Monday, February 29, 2016

Disabled Students: Virginia HB 389, Improved So As to Highlight a Potential Problem

Thanks to State Senator Carrico for the comments on HB 389 at the bottom of this post, which alerted me to the progress of Virginia House Bill 389. It's had an interesting history thus far. Here's the original text proposed by Delegate LaRock:

To which I commented:

That was my comment, not the official position of this web site. There are homeschoolers and Tea Parties that have in the past distrusted bills like HB 389 due to concern that, if state funds support alternative schooling one year, the state will move to dictate the curriculum content and other school policy matters next year. There are fiscal conservatives and Tea Parties that distrust anything that involves disbursing any state funds. I believe the potential problems with HB 389 (as proposed by Delegate LaRock) could be resolved; not everyone, even in the alternative school movement, agrees.

I knew David Peters well enough to stand by the claim that he would, during his lifetime, have wanted alternative schooling to be equally as available to less privileged children as it now is to our neighbors. I can't say, since the weather and her health were not conducive to meetings or long phone calls, that Grandma Bonnie Peters--his mother--would agree that state funding is the way to do that. This web site has aired points of disagreement between its founding members before, but I do respect her judgment.

So...HB 389 passed the House, but without Delegate Kilgore's vote. Well, his job is to represent the majority of his constituents. I'm not always convinced that they are right, but every year, when I identify points of disagreement with Delegate Kilgore, I have been convinced that the majority of his constituents are being represented. I even respect the man enough to consider the possibility that his judgment reflects his access to political information that I may not have, or that correspondents may not have. (That's why this web site has not aired more of those disagreements.)

And the fiscal conservatives seem to be the ones who threw in a drastic modification to HB 389. Look at it now!

It's still a good bill, in some ways a better one, and I still support it...but I see one significant potential problem...not with the bill itself, but with the way it might work for one type of student and family.

There is some undeniable benefit in redefining a "qualified student" who can receive funding for an alternative education plan as a student with a "disability." The clear advantage is that this reduces the demand for such funding. Fiscal conservatives should be delighted. Another possible advantage is that it may slow down the retreat from public schools that may or may not be failing, giving these schools a chance to salvage themselves. An additional advantage, that I personally love, is that it creates a counterbalancing incentive for public schools not to declare every child whose parents let school staff get away with it either "attention-deficient" or "on the autistic spectrum."

There are schools, notoriously in Tennessee, where certain venal school employees appear to be using those "disability" labels as if they were no more than synonyms for "extrovert" and "introvert" respectively. They are not. It may soothe the egos of a few parents of genuinely brain-damaged children if their offspring are lumped together with every other child who ever learns something slowly or has a personality conflict with a teacher, but it's not actually helpful to the children.

Recalling the children anonymized here as Blair (the one who really is autistic), Tina (the one who has other perceptual handicaps and has been mislabelled autistic), and Chris (the basically normal one whose emotional growing pains caused different greedheads to mislabel him as both attention-deficient and autistic)...Blair hasn't had a lot of the opportunities and successes that Tina has, and Tina hasn't had a lot of the opportunities and successes that Chris has, and they never will. It's not kind to Blair or to his parents to suggest that Blair is in the same situation, or can benefit from the same learning plan or environment, as Chris. It won't help Chris or Tina find suitable jobs when they grow up, either, to suggest that either of them has ever had much in common with Blair.

Anyone who talks to Chris in a normal way, as distinct from the unique way greedhead school staff talk to children, can communicate with Chris. To communicate with Tina I have to choose different words, speak on different pitches, and repeat a lot, but I can affirm that Tina thinks the way other humans think--at least if they're very young, slow of sight, hard of hearing, sheltered, and slow learners. Communicating with Blair...some people think communicating with genuinely autistic humans is like communicating with cats. They are wrong. Blair's consciousness does not seem to me anything like the cats'. He's more like a possum, or maybe some more exotic animal that's even harder to domesticate.

You'd hire Chris in a minute if you were looking for someone strong, energetic, and intelligent, but not academic. You might hire Tina. You would not hire Blair; at some point we have to face the fact that whatever genuinely autistic people perceive is different enough from what the rest of us perceive that they can't be entrusted with jobs or money.

