3/27/2014

On Banning Bossy

So there's been a hue and cry on the Internet to "Ban Bossy" of late and after wading into a semi-discussion with a friend on Facebook about it, I kind of let it go. But the longer I've thought about it, the more irritated I get. And maybe not in the way you'd expect.

First off, let's be clear, I don't think banning a word is EVER the way to make change. Yes, words matter and blah blah - but banning a word just means people will come up with a NEW word to use that's even more obnoxious until we decide now we have to ban THAT word and so on and so on until we end up with no words left in our lexicon because they've all been deemed harmful to someone's self-esteem.

BUT - and here's where I ran afoul of my friend - I do believe there's something to what they're trying to accomplish. My friend (also a woman) hasn't experienced workplace issues because of her gender and that is an incredible thing and I'm happy for her. But I would venture to say that if you asked 100 women in technology jobs (straight up technology, not technology education, and not all-inclusively science either. Maybe I need to say just women who are computer professional and leave it at that, since that's my sphere.) if they've been discriminated against because of their gender, 90 of them would say at least once. And the other 10 probably weren't paying attention.

Computer Science suffers from bad press on so many levels (only nerds do it, etc. etc.) but there is a proven shortage (with recent studies, not just the older ones that now everyone's harping on the Ban Bossy folks for using) of women in the field. And women who enter college thinking they want to major in computer science are more likely to switch majors after just one year because of the attitudes of the males they encounter in their classes. And that's just at school - that says nothing of the workplace.

I, personally, have been told I'm "not a team player" and "too aggressive" in the workplace simply for insisting my voice be heard in meetings. I've had a man scream "I'm just about sick of you!" at me in a meeting with sixteen people, including the Vice President of our company when I asked that he get his programmers to comply with our processes and standards that were mandated by the President and VP. And afterward, the VP said I needed to understand that this man was under stress and I should cut him some slack. I asked if he was going to apologize. The VP said he didn't think it was necessary, I knew he didn't mean anything by it, didn't I?

Can you imagine what would have happened if the roles were reversed? I assume I'd've been fired on the spot. In front of everyone. At a bare minimum I would've been made to apologize and put on probation. Which is what SHOULD have happened for that behavior, regardless of the person's gender.

The point is, unprofessional behavior is easily tolerated and excused in men in the computer industry. The same is not true for women. And I can list more examples from my own professional career as well as that of women close to me in many different corporations that range in size from small to monstrous.

There's something to the idea of Ban Bossy. I think the implementation is stupid (or have we banned stupid? I can't recall.) and unlikely to produce results. But it would be really nice if we could maybe do something to create some equity among expectations for behavior in the workplace when it comes to those in professional computing. (Again, I can't speak for other industries because I haven't worked there. I will say there's less of a problem in education - it's one of the primary reasons I stopped working in business and moved into teaching.)

My friend mentioned that she's more concerned with how we treat our young boys. And I agree with her totally on that front - that's a post for another day. But I also don't feel they're mutually exclusive.

Maybe what we need to do is just generically ban labels.

3/18/2014

Well, That Was An Adventure*

I think someone, somewhere has wished me an interesting life. Because dang.

It all started innocently enough with my decision to turn 40. I say decision because, well, I'm not ready for the alternative as yet. So - turn 40 it is! I awoke on my birthday brimming with optimism for the year ahead because, if nothing else, Tim will always be older than I am. And he hasn't seemed much worse for wear for his few months of 40. So what could possibly go wrong?

By mid-morning, I realized that either 40 was going to slam me with "Gosh, I'm really old" aches and pains right out of the gate, or something was very wrong. By the younger boy's nap-time, I was headed for bed myself and unable to get warm despite having piled roughly every blanket in the house on top of me.

H1N1, FTW.

So there went five days of my life in utter misery. Yeah - 40 started out with a bang.

Finally on the mend, we decided to try celebrating my birthday with friends. We headed out to Red Robin (our usual haunt when we can't decide where else to go), waited 30 minutes for a table (sadly, since the quality of Chili's has gone to the southern end of the hereafter, everyone is flocking to RR), ate a mostly mediocre meal, and headed home.

