Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life Update and a Special Birthday Greeting

First of all, I'm doing very well after my emergency gall bladder surgery February 2, and life is pretty much back to normal if a little more slow-paced than usual. I know gall bladder surgery is pretty common fare these days, but I've only every been sewn shut, not sliced open (stitches twice before kindergarten and one brief ER visit in college). So the past month has been a little traumatic for me. I'm really not used to feeling helpless and being so dependent on the kindness of others. Good thing others are generally very kind, and I was well taken care of by some truly amazing friends. Plus I got this awesome pair of socks.

My little brother in Hawaii also happened to have eye surgery exactly two weeks after my surgery, which meant we spent a lot of time on the phone together complaining about how tired we were, recommending movies and audiobooks to each other, and comparing notes on how Vicodin gives us both bad dreams. Why wallow in self-pity when you can wallow with someone you love?

By some small miracle, I was able to get the last of my grad school application material in the mail less than 24 hours before I ended up in the hospital. And I'm starting to hear back from them. I'm excited to say I'll be going to school again this year. I'm still not sure which program I'll commit to, but I'm blessed to have a choice as well as some scholarship offers to help in the decision making. If you would have told me even a year ago that I'd be excited to head back to the classroom, I would have laughed in your face. But now, I can't think of a place I'd rather be than studying children's literature and creative writing. So rather than talking about books and literacy only from experience, I'll have some credit to my name. I'm still not sure if that's a good thing.

One final note: today is a very special someone's birthday. And while it is indeed the birthday of George Washington, it is also my dearest friend's birthday.

Tammy (right) and our friend Yuri during a visit to Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home and plantation.

Tammy is my sister by choice, in part because she's the sweetest, most caring person I know. Though she lives 2,000 miles away, I feel her love and friendship every day. (I also miss her terribly every day.) Happy birthday, Tammy! May this year bring you joy and success and hopefully on a plane to see me. Also, your gift is in the mail but might be a couple days late because, you know, it's been a bit of a rough month.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

DCPD Called on Misleading DC Homicide Numbers

When one of my tutoring kids was shot and killed in November of 2010, I was devastated. And while Prince's killer was arrested and his case was closed fairly quickly, the homicide rates in DC continue to haunt me almost a year and a half later.

Shortly after Prince's death, I wrote about these statistics in detail in my post "More than a statistic". I took great pains in researching these numbers, going through DCPD's online records to collect the data and triple checking my math to make sure I hadn't made a mistake. And while the numbers were disconcerting, they were still a drastic improvement from years past. Those numbers broke my heart, and knowing that Prince was one of those numbers, well, that was just about unbearable.

So when I read an article in The Washington Post showing that the DCPD was messing with these numbers to make their closure rate look more impressive, I was furious. And to read those misleading numbers confirmed by Homicide Watch D.C., and online publication I have contributed to and followed since homicide touched my own life...I can't even express to you how that made me feel.

These misleading numbers belittle victims and their families. It makes the deaths seems trivial. It degrades and misrepresents the pain of the family and friends of the 43% of homicide victims that remain unsolved. And as for those active murder cases, they seem to not matter so much as long as cold cases from 20 years ago are being closed.

Don't get me wrong—the DCPD does great work. Murder rates continue to fall, and fall drastically. Even the "real" case closure rates are fairly impressive. They've also come a long way in improving relations with victims' families and the community in general. With things going so well, why do they feel the need to fudge the numbers? It only hurts us in the long run.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Mormon People

For such a large religious group with members all over the world, Mormonism is really a small community. So when I heard through the grapevine that my favorite local indie bookstore One More Page Books would host a book signing and Q&A about the latest historical analysis of my church, I wanted to be sure to be there. Matthew Bowman, author of The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, is a local congregant and religious historian, a combination sure to make for an interesting evening.

I showed up a little late because of other obligations, and I was shocked to see how full the bookstore was. I honestly expected to see mostly people I know from church and maybe a few curious patrons who decided to stay and see what all the fuss was about. Instead I found the store filled with people—mostly strangers with no ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—who had heard that a Mormon with a doctorate in American religious history from Georgetown University would be answering questions about the seemingly mysterious history of the Mormon church.

And Matt didn't disappoint. He answered every question thrown at him and was incredibly honest about the "middle class religion" that "changes more" than its members like to admit. He talked about the difference between secret and sacred temple worship and what the current GOP race might mean for the church. I appreciated Matt's perspective and look forward to reading his book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tour de Nerd Fighting Through the Ages

I attended the rock-star event of YA lit last month, and I've been excited to post about it ever since. So here it is: my thoughts on the Green Brothers' Tour de Nerd Fighting DC stop.

It was great to see so many teenagers excited to talk books and sing songs about science. Back in October 2008, I went to another John Green book signing, and at that time I thought the crowd was crazy, but let's look at a side-by-side comparison of the events.
October 2008
January 2012

Four years ago, Anderson's Bookshop, my hometown indie bookstore in Naperville, IL, was packed with about 200 people who come to the Chicago leg of John's first post-Brotherhood 2.0 book tour. I was amazed by the sheer number of people who couldn't wait to see their favorite vlog brother in person.

What a difference a few years and a few hundred internet videos can make. Thanks to the DC indie bookstore Politics and Prose, the ballroom at the Bethesda Hyatt Regency Hotel was filled to capacity with about 2,000 people. I kid you not, there were ticket scalpers in front of the hotel.

I sat in the second row of the book signing, where John read about black Santas and distorted perceptions of others. I even got a chance to chat with John earlier that day while he signed in-store copies of his book.

I showed up to event two hours early and had to wait in line even though I had ordered my book and ticket months in advance. And I still had a pretty crappy view of John reading about books based on video games and how death gives us perspective. That was as close as I got to John.

I brought my sister Gwen to the signing.

John brought his brother Hank to the signing.

Two vastly different experiences that really weren't that different at all. Both book signings celebrated reading and learning. Both events explored what makes the teenage years such a time of growth and self discovery. And both 2008 John Green and 2012 John Green really know how to get a crowd excited about books.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Unfortunate--yet funny--grammatical error

It's been a rough day, but when I saw this in my email, I couldn't help but laugh.

Yes, you are reading that as it was sent: "Grammar Girl's 101 Words Every High School Graduate Need to Know." A blatant grammatical error in a promotion for a grammar book. Luckily, the actual book and every other promotion I have seen for it has the correct subject/verb agreement.

I have great respect for the writers' organization that sent this email, and in all the years I have seen information from them, this is the worst error I have ever caught. I am also very familiar with Mignon Fogarty's work and know that she is a true grammar guru.

This just goes to show that even the best of us make silly mistakes when it comes to grammar. So don't be so hard on yourself or on others. Mistakes happen, people forgive and forget them, and we try our damnedest never to look so foolish again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting Back in the Game

I never expected my blog hiatus to last this long, but that's what happens when you get sick, end up in the ER, four days later go in for emergency surgery, and then have a bad reaction to the pain medication that leaves you with blurry vision and unable to read or write for almost a week. Yeah, so the past two weeks have been really exciting.

But thanks for some totally amazing friends and a whirlwind visit from my mom, I'm pretty much better now. No missing limbs, no adverse affects, only no gallbladder.

My grad school applications are all in now, so that has freed up some time and a lot of stress. Also, our big conference at work ended (thankfully a few hours before I started getting sick). And even coming into tax season isn't that big a deal for me as I have a fantastic taxman and only one more form to send him before everything's ready to file.

Spring is just around the corner, and I can't wait to get back in the game.