Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Road to Hell or Helium, Your Choice

Image of a helium filled discharge tube shaped...
Image of a helium filled discharge tube shaped like the element’s atomic symbol.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Judging by the aphorism, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," apparently I am cruising that highway.  My road is extremely well paved, wide, and with lots of those little places along the way where you can pull over, have a picnic lunch, and take photos.  There's a word for those places, but after being so proud of my vocab skillz in being able to use the word aphorism, my brain is apparently tapped out.

Did you realize if you start but can't finish the word Hell it looks exactly like the atomic symbol for the word Helium?

Did you realize that while America was fretting about the Fiscal Cliff and the Debt Ceiling and the debate over whether it violates our freedoms [sic] to limit the access of homicidal maniacs to weapons with clips/magazines/drums enabling them to  mow down vast numbers of people in mere seconds, that somebody used up all the helium?
Who knew there was a nationwide helium shortage?
I mean really, America, where is our sense of proportion? (she asked in a squeaky voice.)

Back to He.  The Phone of Good Intentions.

I got a smartphone, intending to use it to text, email, comment on blogs, Tweet, and all the wonderful things smartphones can do, that my old, grandma-style cell phone could not.

I actually printed out and read the 190 page manual, set up the phone (Galaxy II) to link to my email and Twitter and FaceBook.  This was in May. Since then, I've sent and received about, oh, maybe 40 texts.  Taken a few pictures with it (not too bad) and a few video clips (quality is crappy), managed, after laboriously entering all my Contacts by hand from my old phone, to overwrite them with FaceBook data which erased most of the phone numbers.

The damn thing keeps running out of juice because all the FaceBook and Twitter and email updates use up the battery, so when I want to make or receive an actual phone call, half the time I'm SOL. And I can't remember how to UNlink the bloody thing from FaceBook or Twitter or Gmail, though I intend to whip out the three ring binder where I stored the manual.  Real soon.

Thank goodness I never got around to learning how to use Instagram.

The Camera of Good Intentions

Besides, I already have a nice little camera that takes good pictures and excellent video.  Even if, at 5-6 years old, it is considered practically a dinosaur, and I have to use a cable (or remove the memory chip) to download my pictures.

It works great, except... apparently rechargeable lithium batteries don't last forever. I alternate two of them, and right now I can get as many as 7-8 pictures (less if I use the flash) out of the thing before I have to switch batteries.

Maybe I should get around to ordering a couple new batteries.

The Bookpile of Good Intentions

Because I love my fellow authors, and know how important reviews are, I try hard to review all I read (unless I think a book is... let's say problematic). I did read and review 65 books via GoodReads and other sites.

But in the last part of this year, because my stupid arm was bothering me, it was easier to read than to sit down and type a review.  So the ones I read but had not yet reviewed, I stacked up on my dining room table, lest I give them away or shelve them till I reviewed them.

Then the holidays rolled around and I wanted to clean off the table and make it purty with a tablecloth and candle and such. So I moved the books to my recliner, because obviously, it looks so much more decorative and festive to have the books piled in a chair than stacked on a table.  (Whimpering at the thought of how many read books are queued for reviewing on my Kindle, too...)

You may notice the flowered skirt in the background - this chair also serves as The Mending Pile of Good Intentions.

The Bookpile of Good Intentions

The Duster of Good Intentions

I would include a photo here, but truth? I took my duster to my day job, intending to dust my many bookshelves there and my desk, prior to putting up some holiday decorations in my office. 

I know you will be shocked, shocked! to learn that I did not complete this project. I Swiffed 2-3  shelves, then said, "The hell with it!" and threw up a few bits and pieces on top of the layers of dust.

From a distance, the effect is charming. I do cling to this wistful idea of not only dusting all surfaces, work and home, in 2013, but even giving all my wood a good orange-oiling. Not gonna call it a Resolution, though.

The Holiday Tree of Good Intentions

How pitiful is it that, with a tree only about 14 inches tall, that I put the lights on it, then ran out of steam to hang decorations?

