Grammar Matters

Today I received a mailer from Americans For Prosperity Minnesota. The mailer is all about why MNsure and ObamaCare are hurting Minnesotans and is basically calling for Yvonne Selcer’s head. Now, I don’t want to get into my feelings on The Affordable Care Act, as that is a slippery slope. However, if you’re going to send out mailers trying to convince people your POV is the correct one, perhaps you do a quick edit before sending it out to countless people. Now maybe I’m of the few who would notice a typo/straight up grammatical error like this and let it bother them, but man oh man.

an mnsure

It’s also of note that the source for said grammatically incorrect statement was provided by Fox News.

A quick grammar lesson for those who think I’m crazy: (Everyone else can skip ahead.)

“A” precedes words that begin with a consonant. Examples:

A cat

A bird

A dog

“An” precedes words that begin with a vowel. Examples:

An egg

An oyster

An avalanche

Exceptions:

The letter H

The letter H has two primary sounds, the hard H and the unsounded H.

Examples of hard H’s: House, Hockey, Hand

Examples of unsounded H’s: Hour, Herb, Heir

Hard H’s use “a” and unsounded H’s use “an” because they are pronounced as if vowels.

Examples:

A house

An hour

A hockey player

An herb

A hand

An heir

O’s and U’s that sounds like W’s and Y’s 

Some O’s have a hard W sound like “One” and some U’s have a hard Y sound like “Union” or “Unicorn.” In these cases you would use “a” instead of “an” because the word makes a sound like a consonant.

Examples:

A one-eyed man

A union

A unicorn

So…

It’s pretty clear that there is no way that “an” should have gone before MNsure because “an” wouldn’t go before Minnesotan. A Minnesotan may like to ski, a Minnesotan is probably used to snow, a Minnesotan is from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

So Americans For Prosperity Minnesota made a mistake that they overlooked and makes me uninterested in anything they have to say. Perhaps they should have hired someone like me to proof read their stuff.

herbs

Eddie Izzard appreciates grammar.

And then to the meat of the issue:

I know you’re reading this asking, “How can she possible have more to say on this issue?” And you’re not wrong, I don’t have anything more to say about this particular mistake. What concerns me, the bigger problem in my book, is how many people shrug off grammatical and spelling errors as if they’re no big deal.

Where I see this more frequently is in internet comments. A place populated by the intelligent, the trolls, and the dregs of grammatical society alike. Here’s what will happen: Someone posts an opinion and does it with spelling and grammatical errors throughout. And then people call them out, “You can’t even spell, how can your opinion be valid?”

And here’s where the argument arises. When a person is arguing online should their words be considered over how they present them? Or is how they present them just as important as what is said?

Here’s how I see it, you wouldn’t go to a really important business interview wearing jeans and a tshirt, hair unbrushed and breakfast stuck in your teeth, and expect to be taken seriously. How we present ourselves in the world has huge bearing on how we’re treated, whether right or wrong, it’s fact. A person who wears a suit and tie to a nice restaurant is going to be treated better than the person who shows up wearing sweatpants.

And I think presenting yourself on the internet should be no different. Just because you are provided with anonymity doesn’t mean you can present yourself however you want AND get taken seriously, especially if you have something serious to say. Now, no one is perfect and everyone has typos. We type too fast, we’re distracted or tired, we don’t reread what we post before we press send. But there’s a difference between, “I make a chickn sandwich,” and “i mde a chiken sandwitch.” One is clearly a typo while the other is a lack of knowledge or care about how to speak and type properly and appropriately.

Now think about those kind of errors on a broader scale, in a discussion about race or feminism or any other hot button issue. I, for one, take grammar very seriously and cringe any time I see a typo, I notice them in books, in mailers, and on the internet. I see them when I reread my own blog posts and go back to fix them as soon as I notice them.

And so I am in the camp that how you present yourself on the internet does matter. I don’t want to have a conversation about feminism of GLBTQ rights with someone who doesn’t know how to spell lesbian or homophobia. I find massive amounts of typos and grammatical errors distracting but the bigger problem of course is that if you talk like that on the internet you seem uneducated. And I don’t mean you sound like you didn’t go to college, I mean you sound like you didn’t get through the third grade.

