{discipline punishment details}

Aside from the fact that periodically I fail to dress myself appropriately, let alone make balanced meals, and let’s not mention my basic bone-deep laziness, I know I am not appropriate parenting material. I see the world through some strange angles and I’m not sure I could raise someone to fit well with society. Also, there is discipline. I kind of lack it, and, one of my students informed me years ago, I am also Mean.

When I was teaching, I was known for having a well-ordered, quiet, tidy classroom, because frankly, the times when it was NOT those things, the fangs started itching and the horns started to sprout through my hair. I used to tell my fifth graders that a classroom was a dictatorship, not a democracy, and that I was their Dear Leader for the day. I forced my kids into a semblance of order because I needed order to be able to teach them – and here’s hoping that they benefited from the order, and learned.

I admit that I was probably a little (way?) too strict, though my mother, who terrified her students for twenty-five years, and now her grandchildren (well, none of them were ever really scared, but all the Littles know without a doubt when Teacher/Grandma’s patience is at An End) thinks I was an excellent disciplinarian. I am uneasy with that label, though. My students only obeyed because of my draconian tendencies to take their toys and have them run laps around the building or the playground when they talked and fidgeted, or go a period standing, when they continually tipped back their chairs. I was very quick to bring consequences, I sometimes raised my voice (well, it was fifth grade – sometimes that was the only way to be heard), and sometimes, I was Scary, and did I mention Mean? In all seriousness, I sometimes wonder at the present-day effect of some of my disciplinary tactics from back then.

If you’re wondering what’s brought on this examination of past punishments I have imposed, it’s the case of the woman in Cleveland who drove on the sidewalk. She was in a hurry – every morning, apparently – and, every morning when the school bus stopped to pick up kids, she went around to the sidewalk to avoid stopping when the red lights flashed. The bus driver, aghast, filmed her little trick, and now:

The judge sentenced Hardin to pay $250 in court costs and suspended her license for 30 days and more.

Hardin must also stand at the intersection of E. 38th Street and Payne Avenue wearing a sign next Tuesday and Wednesday that says “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.” She has been ordered to wear the sign from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. both days.

At first blush, this might seem a success. Everyone sees that Crime Doesn’t Pay. The kids see a person who broke the rules humiliated. The parents, other drivers who didn’t drive on the walk, and the bus driver all feel vindicated. Everybody wins!


Why the word “idiot?” Doesn’t the English language lend itself to other descriptors which don’t also double as name-calling pejoratives? And, sure, she’s lost her license for what is clearly a violation of the vehicle code, and she’s had a pinch in her wallet, but I’m a little surprised that no one is addressing the real issue: she felt her time and her life was more important than the safety of others. To me, that needs to be looked at. Is this lady just a traffic violator, or a sociopath?

As a deterrent – a threat – the sign probably works. People will think twice before attempting something so stupid. But as a corrective, redemptive device, it fails. Is this lady going to love her fellowman that much better, and place their safety above her own, after weeks of being mocked by school children and their parents? Is she learning more than just loathing for the judge who sentenced her? Is she actually examining how her choices brought her to this sorry pass? How is calling someone an idiot rehabilitative?

Do you see why I don’t have kids (and am not in the legal profession)? I’d be on the floor, every day, trying to figure out how on earth I was supposed to civilize the random impulses we all have to be idiots every day.

I hope this lady gets therapy, sensitivity training, anger management. I have a feeling she’s going to need all three.

{why i vote: the irrational season}

Thursday, the downstairs sink flooded, twice. The plumbers – two men with big boots – tromped gunk on the stair carpet, which needs to be cleaned. Today, Maya Thompson, to use her Starbucks name, is coming by to stay until Monday. We still don’t have a washer (next week!) so I must schlepp loads of soaked towels to Mom’s; the last four Fuji apples are going slightly soft, which means they need to be diced and turned into a quick apple cake which is okay for the both the vegans and the omnivores, and there are four gigantic boxes yet in the garage to unpack, my fabric remnants – victims of the downstairs flood – to unbox and wash before they mildew. This is not to mention the other weekend chores of chiropractic appointments, choir rehearsal, raking the front, making an altar arrangement for church, and bringing cans to the food drive.