This brings me back to the memory of David Peters. He was officially classified as "gifted." During the legal battle over homeschooling rights, at some point he was tested and determined to be ready for college-level classes in English and general knowledge, but only for eighth or ninth grade math. (He was in grade seven at the time.) Ooohhh, what could this mean? If you were a friend, parent, or any reasonable observer, it meant a bright boy who'd always learned fast, read a lot of nonfiction and remembered what he'd read, talked with older kids and adults and remembered what he'd heard, but had never gone out of his way to work ahead of grade level in math. If you were the greedhead anti-homeschooling psychologist who talked to David Peters for one hour and then presumed to pronounce on the condition of his brain, it meant some sort of "learning disability" possibly associated with some sort of "neurological abnormality" that might even warrant psychiatric intervention!

That's the sort of student whose parents might be tempted, now, to think that the current form of HB 389 provides an easy solution to problems they may be having with a failing school. Just accept the greedheads' mislabelling of your child, and not only will your problems with the school system be over, but you may even get some extra money out of the deal...right?

Wrong, I say to parents in this situation. If you do accept a greedhead's misdiagnosis and affirm that any problem your child ever had was due to some sort of blurrily defined "disability," you're likely to be signing custody of your child over to social workers...which can be even worse than working with the school system. Your child may still be subjected to genuine brain damage, not to mention torturing pain, from the side effects of unnecessary experimental "medication" that some greedheads have touted as helping attention-deficient children focus and autistic children (theoretically) feel happier. Any disagreement between you and either your child or the social workers may still get your child placed in a foster home...see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for (obscene) details about the kind of thing that can and does happen to children with alleged mental "disabilities" in foster homes.

Young working parents may be tempted to accept theoretical brain damage as an explanation, perhaps depend on it as a solution, to almost any problem your child is likely to have. HB 389, if enacted into law, could add to the temptation. Resist. If your child is bored in a slow-paced class (as David Peters was) and, instead of working ahead of grade level in fifth grade math, concentrates on ways to get a tenured but abusive teacher removed from the school system (as David Peters did), your child may be creatively annoying, but s/he is brilliant, not brain-damaged. You need to set your child up for the future success s/he deserves, not for a future as a "disabled" ward of the Welfare State.

David Peters' parents were not wealthy, but they were dedicated enough to yank him out of the public school system the minute brain damage was mentioned. For other children whose families (and/or extended families) are equally dedicated, HB 389 presents no problems. A majority of the fiscal conservatives and Tea Parties I know in Virginia are in this category: if they have school-age children at all, they know whether their children are or are not disabled, and are dealing with their situations as seems appropriate. But I've been seeing some very ugly developments in Tennessee, with lower-income working parents who have eagerly accepted the state's "help" with problem children, and then had their children harmed, rather than helped--not so much by the state policy itself as by individual greedheads here and there.

So what I'm hoping this long post will accomplish is that those who've sent correspondence about HB 389 will follow through, and educate young parents about the real nature of "attention-deficit disorder" and autism as real disabilities that are not to be confused with ordinary personality differences and/or learning problems. Most of the learning problems children have are short-term problems with absorbing information. Some common reasons for these problems have to do with (a) the pace of a child's growth, or (b) lack of a mental "framework" the child will later use to absorb new information, or (c) resentment of being ordered to learn the information, or (d) cognitive dissonance, or (e) emotional reactions to life situations--all of which are vastly more common than real learning disabilities. Most children who aren't learning something one way may benefit either from having the material presented another way, or leaving the material alone for a year or two and learning it later. Relatively few children really have major mental disabilities, and when they do the problem is usually obvious long before anyone tries to teach these children to read or count.

(Can I throw in a link to a book Christian families should read? Sure, why not? Click this image to buy, not even the classic that made John Holt famous, but the updated version that reflects his correspondence with hundreds of successful teachers of problem children--including David Peters.)

It's important to acknowledge, and work with, major disabilities when they exist; expecting a genuinely attention-deficient or autistic child to learn anything in ordinary classes is like expecting someone to walk on a broken leg. But it's equally important not to try to exploit "help" for major disabilities where they do not exist; treating an ordinary mixed-up kid as if s/he were attention-deficient or autistic is like applying a cast to a healthy leg and immobilizing it for months.

Here's the official comment from Virginia State Senator Bill Carrico, District 40:

Thank you for your correspondence. It is always helpful to know how citizens of the 40th Senate district feel about legislative matters pending before the general assembly, so I am better able to represent you.

I look forward to supporting HB389 when it comes up for consideration in the Senate. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views on this important issue with me.

Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about issues important to you.

Again, thank you for your e-mail.

With warm regards, I remain


Senator Bill Carrico
40th District
276.236.0098 District
804.698.7540 Richmond

Firefly Poem (Tribute to Hilaire Belloc)

(Blogjob tags were essays of Longinusfireflieshabits of insectsmoral fablesmoral poems of Hilaire Bellocnovels by Leon UrisPhoturis pennsylvanicapoems in variable meter by Hilaire Belloc.)

