Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Call to Action - No More Death

Dear members of the black community,

I am so sorry. I weep with you today. I see the body lying in the street from the comfort of my home and I know I will never feel your pain. But I can hold your hand as you cry.

I write to you today sitting in a room of white bodies. I look around and I wonder who amongst these people knows that a man was murdered yesterday. How many saw the video? Had any of them used one of those lines while talking amongst friends?

-Well, he should have cooperated.

-Blacks kill more blacks than police.

-They commit 70% of violent crimes, what do they expect?

It makes me sick when I see it. It hurts even worse when it’s someone I know: a family member, a friend. My twitter feed is full of voices of color and writers and people who care. It’s a safe space in that I can attack any stranger who posts racist, anti-Semitic, disgusting things.

Facebook is not so friendly. That’s where my family resides. My racist, homophobic, #bluelivesmatter family. Every day they’re there. And when they are blatant in their vitriol, I call them out. Calling out the daily micro-aggressions is harder.

I share, I write, I try to educate, but it’s hard to fit anything in a cup filled with tRump.

And my family full of Republicans, those gleeful tRump supporters you see on TV and wonder huh?, they know better than to bring anything up in my presence. At a birthday party, I could tell they all walked on eggshells around me. When someone would bring up something mildly political they would look at each other in a silent, don’t bring it up or the liberal will start whining in her SJW voice.

While that means I had the peace of not listening to their bile, I also did nothing. I left the room of proud, gun-toting Mericans to continue in their hateful ways. And whenever I see the story of another black man murdered at the hands of police, I see their faces. I hear their voices in the press, in the fox news commentators. I read their words in every stupid twitter justification.

It only furthers my resolve.

White people, I’m talking to you now. We can do better. We can take part of the load. When you see the racism, call it out. When you see hate justified, correct with the facts. Get educated and get vocal.

We owe it to humanity. These aren’t just black bodies in the streets, that’s a human, a brother, a father, a son, a husband. Weep, pray, and then use your voice.

And for the love of it all, get out there on November 8th and vote. Because while you may think that Hillary has her share of problems, and she does, the other option only exacerbates the hate, the violence, the deplorables. Don’t let our community fall prey to it. Keep hope alive. You can make a difference.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Statistics Fun!

Yea! Let's have some statistics fun!

fun theme park skipping happy amusement park

What? There's no such thing? Well, that's probably true, but let's give it a whirl anyway.

Let me start out by saying I'm not a statistician. That takes more school and math than I am willing to do, but research and statistics cover most my background and I get paid to make meaning of globs of data, so let's pretend like I'm qualified.

Meaningful statistics are a combination of three components. If any of said components is lacking, your statistics are bullshit. Which I would say 90% of statistics people tout on the Internet are bullshit. See that made up number? It's not real, but it feels real so you want to believe it. Stop doing that.

First, we need a good data sources. Trust nothing that could have an alternative agenda or is a biased organization for raw data sets. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please check out any guns and ammo magazine or pro-life website. If they're gathering data themselves, it's probably wrong. Data collected from the Department of Justice or National Health Organization, those are real data sources; Department of Police Services or Organization for Healthy Living may not. Beware of real-sounding organizations that are just propaganda machines because they are very good at creating names that sound legitimate.


Second, is what's being tested the real data. Wait, I'm asking you to check the data? Yes, because pulling up shit results in shit statistics. If we're looking at the percent of Chipotle burritos with salmonella, it doesn’t make any sense to pull the results of the taco shells. Yes, someone is shitting somewhere, but the taco data doesn’t tell us if the burrito was to blame.

And finally, the data needs to be interpreted properly. I mean, you can’t run a chi-squared test if you’re comparing two separate populations. That would just be ridiculous.

What? Too technical?

How about you can’t say more puppies were adopted than kittens this month because 60% of the puppies were adopted. I mean 60% is obviously more than half, but that isn’t what the statistic is telling us. This goes back to the data set. If we have 100 kittens and only 50 puppies, then 60% of puppies being adopted is 30 puppies adopted. And 40% of kittens being adopted is 40 kittens. More kittens were adopted than puppies even though the statistic made it sound the other way.

fun roller coaster roller coaster

What am I trying to get at here? Don’t trust all the statistics you read. Do your research before you re-quote something, even if it proves your point. Especially if a politician is using it. And stop flinging around bad statistics to back up your bad ideals. To misquote the immortal John Oliver, “Don’t bring feelings to a fact fight.”*

Thank you to Giphy.com for the use of their gifs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Critique: It's not as scary as you think

It’s been nine months or so since I’ve last posted. So much has happened in that time—good, bad, scary, amazing. And yet what brought me back to the blog was none of it. I’ll save all that for another time.

Today I want to talk to you about a very serious issue. Something every writer needs in their arsenal if they want to be read.


New Girl scared scream screaming nick miller

Stay with me now. I know to some people it’s a four letter word that sends your writing soul curling up in the fetal position. It was for me too, at one point…

Lately I’ve been seeing too much backlash when it comes to the critique. I get it, it’s hard to listen as someone tears apart your sweet written baby. They don’t understand, they haven’t worked on it for hours upon weeks upon years. You know everything about your world and the story, they don’t know anything. Idiots.
angry work archer office frustrated
And that’s the point.

If you want other people to read your work, then you need to open your ears to them.

I’m going to share a little of my own pain. I don’t know if it will help, but misery loves company. There are three critiques that have stuck with me, critiques I will never forget, as they have shaped my critique receiving behavior forever.

When I finished my baby MS, I had bright doe eyes, ready to share with the world and hear what others thought about it. I tried different online forums with mixed results. The truth was, the anonymity and mean-spiritedness of online didn't work for me. So I searched on meetup.com and found I found a critique group in my local area.

They first time I walked in the door of that Starbucks, I wanted to throw up. Surely these were Craigslist kidnappers who murdered people showing up to their "writer's group." To my surprise, none of them seemed the kidnap/murder-y type and I actually felt a little at home with the eclectic group.

They were welcoming, but the leader made it clear from the beginning: we aren’t here to critique sandwich you with fluffy happy stuff. We’re here to work. And as scary as that sounds, I appreciated the honesty. So I put up my first piece and  braced myself for my first real critique.

It was brutal. To my never ending embarrassment, I didn't know how to properly use quotations, I committed so many commatrocities I thought I would be jailed by the grammar police, and I used the phrase "magically delicious".
frozen elsa let it go

But I learned, and I kept submitted. I won't lie, I usually had a drink beforehand because it took some of the sting off. But I kept at it and I got a little better each time.

Then one day during my critique I heard these words, "You've got a problem, and it's a big, fucking problem."

I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. It was happening all over again. I shouldn't be a writer, I was a pathetic impersonator. Every horrible thought that writers think, I went through in the moments and hours and days after.

hen I felt less vulnerable I read the piece. You know, he was right. Everything they said was right.

After that moment I started listening more. And I learned some very important things. Not just about the pieces being critiqued, but how attitude can make or break you.
ron swanson nick offerman headphones listening
Don't argue and say, "Well, if you get to the next chapter then it'll be explained." Because the truth is, if someone reads it and it doesn't make sense, then it doesn't make sense. If you want to be read, then you have to appreciate reader feedback.

Not everything in critique is perfect, and sometimes different people will argue over if it fits in the piece or not. But it's your job as the author to review that section with a critical eye and decide if it needs fixing. Don't dismiss your critics just because your ego is too soft. Open your mind and your writing will thrive.