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Archive for December, 2009

I resolve not to make any New Year’s resolutions. If you are going to do something, you should just do it and not wait for a particular date. That’s why I loathe Valentine’s Day. Shouldn’t you love someone all year, instead of just one particular day? (Eddie must love this point of view; it keeps him off the Hallmark treadmill.)

That being said, 1.1.10 seems like a very good date to begin projects I’ve been putting off, such as organizing photos, my home office, the checkbook, etc. I also plan to de-lard my haunches. Not all crazy-like, just some trimming of the padding I put on with Trish the Human on the dock this summer.

I’m looking forward to 2010. Except for my new job, fantastic students and boss, and some fun times with Eddie, the kids and our friends, 2009 sucked ass. Deaths and health problems galore. We’re ending the year dealing with hateful, trash-talking relatives. SIGH.

So, welcome to you, 2010. I’m resolved and ready!

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Dear Blog:

I’ve neglected you and I feel guilty. I apologize profusely, but I can’t promise it won’t happen again.

I could make excuses. I’ve been hosting folks in my house (as usual). I’ve been visiting family out of town. I’ve been working at the station and trying to sleep when I’m not.

But really, there is a bigger reason I have ignored you for five days: I don’t know what topic to tackle.

  • Should I address the fact that I’ve almost run over Trish with my car for three days in a row because she wants to greet me in the driveway?
  • Do I write about the permanent neon restaurant sign I saw on a building that read “Bojangles” on one side of the building, but “Bojangle’s” on the other?
  • Would it be better to vent my spleen about certain in-laws of mine who could not tell the truth if their lives depended on it? A corollary to that is that they aren’t happy unless they are saying something nasty behind our backs. This is why I cherish my friends so much.
  • Would it be best to simply offer a fantastic new recipe for potato leek soup that I found?

So, Blog, it is not that I don’t want to write. I just don’t know what topic to address. Forgive me for my indecision, and I’ll try to come up with something soon.

Love and kisses,

Beth

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I could give Rachael Ray a run for her money. I’ve baked four different kinds of cookies over the past two days.

Gingerbread, Hamantaschen, Peanut Butter Munchies and Snow-caps

The pumpkin pie is in the oven, and I plan to make empanadas for dinner. The pernil al horno for tomorrow is rolling around in special spices in the refrigerator. I might make some Christmas bark this afternoon.

The boys are on their best behavior, naturally, although they are so excited they can barely stand it. I did have to threaten to use the special Parent Hotline to Santa yesterday, though.

I finished wrapping all the presents last night. There may not be much, but we chose each gift with care. I may be as excited about tomorrow as they are!

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Rapturous Festivus and Joyous Kwanzaa to all!

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Dominic asked me last night what I asked for from Santa Claus for Christmas. I said I had everything I needed. That’s true. But like most folks, I have an Amazon wish list in case Santa wants to reward me for being a good girl this year. (Though I’m sure I’ve spent time on the naughty list too.)

There are a couple of things I can’t add to Amazon, though, that are in keeping with my role as the grammar guru. One is a Grammar Nerd Corrective Label Pack. (I actually thought about making my own.) In that same vein, another site sells copyeditor marks, but the site appears to be down right now (in the biggest purchasing season of all, no less). And there are a bunch of other funny grammar-themed items out there. There’s also the AP Stylebook iPhone app. For regular readers of this blog who wondered if I won the Thanksgiving contest with my haiku, I did not. I was a little pissed, because I did not think the winning entries were better than mine. Yes, I know I’m biased. Judge for yourself. Here are the winners:

What I really want is time. Or maybe a clone. The clone could work on the research for my dissertation, and I’ll do the fun stuff like teaching, preparing for class, and hanging out with Eddie and the boys. I implemented a No Work Week this week, and I plan to make gingerbread people with the boys today. Wish me luck!