At the community college from which I used to post, there was a writing contest. To keep things fair and equal for the entire community, all entries had to be printed and submitted directly to the appropriate office, not mailed or e-mailed. I wanted to post from there today. Did not happen. Drat. I had written a bit of Bad Poetry last summer that seemed just right for the audience--it's literary (the form and tone recall Hilaire Belloc), of local interest, and fairly long.
Well, on Friday I posted about my "Bad Poetry" and mentioned that it's not been posted here at Blogjob. Obviously it's time to change that. Here's the poem:
Vary in size.
Photinus are smaller.
Photuris are bigger.
No one knows precisely
How (normally, nicely)
They choose the right diet
To preserve their trim figure.
Males fly by night.
Each one carries a light
That he can flash
When he wants to impress
The world with his panache.
Neither heat nor ash
Nor any appearance of stress
Is produced by his light.
He does it to delight
Every one in the vicinity,
But especially to show affinity
For a female the same size as he.
At the sight of him, she
Blinks her light, which somehow
Matches his, in a vow
Of good will, and they meet
And canoodle and greet
And act charming and sweet--
That is, if they both are PhotinusAnd can talk of the critic Longinus,
Or else if they both are PhoturisAnd have read novels by Leon Uris.
But sometimes Photuris tires
Of waiting for the male
Her romantic heart desires,
Or perhaps bitter envies assail
Those who try to attract mates and fail.
Then she sits on the ground and espies
Photinus male as he flies,
And she blinks like a female Photinus 
(Having read not one page of Longinus)
And lures that smaller male to her side,
Where he sees, too late, a killer
Where he hoped to see a bride,
And she eats him, just for filler
To enliven her dull, lonely night...
And if all her nights are lonely,
Would that not be only right?
Here we have a male Photuris;
We've no books by Leon Uris;
Only his size can assure us
That he is indeed Photuris.What's he doing in this room?
Possibly, out in the gloom,
He observed his own beshert 
Doing some Photinus dirt,
And at perfidy so dire
He felt all his heart's desire
Dying like a rained-out fire,
And came in, just to deny her.
Rhymes like this one have no merit
But Tradition they inherit;
So, in keeping with Tradition,
Let us give these rhymes a mission,
Let us give these rhymes a moral
With which nobody can quarrel:
MORAL.--Don't bite and devour
Ev'n those who seem small and weak,
If to subject to your power
An admirer's heart you seek.
[Graphic credit: Gould363 at ; here shrunk to approximately life size.]
File:Photuris pensylvanica.jpg
Notes, for those who need them:
  1. Adult fireflies are carnivores. For a long time scientific information about their diet was not available because humans seldom see anything small enough for fireflies to eat, but they basically live on insects even smaller than they are. Either male and female Photuris fireflies might eat a smaller Photinus firefly if they could catch one; only females lure male Photinus by imitating the blinking light signals of female Photinus.
  2. Beshert = the mate for whom some people believe each of us was predestined.
  3. I've never read any of Leon Uris 's novels, but click on his name for an Amazon link.
  4. And here's a link to the best known work of Longinus .

Book Review: Cancer Ward

(Reclaimed from Blogjob. Tags: 1950’scensorship and literatureeffects of totalitarian government on cancer survivorsexperimental treatments for cancer in fictionhormone therapy for cancer in fictionnovels about cancer survivorsradiation therapy for cancer in fictionsexual effects of cancer treatmentsexuality of middle-aged adultssincerity in fiction,Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.)

