Wednesday, September 30, 2009

William Safire's Rules For Writers

William Safire, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and newspaper columnist for the New York Time, former speech writer for President Richard Nixon and wordsmith of deserved renown, passed away Sunday at the age of 79. I always liked his Rules For Writers and present them here for your reading pleasure and edification.

* Remember to never split an infinitive.
* The passive voice should never be used.
* Do not put statements in the negative form.
* Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
* Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
* If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
* A writer must not shift your point of view.
* And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
* Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
* Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
* Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
* If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
* Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
* Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
* Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
* Always pick on the correct idiom.
* The adverb always follows the verb.
* Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

William Safire 1929 - 2009 R.I.P.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life The Week I Was Born

Google has digitized every issue of Life magazine and made each issue available for online viewing, all from the comfort of your computer. I thought it would be fun to look at the issue that hit the stands the week I was born.

I used to run an in-house advertising agency for a company that sold electronic equipment. By "run" I mean that, for the most part and excluding a short amount of time that I had an assistant, I wrote the copy, drew line art, composed and pasted up mechanicals for ads and catalog pages and oversaw the printing. So looking at the ads in this issue and seeing how wording, page composition and graphics have changed was a big part of my perusal pastime. In advertising, the goal is always to entice the viewer to buy the advertised product. But it is interesting to see how the manner in which that goal is reached has evolved over the years.

Life magazine was famous for its photography and this issue is full of photos. It was enjoyable to see a photo of a much younger Queen Elizabeth on page 33. The photo montage of customers trying out the new escalator in a bank in Chile and headlined "Scares from Moving Stairs" on page 67 reminded me that my late grandmother always refused to use escalators because she was convinced her foot would be caught and mangled in the moving steps. Finally, the "Vassar 40 Year Reunion" photo spread beginning on page 135 is like seeing little slices of time.

The cover of my birth week issue of Life shows the crew of the USS Constitution on her decks. It's an important moment in our country's history, to be sure, but when I was growing up my favorite issue of Life was the one dated March 11, 1966 with Adam West as Batman on the cover. I wish I still had the copy I talked my mom into buying for me, but it is long gone.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lark Or Owl?

Are you a morning lark or a night owl? A morning lark is up early in the day, rolling out of bed full of energy and ready to tackle the work of the day. A night owl finds higher energy levels and the ability to form sensible sentences out of words to be easier later in the day and into the evening.

I know a lot of writer advice begins with something that reads like this; rise at 5am while the day is young and begin writing. Do not stop until you have reached _______ (number of) words.

Let me tell you, if I rose at 5am to write, I'd still be struggling to reach three words by the time lunch rolled around. I'm a night owl and always have been. Mornings are not kind to me and the feeling is mutual. Cindy is a morning lark, or as I like to call her; Tigger. She bounces out of bed with boundless energy, fully awake and mind racing. It took a few years, but I finally convinced her, through a series of grunts, groans and sign language, that asking me any kind of question that required me to think was pointless if I hadn't at least had my hot shower and some time to adjust to the ungodly light outside the windows.

Unfortunately, most of my adult life the jobs I have held and/or family responsibilities have required me to wake and work the opposite of my cycle. And I can adjust, but it is difficult. Most of the time, if I'm looking at you, talking and maybe even smiling before noon, you can be sure I'm wishing I was still in bed sleeping soundly instead. No offense.

If I were making my living as a writer and I lived alone, my normal waking hours would be something like 11am until 2am. I love sleeping in late and being up working at night. That just happens to be my body's natural circadian cycle. Up in time to make lunch my first meal, run a few errands during the afternoon and then sit and write for hours through the evening and night past the witching hour. Ah, that sounds SO nice. Well, not the living alone part, but you know what I mean.

So are you a lark or an owl?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Book Introduced You To Science Fiction?

Over at SF Signal, they have posted an interesting piece where they ask several (mostly) writers of science fiction the question, "What Book Introduced You to Science Fiction?"

