Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back: 2009

In keeping with the spirit of reflection, here are some thoughts about events and people who made headlines in 2009.

Trashing of Barack Obama

The President of the United States is a public servant. Therefore, he's subject to scrutiny from supporters and opponents alike. But, during his first months in office, criticism of his policies and performance seemed to come fast and furious. Comments, from some quarters, seemed tinged with ridicule and racism. He could do no right. He was described as aloof, devious, wishy-washy, less charismatic (than on the campaign trail), un-American, and untrustworthy.

Political commentators, mostly conservative, assailed him for going on a date with Michelle, promoting "socialism," not stemming the loss of jobs, creating the bailout for corporations, waffling about sending troops to Afghanistan, pushing through a health care bill on the down-low, and not being presidential, and for getting (accepting?) the Nobel Peace Prize. It will be interesting to see how historians assess his presidency. My suggestion to the Prez: Keep doing what you and your advisers think best for the country.

Michael Jackson

We're a nation of addicts--for food, prescription drugs, alcohol, porn, "reality" TV, and violence in its many forms--from movies and video games.

Yet, revelations of Michael Jackson's use of drugs--for whatever reasons--seemed to bring out finger-pointers and head-shakers even before autopsy results were in.

Entertainment "news" shows featured pop commentators ( most of whom had no dealings with Michael) who reveled in expressing unfounded opinions.

Then, the City of Los Angeles, demanded that the Jackson family repay costs for the public memorial. Shouldn't this issue have been decided prior to assigning police and other personnel for that day?

Whatever his faults, Jackson has a worldwide fan base. His music continues to cross cultures and generations. Rest in peace, Michael.

A Star is Born

What a joy to see watch Gabourey "Gabe" Sidibe enjoy fame. She's got a bubbly personality and a dazzling smile. Most important, she defies all the stereotypes about fat, black women. Beauty comes in all sizes. And in a culture where thin-to-skinny women are idolized, it's a pleasure to see her hold her own.

Lady Michelle

Our First Lady continues to be popular with the American public. She's a fashion trend-setter, a hands-on mom, and active in a variety of causes, especially support for military families. She garners much positive publicity for the White House. Hail to the Lady-in-Chief!

Afghanistan War

Since my nephew is about to be deployed to Afghanistan, I've paid closer attention to the news accounts of what we face in that complex country. Our battles in this century involve fighting non-traditional enemies on foreign, often brutal, turf. Our effectiveness depends on a knowledge of countries and the cultures in addition to military might. Whatever it takes, let's hope our troops come home as scheduled. Not a sure thing according to some experts.

Health Care Debate

I've listened to both sides of the health care debate and am not impressed with how either opponents or proponents presented their cases. The plan (s) were discussed in terms that meant nothing to most of those I talked to. Both sides talked mostly about costs but offered no examples of how providing health insurance to the uninsured would raise (or maintain) premiums costs, harm (or preserve) doctor-patient relations, take away from (or leave intact) Medicare, increase (or decrease) costs for businesses.

There's been a lot of bombast and name-calling but no easy-to-understand explanation of each side's views. I hope Congress does pass a health care bill to provide a safety net for most Americans. Perhaps, the emphasis should be on preventive care as a way to contain medical costs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

About Gabe...and Me



Go, Gabe!
Life couldn't be better for Gabourey "Gabe" Sidibe, one of the stars of the much-touted movie, "Precious" based on "Push" by Sapphire (more on this sister in a later blog).

In an electrifying novel, a black street girl, sixteen years old and pregnant, again, with her father's child, speaks. In a voice that shakes us by its language, its story, and its unflinching honesty, Precious Jones records her journey up from Harlem's lowest depths... For Precious, miraculously, hope appears and the world begins to open up when a courageous black woman - a teacher hellbent to teach - bullies, cajoles, and inspires her to learn to read, to define her own feelings and set them down in a diary: to discover the truth of her life.
Black women have many stories to tell.

We live in separate universes from black men and the rest of society. We are so busy holding our families together that taking care of ourselves is a luxury we don't think we can afford.

"Precious" reminds us that we have value--no matter how damaged, how overworked, how ignored, how out of shape, or how underpaid.

Congrats, Gabe on your Golden Globe nomination.


My Gratitude List

Despite not knowing who will ever read these words, I want to shout to the world all the things I'm grateful for:

My faith (weak at times, but enduring).