Title: Cancer Ward 
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn (also spelled Alexandr, Aleksandr, etc.)
Date: 1968
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (1969), Random House (1983), and other editions
ISBN: 0-394-60499-7 (Random House Modern Library, the one I'm looking at as I type)
Length: 536 pages
Quote: "But affairs of state did not succeed in diverting him or cheering him up either. There was a stabbing pain under his neck."
Rakovyi Korpus, soon to be translated as Cancer Ward, might have been considered an undistinguished novel if it hadn't got Solzhenitsyn into so much trouble with the thin-skinned Soviet authorities. It contrasts two cancer patients, a "successful" civil servant, husband and father, Rusanov, and a young, tough prisoner, Kostoglotov, who don't like each other much, as they endure treatment and achieve remission.
A lot of suffering goes on. Anyone who's spent time on a real cancer ward will recognize that the suffering has been considerably toned down just to make their story readable. Body parts, body fluids, painful symptoms and treatments, are mentioned liberally, but in nothing like the proportion to ideas, feelings, and stories in which they're mentioned in a real hospital. We see characters sick, crying, delirious; we don't see them howling in agony, or dying, as might be expected in a real hospital. What makes this a novel is that they have ideas, and families, and future plans.
What made it a controversial novel is that, although they're good patriotic citizens of the Soviet Union, they are...human. Rusanov thinks his position in the government ought to entitle him to better service than others get, or than he gets, even while he's living in fear that a past political mistake may be exposed. Other characters have been "exiled" or imprisoned merely because they belonged to ethnic minority groups. All the characters are loyal Soviets, yet the Soviet system isn't serving any of them really well.
"Telling the people the truth doesn't mean telling them the bad things," proclaims Alla, the "smart" daughter whose visit cheers the ward for an hour. "Where does this false demand for so-called harsh truth come from?...Our literature ought to be wholly festive."
Of course this is not the most encouraging thing Alla has come to tell the patients; what she says that really lifts her father's spirits has been more private--"It's out of the question to get someone on a charge of giving false evidence now. Rodichev won't utter a squeak."
Solzhenitsyn was, like his characters, a good patriotic Soviet at the time of writing, but he wasn't Alla. He seems to have more sympathy with the young man Alla is shouting down with her speech about making literature "wholly festive." Domka, like his author, prefers "sincerity." It's impossible to read Cancer Ward without feeling a sense of the author's sincere compassion...and yet, how could he express that compassion without showing how the totalitarian government made Alla the liar and her father the coward they are?
And what about the end of the story? "The hero renounces life," one critic summed it up, but does he? Does he really, necessarily, even renounce love? I can't claim to understand the novel better than readers of the author's own nationality and generation, but must it be understood as hopelessly as the critic Kerbabaev claims? Solzhenitsyn said it was a story in which "life conquers death." He never says straight out, "With just a little liberalization of government policy, Oleg and Vera could marry." He may not have meant to say that...but it's what his story brings to this American reader's mind.
That it aroused opposition in the U.S.S.R. naturally gave Cancer Ward, and Ivan Denisovich also, an audience in the English-speaking countries. Not only was it translated into English in the year of publication; the English translation was even rushed to press in parts, so that, although the novel fits into one average-sized volume, it's been printed as a two-volume set. At the same time, the mere fact that a book was allowed to filter through the "Iron Curtain" made it somewhat suspect. Cancer Ward was in print, and was in some public libraries, when I was growing up; it wasn't a huge seller, nor can I remember anyone ever suggesting that I ought to read it--nor did I read it before age fifty.
So, who should read it? Mature adults only, for sure. I wouldn't have liked or appreciated it even at thirty-nine--before becoming a cancer widow. It's not at all a bawdy story, and yet the possibility of a "life conquers death" reading depends on the reader's understanding of middle-aged sexuality. Teenagers (how old was Kerbabaev?) just won't understand. Additionally, as stories about cancer wards go, this one is clean, wholesome, and hopeful, but you have to have spent time in a cancer ward to see that.
Now a note on prices and editions. At the top of this review I've pasted two graphics. One (bigger picture, smaller book) shows a cheap paperback edition that's likely to be available indefinitely at prices that allow me to offer it for $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment. The other shows a much nicer library edition, which is the one I physically own at the time of writing; if online shoppers want this or another "nice" hardcover copy, I may have to charge $10 per copy. Solzhenitsyn no longer has any use for either $1 or $1.50, so if you can find a better price for this book, feel free to buy something else from this web site.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Reverend Randollph and the Fall from Grace, Inc.

(Blogjob tags: 1970’sCharles Merrill Smithdetective story,murder mysterynovels about ChristiansReverend Randollph series.)

