contentgrrl

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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Why I Don’t Write Fiction

Posted by contentgrrl on October 27, 2009

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.‘ – E.L. Doctorow, author of World’s Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989), and others.

The prospect of completely creating a fictional universe — around a protagonist, his allies, his family, his challenges, his antagonists, and all the little twists and turns of fate — frankly frightens me.

I do well enough to make a living as a technical communicator and content developer, and leave myself a little time to make healthy little forays into escapist fiction, television, games, and dreams.

Posted in culture, grrly, humor, publishing, reading, writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

This Means Something … Generational

Posted by contentgrrl on October 3, 2008

Today I told what turns out to be a generational joke, and for the first time in my life it it went flat due to an age difference.

The department where I work brought in Babe’s for lunch today from Roanoke, TX (I highly recommend Babe’s, but you can only choose chicken fried steak or fried chicken. Those are the only entrees on the menu.).

We were in line serving ourselves, and the guy ahead of me had a plate laden with a mountain of mashed potatoes, which — in preparation for Babe’s wonderful country gravy — he was molding with a fork.

“‘This means something,'” I quipped.

No reaction.

“You mean you’re too young for that one?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m ’83.”

I thought he might mean class of ’83, which would certainly put him in movie theatres when that infamous quote was around.

“That was Close Encounters. You’ve never seen it?”

“Was that from the 70’s? I don’t even remember when ET was out.”

“Oh, you were born in ’83. Wow.”

Oh, he’s young. I don’t always get those one-liners in at the perfect time. I know, that one’s done to death. With people my age, who are in the know ;^), It would get more groans than chuckles. But I started to be proud of myself for a funny, and ugh! fell flat on my face.

Well, this is a first for me. Is it all downhill now?

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SuperShadow Star Wars Trilogy Disjointed, Disappointing

Posted by contentgrrl on July 2, 2008

When researching Leia: the heroine’s journey through hairstyles, I found a SuperShadow plot synopsis of what is supposed to be George Lucas’ upcoming trilogy. I am disappointed, for several reasons:

  • Leia’s son is named Anakin, and Luke’s son is named Ben. Namesakes smack of laziness, and make for confusion among fans (Did you mean Anakin Skywalker or Anakin Solo? Ben Kenobi or Ben Skywalker?). I’d rather see a creative wordplay honoring both Padme/Amidala and Anakin (Padkin? Dalkin?)
  • There’s no character growth. The focus is on the aging Luke, Leia, Han, and so forth. As much as I want to see Leia grow into the matriarch she’s born to be, and a Jedi in her own right, Lucas makes her and Han minor characters.  Sure, their children have to step up and do them proud, but there’s no real drama here, or tension.
  • There’s no romantic tension. Oooh, one scene tossed in with Ben and his girlfriend on the Kessel Run, but it doesn’t add to the story arc.
  • No interesting new world being explored, except maybe an old Sith stronghold.
  • The thought that Jedi would even think about using a weapon that unleashes a black hole on a system turns my stomach.
  • More clones, but not all that sinister. More Sith, but I found myself almost rooting for them as underdogs.
  • Out of the edges of space comes a new enemy pouncing to conquer the Republic during a post-rebellion turmoil. I wonder that it’s not that dastardly Trade Federation again.

Next, I’ll look at what I think are better ideas.

Posted in culture, heroes, heroines | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

the secret behind lorem ipsum dummy content

Posted by contentgrrl on February 6, 2008

For the latin text that supposedly served as the source of the “lorem ipsum” dummy placeholder content, see lipsum.com.

According to this site, it’s from The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero in 45 BC:

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

There’s even an English translation:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

The site also has an application that generates so many paragraphs of the stuff from the source. You can use these generated paragraphs in your template layout designs to test styles and image placements, without  distracting your reviewers with the actual content. At least until they approve the design and the real content can take its place.

Posted in culture, learning, project management, publishing, reading, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 4, discovery

Posted by contentgrrl on January 25, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H.

Let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about discoveries. The questions below apply to science, technology, medicine, art, music, fashion trends, relationship patterns, polls and statistics, and even religious revelation.

  • Who initially made the discovery or work?
  • Who have confirmed the veracity or value?
  • Who are the critics and detractors?
  • What are the hypothesis, circumstances, conditions, or limitations of the discovery?
  • What authority and experience does the subject have?
  • When did the discovery occur, after what length of time working on it?
  • Where did the discovery take place?
  • Why is the discovery significant?
  • How were obstacles overcome?
  • How do we know it’s true or valuable?
  • How does this change what we’ve assumed before?
  • How can other people best appreciate or take advantage of it?

Previously, we looked examples for stories about policy, events, and aftermath. Thus ends this series. Soon, I’ll share the GOSSEY formula for feature stories.

