Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for April 2012

When Big Brother Goes Wrong: Pair Fired for Affair in AZ

with 6 comments

Recently, a student caught a secretary and a school principal kissing lustily on camera.  The two people, Stephen McClenning and Billie Madewell, are married to other people; worse yet, they kissed on school time.

The student, Myranda Garber, 16, posted the video of the kiss online at YouTube; it’s several minutes long.  Then, outraged condemnation followed — first other students were upset, then parents were inflamed, and then, of course, media outlets glommed on to the scandal, including the UK’s Daily Mail (where I found this article).

The narrative framing here is simple: how dare these two consenting adults kiss on school time?  (With the additional parental framing, to wit: My children saw this on school time?  For shame!)  They’re married!  It’s wrong!  And how disgraceful these two did this, when they should’ve been working!

Now, I put all those exclamation points there for a reason, which is this: the artificial “shock and awe” over two adults over the age of consent having an affair is way overblown.

Here’s the truth about this affair: it was stupid.  It wasn’t morally admirable.  It hurt the two spouses unnecessarily, and no matter how hot these two were and are for each other, it never should’ve happened on school time.

But notice the words I used there — stupid.  Not “morally admirable.”  Hurt.  “(Not) . . . on school time.”

Did you notice which words I didn’t use?  (Hint, hint: anything that says this was a shocking, outrageous thing to happen in the 21st Century, and how dare this happen in front of supposedly-innocent kids, is what I was going for.)

I’m not personally offended by this couple even though I am against married people straying outside their given vows and word.  Instead, I’m far more offended by the fact this 16-year-old student taped these two people kissing without their consent.  I’m also upset that no media source has quoted a parent, or a student, who seems to think this simple act was wrong, even though it was.

Just because “everybody does it” doesn’t make it right. 

In this case, the student was wrong to post a video of these two consenting adults publicly; she had every right to bring it to the school board, she had every right to bring it to her local news outlet, even — but to post a video at YouTube in order to shame these two while ousting them?  That’s not just outrageous — it’s disgraceful. 

That’s why my personal outrage is saved for the “Big Brotherish” aspects of this case.  For example: the student doesn’t feel any remorse; in fact, her mother is upset that the girl has had to have been pulled out of school rather than the fact her daughter was using a cell phone on school time.  Then, consider that neither the parent nor the child seem to feel that posting the video on YouTube was wrong, even though it blew up two families (which, granted, would’ve eventually blown up anyway) and was a blatant invasion of their privacy.

Worse yet, no lawsuits seem to be in the offing, because videos of this nature are now so commonplace that they hardly even get reported on any more (witness the lack of outrage by most United States newspaper outlets if you don’t believe me).

In American culture today, too much of what we used to expect as part of the United States Constitution — our right to privacy, which is codified under the Fourth Amendment — has been violated as a matter of course.  Everyone, seemingly, has a cell phone, and most cell phones have cameras.  People take pictures of everything and post it online, sometimes to make fun of someone doing something that’s minor but odd (such as picking your nose in public), sometimes to make fun of someone for not wearing any underwear (a la Britney Spears).

And no one thinks anything of this anymore, because so many people do it.

But that still doesn’t make it right, which is why I urge you to consider the following questions:

Where has the right to privacy gone? 

And why aren’t more people complaining to get the word out that the erosion of our personal rights must stop forthwith?

Now, all that said, I reiterate that these two lovers definitely should not have kissed on school time.  Getting caught doing that deserved reprimands and possible suspensions for a first offense (which as far as I know, this was); one of the two, probably the secretary as she was the lower-ranked person, should’ve started looking for another job.  (It’s a sad truism that usually the higher-ranked person, who is almost always male, tends to get away scot-free in such cases.)**  

Here’s the upshot: if the principal was a good educator, as he’s been alleged to be, and if the secretary was a good secretary who didn’t make mistakes on the job and actually helped the running of the school (as good secretaries the world over tend to do), they shouldn’t have lost their jobs for one indiscretion — especially as it was an indiscretion that was captured by a student who had a cell phone and felt the world had a right to know what these two people were doing.

And the fact these two lost their jobs over this seems extremely disproportionate, especially as the student, herself, has lost nothing at all.


** Note: I believe that the principal was far more at fault than the secretary; he’s the one in the position of power, and he’s the one who should’ve been fired if anyone was.  Yet the secretary was forced out — this is what I meant by “sad truism” — while the principal was allowed to resign.

This is wrong, as the principal had all the power in that relationship, both personal and professional.