See, I own about 200 very special ornaments, and I get them all out, then carefully choose a dozen or so that will fit on this itty bitty tree, so they are different each year. This year... it simply felt like too much work, immediately after I put up all the other decorations, and I was gonna get around to it...

You will notice next to the Tree of Good Intentions some holiday cards that I usually arrange on display, as well, but...

The Holiday Tree of Good Intentions

And, speaking of cards, I had 3-4 cards that kicked back last year for bad addresses,that I intended to contact my friends via email or FaceBook to update, and despite an entire year to do it, did I? Hell, no!

I did get a few things done in 2012. 

At last year's mammo & ultrasound, I got the welcome news that my lumps and bumps have remained unchanged for long enough that I no longer have to get 'em every six months.  Go, boobs!

I wrote lots of blog posts, including February devoted to Black History, April devoted to My 26 Favorite Ways to Piss Away Time Do Valuable Research on the Interwebs, and October to Domestic Violence Awareness. I did write those 65 book reviews, and I finished Les Misérables - the unabridged version (1500+ pages, mon Dieu!).  I finished my novel Close Knit and submitted it to my agent; entered a few contests (finaled in one), wrote several short stories and three articles for the LARA Confidential, and have started a new book.

I marched for women's rights, almost got arrested handing out books on World Book Night, and worked for two non-profit organizations (go, Words on Wheels!) in my spare time.  (Yes, I do have a full time day job.) Joined Toastwriters, attended meetings for five different writers' groups, and went to my first RWA conference!  (Below some of the pictures I took.)

Such a hardship, being at RWA among the mostly female writers, agents and publishers, but somehow, I managed to avoid an estrogen overload.

Most recently, I exercised my newly acquired ToastMaster skills to put together a memorial for my beloved and much missed friend Sidney Patrick.  And lately there's this shoulder thing which has gotten in the way more than a little.

All in all, my list of stuff I got done is actually bigger than the list of stuff I intended to do. So maybe I can give myself a pass on the unfinished dusting and slacker tree decorating. I'll pick up on my Good Intentions in 2013, and add whatever treatments the shoulder specialist I'm seeing next week recommends. Crossing my fingers for a cortisone shot, which everyone says works wonders. I'm really tired of sleeping on the "wrong" side and eating more Advil than chocolate. 

I plan to see if I can't finish the new novel, review some of the bookpile (because I truly do want to use my recliner again, in this lifetime), and stop getting outsmarted by my phone.

What's on your good intentions list being carried forward to 2013?
What happened in 2012 for you that was 
as awesome or awful as a zombie apocalypse?

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Real Nightmare Before Christmas

...and during Hanukkah, and before Solstice and Kwanzaa, or the secular winter celebration of your choice.  Losing a child or family member is horrific at any time, but especially at a time of year so focused around family.

via In Loving Memory of Sandy Hook Elementary Victims

The massacre at Sandy Hook sucks. As did Clackamas, and the Sikh Temple, and Tucson, and Aurora, and Virginia Tech, and Columbine. And, and, and...

It's only marginally better when it is only one sick man killing his estranged wife and then himself (though not any better for their children and their family).

That kind of thing rarely even makes the headlines anymore, outside the local papers; the body count isn't high enough.  Josh Powell got national attention, but only for a few minutes.

The dynamic we, as a country are going through, is not unlike the battered spouse cycle. 

We experience a horrific incident, where a mentally ill or psychopathic person takes innocent lives. We collectively shake ourselves, "That's it! Not going to put up with this any longer!"

But writing letters to legislators takes time, and talking about mental health issues makes people uncomfortable, and "Look, Dancing With The Stars is on!" We manage to push it to the back of our minds, till the next time.

Look, I get it. I would rather read and write about hot men and steamy romantic encounters.  I think mental illness and domestic violence are important issues, so I do blog and write about them frequently, but I can't handle doing it all the time.