It's kind of satisfying to see that most of them began with books and authors that are considered to be the cream of the crop when it comes to science fiction. Authors like Heinlein, Norton, Bradbury, Asimov and Bova, or books like A Wrinkle In Time and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I was also happy to see that two of the authors responded that the book(s) that introduced them to science fiction were the same as the books that introduced ME to science fiction at the tender age of 7. I say books because I don't remember the specific title of the first one I read, but it was a Tom Swift book and I eventually read ALL the titles in that Tom Swift series. It may have been "Tom Swift and His Flying Lab" (pictured), but I can't be absolutely sure. It wasn't long after that when I moved on to Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and others, but it was young Tom Swift who first introduced me to science fiction.

Did you know the "Taser" was inspired by one of Tom Swift's fictional inventions?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases

If you are a fan of Twitter and you want to know the best way to get your 140-character gems ReTweeted, Fast Company has posted "Nine Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Retweeted on Twitter" for you. Although there may be some debate about some of their points and charts, I was most interested in their list of the 20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases.

I'm not surprised by number one since "you" is a universal word in successful marketing. I WAS surprised that number 8, "free", was not at least number two, if not number one. "Free" is one of the bedrock words in marketing, so to find it in the number 8 slot was a bit confounding.

Personally, I don't think I've ever said anything worth retweeting. But it might be interesting to try to put together something using as many of these 20 Most ReTweetable Words And Phrases as possible to see how often it might get duplicated on Twitter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

McDonald's New Burger

I despise McDonald's food offerings and only go there when my grandkids visit and insist (yeah, Ronald's got the little ones wrapped around his marketing finger) on eating there. But this new burger McDonald's is advertising turns my stomach even more than usual. Come to think of it, we never know what's in ANY of the burgers, do we?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day 2009

Don't fear the semicolon!

Today is National Punctuation Day. For both writers and readers, punctuation is an important part of any group of words.

Celebrate National Punctuation Day; take an ellipsis to lunch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lex Luthor Visits Magic Kingdom!

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of getting my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her fiance into the Disney Magic Kingdom park. It's been more than a year since I have seen my brother, so I was excited to get the chance to spend some time with him. Everyone else was a bonus.

So it turns out that about a week ago my brother shaved his head bald and also shaved off his beard, something he'd never done in the past and thus caught me completely off-guard. My first thought was "Holy $h!7!!" because I was so surprised and it was such a different look for him, but I didn't verbalize that. I remember many years ago when my parents hadn't seen me for a while and came to visit. I had been letting my hair grow out for quite some time. When they arrived on my front porch and I opened the door the first thing my mom said wasn't "How have you been?" or "I've missed you" but rather, "Good God, you look like a woolybooger!" It scarred me for life and I could not be responsible for affecting my brother in a similar manner. So I bit my tongue and enjoyed just getting to see my brother, hug him and spend a small amount of time with him. However, brothers being brothers, I could not resist the urge, later when I was taking photos, to say, "I'm going to name this picture 'Lex Luthor Visits Magic Kingdom!'" and everyone laughed.

Here are some of the photos I took and one I'm in with my brother. It WAS good to see him!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Closing Some Tabs

Too many tabs open in Firefox so it's time to say a bit about them and get them closed.

My friend Michelle wrote a great article about sci-fi themed lodging around the world.

If you are a user of Gmail, GoogleDocs, GoogleCalendar or any of the other free apps that the "Don't be evil" giant offers and ever think the day may come when you'd like to move your data from Google...well Google is ahead of you. They have formed Data Liberation with an eye toward you freeing your data so you can move it into or out of Google whenever you're ready.

About 10 days ago Twitter announced changes to its Terms of Service and Mashable-The Social Media Guide promptly predicted the 10 People You Won't See on Twitter Anymore. I know WilW is much happier.

Over at readers were asked to submit their favorite photography book selections. When the votes were all tallied, the results became 10 Photography Book Recommendations By DIYP Readers. I own several books on photography, but it just so happens I do not own a single one of the recommended books. I believe that may explain my lack of photography skills. Amazon Wish List, here I come!

