Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Death of Us All

Death is no longer some thing in the future to be feared; the unknown of where and when and how lurking around some unidentified corner.  No, fifth grade math homework will be the death of us all.  No more mystery!  Death is here...

Big Sister is in her first month of fifth grade - learning a new math curriculum which is completely different than what I learned thirty years ago.  She has math homework every single night.  The book is next to useless - it makes vague statements with zero logical sense and that's it.  No examples.  No elaboration on what the concept is.  No context to glean meaning from.  Nothing.  I fought for two weeks for her to be allowed to bring the damn book home - raging every night about how the worksheets she was required to complete were like attempting to do math when all the words were written in Greek or Arabic.  But now I get why they don't bring the books home - there is nothing more in the books to go on.  So our nights - after dance of course - go like this:

  1. Mom tries to interpret what the hell the worksheet is asking be performed.
  2. Mom consults Dad to make sure they concur on the translation.
  3. Mom tries to correlate the bullshit with what she knows and remembers from school.
  4. Mom tries to translate the bullshit into logic and reason that she can impart to others.
  5. Sometimes repeat one or more of steps 1-4.
  6. Big Sister attempts to complete her math worksheet before NINE PM - most nights failing.

Seriously.  This is why kids don't like math.  The stigma is planted in fifth grade where instead of breaking each concept down into ideas that are attainable and which apply logic and reason - it is math after all, not abstract art - they hide the shit that I-know-very-well-you'll-have-to-use-every-day-of-your-life in this ridiculous core curriculum which was probably written by some dumb ass who was never a teacher in the first place.  He or she is probably living somewhere on a beach laughing about the idiots in Utah who believed him or her and bought all those books and workbooks and student worksheets funding his/her retirement.

Thanks for letting me rant.  If you've avoided fifth grade math after you lived through it yourself the first time, consider yourself lucky.  If it looms in your future, please accept my condolences.  The irony of this whole thing?  I LOVE math and I kicked ASS at math when I was in school.  Go figure... all it takes is slapping some new convoluted bullshit with a fancy shmancy title of "new common core" to completely disintegrate my own math knowledge and confidence. Why yes it's a Monday and yes I'm drinking - why do you ask?

Friday, September 7, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

I haven't done a book review for a while.  But this one has to be done - if only to warn people.

I just finished 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.  I read it under duress and only so people I know would stop asking me if I'd read them.  Okay, and so I could see what all the fuss was about.  You can't turn around without hearing a reference to these books - at least where I live.

I got a copy for my Kindle and, at 27% done, I was so annoyed I found it necessary to update my status on Goodreads (something I have never done before) with the following:  'I'm forcing myself to read this so I know what all the fuss is about. But it is frankly torture. If I have to read the phrase "oh my" one more time I'm going to scream.'

Sorry all of you fans out there, but this book sucked. Take every cliche you can find and wrap it up into a couple of characters, then throw in some porn/sex scenes written like it's for a man. Seriously.  Don't believe me? Try a virgin who meets a hot guy, has sex with him once, and all of a sudden knows exactly how to deep throat - and swallows! Yeah, if you believe that I've got a hot friend who delivers pizza, scantily clad,  who really wants to get laid by the entire sorority house.  No, really!

I'm not above smutty reading nor am I claiming never to have purveyed my share of porn.  But I was under the impression that this was filled with super hot sex.  Like the entire book.  Like women were getting so turned on that their men were noticing because they were getting more play than ever before.  Was there sex, sure.  Was it hot?  Not particularly.  Nor was it always believable.  Tell me a virginal, naive girl who gets her vajay jay pounded repeatedly and tied up and beaten who is only a little sore afterward.  Then there's the bondage factor.  I just don't get it and most of that was a turn off to me entirely. 

The main character, Anna, just graduated college, refers to her vagina as "down there" multiple times, says "oh my" so often that I wanted to scream after the first three chapters, and apparently could only bite her lip as a reaction to every situation.  The author had such a shallow arsenal of description that she merely repeated the same phrases over and over.  And apparently in her world every person in someone's life would find it normal to tuck a stray lock of hair behind someone's ear since every one of her male characters did that at one point.  I spent so much time rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath that I'm wondering how I forced myself to finish it at all.

I had no idea this crap (unworthy of even self-publishing credit let alone a real publishing house) began life as Twilight fan fiction but now it makes sense - right down to the weird and thrown in love triangle that never was properly developed except as another reason to enrage the jealous boyfriend even when he crossed a line of friendship.  What girl has a close friend try and take advantage of her the first time she gets drunk and then days later acts like it was no big deal and proceeds like nothing happened? Probably the same unreal girl who is clumsy and doesn't think she's very pretty but attracts the attention of the cutest boy at school - or in the city. 

I guess the same crazies who dress up and go to midnight premieres to swoon over seventeen year old kids are the same people this book might appeal to.  As for me, I'll take my smut and my characters a little more realistic.  I'm skipping books two and three because, frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn to even know what happens to these idiotic characters.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It's like riding a bike - only you need to practice

I finished my second race of the year yesterday.  I have a great friend who is a brand new runner and needed a 5K for her first race this weekend to coincide with her chosen training plan.  The only race she could find was a half marathon relay.  So she recruited her daughter and I to run the other two legs leaving her with the final 5K leg into the finish.  It worked out perfectly for me.  We called the team "Two Old Ladies and a Ringer".  Her daughter - being the ringer at 21 and a serious athlete - ran the first 4 miles all up a canyon.  I ran the next 6 miles down the other side of the canyon.  It was a great run even though I hadn't trained hard.  Sometimes just getting out there is all that matters.  It was all downhill and a distance I know I am capable of running so I wasn't stressed that the two weeks before had been a whirlwind and I hadn't been able to stick completely to my weekly workout schedule.

I was all alone with my thoughts and the tunes on my iPhone, surrounded by the changing leaves of fall in northern Utah and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.  Did I wish I had more time to devote to running so I could have gone faster? Yes.  Did I revel in the fact that I was still capable of 'riding' this particular bike because I had been doing what I can whenever I can to keep in shape?  Yes.  Did I find an analogy to make in order to compare this to my writing?  Of course!

Hubby and I took our girls camping a couple of weeks ago and I persuaded him to trek into the woods alone with the kids and the dog so I could have at least an hour of uninterrupted writing time. He fell for it - further proof that he loves me - and I sat down and dusted off my manuscript that I still haven't finished from NaNoWriMo last year.  I read the last chapter so I could remember exactly where I'd left my characters and started writing.  Amazingly enough, I was still writing when the hikers returned two hours later.  I'd taken myself from the end of the middle to the climax of the ending.  And there are only a couple of 'holes' in the middle where its still a little muddy with placeholder statements of "this is what happens here" left to fill in.  Perhaps I'll get this draft complete and pick up the editing process where I got mired down before November yet! 

The current lesson here: writing is an ongoing process of getting on the bike but you have to keep getting on it to get any better at it.  It's not a new lesson, just a different way of looking at it for me.  I've also learned that in my own writing process I have to finish getting the story down before I can start editing.  And, much like my exercise plan, I have to squeeze writing into my insanely busy life wherever I can in order to keep myself progressing forward.  Someday when both of my kids are in school (and perhaps Big Sister is driving herself to dance) I'll still be writing and be better at it than I am now.  And I'll look back on this part and know how much it was all worth it to stick with it.