If the school, the parents, etc., were really so outraged, the principal should’ve been fired instead, and the secretary should’ve been allowed to submit her resignation.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Just reviewed “Threshold” at SBR

leave a comment »

Folks, if you haven’t read Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor’s books by now, you really should.  THRESHOLD is the second in a series about paleontologist Helen Sutter, her much younger husband, A.J. Baker, ex-Homeland Security operative Madeline Fathom, and Fathom’s husband, Joe Buckley.  (Yes, that Joe Buckley — the guy who frequently gets red-shirted in books, especially ones with Baen on the label.) 

This is a very fine space opera that gets everything right . . . all I know is, I want to read the sequel (right now, dammit!) because Flint and Spoor left their heroes in one Hell of a spot.

Here’s the link:


Written by Barb Caffrey

April 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm

SF&F Writer K.D. Wentworth Dies at 61

leave a comment »

Folks, I feel terrible that I missed the initial announcement, but here it is: on April 18, 2012, Kathy Wentworth (known as K.D. Wentworth in SF&F fandom) passed away due to complications from cervical cancer.  She was 61 years old.  (Please see more here.)

I met Wentworth in 2005 at ConQuesT in Kansas City; she kindly signed a copy of THE COURSE OF EMPIRE, the first book she co-wrote with Eric Flint, for me that day.  (If you haven’t read it, THE COURSE OF EMPIRE is one of the best SF books of the past ten years; you really should get this book and read it, again and again.)   I still have that book and read it frequently. 

Wentworth also was a long-time judge for the Writers of the Future contest (that I didn’t receive this news from them is truly puzzling, as I’m still on their list due to my past submissions to the contest),  wrote over 50 short stories and several novels, including (but not limited to) BLACK ON BLACK, STARS OVER STARS, THE COURSE OF EMPIRE, and its sequel, THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE (the latter two with Flint), and was active in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

Wentworth was a kind person who knew a great deal about writing, editing, and publishing, and was willing to talk with a complete unknown (like me) at length without any visible sign of strain.  She also was an excellent writer whose stories (especially the two EMPIRE novels with Flint) should live forever.

The best tribute to a writer is this: go read her work.  Then go buy her work.  Then go  and recommend it to everyone you know (providing you like it half as much as I do, that is).   So please — for K.D. Wentworth — do what you can to keep her work, and her words, alive.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Brewers P Chris Narveson: Out for the Year (Rotator Cuff)

with one comment

After his last unsuccessful start, Milwaukee Brewers left-handed pitcher Chris Narveson knew something was wrong.  Medical tests by Brewers team doctor William Raasch confirmed that Narveson had a partially torn rotator cuff;  Raasch told Narveson the best option was arthroscopic surgery, but Narveson hoped a second opinion would tell him that he wouldn’t have to have season-ending surgery.

Unfortunately, the second opinion by specialist doctor Lewis Yocum merely confirmed the first assessment, which is why Narveson is now on the 60-day disabled list and is out for the year.  Here’s a link to the story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

And a relevant quote:

“Yocum said we could try to rehab it but there’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t tear more,” said Narveson. “He was confident that by having the surgery I can be ready for next year.”

Narveson’s season ends with a 1-1 record, a 7.00 earned run average (ERA), 5 strikeouts, 4 walks, and 9 innings pitched.

Now, as for my analysis?  I think Narveson is a good pitcher with a gritty attitude; in some ways, he reminds me of former Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, especially in how he approaches the game.  Because Narveson’s such a steady player, it’s possible that his loss may be underrated by professional scribes — in fact, I’ve already heard on Milwaukee radio that this could be something akin to a “blessing in disguise” because free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt is available — and Oswalt was always a huge Brewers-killer.

Look.  When someone who is a reliable and steady player like Narveson ends up going on the season-ending DL after three weeks of play, that’s not a blessing.    Instead, it’s a problem — one that Narveson himself hopes to minimize by staying around the team (as his plans, right now, are to rehab his injury in Milwaukee).

Whether the Brewers are able to tempt Oswalt or not, the fact is that we now have four reliable starters — that is, if Randy Wolf can get back on his game tonight, as so far he has yet to throw well — not five.  We do have several guys on the roster who have the skill to be starters, with the two I thought of right away being Marco Estrada and Manny Parra.  Both are strikeout pitchers when they’re on.  And Parra, being a lefty like Narveson, has added value.

For the moment, the fifth starter’s job is Estrada’s to lose.  But it’s anyone’s guess if the Brewers will leave Estrada in that position long-term, especially considering the fact that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke seems to like Estrada in the role of spot-starter and long reliever.