Title: Reverend Randollph and the Fall from Grace, Inc. 
(Amazon doesn't have an image of this third of the seven Reverend Randollph books. Here's volume one in the series, just to appease Google +'s craving for graphics...if you click on the picture, it should open a link to the volume three, the book reviewed here.)
Author: Charles Merrill Smith
Date: 1978
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: none
Length: 223 pages
Quote: "The Reverend Doctor Prince Hartman--I suppose he is a reverend doctor--has applied to our denomination for recognition of his clerical orders...Yes, the television evangelist, pastor of The Cathedral of God's Grace, president of Grace University, president of Grace Theological Seminary, and president of Grace, Incorporated."
And, on top of all that, the pushy televangelist's motive for seeking official recognition by the denomination is to boost his credibility for a venture into politics. That's enough to turn some church members against him, Reverend Randollph is advised when he starts vetting Dr. Hartman...but does anyone actually want to kill Hartman?
Well...yes, because this is a murder mystery.
Charles Merrill Smith, a retired minister who'd written seven nonfiction books for Christians, spent his last years writing detective stories about Christians. There might have been more than seven if he'd lived longer; there was no plan to dedicate one novel to each of the Seven Deadly Sins, although Reverend Randollph often reminds people that there are seven, that he doesn't use "sin," as some of his older contemporaries still did, as a euphemism for "sex." As things were, however, the last of the seven novels was finished by Smith's heirs, and if you want to solve each of the mysteries along with Randollph, an understanding of how the Seven Deadly Sins become deadly may help.
By counting these novels about Christians as Christian books that this web site will publicize on Sundays, I'm not representing them as Sunday School books or claiming that reading them is the spiritual discipline of lectio. I am recognizing that some of the characters are Christians who talk about, and act upon, their religious beliefs in the course of the stories. The Reverend Randollph books are still detective stories, in which the retired football player turned minister relies on help from the bishop, the policeman, and the TV news hostess.
These books are not especially rare. I have six of the seven, because a local library decided to discard the set after losing one volume. They're not Fair Trade Books, and it's still necessary for me to charge $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, just as if I were sending ten percent of the total price to a living author, anyway. They are standard-sized novels for adults: four books fit into one $5 package. This, however, means that if you want all six books you may add some Fair Trade Books to one of the packages.

Friday, February 26, 2016

February 26 Link Log

Yesterday I saw snow, and felt the ground freezing, so I didn't go into town. I'm told things in town stayed open. Today I'm still seeing snow, and the ground is still in the slow process of freezing, but I came into town and found the computer center open. Categories: Obligatory Fundraising Links, Animals, Environment, Gardening, Introverts, Local Interest, Phenology Links.

Obligatory Fundraising Link 

Would you like to go directly to the new stuff without having to read past this link? Do you wish I'd stop asking you for money? I hate asking people for money. But I really don't see other viable options.

Unless youall prefer this one. Back in the 1990s I did a lot of research on Bill Clinton; wrote and read a long tape script that debunked a lot of "right-wingnut" rumors, but...I personally feel more aversion to the bogus "Republican" candidate than I do to poor old brain-damaged Hillary Rodham Clinton, but elections aren't supposed to be about personal emotional feelings. I would much, much, much rather write a nice, factual though fluffy, chick-lit blog about how much serious fun it's possible to have on a "poverty level" income, instead of a "political hatchet job." What about youall? The computer shows that you do read the political content at this web site. Would you prefer to fund a "political hatchet job" type of writing project?


Elizabeth Barrette shares an ode to purry cats. (During the cold spell when this was written, when I was offline, the female cats were allowed in the warm room, and the sniffly junior cats Sisawat and Inky formed a purr-ball on my chest at night. I was just glad they weren't Iris, who would have insisted on sleeping right across my neck.)


Confirmation is here: If you've been feeling sick for no obvious reason, if you've had symptoms of gluten intolerance even though you don't have the gene and you've gone gluten-free and you're still's not just in your mind. You have been poisoned. Not only do glyphosate-tainted foods, especially grains bioengineered to survive spraying with glyphosate, literally lacerate some people's digestive tracts; not only has glyphosate been identified as a carcinogen; some studies are now also finding that glyphosate boosts disease bacteria's resistance to antibiotics--think MRSA. Whom can you sue? Probably yourself, first. But e-friend +Andria Perry was inaccurate in thinking that we as a nation could forgive Monsanto merely because the manufacturer of Roundup-brand glyphosate and "Roundup Ready" GMO grain settled one lawsuit in Alabama. This company is still being sued, all across North America, and they still deserve a lot more lawsuits and penalties than they're getting.


Do you raise mints? (If you do, when you make salad you can just rinse some mints and mince some mints...sorry!)

If your green thumb is itching and your growing season is still eight or twelve weeks ahead, you might want to try a little home-grown lettuce.


What makes Highly Sensory-Perceptive people (or just Highly Sensitive Persons, whichever) special? We! We're wired to like sex--sometimes in ways that may seem premature and/or excessive--but we're also wired to perceive other pleasures as, in some ways, even better. That's why most HSP Christians aren't too worried about Jesus' teaching that the resurrected "are like the angels of Heaven, which neither marry" nor eat nor worry about other earthly-body processes. C.S. Lewis said that worrying about this was like a little child who's been told about sex at too early an age and thinks it can't be much fun unless you eat candy while you're doing it. HSPs experience love, worship, and creative work, even in our mortal bodies, as pleasures that can be compared favorably with sex. For one thing they last longer.