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I rarely read for fun anymore because I don’t have time. People, Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly are my only sources of reading enjoyment. Sad, I know.

While I was in Barnes & Noble buying a book for research, I decided to buy “Columbine” by Dave Cullen because I had heard so many good things about it. I devoured it in less than 24 hours (kind of a long time for me, actually, but I had two vocal distractions and a “Survivor” finale to watch).

It is an impressively researched and incredibly interesting book. I remember the shootings, but was, like most, misled by erroneous and perpetuated media accounts into believing Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were outcasts who were being bullied. Instead, Cullen makes clear, they often did the bullying, and they had few close friends by choice. At least that was Eric’s choice. He was a true psychopath, the clinical definition. Dylan was depressed, lonely and incredibly shy.

One of the concepts I teach is crisis communication. The Jefferson County sheriff and his office did almost everything wrong. Repeatedly. But, if nothing else, communicators can learn from their mistakes.

The overall feeling I have after reading the book is sadness — sadness for the victims and their families, of course, but they have long had support in their recovery and grief. I feel the most sadness for Tom and Sue Klebold and Wayne and Kathy Harris. It is easy to point the finger of “bad parenting” at them, but there is no “if/then” manual for parents. You have to do the best you can. It is hard to distinguish the difference between warning signs and normal teenage angst. And no one wants to think his/her child is a psychopath. They also lost their children on April 20, 1999, but their children were killers, which adds another layer of pain. They also lost community support and relationships. They were vilified unjustly.

In general, the book is a solid piece of reporting. I do wonder why he chose to focus on the stories of a few of the victims, but not all. Some are not even mentioned. Also, Cullen could have used a diagram of the building and images of the people he discusses, but perhaps he thought the images would sensationalize the story even more than it has been. But I wanted to be able to visualize whom he was discussing. I turned to the Internet, of course. The bullying myth is still rampant in the comments on the videos. I wanted to respond to all of them. Sigh. Maybe word will get around thanks to Cullen.

Now I’m off to play with the kids, and hope that one of them does not grow up to be infamous.

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Who vs. whom

(Another “by request” post!)

People really seem to have a hard time with “who” and “whom.” The difference is that “who” is the subject and “whom” is the object.

Examples:

Who ate all the banana bread? “Who” is the subject who did the action. (In this case, it was Eddie.)

To whom did Tom give head lice? Here, “Tom” is the subject who gave lice to some unfortunate soul. (And that’s just a joke.)

Here is a trick: If you can replace the word with “him,” use “whom” (think “m”). If you can replace it with “he,” use “who.” Rewrite the sentence to see if it makes sense.

To whom would you like to speak? I would like to speak to him.

Who shall I say is calling? You can say he is calling.

Now I’m off to make more banana bread before the phone starts ringing and my head begins to itch.

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That which who

By request (A request! How exciting!), here is a tutorial about “that,” “which” and “who.”

First, let’s tackle “that” vs. “who.” It is easy: Use “who” when you are referring to people, and “that” when you are referring to things. If you feel strongly about your pets, they can be “who” too.

Examples:

The man who gave me “The International” now lives in Richmond Hill.

Trish is the chicken who lives with us.

The cops shot the chimp that ripped off that lady’s face. (You could use “who” here, but I prefer not to give that level of respect to that particular chimp.)

The book that sits on my nightstand is some trashy romance novel.

Now let’s talk about “that” vs. “which,” which seems to be more difficult. THAT was the proper use of “which.” Use it only when you can use a comma before it. Otherwise, use “that.” In other words, “that” is a crucial part of the sentence and describes a particular kind of thing, and “which” begins a clause that could be thrown out if necessary.

Examples:

Heidi and John held a New Year’s Eve party that resulted in a five-alarm fire.

Heidi and John’s New Year’s Eve party, which resulted in a five-alarm fire, was the talk of the neighborhood.

See the difference? Many academics don’t. Now you are smarter than a 20th grader.

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