By 9 pm, I realized my burger wasn't sitting particularly well. What followed was 24 hours of the worst pain I think I've ever experienced.

Food poisoning, FTW.

At this point, I pretty much gave up on celebrating my birthday. I don't need reasons to feel old and achy, no matter what anyone else might tell you.

Of course, two days later, Tim is commenting on how the younger boy starts disrobing when his diaper is full. I've noticed this trend and been putting off doing anything about it, because, well, he's young and his verbal skills aren't where his brother's were and he's young (did I mention that?) But on the eight hundredth mention of it by my loving hubby, I said, "Fine. I'll potty train him this week."

So we did the potty training dance. And after 3 days of saying very little other than, "Tell mommy when you need to go potty." It seemed to click. We ventured out, he did pretty well with the little portable potty as needed in the car. Toward the end of that 4th day it deteriorated a bit but, maybe he was tired. The next day it was hit or miss - mostly miss. Then on Sunday we put him in a pull up for church because they're lazy very busy in nursery and it wasn't worth hearing about it.

And that was the official death knell for the potty training.

Monday, I tried, I really did, to get back on track but after going through his entire stock of underpants (18 pairs) before lunch time I was done. Back in the pull up and I considered it done. Note to self: listen to your gut.

This morning I changed him in the morning and...holy moly, his poor little butt was raw and oozing blood. I'd forgotten (once we found a diaper that worked) how easily he rashed out. And apparently the pull up was in the toxic-to-his-skin category. So I stuck him back in undies this morning because really, you can't keep using things that cause someone's skin to, effectively, melt off like the Nazi faces at the end of Indiana Jones.

I managed to avoid going through every single pair of undies by virtue of just putting him on the potty every ten minutes. But honestly, that's no way to live. For anyone. (And he STILL had accidents.)

And of course, all the while today I was dealing with phone calls to my in-laws as I tried to get my mother-in-law to wake up and go meet my father-in-law at the emergency room where he'd driven himself after having what he felt was a "heart event" during his morning exercise. Back and forth, lots of calls, and at the end of the day he's been admitted for testing overnight and a stress test in the morning - no official diagnosis as yet (a-fib runs in the family so it could be that, could be a small attack, we don't know).

And, just because we apparently needed some icing for the stress cake, a fish died and had to be scooped and sent along to his watery grave, along with all the requisite sorrow from the older child (who is also happily grossing me out with a very loose tooth that's just not *quite* ready to pull but is nasty enough that I can feel my stomach twist when he grins at me and pushes on it with his tongue. Stinker.)

I'm ready for a calm couple of days.

Or a valium.

*spot the quote.

3/06/2014

Professional Organizations and Power Trips

One of the things I did when I decided to really work at publication was join a Christian writing professional organization. I was hopeful that they'd have good classes on craft development and just a chance to rub elbows with other folk who are writing for the inspirational market. And in that respect, it's been successful.

Unfortunately, the other half of what I've discovered is that there's a distinct separation between the elite, "We are the authors who matter" crowd and the rest of us aspiring or small-pubbed folk. And Heaven help you if you decide to self-publish! Oh the scathing comments that get made about self-pubbers, no matter how much time and effort (and expense) you put into your product, according to the elite of this organization, you're sub-par. And, as one who's sub-par, you're not allowed entry to the few perks of the organization like their database of published works and new release newsletter that they put out every month.

Except...now a few of the board members have gone hybrid. (Hybrid, in this case, means they self-pub some things and still work with their traditional publisher on others.) And, well, we couldn't possibly have board members unable to reap all their benefits, could we?

So last night they put out an email saying how excited they were to be moving forward with the trend of the industry as a whole and that they'd be now allowing self-published authors to apply to be "Qualified Independent Authors." As a QIA, you'll have access to all the previously out-of-reach assets of your professional membership. Sounds great, right?

Until you read what they feel makes you a QIA. There's not a review board who looks over your book and checks it for quality cover design, good editing and writing, and internal formatting. Oh no, we wouldn't want to have standards for things you, the author, can actually control. No, the sole way to become a QIA is to earn $5K on a single title within a 12 month period.