This is also not to mention the 143 books only read by one person on the Cybils list, plus the 95 books read by no one yet at all, plus my revision, on which I am slightly stuck, which I really need to finish by the 17th, latest. Which, with the aforementioned reading stack, I may not do. Which annoys me.

Oh. My. Gosh. I do NOT have time to sit down and decipher all of the electoral paperwork. I don’t have time to read the doublespeak and triple takes, and the dubious linguistic looping of proposition amendments and the perky bios on various district representatives, eager for my vote. I don’t have things to do. I don’t have time to vote. And, why should I? Psychologists tell us that voting is completely irrational. Statistically, an individual vote makes very little difference – and it’s personally time-consuming to register and do all of the rigamarole to get the right paperwork or the right polling place. I’m over-scheduled and grumpy, and I don’t have time…but I will make the time. Why? Well, I’ve given that some thought, and come up with roughly four reasons:

  • I vote, because…I can read. My literacy is an immense gift; in a state where once upon a time public school was the ideal so that everyone could learn, today there are so many impediments toward people getting to school that 14% of my community is lacking in basic prose skills. I didn’t receive my education in a public school setting, but I support the right and privilege of those who do. I also support libraries as bastions of public knowledge. My votes protect these things,
  • I vote, because…I can disagree with the way my country is run. I hate some of what is done, in the name of big, glad-handing, we’re-number-one, jingoistic American interests. We are the world’s scariest friends, the world’s worst bullies, the world’s nosiest neighbors (and if you tell me to take my opinion and go back to the UK, so help me). I have some very harsh opinions, I’m DEEPLY cynical and suspicious and judgmental and yet, I have the right to these opinions and judgements, because This. Is. My. Country. And it’s my right to love it enough to hope that it changes, and to speak up, and MAKE IT change in the best way I can. And I support your right to do so, too,
  • I vote, because…I can embrace our differences, knowing that we hold some truths that are the same. We The People are from various walks and ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds and ages – and thus we come at fact or falsehood or a piece of legislation (sometimes the same thing) from different directions. Our greatness is in shared perception, and shared participation. We are a unique voice because of the powerful societal norms which push us out of our comfort zones and into the arena of sometimes harmonious, other times fraught and dissonant opinion. Our very inability to walk in lock-step is what makes us a uniquely and intriguingly special group. It also makes us exasperating, obstreperous, faithful, thoughtful, dangerous, mouthy, brilliant, eager, impatient, and really, really emo. I see this now more than ever, having lived abroad for five years and been regarded as a crazy person for much of that time. We are a bunch of loose cannons pointed in sixty-million different directions, and yet we can live together without killing each other too often. Participation really does make democracy work – and Americans are all about getting in there, and getting our hands onto something, even if it’s the completely wrong end of a thing.
  • I vote, because…I can. Yes. I can. Voting is both privilege and gift, and obligation, for someone whose ancestors were slaves and Native peoples, and whose chattel status prevented them from being thought of even as human. It is a right that is too often taken for granted in my age group, and in my country. Somewhere, people have sent out the wrong dates and times or polling information, to communities filled with first generation Americans, because they don’t want their voices. Somewhere, those who haven’t paid their child support or back taxes are frightened into believing that their voices aren’t worthy to be heard. Elsewhere, women are silenced; in other nations, disputed religions or tribal affiliations are an impediment to voting polls, and in some places, there is simply dictatorship, and no choice. But here, in this country, we have the right to our speech, our choice, and our mistakes, and these amendments are written into law. Here we’re going to celebrate our Four Freedoms, and add eight more. It’s our privilege! But, more than that, it’s our right. Let’s step up and take our chances.

Perhaps these aren’t as patriotic of reasons, or as coherent of reasons as you would choose for voting. In many ways, democracy – politics – you name it – is both incoherent and unpatriotic – full of greed and bad intentions. However, in many ways, it comes down to that same irrational response psychologists warn us about – I just want to do my bit to change my world, to do my part to support truth and righteousness — which is a big laugh, putting those words in the same sentence as politics. But then, je suis American. Maybe irrational is as good as it gets.