My children (Darryl, Dee Dee, "Pchez," and Damon (who give my life meaning).

My grandchildren and great grandchildren (who keep me involved in your lives).

My family (living and dead, whose love and support make my life possible).

My mom, "Grandma Kitty", who supports and encourages me in my endeavors

My sister, Terri, and niece Kimberly.

My gifts and talents (too numerous to mention--just joking!).

My ability to survive tough life situations.

Our President Barack Obama(who's breaking rules, dodging harsh critics, but staying the course).

Our First Lady Michelle (who's smashed the stereotypes about what black women can do).

My mental and physical health.

New (refurbished) goals for 2010.

Rose, a lifelong BFF.

My cats--Rani and Pom-Pom.

Having worked with and met talented and inspiring writers--Bob Collazo, Tom Robbins, Kai Wright, Julia Lobbia, Peter Noel, Dennis Moore, Jennifer Gonnerman, Kemba Johnson, Adamma Ince, Chisun Lee, Joanna Haugen, and countless others.

A sense of humor that helps me laugh at the realities of getting older.

I know that you have a gratitude list. Leave me a comment about what you're grateful for.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Anti-Social Services

Personally and professionally, I've had occasion to deal with social services agencies in New York County and Clark County (Nevada).

There are similarities in how they handle applications and disburse public monies, which, too often, entail loss of clients' paperwork, rude or apathetic case workers, arbitrary (or incorrect decisions) about eligibility, and too-frequent re-certification (when all documentation is re-submitted).

Some examples:

  • While working as temporary case manager for a private shelter provider in New York City, I received a long list of numbers for welfare agency heads and personnel who, presumably, could provide quick access to information about policies and procedures. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I'd get a mailbox too full to accept messages, no answer, or routed to voice mail. Rarely, if ever, did anyone return my calls.

  • A pregnant mother of two hand-delivered an application, but later is informed that it's lost and she needs to re-file. Meanwhile, she's cut off from services.

  • Another mother with a sick newborn missed an appointment because of a NYC snowstorm. The worker asks if she took her baby to a doctor. She says,"no" because the weather had been too bad. Nonetheless, she's told to provide medical documentation. As case manager, I offered to vouch that she had been at the shelter with her child on the day in question. Not good enough. Without a doctor's note, she was cut off from services.

  • One NYC housing assistance program for homeless families (now defunct) required applicants to be on public assistance. One mother, a college graduate who worked, but who was in shelter because of domestic violence, balked at leaving her job and going on welfare. She was denied housing.

In addition to bureaucratic intransigence, social service offices generally are bereft of any decorative touches of warmth and send the message, "We don't think you're worth better."

Ironically, middle-class Americans, who oftentimes view welfare recipients as unwilling to work, uneducated, or opportunistic, eagerly accept government handouts for mortgage assistance and cash for "clunkers." They don't view themselves as taking advantage of the system but entitled to help.

What a difference a recession makes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Ramblings

Should We Be Afraid?

Remember the post-9/11 anthrax attacks of September and October 2001 that killed five Americans?

Well, according to investigative journalists, Bob Coen and Eric Nadler, co-authors of Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail, the issue of an anthrax threat has not gone away, just gone unnoticed by the media and the public.

In the summer, of 2008, Bruce Ivins, a long-time civilian researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID) at Fort Detrick reportedly took an overdose of Tylenol with codeine. He died in the hospital two days later.

Eight days later, the FBI said that it had been about to arrest Ivins, the object of its seven-year investigation. Controversy ensued, with both Congress and scientists asking to see hard evidence of his guilt.

Therein, lies the basis for this book. It's a real eye-opener (and unnerving to learn how unregulated the sharing of biochemical products is among the world's scientists).

Coen and Nadler also probe the "mysterious deaths of some of the world's leading germ war scientists in the wake of 9/11."

Not a book for the fainthearted.

Hit the Ground Running

Time to cut the BS. Here are my professional goals for 2010:

  • Complete manuscript of my memoir Wind Beneath My Wings.
  • Get an agent or publisher.
  • Promote my new website for families of inmates--Inside/Out.
  • Get some (well-paying) writing gigs--both online and in print.
  • Rev up promotion efforts for various projects.
  • Work on two novels.
  • Create buzz around my blog(s).
  • Publicize myself.