If you look at reports from places like Digital Book World and Writer's Market who did a survey, you'll see that the majority (80%) of self-pubbed authors make between $0 and $4,999 A YEAR. And most self-pubbed authors are putting out more than one title in that time frame. So to have to make $5K in 12 months on a single title? I can tell you who will meet that criteria: the two board members who are hybrid and want their self-pubbed titles in the databases and newsletters.

Heck, talking to other authors who are published by the Big 6, $5K on a single title is just a pipe dream. Forget about people who work with the smaller presses because what they write is much more niche than anything the Big 6 are going to look at. (Ahem, like me.)

I've read great stuff -- professionally edited, quality cover designs, well formatted inside, and incredibly well written -- from self-published authors. I've read not-so great and downright horrible stuff from self-published authors, too. But then, I've read great stuff from the Big 6 publishers as well as not-so-great and downright horrible stuff from the Big 6 as well. The amount of money a book earns is not a valid indicator of it's quality! (Look at books we consider the classics today - how many of them--most of which were self-published--would meet these requirements? Anything by Dickens? Jane Austen?)

All that basing "QIA" status on sales does is guarantee that the only people who can hope to benefit from this new rule are the people who are already the elite within the organization. The big names who are hoping to get bigger. (And ask any of them why they went hybrid and they'll tell you one of the top 5 reasons was to earn more money per title. It works for them because they have a huge following from their traditionally pubbed books.) And that's great - I don't begrudge them that.

But I do think if they're going to be "changing with the publishing times" that they need to recognize the new independent author as a valid entity. One who deserves to be allowed into their database and newsletter based on the actual quality of their product, not their sales figures.

3/01/2014

Not, In Fact, Dead

So...Happy March.

It's been crazy round here of late - and yet for all the crazy, there's been relatively little that's blog-worthy. And what is blog-worthy is often not acceptable for blog fodder because, well, there's that whole semi-anonymous thing I try to kid myself into believing. (Less important these days as I'm fairly sure it's down to people who actually know me who read here anyway. But...there are appearances to maintain after all.)

Our first year of homeschooling is continuing quite happily. We're effectively doing a first grade curriculum and both older boy and myself are enjoying it. I appreciate that he's settled in, quite happily, to doing school every day (though it takes very little time to get a day's worth of school taken care of.)

The younger boy continues to grow and entertain us. He's starting to jabber up a storm, but I'm thinking we're the only folks who understand him most of the time. It'll come.

Mom's back in chemo for a third time.

I do have some semi-theological thoughts that I hope to get mushed into semi-literate musings here before long but, well, we'll see how well that goes.

In the mean time, as much as I love winter, I'm ready to start seeing some hints of spring.

1/02/2014

Realizations

It is a terrible thing to discover that people you love as if they were family do not actually consider you real parents simply because you did not physically birth your children.

11/30/2013

We're the Post Office and We Don't Want to Offend

This morning, since we were out and about anyway, I left the boys in the car with Tim and darted into the post office to get my annual batch of Christmas stamps. (The parking lot was nearly empty and it was just 10, so I figured the chances of their being a huge line were slim.) The line was, in fact, relatively non-horrible. So I got in and contented myself with looking at the various posters for stamps.

First I noticed that they're doing a limited re-release of the upside down Jenny. (I think that's what it was called.) And ok, cool. But it's a $0.23 stamp. What does that mail, exactly? A postcard maybe? Seems to me postcards are even more than that but it's been a long time since I sent a postcard so I've no idea. But still. Upside down airplane. Cool.

Then my eyes wandered to the various "Holiday Stamp" posters. Reasonable, since that's what I was actually there to buy. They have a pretty poinsettia stamp. A gingerbread house stamp. A Hanukkah stamp. An EID stamp. And a Kwanza stamp.

I did a quick double take.

But no, the stamps in question didn't change. And a tiny trickle of anger started to simmer just under my ribcage. But perhaps it was just that poster that was missing the Christmas stamp. I scanned around. All the posters were the same, but the little stand on the counter with magnets of the available stamps was at an angle I couldn't quite see. Perhaps it was there.

