Monthly Archives: March 2009

More stringent driver’s tests

I’ve always wondered if we shouldn’t have more stringent driver’s license tests. I know that the states are left up to decide the standards, and I’m good with that. I just don’t think idiots should be allowed to drive. And I’m not talking about trying to protect them from themselves, but to protect us from them.

I recently read that some town somewhere (how’s that for research?) has made it illegal for teenagers to talk on the phone while driving. Of course, just under that was the story about the Chief of Police apologizing for running into someone because he was texting! While I think the idea behind the law is a good one, I’m not convinced it should be targeted at only teens. No, I don’t want my soon-to-be-driving teen to talk or text while driving, but neither do I want the 30, 40, or 50 year old driver doing any of those things either. It almost never fails these days that when I see a car swerving on the road and I can see what the driver is doing—they’re looking down at a cell-phone trying to punch in numbers…that is unless it is the day of a home football game here for the U. of Mississippi…then the drivers are swerving for a completely different reason.

I also heard on the radio that eating French fries while driving is just as dangerous. I’ll confess to having had my share of fast-food meals in the vehicle, but almost always on the buddy-system. Meaning, my wife-buddy generally takes care of all the set-up, allowing me to focus on the road. Probably still not perfect, I admit.

I wonder, though, if it isn’t a case as so often is true that we’ve got the guidelines in place, they’re just not being enforced. Case in point: my grandfather couldn’t see worth a flip, yet when he went in to have his driver’s license renewed, they passed him. I found that crazier than the current bail-out disaster plan that’s going to run us into another depression…okay, well maybe not that crazy, but you get the point. Yeah, he was my Grandfather. Yeah, I loved him. But no, he shouldn’t have been driving. What they did was essentially throw all the responsibility back on the family, which shouldn’t have ever been necessary. Thankfully nothing happened…but it could have.

And it’s not just that, I think maybe we should give some sort of test to hopeful drivers; not just what the legal level of blood-alcohol content is or what to do at a stop sign. I think some sort of general “common sense” test should be given. If drivers don’t have common sense, then maybe they should call a friend…or a cab.

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Filed under Columns

Count the cards!

Mom and Dad recently visited for a few days and one of the things we enjoy doing is playing cards. I don’t know how it all got started, but we’ve played cards every since BJ and I were even just dating. And for the record, we play pinochle, guys against gals. (Also for the record, the guys always win)

I know you were probably expecting me to talk about playing poker, what with the poker playing craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. Actually—believe it or not—I didn’t learn to play poker until about 8 years ago…and I learned to play in a crowded tent at a Civil War Reenactment. We’re talking a small sleeping tent, not a big commander style. It was raining and we used candles for light and goober peas for “money.”

But I digress.

During the course of our pinochle playing recently, the concept of “counting cards” came up. None of us can do it, of course, but the topic came up anyway…and no, I don’t remember why. Okay, so I’m finally getting to the point…

I’m not a gambler, never have been—okay, actually that isn’t 100% true. Once, while we lived in California, BJ and I took a weekend trip to Los Vegas. Seems everyone did it every now and again, so we did. We decided we’d take $250 to “gamble” with just to see what the big deal was. We both agreed that once it was gone, it was gone. We went to the Blackjack tables and lost $120 in the span of about 20 minutes. I decided that was no fun at all. So we found this cool giant arcade and spent the rest of our money there and had a fun time.

Anyway, I do know that it is considered illegal to “count cards” when gambling for money. For the life of me, however, I can’t figure out why that’s considered a no-no. I’ve played cards many years and I can’t figure out how someone can keep up with it all. We teach skills in other competitive activities, why then, should someone who has the mental capacity to keep track of how many 2s and Jacks have been played be punished? Someone who can track or keep up with that should be rewarded, I’d think. I don’t mean two people trying to cheat, but if someone can keep up with what has been played, or count, then I think they deserve to win and the casino or gambling establishment should pay up.

Just my opinion of course…not that the casinos care what I think!


Filed under Columns

Current revision/editing/rewrite is tough

I’m a big believer in the rewrite. Or, more specifically, I’m a firm believer that the first draft usually isn’t the best draft. It’s something I’ve mostly practiced throughout my career and I’ve certainly seen my fair share of first drafts submitted to me as editor—trust me, editors know.

When I taught English Composition, one of the things I tried to hammer in to my students was that writing is a process, and as such, most folks can learn how to do it. Like any process, though, it must be practiced. My experience with most non-seasoned writers is that they expect to produce a first draft and have it sing out to the NY Times Bestseller list immediately. And while that is the dream of almost every writer, it just doesn’t happen.

That said, the rewrite/revision I’m currently working on for The Gifted is one of the hardest I’ve ever worked on. I can’t say for sure exactly why, but I’ll at least talk out my difficulties here.

Without getting into the specifics, the editor outlined for me a few things she’d like to see done, none of which were unreasonable in the very least. One of the changes I thought would be a fast and easy change; I changed a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship to that of a brother/sister. It’s proving to be not nearly as fast or easy as I thought it would be. My first thinking was I’d just go change all the “sweethearts” to “siblings” and be done with it. However, brothers and sisters—especially those squabbling—do not speak to each other like sweethearts do. Neither, are the relationships surrounding them the same. Therefore, each and every chapter in which the now-siblings appear have to be scrutinized carefully to be sure they’re speaking and acting appropriately.

Another change was that I’ve added a “best friend” to one of my main characters. Not really a big deal when you think about it, right? Wrong—this character now has to have a part/input/opinion as a best friend throughout the remainder of the book. And the new best friend is now introduced in the third chapter, meaning that all the following chapters also have to be scrutinized to be sure best friend works.

On top of that, new best friend’s Dad has a job which put him at direct odds with main character and her father. While this is an added subplot, it has to be addressed as the story progresses because it directly (and indirectly) affects the main character.

Not sure why I’m finding this difficult except that maybe because the “current” draft is not a first draft, it’s a draft that is well-worked and has seen plenty of hours. It may be because I’ve visualized the various pieces of this story for some time now, and the way they’re connected seem to work. Not that the revisions won’t work, but they add something “new” to the story rather than simply rework some of it.

I dunno…I’m just thinking out loud here.


Filed under writing