This is a non-partisan party; others will be pondering and posting about this today. Colleen’s got the round-up @ Chasing Ray. Don’t miss Justin’s piece @ babble comics, which make me both snort-laugh and wince; also, Mr. Elzey is talking about the one time he didn’t vote, which takes a lot of courage, in a way – talking about it, I mean. Not voting is bone-headed, and he agrees. Anyway, more links as power outages and people’s thought processes make them available. Happy Friday; remember to vote.

{monday mishmash}

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Monday, Monday. Jackhammers out front, trying to catch up with my brain, and expecting my internet to go out any second. New old house stuff continues, as today we get a new phone line dug. Apparently the last time it was done was when the house was remodeled, sometime near the year I was born… yeah. So, I shall enjoy a moment of time-wasting as I clear my ears from the sound of Driveway Destruction.

I try hard to avoid soda, but I love weird ones like this cucumber drink, which my mother gave me. Apparently someone gave it to her from a store called BevMo, previously Beverages And More, but those few extra syllables were JUST. TOO. HARD.

Since Tech Boy has now two jobs – one in the US and one in the UK (we are nothing if not happy with our dualities, apparently), I have a little extra time evenings on my own. Fortunately, there’s the Cybils which, at this time of year, means I have no free time anyway. Every year it seems such a decadent idea – books! Reading to my heart’s content with no interruptions! Because I have to! And then, when I see that I have to read one hundred forty-seven sixty-five two hundred and nine books between now and December 31st, decadent delight turns to, Aaaaaaaargh! Why did I say I’d do this again!?

(I need to photograph The Stack on my reading couch. Yes. I have a reading couch; what of it? Other people have eating tables and things… it makes perfect sense.)

We had thunder and a brief cloudburst on Thursday night, and I was at first convinced the sound was someone dragging their cans to the curb — until it sounded like herds of people drag-racing their cans around the block. It was so strange to hear the thunder rolling like a bowling ball bouncing down a lane. As it was explained to me, rolling thunder – as opposed to its more percussive explosion sounding cousin – sounds roll-y because it’s the result of cloud-to-cloud strikes. The sound differs because of the distance between clouds and the distances between US and the clouds – we hear the compression waves differently than we do for a cloud-to-earth, right-on-top-of-you strike. It’s like the difference between saying “Hello” in a crowded room and saying “Hello” over the Grand Canyon. More space, more room for sound to bounce. Anyway, it was really neat to even hear thunder – in our area of Scotland, heavy storms were not the norm. We’d have a real rattle-up periodically, but for the most part, the rain was just endless dampening – a middle-of-the-road, endless pattering. The dreich could be dispiriting, whilst an actual storm, with wind and hail and a real gullywasher bucketing down – those are rather exhilarating, and I’m looking forward to more of them, now that I don’t have to walk around in them!

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Here’s this week’s Strange Discovery: it’s an Easter egg… which was stuck in a rose bush. We have a lot of roses which haven’t been well cared-for, so they’re growing out of control, out from the rootstock, etc. — it’s kind of a thorny mess. We’ve been systematically whacking them back, which is why it took us awhile to find this little bit of plastic wedged into the largest of the bushes. No, I am NOT opening it; I am saving it for Bean, since she feels brave. I’m sure it’s nothing but melted jelly beans and a puddle of chocolate egg… at least I hope it’s that benign. ::shudder::

BREAKING NEWS: Our possessions apparently will make it to a WAREHOUSE IN SF on Wednesday, at the latest. Hope springs eternal.

As for the Mr. Q. — it was a little sweet, a little fresh, and a lot cucumber-y. It was distinctly odd, in a good way.

{dreich. but not down.}

“Dreich” is a word which means what it sounds like – dark, dank, dull, dreadful. It describes this wet autumn day.

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I love this picture, and the reflection of the sky from the puddle. It reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” (Lady Windermere’s Fan, 1892). At present, we are all in the deep of the dreich, but if we look around, there are fantastic images in the drifting of the leaves, and in the bunching and rolling of the clouds.

Plus, occasionally there’s fancy snails.

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My sister has a jacket with these same stripes on it. She is not amused that the snail wore the jacket first.

