103 Comma Kings

I am a member of several Linkedin groups. These groups are virtual ‘clubs’ where individuals gather based on professional or personal interests. Typically, one group member brings up a topic or asks a question and thus begins a discussion thread. At times the threads are interesting to their conclusion, but lately I am finding that too many deteriorate into sheer and utter nonsense where  loquacious individuals must comment on every single post and some even start fights with mean-spirited criticisms and replies. Then there are the never-ending story threads like the one that prompts me to write now.

Imagine: 103 mostly self-righteous comments on correct comma placement in a couple sentences presented by one poor soul who must rue the moment he asked this group for advice. What’s more, these 103 comments occurred in 2 days – significant both for LI groups and certainly for a topic such as this. As they comment on the commas, everyone speaks with great authority whether they think the example was correct or not. And these comments are punctuated by statements about credentials: “I am a certified high school English teacher,” “I am a professional editor,” “I have written 10-million books,” and on it goes. I am incredulous: how can these folks have the time (and energy) to create tomes on comma correctness?

Ergo, to assuage my growing agida, I think I will send everyone on the LI list a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

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Weekly Photo

Moon in Cloud Shroud

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The Perils of Fountain Pens

003I love fountain pens. In fact, I have some obscene number of them as I continue my never-ending quest for the perfect one. Admittedly there are some issues related to fountain pens and I ran into every one during my second to last class of the semester this week. The last week of class is a typically manic time for both professors and students, and my classes are no exception. Even though I am in the audience this week while my students experience the angst of delivering  their final presentations, I am still stressed for many reasons, not the least of which is because they are stressed. (Stress breeds stress. Right?) Anyway, as I was making notes on the presentations,  I noticed that my hand was coated in purple ink, the color I especially love and often use in my pens. As I frantically looked for the source of the leak, a student asked me a question and would you believe – I stabbed myself with the nib!!  Of course it would have to be an ultrafine point pen. Then I noticed red mixing with the purple ink. Not only had I stabbed myself, but I drew blood! I was determined not to be a spectacle with this kaleidoscope of colors on my hand, and I succeeded in keeping my predicament under wraps. All I can say was thank God I had put some toilet paper (as Kleenex, of course), in my purse that morning.

As a result of my trauma, I’ve decided to relegate the fountain pens to journal-writing duty here at home, keeping them safely out of the classroom henceforth.

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Rendezvous with Chocolate at 3 a.m.

GhiradelliIt happened again. When will I learn? But it was only 60 percent cacao – much less than the 72 and 80 percents I had been eating.

Ugh – it goes like this. I get myself all nestled in bed, book in hand, surrounded by the doggies and as comfy as can be. In my night table drawer is hidden my Ghiradelli chocolate bar – I get the kind in the baking section – just as good (better) than the candy-aisle kinds – and with great delight I break it off into smaller pieces that lengthen the amount of time I have for my feast. Bite 1 – bliss. Bite 2 – ecstasy. Remaining bites – euphoria complete with closed eyes and broad smile. And so when done, I turn off the light and enter into sweet slumber …

Until…

3 a.m. roles around and I am uncontrollably bright eyed and not bushy tailed. My brain goes into fast-forward. SCREAM! This happens every darn time I have my beloved chocolate – the magical food that offers all these wonderful things including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and providing beaucoup antioxidents. The magical food that I simply cannot eat unless I want to dance with my dreams at 3 a.m.

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Timmy and the Turkey Neck

100_0611He’s the tiniest of them all at 10 lbs. and the oldest at 13 or 14. We actually don’t know how old he is because he was a puppy mill dog whom we adopted.

We are lovers of Boston Terriers, and in addition to Timmy, we have 2 others who are younger and bigger than our little squirt. They are also a bit smarter and in fact, they outweigh him by 10 lbs.

Timmy may not be the brightest bulb, but he sure is the most lovable.  He is also the pluckiest. Never fear, where there’s a garbage pail with food scraps, our little man will be found scarfing whatever he can reach and trying to knock over the basket for things he can’t. He never quite manages the latter, but he has been known to tumble down the cellar stairs while trying. Defying the laws of nature, after this fall that inflicted pure terror in my soul, my little fellow simply got up, shook himself off and scampered up the cellar stairs with nary a scratch anywhere on him. I, on the other hand, spent the rest of the day recovering from panic.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday because my boyfriend and his son are heading to PA to spend the holiday with this family. Dominic is the head chef in our house and he had the honors of preparing the meal.  It was a lovely day with the smells of turkey and pies wafting through the house. I was roused from my revelry and rendezvous with Ken Follet when my sort-of-stepson belted: “Timmy, what in the world?”