I happened to catch a bit of "Glee" the other night because Cindy asked me to DVR it so she could see guest star Josh Groban (who didn't even appear until the last 8 minutes). I don't understand the appeal of this show. In my opinion, the Sears Blue Crew commercial was more entertaining.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Congratulations Cindy! 35 Years With The Mouse

Today marks Cindy's 35th anniversary of working for the Walt Disney Company. I am just in awe of someone who can stay with the same employer for all those years. Cindy began working for Disney, shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened, as a ride attendant. Today she works in the corporate offices in Celebration. She is the greatest!

When she got to work today her co-workers had her work area all decorated with balloons, streamers, signs, etc. Here she is holding a sign they had placed by the elevators so that everyone would know it was her anniversary.

And here is a photo of the statue/plaque she was awarded. Disney marks certain milestone years of work with character statues. The one for 35 years is Pinocchio. Cindy already has Tinkerbell, Jiminy Cricket and the Magic Kingdom Castle adorning our wall book shelf.

I am so proud of my wife! She works hard and does her best at work to embody the philosophy that the late Walt Disney started the Disney Parks with; "My business is making people, especially children, happy." She richly deserves the recognition of the Walt Disney Company and her co-workers.

Congratulations my love!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." - Author Unknown

Saturday, September 19, 2009

EPCOT Food & Wine Festival - 2009

Here's a photo from the 2006 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival that I took one day when I was there with my friends Rhonda and Michelle. I wasn't able to stay long, but I did manage to get about 50 shots before having to leave.

As you can see, even though we were there on a weekday it was still fairly crowded at the food and beverage locations,

This year The 14th Annual EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival begins in about 6 days on September 25 and runs through November 8. In addition to the excellent food and wine offerings, there will also be some excellent musical offerings during the Eat to the Beat Concert Series.

I don't know if I'll get to go this year, but it looks like another great time at the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, June Foray

Today is June Foray's 92nd birthday. I hope you recognize her name, but if by chance you don't, I know you'll remember the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel (better known as "Rocky" of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame) or Granny from the Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoon or Cindy Lou Who in the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or maybe one of the hundreds of voices in hundreds of cartoons over the years from the 1940's until a few years ago. If you're a woman of a certain age, June was the original voice of the Chatty Cathy doll you might have owned or wanted to own when you were a little girl.

About 2 weeks ago the postman delivered my autographed copy of Ms. Foray's autobiography, Did You Grow Up With Me, Too? The Autobiography of June Foray that I had ordered a couple of months ago. As a huge fan of Rocky and Bullwinkle, it was a real kick to see "Hi Jeff, June Foray" signed to me inside her book, even if "Hokey Smoke!" would have been the ultimate dedication. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I hope to remove it from the pile and enjoy it in the near future.

Happy Birthday, June Foray, and a wish for many more.

Characters In Flight Balloon Ride

During my photowalk the other morning at Disney's Marketplace and Pleasure Island, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in a photoflight via the Characters in Flight Helium Balloon ride. The balloon, anchored lakeside in Pleasure Island, rises to a height of 400 feet and the $16 ride typically lasts 8-10 minutes, but since I was the only one on this flight and no one else was waiting below, the pilot said we'd stay up a little longer to "advertise."

This balloon is the largest helium-filled balloon in the world, with a volume of 210,000 cubic feet of the lighter-than-air-gas contained in the balloon that, the pilot told me, is made of a material of secret composition. Unlike those cute novelty balloons you buy in grocery stores or florist shops that deflate and sink to the ground after a few days, this balloon only has to be filled with helium once a year. Day, night and seasonal temperature changes necessitate the addition of oxygen to the balloon, but the helium itself lasts a year. The balloon, which is 105 feet high, 72 feet in diameter and has a circumference of 240 feet, and the attached gondola which is 19 feet in diameter and holds up to 29 guests, are tethered by a steel cable that is attached to a motorized pulley system that reels in the balloon at the end of the ride to a landing pier in the lake.

I enjoyed myself immensely and took SO many photos. But I put only the best of them on my Flickr page for you to see.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers 1936 - 2009 R.I.P.

Peter, Paul and Mary were an indelible part of the music scene in the 1960's, a vocal part of our nation's cultural change and a significant part of my own childhood memories and thoughts. Mary Travers passed away yesterday at the age of 72 due to complications from chemotherapy after going through a bone-marrow transplant that successfully defeated the leukemia she had been diagnosed with in 2005.

Almost exactly a year ago I posted here about the effect that their song "Puff (The Magic Dragon)", had on me as a child. But that song from the trio was not the only one of theirs that shaped the years I was growing up. Songs like "Blowin' in the Wind", "If I Had a Hammer", "Leaving on a Jet Plane", "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" are strong threads in the tapestry of my memories.

Mary Travers sang the songs of change and the songs of my childhood. It was a time of protest because of the Vietnam war; a time of the painful birth of the civil rights movement. Change is sometimes traumatic, but her voice helped ease the truth of that needed change to many. Perhaps our parents would not understand, but we would and we would carry that understanding through our lives.

"I have no idea what it will be like to have no Mary in my world, in my life, or on stage to sing with. But I do know there will always be a hole in my heart, a place where she will always exist that will never be filled by any other person. However painful her passing is, I am forever grateful for Mary and her place in my life." - Peter Yarrow

"I am deadened and heartsick beyond words to consider a life without Mary Travers and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and her career." - Noel Paul Stookey

Memory moves us past each other
Time is a ribbon without end
Love is the lesson we keep learning
Death but a moment we must spend

But A Moment - Mary Travers and Noel Paul Stookey

Rest In Peace, Mary Travers.

Disney Marketplace/Pleasure Island Photowalk

Did a photowalk at Disney's Marketplace and Pleasure Island the other morning.

My Flickr page has the best of the shots.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Cindy

Funny how it's YOUR birthday but I'M the one who has had the gift of your love in my life the past year.

Love you for all your birthdays.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze 1952 - 2009 R.I.P.

I was sitting in a meeting of the Herb Society of Central Florida Monday night when my iPhone alerted me that actor Patrick Swayze had passed away. Though expected, due to his pancreatic cancer, it was still a sad occurrence.

When most people think about and remember Patrick Swayze they almost inevitably cite his movie "Dirty Dancing" as their favorite. While I can appreciate their admiration because, to a certain extent, I share it, it was not my favorite of his screen appearances.

Here are my top three Patrick Swayze movies:

Number 3. Red Dawn - This was the first movie I saw Patrick Swayze in and is one of my favorite movies ever. The year it was released, 1984, was the era of Reagan, and the idea that we MIGHT be invaded on our own soil by our enemies was not an outlandish one. Swayze, as Jed Eckert, leads a group of teenagers in America's Midwest against a Soviet invasion. The scene where they execute one of their own for betraying their location to the enemy is extremely intense. I know today that right-wing militias try to hold this movie up as an example of why they exist, but the players in this drama were simply good, patriotic people who could survive off the land and defended that land, not groups going around trying to stir up trouble.

Number 2. Ghost - In my heart of hearts I am a romantic. A romantic in the sense that I believe a man should do all he can for the love of his life; love her, defend her and do all he is able to show her his love. Swayze's character Sam, dead though he may be, embodies all those aspects as he seeks to keep his Molly from harm. But that's not why this is number two on my list of favorite Swayze movies. This movie is number two because every time I watched this film with a member of the opposite sex, I got lucky. Thanks Patrick!

Number 1. Road House - I'm sure the placement of this movie in the number one spot has to do with my years as a bouncer. Like the Zen bouncer Dalton that Swayze portrayed, I always tried to avoid having fights take place in the bar I worked, and I taught my crew the same. This is my favorite exchange between Dalton and the bouncers he is training at the Double Deuce:

"All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice. If somebody gets in your face and calls you a c**ks****r, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to be nice until it's time to not be nice."

"How will we know when it's time to not be nice?"

"I'll tell you when it's time to not be nice."

Ah, those days are SO far behind me now, but they were fun in the day and they led me to the love of my life so I have a certain fondness for remembering them, lol.

Finally, I've been thinking all day about what I would write as a farewell to Patrick Swayze's life, but this evening I read the following from actor/director Kevin Smith and he said it all so much better than I ever could.