Two weeks ago, I contacted a friend, via LinkedIn, for her birthday. She wrote me back to tell me that her husband, at the age of thirty-eight, had unexpectedly died two days before, and she’d not known how to reach me. I was in shock, am still raw and bleeding for her. The following week, another school friend wrote to tell me how she was doing in her new city, and offhandedly announced her engagement. Shock again – but the good kind. Yesterday, a classmate from grade school found out that – surprise! – she was going to be a mom again in May. She’s a little panicked at the unexpected, but she is dealing – with courage, and with joy. Fortuna’s wheel continues to turn as out of work friends find jobs, and others find themselves trying to stretch and resize a budget that in nowise will take them through the winter. As we all face the dreich days together, surround yourself with friends and simple pleasures, and tell those whom you love that you do – and how much.


  by William Ernest Henley

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Stand tall through the rain and wind. We get knocked down, but we get up again.

{a snarky question I was asked:}

“So, if only one month a year is supposed to be for good mental health, what are the other eleven months for?”


My answer? Using what you’ve learned during this month.

Today’s learning tool: readergirlz diva and author Melissa Walker chats live with Blake Nelson, author of the fabulous YA novel, RECOVERY ROAD, tonight on Reachout.com’s Reach Out Reads. Starting at 5pm PST/8pm EST, it’s your turn to listen and chat about this great book, what the author was thinking as he wrote it, and what he hopes you get out of it. It’s young adult lit with an extra helping of MAD COPING SKILZ all this month, or as Reachout.com puts it, “Fiction to get you through tough times.” Tune in!

Nine, Maybe Ten Good Things

  1. The middle grade novel is done, at last, and out it goes, synopsis written, shoes tied, face washed, on Monday. Calloo, callay! O, frabjous day! Thank you, God. NOW I feel like my brain is back online for the first time since — sheesh, October? — and can resume revising my science fiction novel…
  2. I am being interviewed by someone named Capillya. The name is undeniably awesome.
  4. Yesterday, the sky was blue for seven hours straight.
  5. The Little (Bro) got his passport this week, which means the week after his Senior Trip to San Diego, he’s going to come and slouch around my house and eat all of my food for a week. Nice, huh?
  6. The Niecelet – whose Scottish name is Ms. McFlea-McFly, is coming with him. She explains that she does not slouch. Nor eat nearly as much. This is good.
  7. Did I mention the snow drop?
  8. Another good thing: plum-apple sauce. And the ease of making such. And eating it out of the jar, by the spoonful.
  9. The CIA has pictures on their Flickr (Wait – seriously. Let’s take a moment. The CIA has a Flickr account!?!? …Because???) of something like the Bug thingies in my science fiction novel. Yeah, I know!! How cool is that?
  10. Just…swimming. And indoor pools with foggy glass ceilings on a cold morning.
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{cheater, cheater, pumpkin-eater}

Man, I wish this was about pumpkins. Then I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about the time I’m wasting thinking about this when I could be finishing my MG novel I was hoping to get done before Thanksgiving. (Vain hope, there. Ah, well. It will be better for the additional time I took, right?) This is not about pumpkins, but about cheating, or as we called it in my undergrad college, academic dishonesty. (I do love a euphemism.)

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A very recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, allegedly written by a “Shadow Scholar” who writes admissions papers, term papers, theses papers and dissertations for college and university students, got me thinking about my own educational experiences. Whatever you might think of the article, which is about the writer’s experiences in churning out these papers, he or she brought up a point that resonated with me — and reminded me of my own teaching days. He wrote that he’d hated high school, and had hoped that college would be the free exchange of ideas, blah, blah, blah, but it turned out to be the same thing – grubbing for grades, pressure, etc.

No, I have no sympathy – but I kind of understand. A little.

I’ve said before that when I was teaching high school I thought teaching English would mean that I would have those Brilliant Exchanges, and that I’d have a mini Dead Poets Society thing going on. While I had transcendent intellectual moments (hah!) in college, thanks mainly to a couple of really personable professors who led me to think, mostly high school and college was just a lot of work — I learned stuff, and sometimes it was exciting to discover things. But it was work, with long stretches of drudgery in between.

The Shadow Scholar seemed to resent that.