Sarah Palin: Enough Already!

Sarah Palin is making millions--with her book deal--and garnering loads of media attention with no real political platform or ideology. Her M.O.? Take exception to what she views as the media's sexist characterization of her. Welcome to the club.

  • Hilary is too unemotional.
  • Michele shows too much arm.
  • Sonia (Sotomayor) isn't intellectually sharp.
  • Oprah's too fat.

The media made you, Sarah. So, don't bite the hands that are giving you lots of ink and cyberspace.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Orwellian Moment

This is not the blog I had intended to write.

However, an unnerving experience yesterday demonstrated the extent of personal information about me that a company I've never done business with has at its disposal.

I discovered this when I made a payment to Boost Mobile for my granddaughter. After confirming my home address and zip code, the rep says, "To ensure that you are who you say you are, I'd like to ask you two additional questions."

I provided the last four digits of my social security number. After a brief wait (while he retrieved data), he asked, "What is Baychester?"

I was taken aback. I had lived on Baychester Avenue more than 25 years ago! Next, he requested my birth month; I told him and finalized the transaction.

Afterwards, I wondered. Where the hell did he get that old information? I don't even think it's my credit report.

How many other corporations have access to my personal information? How easy might it be for employees of companies to use this information for identity theft or fraud?

This incident reminded me of a similar one several years ago. I was changing my telephone service, but wanted to keep old number. Before I could give the customer rep (for the new service) my phone number, she said, "Oh we have it listed here. We'll contact your old provider about the transfer of service." She knew my former company without me telling her.

Once when talking to an IRS agent on my cell phone, he cautioned me about proceeding because someone could tap into the signal and "capture" my personal data. I switched to a land line.

Another cause for concern: the Patriot Act allows the government to keep track of the books we borrow as well as monitor our e-mails.

Likewise, the federal government is considering a national identity card that would contain our pertinent information--social security number, DOB, address, height, weight etc. on it.

Needless to say, privacy is dead.

Mr. Orwell had it right. Big Brother (read: government and corporations) is watching us. And there's not much we can do about it.

Identity theft isn't the only threat we face; identity sharing is equally as frightening.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Sad Week

Condolences to:
  • Families of 12 military personnel and one civilian killed at Fort Hood in Killeen Texas.
  • Families of the 11 victims of Cleveland mass murderer Anthony Sowell.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Positively Negative

I watched two authors this weekend with similar takes on what's wrong with America--best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America) http://us.macmillan.com/brightsided and National Review columnist and contributing editor, John Derbyshire (We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism). http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=84846

Both Ehrenreich and Derbyshire (for different reasons, of course) oppose the think-good-thoughts-to-create-positive-change-in-the-world school of philosophy.

For example, Ehrenreich, who has been treated for breast cancer, criticizes the notions that being positive bolsters your immune system, that you need to embrace your disease, or that cancer is a "blessing."

The flip side, she says, presumes that if you are not positive, you can produce negative outcomes and that is your fault. This is a simplified version of her views (which also consider the effects of false positivity in business and politics).

The blurb for Derbyshire's book states that if "conservatives had retained their gloom, few would have been seduced by promises of hope and change, and Barack Obama would not have won the White House."

During the second half of Book TV, Derbyshire traded barbs with Alan Colmes, formerly of Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes." Derbyshire made disparaging comments about women, liberals, and immigrants (despite having a wife who is Chinese). He came off as arrogrant, and yes, gloomy.

I agree that thinking good thoughts alone won't help you accomplish goals. That takes planning, perseverance, and action.

However.....

There have been times in my life when having a positive attitude while coping with difficult challenges helped me get through them. In some cases, it was all I had. Facing reality can be a real bummer when all doors seem closed or when one's resources are limited.

I can think of several situations when fear, insecurity, or feelings of incompetence could have immobilized me. However, I would talk myself into a more positive frame of mind. In most instances, doing so made all the difference.

So Barbara and John, I respect your views, but can't give up the belief that what we think--positive or negative--affects how we feel, and consequently, what actions we take. Our thoughts can affect outcomes.



































































Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random Ramblngs...

"Slumdog Millionaire"

I finally viewed this 2009 winner of eight Oscars (best film, directing, music, editing, sound mixing, cinematography, and writing).