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5 Ws and H interview questions for news writing: part 3, aftermath

Posted by contentgrrl on January 24, 2008

In the art of news writing, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H. We discussed policy examples previously, and event examples last time.

Now, let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about aftermath. The questions below apply to analyzing the causes and consequences of conflicts, disasters, losses, and mistakes.

These stories may include war’s battles, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, fires, stormy weather, epidemics, extinctions, sports and other competitions, transportation wrecks, market crashes, crime, utility outages, closings, civil suits, industrial accidents, even product and software defects, illnesses, injuries, and other broken promises and dreams.

  • Who is the injured or affected party?
  • Who witnessed the event or reported the problem?
  • Who is blamed or taking responsibility for the problem?
  • What damages have taken place?
  • What are the symptoms that affected parties suffer?
  • What is the major cause of the problem or failure?
  • What additional mitigating factors contributed to the problem?
  • When did the event, problem, and cause commence?
  • When is a solution expected to be complete?
  • Where did the event, problem, and cause occur?
  • Why is this event or problem significant?
  • How do we know what caused the problem?
  • How is the problem being treated or resolved?
  • How are we proactively preventing this problem in the future?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for a more positive type of news story: discoveries.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

5 Ws and H news writing questions: part 2, events

Posted by contentgrrl on January 23, 2008

In the art of writing is an art, we still use tried-and-true formulas to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H. We discussed policy examples last time.

Now, let’s look at how these questions can play out for news stories about events. Most of the questions below work for sports and other competitions, fundraisers, awards ceremonies, professional development conferences, training classes, filing deadlines, holidays, anniversaries, religious/commitment/memorial ceremonies, parties, club activities, meetings, and even sales.

  • Who is performing the event?
  • Who is organizing, funding and hosting the event?
  • Who are the guests of honor?
  • Who are the target attendees for the event?
  • What is the purpose or objective of the event?
  • What are the popular traditions of the event?
  • What is the newest focus of the event?
  • When – date and time – is the event scheduled?
  • Where – building/venue, room, city – is the event scheduled?
  • Why is it popular, or beneficial to attend?
  • How will special attendees be rewarded?
  • How many are expected, and/or how many attended? How much has attendance grown?
  • How much does it cost?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for other types of news stories: accidents and discoveries.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, games, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

5 Ws and H news writing questions: part 1, policy

Posted by contentgrrl on January 22, 2008

Writing is an art, but that is not to say there is no science to it. You can use a tried-and-true formula to get started with researching, interviewing, and organizing basic news according to the 5 Ws and the H.

The questions below work for news on policy, including election candidate campaigns, federal/state legislation and regulation, city codes, commercial company acquisitions/launches/divestitures, departmental initiatives, insurance coverage limits, financial transaction agreements, mechanical maintenance requirements, club by-laws, school board requirements, even classroom or household rules.

  • Who is making the policy?
  • Who are the political movers and shakers creating the pressure that drives this policy?
  • Who are the critics and detractors?
  • Whom does the policy affect, or who is accountable for results?
  • What action must be taken?
  • What conditions will trigger the need to act in accordance with the policy?
  • What are the consequences of inaction?
  • What are the consequences of failure?
  • What alternatives were considered?
  • When is the deadline or stages and phases?
  • Where in space or organization is the jurisdiction of this policy?
  • Where might be the boundaries or grey areas?
  • Why is this new?
  • Why was the particular action selected (what pros and cons)
  • How do they know the policy was necessary?
  • How will they know when the policy is successful?

Next, we’ll look at how these questions can play out for other types of news stories: events, accidents, and discoveries.

Posted in citizen, culture, publishing, reading, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

report: new evidence for evolution, lack for intelligent design

Posted by contentgrrl on January 4, 2008

Yesterday, the National Academy of Science and its Institute of Medicine published a report, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, touting new fossil evidence for evolution and emphasizing that non-scientific creationist positions have no place in public school science classrooms.

The report emphasizes the need to teach evolution. That’s just in time for consideration by certain state education boards (including Florida and of course, Texas, which I’ve already mentioned in “teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world”) who are considering adding or adjusting standards for teaching evolution in their curriculum.

The book, which can be read online for free, also takes the stance that creationism and its repackaged intelligent design alternatives are not science, and thus should not be included in public science classrooms:

Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes. Many teachers are under considerable pressure … to downplay or eliminate the teaching of evolution. As a result, many U.S. students lack access to information and ideas that are both integral to modern science and essential for making informed, evidence-based decisions about their own lives and our collective future. …

…[T]he science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material. Teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses what constitutes science and what does not. [page 43]

The conclusion emphasizes that the science of biological evolution forms the basis for biomedical sciences, ecology, and some engineering fields that are profoundly important for the health and welfare of future generations.

Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future. (page 47)

Why can’t we all just get along? Because we — both fundamentalist and atheist, both anti-evolution and anti-creationism — say hurtful and defensive things that turn us away from each other.

In the Dover, Pa., case, duly appointed judge upheld the evidence presented by the plaintiff (Kitzmiller) to declare a certain school-board required statement promoting an Intelligent Design text unconstitutional. Afterward, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson said “to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God — you just rejected Him from your city.” It seems so unChristian and hateful of him. Just because Robertson didn’t agree with the results doesn’t mean that a loving God would retaliate against the faithful citizens of the town where the case took place.

And yes, I’ve heard my share of “infidels” discounting and insulting creationists. Them’s fightin’ words.
I for one am glad that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If parents and church thought leaders want somebody to teach intelligent design, something clearly the realm of religion, shouldn’t that be part of their Sunday School curriculum?

I found the story originally on beliefnet news, Importance of Teaching Evolution Noted. There is an interesting set of reader comments there. The Associated Press story also appears in Dallas Morning News.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world

Posted by contentgrrl on January 1, 2008

Promoters of Intelligent Design may get their wish in Texas, due to state education board appointments and an impending review this month of state-mandated science textbooks.

This week I was passed a Dallas Morning News editorial warning that the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in Dallas has been recommended to prepare graduate students online to teach Science in Texas.

DMN is usually a rather conservative paper, but this time they at least at first took a stance supporting the separation of church and state: “It’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

And then there was the closing call to respect faith: “It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

The ICR’s CEO wrote a letter to the editor defending his curriculum and calling into question whether the theory of evolution has been scientifically proven. But the ICR stands to gain tens of millions of tuition dollars from students around the world who want a Texas-certified master’s degree taught from a fundamentalist perspective.

An earlier story reported a Texas state board of education employee’s forced resignation, highlighting the tensions around “the first review of the science curriculum in a decade. …As one of the largest textbook purchasers, the state could dictate content across the nation.The agency hopes to fill the position in January, the same time review groups are set to begin meeting and examining each aspect of the science curriculum.”

President Bush has said he advocated teaching Intelligent Design in schools. His protégé Texas Gov. Perry appointed a Bryan, TX, dentist (who teaches Sunday School at a very conservative Bible Church) to the position of chairman of the state board of education, and Dr. McLeroy said he could support an addition that requires teaching the strengths and weaknesses specific to evolution.

Skeptics (including Science Avenger, Texas Citizens for Science, and Panda’s Thumb) think such a tactic of “teaching the controversy” is yet another repackaging of creationism and intelligent design.

Let’s take a look back to 2004, when the Dover, Pa., school board added this requirement to their curriculum, which sounds similar to what TX education board members are looking into:

Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.

That Dover school board also required a statement promoting a textbook on Intelligent Design be read to 9th grade students; dissenting board members resigned with frustration and teachers refused on the grounds that they did not believe the statement was true, so an administrator was called upon to do the reading.

In Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, the plaintiffs argued successfully that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, partly because its proponents did an obviously poor job of replacing the term in a draft of the proposed textbook, and was therefore unconstitutional in accordance with Edwards v. Aguillard. Nova had a documentary on this case recently.

But Teaching the Controversy could leave a big footprint. Once they can establish in the public’s mind that a controversy exists, then it would be much less controversial later to reintroduce intelligent design into public school curricula. Discovery Institute fellows have documented this reasoning and the new Texas state board chairman agrees. And if they establish this controversy in Texas, other states who buy from the same textbook publisher will follow suit.

At church this Sunday, one member asked, “If they add this to the public school’s current 180-day curriculum, then what will they have to take out? Will we have to sacrifice proven science for pseudoscience?”

At home, my husband asks, “Would you trust a doctor, who doesn’t believe in evolution, with the medical treatment of your children?” Well, squarely in the Bible belt, I am certain that many fundamentalists would flock to such doctors were they known.

On a Parenting forum, it brings up the question, “Who is the state board of education to circumvent my rights as a parent in indoctrinating my children on something that is clearly the realm of religion?”

In a more and more cosmopolitan population where more and more people come from different countries, heritages, and belief systems, I am vigilant to examine the sides in question, but I don’t see any scientific evidence on the part of intelligent design, only rhetoric that is either transparently offensive or vociferously defensive. It makes me watchful of steps that could lead a teacher or classmate to belittle, proselytize, harrass, or exclude my sons if they happen to offer an argument for evolution.

On Sept 17, 2007, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a report of American creationist efforts to influence European schools that concluded, “If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe…. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements… some advocates of creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.”

I hope the Texas education board will listen carefully to science educators and parents of all backgrounds during the comment period. I hope they don’t make a decision that will have to go to court when the money for that expense would be better spent elsewhere. Say, on research to cure disease or on organizations who help children get out of abusive families into safe and healthy environments.

Posted in citizen, culture, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »