Harper’s post on reading spoke to me on so many levels. Watch for the line, “Books are magic carpets.” Happy Easter and Happy Spring!
Have you heard about the heated battle going on in Great Britain? I guess jolly olde England ain’t so jolly.
Government officials in southwestern England want to abolish the use of apostrophes on street (and other) signs to avoid confusion.
“St. Paul’s Square” would be known as “St. Pauls Square.” How is that less confusing? The point of proper punctuation is to avoid confusion.
The issue is a hotbed of controversy. Outraged grammarians ask, “What is next? A war on commas?” An indignant former council member said, “It is just sloppiness. It sets a bad example from people who should not be setting a bad example.”
I interviewed Queen Elizabeth to get her take on the apostrophe debate. She said, “Come on, people. You all agreed to use the “Queen’s English,” not the “Queens English. I’m the only queen around this joint.” She didn’t say so, but I could tell she was miffed. She left in a huff before I could ask my follow-up question, “What DO you carry in that handbag? It isn’t like you need bus fare.”
I didn’t know this, but misuse of the noble apostrophe abounds in England. They even have a term for it . . . the “grocer’s apostrophe.” Signs in shops, such as “tomato’s for sale,” are common. Government agencies and business omit and add apostrophes with willy-nilly abandon. For example, the London Underground has a stop called Earl’s Court and another is called Barons Court.
An apostrophe advocate in England said, “The correct use of the apostrophe isn’t simply nitpicking; the tiny punctuation mark can make an out-sized difference, as in this sentence: ‘If you’re late for dinner, you can eat your son’s.’ If you don’t put the apostrophe in ‘son’s,’ it’s cannibalism, isn’t it?”
The kerfuffle over the misuse of the apostrophe in England bugged former newspaper copy editor John Richards so much he founded the Apostrophe Protection Society. The society’s website, www.apostrophe.org.uk, has had more than 1.6 million visitors.
Mr. Richards has this to say about the government’s recent proposal to abolish apostrophes from signs. “I don’t see how keeping the apostrophe can cause confusion. They don’t say confusion to whom. It baffles me. I’m all for evolution, as long as it evolves into something better. Change just for the sake of convenience, because people are too lazy to learn to use it properly, isn’t evolution. It is going backward.”
I don’t have trouble using the apostrophe properly. Commas are my bugaboo. However, “it’s vs. its” hangs me up. Every. Single. Time. I have a mental block with the damn rule.
Related articles on the apostrophe War
- End of the road for the misunderstood apostrophe (thetimes.co.uk)
- Council accused of ‘murdering’ punctuation mark after abolishing apostrophes from street names (telegraph.co.uk)
- In the lanes of Devon, the signs aren’t looking good for the apostrophe (independent.co.uk)
- Apostrophe lives to fight another day for good grammar (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Dropped Apostrophes Spark Grammar War in Britain (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Humble apostrophe reprieved in council U-turn (thetimes.co.uk)
- You: Outrage at local authority plans to abolish apostrophe (guardian.co.uk)
Now I’ve heard everything. Did you know that social media and electronic devices are hurting the car manufacturing industry?
Lindsay Kirchoff, 23, from the software company HubSpot and a millennial trend marketing consultant said, “The Internet has made the freedoms that comes with getting a (driver’s) license anticlimactic.”
When folks ages 18 to 34 were asked, 65 percent said they would rather do without a car than their phone or computer.
These days, kids’ social life is on the information highway, not on an actual highway.
Were you like me and COULD NOT WAIT to get your driver’s license? If memory serves, I waited outside the DMV on my sixteenth birthday for the doors to open. My license meant a ticket to freedom.
When I went to Bedrock High School with Fred Flintstone, we took driver’s ed. in school. Now, kids/parents have to pay for driver training and fit the lessons in around an already jammed schedule.
Thirty years ago, nearly half of sixteen-year-olds had their driver’s license. In 2010, the number dropped to 28 percent. What is wrong with these kids?
The shift is blamed on the way kids can now stay connected via smartphone or computer instead of gathering at the malt shop for entertainment on a Friday night. Why go to a drive-in movie theater when you can watch a movie on your laptop? You can stay at home with your boring parents and still hang out with your friends via Skype, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.
Teenage apathy about driving has serious consequences for the car industry. Automakers have to convince teens that they need a car at all.
“Mom will drive me (geez, entitled kids these days).”
“Gas is expensive.”
“I buy everything on-line.”
“I talk to my friends on Facebook.”
In l985, 3.4 percent of new-car-sales were to drivers aged 15 to 20. In 2012, the number dropped to 2 percent.
What happened to watching submarine races? What happened to cruising a la American Graffiti? What happened to sneaking in the house when you missed your curfew?
I get that kids have a hard time finding a job in this economy. Ergo, they can’t make car payments or afford insurance. Heck, you need a Swiss Bank account so you can pay for gas. But why not want to get their license and drive their date to the prom in mom’s mini-van?
Oh, yeah. Mom pays for a party bus to take you to the prom so you don’t drink and drive. (I’m okay with the no drinking and driving thing, but party bus? Isn’t that encouraging drinking?)
Status among the teen-set is now measured in gigabytes instead of horsepower. Making lasting memories in the backseat of a car is a thing of the past. If you have a retina display on your iPad, who needs to make-out with the high school star-quarterback to be one of the cool kids?
Researchers say this also has long-term implications for automakers. Because this generation isn’t forming an emotional attachment to cars, they will buy fewer cars over their lifetime.
Some also blame teen’s decreased desire to get a driver’s license on the lack of time. Kids nowadays are over-scheduled with sports, tutoring, AP classes, and SAT prep. Read: College application padding.
I was an anomaly among my peers when our kids were of driving age. My fellow moms dreaded the day their children could drive. With three kids, three school start times, three soccer practices, and three whatever’s, I spent more time in my car than in my home.
But kids these days would rather Tweet than get their driver’s license?
- Smartphones, not cars, drive teens’ social lives (seattletimes.com)
Y’all know how I like to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends. What’s that you say? I don’t post about what’s trending in the world? Oops, you are right. This is as good a place as any to start.
The latest must-have toy for kids and teens doesn’t have a game console, wires, or require a power outlet. They are calling it the anti-Xbox. Thank GAWD for that.
This newest fad is a Japanese toy dating back to the 1500s. It is similar to the old-fashioned ball and cup game we used to play. It is called a kendama, and in certain parts of the U.S. (dare I say world?), they are flying off the shelf. Want to be the cool parent, grandparent, or fairy-godmother to some kid in your life? Duke it out with a fellow fairy-godmother at your nearest toy store and buy a child a kendama.
Rather than describing what this craze looks like, take a gander here:
The object is to swing the ball up into one of the cups or to have the ball land on the spike (see the hole in the ball?) Easy-peasy, right? Not so. It takes hand-eye coordination and hours of practice. This toy also comes in handy when you misplace your egg cup or need a meat mallet.
But most importantly, in this age of rampant childhood obesity and a generation of zombie-like teens transfixed to various forms of electronic devices, this toy gets kids off their rear end and moving.
We have a kendama club in Sacramento and they meet . . . get this . . . at a library! Not only are kids not epoxied to their game console, they are talking to each other in a place that houses books! Books, I tell you! You never know . . . a kid might knock a book off a library shelf with his kendama, wonder what it is, and then read it.
More good news for parents is a kendama is cheap . . . they run $1.50 for a plastic version, $13.00 for an entry-level (whatever that means) kendama, and $28 for the cherry-wood Kendama USA Pro Model.
Richard Gottlieb, a toy industry consultant and analyst in New York said, “I’d put the kendama in the same continuum as the yo-yo or hula hoop. They require skill, mastery, and coordination.” Wouldn’t you love to see that guy’s office?
What I like about the kendama is they don’t plug into the wall.
Remember, you heard about the kendama here first.
I am honored that Robert Louis Stevenson came back from the dead to grant me an interview. Some say he is pimping my blog to jack-up his book sales on Amazon, but I know better. He has long been a follower of this humble blog and he wanted to pay homage to a fellow Strong vs Weak Word advocate. Plus, Oprah was busy interviewing Lance-Romance Armstrong.
Without further ado, I present my interview with Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson.
So, Bob, if I may call you that, I understand your unpublished essay, “Books and Reading No. 2. How Books Have to be Written,” was recently discovered in the Syracuse University library.
Don’t call me Bob.
What is your essay about?
Like the title says, you dingbat, the essay is about “how books have to be written.”
No need to start with the name-calling. What was your motivation for writing the essay?
I was bored with the glut of so-called literature of my day. There is such a thing as vampire, werewolf, and bondage over-kill.
Okay, I get that you aren’t into S & M. What did you say to writers about the craft of writing?
Since you were too lazy to read my essay, here is a snippet for you.
“In the trash that I have no doubt you generally read, a vast number of people will probably get shot and stabbed and drowned; and you have only a very slight excitement for your money.”
Your idea of excitement sounds rather violent. Do you have serial killer leanings?
“ . . . if you really want to know what a murder is – to have a murder brought right home to you – you must read of one in the writings of a great writer. Read Macbeth, for example, or still better, get someone to read it aloud to you; and I think I can promise you what people call a ‘sensation.’”
In your writing, you must simulate reality on paper.
Since I haven’t murdered anyone, writing about it would be hard for me. Next question: How do you recommend I make my writing interesting?
“Leave all the dullness out.”
Easy for you to say. Can you give me an example?
“Suppose you were to be asked to write a complete account of a day at school. You would probably begin by saying you rose at a certain hour, dressed and came down to morning school. You would not think of telling how many buttons you had to fasten, nor how long you took to make a parting, nor how many steps you descended. The youngest boy would have too much of what we call ‘literary tact’ to do that. Such a quantity of twaddling detail would simply bore the reader’s head off.”
I understand you wrote the essay while you were working on Treasure Island. Do you think pirate genre will make a comeback?
Outside of romance novels, no. “The famous buccaneers were not chivalrous, but lubbers and downright dunces.”
Thank you, Mr. Stevenson. You may return to your grave now.
All jokes aside, this long-lost essay will be published in Strand Magazine on Friday.
- Long-lost essay by ‘Dr. Jekyll’ author published (sacbee.com)
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you.
Isn’t it fun to have one day a year where we don’t have to make up an excuse to drink green beer and eat corned beef? Everyone is a wee bit Irish today.
This photo we took in Dublin answers an age-old question. Yes, even leprechauns read my blog while they should be working.
I am a non-practicing Catholic. My mom is quietly devout and she
dragged me kicking and screaming made me go to church every single stinking Sunday. Scratchy dress, Mary Jane shoes pinching my toes, and a scarf stapled to my head with a bobby pin. If I recall, when I was a little girl back in the dark ages, mass was said in Latin. I’m not sure. I’ve tried to blot the experience out of my mind. The only thing I liked about going to church was the music. The rest of it was torture.
I now don’t like to go to church because of the music. Breast cancer took my dear friend at age 36 and she left behind three young children. Sweet Cathy’s funeral was in a Catholic church. Her friend sang Amazing Grace a cappella and it laid me low. Read: box of Kleenex worth of sobbing. Cathy’s funeral gave me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If I hear music in a church, I start crying. I’m like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
Mom made me go to catechism from age five until I was a teenager. The church fancied up the name and now calls catechism C.C.D. The only thing I liked about catechism was snack time. I’m scarred for life from when one of my teachers, Brother Ignatius (or some other holy sounding name), told us to draw a picture of the Virgin Mary. Crayon in hand, I was stumped. I had colorer’s block and stared at the blank paper on my desk. Brother Iggy rapped my forehead with his knuckle and commanded, “Think!” They teach that excellent student motivational technique in seminary. It is the unit after “Wielding a Ruler.”
I don’t want to get in a religious debate here, but the Catholic Church has to reform. Don’t get me started on the child abuse issue.
So why, I ask you, why did I tear up when Pope Francis came out yesterday? No, not when he told the world he was gay, you silly. When he came out onto the balcony. It was the strangest thing. Me crying, not him being gay. (Let the record show, your Honor, I have no idea if he is gay.)
I dried my one tear and my next thought was, “Oh great . . . the cardinals elected another automaton.” I’ll cut the guy a little slack. I’m sure he felt sucker-punched and was thinking, “Holy shit. What have I gotten myself into?” Can the pope say shit?
Do you want to know why it took over an hour from the white smoke to getting to see who was behind door number two? You’ve come to the right place.
- The Vatican can speak to God, but they can’t predict the pope-to-be’s size. They had cassocks made in three sizes . . . Sacrament Small, Meditative Medium, and Liturgical Large. The popetress (that’s Latin for seamstress) whipped out her sewing machine and hemmed the cassock that fit Pope Francis the best across his shoulders and six-pack abs. There is a lot of material and layers involved, so the job took time. Can’t have the pope tripping on his hem at his debutante ball. Think of the YouTube hits that would generate. 2.5 seconds and it would be viral.
- Vatican scholars needed time to teach Pope Francis “The Wave.” No, not “The Wave” you do at football games. The official God-approved wave technique. Fingers together, small side to side movements, don’t look enthusiastic, keep your elbow tucked in . . . that sort of thing. Because Frannie, as I like to call him, is of Italian descent, teaching him “The Pope Wave” was a challenge. You know how Italians love to talk with their hands.
- You’ve heard of a pope room, right? According to UrbanDictionary.com:
“In a Portuguese or Italian family there is always a room that nobody goes into and sometimes has plastic on the couch. This room is designed and maintained strictly for the rare occurrence of the pope entering your home.”
“Get the cat out of the pope room. It’ll leave fur everywhere.”
“Go get the baby Jesus statue out of the pope room. I want to clean it, just in case.”
Come to find out, the Vatican has a pope room too. It is room with the balcony. Francis’s mom was there for his big day. She scolded the cardinals to stay off of the furniture in case the pope comes. She wouldn’t let Francis go out to play with his new friends, the masses, until he helped her move the furniture so she could vacuum. She gave him a dust rag and said, “Use the Pledge, not the Liquid Gold.”
I wish Frannie the best of luck in his new job. He has his work cut out for him. Little boys all over the world are counting on our new pope to keep them out of harm’s and lecherous priests’ way.
Go in peace and serve the Lord, Pope Francis. Amen.
Is your head spinning from turning so much?
You guessed it . . . today’s word is “turn.”
“Turn” is a nice enough word. You can have a turn of phrase, turn on your heel or, as I do, turn men’s heads. But “turn” is one of those words that “turns” up everywhere if you aren’t careful.
As per usual . . . here we go.
Robin turned to me and said, “Thank you for following my blog.”
Are you an idiot? Robin is a nimrod.
Robin grabbed my chin with her boney fingers and twisted my face so she could give me the evil eye. She said, “Follow my blog, or else.”
Turning her head over her shoulder, Robin said, “I love that you love me.”
You love her? Here is the name of my therapist.
Onion-breath washed over me when Robin said, “How dare you un-follow me.”
My love of Robin’s blog turned into an obsession and I thought about her while I was in bed.
Please. Too much information.
My love of Robin’s blog morphed into fearing for my life.
I turn to Robin for advice on all things writing.
That is why agents aren’t returning your calls
Robin is my guru when it comes to how not to write.
Sure, Mr. Roget and his pet dinosaur, Thesaurus, have words we could use instead of “turn.”
But why say “she turned her head over her shoulder” when she could bathe someone in onion-breath?
Excuse me . . . I need to brush my teeth.
I love a good joke. Who am I kidding? I love a dumb joke too. My favorite type of humor is dry wit. I don’t like mean-spirited dry humor. That’s just not funny.
When something/someone makes me laugh out loud, my day is complete.
Why is it that jokes are hard to remember? But here is one I heard years ago and it makes me laugh every time. It is one of the few jokes I can remember.
Cue dumb joke . . .
A man went to Antarctica and decided to bring home a penguin for his penguin-loving son. His son sets the penguin up in the bathroom tub with plenty of fish. The thoughtful boy put March of the Penguins on a continuous loop.
The dad becomes tired of Morgan Freeman’s voice and the stench of fish coming from the bathroom. He tells his son to take the penguin to the zoo. The boy and penguin are gone all day and when they walk in the house together the dad says, “I told you to take the penguin to the zoo.”
“I did take him to the zoo, Daddy. Then we went to the movies.”
I am also a fan of puns.
So, heard any good jokes lately? Share ’em here. Happy Friday all!
The timing of what happened yesterday vis-à-vis my blog post, “Death of a Salesman,” is eerie . . . Hitchcockian, if you will. Fodder for a Stephen King book. The Hallmark Movie Channel called me for the rights to the story.
My mail was delivered to the wrong house yesterday. Gasp, shock, horror!
It wasn’t just one slim envelope mixed in with someone else’s mail. It was the whole kit and caboodle of magazines, junk, and a bill or two.
Do you suppose my mailman read my blog post? Did he take umbrage with my observations and decide to hijack my mail?
But here is where the story gets more eerie.
(Cue creepy music . . . dum dum dummmmm.)
I never met the person who received my mail. She lives less than a mile from me by car. As the crow flies, her house is a hop, skip, and a jump away. (I love the opportunity to use two idioms in one sentence.)
The kind soul who was subjected to my junk mail sent me an email that said:
The post office mistakenly delivered to me a big chunk of your mail. Coincidently, I had viewed your great Blog before, so I went to your blog and got your email address.
Since I live so close, I was just going to come by your house and drop off your mail in your front porch after picking a couple of my kids up from school around 3. Hope that is OK.
The only thing NOT eerie about this story is she called my blog “great.” She is one smart cookie.
But here is something else strange. Very few people in my real life know I have a blog. Of those who do know about it, very few read it. (I could use some therapy about that.) How did she know about my blog?
So what are the odds?
Robin writes a post about the postal service.
Robin’s mail is delivered to the wrong address the next day.
Robin’s neighbor reads Robin’s blog.
Robin’s neighbor leaves Robin’s mail on Robin’s front porch with a note saying that she too is an aspiring writer and would love to get together to talk about writing.
(Why am I talking in the third person?)
Sure, I tag every post with “writer” and “writing,” but out of the six katrillion writer/writing blogs out there, my neighbor knows about my blog? And then gets my mail by mistake?
Again, what are the odds?
Three questions for you:
Does my mailman have a vast postal-wing conspiracy against me?
Have I buffaloed my neighbor into thinking I am a writer?
When a tree falls in the forest to feed the junk mail mill and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Thank you new friend and fellow writer for re-delivering my mail. Thank you Mr. Mailman for correctly delivering my mail to me in the future. I won’t blog about you again, I promise.
- Death of a Mailman (robincoyle.wordpress.com)
Are you like me and go to your mailbox day after day to find only ads, bills, come-ons for credit cards, and catalogs? Silly me, I still walk to the mailbox with a song in my heart and the hope there will be something of interest waiting for me there. I’m a slow learner.
Gone are the days of mailing invitations to your party. Why waste stamps and your time when you can whip out an e-vite?
Greeting cards are dying a slow death with advent of e-cards. Dancing cats, pink-cheeked elves, and shimmying grannies doing the Macarena now wish you a happy whatever. (I’ll note here I have never sent an e-card.)