What I find surprising is that none of the three children--Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, and Pubina Ali--plucked from the Mumbai slums was even given a nod for their performances.

As first-time actors, these bright-eyed, disarming children are the real stars of the film. So, how come, no recognition, Hollywood?

Dev Patel, a young Indian actor, also deserved praise for his impressive acting range as love-obsessed Jamal K. Malik, the game show contestant.

I think it's a shame that neither Dev nor the children were honored for their contribution to the success of the film.






Monday, October 12, 2009

"Capitalism:" funny, sad, and serious

My mother was eager to see "Capitalism: A Love Story" by her "man," filmmaker Michael Moore.

On the other hand, I was less keen about seeing his second-highest grossing film. I'd seen "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 911," and "Sicko.

I was familiar Moore's tactic of publicly confronting corporate execs or elected officials to demand explanations for their actions.

Nonetheless, when I returned home, I called family members, urging them to see "Capitalism." It's funny, sad, and serious.

For MM-haters and critics: Name someone else who calls what Wall Street, large corporations, and politicians do (or allow)--mortgage meltdowns, job lay-offs, billion-dollar bailouts--a "crime"?

Scholars and political writers probably provide the same information in more erudite terms, but MM's documentaries demonstrate how government and corporate policies often negatively affect ordinary people.

The eye-opener for me was learning that some companies, including Wal-Mart and American Express, take out life insurance on employees (called "Dead Peasants" in internal documents) and receive thousands of dollars in payouts.

One widow with a young son is shocked to learn that her husband's employer received close to $2 million dollars after her spouse died.

The most heart-wrenching scenes involve a rural family forced out of their 40-year old farm/home because of increased mortgage payments that they could no longer afford.

The middle-aged father's frustration and helplessness are amplified when he's told that he has to move immediately; he believed that he had 30 days.

If nothing else, "Capitalism" will make you count your blessings.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dental Insurance: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

My 85-year old mother pays $39.00 extra per month for a "deluxe rider" that enables her to get dental coverage. Okay. Thirty-nine dollars times 12 equals $468 per year. Humana contracts with another company to administer this plan. (This fact took me almost a month to find out).

For this she gets $1000 off dental services. Stay with me, now. Her bill for dentures was nearly $2000. She paid a $964 co-pay for a full upper and a partial lower, plus approximately $150 for two visits, all of which she paid in full.

Yesterday, was her final visit; as we're leaving with her shiny new dentures, the front desk clerk says Humana's dental provider won't pay for two extractions that were necessary for her dentures to fit properly. The cost: $154

If extractions, a routine procedure, aren't covered under her Medicare Advantage plan, what is? (A letter we received recently states: "Routine and Non-Routine dental services are not a covered benefit under your Medicare Advantage.")

The result: she has paid almost $1200 in addition to her monthly deluxe rider premium.

In an article "The Oral Cost Spiral," http://www.slate.com/id/2229637/ part of a series on dentistry in America for Slate.com, June Thomas writes:

"Still, most middle-class Americans—even those with health and dental insurance—tend to be more aware of the price of dental treatment because they're more likely to have to pull out their checkbooks when they visit the dentist. Although dental-insurance premiums remained relatively steady over the last decade, especially when compared with skyrocketing medical-insurance premiums, between 1998 and 2008 the increase in the cost of dental services exceeded that of medical care and far exceeded the overall rate of inflation."


.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Soldier's Story...



Staff Sgt. Evelyn Pollard, a Combat Medic and instructor, is completing a tour of duty in Iraq next month. She posted the following observations on her blog, "Queen of Everything."

We don't often hear from our female soldiers, so, I've posted her experiences and challenges in her own words:

http://evelynpollard.blogspot.com/2009/09/bye-iraq-it-was-fun.html

(P.S. She's also my granddaughter.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Infomation or Information?

My sister teases me about my near-obsession for researching any topic--from a sixties TV actor to the pitfalls of bank transfers.

I love the immediacy and availability of millions of pages of information. The task? Wade through them to find accurate, up-to-date, and well-researched data. No easy job. How can you determine who or what is a credible source?

Just as words take on importance on the printed page, web sources (including blogs) might be considered authoritative just because they're on the Internet.

According to free access advocates, the beauty of the web is that new voices can be heard. I agree to some extent; however, a source should have either the education, experience, or personal knowledge that lends weight to a viewpoint or assertion.