Regrettably, some people don't seem to be wired to enjoy love, work, or worship the way I do, or the way Lewis or Pascal or Emily Dickinson obviously this life. One possible understanding of Christian teaching is that, in the afterlife, their brains will be healed and they, too, will know other pleasures that make them feel sorry for anyone whose greatest pleasure is sex (or candy). Jesus said in another context, "I have food to eat that you know nothing of," apparently meaning the joy of worship. Maybe in Heaven Christians will be able to "eat" the kind of "food" Jesus meant.

Local History in the News

Reenacting James Earl Ray's escape from an East Tennessee prison in the 1970's is not for farbs, the faint of heart, or even your average marathon runner.

Phenology Link 

Once again, my home town's nasty weather is someone's disaster. We had wind, mostly just a cold wind but very gusty, and sleet and snow...whereas a flatter part of Virginia...

Blog Post Bilingue (Today's Fundraising Link)

I've often said that I wouldn't dare publish anything I'd written in Spanish. I'd rather write in English and let a Truly Bilingual Person translate my article into Spanish, so I can actually learn something by reading it.

I have, however, written a few short things in Spanish--letters, notices, comments on Spanish-language posts--and even Bad Poetry. Here is a parody of a song I learned first in Spanish. (I think the Spanish song may have been written as a translation or substitute for an English-language song, but I don't know that song. Only the Spanish one.) The real song lyrics are online:

Since I'm asking people for money, which I don't like doing, this song sort of fits in with the theme. It's a satire about someone who doesn't ask for funding for a specific project, but just tells people they ought to be giving him money...I don't like it when religious people do that. (Another song parody about that kind of people is at .)

Apologies for typing this on a keyboard that doesn't have some of the characters it needs...

Bienaventurados son los de limpio corazon
Que no aman el tesoro de aqui;
Con ternura y con amor, dando gracias al Senor,
Traen lo que tienen y me dan a mi!
Con amor y con carino,
Me dan todo que han de bien,
Y, por compartir la fe con los que conocen, me
Traen lo que sus amigos han tambien!

Once again, Gentle Readers, I'm asking you for money...but not just for masses of money to prove that you're a Good Person whose Heart is Not Set on the Treasures of This Mortal World (one of los de limpio corazon, que no aman el tesoro de aqui). I'm asking you to provide a specific amount of funding for a specific project that, if you like this blog, you'll enjoy reading. You can ask for goods or services in exchange for that funding, too. And a portion of that funding will go to help other people besides me--and I'll be telling you exactly how much is going to whom, how, when, and for what purpose.

Organizing Posts at Personal Blogs

(This one was written specifically for Blogjob, where the posts for which I received payment can still be seen and exploited by advertisers at . Tags: features of hosted blog sitesfinding posts on certain topics at a blogindexing blog posts,organizing posts at blogspoems by Elizabeth Barrettepoems by Suzette Haden Elginposting different types of content at one web siteposting different types of content at separate web sitesscience fiction poetry.)

(Topic credit: @jessica discussed the idea of having multiple blogs for different topics at .)
(Amazon ad image credit: The blogger known as Ozarque wrote books published under the name Suzette Haden Elgin; the blogger known as Ysabetwordsmith writes books published under the name Elizabeth Barrette--and yes, despite some radical differences, they were e-friends. Click on either of these "copyrighted images" to buy the book from the bookseller who posted the picture.)
Some Blogjob bloggers maintain eight or ten separate blogs, with completely different URLs and formats, because they feel that people who want to read their food posts won't want to read their sports posts and so on. This probably works for some people. Most of the things on the Internet that I find inconvenient seem to work for some people. However, if I read a blog, I'm probably interested in the blogger as a person; I'm likely to skim or skip some posts, most especially at one blog that I follow for the humor pieces but that more often contains horoscopes, but I do appreciate at least knowing that on the days when the blogger wasn't posting one type of content s/he was busy writing something else.
My role model for blogging was . (It's still online as a memorial to a great blogger.) That blog is a hodgepodge, and so are mine, but they don't have to be read as a hodgepodge. Those who are interested in only one of the topics discussed at a personal, mixed-topic, general-focus blog can track that topic through the blog, without having to wade through the posts that don't interest them.
Suppose you're looking for only the poems your favorite blogger wrote. (And you want to see only the poems, fast, because you're looking for a line you want to quote in an article you want to finish in two hours.) Some independent blog sites aren't indexed and have to be searched by search engines, but all the major "hosted" blog sites have an indexing feature. Serious bloggers learn, right away, to use this indexing feature for readers' convenience. (Those who aren't using a "hosted" site need to build in an indexing feature.)
If it's a Live Journal blog, like Ozarque's and like the graphics-free version of mine I've promised to build (in my so abundant online free time!), the indexing feature there is called "Tags." Go ahead, please, and right-click on the link to Ozarque's blog or to , or both, to open them in a new tab. Scroll down (or click back to "previous posts" page, if necessary) until you find "Tags: poem" (Ozarque usually used just one tag) or "Tags:...poem" (Ysabetwordsmith often uses lots of tags). Click on "poem."'re reading only the poems that have been posted at these blogs over the years.
If it's a Blogspot blog, the indexing feature there is called "Labels," and works almost identically. To see how this works, please open . Scroll down, if necessary, to the title "Blog Post Bilingue." That post contains one of my little song parodies. Below the lyrics you'll find a link to , which you should use, of course, right away, to fund my project. Below that, in tiny print, you'll see "LABELS: BAD POETRY..." Click on "BAD POETRY" to see all the poems and parodies I've posted at Blogspot.
If it's a Blogjob blog, the indexing feature is called "Categories." Not every blogger uses it, because Blogjob offers the option of putting material in different categories on what appear to be different blogs...but you'll see the "Categories" in the sidebar on your left. Because Blogjob posts are supposed to contain at least 300 words, and most of my poems, songs, and parodies are shorter than that, I don't have a Blogjob category for poems. 
Whether bloggers choose to post on different pages, or use a system like Live Journal "Tags," Blogspot "Labels," or Blogjob "Categories" to index their blogs, probably depends on their readership and their own experience reading other people's blogs. However, all bloggers are motivated to make it as easy as possible for readers to find the posts that interest them.

Book Review: The Housewife and the Assassin

(On Blogjob, this one was tagged: adultery in fictionassassination in fictionmartial arts in fictionNorthern California in fictionnovels about runningquirky romance novel.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: The Housewife and the Assassin 
Author: Susan Trott
Date: 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's
ISBN: 0-312-39346-6
Length: 264 pages
Quote: "I don't know what you mean by love, Ephraim thought irritably. 'I don't know' was an expression that Ephraim never used, because it could be a cry of anguish, of helplessness, and he was never helpless or anguished. So, when he heard himself think 'I don't know,' he suspected that this aikido, this way, was not good for him."
Ephraim is a professional assassin, very good at what he does. He is, of course, usually hired to kill dangerous men, by dangerous men. He is less prepared to kill a rather foolish, emotional housewife who is having an affair with an old friend of hers, whom another woman, old, rich, and mean, intends to marry by any means necessary. However, when he's taken a job, he just does it.
Augusta is a fellow runner, a fellow redhead, nice-looking, friendly, and likable, although not honorable. Before the adulterous affair she may "have never done anything worse than build two bedrooms behind [her] husband's back," her husband being ignorant enough not to realize that Augusta has inherited an estate, become an art collector, and renovated the whole house while he's been working overtime, but she's been building positively steroidal lying skills.
Ephraim, who has generally avoided personal relationships so far, finds that he'd really rather sleep with Augusta than shoot her. Nevertheless, he is honorable, and has a reputation to maintain.
Mainly because this is one of the novels in which the unrepentant hippie writer, Susan Trott, expresses all the beauty she has projected into the general ambiance of Northern California, Ephraim will find a way both to shoot Augusta, and also to love her and rescue her from her boring marriage.
Can you believe such a novel? I can't believe it for a minute. I can, however, enjoy Trott's quirky, witty vision. If I don't believe that the plots of her novels have ever happened to any real person living or dead, I do believe that she knows real people who look like, talk like, think like, and behave like her fictional characters. I enjoy knowing those people through her. Therefore I enjoy her novels.
(Part of the fascination is that, long ago, I was in Northern California, and I never saw any of the people and places Trott seems to see there, not even in the same towns. Mostly what I saw seemed to be mean people, smog, and at best extremely weird trees. Through Susan Trott, however, I've seen people like Augusta, who feels "giddy, mildly elated" while "basking in the beauty" of the local fruit stand. Reading about Augusta reminds me to look back on the memories I have and remember that, in fact, the fruit was beautiful. So, in their weird way, were the trees.)
If you think novels should be realistic or moralistic or both, The Housewife and the Assassin is not for you. If you enjoy looking at the world in a fresh, quirky way, if you can remember that when real people are shot they usually die and when real people cheat on their mates they usually regret it, this novel might be for you.
Apparently Susan Trott is still alive, so this is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, by sending $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen, I'll send $1 to Trott or a charity of her choice. If you add three of her other mainstream novels to the package, for a total of $25, I'll send Trott or her charity $4.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: The Birchbark House