When I was little, I remember my Dad coming home from work, generally in a ratty mood. Granted, that’s somewhat of a permanent state with him (!), but right as he drove into the driveway, we kids snapped to and got the heck out of his way. And my mother, with her gift (?) of interpreting some of my father’s more incomprehensible moods used to say, “Well, he’s tired. It’s called ‘work’ for a reason.” Somewhere along the line, people have gotten the idea that nothing should be work, maybe. Nothing should tax us, or make us irritable or tired. And when it does, we should be able to pay someone to alleviate the pain. After all, it works with doctors — if we eat too much, there are umpty-hundred pills on the market to make the stomach pain/indigestion/fat go away. Just ask your doctor!

I wasn’t that great of a student. I was mediocre at everything, neither that great nor that bad. I have a mediocre soul as well, I’m sure, and I don’t want to appear self-righteous as I say this — but it never occurred to me to cheat – to buy a paper from the campus go-to geek for writing everyone’s stuff, or from a company. First off, I would never have been able to afford it — those things cost between $500-a grand. Second — it was foreign to me to trust someone else with MY grades. No way, no can do. I am putting my ethical base, the thing within me which would simply rise up and shriek, THIS IS SO WRONG third, because I don’t want to judge. I know people did this – I must know people WHO did this, although they never said. Unlike a lot of brainy and less-than-socially adept people in high school or college, I was never approached to write people’s papers, or if I was, I was too dense to know they didn’t mean they just wanted a few pointers, or to study together.

Which is a kind of laughable synopsis of my entire educational/social experience right there…

Graduate school was an amazing experience. I took an 18th Century Lit course from a professor who had just published a book on the topic. I found out after the class had started, and I muttered a lot of, “Oh, crap,” going in. And yes, it was grueling. Not only was I required to turn in three peer reviewed drafts of every single paper at whatever random time the professor announced a paper check (this was probably to prevent that term paper purchasing, but I didn’t realize that at the time), I was required to take over the class one day and lecture on one of my paper sources, and endure a fifteen minute Q&A session afterward, in which the professor was also invited to ask questions.

I thought that I might die.

It was intense. There was sweat and blood involved, and possibly weeping and gnashing of teeth. It remains the most cherished memory of my time at Mills. I. was. awesome. I fell in love with the topic (how much do you know about female 18th century poets? How much does anybody?!), and I have the props from my Vessels of the Poets lecture still to hand, thankyouverymuch. (Yes. I used props. Come on – I once taught elementary school. Be nice.) And it was almost an afterthought that I passed that course with distinction in that course – because I loved the experience of having to ride out on that edge where it was up to me whether I stood or fell. (I even took another class from that professor, knowing how she worked. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. But truly: it was amazing.)

Last year, Tech Boy had the immensely frustrating experience of catching a student copying great swathes of work from online articles without giving credit. He worked with the student for weeks, trying to explain why this was unethical and unacceptable, and when he made no headway he finally met with his university supervisors — and the student passed anyway. Apparently this happens a lot. Plagiarism, academic dishonesty – call it what you want – it’s prevalent in not only academia, but in fiction — remember our outrage at Kaavya Viswanathan, or more recently, the German girl who wrote a novel based on someone else’s blog and claimed she was merely the forebearer for a new generation of writers?

Is this …really who we are? No, seriously. I am asking. I’m a hermit – I can’t claim to know what people are like in the mainstream. Is this us?

I find that I want to talk to the Shadow Scholar. I want to discuss cheating with anyone who has ever cheated. I want to sort of …get what it is to need to do that. And I think I want to look at that against the larger background of who we are as a society. Are we all thieves and liars now? Are we all moving toward a place where “cheater” is no longer a game-ending, fists-flying, schoolyard taunt?

Who are we now? And, where does that leave those of us who don’t cheat, and don’t know how?

/ ramble

{the end of all things is nigh}

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Okay, maybe not the end of all things. But… summer. Dude. What happened?!

