Writing Links

Here are two fun sites where I spent entirely too much time amusing myself this afternoon.  both have to do with reading and writing.  One is a site where you plug in samples of your writing, click the ‘analyze’ button, and it purports to tell you who you write like.

I plugged in various blogposts and most of the time I got Cory Doctorow, with David Foster Wallace coming in a healthy second.  I haven’t read anything by either of them that I know of (No, wait, he’s co-editor at Boing-Boing, and I do read that once in a while), and I hadn’t even heard of David Foster Wallace.

I also got H. P. Lovecraft a couple of times, and once, Mary Shelley.  That was for a post on the weird and obnoxious things I’ve known people to say to a parent of children with cognitive delays, and to me that makes a weird kind of sense.

Then I plugged in a random excerpt from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, and the thing said that *he* writes like Gertrude Stein.

I am agog.*



The second website is one that assesses the readability of your writing, giving you ‘grade level’ and some other data.  I mostly write at an 8th grade level.  However, the same extract of Dickens Resulted in these scores:

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 4
Gunning-Fog Score 6.5
Coleman-Liau Index 7.7
SMOG Index 4.9
Automated Readability Index 2.3
Average Grade Level 5.1

 *Well, Pickwick Papers may have been an unfair choice.  The Author of David Copperfield, according to the analyzer, does write like Charles Dickens.
I found these here, where there are some other writing related resources you might find useful. These two were my favorites from the list, though.
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That moment….

When your daughter keeps trying to call you but you have to hang up because you can’t hear here at all, and then you realize it’s because you have the headphones in your phone…’

And then…. you post it on FB where everybody can see how dumb you were.

And then…. you post it to your blog, because at this point, why not?

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Common Core, Bill Gates, and The Co-Opting of American Education

A new Washington Post story by Lyndsey Layton about how Bill Gates’ funded the Common Core revolution is startling. His role and the role of the U.S. Department of Education in drafting and coercing almost every state to adopt the Common Core standards should be investigated by Congress.

The idea that the richest man in America can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal. A congressional investigation is warranted. The close involvement of Education Secretary Arne Duncan raises questions about whether the federal government overstepped its legal role in public education.

Thanks to the story in The Washington Post and to diligent bloggers, we now know that one very rich man bought the enthusiastic support of interest groups on the left and right to campaign for the Common Core. Who knew that American education was for sale? Who knew that federalism could so easily be dismissed as a relic of history? Who knew that Gates and Duncan, working as partners, could destroy state and local control of education?

The revelation that education policy was shaped by one unelected man — who underwrote dozens of groups and was allied with the secretary of education, whose staff was laced with Gates’ allies — is ample reason for congressional hearings.


Read it all.  And thanks to Lori for emailing me the link.

From the comments, some suggestions that there’s quite the conflict of interest here (I haven’t read these, they just looked interesting):


Pearson, Microsoft Join Forces to Deliver Content on Windows 8
“Singer said the arrangement would bring potentially major benefits to both his company and to Microsoft.”

“For Pearson, the collaboration will give it much more reach into schools. Previously, the common core curricula and tools developed by the company had run exclusively on Apple’s operating system, iOS, but now Pearson will be able to sell those programs within a greater number of schools and districts using a Microsoft operating system, Singer said.”

Global Leader Pearson Creates Leading Curriculum, Apps for Digital Learning Environments
“A Windows 8 app will also be developed for Pearson’s hundreds of core and supplemental eText titles, allowing students and teachers to access the full functionality of the company’s eBook solutions on Windows 8 devices. In addition, Pearson’s innovative TestNav 8 assessment app, incorporated into Next-Generation Assessments around the United States, will support Internet Explorer 11.
… The Pearson solutions on the Windows platform will be available for use by schools in the 2014-2015 school year.”

Common Core and the EduTech abyss

Pearson, Microsoft Join Forces to Deliver Content on Windows 8
“Singer said the arrangement would bring potentially major benefits to both his company and to Microsoft.”

“For Pearson, the collaboration will give it much more reach into schools. Previously, the common core curricula and tools developed by the company had run exclusively on Apple’s operating system, iOS, but now Pearson will be able to sell those programs within a greater number of schools and districts using a Microsoft operating system, Singer said.”

Global Leader Pearson Creates Leading Curriculum, Apps for Digital Learning Environments
“A Windows 8 app will also be developed for Pearson’s hundreds of core and supplemental eText titles, allowing students and teachers to access the full functionality of the company’s eBook solutions on Windows 8 devices. In addition, Pearson’s innovative TestNav 8 assessment app, incorporated into Next-Generation Assessments around the United States, will support Internet Explorer 11.
… The Pearson solutions on the Windows platform will be available for use by schools in the 2014-2015 school year.”

