Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tolerance? No, Thank you.

This is overall a good article on the Target and transgender bathroom issue from probably one of the more open-minded religious people I have come across. A must-read (I especially like the point she makes that church people have hurt her children, while transgender people have not).

It makes me reflect on a few things. First, the word “tolerance” is bandied about as a good word in the article. I don’t see the word that way, although I suppose tolerance is better than hate. The author is asking me to tolerate narrow-minded Christian beliefs, and I’m just not gonna do that. Ever. I will never nod as if I am empty-headed and let people get away with bigotry under the guise of religion.

I will ignore these people. I will choose not to associate with them. But I will not tolerate their beliefs. However, I will never try to take their rights and their beliefs away from them. Many think that “tolerance” means they get to take away MY rights because I make them uncomfortable.

I am not someone to be tolerated. I am someone to be respected and loved. If you’re a religious extremist who is trying to take away my rights, rights that YOU have, never ask me to tolerate that.

I certainly don’t throw around the word “tolerance” like it is my love child. I hate that word. I prefer “respect.” I respect only these Christians who act without judgment and without hatred. (What is truly in their minds and hearts, I do not know, so I have only behavior to go off of.) If you are not a Christian who behaves like this, shame on you. You have a long way to go to earn my respect.

Step Out Of Nyle's Shadow

Congratulations to Nyle DiMarco for winning Dancing with the Stars. He has obviously danced his way into the hearts of many Deaf and hearing folks, starting with his stint (and win) on America's Next Top Model. He's an incredible dancer, a cool customer, and has a bright, shining future. His efforts to increase ASL awareness and access are invaluable and will continue to be so.
How about these eyes?!

I've noticed a disturbing trend these past few weeks, though, and it may have reached its pinnacle tonight with proud and accomplished Deaf people saying things like, "This is the greatest moment in every Deaf person's life," and "The battle is over. Deaf are equal now."

Really, folks? Take a moment to think about what you are saying. Nyle's accomplishments are extraordinary, to be sure, but they are not the be all, end all. This may just be due to the exhilaration of a win, but I really hope Deaf folks think more highly of themselves than what I have seen the past few weeks. There is a lot more progress to be done, and each Deaf person should strive to make his and her own accomplishments. You need not live in Nyle's shadow. Make your own. ROAR!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Three Kinds of Christians - What Kind Are You?

To the people who profess to be good Christians, are you the kind who:
  • (A) Use Christianity to practice hate and to spread misinformation and bigoted beliefs, all under the guise of religion?
  • (B) Sit somewhat in the middle, the kind who is a bigot in general but who makes exceptions for family members and close friends (i.e. Muslims are terrible, but my Muslim son-in-law isn’t so bad, or, gay people are sinful, but my gay daughter, her wife and their children are a family, etc.)?
  • (C) Is truly Christian, not judging others, not forcing beliefs and hatred on others?
Time to find out! Here's a game as to what kind of Christian you are. I'm going to post memes, and if you post these on your, say, Facebook wall because you agree with them or you just simply agree with them in general, you are a bad Christian (type A or type B). You can argue all you want, but you are full of ignorance, misinformation and hate. Much of it is willful. You're scared to change. Scared to embrace diversity and differences. I hope someday you wake up and that you find true love in your heart. Peace and bless you. You need praying for.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What If You Become "Disabled" By Choice?

I belong to quite a few Facebook groups, and one issue of the day this morning was this article on people who become "disabled" by choice, along with the Facebook poster's claim that the issue bothered her because it seemed to mock transgender people.
This "disabled" person laughs, loves, succeeds, travels
and buys damn cool sunglasses in  Las Vegas.
(See the Las Vegas Blvd. sign in the background.)


First, let me summarize my responses. To understand better where I was coming from, pretty much everyone else in the group was calling transable people mentally ill, sick, in desperate need of help, etc. In other words, showing only one very grim side of a story and pretty much attacking. I felt like I needed to present a counterbalance.

My first reply: It is real. I have these sensations sometimes. I would avoid connecting it to transgender issues. One has nothing to do with the other.

Follow up here for this post: While I have nothing approaching transableism, a few times a  year, I will get the sensation that my leg or arm wants to go. It needs to go. It is probably just a very temporary brain or nerve glitch, but to live constantly like that??? (Like many transgender people do, in fact.)

Second reply: Actually, I do believe that some people who hack off a limb (or something like that) feel more safe and secure afterward (so it does enhance health and well being). So in that sense, it is not disabling yourself. It is getting rid of a growth that interfered with your mental health. Okay. Maybe there is a connection to trans issues; after all, someone could be argued to be disabling herself (given how women are treated in society) for going from male to female. The bottom line for me: who cares? Let people do what they want. In both cases, transgender and transableism, people should get some type of counseling, for sure.