"Dalton's closed the Double Deuce. Sam can finally rest. Bodhi's catching that last, big wave. Godspeed, Mr. Swayze. Many thanks for many Friday nights: RED DAWN, OUTSIDERS, YOUNGBLOOD, DIRTY DANCING, ROAD HOUSE, GHOST, POINT BREAK. Hope you had the time of your life."

As do we all. Rest In Peace Patrick Swayze.

First Annual National Bookstore Day

Back in June, Publisher's Weekly announced their plans for the First Annual National Bookstore Day to be held on Saturday, November 7, 2009.

Today, PW released further information about plans and participants, as well as suggested ideas to help make the observance of the first annual National Bookstore Day, "a day devoted to celebrating bookselling and the vibrant culture of bookstores." PW is also planning to publish an upcoming list of participating bookstores and is in negotiation with book publishers to see if they will offer special promotional discounts on some of their titles. Any bookstores with ideas for promotional observations are urged to share their plans and any authors who are planning to participate are also asked to keep PW advised so that they can promote the local or regional events through their various online and print publications.

Frankly, I was kind of surprised to realize that such an observance wasn't already in place. As much as I love books, bookstores and reading, you would think I would have been aware that we were lacking such an important and natural observance. But I didn't, much to my chagrin. Anyway, I'm looking forward to National Bookstore Day and hoping for lots of participation in the industry.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Florida Exodus

This week's issue of Time Magazine has a small article about how the ongoing exodus of residents from Florida has resulted in the first negative net loss in state population in over 6 decades.

"...between 2008 and 2009...Florida as a whole lost 58,000. That's not exactly a mass exodus for a state of 18 million; but it's the first net outflow in 63 years..."

In a little less than 6 months, Cindy and I will add to that negative outflow when we move to our cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Frankly, other than missing our family and friends, the move cannot come too soon for us. We both are looking SO forward to leaving the Sunscreen State and all its myriad problems to enjoy our lives in the mountains. No place is perfect and I know that a lot of our impressions of where we are going are based on our experiences as visitors, but even if that life turns out to be 10 times worse than we imagine, it will be 100 times better than living in the Suncrime State.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Twitter Marketing - Book Review

I was on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and Steve Weber, author of ePublish: Self-Publish Fast and Profitably for Kindle, iPhone, CreateSpace and Print on Demand; eBay 101: Selling on eBay For Part-time or Full-time Income, Beginner to PowerSeller in 90 Days; The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site; Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors, Book Publicity through Social Networking; Sell on Amazon: A Guide to Amazon's Marketplace, Seller Central, and Fulfillment by Amazon Programs; and Plug Your Business! Marketing on MySpace, YouTube, blogs and podcasts and other Web 2.0 social networks (WHEW!!) sent out a tweet asking anyone who wanted a free review copy of his latest book, Twitter Marketing: Promote Yourself and Your Business on Earth's Hottest Social Network, to Direct Message him with their mailing address. I'm a sucker for free, love to read and always enjoy writing a book review so I sent my address, received a "Thank you" tweet and found Mr. Weber's book in my mailbox a few days ago.

Twitter Marketing by Steve Weber is an excellent guide for both the new Twitter user and the experienced Twitter addict who is interested in exploring the marketing, promotion and advertising capabilities of the 140 character marvel.

Weber begins by answering the universal question asked by people new to Tweeting, "What good is Twitter?" and points out the benefits to both your personal life (after all, Twitter IS a social media tool) and to your business life, especially if you're in business for yourself. Weber shares a few success stories of businesses that have successfully used Twitter to increase their sales, client base and business presence, just to whet your appetite for what Twitter can help you accomplish.

Before getting into the basics of Twitter, Weber advises those new to the application to stop and think about "why" they want to use this application, pointing out that this simple few moments of reflection will help the user to get off to a good start in using Twitter to his or her best advantage.

After covering the basics of what Twitter does, how to set up an account, how to get the most out of your profile, how to search for people to follow and how to begin sending out Tweets, Weber explains how to personalize your Twitter home page and make it another marketing tool, and how to use several third-party applications to enhance your Twitter experience.

