Archive for Uncategorized

Smoke from the B.C. forest fires …


… over Lost Lagoon in Vancouver this morning.

Peruse this!

I recently finished a pretty good book, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma: The Evolution of ‘Proper’ English from Shakespeare to South Park, by Rutgers Professor Jack Lynch. It provides a helpful history of the English language dictionary (other European languages had dictionaries long before English did) as well as a lucid assessment of the debates regarding usage, grammar, and vocabulary that started almost as soon as Samuel Johnson published his founding, epic work.

In these debates Lynch finds himself, more or less, on the “descriptivist” rather than the “prescriptivist” side; that is, he believes that dictionaries and grammars ought to show how people actually use words and grammar, not how well-bred scolds believe they *should* use such things. The word “ain’t” is just fine with Lynch, for instance, as is ending sentences with prepositions, as is confusing “comprise” with “compose,” as is pronouncing “ask” as “ax” (as Chaucer sometimes did).

By and large I am with Lynch, although certain usages will always irritate me: using the word “nauseous” to mean “nauseated” rather than “nauseating,” for instance, and using “peruse” to mean “skim” rather than “to study closely.” Oh well!

No matter what your stance is in this debate, there is no question that, to be regarded as a professional in the English-speaking word, one has to have a very solid handle on traditional, modern grammar and usage as it has been prescribed in your school and as it is expected in most workplaces. You have no choice.

I’ve been an editor my entire life, and I find I still always need the big Chicago Manual of Style on my desk at home to make sure I am following the straight and narrow. But, what if I’m not near my desk – on the SkyTrain, for instance, or walking through Stanley Park with my notebooks (and iPhone)? Well, there is lots of good help online. I give you:

Very helpful, fun grammar websites:

The Oatmeal: Learning Grammar with Comics

“Chomp Chomp”: Grammar Bytes – Grammar Instruction with Attitude!


The Guide to Grammar and Writing isn’t *quite* as fun, but it is equally helpful.



Reposted from NoContest.CA

“Is Buffalo Baltimore?” …

… Asks my esteemed colleague Mike Niman (in – which has a firewall, alas):

Here in Buffalo … we need to look proactively at racial disparities in policing, not only in the city but in all of the political constructs we call suburbs. Omnipresent cell phone video cameras mean that racist business-as-usual can no longer be ignored by authorities or hidden from the general public. Communities that have historically been denied justice are both fed up and empowered by recent events. I’ve always said this abuse has to stop—because it’s wrong. That, apparently, never was enough of an argument to move the ball. Now we’re reminded it’s also bad for business. Maybe that will move the sociopaths among our civic leaders to action. Property values won’t go up if adjacent neighborhoods are burning down.

Independent police review boards and monitors, and zero tolerance for civil rights violations, starting today, will go a long way toward preventing civic unrest by preventing sparks. But this is only a Band-Aid. The only real long-term fix that will cut the fuel to social unrest is to address the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and to address the societal structures that game the system and maintain racial inequity across generations.

For all the feel good stories about Buffalo rising, it’s not. We’re following in the path of gilded cities that are divided into playgrounds for the comparatively wealthy and bottomless hellholes for the inter-generationally poor. From Buffalo’s hipster enclaves, things might look great. Holistically, however, we’re living in a tinderbox of inequality.

Enjoy Mike Niman’s archive. Prior mentions of the brilliant advocate in basil.CA can be found here.

“Why people applaud abuse”

Another take on Baltimore, from Clarissa’s Blog.

Michael Karpack, “Spokane’s Greatest Street Musician”


The Salaita affair

Your author joins the debate over at Stupid Motivational Tricks. The Chicago Tribune provides background.

September Eleventh

Most of the world marks this day because of what happened nine years ago. I mark that day as well, and call it what the rest of the world does: “9/11,” leaving “September Eleventh” to mean what it has meant all my life, the day my parents, Maureen and George, got married, in 1954. The above photo was taken in Montreal, sometime between now and then. My parents have always done all they could to support the endeavors of their children and their grandchildren.

Facebook Birthday

I am a big fan of Facebook for a lot of reasons. I like becoming friends with people I wish I knew better back in the day, I like being able to confirm friendships with old good friends (“you can’t make new old friends”), and I like, so very much, all the birthday greetings. I’m 51 today.

Fun New Band

The Dum Dum Girls: Wonderful songs, old-world production, lovely singing. Here is the band’s MySpace page. Click on the photo to listen to “Catholicked.”

New York

I’m off to my American home ground, Buffalo and Rochester and NYC, next week: A family reunion and visits with wonderful friends. Normally I loathe leaving BC, but I am very happy to be having this trip.