the history of the building has asked the same question.  I will be nice about it.  Usually.  Unless it’s hot.  Then I have feelings, and you will get to hear them, because hey – you asked.  But if your goal is to be nice, you’ve failed.

3. Any question that isn’t a real question but is designed to “teach” me something through manipulation and general asshattery (i.e., condescension disguised as pleasantry).

“How are you today?”
“I’m okay.  How are you?”
“Just okay?  Why not GREAT?!”

“Why don’t you smile more often?”

“Good morning!”
“How are you today?”
“I’m good.”
“Are you sure? You don’t look it.”

You clearly don’t know me very well, so let me explain some things.

1.  I have an MA in Communication.  I know how to communicate, and I do it just fine.  I do not need you to teach me how to act, and it’s rude of you to try to do so.
2.  I am 39 years old.  If you have ever encountered a grown ass woman before, you should know how to interact with one (hint – the conversations above?  Not the way to go.).
3.  I’m particular.  I have reasonable expectations, but it takes a lot to impress me.  And to get the reaction you are wanting, you have to impress me, not just meet the general expectation.
4.  I am analytical.  I am precise and honest.  If I’m not “great,” I don’t say that I am.  And as I am at work and NOT on a beach sipping an umbrella drink handed to me by a delightful cabana boy (who can smile or not, just as long as he keeps the drinks coming), I’m probably not going to be “great” when you see me.  I’m okay.  I like my job reasonably well, I’m glad to have it, and I choose to be here.  But it’s still a job, not happy fun time.

People have different personalities.  We aren’t all Polyannas.  And thank God for that.  We wouldn’t be able to breathe from all the syrup flying through the air.

I smile, but it’s usually pretty subdued, particularly compared to the bubbly stereotype you seem to want me to be.  And it’s going to stay subdued until I have something to get bubbly about.

Or unless my boss requires it, but I don’t see that happening.

But if you are a random person trying to tell me how to act at MY desk in MY building?  That will bring out the anti-bubbly. That’s a good way to get me to go from “okay” to “pissed off” in no time.

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I Choose Them

Disclaimer: Yes, this was inspired by a real-life conversation.  If you were there, you know it, because I wasn’t subtle.  Nothing here will identify you, nor will it offend you, because it’s so much nicer than what I said to your face.  All others, if this post offends you because you feel that, in some theoretical way, it could be directed at you, maybe take it up with Jesus. Maybe talk to him (or a licensed professional, if you prefer) about why it could have been directed at you.

If you say something racist within earshot of me, I consider it my business.  I will confront you.  Even if you weren’t talking to me at the time. Even if I don’t know you. I will do my best not to embarrass you, because shame is a lousy motivator, but I will address it.

I will confront you, just like I expect you to confront me when necessary, because I am not perfect and need to be confronted sometimes.

It’s not that I think I’m better than you.  This is not image management; I’m not trying to look smart or culturally sensitive.  I’m not even really trying to teach you something, although in the best case scenario, we would both come away from the experience having learned from it.

It’s just that it is my business.

Racist speech inevitably draws a line, dividing the whole of humanity in two. It breaks the natural design of the universe. Our differences are meant to empower us and to give us voice. Racist speech corrupts this design and turns difference into a silencer. Your racist remarks draw a line and force me and everyone else around you to choose which side of the line we’re going to stand on. And lest the word “force” sounds like it’s some great burden, the truth is that my having a choice in this situation in the first place is a privilege afforded to me by my lily white skin.  The easy choice is to stay quiet and pretend that it doesn’t concern me, or to say that there’s nothing I can do, or to hide under the cloak of “no one needs me to speak on his or her behalf.”

But as a friend recently reminded me, I don’t have to make the easy choice.  So I choose to use my privilege in a different way.

When you draw that line in the sand between us and them, I choose them.

If you are a complete stranger, I choose them.

If you are my very own flesh and blood, I choose them.

If you are randomly wandering through my building at work, I choose them.

If you occupy any rung of the ladder at my workplace(s), even rungs that are far above me, I choose them.

If we are friends despite our having nothing in common, I choose them.

If we are friends because we have so much in common, I choose them.

If you are trying to get my attention because you want to date me, please note that this is the exact wrong kind of attention to get from me.  I choose them.

If I have shown interest in dating you, don’t expect my crush to silence my response, because I choose them.

Even if telling you that you’re wrong will cost me our relationship, I will still choose them.  If that’s going to break the deal, I’m going to go ahead and let it break (for a little while at least). My hope is that eventually you will cross over the line with me. My hope is that one day the line will be destroyed and diversity will be a place of celebration, not competition.

But if you draw that line in the sand, I will choose them.


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Freedom of Speech

I’ve been avoiding social media this week because of the Duck Dynasty fiasco.  It’s not because I harbor any ill will against Phil Robertson.  I generally find him amusing (or at least I did, before reading his unsettling remarks about how he could tell the slaves were happy because they were singing…that gives me considerable pause), and I have watched and enjoyed the show.  I mean, I have absolutely zero need for duck calls or any hunting-related paraphernalia in my life, but the show is entertaining, for what it is.