No matter what the Brewers do, though, the fact remains that Narveson is out for the season.  Now, it’s up to the 2012 Brewers as a team to figure out how they’re going to respond to the loss of Narveson’s steady on-the-field presence.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Just Reviewed Julia London’s “The Revenge of Count Eberlin” at SBR

leave a comment »

Tonight, I reviewed Julia London’s THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN at SBR; here’s a few of my further thoughts about the book.

Folks, if you’re looking for a good way to spend a few hours amidst two star-crossed lovers in a 19th century English milieu, look no further than Julia London’s THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN.  This is a good story with excellent characterization and depth that hangs on one, thin strand: when Lily Beaudine was eight years old, she saw Joseph Scott, a carpenter, leaving Ashwood Manor at a very late hour.  That was the evening the Ashwood jewels were reported stolen; Joesph Scott, who was innocent of that crime, went to the gallows.  And Tobin Scott, Lily’s oft-companion (who was then only thirteen), lost his father.  This embittered Tobin and he vowed revenge.

Now, it’s 1808.  Tobin’s become Count Eberlin of Denmark, a purchased title as he’s become an incredibly wealthy man due to gun-running and the like.  And Lily has become the Countess of Ashwood in her own right.  But Tobin still blames Lily for his father’s death, and is hell-bent on ruining Lily and Ashwood alike.

Of course, as this is a romance, the two of them have an undeniable connection despite Tobin’s initial antipathy.  And over the course of THE REVENGE OF COUNT EBERLIN, we find out why Lily’s Aunt Althea (then Countess of Ashwood through marriage) didn’t speak up to save Joseph Scott’s life, we find out that Lily may not be the last Ashwood heir (or heiress) after all, and we find out that Tobin and Lily can still talk with one another better than anyone else, even though it’s been years and Tobin would rather not.

This is a near-perfect romance that’s marred only because there was never any doubt of Joseph Scott’s innocence; had there been some doubt left there, or had Ms. London set up the novel a little differently so it was possible to see the actions of Joseph Scott and Aunt Althea through Lily’s eight-year-old eyes, this would’ve been flawless.  Still, it’s a very good novel that I enjoyed thoroughly; it’s one that you will, too, if you enjoy English historical romance and/or star-crossed lover tales.

Here’s the link:


Written by Barb Caffrey

April 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Just reviewed “Lawyers in Hell” at SBR

leave a comment »

The “Heroes in Hell” anthology series, created by Janet and Chris Morris, is back after a twenty-five year hiatus with LAWYERS IN HELL.  As this was one of my favorite shared world anthology series (seria?), I was pleased to be able to obtain a copy and review it at Shiny Book Review.

As I said at SBR, all twenty-two stories are competent, but I enjoyed some of them more than others.  Along with the three stories the Morrises wrote, I highlighted five others that I particularly enjoyed, along with three that either disappointed me or annoyed me.  (Just remember that in this case, “worst” stories is a relative term, as none of the stories are bad.)

This is a series that still has a great deal of life left to it, which is why I urge you to read my review, then go grab the book!

Here’s the link:


Written by Barb Caffrey

April 20, 2012 at 10:51 pm

WI Recalls and Redistricting, 2012 Edition

with 3 comments

Tonight, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) has appealed the largely-favorable ruling the three-judge federal panel gave regarding the 2012 redistricting process to the United States Supreme Court (otherwise known as SCOTUS).  Van Hollen did this despite saying last month that the federal judges had “vindicated” the 2010 maps, which were drawn by the WI GOP in a highly partisan and divisive process.

But tonight, Van Hollen is singing a different tune.  His pro-appeal reasoning, as given by tonight’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, is this:

“While some view the adverse portion of the district court decision as being inconsequential, I disagree,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Any time a federal court rejects a state redistricting statute, and decides to redraw or adjust a legislative district, it is a serious matter and appropriate for appellate review.”

Um, excuse me?

Don’t you realize that by appealing this order, this allows the whole ruling to be appealed?  Meaning the Democrats could, theoretically, still prevail?

Well, even if Van Hollen doesn’t get it, the Democrats in Wisconsin sure do.  Doug Poland, an attorney for the Democrats who filed suit, said last month that if the state was silly enough to appeal the ruling, he would do whatever he could to get the entire ruling overturned in order to obtain a better outcome.  (He said it in a much gentler fashion, and he didn’t say the appeal by Van Hollen was “silly.”  I did, and am, because it is.)