The meat of this book is the marketing aspect and how to build your following. There are certain steps that should be followed and they are all laid out here for the reader's benefit. Weber gives both some common-sense suggestions and some specific guidelines that may not occur to everyone, especially new users who are unfamiliar with what Twitter or some third-party applications can do to enhance marketing efforts.

Twitter Marketing: Promote Yourself and Your Business on Earth's Hottest Social Network by Steve Weber is 114 pages of easy to understand guidelines and suggestions for using Twitter to market your business or personal brand. Published by Weber Books, it has a list price of $14.95 and is available from Amazon at a discount price of $13.45. I've begun to implement some of the ideas in one of my other Twitter accounts and can heartily recommend Twitter Marketing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Every Mundane Fact...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eighth Anniversary Of 9/11

Eight years, and it is still fresh in my mind. I guess it always will be, barring dementia or Alzheimer's and I don't mean that lightly.

It was a Tuesday morning and I was sitting in my home office at my computer doing work on a job I had contracted. I had finished eating breakfast at the desk and had the TV, which sat on an six foot high elevated stand on the other side of the office, tuned to Good Morning America. (That link is an archive of the last 45 minutes of the show) I was immersed in my work, but I jerked my head up to look when I heard Diane Sawyer say that one of the Twin Towers was on fire in the upper floors and that there was an unsubstantiated report that a plane had hit the building.

I suppose, like most people that morning, my first thought was that some poor pilot of a small airplane had perhaps passed out or suffered a heart attack and flew into the tower. But then looking at the amount of smoke, flame and holes in the building made it difficult to reconcile that amount of damage with a small airplane.

By now I had left my desk and was standing directly in front of the TV. Charles Gibson was with Diane and he was filling air time by talking about where the Towers were in Manhattan, how badly the tower was burning and mentioning again the unsubstantiated report that a plane had hit the Tower. I was just about to switch to CNN to see if they had any different details when I saw the jetliner fly into view from the right side of the TV screen, disappear behind the second tower and then the resulting fireball that erupted when the jet crashed into the second tower.

A feeling of unbelievable horror and sadness began in my stomach and radiated upward, while at the exact same moment came the almost unbelievable realization that someone had done this on purpose. The very thought boggled the mind, but the evidence had just flown across my screen and into the Tower. I stood there transfixed in unbelief for a few moments, barely hearing Charles Gibson say what I and anyone watching already knew; that the planes had been flown into the Twin Towers on purpose.

I would spend the rest of the day watching various TV and Internet reports, learning of the jet flown into the Pentagon and the crash of the United flight in the Pennsylvania countryside, and talking to family and friends on the phone. It was a day of mind-numbing sadness, despair and coping to understand the hearts and minds of people who would do such things, yet I clearly remember those first few moments.

To all the innocent victims who perished, their families, friends and loved ones...we will never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In The Light Of Day - Grammar Correction

This is a lesson. A lesson to me. A lesson about writing a post (or anything) late at night and submitting it with only a cursory eye toward editing.

In spite of knowing better than to do the above AND in spite of being fairly aware of and conversant with the standard rules of grammar (thought I do not claim to be an expert or master of them), I wrote the following in yesterday's post - Barnes & Noble; Pulling In The Welcome Mat?:

Even the straight back wooden chairs were few and far between and each of them were occupied.

"...each of them were occupied."

God, how it hurt my eyes and my sensibilities to read that line this afternoon in the light of day.

I ignored and overlooked a simple rule; a singular noun requires a singular verb. With the singular noun "each", the plural verb "were" is woefully incorrect. If you removed the words "of them" you can easily see that the resulting phrase, "each were occupied", violates a proper rule of correct grammar and the basics of what obviously sounds right when spoken. I, in writing late at night and in a hurry, fell victim to the mistake of paying more attention to the words "of them" and using the plural verb "were" instead of focusing on the real noun "each" so that my verb would be the singular "was."

If you look at the post now you will see that I have made the correction. You may notice that instead of just correcting "were" to "was" ("...each of them was occupied") that I went a step further. Simply correcting the verb would have rendered the sentence grammatically correct, but removing "of them" completely makes for a better sounding sentence; one that is more pleasing to the eye and sensibilities.