Still, we, as a country, need to stop lying to ourselves.  These incidents don't "come out of nowhere." The Gift of Fear describes many pre-incident predictors that a loved one or a co-worker, or even a stranger, may be about to commit a violent act. IMO, the book should be required reading by every human resources department. By every adult person, really.

The summary in the video clip below by Rachel Maddow, and the description of the kind of people who commit these acts by Dave Cullen, author of Columbine , are both enlightening, and sad.

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Sad, because the vast majority of mass murders can be predicted, and might be prevented. 

We don't have to keep putting up with this. 

We can make mental health screening and treatment a priority in our country. We can educate ourselves about depression and mental illness, so we recognize the signs that a loved one may be crossing the line from "quirky" or eccentric to dangerously ill. We can change the laws so that the family of an adult person who has a malfunctioning brain does not have to persuade their sick loved one to reach out for and accept help.

[Important note: the mentally ill are much more likely to be the victims of a violent crime, than the perpetrators of one. All mentally ill people deserve help, support and treatment, just as do people with diabetes.]

We need sensible gun laws, not babble about how all kindergarten teachers should be armed and ready to shoot back. 

It's obvious that for some people, an arsenal of big, powerful guns and piles of ammunition gives them an almost sexual thrill. Other people feel that way about scrapbooking, or dog shows - and people should be free to indulge in any hobbies they like, provided they can do so without endangering others.

The Second Amendment refers to a "well-regulated" militia. It is not an abridgment of the Second Amendment if we regulate the sale and possession of firearms, especially ones that the Founding Fathers could never have dreamed of.  We don't allow Joe Citizen to stockpile nuclear warheads or rocket launchers, do we?

There are types of weapons and ammunition that no American needs for hunting, target practice, or self-protection.  I hope we can and do agree that those with criminal records or mental illness should be denied access to most lethal weapons.  (Acknowledging that you can kill someone with a pillow, or pair of scissors, I'm unaware of any record of mass murder by pillow.)

We require those who want to operate a motor vehicle to pass certain tests, to prove they can safely operate one without the likelihood of killing someone. When someone has racked up a number  of DUI's or accidents, they lose the right to drive because they are a danger to our society.  Grandpa reaches a certain age, and we take away his car keys.

Yet when it comes to guns, if a buyer doesn't have a criminal record, or is at a gun show, that buyer is presumed to be sane and to be able to safely handle the weapon, with zero proof of either capacity. For all a gun seller knows, the buyer will load the gun, leave it on the coffee table where her toddler can reach it, and drink till she passes out.

Maybe we shouldn't presume gun buyers are sane and responsible until proven otherwise.

Maybe gun buyers should have to pass a gun safety course and mental wellness screening test, to get a gun license. We require licenses to go fishing, and a limit on how many fish someone is allowed to catch. Maybe we should require that in homes where people under 25 years of age or with mental illness, suspected or diagnosed, are present, all guns must be kept in combination-locked gun safes.

Some will argue we ought to work on gun control first; then address mental health issues. Some will argue it should be the other way around.

There's no reason we can't address both mental health issues and gun control issues.

We're Americans; we can multi-task. And the argument that because we can't prevent all incidents, we should throw up our hands and not even try... well, that's crazythink.

via In Loving Memory of Sandy Hook Elementary Victims
I'm sick of lighting candles, and crying for murdered kids. And murdered mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands....

Adding a P.S. here. Ann Curry, on her FaceBook page, suggested:
Imagine if we all committed 20 acts of kindness to honor the lost children of Newtown..(or 26 acts, including the heroic teachers.) I'm in. A growing number on Twitter are in. #20Acts #26Acts What do you think FB friends? If yes, share!

I'm in, in fact, I'm going to try for 30 acts, in memory of my darling friend Sidney Patrick, BUT... I want to be careful I don't get so caught up in the warm and fuzziness of doing kind acts, and being all self-satisfied, that I forget to be pissed off with this. I want to stay angry enough to press for changes in how we deal with mental illness, and with our gun laws.

Your thoughts?