We shuffled forward a few steps closer, after the only nice post man in this particular office reminded people that if you want to use a credit card it has to be signed and, in his words, they weren't there to debate the policy, just enforce it. Debit cards don't need to be signed. That made me smile slightly as I've gone a few rounds with post office employees in the past regarding this ridiculous policy - but at least now they won't let you sign it right there and then use it. He made that clear. (But I wouldn't go a few rounds with him. As I said, he's the only nice person in the office. The others who work there, all ladies for whatever that might indicate, are perpetually sullen, bordering on snarky and obnoxious, as if you're a rather great imposition on their day.)

Finally, the stand was within my sight and I ran through the holiday options again. And again, no Christmas stamp. (Commercial/cultural winter holiday surrounding presents stamps? Check. Two of those. But the Christ Mass? Nada.) I almost walked out at that point because I was so irritated. But I decided to wait the two more people in line and ask.

See, the problem for me is this -- it's apparently perfectly fine to have stamps honoring any religion other than Christianity. I have no problem with them having an EID or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa stamp. Those are things people believe in and if we're going to have winter holiday stamps, then fine, have those stamps too. (It's along the lines why I don't get exorcised about Happy Holidays vs.Merry Christmas. There are multiple holidays in December. I assume if you say Happy Holidays you're being inclusive. I will respond with Merry Christmas because that's the one I happen to celebrate. No harm, no foul all around.)

But the problem I DO have, and that I do get exorcised about is the assumption that anyone who celebrates Christmas simply is feting a fat man in a red suit with reindeer. The cultural Christmas is NOT the same as the religious Christmas. For Christians, Christmas isn't about Santa or gingerbread houses or poinsettias - it's about the birth of our Savior. God incarnate. The Word who was in the beginning being made flesh and dwelling among us.

Now, I don't care if all you think of Christmas is Santa and presents. That's your choice and it's one you're not alone in making. BUT if the post office is going to celebrate other religious holidays with a stamp, then they need to include the religious understanding of Christmas in their stamp choices.

As it turns out, there is a Mother and Child stamp this year, despite having been left out of all the advertisements. So if Jesus's birth is why you celebrate Christmas - please go to the post office and buy some, just to let them know that there are those of out here who care and who aren't going to sit idly by and let the birth of Christ be overlooked in favor of a cookie house without at least mentioning it.

11/14/2013

Annoyed, Verging on Angry

My mom found out today that her cancer is growing again. I don't think it's even been a year yet since she finished her last round of chemo - or perhaps it's been exactly a year. And she was in a medial trial to prevent a recurrence and everyone was pleased with how her blood work was looking - yeah, so much for that. So she'll be starting up chemo again and I'm vacillating between depression and anger. Which I guess is normal if you consider the grief cycle and blah blah.

Three rounds of chemo isn't a good sign. The continually shortening periods of remission aren't a good sign.

At the end of the day, I'm angry and annoyed at myself for being angry and frustrated that I'm annoyed with myself about a perfectly legitimate feeling (even though I seem to be the only one who's anything other than resigned.) I feel like it came completely out of left field - we were supposed to have another year, at least, of remission. Maybe more. And now the clock's ticking again.

Because mom doesn't do chemo all that well. Oh, the doctor says she does. Mom even seems to think she does. But chemo screws up her blood thickness and that's such a delicate balance it's like she's always right on the verge of another embolism (or so it feels to me.) And then her immune system goes to hell, which means that I worry about bringing my two little germ factories anywhere near her. Because it seems like any issue she has turns into pneumonia immediately when she's on chemo. And it's not like she breathes well to start out with. Chemo also kills her cartilage, and her knees are already nearly shot. What will another 4-8 months of chemo do to them?

And I know better than to worry - I know it doesn't fix anything or change anything or do anything other than upset my family because I'm not taking this well (note to my family: please don't feel like we have to talk about this. I'm not doing well. I'll let you know if that changes. I don't need jollying up.)

I've said it before, I'll say it again: cancer sucks.