In addition, part of my error, I believe, was mentally referring back to the plural noun/verb found earlier in the same sentence. It may have been better to write them as two separate sentences:

"Even the straight back wooden chairs were few and far between. And each of them was occupied."

But I liked the flow of the sentence as it was originally written, so I only changed the last part of it.

I read spelling and grammatical mistakes on blogs and webpages every day, usually many times a day. What makes me cringe even more when reading them is to see that the people penning the errors have identified themselves as journalists or writers; people you would expect to know better. I very seldom see an acknowledgment or apology for the mistake. This is mine.

Mea culpa.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Barnes & Noble; Pulling In The Welcome Mat?

Cindy was meeting a friend of hers for tea and a short visit at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Colonial tonight, so I tagged along to look over the books and magazines I don't need to buy.

After a few minutes of browsing I picked up a graphic novel and took the escalator upstairs, planning to plop down in one of their comfortable overstuffed chairs or at the least sit in one of their straight back wood chairs. But as the escalator slowly lifted me to the second floor, I looked around to see that something was amiss.

There were no overstuffed chairs in sight.

Even the straight back wooden chairs were few and far between and each was occupied. I finally spotted one of those little round step stools over in corner by the Spanish language books and sat down on that. During the 45 minutes or so that I sat there with my butt going numb and my back asking me what it had done to deserve such treatment, I watched other customers who were also looking for something to sit on finally give up and sit on the floor with their backs pressed up against the end of a bookcase. One young man just sprawled out on the floor flat on his stomach, propped his chin in his hands to read his chosen tome and made himself as comfortable as if he were in his own living room. I kept waiting for someone to round the corner and trip over his prone form.

So, what's going on? What prompted the removal of the nice, comfortable, overstuffed chairs? Was it too much reading and not enough buying? Homeless people taking up residence? Fistfights over who got to a chair first?

Whatever the reason, it sure felt like the welcome mat had been pulled in at Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Your Bumper Sticker And Your Actions Don't Match

Last Friday I drove up to visit my mom. I take the Florida Turnpike for a portion of my trip and had seen a couple of Florida Highway Patrol cars so I made sure not to go more than 5 MPH over the posted speed limit of 65. After all, it was the beginning of the Labor Day weekend and you just know that some speeders are going to be used as an example early on.

So I'm driving along in the right-hand lane, doing about 70, and I see this minivan in my mirror roaring up behind me in the left-hand lane. As it blows by me, easily clocking 85 to 90 MPH, I spot a large sticker on the back windshield that reads:

I Drive 55 For Safety


Monday, September 7, 2009

I See Stupid People

Last week, NBC & MSNBC's John Harwood ripped into the nutters protesting President Obama's planned speech to school children next week (something Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush both did):

I’ve been watching politics for a long time, and this one is really over-the-top. What it shows you is there are a lot of cynical people who try to fan controversy, and let’s face it, in a country of 300 million people, there are a lot of stupid people too, because if you believe that it’s somehow unhealthy for kids, for the president to say "work hard and stay in school," you're stupid. In fact, I’m worried for some of those kids of those parents who are upset. I’m not sure they are smart enough to raise those kids.

My step-son posted this cartoon on Facebook and I thought it was funny enough that I wanted to share it here as well.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This Brought Back Memories

I was looking through some old photos today and this one brought back some memories. Anybody else here remember this guy?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Write While The Heat Is In You

"Write while the heat is in you...The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled."

Henry David Thoreau 1817 - 1862

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shelfari - Neil Gaiman's Library

Over at Shelfari, a social media site for booklovers, they have started a new feature on their blog where they will ask some of their (and our) favorite authors about books on their shelves. The first author they thought of is one of my favorites, Neil Gaiman. But instead of asking about books on his shelves, they asked if they could take photos of his library. Below is just ONE photo of ONE section.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading about the passing of one of Mr. Gaiman's cats, Pod, in her sleep from old age. Lorraine wrote about it in her blog and referred to Pod as "one of Boss's Library Cats" which I found quite endearing. I could not help but try to imagine what Mr. Gaiman's library might look like and so now am very glad to actually see this great writer's library.

