Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nope, gadgets just let bad parents be worse parents

The New York Times has another of those “modern technology is bad for kids” articles today: “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In.” This one, instead of blaming modern technology (TV, video games, computers, mobile phones—take your pick) for rotting kids’ brains, blames the gadgets for making parents ignore their kids. “Some child development experts,” as the article puts it, are concerned that parents become so engaged with their gadgets, checking email or reading websites, that their kids become jealous and resentful, even resorting to biting and hitting to get their parents’ attention. (Though I rather like the example of the kid who makes his mom set the microwave timer when she says she’ll be just a couple minutes more.)

But really? The gadgets make them ignore their kids?

It’s not the modern technology. It’s the parents. I see parents browsing through title after title in bookstores, ignoring kids pulling at their legs. I see kids squirming and squealing in strollers while their parents wander through just one more store at the mall. I see kids climbing over end tables in doctors’ waiting rooms while their parents read magazines, happily unconscious of the glares directed at them by others less unaware.

Nobody blames the books or the strollers or the magazines for making those parents ignore their kids. Why should we then blame the Blackberrys or the netbooks? Some parents with gadgets engage with their kids and some parents with gadgets don’t, just as some families make shopping a family excursion and pay attention to everybody’s needs and interests and stamina.

It’s not the technology. It’s just that some people don’t put their kids very high on their priority lists.

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Filed under Families, Miscellaneous ranting, Science & Technology, Uncategorized

Too often underestimated

. . . it is imperative to create opportunities for children so we can grow up and blow you away.

It’s short for a Ted talk, but it’s to the point:

Adora Sitvak: What Adults Can Learn From Kids

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Feeding the fencing addiction

It’s been a tough year for the part of me that gets restless when it’s been too long since I’ve worked a fencing tournament. Due to the unfortunate collision of US Fencing finances and my own, this season I’ve only worked one national tournament—NAC D, in San Jose in January, which was even within driving range for me.

So, along with a couple of local fencing mom friends, I’ve got into the habit of dropping in to watch local tournaments, which is actually more entertaining than it sounds. Take today’s Bay Cup Senior Mixed Saber, for instance—as of yesterday morning, there were 23 entries of whom 6 are As and 10 are Bs (and some of the Bs are very strong). It won’t be the same as a NAC, by any means, but it might help hold me over until Summer Nationals in Atlanta in July.

Plus there’s that whole pizza and beer thing afterward.

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Is there a shortage of book designers?

It’s a lot easier to publish a book than it used to be.

Mostly this is A Good Thing, I think. Despite all the lamentations you can find about how print-on-demand (POD) publishing lets just anybody get themselves into print, there are a lot of tiny niche markets for titles that would never be worth publishing under the traditional model. My own Viral Learning, which I published POD (as well as in epub and Kindle versions), falls into that category—it was something I wanted to write for a very specific audience which was already familiar with my previous books and would not have been economically viable any other way.

But the lamenters have a valid point, too. Consider one of the books I’m currently reading. It’s a niche topic aimed at a very specific audience and was not published through a traditional mainstream publisher. The content is good—a thorough look at its topic—but oh, the design!

It’s the same syndrome I first saw years ago, when my kids were little and I first started finding books about homeschooling. Several homeschooling parents (moms, mostly) self-published accounts of their homeschooling experiences. Like the book I’m reading now, the content was solid. The problem was that the manuscript was a word processor dump.

Long word processor files are good for editing—you can print them out double-spaced and have lots of room to make corrections when you’re proofreading—but they’re not great for the ultimate reader.

Consider this book I’m reading now. It’s a nice trade paperback, about 7 x 9 inches, with a great-looking cover, which perhaps raised my expectations for the interior. Unfortunately, the text margins on all sides are less than a half-inch, which makes tracking the whole line across the page far more difficult than it should be. Not only is the text set too wide, but it’s also in a fully justified sans serif font that adds to the tracking difficulty. Less annoying, but still bothersome, are the chapter subheads, which are set equidistant between the text before and after, instead of being clearly attached to the text they announce.

I’ll still read the book—I’m interested enough in the content to keep at it. But it will be more of a slog than it needed to be, because the people who produced it didn’t know or care enough about how the reader would experience the book to make a few easy tweaks to their manuscript before it was printed.

Please, oh, please, you who might make your own book one day: Hire a designer or read a basic guide to graphic design. (Robin Williams’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book is a good place to start.) Your readers will be grateful, though they may never realize exactly why.

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Filed under Reading, Uncategorized, Writing