SNHU Snafu

I always call out that one stupid SNHU commercial where a guy giving a commencement address says the world distributes talent equally but not opportunity, because he has it exactly backwards. Or at best, people can reasonably disagree about the opportunity part, but talent has never been distributed equally in THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF BIOLOGY. Talent simply does not work that way. So that commercial always rubbed me the wrong way, just for that stupid line. I just found out, though, that SNHU has been playing limbo with a very low bar.

Just recently, they had to fire—they said “replace”—an adjunct sociology professor for not knowing, and doubling down on her ignorance of, a basic geography fact everyone learns in third grade. Let’s play a little quiz.

Ready?

Is Australia a continent or a country?

If you didn’t answer “both”, then it’s time to go back to third grade.

A student in this professor’s online class did an assignment that involved comparing the US to another country, and the student chose to look at social media in Australia. The professor said Australia is a continent, not a country.

The student, having remembered something from third grade, fourth grade, all the other grades, news, movies, major events like the Olympics, or the bajillion other places anyone could have picked up this fact, tried to correct her professor. She even went so far as to send a link to the Australian government’s website. The professor was adamant, until finally somehow or other they had to learn something and upgraded the student’s paper to a B+.

Seriously? This isn’t just common knowledge, it’s beyond common knowledge. Like, there are sofas that know Australia is both a country and a continent. Never mind that any moron could simply go to Wikipedia, or Google, and confirm in literally one second that Australia is a country. But how anyone can go through life not knowing this, and yet land a job as a teacher, especially in a field that requires a good knowledge of geography, is mind-blowing.

This is equivalent to a math teacher not knowing that 8 is a thing. This hypothetical math teacher is handing out assignments in algebra, or maybe trigonometry, and yet when confronted with the digit 8 they go blank. It’s impossible to imagine the path from point A to point B that could let them skip over that piece.

Granted, sociology is one of the softest of soft sciences and most of its courses have the intellectual rigor of a Teletubbies episode written by Kim Kardashian, but hoo boy. How did this person even graduate high school, let alone go through years of academic BS to get a degree that undoubtedly SNHU requires before they can teach anyone, even as an adjunct? I don’t even know how it’s possible for any grown-ass adult to go out into the world and go through daily life without knowing this fact; not in the modern era. So how do you manage to be so completely ignorant your brain has to be actively throwing knowledge out by the bucket-load on an hourly basis—or spewing a powerful fountain of anti-knowledge as it were—yet clear the multiple hurdles it takes to get hired as a teacher?

To SNHU’s credit, they’re refunding the student’s tuition for the course, and that teacher has been, as I mentioned, “replaced”. Good first steps.

This reminds me of a little story. Back in the ’80s, my cousin was in grade school, and she scored perfectly on a math test. Her teacher didn’t give her the full grade, because she “didn’t know her students well enough yet”. I don’t think the teacher was ever flogged for that, but in a better world they would have been, and in a perfect world they would never have been hired.

SNHU now has a job to do. It’s time for them to go through and look critically at each and every one of the professors they’ve hired, because somehow this bozo made it through the filter. If one did, others might have, and that’s a credibility problem they’d better lock down.

Because talent, in fact, is not distributed equally.

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Pointless controversy: Mr. Brightside isn’t the best Killers song

Another meme from my meme-happy cousin today listed a bunch of songs that “white people” seem to always jam to. Lots of good entries were in that list, and some really questionable ones too even though they were all well-known songs, but one in particular got my goat: That’s Mr. Brightside by the Killers.

Look, let’s settle this once and for all. Mr. Brightside isn’t a very good song. It’s hard to sing along to. It isn’t nearly as fun as it should be. It’s whiny. You know what’s a much better, million times better song by the very same band? Somebody Told Me.

Somebody Told Me has intensity. It has flow. It has awesome percussion. The lyrics are more fun. When you sing to it you get to try to modulate a half-scream at the end. You can’t hear that song and not jam to it. (Disclosure: I am a “white people”.)

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How not to count school shootings

This isn’t a political post, I promise. In this post I am not making any policy suggestions or anything of the sort, nor saying one side or the other is right in the great big gun control debate. This post is about honesty.

If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably already seen memes saying we’ve had 18 school shootings so far this year. What you may not have seen were several articles—including in the Washington Post—pointing out how that statistic is completely bogus. Hopefully you knew that already, since we have in fact had only one of those tragedies so far this year, and that’s blindingly obvious just by the news coverage.

The fake stat actually comes from an advocacy group called Everytown for Gun Safety, co-founded by billionaire former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, and they reach that ridiculous number of 18 by counting basically any incident involving a firearm discharge at a school as a school shooting. This includes accidental discharge and isolated acts of violence. It also includes suicides, like one outside of a school that had been closed for seven months (the group rescinded that one after the WaPo article came out), and cases where shots were fired when there was nobody around to get hurt.

Right off the bat you, the person whose intelligence and good taste led you to my blog, can see why this is dishonest: When Jane Public hears the phrase “school shooting”, she pictures a horrific event like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, where someone deliberately orchestrated as much death as possible and in fact never had a specific target, just a desire to get attention like the whores they are by murdering many innocents. That’s what everyone pictures when they, WE, hear that term. Everytown for Gun Safety knows this, which is why they’re a bunch of craven liars. You can’t twist the truth that far and call it anything else but a lie.

I saw a similar stat tonight on a video suggesting there have been 200 school shootings since 2013. Dollars to donuts it came from the same bonehead group, because no there have frelling not been 200 school shootings in the last five years. Common sense says that’s ridiculous. How many have there been? I don’t know the real number, but if it’s far from a dozen I’d be gobsmacked.

It bothers me that idiotic stats that so obviously don’t pass the sniff test can go viral like that, because nobody bothers to be the least bit skeptical about them. But that’s not the real reason for this rant.

One of my cousins likes to post a lot of memes, and doesn’t really do political posts at all. He did post one of the articles debunking the 18 figure. And then one of his friends went on a tirade about how not counting all those other incidents used to inflate the stat is somehow wrong, and that people trying to set the record straight are evil and also stupid. I’m calling out that friend of his, but not by name. For the purposes of this rant I’m going to call her Ditzy McTrampstamp.

Ditzy, the aftermath of a mass shooting, especially in a school, is always a politically volatile time. Emotions are up, people are outraged, and we want justice. There’s no justice to be had, because often the shooter kills himself, and even when we catch them and find them guilty in a court of law the 8th Amendment is still a thing. (I’m not saying ditch the 8th, but that there’s really nothing approaching real justice for the likes of a school shooter.) The point is people are angry, people want change, and lots of people vehemently disagree on how to change things. This is not the time, Ditzy McTrampstamp, to inject deliberately misleading statistics.

In fact there is no justifiable time to inject deliberately misleading statistics, Ditzy! If a figure has been discredited, and you use it even knowing that, you’re a liar. Everytown for Gun Safety is knowingly counting incidents that by no means fit the colloquial definition of “school shooting”, but pretending they can make the term mean whatever they want it to mean. I have no comment here on their politics, only the dishonest means by which they pursue their goals. It’s disgusting, it’s wrong, and anyone who supports that kind of flagrant dishonesty—on any side!—is an asshole. I’m not even talking about massaging stats or cherry picking or anything like that, the everyday sort of stat-bending that everyone does. This is literally redefining a term with no justification whatsoever, knowing that the people who hear it actually know and accept a very different definition.

But that being said, Ditzy McTrampstamp, that doesn’t mean cases of accidental firearm discharge in schools are okay. That doesn’t mean individual acts of violence are okay. It doesn’t mean calling attention to those cases is a bad thing. But calling them school shootings when they’re not, especially for shock value, is flagrantly wrong.

In other words, Ditzy, you can share or disavow the politics and concerns of any group you like, and no one can fault you for having an opinion. You can be outraged about every single incident that got lumped into or left out of a bogus stat, and you have every right to that. But you cannot defend a statistic you know is deliberately misleading just because those wrongly included/excluded cases still matter in a different, or broader, context. Call those things what they are and deal with them on honest terms, or shut up.

Everytown for Gun Safety defends their inane deception by claiming that any such incident at a school erodes the public sense of safety in our schools. There’s nothing wrong with taking that position if they label their stats correctly. If they called their tally a “gun discharge incident at a school” tally instead of a “school shooting” tally, that would be honest. (Although they’d still have to exclude the case of a guy killing himself outside a school that had been closed for months, because come on.) If they want to say all cases of a gun being fired in or around a school are bad, even if those incidents happen to be legal ones like a justified shooting (e.g., self defense, police action), that’s an opinion and they have the right to hold it and to persuade others to their side.

But whatever persuasion they choose ought to be the truth, or at least something reasonably close to it if you squint. By choosing a term they know the public will interpret differently because everybody does, and using that to inflate the actual number by a couple orders of magnitude, they’re being intentionally and egregiously deceitful. That should not go unremarked. Just because an incident happened at a school and a gun went off does not make it a “school shooting”, because they know as well as you do that the term really means something much more specific.

It would be every bit as honest to say there are millions of “public hangings” in the US every December by counting wreaths hung on on municipal street lamps. As I write, literally billions of human beings are “dying”—which is to say, every single member of the human race is on an inexorable march towards death, even if that death is many decades away. But we all know that “public hanging” and “dying” mean something else. Does dinging a door in a parking lot count towards car accident statistics? It should be counted for some kind of stat, just for insurance purposes, but I think we can all agree the term “car accident” means at least one car is in motion and hits something it isn’t supposed to, and it isn’t even necessarily always an accident.

So no, Ditzy McTrampstamp, you don’t get to get all in a huff to defend this honor of this thoroughly indefensible and dishonorable stat, after you’ve seen for yourself that it’s a lie. “It’s a lie but it’s still important to call attention to these other cases so we should repeat it anyway” is not a tenable position, and either you know that or you’re too stupid to justify using oxygen. Regardless of where you fall politically, regardless of where the people who put it out into the world fall politically, you have no excuse whatsoever for supporting a stat you know is breathtakingly untrue. Support or oppose whatever position you want, but whatever you do, stand for the truth. Asshat.

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Sequel cover reveal


My new cover is ready!

Well, it’s ready except for figuring out the spine and adding the back cover text. I have the image setup with sufficient spine width and bleed, but it can’t be finalized until the text is finalized, and that won’t happen until after my beta readers get back to me. But right now I have the cover components basically all in place, I have a blurb ready to go, and so it’s just down to editing and formatting at this point—and most of the formatting is done, except for some final typography concerns that will be done via a macro at the very last minute.

With the cover ready I’ve gone ahead and added it to my sidebar, and added a book page for it that you can read in the menu above. The Well of Moments is the second book in what is now the Paranormal Curio series, which began with The Affix. Fans of the first book will be pleased to see a number of familiar faces, and even some familiar artifacts. This story continues the frenetic format from the first book by introducing new villains and even more new artifacts that might come into play in a future book—although not quite as many villains as the first book, because that was a lot. Once again we’re bending genres, making this another low/urban/contemporary sci-fantasy paranormal semi-thriller.

I’m already juggling some ideas for a third book in the series, that I’d like to tackle in November.

My plan for this currently is to temporarily make The Affix free when the sequel launches, and likely start the sequel off at a discount.

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The evolution of Valentine’s Day

When I was a kid, I remember Valentine’s Day as a weird interlude between Christmas and Easter. February was always miserable and cold with nothing much else going on, except President’s Day which was a precious day off of school. But V-Day was sort of this innocuous goofy love-themed holiday that had no meaning to me as a kid beyond the candy involved. We’d get a bunch of little cards with puns and sign them for all our classmates, maybe including a little piece of candy there.

But what really stood out to me was not the school stuff but the home stuff. Typically my sister and I would either be the recipients of a box of candy message hearts or we’d have some in a candy dish at home, or my mom would throw a family party and we’d have a bunch of candy hearts there and then a bunch leftover. And every year my mom made a two-layer chocolate heart cake with pink buttercream frosting.

These days I don’t have the same tolerance for sweets I used to, which is a good thing, although I still look wistfully at the candy hearts and think I’d love to eat like three or four of them and no more.

The cake eventually stopped being a thing as I went into adulthood, and that was just one of many reasons the holiday turned ugly for a while. Once you reach an age where the whole love theme of the holiday matters, enduring it while single is a gut punch—unless you’re really cool with where you’re at on that score, and I was not. Throw in a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder when your whole outlook on winter has changed from where it used to be as a kid, and it only gets worse. Suddenly the whole day is about reminding you you’re alone, it’s slushy and cold so there’s nothing to do and even if there was you’d have to go outside in that crap, and football season is over so you don’t even have that as a distraction to fall back on.

But now I’m married, and this will be our 11th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple; but we were together a few years even before that. These days the holiday is defanged, but at the same time we don’t actually do anything special for it ourselves. The first year we were married we tried to do the whole card thing at least, but we both got a horrendous mini-flu that took us completely out of commission for a week and had to get crappy cards at the last minute, which we then promptly forgot to give each other. A few times we’ve gone out to eat, but waiting three hours to be seated gets old really fast, so these days that isn’t so much a priority for us either.

We’re pretty boring about the holiday, actually, and that’s okay. As long as it’s not an object of dread, I’m cool with it. So we low-key it and life goes on, and maybe I’ll buy some cherry gummy hearts if I see them, even though I probably won’t get through the whole package.

But the main point of all this reminiscence, the thing most on my mind right now, is that I could seriously go for a slice of double-layer chocolate heart cake.

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Back aboard the sick train?

This has sure been a fun month-and-change.

At the New Year’s party I caught a cold, which promptly hit me three days later. I tried keeping on top of it at first, using vitamin C and garlic and everything else I could throw at it, but the stupid thing got bad a couple days later and I ended up having a lousy weekend followed by a cough after the congestion went straight to my chest.

And it stayed there, a vicious, persistent bout of chest congestion that would not go away for anything. It was the worst at night, severely impacting my sleep to the point where I went through a lot of the month zombified. I finally went to see my doctor last week—good gads, that was only a week ago?—and he prescribed prednisone to help me get past it by blocking inflammation. The pred worked wonders pretty quickly and I could breathe again.

Then I get a call a couple days later: my potassium is inexplicably low, this in spite of the fact that I’m on medication that should have the opposite effect, so he prescribed a supplement. I started taking that.

Two things promptly happened. First, on Friday my wife had a scratchy throat and developed some congestion in her chest that night, although she never caught the cold I had and this was now more than three weeks later. She had a fever the next day so we went to urgent care. She tested negative for the flu, but because it’s often a false negative that early on they gave her Tamiflu—and on that she’s had a bit of success, which makes me think she does indeed have the flu. This is a bad enough thing for her, but it’s also bad news for me, a high-risk individual who not only just got over a bad cold but is still on a steroid that depresses the immune system. So my doctor put me on a preventative course of Tamiflu too, thank goodness. (I had the flu shot back in October, but fat lot of good that’s done anybody this year. Some years are like that.)

The other major thing that happened was a complete shock. Sunday night after the Superbowl, lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep, I couldn’t fall asleep at all because I had thin, watery saliva trying to sneak down the back of my throat all night. In fact my whole mouth was incredibly wet, which was odd because if anything I’m used to having the exact opposite problem. Falling asleep was darn near impossible without feeling like I was drowning. My mouth felt a little moister the night before, too, so I thought: the most likely culprit has to be the potassium. So my doctor took me off that and told me to try supplementing via diet, but last night I still had this hypersalivation going on. Today I felt different, so hopefully that’s finally behind me—I’ll find out very shortly.

But then there’s today. I woke up with my sinuses a wreck, and part of the reason, I expect, was that I finally used my neti pot yesterday after putting it off, with the goal of trying to flush out some lingering gunk that stayed behind after the cold. I felt maybe the sinus trouble was a contributor to the hypersalivation. Anyway, massive sinus headache today and everything is a wreck up there, but also my throat feels a little bit scratchy and my breathing feels wrong and if I’m being honest with myself, this feels like a new cold not quite catching on.

To make a long story longer, but bring it to a point, I think I might be on the cusp of the flu. With any luck, and a lot of prayer, I hope if that’s the case that having started Tamiflu early will let me ride it out at this level and no worse. If I can avoid developing another debilitating bout of chest congestion for another few years or so, or fifty, that’d be swell.

But the Patriots lost, so there’s that.

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Nice try, Redmond

The Windows lock screen tells me helpfully that: “Microsoft Edge is now available for your Android devices.”

Oh, bless your hearts. That’s adorable.

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