Better yet, seek multiple sources to broaden the scope of research or to uncover various aspects of complex issues or problems.

Otherwise, surf wisely and learn.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just the Fax, Please

I was in Office Max recently, and noticed a sign announcing:

"Local fax: $1.25 per page"
"Long distance fax: $1.75"

I wondered, why the cost was so high. Paper is cheap and the fax is sent for the price of a telephone call. Likewise, I'm sure that Office Max has unlimited local and long distance calling (and paper).

Shortly thereafter, a man wanted to fax some tax papers. He looked surprised when the clerk told him the price per page. Nonetheless, he handed over the small stack of papers.

"Let me estimate the cost for you," she said. She quickly calculated the cost for faxing 13 one-sided copies: $17.25.

Stunned into silence, the man gathered his papers and left without a word.

I remember when it was de rigueur to have a fax machine at home. However, with the advent of e-mails and attachments, fax machines became obsolete. Most are primarily in copy shops.

I'm not sure where the customer will go to get his documents faxed. On the job, perhaps?

But he seemed to agree that paying close to $20.00 for faxing was too much.

Have you had similar experiences with what seems like over-pricing? Leave your comments.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Liar, Liar, House on Fire...

The uproar over Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's health care speech to Congress continues. And it should.

Wilson's behavior was disrespectful and unbecoming. Nonetheless, it is indicative of the ways that our Commander-in-Chief is maligned and put-down by some Republicans, right-wing organizations, and conservatives in media.

Wilson probably said publicly what many politicians and anti-Obama zealots have said or are saying behind closed doors. I can't shake the feeling that lots of powerful (white) men resent having to defer to the nation's (black) leader.

Despite public criticism of Wilson, I'm sure there was some fist-pumping around the country among those whose intention is make sure that Obama is a one-term president.









Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pet Peeves II

"pet peeves" def. (mine) any situation or action that elicits swearing, mumbling, or scratching of the head

Here are ten that fit my criteria:

1. Progressive Insurance ads with frightfully cheerful actress Stephanie Courtney ("Flo"). Progressive, sell us insurance, not hype. I've yet to encounter a company that lives up to overblown commercial promises.

2. Reality TV shows so contrived that you wonder "What were they thinking?" Prime example: "Bridezilla." Are they for real? Will these bratty, money-grabbing brides-to-be survive married life?

3. Entertainment programs that masquerade as news programs with "special reports," expert guests, and exclusive interviews on important matters such as Jessica Simpson's weight, Michele Obama's wardrobe, or the "feud" between Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

4. Doctors' offices where a live person never answers the phone; it's always voice mail. The recording at my physician's office, for example, says "Please leave your name and number and we'll get back to you within 24-48 hours." What if I need to cancel an appointment for the same day? One day I was told, "This number does not accept messages." Huh?

5. Web sites that require you to sign-up when you only want information or to check out its services or products.

6. Cable companies that want you to pay for movies over one year old. You can get many oldies at the library for free. What's the rationale behind charging an additional $3.99 or $4.99 to see a movie anyway?

7. Special "discounts" that are only good when it's most inconvenient.("Monday to Friday until 4:00 p.m.") But, no Sundays or holidays when we're more likely to use them.

8. Companies that won't negotiate a payment plan. If someone can only afford to pay $100 or $200 on an $800 bill. What sense does it make to demand the full amount? Some reps are rude in the process. Hey guys, someone who doesn't intend to pay, won't call to make arrangements. Duh.

9. Customer service reps--at the same company--who provide conflicting information. When I called Humana Medicare's helpline (on behalf of my 85-year old mother) to get information about dental benefits, I was told: three different names for the subcontractor that administers the benefits, the names of three dentists who I found out did not accept the plan, she's not covered, she is covered, she has the wrong i.d. number, they have no record of her. It took close to one month (and about seven long telephone calls) to resolve things.

10. Fitness instructors more intent on showing off their form and bodies than paying attention to the rest of us who can barely keep up. Doesn't the latest fitness wisdom caution that you don't have to exercise to exhaustion to get results?

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Distortions" in Health Care Debate?

Today's post is a follow-up to last week's blog "Can Obama Put the Care Back into Health?"

Link is to "Yahoo News": http://healthcarefactcheck.notlong.com.