Common Core and the EduTech abyss

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You don’t want to be my neighbor

Unless you are as antisocial as I am, you don’t want to be my neighbor.

It’s a strange thing, but some of you have  said from time to time you’d love to be one of my neighbors.  It’s a nice and kindly thought and I do appreciate it, but no, you wouldn’t, not really.

Said neighbor-life might involve occasional gifts of cookies or muffins if I or one of my kids makes them and then my husband or one of the kids delivers them, and perhaps an occasional wave of my hand as I skitter by on my mother’s golf cart, but no actual face to face conversation, ever, if I can possibly avoid it.  I’ve had more conversations with neighbors at the grocery store than I have in the neighborhood.

You imagine a pretty little scene with you coming to my door, perhaps with a charming handmade gift and an even more charming smile, followed by an invitation from me to come in.  Then we would sit, surrounded by books, perhaps sipping tea, and have some wildly interesting conversation whereby we might hopskotch through the sorts of topics I share on the blog.

Well, wherever we sat, we would be surrounded by books.  But I probably wouldn’t answer the door in the first place.  If I did,  I would put you off your game by looking not at all like you imagined me, and my resting face, my panicked face, my socially awkward face, and my thinking face all apparently look like an “I disapprove of the world and you in particular” face.  I have been too wildly misread too many times for me not to know this is true.

Two examples:

1. In our twenties, visiting a high school friend of the HM’s and the friend’s wife, it came up accidentally in conversation that we had wildly differing styles of parenting, and I bowed out of the conversation to avoid conflict and rearrange the contents of the diaper bag.  The friend finished explaining himself and something he said actually made me rethink everything I had previously thought.  I was just about to say something like, “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that, but you make sense,” when he looked at my face and said to my husband, “But obviously, your wife totally disagrees with that,” and diplomatically, he thought, changed the topic.  I was too taken aback to correct him, and anyway, to do that would have required interrupting the new conversation he was having with my husband, so I didn’t.  (Later, I did tell my husband what had happened and said I thought people misread my expressions all the time, and he said it was my fault because I ‘interrupted too much,’ which clearly didn’t help, since I had very deliberately *not* been talking at all by then, let alone interrupting).

2. My husband was on one of his many TDYs alway from home while I was home with our five and then six daughters. (He considers that he took few trips, btw, but I submit that the idea of what constitutes ‘few’ is considerably different if you are the one parenting three kids in diapers at home, and ever one of those TDYs involves broken vehicles, no plumbing, and at least one trip to the ER, but anyway.)  At any rate, he was gone and I was solo parenting six kids on a homestead farm with several goats and lots of chickens and we all know what I think of the ‘simple life.’   I handled those absences best by *not* counting down the days- counting made them seem longer and impossibly distant.  One afternoon at church, one of the men spoke to me about the trip, saying something like this, “How long until your husband gets home?  I bet you’re really missing him.”

I was, in fact, so much so that it was all I could not to burst into wild, abandoned howls of grief and despair on the spot.  I don’t cry well at all.  The only thing that can be said about my crying is that my eyes never get swollen or red no matter how much I cry, but mostly it’s just noisy, abandoned, ugly, and I feel like I will never get myself back so I don’t do it in public if I can help it (please, don’t tell me to forget my pride and just go ahead and cry and I will feel better.  I understand that most people do.  I really am not one of them. I never feel better after a ‘good cry.’).  So I sat in my seat, stiff, horrified, panicked, using every fibre of my being to get a grip on myself and not howl like the misbegotten offspring of a banshee and a wolf.  And the man who had just accidentally pushed me off the cliff of ‘barely holding on’ into the maelstrom of grief looked at my face, gave a bark of laughter and said, “or, I guess maybe you’re not missing him at all,” and awkwardly turned away.  I couldn’t call him back to explain that his interpretation of my face was the very opposite of reality because if I unclenched my jaw even a little bit, the howls would have escaped and I didn’t know when they would end.

So.  You won’t like my face.

The house will probably be a disaster. The weeds in the front yard are currently taller than I am. There will be probably be a dog hair in your tea. The Cherub will invade your space and tear a beloved book in front of my eyes and I will yelp and say something impolitic.

Any conversation we had would only be awkward and boring and I would talk all about myself too fast and with just enough of a grip on my social anxieties not to be obviously freaking out, but not so much that you wouldn’t have a weird, unsettled feeling that something was off, and you’d   wonder what on earth is going and then you’d leave, shaking your head and thinking to yourself, “Wow.  She’s nothing like she seems on her blog.”

Well, duh.

The blog is my inner life.  It’s what goes on inside my head and comes out of my fingers while I am thinking and writing.  I clarify my thoughts by writing about them.  I only muddle myself and get confused,  anxious, and sometimes offensive when *talking,* especially if that involves talking to people.

I keep telling people (seriously, you can look it up) over and over, I write better than I talk.




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25 years in prison, because of prosecutor misconduct

Parts one and two of a horrible miscarriage of justice- Michael Morton, thanks to prosecutorial misconduct and a sheriff who deliberately ignored evidence of the real killer, was convicted of the brutal murder of his wife and went to prison for 25 years before the Innocence Project was able to obtain his release.

Michael Morton has a blog here.  He wrote a book about his experience which you can get at Amazon: Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace

There’s also a documentary about his life: An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story

Thanks to Grits for Breakfast for the  links.

A later trial found Ken Anderson, the DA at the time, guilty of deliberately hiding evidence and contempt of a court order to present all evidence that might have been useful to the defense. Information he with-held included:

reports from neighbors seeing a man in a green van behind the Morton home around the time of Christine’s murder; the transcript of an interview by Sgt. Wood of Rita Kirkpatrick, Morton’s mother-in-law, stating that her three-year-old grandson Eric told her he saw a “a monster” – not his father – beat his mother to death; evidence that Christine’s purse was stolen and her credit card and checkbook fraudulently used several days later; unidentified fingerprints in the Morton home; and an unidentified footprint in the backyard.

The real killer was tried and found guilty of both Christine Morton’s murder and the similar murder of another woman. Compounding the tragedy, if Anderson had done his job properly in the first place, it’s quite likely the killer would have been behind bars and unable to murder the second woman.

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The Joyless Society

They’re coming to take it away…. your cheese, that is.- look he gets it totally wrong about this being a fundamentally Democrat, liberal, Obaman idea.  The FDA, the CPA, etc- they’ve been chipping away at freedoms for a long time.  Kinder Eggs, anybody? They’ve been specifically banned since 1997, thanks to a food law written as far back as 1938 (no to toys embedded in food).

It’s not the cheese that has changed. It’s not that anybody’s gotten sick.  It’s just that the FDA changed the rules.

This isn’t a case of government overstepping, but the list of ten fairy tales UK parents won’t read to their kids made me sad:


1. Hansel and Gretel – Details two kids abandoned in the forest and likely to scare young children

2. Jack and the Beanstalk – Deemed too ‘unrealistic’.

3. Gingerbread Man – Would be uncomfortable explaining gingerbread man gets eaten by a fox

4. Little Red Riding Hood – Deemed unsuitable by parents who have to explain a young girl’s grandmother has been eaten by a wolf.

5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – the term dwarves was found to be inappropriate

6. Cinderella – Story about a young girl doing all the housework was outdated.

7.Rapunzel – Parents were worried about the focus on a young girl being kidnapped.

8.Rumplestiltskin – Wouldn’t be happy reading about executions and kidnapping

9.Goldilocks and the Three Bears – Sends the wrong messages about stealing

10.Queen Bee – Inappropriate as the story has a character called Simpleton ENDS

It also made me frustrated.  Why is it bad for foxes to eat gingerbread, even anthropomorphic gingerbread?  Don’t the children eat it, too?  And when given a gingerbread person, doesn’t every respectable ankle-biter first bite off its head?

How on earth does Goldilocks send the wrong message about stealing?  I think it makes it very, very clear that Goldilocks was a very naughty girl and that breaking into other people’s cottages was a bad and mad (in the UK sense) thing to do.

Jack and the Beanstalk ‘too unrealistic?’  That’s what makes it lovely.

And the story of Cinderella makes it pretty plain that the fact that the young girl has to do housework all day is a sign of something quite wrong in that household.

These parents have very poor reading comprehension skills.

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My Kids In Estonia

gulf of finland will


My son dipping his toes in the Gulf of Finland.  Can I just say how cool this is?  Family members of mine have dipped their toes in the Gulf of Mexico, The Puget Sound, the China Sea, the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea.

estonian farm


This is the side-yard of the house where they are staying, and the neighbor’s house.

gulf-of-finland map


They are up near the area that borders Russia and the Gulf of Finland.


estonian school


Proof, I think, that he’s doing some schoolwork while there.

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Wine is Health Food

“…drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis has been shown to have various positive effects on your body. The one that pertains to this article’s topic is that it has been shown to help protect people from cognitive impairment as they age. According to a study done at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in Italy, 29% of people 65 years or older who almost never drank alcohol throughout their life had mental impairment issues. On the flip-side of that, only about 19% of people 65 years or older who drank moderate amounts of alcohol regularly had any mental impairment.

It was further discovered that, among the various groups where other problems, such as health problems or the like, might impair them mentally, the same trend appeared. In every group, those who drank moderately on a regular basis throughout their lives always had a diminished chance of becoming mentally impaired in their old age compared to those who didn’t drink at all or almost never drank.”

Read the whole thing.

Drinking too much is bad for you, of course, in all kinds of ways.  But surprisingly, most of the ways are reversible when you stop drinking too much.  Of course, it’s better not to need to reverse negative side affects to begin with, yes?  Of course, yes.  Nobody recommends binge drinking.

Here’s another one:

In fact, the evidence that abstinence from alcohol is a cause of heart disease and early death is irrefutable—yet this is almost unmentionable in the United States. Even as health bodies like the CDC and Dietary Guidelines for Americans(prepared by Health and Human Services) now recognize the decisive benefits from moderate drinking, each such announcement is met by an onslaught of opposition and criticism, and is always at risk of being reversed.

Noting that even drinking at non-pathological levels above recommended moderate limits gives you a better chance of a longer life than abstaining draws louder protests still. Yet that’s exactly what the evidence tells us.

Driven by the cultural residue of Temperance, most Americans still view drinking as unhealthy; many call alcohol toxic. Yet, despite drinking far less than many European nations, Americans have significantly worse health outcomes than heavier-drinking countries. (For example, despite being heavily out-drunk by the English, we have almost exactly twice their levels of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.)

Also, and this should surprise nobody, the main reason you won’t see many government issued sanctions of any alcohol at all in their health related publications is purely political:

“Not discussing the beneficial impact of alcohol on heart disease has been a systematic policy of the U.S. public health establishment, one example of which is the Framingham Study. The National Institutes of Health, which funded the Framingham research, forbad Harvard epidemiologist Carl Seltzer from publishing this finding, he later revealed. Why? NIH’s reasoning, published in a 1972 memo, still pervades American thinking:

‘The encouragement of undertaking drinking with the implication of prevention of coronary heart disease would be scientifically misleading and socially undesirable in view of the major health problem of alcoholism that already exists in the country.’

Flash forward to 2011, when the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were finally released by the Department of Agriculture and HHS. One reason for their delayed publication was the uproar raised by public health organizations to the Guidelines’ alcohol committee’s report of “strong evidence” that moderate drinking prevents heart disease, and the “moderate evidence” that it prevents dementia. Such battles are old hat: Similar campaigns against mentioning alcohol’s health benefits are mounted every five years when the Guidelines threaten to include them, starting with South Carolina senator and teetotaler Strom Thurmond’s strenuous objections to the 1995 edition.”

After all, our government intentionally poisoned alcohol supplies not just to prevent drinking, but to punish those who did drink so that they never could violate that restriction again- because they’d be dead. Over ten thousand citizens died in that little exercise in Nanny state protectionism.

For the other point of view, which is held by the majority of my own fellow congregants as our ‘faith tradition’ bought into the temperance movement, lock, stock, and grape juice barrel and never left, you can read here.  I find it better than most temperance arguments (mainly because it avoids the horrible two wines error), but still…  far less than compelling.  History is on the side of the wine camp, too.

Here’s a fun bit of history:

welch's grape juice
From Principles of Marketing: A Textbook for Colleges and Schools of Business Administration, by Paul Wesley Ivey
Ronald Press Company, 1921

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The Moral of the Story

If you like science fiction and you dislike dishonesty an ‘message books’ which corrupt their genre by being all about the moral and not so much about the story or the genre, and if you don’t mind some strong language, you will enjoy this.  I did, anyway.

The moral of the story is that strong story-telling comes first, for writers.  For others, everything is grist for the nagging self-righteous, finger pointing and Victorian shaming for the progressive era.



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Aliens in the Kitchen

This was a confusing article to me. It’s about cooking at home and how it’s not always the joyous lovely experience it’s cracked up to be, because moms have to deal with stuff like, gasp, sometimes kids not eating what they make, or fruit flies, or a lack of time and, shocking horror of horrors, they often end up coaxing small kids to eat by playing games with them. I mean, it’s not exactly that what they say isn’t sometimes true, but it reads like it was written by aliens who come from a planet where children are reared by robots and fed by tube, and they just don’t know what to make of earthlings.

Do they realize that you also sometimes end up having to coax small kids to eat by playing games even when you don’t cook?  It happens at restaurants, too.

This is written as though it’s a revelation:

“Feeding others involves taking multiple preferences into consideration, and balancing time and money constraints.”

Um, yes?

This paragraph:

So let’s move this conversation out of the kitchen, and brainstorm more creative solutions for sharing the work of feeding families. How about a revival of monthly town suppers, or healthy food trucks? Or perhaps we should rethink how we do meals in schools and workplaces, making lunch an opportunity for savoring and sharing food. Could schools offer to-go meals that families could easily heat up on busy weeknights? Without creative solutions like these, suggesting that we return to the kitchen en masse will do little more than increase the burden so many women already bear.

Our area towns all have monthly dinners of one kind or another- fish fries, pancake dinners, breakfasts, most of them are fund-raisers, but they are reasonably priced. I don’t go because I don’t enjoy the clamour and crowds.  Churches have regular potlucks- I think even people who love them acknowledge that generally, the cooking is more stressful and leaves the kitchen in a mess longer.  School lunches for the rest of us?  Gag.  And honestly, to me it’s always been more trouble to get the kids together and clean and dressed and take us all out somewhere to eat than to stay home, barefoot, in our comfortable clothes and eat what we’ve put together from our own kitchen.  Again, this paragraph makes it look like the authors are visiting from an alien planet, or they’ve been trapped in a university in New York for decades, which amounts to the same thing.

Yes, yes, stop investing so much of one’s personal self-worth in cooking everything perfectly and organically. Lose the guilt. Do what you can with what you have and don’t stress about the rest.  That’s easy to say, motherhood comes with guilt.  Stop taking the complaints personally.

I say this, but I don’t do this.  When my kids took a 20 hour train trip to New York recently I stayed up until past midnight preparing food for them to eat, turnovers with meat and cheese, boiled eggs because Boy was worried he’d starve and he loves his protein, carrot and celery sticks, yogurt I flavored myself, home-made trail mix, and home-made candy featuring ground almonds, creamed coconut, and various dried fruits (it was fantastic, frankly).  I not only did not get a thank-you for my hours of costly labor (do you know how much almonds cost? You do, but my son clearly does not, although he prefers almonds to peanuts), but my son informed me when they got home that there hadn’t been enough to eat and what there was disgusting and gross and there was no way to peel eggs on a train (I am almost quoting verbatim).  So, rationally, I cried myself to sleep, even though half of that gripe was pure teenaged rudeness and the other half total stupidity.  People have been peeling eggs on trains for as long as there have been trains, and when I handed them the ziplock bag of boiled eggs I told them to peel the eggs into the ziplock bag.  But I digress.

The point is- some kids gripe. Most mothers take it personally.  Eating out won’t change that- they will gripe about where they eat and what they are eating because they are rude and short-sighted and because sometimes whatever is served isn’t appealing, and moms take it personally because we do.  You can blame patriarchy, I suppose, but I don’t see it myself. Mainly, I think parents of kids who gripe, including us, just didn’t do a good enough job teaching them manners, and not cooking at home is not going to change the fact that they don’t mind their manners with their parents.  That is a parenting issue, not a cooking issue.

For their other concerns- by all means, simplify.  I made egg fritattas in muffin tins the other day using my food processor with the S blades, my favorite kitchen tool, frankly. That means I made two dozen muffin sized fritattas and the only dishes I dirtied are the food processor bowl and blade, a small measuring cup, and the muffin trays.

Somebody else did the dishes.  Somebody else should always do the dishes, or at least help with them.

Buy things already cut up if you need to.  I realize chicken on the bone does taste better, but I hate messing with it, so I buy boneless, skinless chicken.

If we are going to have meatballs, I make a hundred or more at a time while watching a movie on my laptop, but when the kids were little I simplified further by just never making meatballs at all. I made meatloaf and put it in muffin tins or I made stir fries or gravy with ground beef.

The article talks about how many people are hampered because they can’t afford a cutting board or a knife- a good knife, I grant, is pricey, and however worth it if you don’t have that money you don’t have it. So buy things you don’t have to cut. Save up for the knife and cut things on a paper bag, a plate, a plastic placemat, or a cutting board you found at the thrift store or yard sale.

Use a crockpot. They are a life-saver.

Do what works for you- I like variety and I like to try different things, so we eat a lot of different things when I am cooking.  But it’s no crime if you have the same few basic, healthy meals all the time.

What do you think?


(ah, here’s an explanation I can understand- Amanda Marcotte, like the majority of her leftist tribe, hates things that are hard).

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