Various & Sundry, 2/17/10

Bits and pieces:

* You know, I haven’t been following the Olympics at all, because I don’t much actually care, but I have to say the Norwegian Olympic Curling Team’s pants deserve a medal. For something.

* I’m also delighted to discover that (for now, and in Florida) students are still allowed to criticize their teachers online, even if teachers are understandably exasperated at the possibility of Facebook pages dedicated to how much their students hate them. Welcome to free speech, folks. That said, someone probably should give Teh Kidz a primer on libel and defamation, since my crystal ball which sees the future sees some tightly-wound teacher or administrator suing a teen (or his/her parents) on that grounds — and given that some similar suits out there include pages where teens labeled their principals as pedophiles, not entirely unreasonably so. I also see Facebook/MySpace choosing to make a lot of deletions of such pages, if they don’t already, since their terms of service don’t really have to pay attention to that pesky First Amendment.

* I’ve been asked for an update on the SFWA elections, as I am running for president of that august institution. There’s not too much to tell at this point; the deadline for announcing official candidacies has passed, and both I and Mary Robinette Kowal (who is running for VP) are running unopposed. Someone could still decide to run against me or Mary, but they’d be running as a write-in candidate, which puts them at a bit of a disadvantage (trust me, I know). Beyond this the election process continues to lack drama, which again I think every SFWAn appreciates at this point. As I understand it the election ballots will be mailed in the next couple of weeks. So that’s what’s up with that.

* Athena has yet another snow day today, which frankly amazes me. This is how bad it’s gotten:

Me: Not counting last Friday, when was the last time you were actually in school?

Athena: Maybe the first or second of February? I don’t know. I don’t keep track of these things anymore.

And I’ll note last Friday was a reduced day, not a full day. I think it’s taking a toll on the school administrators as well; Krissy listened to the phone message from Bradford’s superintendent last night about yet another delay/cancellation, and said, “he just sounds totally defeated at this point.” Well, sure. At this point, every day canceled in February gets tacked on in June. He doesn’t want to be in school in June any more than the kids do.

It has an impact here as well, since it’s difficult to get a whole lot of writing done with an 11-year-old wandering around the house, demanding to be entertained. I downloaded Plants vs. Zombies on the iPod to keep her busy, but there’s only so far that goes. “Fortunately,” in the last week most of my work has involved dealing with various contracts and negotiations (none of which I can give you any details about but which aren’t actually that exciting so you’re not missing much). So at least my creative process, so as it is, has not been unduly disrupted. But, you know, sooner or later I’ll have to write something.

* Speaking of which, I have an AMC column to get to. Later.

58 thoughts on “Various & Sundry, 2/17/10

  1. Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair
    Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear

    When everybody’s marching in the fancy pants parade

    He’s gonna pass the test

    He’s gonna be the best

    The best in terms of pants!

  2. heh, yeaaaah. Those teachers must be on the raggedy edge by now. trying to figure out how in the hell they’re going to make their lesson plans, let alone reteach all the stuff from the weeks leading up to the “snow month” that the kids have forgotten by now.

  3. What does the SFWA president do? I have been to the website, but I am not an author so I don’t have any access to the inside information.

    Writers are all basically independent business owners so I am trying to figure out what the organization does besides

    1. provide essays, tips to new authors on how not to get scammed

    2. some info on publishing

    3. awards for best books,short stories.

  4. My niece had an entire week of school tacked on at the end last year, thanks to two weeks’ worth of snow days (they always have some cushion in their schedules in the snowy areas of the nation). It extra-sucked because it was her senior year of high school.

  5. I can sympathize with the school in June thing. Here in the suburbs of Boston we start school so late that our last day of school this year is June 25 IF there are NO snow days. Luckily we have dodged any snow days so far this year.

  6. That said, someone probably should give Teh Kidz a primer on libel and defamation

    Thanks for mentioning that free speech does NOT necessarily mean freedom from the consequences of what you say, write etc. It’s amazing how many people around out the 1st Ammendment as some kind of blanket “get out of libel/slander free” coverage.

  7. Will they really have to make up all the days? The kids here in VA have missed over 2 consecutive weeks of school due to snow also. However, there is apparently something in the law that says days missed during an official “state of emergency” can get a waiver and not be made up. I would imagine Ohio has something similar.

  8. Hey Mr. Scalzi: what are you doing giving your precious offspring something to waste time with? Give her something creative to do. Get a copy of Blender or something similar and let her start creating for fun, instead of sitting around waiting for things to happen.

    Or, I don’t know, see if you can interest her in writing. For fun.

    Active stuff. You know?

