The Stars Hate You, Vol. 2: Grab Bag

So much astrology, so little time.

This installment of The Stars Hate You features wanderlust, career advice, and the dulcet song of destiny.

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What do you do if an astrologer tells you to avoid your birthplace, but you don’t know where you were born?

The only thing to do in this instance is to avoid every place. Any one of them could be your birthplace. You just don’t know.

Normally, I’d recommend that you consult the keepers of the ancient scroll Your Birth Certificate for help ascertaining which cursed borough to avoid. Unfortunately, the stars inform me that everyone who might know where you were born was wiped out in the Potato Stampede of 1976.

My condolences. Maybe try heading for Thebes?

Can any astrologer predict my career, foreign living, partner and marriage? My date of birth is [personal information redacted].

I don’t know if any astrologer can predict your career, foreign living situation, partner and/or marriage. I, however, can make the following predictions with a level of confidence:

Career: You will do some work you find very fulfilling and some work you find boring, perhaps even insulting. You will do it because you like to eat food and sleep in a place that isn’t a park bench or a highway overpass. You may not always be able to make all these things work out at the same time, or maybe you will.

Foreign Living: You will live abroad, or you won’t. Wherever you end up, some things will be very strange to you and others very familiar. You will experience the true wisdom of the ancient proverb, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Partner: You’ll have one or more, unless you don’t. Experiences with partners or the pursuit of partners will teach you much about the need for self-reliance and self-confidence, but you may decide to ignore these lessons or pretend you never heard them. Lots of people do that. They’re usually not very happy.

Marriage: Your marriage situation will depend on your partner, or partners, or lack thereof. The stars say it’s too soon to ask about marriage when you’re still trying to figure out if you’re going to have a job, live in a place, or know people.

What year will I be married if I am born on [month and day redacted] 1995 in [place redacted]?

The stars predict you will marry at some point between 2015 and the end of your natural life. The stars say the end of your natural life could come at any moment, but is less likely to happen quickly or unexpectedly if you avoid major risks, like skydiving, eating raw shellfish, and investing in multi-level marketing schemes.

The stars were extremely concerned that I warn you about the multi-level marketing schemes.

How will I see my destiny or my “soul & life purpose” based on my natal chart?

The stars say that’s none of my damn business.


There’s more wise advice where this came from. Buy me a coffee or ask a mystical question in the comments for mystical, caffeinated answers. Or read the rest of the series.

How to Write an Essay Fast

Every semester as a college English instructor, I had students who were SHOCKED, SHOCKED I SAY that the deadline for a major paper had snuck up on them without their realizing it.

College does that to you: You’re busy with this assignment and that reading and this club and that sport and this roommate and that party, and pretty soon, you have a 10-page essay due November 11th or April 23rd, and what do you mean that’s tomorrow?!

A professional could bang that essay out in an hour or two. But you’re not a professional (yet). If you were, you wouldn’t be in college. Or high school. Or wherever it is that you’re stuck with a giant paper to write and a looming deadline.

I’m not going to show you how to write that essay like a professional would. I am, however, going to share a method that will allow you to write a passable essay in about the same amount of time it would take a professional to write an outstanding one.

A Note: This method will not turn out a good essayby which I mean “an essay that uses the craft of writing itself as a means of persuasion.” It will merely turn out a competent essay, by which I mean “an essay that demonstrates that you read what you were supposed to read and learned something from reading it.”

Consequently, I do not recommend this approach for essays due in English or technical writing classes – the classes where you’re supposed to be learning the craft of writing. Nor do I recommend it for written works that must follow a specific structure, like lab reports or legal briefs.

If you just need an essay that demonstrates you read some things in the field and had a thought or two about them, however, here’s how to get it written fast.


Step One: Assemble Your Research

Your research is done, right? If not, you have a problem this blog post can’t help you solve.

If your research is done, get all your notes together in front of your face. It doesn’t matter whether you made them on notecards or in a Google Doc or on cocktail napkins or by putting Post-It flags on every page of every book you want to cite. Just get it all in your writing space.

Step Two: Thesis Statement

Open a new Google Doc, Word doc, or whatever your favorite word processor is. (You can also do this on paper, but it’s tedious.)

You may have already done your research with a particular thesis statement in mind. If so, just type it in at the top of your document.

If you didn’t do your research with a particular thesis in mind, here’s how to generate one:

  • Think about all that reading you did. What’s something you can say about it that reasonable people could disagree about? Generate 3-5 such statements – things you could say about the reading that someone else could say “nuh-uh” to.
  • Choose the one that bores you the least, not the one you think is easiest to defend.

A thesis statement should always be a statement about which reasonable people could disagree. “There are four Presidents’ faces carved into Mount Rushmore” is a fact, not a thesis statement. Reasonable people can’t disagree about it, because you can all just go to Mount Rushmore (or look at a photo) and count the Presidents yourself.

“The four Presidents’ faces carved into Mount Rushmore deface a sacred Lakota site,” however, is a thesis statement. A reasonable person can disagree, for instance by saying “No, they enhance the site,” or “They’re not a defacement, they’re an example of the glory of American imperialism.” (The fact that you might disagree with every counterargument doesn’t make the arguments themselves unreasonable.)

Avoid the option that’s easiest to defend, because an easy defense makes your essay sound like you phoned it in. “The viewing platform at Mount Rushmore could be placed closer to the Presidents” is easy to defend, and for that reason, it’s super boring. It screams “I didn’t really do any work, I just don’t want a zero.”

The one that interests you most/bores you least, however, will automatically be better written because you actually care about it somewhat. It’ll have an energy that says “Hey, I did enough reading to find a topic that matters.” Do that one.

Step Three: Because Reasons

Below your thesis statement, write down a list of points that support the argument the statement makes. Avoid the urge to get too specific – you want general “buckets” or categories, not details. You can write these as sentence fragments if you like.

For example:

THESIS: The four Presidents’ faces carved into Mount Rushmore deface a sacred Lakota site.

  • the Lakota considered the Black Hills sacred ground generally
  • the Lakota named the mountain “the Six Grandfathers” specifically
  • the mountain in question actually terrible for carving
  • the monument lionizes the same white leaders who consistently undermined Native Americans’ ability to live peacefully on their ancestral lands

Then, work in a reference to your thesis statement for each fragment:

  • the Mount Rushmore carving appears in the Black Hills, which the Lakota consider generally sacred
  • today’s Mount Rushmore is carved into a site the Lakota called the Six Grandfathers, which had a particular spiritual significance
  • rather than choose a more stable site for the Presidents’ visages, the project was carried out on a sacred Lakota mountain that is actually ill-suited for sculptures
  • the Lakotas’ sacred Six Grandfathers were turned into a monument that lionizes four US Presidents who pursued harmful policies against not only the Lakota but other Native Americans as well

Finally, slap on a transitional word or phrase. Like “also,” “as well,” “in addition,” or ordinals like “first,” “second,” “third.”

  • First, the Mount Rushmore carving appears in the Black Hills, which the Lakota consider generally sacred.
  • Also, today’s Mount Rushmore is carved into a site the Lakota called the Six Grandfathers, which had a particular spiritual significance.
  • Another reason the Mount Rushmore presidents constitute a defacement of sacred Lakota territory is that rather than choose a more stable site for the sculptures, the project was carried out in a place that is ill-suited for carving.
  • Finally, the Lakotas’ sacred Six Grandfathers were turned into a monument that lionizes four US Presidents who pursued harmful policies against not only the Lakota but other Native Americans as well.

At the bottom of this list, write your thesis statement again, but say it differently. For example, “These four factors support the position that today’s Mount Rushmore is actually a defacement of a sacred site.”

Repeat this process for however many points you have. If you’re writing to a page count, estimate that you’ll need half a page for each point, plus half a page each for your introduction and conclusion. The example outline, then, is going to cover about three pages – maybe more, if you did a lot of research.

Step Four: Plug and Play

Get your research back in front of your face, and start dropping it into this outline under each point that is supported by that bit of research.

Drop in your summaries, quotes, and paraphrases with the author, title and page number attached. I cannot stress this enough. Nothing is more boring or eats more time than having to go back and fix all your citations after you already wrote the paper. Besides, it greatly increases the chances you’ll miss one and get dinged for plagiarism. Just put them into the outline, and you won’t have to deal with any of that.

You can use bullet points and sentence fragments here, too. Just put all the evidence bits where they go.

If you have a particularly weird or scandalous tidbit of information, or a fact or statistic that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else, set it aside. It’ll be great material for the introduction. (We’ll get to that.)

Step Five: Sew It Together

Once all your evidence details are in the outline, do the same thing to each of them that you did to your four topic sentences. Connect them to the topic sentence, and drop in transitions where you need them so someone who has never even heard of your topic before can still follow your train of thought. The body paragraphs are a great place to use “for example,” “for instance,” and “to illustrate” in order to introduce actual examples of whatever you’re talking about.

Take out the bullet points, start each paragraph with the topic sentence, line up all the details behind it, and end the paragraph by writing your topic sentence again in a different way. (You can leave out the transition when you rewrite.)

Step Six: Conclusion

Once all your body paragraphs are done, it’s time to write the conclusion. Start with your restated thesis sentence, then summarize the body paragraphs in a sentence or two.

For example, in our Mount Rushmore essay, your conclusion might read:

These four factors support the position that today’s Mount Rushmore is actually a defacement of a sacred site. The Six Grandfathers are a specific sacred site on sacred land. The sheer difficulty of carving them suggests an ulterior motive, particularly when the result is a sculpture of white imperialists with aggressively anti-Native American policies appearing on Native sacred land. 

Finish this paragraph with a “call to action,” or a punchy sentence intended to make your reader feel, remember, or do something with all the arguing you just did. An example here might be “Not only must similar projects be prohibited in the future, but reparations should be made to the Lakota Sioux for the damage caused to their land and culture.”

Step Seven: Introduction

Scroll back to the top. In front of your thesis statement, plug in that particular juicy tidbit of information that you pulled out of your research back in Step Four. For example:

In 1868, the Lakota Sioux were promised that the US Government would not interfere with their lives in the Black Hills. Just two years later, the US Government broke that promise. 

Connect this juicy tidbit to your thesis statement with a sentence or two that moves your reader from here to there. If you’re not sure how to do it, just summarize the points in your topic sentences. It’s okay to be really obvious about this. Remember, your reader has no idea what your argument is yet.

In 1868, the Lakota Sioux were promised that the US Government would not interfere with their lives in the Black Hills. Just two years later, the US Government broke that promise. In 1927, white sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the faces of today’s Mount Rushmore into a mountain the Lakota considered one of the most sacred sites in a sacred land. Adding insult to injury, the four Presidents he carved all executed anti-Native policies. The four Presidents’ faces carved into Mount Rushmore deface a sacred Lakota site.

Step Eight: Cite Your Works

Finally (finally!), grab your sources one more time and put them in order on a Works Cited page, using whatever citation format you’ve been using in the paper itself. If you’re not sure how to cite something, Google it.

(In my day, there was no Google. We had to look up citation formats in print editions of the various style manuals. We also had to walk uphill both ways five miles in the snow to attend a one-room university with only a wood stove for heat, with an onion tied to our belts, as was the style at the time. “Give me five bees for a nickel,” you’d say.)

Give the paper a title, if you feel like it.

You’re done! Read it once to make sure there aren’t any obvious mistakes, then turn it in and get some well-deserved sleep while your friends pull all-nighters.

Have other questions about how to survive the research and writing portion of your education? Drop them in the comments. Keep me alive by buying me a coffee, and help your classmates by sharing this post on social media.


