End of a Good Work Week

February 27, 2009

Got my 2500 words today to reach 90,000 in the WIP (out of maybe 100,000 — getting close, that’s for certain).  That’s three weeks in a row of writing 10,000 words.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.  Not sure if this book is any good, but I sure am zipping through it….

Happy weekend, all!

I got really mad while watching the news this morning.  Bill Bennett was on — conservative commentator and cultural critic, Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan.  He was talking about Barack Obama’s educational initiatives and the high cost of college education and saying that colleges had to find ways to tighten their belts.  And along this line he made some snide comment about how college professors have have only six hours of work a week — “You hear them talk about six hours of teaching, and you think ‘well that’s a lot’, but you have to remember that’s six hours per week not per day.”  That’s a paraphrasing of his remarks, but it’s certainly close to his exact words.

My wife is a college professor.  She teaches biology, and while she has nine contact hours per week rather than six, I’m sure Bennett would have said that was a paltry amount, too.  And maybe it sounds that way.  It’s not.  Trust me on this.  Those nine contact hours — meaning nine hours of actual teaching time — are the tip of the iceberg.  They don’t take into account all the other work my wife does each week to support those nine hours in the classroom.  Like what?  Well, here’s an incomplete list:  writing lectures, preparing labs, grading papers, grading lab notebooks, writing exams, grading those exams, running an out-of-class research program so that aspiring scientists can get some hands-on training with real science experiments, keeping up with the scholarly literature in her field, writing papers on her research so that she can contribute to that scholarly dialogue, writing grants to fund her research, meeting with colleagues to plan team-taught elements of the curriculum, doing committee work to help keep the university functioning, holding office hours and running review sessions to help students who are having difficulty with material in her classes, meeting with her advisees to help them plot out their college careers, working with her freshman advisees to help them get oriented to their new academic surroundings.  There’s more, but I’m blocking on it, and I think you get the idea.

My wife goes to work at 8:00 in the morning and gets home at around 5:30 every day.  Usually she has another hour or two of work to do in the evenings, just to keep up.  She works as hard as anyone I know.  She works harder than I do.  And I’d bet every cent I have that she works way harder than Bill “Head-Up-His-Ass” Bennett, and for a lot less money.

And you know what else?  She’s not unique in that regard.  College professors make easy targets for social critics, particularly those on the right.  Because they’re intellectuals and our culture doesn’t value intelligence the way it does physical beauty or athletic prowess or any number of other attributes.  Because their jobs are misunderstood — people hear “nine contact hours” and “tenure” and they think college professors have it made.  They don’t.  They train for years and years, at great financial cost and at times under great emotional stress, to get their advanced degrees.  They spend 50 and 60 hours every week trying to give America’s future leaders the best education possible, and they get paid a fraction of what they deserve.

But what pissed me off the most about Bill Bennett’s ad hominem attack on professors is that he knows better.  The guy ran the Education Department.  He has colleagues who are academics.  He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy and spent time at an academic think tank.  He knows exactly how hard college professors work.  But he saw a way to score some cheap political points, and he exploited the opening.  It was cynical and self-serving, cowardly and disingenuous, and it denigrated people who have never done anything to him at all.  Including someone I love.

So if foul language disturbs you stop reading now.  If not…. 

Hey, Bill!  Fuck you!

Last Night’s Speeches

February 25, 2009

I meant to post much earlier today, but after hitting a small speedbump with the WIP at the beginning of the week, I churned out over 2,700 words today, and didn’t want to interrupt the flow.  The book should come in somewhere around 100k and I’m just past 85,000.  At the rate I’ve been going recently, I could be done by the end of next week….

But I wanted to comment briefly on last night’s Not-The-State-Of-The-Union address by President Obama (yeah, the thrill of writing that is just never going to get old….).  What a total joy it is to listen to a President who is eloquent AND right on the issues.  I thought the speech was terrific.  I believe that he’s absolutely right to take on the challenges of health care, energy, education right now, while he’s also dealing with our economic problems.  These issues are all interrelated.  We can’t solve people’s financial problems without addressing health care.  We can’t solve our fiscal problems without dealing with the twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we can’t do that without addressing energy.  And we can’t put our country on a path to long-term economic growth without improving education.  Those on the right who wish to defeat progressive initiatives in these areas want to take them on one at a time, because that makes each battle easier.  As soon as Obama convinces the public that these problems are connected — as soon as people see the big picture — (and, admittedly, the President has some work to do on this still) the battles will be won.

I also wanted to comment on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s response to the President.  I have no doubt that Jindal is intelligent.  Clearly he’s popular in his state.  But that was a terrible speech, both in terms of content and presentation.  All I could think as I watched it was, if this guy is THE rising star in the GOP, Republicans are going to be in the wilderness for a long, long time.  And I’m okay with that…..

More of my friends from SFNovelists have stuff coming out in the next few days, so I thought I’d fill you in on these releases as well.

Mike Brotherton has launched an online anthology of astronomy-related short fiction called Diamonds in the Sky.  Use the link to check it out.  Authors with work in the antho include Jeffrey  Carver, Mary Robinette Kowal, Wil McCarthy, and many others.

Anton Strout has a new book out called Deader Still.  Check out Anton’s website here for more information.

And Tim Pratt has just released the fourth book in his Marla Mason Series. The book is called Spell Games and your can read the opening chapter here.

So check out this new work, and please come by the sfnovelists website to learn more about all our authors.

Another of my SFNovelists cyber-buddies, Catherynne M. Valente, has a new book coming out today. The book is called Palimpsest. Catherynne has forwarded a couple of links of interest that you should check out before ordering her new book. One is the short story from which the novel was drawn: http://www.sensesfive.com/samples/palimpsest.php

And the other is a YouTube trailer publicizing the book:

Check out the story and trailer, and then give the book a try.

A Post About Tragedy

February 23, 2009

Today’s post, “Tragedy and the Writer,” can be found at http://magicalwords.net.  Please visit the site and add your voice to the discussion.

Today’s post on creativity can be found at http://www.sfnovelists.com. The post builds on a previous post written by bestselling author Kate Elliott, which also appears at the site.  Please visit the site and enjoy!

And later today, (noon -2:00pm CST) I’ll be signing books at the University Bookstore in Sewanee,  Tennessee.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello!

Warning: Sarcasm Alert

February 19, 2009

My new version of TurboTax came today and it’s already installed on my computer!  I can’t wait to play with it.  Should be a great weekend!

Suddenly I feel such a kinship to Tom Daschle….

A New Neighbor

February 18, 2009

There’s a Great-horned Owl nest near our house.  You have to walk a short distance to see it — maybe half a mile.  But then you look into an expanse of forest, find the great mass of branches and such in the fork of a large, straight oak tree, and there’s the female, her head visible above the edge of the nest, her tufts — the so-called horns — framed against the sky.  Owls nest earlier than most birds.  Great-horneds nest earlier than most owls.  She’s probably already incubating eggs.  She might even be caring for young.

For those of you who don’t know, Great-horned Owls are probably the most formidable avian hunters in North America.  They’ve been known to take possum, raccoon, skunk, rabbits, domestic cats, other species of owl, Red-tailed Hawks (which aren’t exactly wimpy birds), even Great-blue Herons.  If you’re ever at a natural history museum, check out the Great-horned specimens.  Look at the size of the birds, particularly the females (among birds of prey, the females are almost always the larger of the pair).  Then look at the size of their talons.  They look like they belong on a bobcat….

And this pair is nesting around the corner.  Very cool.

Reality Knocks

February 17, 2009

So we’ve been thinking recently that our house is no longer just right for our family needs.  The space worked great when we were the parents of a six year-old and a two year-old, and even a ten year-old and a six year-old.  But now we’re the parents of one teenager, and it won’t be that long until we have two teens.  We need a different layout, a way to separate our world from the kids’ world.

With this in mind, we’ve looked at a few houses and thought about putting our house on the market.  We did the paperwork last week, and made an offer on a house.  But even then the whole thing seemed like an experiment, you know?  It didn’t seem real. 

Well, today we got a counteroffer on the house we’re interested in buying.  We have 48 hours to respond.

Suddenly this feels VERY real.