    Or you can teach her how to dye the cats pink using a slurry of cherry koolaid and a brush…

  9. I’m not advocating this but my parents were both in the Marine Corps and if either my brother or myself said we were bored, we were promised that they could come up with something for us to do like scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush. We became quite good at self entertainment after the promise of that sort of task.

  10. Here in upper New York we have a week of built-in snow days called Winter Break. It’s like Spring Break but two months earlier. Dumbest thing I ever saw. It means the school year starts the same time as Ohio’s but ends in the third week of June. Every year. The natives here love it and will viciously turn on anyone who suggests doing away with it, but this transplanted Buckeye would rather have the time off in June, when we can actually, you know, get out of the house.

    Plus we don’t get snow days unless there’s like carbon dioxide frost on the ground. Last winter our district tied the record for snow days in a school year – three.

  11. My cousin Boo down in southern WV has has her teen boys home 20 days due to snow this school year. School let out 12/18/09 for the holidays and did not reopen until 1/15/10. And there have been many snow days since. She is rethinking this whole parenting thing.

  12. These darn kids today, we NEVER had snow days. My current boss used to be on the school board and he said that they had such a hard time balancing cancelling school vs. a bunch of kids home alone and screwing with parents’ work schedule that they always hold school. If ONE person can get there they open the school.

    I think we got one when I was in high school and high winds blew out all the windows on the east side of the school, and there might have been one for an extended power outage but that was about it.

  13. John: I *envy* you the 11 year-old wandering around the house. I tried it with a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old … and got about 8 hours of work logged last week. And then counseled about how the company can’t charge the government if I don’t charge hours …

    MJBUtah: I spent seven years in German schools growing up. If the ‘housekeeper’ could get the front door open, you were expected to walk through it on schedule. And the Hausmeister lived on the school property, a few dozen meters from the front door …

  14. re: Plants vs. Zombies: expect to be hearing her singing “There are zombies on the lawn…” for the next several days now. *g*

    Seriously addictive game…

    That said, is there any school-type reading you could coerce her into doing to make the return to school a little less traumatic?

  15. I’m pretty sure Athena is getting a good education being in the house, too. Probably not the same education she would get in school, but I would suspect it’s of the same magnitude and usefulness.

    This “Don’t wanna be there in June” business, though… When I was a kid, school went until the very end of June. This was NYC public school. The last day of school would be like the 25th or something, possibly going a couple of days later if we’d had a lot of snow that year.

    I remember being thrilled when I started high school at a private school–the last day of classes was in early June, around the 10th or something. Wow, that was luxury!

  16. That said, someone probably should give Teh Kidz a primer on libel and defamation

    How about giving Teh Kidz a primer on not being massively entitled douche-baggies, and a course in how current cosmological thinking suggests that the universe does not actually revolve around them?

    Still, I do have to wonder if folks would have the same reaction if one or two of those “tightly wound” teachers started up Facebook groups with titles like ATHENA SCALZI IS THE WORSE STUDENT I’VE EVER TAUGHT, inviting other teachers to “express your feelings of hatred”?

  17. Craig – How about giving Teh Kidz a primer on not being massively entitled douche-baggies, and a course in how current cosmological thinking suggests that the universe does not actually revolve around them?

    I think parents (you know, our generation) are the ones to blame for that.

  18. Hawaii presently has the fewest school days in the nation by executive fiat; we have 170 because of mandated furlough days. We were getting roundly scolded by everyone from parents up to the Executive Branch because of it, including other states. How ’bout those snow days, guys?

    I know there’s a difference between stupidity as handed down from the state government and that other stuff which comes unavoidably from Mother Nature, but I have a tiny fragment of schaudenfreude pie which I am going to savor in my little corner over here.

  19. iain @ 6

    It’s amazing how many people around out the 1st Ammendment as some kind of blanket “get out of libel/slander free” coverage.

    Heck, some people seem to take it to mean that they don’t have to make any kind of logical sense. Sure, sure, you have a “right to your opinion”, but there’s nothing in the Constitution that says that anyone has to take your opinion seriously.

  20. When I was in high school in the late 70s in a Cleveland suburb, our superintendent lived in an 8th floor apartment. Except for the super-blizzards of ’77 & ’78, when we got 2 crummy days off each time, mostly due to power outages, we had no snow days. We figured that if the snow hadn’t come up to the level of his balcony, he figured we could go to school.

  21. Craig Ranapia @ 17

    Still, I do have to wonder if folks would have the same reaction if one or two of those “tightly wound” teachers started up Facebook groups with titles like ATHENA SCALZI IS THE WORSE STUDENT I’VE EVER TAUGHT, inviting other teachers to “express your feelings of hatred”?

    I think this would be a context where the distinction between “adult professional” and “adolescent” would be relevant.