Follow up here for this post: Counseling benefits ALL people, I believe. That said, I do know of some transgender people who say they don't need counseling, and I respect that 100 percent.

Third reply: P.S. As a person considered disabled by society (Deaf), I have seen what all Deaf people can do and what people with one arm or one leg, etc. can do. Dogs like that are just as happy. "Disabled" people are fully capable of leading full and healthy lives. It is a shame that many "normally abled" people have such narrow perspectives.

I am a Lambda Literary finalist. I run my own business. I worked as a newspaper page designer and copy editor, winning several Virginia state awards for my design. I am "disabled" only because society says I am.


Wikipedia explains more about this condition, called body integrity identity disorder. I'm sure like many people on that Facebook thread, you may have instant negative reactions. If you do, please wait a day at least before making any judgments.
I have turned off notifications for that post because I have no desire to get into arguments with people. Just wanted to present another side for people to think about. I fully support trans rights, and as a Deaf woman who also has fleeting transable sensations, I suppose I am in somewhat of an unique place.

I think if not for the word "transable" (which I had not heard of until today), no one would be connecting this with transgender issues. But the main point I want to make today... disability is not the death sentence many people think it is. Come on. Many people with "disabilities" live rich and full lives. It is society's reaction to them that handicaps them more than anything else. If you feel you need to become "disabled" in order to be whole, you have the potential for a free and happy life waiting for you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kids (Even Wee Kids) Need to Read Alone, Too!

Photo Credit

So, as often happens with "funny" articles like this, I'm frowning when most everyone else is apparently laughing. This article does have its genuinely funny moments but devotes way too much attention to a reading/time management issue that is easily solved. 

Teachers and Parents Possibly Creating a Problem Where There Was Not One

Basically, kids need to be allowed to read alone. Encouraged to read alone. After I read the article, I was baffled as to why the parents didn't simply have their children read alone. Easy solution. I asked around and found out that many teachers strongly encourage that parents supervise/be involved with children's reading at least to/through second grade (second grade for the kids, not the parents). I also heard from parents who encourage independence, including reading independence, in children. Yay! We need more of that. Kids are spoon fed enough as it is.

There certainly is a place for parental involvement when it comes to children and reading. Ideally, it starts early, with parents reading to their infants and toddlers. It should also include toddlers getting kid-friendly books, perhaps picture books and books with simple words. Pop-up books. Cloth books. Kids should feel these books, the texture of the pages, the smell of the books and, yes, perhaps even get them dirty. (As for the friendly interactivity of a tablet, I am not sure how I feel about this for young-age kids. Maybe a subject for another blog post.)

Escaping into a World of Pleasure

I have no idea why teachers are not encouraging kids to read independently when they are in kindergarten, first and second grade. It's not like it necessarily takes away from class time; the kids can read at home. It is a huge disservice. Children need to read alone as well as with  their parents (and siblings and friends). Reading alone fosters a true sense of enjoyment, of going on adventures, of losing thyself in another world. Sure, it can be challenging. A kid might have no idea what a word means or may misread it as another word.

So what?

I say again, so what?

That challenge helps the kid with critical thinking skills. Troubleshooting skills. Kids can use contextual cues such as language and pictures to try to puzzle out unfamiliar words. This can be more worthy than simply having Mother or Father explain a meaning. And kids don't need to understand every word to enjoy a book.

Children need to be able to pick out their own books and then escape into a world of pleasure. Parents do their children a disservice when they do not encourage the joy of reading alone. There can be a good balance between reading with parents and reading independently.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Is Amazon's Ebook Returns Policy Unfair?

Ask many indie authors if Amazon's ebooks returns policy is unfair, and many will say yes without hesitation. I've read quite a few takes on the matter from both sides over the past few years. Most recently, I read this take in which a reader apparently rationalizes returns on the basis that a book is overpriced. This was a bit of a new reason to me--and left me with a, well, not-great taste in my mouth. A few Amazon "facts" first:

1) You have seven days after purchasing an ebook to return it for a refund.
Don't return me, please! ;)

2) The book supposedly disappears from your Amazon library after you return it.

3) Amazon clamps down on abusers of its returns policy.

A quick examination of the above:

1) Amazon's returns policy certainly is generous (whether it is generous to a fault depends on your perspective). Kobo allows 14 days, while Barnes and Noble has a no-returns policy for its Nook books. Amazon has no criteria set for ebook returns; that is, you can have read 100 percent of a book or 5 percent, and return it.

Amazon's website gives accidental purchases as a reason people would want to return ebooks. Such accidental purchases are the ONLY reason I return ebooks. I've done so perhaps two times ever, and the website provides a way (parental controls) to help limit some accidental purchases.

2) The book is supposed to vanish from your library after you return it. That is only fair, right? You should no longer have access to it. Except in the cases where I returned a book, it stayed. On and on. At least a week. Past that, I don't know if it remained, but in any case, there used to be (and may still be) books that do not disappear, at least for a good while.

3) Amazon no longer gives people who abuse its returns policy the opportunity to return ebooks. This post from Passive Guy goes into one such situation. However, Amazon does not say how much is too much. The Passive Guy post estimates 40 percent to 60 percent is enough to get you flagged.

Amazon's Take (As I Understand It)

I have read that Amazon has the returns policy it does to encourage people who are nervous about taking a chance on an author or book to purchase the book. I tried to find this post I read a year or two ago but to no avail. I do remember one example it gave, based on apparent Amazon research. Suppose you have a pool of 100 prospective readers who are at least open to the idea of trying X new author/book. If Amazon had no returns policy, these folks are much less likely to take that chance. If they know they can return a book and get their money back, absolutely no harm done, they are a lot more likely to buy.

In this way, an author who sells 100 copies may get a disheartening 10 returns. BUT if there was not this flexible returns policy, the author may have sold only 50-75 copies. So in the big picture, the author does win out, with 90 purchases versus 50 to 75.

And, of course, there is the fact that Amazon is willing to take a loss on potential returns to sell its other products. Big business, baby. In this regard, the returns policy benefit is mainly to Amazon, although it does keep the Kindle loyalty going (good for some Kindle authors).

My Take (Which Could Be in Progress)

My take...well. These are common arguments I have heard against the returns policy as it is now.
  • Readers can sample the beginning of a book. That should be enough for them to make up their mind as to whether they want to take a chance on an author. That upfront percentage is also enough to signal to individual readers whether a book's grammar, formatting, etc. meets their standards.
  • Physical books can be returned, and hardly anyone complains. Even Barnes and Noble allows seven days for the return of physical books, while it does not have this policy for ebooks.
  • Amazon should cap the percentage read/progress in the book before allowing a return. So, if you have read 75 percent of a book and the cap is 25 percent, you can't return the book.
All of these arguments are valid, and as a reader and a consumer in general, I know it is unrealistic to expect that I will like EVERYTHING I buy. I've rented/bought movies and books I did not like. The only ebooks I have returned are accidental purchases that I never intended to make. After these accidental purchases, I returned the ebooks promptly. I did not attempt to read the ebooks even after they lingered in my library (there was a reason I did not want to buy them).

So, I'm thinking about how an ideal returns policy would look. Something like, "Amazon allows ebook returns for accidental purchases. Returns must be made within 24 hours, and there should be no more than 10 percent reading progress shown. Returns will also be allowed for reasons of poor formatting that are not evident in the ebook sample. Otherwise, consumers are advised to maximize the use of ebook samples for what they are."

Hmm. Doesn't sound too consumer-friendly to me (although I'm sure it reads fine to some people). All things equal, I imagine Amazon pretty much knows what it is doing. As an author, I've had my fair share of gritted teeth over ebook returns, so it's not like I don't know the pain. But if it means I reached a larger consumer base and received more net sales, that is good. (If I ever find that blog post link, I will add it. If anyone finds it, let me know!)

It is true that the policy as is opens itself up to abuse. People who buy a book despite a price that they think is too high/unfair, read it and then return it...well. That's just wrong, in my opinion. You knew the price upfront and chose to buy the book. It does seem like Amazon needs to lower the percentage of returns for what it considers an abuse of the policy. Of course 40-60 percent is just a guess, but it would be good to know the exact percentage.

I also think the ebook samples are sufficient to figure out if you want to take a chance on an author. I do understand, though, that some people's buying habits are different. Some people don't want an ebook sample file plus the ebook file on their devices. That is a lot of clutter, and they don't really use the computer for ebook browsing. That does kind of sound flimsy, and I am not entirely convinced, but anything that leads to more exposure than I would have gotten otherwise sounds okay.

Bottom line: Amazon's ebooks returns policy is unfair in some respects, but it seems to work overall. It can be particularly disheartening for new indie authors, but as they get used to it, the pain lessens. And if an overwhelming proportion of your books are being returned? You could be really unlucky, or maybe you should look at potential culprits such as formatting or grammar.

Hmm. That may be all for now! :D This has been an interesting topic to write about.

Irene, a Land of Water and Green in the Desert

Today, I checked out two trails at Irene Reinhart Riverfront Park in Ellensburg. Loved it! Reminiscent to what I enjoyed back home in Virginia. Irene will be my new go-to place. I hope you enjoy the pics.