Mind you, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) understands that this is a frivolous waste of time; he says in tonight’s Journal-Sentinel article (the first one referenced above) that:

“Does their appetite for wasting taxpayer money on protecting their own political interests ever end?” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a statement. “It must be the first time in history anyone has appealed their ‘vindication’ to the Supreme Court.”

Then, the Journal-Sentinel pointed out how much this redistricting court case has already cost the state of Wisconsin:

Republican lawmakers have committed $400,000 in taxpayer money to Michael Best & Friedrich and the Troupis Law Office for their work on redistricting. Separately, Gov. Scott Walker hired Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren to assist the Department of Justice with the litigation. That firm’s contract with the state caps its fees at $925,000; as of February, it had billed the state $288,000.

In addition, the plaintiffs are seeking about $690,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs from the state because they prevailed on their argument on Assembly Districts 8 and 9. The panel has not yet said whether it would award those fees.

So, did you get all that?  The WI GOP won, but they’re not happy; they want it all, or they’ll take their ball and go home.  (Me, I just wish they’d leave the ball and stay home.)  That’s why they’re appealing this ruling, which largely went their way, to SCOTUS.

My take?  I find this shameful, as it’s a shocking waste of money (in a state soon-to-be-former Governor Scott Walker says is “broke”).  I also echo the often-made comments of political commentator John Nichols, when he’s said on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” (and elsewhere) that the WI GOP are comprised of “very bad winners.”  (My best paraphrase, that.)  And I firmly agree with Rep. Barca; what on earth is wrong with these people?  They win and still don’t like it?

Otherwise, there’s a hint of good news amidst a lot of bad regarding the four state Senate recalls.  Here’s the link to that Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, written by long-time political analyst Craig Gilbert:

Gilbert states that only former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) is within striking distance of his opponent, current Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine).  (Lehman appears to be within the margin of error, as the recent poll Gilbert used said that Wanggaard leads, 48-46.)  The other three Senate districts, including the district vacated by Pam Galloway, have Republicans leading the Democratic challengers by wide margins.  (See this link to the Daily Kos article that references this data for further information.)

Due to former Senator Galloway’s abrupt resignation (possibly to get a stronger candidate in there as she would’ve lost her recall race), the WI Senate is currently divided equally, 16-16.  That means if Lehman can beat Wanggaard, the Ds will control the state Senate, 17-16; further elections in 2012 should help the Dems cement their lead.

And as I’ve said here before, we have recalled a Republican before in district 21, so it’s certainly not uncharted territory for us to recall another one.

2012 Brewers Pluses, Minuses, and Oddities thus far

leave a comment »

Folks, so far 2012 is shaping up to be a very strange year for the Milwaukee Brewers.

For example, if I had to grade the starters right now, I’d say they’re a net minus for the team.  (This when they were expected to be a major strength.) 

Consider, please, that the ace of the staff right now is #4 starter Shaun Marcum.  Marcum’s current ERA is 3.46, his record is 1-1, he’s pitched 13 innings thus far and he has 12 strikeouts.  The aces we’re supposed to be able to depend on, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke, have each had one good game and one bad game thus far — they, too, are 1-1, and Greinke has 12 Ks right along with Marcum to lead the team thus far.   But it gets murky after that — Gallardo’s ERA is 5.91 while Greinke’s is even worse at 6.75.  Both have pitched exactly 10 2/3 innings, while Gallardo has somehow walked 7 men thus far (Greinke has only walked 1, but that’s not much of a comfort when almost every other statistic he has is abysmal).

And as for #3 starter Randy Wolf, he’s has had two bad outings thus far, which is why his ERA is a whopping 10.61 in only 9 1/3 innings.  Wolf said he “stunk” a few days ago, and that he will do better; he’s a proud man, and I’m well aware that no professional baseball player ever goes out on to the field and wants to do so poorly — especially to start the season.  But this just isn’t good.

And #5 starter Chris Narveson, who pitched so well in his first start, pitched poorly today; he now stands with an ERA of 7.00 with 9 innings pitched, 5 Ks and 4 walks.  While he’s not expected to be a shining light (as he is the #5 starter), he is expected to be competent; Narveson most likely will improve right along with Wolf and the others, but this is a most inauspicious start to the 2012 for the entire starting rotation.