And there under the dining table, trying to make himself and his turkey neck invisible, was Timmy. This was a dog who thought he’d died and gone to heaven to have this juicy piece of poultry that was about as big as he.  But heaven vaporized when his treasured turkey neck was removed and little Timmy was relegated to curling up for an afternoon nap.

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Buffalo Blizzard

snow shoesA man walked 5 miles to bring formula to his 9-month-old baby. In order to get to the airport to fly to Detroit, which was graciously hosting the Buffalo Bills game that was supposed to be played at home on Sunday, some players were picked up and carted there by snowmobiles. A firehouse filled with marooned firefighters and stranded drivers feasted on eggs and milk that was on its way to a store in a truck that got stuck in the snow. Others in that firehouse group walked to a nearby Tops supermarket where they got bread and other provisions – for free. Rescuers managed to reach a woman whose roof was collapsing under the weight of 7 feet of snow. Not only did they guide her to safety, but also her two cats and dog.

These comprise just a small paragraph of the book-load of stories of resiliency and kindness that arose amid the absolutely astonishing weather events of the past week that shocked not just residents of Buffalo, but also those of an entire nation. I live just 60 miles from where the white catastrophe unfolded in mounds that were three, four, six and over seven feet high. Here – a mere two inches of snow fell. Even in Buffalo, one neighborhood had blizzard conditions, the next a moderate and typical winter snowfall.

That’s the way it is in upstate New York in the winter. Well, it’s never been like what Buffalo endured, but the Great Lakes are the source of our Lake Effect snow – squalls that come off the lakes, skipping blocks and towns and moving around in defiance of weather predictions. (Our weather folks work very hard here in the winter. )

The anomaly in November temperature (Polar Vortex) that led to the snow event is quickly receding, replaced on an hour-by-hour increase in temps that are rising from the teens to 61 degrees. The blizzard warnings have now been replaced by flood warnings and my friends to the west are most cleverly finding ways to put wheels on their snowmobiles, sleds, skates and skis for easy entry to the Ark that awaits us all.

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An Old-Fashioned Sick Bed

Crayons 003Crayons, paper dolls, Nancy Drew and Etch-a-Sketch. Scotch Broth, tons of OJ and Vicks-Vapor Rub lovingly rubbed into my chest. My box of 64 Crayolas, heaps of coloring books, paper dolls, my favorite Breyer horse and volumes of Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins all competed for space on my night table. And on the floor was the vaporizer with its comforting purr. This was what it was like to be sick during my childhood.

I took a little trip down memory lane last week when my temperature careened to heights not seen in many-moons and my lungs went into phlegm-based revolt. To the couch I headed, equipped with serious cough medicine, antibiotics, five flavors of Celestial Seasonings herbal tea, and a BIG bottle of cranberry-apple juice. In lieu of crayons (I do have a box of the 64-count Crayola that I am saving for a special occasion), along came my Lamy fountain pen, (filled with purple ink), the second book in Ken Follet’s Century Trilogy and my computer to watch morbid Youtube videos.

Even though the tableau of the sickbed setup wasn’t the same as when I was a little girl, the basics were in place and my memories filled the gaps. I projected myself back to when my dress-with-apron clad Mom brought me glass after glass of orange juice and bowl after bowl of Jello. I loved how she tucked me in tight and let me watch more TV, and later, than usual. My favorite fare was Mr. Ed, Lassie and The Andy Griffith Show. (Last week my favorite fare was HGTV, HGTV and more HGTV! ) Then there were the long soul-soothing naps where nothing mattered but dreams and the promise of waking up to Nancy Drew.

Last week, while I endured this worse than in many years bout of what turned out to be pneumonia, I sucked down the sweetness of my childhood memories, surrounded by three Boston Terriers, several cans of Campbell Beef Vegetable soup (couldn’t find Scotch Broth) and lovely dreams of sparkling snow and Sugar Plum Fairies. (And yes, we have now had our first nature-induced bling of the season!!)Nancy Drew

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