    That said, a community near us is dealing with the aftermath of a high school student committing suicide, due at least in large part to concerted bullying, much of it online. It’s a particularly harsh way of learning that words can have real-world consequences.

  22. #17 This, but with less hyperbole…
    I have two teachers in my family, one junior school and one university, and both have been on the receiving end of very aggressive and unpleasant incidents with students. These students have a very overblown sense of entitlement, and are under the impression that, as the staff are paid to teach them, the staff should do their bidding.
    I, too, wonder what would have happened if the positions had been reversed. Would it be ‘free speech’, or would the teacher have been dismissed?

  23. #22 Bearpaw
    If you think that the ‘adult professional’ should not do this, how does the ‘adolescent’ learn how to behave as an adult should, if the court says she did no wrong?
    Will the court give her an age beyond which it is no longer acceptable?
    I freely accept my bias, but this case really bugs me. Once the girl got comments from her peers disagreeing with her she took it down, all this is being done to escape the consequences of her actions.

  24. Craig Ranapia:

    “Still, I do have to wonder if folks would have the same reaction if one or two of those ‘tightly wound’ teachers started up Facebook groups with titles like ATHENA SCALZI IS THE WORSE STUDENT I’VE EVER TAUGHT, inviting other teachers to ‘express your feelings of hatred’?”

    I personally would feel very sorry for that particular teacher, since after I pointed to the page on my site, the real fun would ensue.

    Beyond that, I do have general agreement that just because you are constitutionally able to do something doesn’t mean you should.

  25. HBO’s Real Sports did a piece on the US curling team. It was pretty funny (they made fun of them). Apparently curling is so popular in Canada that the guys who make the ice are famous.

    It is worth seeing if you have HBO.

  26. Well, if you can’t get any work done on the Novel while Athena is arround, maybe the two of you should write a short story together or something.

    I mean, given her snarky response to “what do you know about the war of 1812?” I’m guessing she’d make a decent co-auther by this point.

    Now that I think of it, better put her name first.

  27. I can’t feel your pain about missed school days because we NEVER have snow days. We did have one Fire Day when the Station Fire happened. That was not fun and kind of scary to watch in the mountains above LA.

    My teenage son put up a Facebook group in honor of his English teacher. It said something about the “isms” that his English teacher is always spouting. They even showed the page to the teacher who thought it was hilarious. I hope that other kids realize that teachers/administrators do look at this stuff. Even if it is protected speech, it still isn’t a good idea to make fun of a teacher, etc., etc. Things will come back to haunt you.

  28. @29: Fire Day? Ouch. I grew up in those mountains, and I remember a week of mud days in the February in the early 80s–mudslides had blocked the road.

    I also remember spending a lot of time filling sandbags when I was Athena’s age. Hmmm.

    Maybe all those snowbound kids should be building snow forts and such, rather than sitting inside playing computer games. With global warming, they may well be the last generation in a while to have the fun of playing in meter deep snow.

    Outside with the offspring!

  29. “I do have general agreement that just because you are constitutionally able to do something doesn’t mean you should.”

    I wholeheartedly agree. I would like to see the constitutional rights we have maintained, but I don’t necessarily want to use them.

  30. Josh Jasper@18:
    I think parents (you know, our generation) are the ones to blame for that.

    Certainly — I know one teacher who ended up getting her phone unlisted, because she was sick of being verbally harassed by parents who didn’t quite grasp that A grades had to be earned in her classroom
    .
    Bearpaw@22:
    I think this would be a context where the distinction between “adult professional” and “adolescent” would be relevant.

    Certainly — and I would expect teachers to be the grown-up part of the educational equation. God knows teachers have my mad respect for dealing with my quarterly allowance of b.s. on any given work day.

    But there’s also a relevant distinction between a toddler and a teenager. I certainly know 18 year-old kids who work — and have a grip on the idea that snide Facebook bitching is a less than constructive way to deal with work-related issues and frustrations.

    That pesky First Amendment guarantees “freedom of speech”, not that free speech is without consequence or limit. I certainly think that if any little twat-rag of a student of mine called me a paedophile, I’d be on their door step with the defamation suit of not at all loving correction.

  31. I grew up in MA, and we had snow days, but our district had guidelines for whether it’d only close the K-8 schools or all of them. Why the distinction, I don’t know. Depth of the drifts, maybe. One year, there was a blizzard so bad we were out for a solid week on top of the the others we were given for more standard thick snowfall. We would’ve been in school until July but for the superintendent waiving that. If Athena’s school doesn’t do that, they’re nuts.

  32. The site ratemyteachers.com is loaded with ratings of students by other students. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty harsh. The site says that if a parent or administrator notifies them of listings that are not teachers or administrators, they will take them down. I know there are a few student listings on the site for my kids’ school, but I haven’t had a chance to send a cleanup list yet.

    I recommend that parents keep an eye on such sites. That way you’ll be able to get a handle on what may be said about your child. Googling for your kids’ names occasionally is also a good idea.

  33. The pants are actually pretty good curling-rink camo. Makes it hard to see just where the guys are, against the white ice and the red and blue lines and walls…

  34. I’ve decided to run a write-in campaign for SFWA prez just to make sure Scalzi doesn’t let it go to his head.

    My platform:

    – I’m not even a member, so I can be completely objective.
    – I published a novel with an idiot in his garage, so I know about getting screwed as a writer.
    – I have watched every episode of Lost In Space, even the 1990’s movie. (Oh, the pain! The pain!)
    – I do not own a cat, so think of me as the hypoallergenic candidate.

    So please consider writing me in, won’t you? I might run SFWA into the ground, but I promise it’ll be fun to watch.

    (OK, let’s all have fun and mock the first person who doesn’t realize this is a joke.)

  35. Helen @ 26:

    #22 Bearpaw
    If you think that the ‘adult professional’ should not do this, how does the ‘adolescent’ learn how to behave as an adult should, if the court says she did no wrong?

    That would involve the important differences between right/wrong distinction and the legal/illegal distinction.

    For example: Courts don’t deal in right and wrong.

    Children learn about right and wrong from the people around them. Ideally, that would mostly be from their parent(s), but also from other people, including their teachers. For better and worse, everyone who spends a significant amount of time with a child is to some extent a role model for them. I gather that one of the many tricky things about parenting is to not just be a good role model, but to provide contexts for the examples that other people provide. Even when someone is providing an example of how not to behave. Maybe especially then.

    (Ob: I am neither a parent nor a teacher. So add salt to taste.)

  36. Craig Ranapia @ 36:

    Josh Jasper@18:
    I think parents (you know, our generation) are the ones to blame for that.

    Certainly — I know one teacher who ended up getting her phone unlisted, because she was sick of being verbally harassed by parents who didn’t quite grasp that A grades had to be earned in her classroom

    I think it’s worth noting that sort of thing is not a new phenomenon. It certainly happened at least once that I heard about when I was in school and my mom once related a similar incident when she was in school. Which puts it back before WWII. (My mom thanks you for not doing the arithmetic thankyouverymuch.)

    Maybe it’s more common these days, I don’t know. But I’m guessing Socrates had to put up with that shit too.

  37. The comment that having the right doesn’t mean that you are required to exercise it reminds me of the old joke that a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo, but wisely chooses not to.

  38. The Norwegians need to wear pants like that because they are so pale you would not be able to distinguish them from the ice they are on otherwise.

  39. @47: You sure it’s not an example of “The Boy Named Sue” syndrome? I mean, you wear pants like that, it’s gonna make you tough. Real tough.

  40. “That said, someone probably should give Teh Kidz a primer on libel and defamation”

    Can anyone help? What the hell is Teh? Surely it’s not; the ; as it seems to be, and if so, why?

    I’ve just finished reading “You’re Not Fooling Anyone…..” and there are two of these type of what I guess is text speak in there, and I cannot make sense of either of them – and it’s doing my head in.

    If anyone can help an old dinosaur out I’d appreciate it.

    Cheers

  41. I think it’s worth noting that sort of thing is not a new phenomenon.

    Probably not, but it’s rather difficult to take a historical perspective when you’re getting hysterical phone calls at ten in the evening. :)

  42. Thanks Vincent.

    I came to teh (ironic useage) internets late and use them primarily for purchases and information so these conventions escape me.

    I’m educated enough to know that languages evolve, (after all the English of Chaucer is not my English), but from my viewpoint it seems that it’s devolving – ok so maybe I invented a word for convenience.

    What starts as a humourous convention often become the norm – and god knows most people can’t spell as it is.

    Seems to me humans as a species are in dieback generally – if I was a writer I’d very much like to pursue that theory – controversial though it would no doubt be.

    -enough blathering from me; time to go home.

  43. Here in the UK we get half of July and all August off for summer hols, so being out of school in June sounds really different! Funnily enough, even for those six weeks we do get I hear the other parents complain about the disruption to their work, and cry aloud that six weeks holiday is far too long :D

    Me, I like having my kid at home :) But not everyone is in my situation, so it isn’t easy for a lot of people I guess.

  44. Croatia actually has a chequerboard on its flag, so its competitors have to wear a bi-coloured version of those pants in everything.

    With three colours, it begins to verge away from patriotism and towards comedy chef….

  45. No patriotic norwegian has ever worn anything like said pants. ‘Tis some kind of …joke? Anyway, they be getting medals day after tomorrow, for being bloody good curlers. :)

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