Thank you notes and letters are almost a thing of the past. We communicate by email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and a bazillion other electronic means. A guy wearing blue shorts, no matter what the weather, doesn’t deliver these missives to our door. But those trendy shorts sure serve to showcase the mailman’s hairy legs and knobby knees nicely.
We lamented (some did less lamenting than others) the death of cursive writing in response to my post about the elimination of cursive from many school curricula. What a conversation we had about that. (Don’t worry. I won’t mention again that the post was Freshly Pressed.)
Oh the thrill when a Netflix movie is in the mailbox. Or, when there is a package from your favorite
Think of the many collateral businesses suffering from the change in how we communicate . . . greeting card companies, invitation and stationery printers, paper manufacturers, and makers of return address labels. What about all those dead horses and envelope glue manufacturing plants? Hallmark greeting card verse writers are standing in the unemployment line as we speak.
Where else is this era of byte-sized communication hitting hard?
Mailmen around the world are sitting in their mail trucks and twiddling their thumbs. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keep these folks from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, but technology has stopped them in their tracks.
According to an article in the paper, the decline in mail volume and the grim budgetary impact is far-reaching. In France, mail volume is down 30% since 2008. Sacre bleu! Japan’s mail volume is 13% less than in 2009, and our friends, the Danes, are mailing 12% fewer letters than in 2012. Worldwide, letter volume dropped 4% in 2011.
The article goes on to state, “The United Kingdom is preparing to wash its hands of mail delivery entirely by selling the Royal Mail, which traces its roots back nearly 500 years to the reign of King Henry VIII.” The article fails to tell us who is buying the Royal Mail. My guess is Piers Morgan.
In a bold move, the United States Postal Service plans to stop Saturday letter delivery, thereby saving about $2 billion a year in losses. Then they went all mamby-pamby and decided to keep post offices open and will continue to deliver packages Saturdays. Why not cut that out too? Or, if you are going all the way to my house to deliver a package, why not deliver the rest of my mail while you are at it?
New Zealand is considering more drastic cuts and may deliver mail three days a week instead of six.
As Bob Dylan famously said of the postal service, “The times, they are a changing.”
It makes me sad to see the rather rapid demise of the postal service. However, I am a realist and we can’t keep racking up debt for a service fewer people use these days. I say scale back capacity to the level of demand. Or, we could helpkeep our mailmen gainfully employed and write letters to our grandmas.
P.S. There is still time to vote for your favorite Valentine’s Beer Photo. If you’d like, you can mail in your ballot and help save the Postal Service one envelope at a time.
Remember the “Coolest Beer in the Cool Place” Valentine’s Day challenge my husband issued our girls?
The gist was this . . . on Valentine’s Day my husband sent our girls See’s Chocolate Hearts, cold hard cash, and a note that said, “Coolest beer in the coolest place . . . take some of this money and buy an interesting beer. Take a photo of yourself drinking the beer in a cool place and submit your photographs to me. I will judge the competition.”
Well folks, this year YOU get to judge the competition. Given the entries’ creativity and diversity, my husband decided the magnitude of such a decision is best left in your capable hands. He feels the decision is too important to leave to a mere mortal.
In other words, he can’t decide on a winner.
And the entries are:
My husband wants you to notice Nancy Reagan and Jimmy Carter applauding his beer choice. Also, note the Marine Corps in the background protecting his beer.
Amanda played a round (note: not played around) with Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach.
Drinking beer while snowboarding helps Jill get air on the slopes. The X-Games are considering making Beer Boarding an event next year.
Some people buy a six-pack of beer. Others buy it in a keg. Paige doesn’t mess around and goes for the vat of beer. She wants you to know the owner and brewer of Payette Brewing Company took her photo.
Okay, it is up to you my blogging friends. Vote below for the beer you think is the coolest and in the coolest place.
Don’t forget to comment to defend your vote!
Special thanks to Paige Coyle, our resident graphic designer, for the artwork.
- Valentine’s Day Traditions (robincoyle.wordpress.com)