My New Morning Activity is Schooling Other White People About Racism

I joked on Twitter this morning that my new morning routine is “wake up, get breakfast, write 2,000 words explaining to white people why/how Black people are human, clean catbox.”

But it’s really not a joke.

For various reasons, I would be a bigger burden than a help to my fellow protestors on the ground. So that’s not my lane. My lane in this fight is to educate other white people – and as a professional writer who does at least 5,000 words a day out of sheer habit, I can easily do it.

In case you need some quick answers to share with white people, here’s a few I’ve done so far:


The Same Old Nonsense

How can Floyd’s death be motivated by racism if Alexander Kueng is African American?

Because individual Black people can participate in a system that perpetuates and enforces Black oppression.

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin are examples in a pattern, perpetuated by a system. You can replace Floyd’s name with the names of literally dozens of black people who were killed by police during a routine police encounter and Chauvin’s name with the names of literally dozens of cops who got away with it, and the story is the same.

The protests are happening because people will no longer stand for the system.


Why do a lot of black people get offended when they see the “All Lives Matter” hashtag? Why do they believe other lives like brown people and Asian people’s lives don’t matter?

Black people are the most likely of ANY racial group to die during a routine police encounter.

Black people don’t think other POC or White people should be murdered by police instead of Black people. They think no one should fear for their lives during a routine police stop.

And since they have more to fear, they are also the angriest and loudest about making these lynchings stop. That includes not letting White people get away with obvious lies like “All Lives Matter.”


The Protests and What Comes of Them

People in America are calling for the police force to be disbanded, is this a legitimate proposal and if so what would be the alternative? 

At the very least, our current police departments might be disbanded and rebuilt on the model of countries whose law enforcement are tasked with first responder and deescalation duties, rather than supplied with leftover military toys.


Who is funding and organizing Antifa in the United States?

No one, because “antifa” isn’t an organization. It’s a political stance. Specifically, it’s the political stance that fascism must not be tolerated in human societies.

“Antifa” is every person who has completely had it with fascist actions by authorities and will no longer tolerate them.

Proving There’s No Question Racism Doesn’t Touch

Can black people be autistic? Why does it seem that there are more autistic white people than autistic black people? 

There seem to be more white autistic people because:

  • Autism diagnosis is expensive, and the money in the world is concentrated in the hands of white people,
  • People qualified to diagnose autism tend to practice in wealthier, whiter areas,
  • Black autistic children are more likely to be “diagnosed” by white people (not just doctors, but also teachers, cops, etc) as “defiant” or “troublemakers” or “uppity” than as autistic, because too many white people believe that anything but cheerful servileness from a Black child is proof of budding criminal intent.



As so many Liberals now want to tear down the statute of R.E. Lee in Richmond, isn’t it true that his citizenship in the United States of America must first be revoked?

No. What? Seriously, I don’t follow the logic here.

“Being a US citizen” and “having a statue of you displayed in a public place” are not related qualities.

The idea that you have to revoke the citizenship of a dead man – which the US doesn’t even have a legal process for, by the way – in order to take down a hunk of stone or metal purportedly shaped like him is baffling.


Why I Write About Racism

Do you consider yourself a privileged white person which the Black Lives Matter activists are claiming we all are?

Oh, absolutely yes.

One of my grad school professors was a Black woman who shares the same birthday I do. We’re in the same field, we took similar paths to get here, we have common academic interests, we live in the same city, we went to the same university. We’re even the same height!

And I have personally witnessed her having to deal with rudeness and mistreatment that I have never faced – rudeness that clearly implied she didn’t deserve her job/title/position/credentials because she is Black.

Nobody has ever implied or stated that I didn’t deserve my job/title/etc. because I am White.

My life hasn’t always been easy, but nobody is ever going to look at the color of my skin and use it as an excuse to treat me the way this country treats Black people every single day.

I’m sending 100% of my book royalties and website tips to bail funds from now until we see real changes in policing nationwide. Please also share this post on social media.