And that is not meant to insult third graders! Young people are very capable of having smart and prudent opinions and ideas. But if you’re an adult who sounds less intelligent than your grade schooler? Now that’s a problem. No one wants to talk to someone who is under educated about issues that take a lot of knowledge to effectively discuss.

Of course, typos on the internet written by one person are much more understandable than typos in print produced by an organization. A political organization trying to apparently change that which is law, nonetheless.

Shopping on Thanksgiving: Okay or No Way?

Every holiday has their naysayers. On Christopher Columbus Day we talk about celebrating a man invading an already inhabited land. Weeks before Halloween there are endless discussions about racism. And for Christmas atheists fervently try to explain that Jesus was born in the spring and Christmas Trees are a pagan tradition.

And then there’s Thanksgiving. A holiday which has always raised eyebrows and discussions about the pioneers and the natives and whether or not we should actually be celebrating the day.

But I think most people have moved past that and are able to celebrate thanksgiving as the beginning of the holidays, a time to be thankful for the country we live in and the abundance we have, and a time to spend with family and friends.

And all was well and good… Until retail establishments decided to extend their Black Friday deals into Thanksgiving. Some stores started opening at Midnight, and then 11pm, and then 10. Some stores are now open all day, rewarding customers who choose to shop with wonderful deals.

Well, I say nay to Thanksgiving shopping.

no shopping

Even dinner doesn’t want you shopping on Thanksgiving.

In my opinion these are the only places that should be open on Thanksgiving:

1. Hospitals – For all those people who try to deep fat fry their turkeys and don’t know how to deep fat fry their turkeys.

2. Airports – Because I see no situation in which I would be able to persuade airports to close on any day of the year short of a bomb threat.

3. Places that cannot survive without staff – Steel factories, for instance, cannot be unmanned for a single hour, let alone a full day, or they will lose millions of dollars of product.

4. Bars – Because some people don’t have families and want to sing karaoke with strangers.

5. Volunteer Soup Kitchens – Because people should be able to choose to help others and people who can’t afford Thanksgiving should be able to eat while others indulge in more food that can be eaten. (I am guilty of the “too much food for too little people” Thanksgiving.)

turkey fire

We’ll call it “well-done.”

Places I think absolutely should not be open although I know this isn’t a popular opinion:

1. Liquor Stores – Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday of November Every. Single. Year. This gives you plenty of time to stock up on holiday booze before the actual holiday. And if you’re a forgetful person? Set an alarm on your phone or mark it on your calendar. Have an intricate system of friends and coworkers remind you. Do it the weekend before, the Wednesday before… Just don’t do it on Thanksgiving.

2. Restaurants – I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m crazy. You think restaurants are open so people who can’t or won’t cook don’t have to. Well I’ll tell you what I think, I think that’s bullshit. You don’t want to cook a meal so you go get served by someone who is forced to be there and is probably giving up time they could be spending with their own families. And don’t think Thanksgiving patrons are any more grateful to be served. I have experience with the bitching, complaining, bad mannered customers that come with the Holiday season.

go buy booze

Seriously, go buy the fucking booze.

And then there was retail.

If a single person can give me a good reason that retail establishments should be open on Thanksgiving that has absolutely nothing to do with money, then maybe I’d change my mind. But so far all I’ve heard is it’s good for the bottom line, people who work retail get time and a half (not always, by the by, know your shit before arguing with a long time retail employee), or it’s a good way to save a buck on Christmas shopping.

I’M SORRY. Is that not what Black Friday is all about? Black Friday where employees started their shifts anywhere between midnight and 6am? Where hordes of customers push their way through massive lines to try and get the latest toy or electronic? Where people actually have gotten INJURED AND KILLED because the need to get a good deal is strong in this one?

I worked a Black Friday years ago at a RadioShack. RS is known for having really great Black Friday deals and is very busy for small retail. This year we were offering the Zune at an extraordinarily low price but there had been a mix up in shipping and we only had 1 in stock. ONE. Of a product that had been wildly advertised. The first customer of the day came in and bought it and I spent the next 10 hours being victimized by customers who were angry, nay, furious that we were out. As if me, the 19 yr-old minimum wage worker had any say in it at all.