Original article is from Associated Press (AP) by staff writer Charles Babington.

Here's an excerpt from "FACT CHECK: Distortions rife in health care debate."

Confusing claims and outright distortions have animated the national debate over changes in the health care system. Opponents of proposals by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats falsely claim that government agents will force elderly people to discuss end-of-life wishes. Obama has played down the possibility that a health care overhaul would cause large numbers of people to change doctors and insurers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Can Obama Put the Care Back in Health?

I was once among the uninsured; the experience was scary and nerve-wracking.

Two factors dominated my thinking back then--the potential for running up a whopping medical bill and fear that a minor health ailment would morph into a major one. (Is that pain in my chest indigestion or something worse?)

My strategy: get creative about preventive services. Since, I'd worked as director for a health education program, I knew of the Healthy Women Partnership program at New York's Kings County Hospital Center

For several years, I obtained free mammograms, pap smears, and clinical breast exams at KCH's Women's Center.

I would attend health fairs to get screened for hypertension, blood sugar, TB, body mass index, or whatever else was offered.

Fortunately, I never needed follow-up care. What would I have done?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43.6 million Americans are uninsured; they live with never-ending "what ifs?"

I know family and friends who suffer chronic pain, poor dental health, undiagnosed ailments, suspicious lumps, or untreated blood pressure or diabetes because they choose to pay rent or buy food rather than seek expensive medical treatment.

Some might use medications prescribed for another person or get drug samples from someone working in a hospital or a doctor's office. Shrewd choice or dangerous decision?

Many states offer coverage for children at low- or no-cost under a program funded jointly by the federal government and the states. Admirable, I say. But their parents might not have insurance. If they are the working poor, they can easily fall through the medical cracks.

Shouldn't family health be the goal? Healthy parents caring for healthy kids.

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, opposes Obama's plan because it smacks of "socialism."

A recent Huffington Post article reports:

Steele accused Obama of "experimenting" with America's health care, pursuing a government-dominated approach that would bankrupt the country without reforming the system.

Can Obama put the care back in health? I hope so.

We send millions of dollars around the world for food, medicine, and economic development; nonetheless, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, domestic violence, obesity, and poor nutrition remain major health concerns for our country.

Americans understand the challenge of containing health care costs in the face of trillions of dollars of federal debt.

However, will a national health plan cost more than existing private health plans that, in addition to annual premiums, require co-pays for hospitalizations, specialists' referrals, doctors'fees, emergency care, specialty drugs, and dental services?

Critics who believe that the federal government will botch up the administration of a national health plan forget that Medicare and Medicaid currently contract out services through HMOs or other agencies--with mixed results in quality of care.

What's missing from the debate are alternative proposals to universal health coverage. Mostly, we hear rhetoric and bombast from naysayers rather than substantive alternatives.

Democrats and Republicans should set aside partisan politics and give Americans what they want: peace of mind and access to health care.

I suspect that most opponents to national health insurance have coverage.

Let's spread the access.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Random Ramblings

Social Networks: All-a-Twitter

I blog (intermittently). I tweet (occasionally). I have a (neglected) MySpace page. I belong to Hoverspot.com. I'm a "Writer's Block" member at Essence.com.

This week, a fellow writer referred me to shewrites.com, a social networking site for women writers.

At a recent meeting of our women writers group, two--younger--members promoted social networking for sharing resources, interacting with others who have similar interests or needs, posting and promoting one's work, locating professional and personal sources of information.

I get that. But, I'll be darned if I can figure out how to use links, feeds, tweets to my advantage. Equally frustrating is the time it takes to teach myself.

Depending on skill, I understand that one can have followings of tens or thousands. (I heard that Oprah has 30 million followers on Twitter.)

I'm reading What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, who, according to the book jacket, "writes the Web's most popular and respected blogs about the internet and media." Check out Buzzmachine.com. Jarvis explains the relevance of linking and how it has changed how we receive and disseminate information, news, and ideas.

Are you struggling in the Brave New World of social networking? If so, drop a tweet to ChatChik at Twitter.com. 

Or, leave a comment here about your success, or lack thereof, with social networks.

Friday, April 17, 2009

First Annual Awesome Women Awards (AWA)

Welcome to the First Annual Awesome Women Awards (AWA), honoring Everyday Women, who pursue their dreams and passions with courage and dedication despite family obligations, personal challenges, and limited or no capital.These women "make a way out of no way" for themselves and their families.

Their talents range from writing to animal training. Most, but not all, are in their twenties.You might not see them on Oprah, CNN, Tyra, or Inside Edition (yet). Nonetheless, every day they make a difference in the lives of those around them. Here are this year's honorees:

Sgt. Evelyn Pollard, (U.S. Army, Iraq) wife, mother, soldier, Combat Life Saver instructor, writer, and avid reader

Dionna Phillips (Yonkers, NY) wife, mother of three, foster mother of one, entrepreneur, and founder of "Special Moments," (a non-profit organization that promotes events for mothers and their children), dreamer, and creative force

Erica Moyler (NYC) mother, fashion designer co-partner in Fabric Twins, (who create and wear different designs made from the same fabric) singer, entrepreneur, and visionary

Amour Staggers (NYC) actress, film buff, aspiring playwright, raconteur and adventurer (www.bougiebohemian.blogspot.com)

Erika Washington, (Las Vegas) wife, mother, writer, knitter, and "blogger extraordinaire"(www.erikawashington.blogspot.com)

Cathe B. Jones (Las Vegas) writer, artist, comedian, graphic novelist, musician, animal trainer, founder of Las Vegas Quill Keepers (a support and resource group for women writers) and a powerhouse of information on using technology and social networking to promote one's writings, ventures, or ideas.(www.cathejones.com)

Diahann Moyler (NYC) mother of four, grandmother of three, dedicated occupational therapy practitioner, aspiring author, event planner par excellence, and lover of life

Denise Moyler (NYC), mother of seven, grandmother of three, beloved sister and daughter, fun-lover, and future college grad

T. Rose Smith (NYC) founder and executive director of The Development and Finishing Institute (that teaches manners and etiquette to girls and young women of color), publisher, entrepreneur, writer, and world traveler (www.thedfinstitute.com)

If you know an Awesome Woman, leave a brief comment about her.

Stay focused.

AWESOME WOMEN POSTS BY "WRITTEN WORD" VISITORS:

Natasha Jarvis (NYC) friend, mother, entrepreneur, aspiring designer, and fierce business woman. (posted by Miss Amour)

Trinessa Brown (Yonkers, NY) intelligent, phenomenal friend, and hardworking mother of three. (posted by Sassy)

Bernice Sandoval (NYC) wife, mother of four, stepmother of one, student, entrepreneur, owner of Wynn Optics in Harlem, NY (posted by peadiva@aim)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Working the Muse: Plots and Plans

I love writing!

Even when working as an editor for various magazines or newspapers, my passion was for reporting/writing.

Presently, I have three books, at various stages, ready to be born. The first is a memoir about the relationship between me and my son--who died in prison--during his 19 years of incarceration. It's six chapters from completion. (I'm seeking an agent or publisher.)

The second is a docu-novel based on the life of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a 19th century surgeon, who performed experimental surgery on several slave women to perfect a surgical procedure for a condition called vesico-vaginal fistula. I have read his memoir and researched the medical procedure he describes.

The third book is a medical thriller, set in a major urban hospital, where doctors are testing an experimental drug on un-informed low-income women who are patients at its clinic.

In additon, I'm working on three pieces for a 2009 anthology published by Las Vegas Quill Keepers (www.lasvegasquillkeepers.com), a support and resource group for women writers in the Valley. I've been a member for over a year.

Cathe Jones, founder of LVQK, writer, comedian, artist, musician, animal trainer, and graphic novelist (twitter.com/ratmando/www.cathejones.com), provides invaluable information on book and magazine writing, publishing, editing, book proposals, queries, and social networking.

As member of a LVQK sub-group, Quill Kids, I'm reviewing children's books to learn the do's and don'ts of writing for various age groups. My forthcoming children's book is tenatatively titled, Mali Starr, Big City Dog.

My publishing plans include a booklet, 30 Days of Minute Meditations and revising and updating a reference for adult education instructors, Teaching Health and Wellness in the ABE/ESL Classroom, A Guide for Teachers.