(Blogjob tags: AnishinabeAnishinaubaechildren’s bookchildren’s storyChippewacultural expectations of childhoodhistorical fictionLouise Erdrich Birchbark House seriesLouise Erdrich books for childrenOjibwaOjibweyoung adult adventure story about 8-year-old.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: The Birchbark House 

Author: Louise Erdrich
Date: 1999
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 0-439-20340-6
Length: 239 pages
Illustrations: drawings by the author
Quote: "I've been told those old names should be given life."
The Birchbark House succeeded as a novel and launched a series. In this story and those that follow it, Erdrich is "honoring the life of" some of her distant relatives, Ojibwa people who lived mostly on an island in Lake Superior.
Omakayas ("oh-MAH-kay-ahs") is a little girl who survives smallpox and seems to have a vocation to some sort of healing or nursing work. Brave, strong, and tough beyond her age, she calls an attacking bear "grandmother" and, during the smallpox epidemic, knocks her delirious foster father out cold to keep him from wandering into the snow and freezing to death. If this is not exactly the way a typical Native American eight-year-old child behaved, it is at least the way many Americans would like to believe our great-great-grandmothers behaved at age eight.
The fact is that what's considered "typical" and "age-appropriate" for children does depend considerably on cultural expectations. Some parents today seem to expect, or want, children to grow up much more slowly than would have been possible in a lower-technology culture.
Consider handcrafts. I've heard, "Is it safe for five-year-olds to handle (thick, blunt-tipped plastic) knitting needles or crochet hooks?" Two hundred years ago, American five-year-olds were routinely taught to sew and embroider with sharp metal sewing needles. I've learned to expect "normal" eight-year-olds to be clumsy when spool-knitting cords or making Brownie Squares on two thick, blunt knitting needles; Rudolf Dreikurs reported from a trip to Switzerland that five-year-olds "normally" carried around sets of four or five thin, sharp, double-pointed knitting needles, to knit socks, while tending sheep and goats. 
Or consider just the idea of when children can be expected to look after themselves at home while their parents are out. In many states it's now considered dangerous, irresponsible "neglect" to leave ten- and twelve-year-old children alone at home for an hour. A hundred years ago it was commonplace, if parents felt that they'd done their job and brought up sensible, competent children, to leave ten- and twelve-year-olds alone in charge of the home for a week (with instructions to consult a neighbor or the yardman if they needed help). I was baby-sitting younger children, for an hour or two at a time, at age ten--and now the parents of my Nephews think they need constant adult supervision at ten, twelve, even fifteen.
So here's Omakayas, seven years old when The Birchbark House begins, carrying sharp sewing scissors, baby-sitting her little brothers, cutting wild rice with a sharp knife, cooking over an open fire, and knowing just how to knock her "Deydey" out cold with one blow. Is she a believable child character? I think so. It's not unusual these days for second grade students to lack the coordination, focus, and responsibility Omakayas has. It was probably unusual in Omakayas' time; in a civilization as advanced as the Ojibwa had, seriously attention-deficient and uncoordinated children might have been tolerated as "different"; in really primitive Stone Age tribes, such children just wouldn't have survived.
Erdrich has told Omakayas' story in a format that's likely to appeal to older children, perhaps grade five or six rather than grade two, with lots of picture-free pages and a liberal scattering of Ojibwa words for the reader to learn. This will not necessarily keep envious eight-year-olds from wanting as much freedom and responsibility as Omakayas has--when I was eight I liked books with picture-free pages and brand-new words to learn--but at least it should make The Birchbark House interesting to first-time readers who might be ten, twelve, or maybe forty years old.
What I have, in real life at the time of writing, is the "school market" edition with a photograph of an eight-year-old Ojibwa girl on the cover, rather than the drawing on the cover of the mass market edition. Either way, this is currently a very popular book, new enough that I might feel obliged to tell you to buy it new if it weren't selling for a penny a copy on Amazon. I want to show Erdrich more respect than that. $5 per book + $5 per package means that if you buy The Birchbark House online through this site, you send $10 to me and I send $1 to Erdrich or a charity of her choice. If you buy The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, and Chickadee, since the whole series (up to that point) will fit nicely into one package, you send $25 to me and I send $4 to Erdrich or her charity.