That’s Black Friday. Anyone who has worked a retail Black Friday knows the horrors. But Thanksgiving should be about family. About being, oh I don’t know, thankful. It should be about friends, and loved ones, and making memories. It should be about caring for your neighbor. Caring about the people who don’t get to see their families because they’re forced to work and couldn’t make a flight or get off too late for the several hour drive.

I have never had to work Thanksgiving but I’ve worked my fair share of Black Fridays. I haven’t seen my family on Thanksgiving for years. Instead I attend or host a friends and coworkers Thanksgiving for people like me who have been left behind and have nowhere to go. And I wholeheartedly feel for the people who are forced to work. My own sister starts her shift at 11pm Thanksgiving and then goes for 21 hours straight. I think that’s ridiculous, just so companies can make a buck.

But what about the people who shop on Thanksgiving? I have just has much disgust for these people as I have sympathy for the people who have to serve them. People who shop on Thanksgiving are not working, they’re often with family members, they’ve already had a great meal or they’re waiting for the turkey to finish. They get to have the perfect family Thanksgiving while putting money in these retailers pockets and proving that staying open on Thanksgiving is worthwhile. Because if people keep showing up, the retailers will keep staying open. And soon everyone will be doing it and Thanksgiving will lose the heart of what it is.

I vow not to shop on Thanksgiving and I hope everyone who reads this will too. Please don’t support the bottom line over family and friends. We can be a consumerist-driven society every other day of the year. Except Christmas.

christmas

Or the Pagan Festival of Saturnalia.

How to Donate or Sell Books in the Twin Cities

2013-11-06 17.01.25

Books to Donate!

I have decided to cull down my book collection and donate some books. This only happens once a decade and is a big deal. I’m donating 56 books, to be exact. Getting rid of any book is a painful choice for me but I finally decided to get rid of books I will never read again, I didn’t like, I will never read at all (usually well-meaning gifts). Many of these are children’s book from my Children’s Literature and How to Write Children’s Literature classes or books that I read and I liked as a teenager but I will never pick up again. Let’s face it, there’s only so many times a person can read Rainbow Road before they’re done. Some of these books (I’m looking at you, Cheese Monkeys) I hated the first time through and some of them I couldn’t get past the first page (I love Jasper Fforde but The Eyre Affair is so not my thing.)

But I’ve never donated books before, last time I got rid of books I just left them at my ex boyfriends house and didn’t have to deal with them. I have some ideas of where to start, the library or Good Will. But are there other options? Maybe more specific places? Where will my children’s books benefit the most children? Where will my GLBTQ literature end up?

So I’ve decided to make a list of ways you can donate or sell books in the Twin Cities.

Donate

The Library

hclib

Hennepin County Libraries will accept any and all books in good condition except Reader’s Digest condensed books and textbooks. To donate just call ahead to your local library to make sure they’re currently accepting donations and then drop them off!

But if you’re expecting your books to be put on the shelves to benefit other readers, think again. HCLib instead sells the books or puts them on a “Free” table during book sales and events. According the HCLib website, processing new books for the libraries is often more expensive than the books themselves.

All proceeds of these events go back into the library system, so it is still a good way to support your local library.

Learn more here.

Good Will, Savers, The Salvation Army, or Arc’s Value Villages 

Goodwill-sign

For personal and political reasons, I do not donate to The Salvation Army. But it is one of several places around the cities where you can easily drop books off and know they will be sold for low prices. I personally like to donate to the Bloomington Good Will and Savers because they have large and well cared for book sections. I know it’s silly, but I want to make sure my books will be treated well. If you want your books to be really affordable for low income families to buy after you donate, I would recommend donating to a Good Will or an Arc Value Village. Books here are generally more inexpensive than at a Savers.

Books for Africa

books for africa

BFA is a international program trying to end illiteracy in Africa. The program started in 1988 and has shipped approx. 28 million books since then.

What Books for Africa is looking for:

  • Hard and Soft cover popular fiction and non-fiction
  • Books no older than 15 years
  • Primary, secondary, and college textbooks published in 1998 or later
  • Reference books, encyclopedias, and dictionaries published in 2003 or later
  • Medical, nursing, IT, and law books with a 1998 or newer publish date.

BFA also accepts religious texts and bibles but asks that they be dropped off shipped in a different box as religious materials are only sent at the request of the African recipient.