The old adage "A writer must first be a reader" is obviously true in Mr. Gaiman's case. I could not find a count of how many volumes are in his library, but it is obviously in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.

Here are the high-res photos, if you'd like to gaze longingly at the individual titles. Right now though, you'll have to excuse me as I need to go wipe the drool off my chin.

Oh, before I go, if you want to be a Shelfari-friend of mine, here is the link to my shelf.

P.S. Right after I posted the above I came across a new post of photos of Mr. Gaiman's upstairs reference library. I need a mop.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

50 Tips To Improve Your Writing Skills

Over at the Dumb Little Man website they have a list of "50 Tools that can Improve your Writing Skills" which, as I glanced over them, looked to be helpful for those of us who want to polish our writing. In addition to the tips or tools, some of the ones I looked at included simple exercises to reinforce the advice.

Here are the 50 tips (without the links; you'll need to go to the actual site for those) for your perusal. This makes a good one-year plan if you learn one tip per week and even allows you a 2 week "vacation."

1: Branch to the Right
2: Use Strong Verbs
3: Beware of Adverbs
4: Period As a Stop Sign
5: Observe Word Territory
6: Play with Words
7: Dig for the Concrete and Specific
8: Seek Original Images
9: Prefer Simple to Technical
10: Recognize Your Story’s Roots
11 Back Off or Show Off
12: Control the Pace
13: Show and Tell
14: Interesting Names
15: Reveal Character Traits
16: Odd and Interesting Things
17: The Number of Elements
18: Internal Cliffhangers
19: Tune Your Voice
20: Narrative Opportunities
21: Quotes and Dialogue
22: Get Ready
23: Place Gold Coins Along the Path
24: Name the Big Parts
25: Repeat
26: Fear Not the Long Sentence
27: Riffing for Originality
28: Writing Cinematically
29: Report for Scenes
30: Write Endings to Lock the Box
31: Parallel Lines
32: Let It Flow
33: Rehearsal
34: Cut Big, Then Small
35: Use Punctuation
36: Write A Mission Statement for Your Story
37: Long Projects
38: Polish Your Jewels
39: The Voice of Verbs
40: The Broken Line
41: X-Ray Reading
42: Paragraphs
43: Self-criticism
44: Save String
45: Foreshadow
46: Storytellers, Start Your Engines
47: Collaboration
48: Create An Editing Support Group
49: Learn from Criticism
50: The Writing Process

Dumb Little Man - Tips For Life is a site that offers tips, advices and tools that can " you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This And That

It's time to close out some browser tabs I have open and clear out some random thoughts as well. Take what you can use and leave the rest.

I downloaded the new free release of Facebook 3.0 for iPhone last week and am very pleased with the updated user interface and the additions of typical Facebook features like Events.

On an unrelated note, my cat Squeaky likes to lay on top of my iPhone when it's lying on the couch. Still trying to figure that one out.

Her ridiculous beliefs are no match for her sweet-tooth. "Homosexuality is wrong and disgusting, but I'll take the free ice cream."

I'm really disappointed that the Obama administration is not going to eliminate this practice that began under the Bush nightmare.

I watched "The Man Who Fell To Earth" yesterday for the first time. What a strange, surreal movie.

When I go back to work, I'd really like to get one of these. Anyone have any recommendations or warnings?

If you have an iPhone, you have access to the Google Books Library of 1.5 million public domain publications. For FREE!

About 3 weeks ago I secured a Google Voice phone number...but I haven't done anything with it yet. Kind of wishing I had waited so I could get one that would match the area code we'll have at our cabin in the mountains.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Disney Animal Kingdom Photos

Last Saturday Cindy and I took our granddaughter Heather, our niece Rhyan and her husband, Townsend to Disney's Animal Kingdom for a morning of fun. We all walked around a bit and then took the safari ride together. Then it was time for Grandma, Granddad and Heather to leave so we could get Heather to her pool party with Rowan, while Rhyan and Townsend continued their visit to Nahtazu.

Photos of our morning at Disney Animal Kingdom are on my Flickr page.
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