I’m not even shocked by his statements.  For a white man his age who grew up and has lived his whole life in the South, those are unfortunately not unusual opinions.  Horrible and wrong, sure.  But not unusual.  In order to despise him, I would have to despise most of the elderly people I know, and I’m not prepared to do that.

What, then, irks me beyond my tolerance threshold when situations like this arise?  Seeing statements such as this – “I guess A&E doesn’t believe in freedom of speech.”- in my Facebook feed.


Once again, the Internet has been faithful to reveal the piss-poor state of our educational system by throwing out hot button phrases such as “freedom of speech” and “violation of rights” in order to rile people up without going to the bothersome trouble of learning what those freedoms actually entail and what those rights actually are.

So let’s discuss what the First Amendment says about your freedom of speech.

The First Amendment, truncated for our purposes (but you can read the whole thing here if you want) states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

That is the entirety of what the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees you as a citizen regarding freedom of speech.  With very few exceptions, you can say what you want to say, and it is not against the law.

It protects you from being arrested for simply speaking your mind.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from being imprisoned for what you say.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from the law – that is, the government – not from private entities such as individual citizens or, say, a television network.

It protects you from legal ramifications.  I suppose, of course, that a person or company could sue you, but, provided that what you said cannot be proven to be libel or slander (examples of those exceptions I mentioned), they would not win unless you have a stunningly crapulous attorney and an idiot judge, because for them to win such a case would be a violation of your rights.

Now let’s discuss some things from which it does not protect you.

It does not protect you from people disagreeing with you and saying so.  That’s just other people exercising their freedom of speech.

It does not protect you from criticism.  Again, that’s just other people having the same rights as you do.

It does not protect you from a professor throwing you out of class when you say something disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate, and the professor gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not, because the professor is the one who is held responsible for what happens in his or her classroom.

And finally, it does not protect you from being reprimanded, suspended, or even fired when you say something that opposes the values of your employer, especially if you, knowing that your values differ, are dumb enough to say it at work, in a highly public forum (for example, an interview to which you were invited specifically because of your job), or while being recorded and/or reported.  That is not a violation of your rights.  That is your employer being true to the values to which they have committed, regardless of what it might cost them in terms of viewers or money.That is your employer exhibiting integrity, and their response to your behavior is called consequence, not persecution.

It could be argued that speaking one’s religious convictions is worth whatever consequences it might bring.  That is a generous way to look at this situation.  This cynic has questions, though.  If one’s convictions on an issue are really so strong, would one work for an organization that not only blatantly disagrees with those convictions but also actively asserts its opposition to them?  If one is truly concerned with taking a stand, can one still in good conscience take a paycheck from said organization?  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, in word or deed, I have a hard time believing the conviction is real.  I find it more likely that the so-called conviction is really more of a publicity stunt or an offhand, thoughtless comment.  It makes it look more like he was just trying to use his privilege (because being famous and being paid to say things on TV and to reporters are indeed privileges, not rights) to promote his platform, and it backfired.

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Unpopular Opinion of the Day

So, a lot of people have used “literally” wrong.  They will say “literally” when they actually mean “figuratively.”  So many people have done this that dictionary.com includes this caveat in their definition of literally [my commentary in brackets, because I just can’t help myself]:

“Usage note: Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect; virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning ‘actually, without exaggeration’: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries.  The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise.  The use is often criticized [*ahem*]; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited [read: literate] writing.”

This is annoying to me.

But it’s not nearly as annoying as the disturbing trend, seen mostly on Twitter, of saying, “What the actual fuck…”

Do they mean that?  Do they REALLY?  Because what I imagine when they say/tweet this is an unfortunate scenario where they were just walking along, minding their own business, when BAM – people suddenly copulating right there on the ground in front of them.

Because that’s what “actual” means, kids.  That whatever follows is literally (the traditional usage) what happened.

I mean, if it is what actually happened, then by all means, report that shit (figurative).  If something like spontaneous public sex happens right in front of you, all of Twitter needs to hear about it, because that is indeed remarkable and the exact sort of thing for which Twitter was created.

But let’s stop saying “actual” and “literally” when we mean the opposite. Let’s talk/tweet like we actually know the language.

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Longing for Fall

It’s so hot here.  I know I should be used to it.  I’ve lived in Texas my whole life.  But every year, it’s surprising that it’s so very, very hot and that humans are actually expected to live and work in it.

It’s also the first week of classes.  Living and working just got active.

I see the words “Fall 2013” on my syllabus, and I look outside and think, “LIES!”

I want to do all the Fall things:

I want to see pumpkins at the farmers’ market.  I want to pick some out for carving and soup-making and seed-roasting and pie-baking and puree-canning.

I want apples to be in season here.  I want bushels of them, again, for pie-baking and soup-making, but also for applesauce and having the smell of roasting apples in the house.

I want to go to my one football game of the year and remember halfway through it when the buzz from tailgating wears off that I don’t really like football.

I want to start getting invitations to Halloween parties.  I already have costume ideas.

I want to see the leaves turn on that one tree that doesn’t know that it’s in Texas and that trees don’t really do that here so much, so it goes ahead and turns anyway.

I want Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite.

So I anticipate the changing of the wind, and I long for apple cider and other warm, snuggling drinks to show up on menus at my favorite coffee shop.

See you soon, Fall!



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