The warm days I so looked forward to only ever tentatively came to pass — much of my summer has been a bit of a wash – literally. Rain, rain, rain, and more rain. And yet, I can’t really complain. Although I’m not a person who keeps track of words-per-day writing, I’ve been slogging along – and am three quarters of the way through one novel, a third of the way through another, and just finishing the preliminary research for a third. This is not to mention all of the reading I’ve been doing, or the editorial letter I’m awaiting next month. I’ve gotten a lot done, and there is yet so much more to do!

This is our last school year in Scotland. How odd it feels to say that — when I am still getting used to the fact that I been IN Scotland at all! Nevertheless, it’s almost over, Tech Boy is writing up the dissertation which will earn him that coveted PhD, and my time in the isle of mists and moss and mold is almost at a close. I keep feeling like there’s so much to do before I go. I should be racing around trying to see one last castle, one last loch, one last… something. Instead, I’m sitting in my window seat, sipping my tea, looking out at the neighborhood like everyone else on a Sunday afternoon.

There’s just no accounting for laziness.

In any event, I’m still mildly chagrined at the whole seasonal thing. September! No, really!? Wasn’t it just July?

The days are creeping up on me. A sign of old age or insanity…

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{Further in the Realm of Random}

Happy August! I’m looking up from the world of juggling writing projects and trying to convince myself that researching in dull academic volumes for historical fiction definitely means myriad cups of tea under fleece blankets — but not necessarily myriad cookies. I see I need to pack up a box and visit the neighbors, quickly.

Other than the recipe for these pretty little faux Oreos (yummy, but Oreos aren’t quite this sweet. Shall cut the sugar down again for the next batch), you know what makes me happy about the picture below? The fact that the plate and the cup almost match. One is melamine, and was cheaply and recently purchased, the other was (also cheaply — c’mon, people, you know me) purchased when we first moved here, and is by a well-known designer… and yet, they go together. Serendipity!

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For everyone who says that YA bloggers are categorically unable to write incisive, intelligent, negative reviews, please think again, and check out The Book Smugglers. Intelligent bloggers – with strong opinions they’re not afraid to share, eliciting lively conversation. And their blog header is just adorable. Go, Smugglers.

When I was a kid, we had chickens. I had no idea they could swim, but it’s so hot in parts of China this week that some of them have decided that’s a great idea. And should it surprise me that in the UK — home of Very Bizarre Festivals and things like cheese rolling — that there are hen races? No, it should not. And yet: I remain somewhat baffled and amused.

All righty, then. Back to my tea and cookies. Oh, and my “research.”

{historically speaking…}

Way back in January (because I am, if nothing else, completely on top of all trends and kidlitosphere conversations) quilting author and blogger Kyra blogged about who actually wins the Coretta Scott King Awards. It was an interesting bunch of statics, and a good post, and it reminded me of an observation I made about the CSK winners this year — all of them were awards for historical fiction.

Someone mentioned that historical fiction is always what wins — and I’d have to suspend comment on that until I could see some type of statistical compilation that backed that up. But I did remember wondering if that’s just the pool the CSK jury had to dip into, or if there’s a preference by the ALA juries and committees to award portrayals of African American history over other topics. Anyway – just an idle thought that I’ll look more into, when I have time. When I am not writing three books at once.

(WHY am I doing that? Because… it’s summer, the light [please note I did not say the sun – we’re having the worst gray overcast weather] still comes up at 4 a.m., and I am overflowing with twitchy, nervous energy — usually at two or three a.m., but energy nonetheless. We’ll see if it’s coherent energy, or just the blathering sort.)

Via Tor.com, Prolific paranormal/true crime/vampire writer L.A. Banks scares herself. (Is it wrong of me to snicker loudly at that?) I’d scare myself, too, if I wrote what she writes, in a darkened house, at 3 a.m…. L.A. Banks is one of the very few REALLY successful writers of color in the SFF community, and while she doesn’t write YA fiction… I’m hoping she might someday.

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Meanwhile, art continues to flourish in my neighborhood. These are two of a series of toothy computer monitors and TV sets, just down at the corner — in the “back” yard of the same crescent I’m in. And I have no idea why there’s always art in that corner, but it’s usually Banksy-esque and always thought-provoking. This one is a cross between the Little Shop of Horrors Audrey, Jr. plant and those 70’s “Kill Your Television!” bumper stickers.