Despite having considerable experience as a journalist (Food and Wine Magazine, Essence, The Village Voice, Black Enterprise, Newsweek) and freelancer, I have had only two articles published in one Vegas publication, Fun&Fit. Since, I'm relatively new to the Vegas writing scene, I intend to do more networking at local writers' functions and blitz local publications with queries.

Likewise, I plan to utilize "The Writers Block," an online writers chat group (www.essence.com) as another promotional platform and resource.

Although, I enjoy my day gig as an adult educator, it doesn't provide the satisfaction and excitement of writing. So, stay tuned as I pursue my various ventures and provide updates on my writing/publishing accomplishments.

Stay focused!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mr. Prez and the Media

As stated in my last blog, I still cannot watch media pundits pick apart our new President. I know that he cannot be shielded from critics on the Left, the Right, and in-between.

Nonetheless, I cringe when I hear conspiracy theorists claim that members of his administration are part of "a shadowy, elitist cabal (the Bilderberger group) intent on installing a one-world government that subverts the will of the American people." (Bilderberger conferences are held around the world and includes leaders of business, media, and politics. )

Other rumors about and criticisms of Obama:

  • He's a closet Muslim
  • He wants to over-inflate size of the federal government.
  • He shouldn't have spent time away from the White House during a time of crisis to appear on Jay Leno's late-night talk show.
  • He's idealistic and unrealistic in his plans for education, health, and government reform.
  • He knew about the AIG super bonuses OR he should have known.
  • His administration's Homeland Security policies will make America less safe.
  • Closing Guantanamo Bay will allow anti-American extremists loose in the world.
  • His outreach to Iran isn't likely to reap substantive changes in Iran-U.S. relations.

He definitely unlike any president I've ever seen in my lifetime. He's easygoing (at least in public), articulate, funny, and seems to relate to and seek out ordinary Americans.

Leaving Washington to hold Town Meetings is a brilliant strategy. Cut out the middle men--the media--who more and more provide news with definite biases or political leanings.

Likewise, he's a product of the Technological Age and easily uses technology and social networking to stay connected to supporters.

I don't know what Obama's legacy will be or if America will elect him to a second term. I just know it's refreshing to have someone at the table who resembles me--and I don't mean just racially. He seems to love common folk and is genuinely interested in making a better life for those with no access to or ties with power brokers in Washington and on Wall Street.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Drama: Addressing Congress

I have no credentials or special expertise to assess the specifics of President Obama's economic- recovery speech. However, I am a voting American and a big fan of the Prez. Thus, I'm entitled to give my take on its effectiveness.

Watching President Obama address Congress, the Supreme Court Justices, military brass, and others gathered in those hallowed halls, I marveled at his ability to deliver a speech (seemingly without a prompter) without stumbling over words or ideas. I cannot recall another President who has spoken so eloquently or sincerely about the ties that bind us as nation and the divisions that keep us separate--racially, economically, and politically. Still I flinch whenever Obama gives a speech or answers questions at a White House news conference. I feel like a mother watching her favorite son perform before the school assembly. I so want him to succeed.


I can't shake the feeling that Obama is a sheep among wolves. Despite his enormous popularity at home and abroad, I believe that many in this country with a stake in the status quo eagerly await (or are plotting) his downfall, perhaps, even his demise. It's obvious to me that Senator John McCain is planning his 2012 presidential bid. This week he lambasted Obama over a fleet of Marine One helicopters being built at a cost of $11.2 billion. (I imagine the deal for this was arranged and approved before Obama took office.) During tonight's address, whenever the camera panned on McCain, he looked downright lockjawed.

During follow-up analysis by CNN, ABC, and FOX, Obama was accused of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, making unrealistic promises, not providing specifics, sounding "presidential," and being Pollyanish about how much he can in accomplish with Republicans almost totally against his stimulus packaage.

Among political pundits, I admire most ABC's George Stephanopoulos; he is straightforward but, fair-minded when reporting on the Obama presidency. He tackles hard issues without tearing down the President.

I give President Obama an "A" for his effort at galvanizing the nation around his agenda; but he gets a "B" for promising too much--like cutting half of the federal deficit by the end of his term or making bold, but unlikely, assertions on reforms in health care, tax cuts to the wealthy, higher education, and government accountability.

It could be that Obama is too much for our country. We are so used to not having hope that words to the contrary seem hollow and superficial. I hope that time will work in Mr. Obama's favor and that he will not become The One-Term Black President.