As for the relief pitching, here we’re looking at oddities instead; while there are some minuses (John Axford’s had two bad outings, though he does have two saves, while Francisco Rodriguez has had one bad outing), there are two big pluses thus far — the pitching of Manny Parra, coming back after being out all last season with back and arm issues, and the pitching of Kameron Loe.  Both of them have sub-3 ERAs; Loe has consistently gotten the ground-ball outs he needs to get to be a successful pitcher, while Parra has 8 Ks thus far (better than some of the starters).

And the rest of the relievers have been pretty good, too; Jose Veras has pitched well thus far, as has Marco Estrada; even Tim Dillard has done surprisingly well (don’t let his ERA of 7.11 fool you, as that’s due to one, bad outing).  So the guys expected to do well — Axford and K-Rod — mostly haven’t, but the rest of ’em have.  I’d rank that an oddity.

Now, we get to the fielding, which is just plain awful and is a huge net minus for the team.  Ryan Braun, who’s hitting pretty well, has already made an unusual throwing error (he was off-balance the other day against Atlanta, threw to third base, was off the mark, and a run scored), while Carlos Gomez, probably the best fielding outfielder on the team, has already made two errors.

But the infielders have been by far worse; Alex Gonzales, who’s supposed to be such a good defender, has three errors already (though one wasn’t his fault as Mat Gamel wasn’t where he was supposed to be; really, Gonzales shouldn’t have had to be charged with that as that’s where the “team error” stat should come into play — which is why MLB needs to adopt that rule, stat).  Rickie Weeks at second base has one, while Mat Gamel has two . . . and Aramis Ramirez has one.

So the team defense so far has lacked quite a bit.

As for the hitting, only one regular player is doing very well and being productive, and that’s Corey Hart.  He’s hitting .321 thus far with 4 homers, 8 RBI, and 3 doubles.  Ryan Braun has done the best otherwise, as he’s hitting .343 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 stolen bases and 4 doubles. 

The biggest net plus when it comes to this team thus far is the catching tandem of Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras.  Lucroy is hitting .364 with 2 HR and 6 RBI, while Kottaras is also hitting .364 (a statistical anomaly, that) with 3 HR and 6 RBI.

But there’s still some real problems with the hitting; the team as a whole is only batting .228, while Weeks and Ramirez are batting below .200.  (Ramirez in particular has been terrible, as he’s batting only .114.)

This is why I call the hitting an oddity thus far; there are some people hitting, a few you’d expect to do well (Hart and Braun), a few you wouldn’t who are doing well (the catchers), and a few you expect to do well who aren’t (Weeks and Ramirez.

All of this adds up to a 4-6 record and a highly unpredictable and frustrating season thus far.

Just Reviewed “Confessions of an Improper Bride” at SBR

leave a comment »

Folks, CONFESSIONS OF AN IMPROPER BRIDE is the second romance novel I’ve read by Jennifer Haymore and reviewed at Shiny Book Review (SBR); it is by far better than the previous novel reviewed (the iffy A SEASON OF SEDUCTION).   I enjoyed this emotionally complex tale of regret, grief, pathos, and (paradoxically) joy — one of the best romances I’ve read this year.

Go take a look at my review:


Written by Barb Caffrey

April 14, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Secret Service Embarrasses Themselves in Colombia

leave a comment »

Folks, if you haven’t heard this one yet, hold on to your hats: the United States Secret Service, which protects the President of the United States and is supposed to be discreet and above all, above reproach, has completely embarrassed themselves in Cartagena, Colombia.

The specifics relate to twelve male Secret Service agents who were there to prepare for Barack Obama’s impending visit to the area due to an important summit going on.  These agents apparently visited prostitutes.  Some of the agents were married; apparently more than one was indiscreet.  At least one must have shot his mouth off about being there to protect the President (because as gloriously embarrassing as a bunch of Secret Service agents going to local prostitutes is, that in and of itself would be unlikely to get all these guys sent home, much less get the “official spokesman” of the Secret Service into the act), which is a big “no-no.”

Please take a look at this link at Yahoo (which is easier to load):

And to get a further idea what’s going on, go to the Huffington Post, which has more details (but is much tougher to load, even on broadband):

My quick take?  I’ve never heard of such a thing before, so either our Secret Service doesn’t have quite the pick of personnel it used to, or these particular twelve agents must’ve had the most colossal lapse of judgment in the history of the Secret Service.

What I hope happens here is that we will find out more in coming days, as something like this needs to be exposed (pardon the inadvertent pun) in order to keep it from ever happening again.

And as for the Secret Service’s assertion that sending home twelve well-trained agents wouldn’t make any difference to the level of protection for President Obama?  B.S.!  (Or “banana squishies,” as this is a friendly site.)