One thing to know before donating to BFA is that it costs 50¢ to send each book from the US to Africa. So consider making a small monetary donation along with your books if choosing to donate to BFA. It’s not a large expense, my 56 books would cost $28 and it goes to a good cause.

Learn more here.

Women’s Prison Book Project

women's prison book project

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has never before considered donating books to a prison. But I think it makes good sense and after reading their website I think at least a few of my books will be going here. They are the only place so far that has said they are looking for GLBTQ literature. They are looking for a variety of books from alcohol, drug, and abuse issues to mystery and horror novels.

Other genres include:

* Fiction and non-fiction by people of color

* English and Spanish Language Dictionaries

* Health books

and

*Arts & Crafts book

And donating is easy, simply drop your donation of at Boneshaker Books in South Minneapolis.

Learn more here.

Minnesota Literacy Council

mlc-header

So, you probably didn’t know (because I didn’t know) that 61% of low-income families have no children’s books in their homes. On a similar scope, where middle-income neighborhoods have a 13-1 book to child ratio, low-income neighborhoods have a 1-300 book to child ratio. Any reader like me can see that’s a problem.

The Minnesota Literacy Council is responsible for putting 10,000 books into the hands of low-income families every year. This year they are looking for non-fiction children’s book and bilingual books, specifically English & Spanish, English & Hmong, or English & Somali.

To donate please contact Emily SieKiewicz at esienkiewicz@mnliteracy.org or 651-251-9063

Learn more here.

Junior League of Minneapolis associated with Read Indeed

read indeed

Along the same lines the Junior League of Minneapolis’ “Book 4 Kids” program has donated 250,000 books to inner city children in the last six years. They have recently merged with Read Indeed, a program started by 8 year-old Maria Keller who had a goal of collecting 1,000,000 books by her 18th birthday. Five years later and five years early she has collected 1,020,799 books.

Donations can be dropped off at the Hopkins Read Indeed warehouse on specific dates each month. For more information about drop off dates contact Maria at readindeedforkids@yahoo.com.

Learn more here and here.

Sell or Get Credit

PaperBack Swap

paperback swap

This is an awesome website and if I wasn’t planning to donate my books, I would put a lot of them up here. How it works is you post books you no longer want but are willing to ship to other people. For the first 10 books you post, the site gives you 2 credits as a gift. Every time someone chooses one of your books, you get another credit once they receive the book. With every credit you earn, you can order a book of your own. It’s free of charge and yours to keep.

The only cost associated with the site is shipping. Rather than paying for shipping when you order a book, you only pay for shipping when one of your books gets ordered. Seems fair to me.

There are literally thousands of books to choose from, new and old, and almost any author you can think of. It’s a pretty awesome site.

Learn more here.

Half Price Books

halfpricebooks

HPB is probably the most well-known thrift bookstore in the country. They buy used books at low prices and sell them back at half the listed price, sometimes cheaper. HPB is organized, the staff is friendly, and they have a very wide variety of old and new books. However, you don’t get a lot for selling your books here. Most books, depending on condition and demand, will only fetch a seller 50¢ to $1. The one time I sold here I brought in a all stack of Manga and got about $3 in exchange. And since then HPB turns around and makes a profit on what I gave them, I am not super stoked to sell here again. But, they are convinent and kind and you can turn around and spend that $3 on books or pocket it, which is the difference between PaperBack Swap above and Paperback Exchange below.

Paperback Exchange

paperback exchange

This is a new & used bookstore in Minneapolis that offers a credit for traded in books. The way I understand it is that when you bring in books you get a store credit equal to the original cost of those books. You also get a 70% discount on used books and a 25% discount on new books. This bookstore does prefer only paperback books but will take hardcovers if they haven’t been released in paperback yet or are children’s books.

If I were going to trade in my books for credit, this does seem like the best option. You can get a lot of book for your traded in items with the trade credit and the discount. I would definitely come here over Half Price Books.

Learn more here.

Choices

I’ve decided to donate my books to three different places. The majority of my books will be going to the Women’s Prison Book Project. I honestly think this is a really great place for my books to be going. I know a lot of people enter prison illiterate or under educated and if I can help with that even a little I’m happy to.

My children’s books will be going to Read Indeed and the rest of the books, which are more genre specific, will go to Good Will where hopefully they’ll find a home.

2013-11-06 17.05.19

My Sorted Books!