Archive for June, 2013

I’m sure Gutenberg is spinning in his grave.  Johannes, that is, not unfunny comedic actor Steve with two ts.  Old JG, inventor of the moveable type printing press, is probably rotating faster than PSR J1748-2446ad, the fastest-spinning pulsar known, with a period of 0.00139595482(6) seconds, or about 24 percent of the speed of light at 161,040,000 miles per hour.

My point in writing this droll bit of esoteric trivia is simply to illustrate that a rather involved statement can be translated into the written word sans typos given a modicum of attention to detail and care.  Johannes G. is polishing the inside of his coffin because the art of accurate spelling which once was second nature to the average literate person has been largely abandoned in just the last couple of years.

I’m not just talking about text-speak.  This screen caption appeared on the local TV news the other day accompanying a story on budget cuts:  “BUS ROUTES SLAHSED.”  Here’s a recent Facebook post, verbatim:

This sitch isn’t just NYS by any stretch of the truth. Staes ovebler employ so they can keep the votes goingthier way. And by all means someone must get killed before evan a stop sign will be erected. I can not understand how you could think for even a second that NY has a monopoly doing something smart only after all the stupid things have run their course. Voting the dum barstards in or out of office can’t happen. For every time one senceble vote is cast; there is two forced into place to nullify that one right vote. Sorry didn’t mean to carry on.”

Talk about dum barstards.

I Thought "bastard" Had Two Rs...

I Thought “bastard” Had Two Rs…

We don’t even have to get into grammar, continuity and punctuation, as the three go hand-in-glove with correct spelling.  You either care enough to send the very best, or you’re a dum barstard.

I take small pride in being a stickler as defined in the wonderful, typo-free book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss (Gotham, 2004) about punctuation and ways simple errors can change meaning.  As a stickler I both appreciate when someone  puts two words together in an interesting and literate way, but also abhor lazy writing.  Misspelled words, truncated phrases, bad grammar, gibberish, poor punctuation and nonsense are hallmarks of the modern written word.  I blame the internet.

Like everybody else, I also bang out the words when typing into a search engine without a second thought to spelling:  “whatt is sped oflight?” yields “Showing results for what is speed of light?”  All the incorrectly spelled words are magically corrected by the search engine because they don’t want you to be frustrated in your search by your own ignorance.  Frustrated consumers don’t have time to scan ads and superfluous content if they are attempting to find the speed of light at less than light speed due to dead-end search results.

Chester's Last Name is Actually Spelled "J-O-N-E-S"

Chester’s Last Name is Actually Spelled “J-O-N-E-S”

Why don’t “smart” phones, social media sites, email, advertising, and other forms of written communication have this miraculous feature and save everyone a lot of unrealized embarrassment?  Problem is, because the problem is ubiquitous, nobody calls anybody else out when they make egregious errors in writing.  It’s the elephant in the room that just keeps smashing into the furniture and crapping all over everything.

Another great read is The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson (Crown Publishing Group, 2010) chronicling a cross-country crusade to write the wrongs of modern word usage.  Equipped with writing utensils of every stripe and medium, these two latter-day linguists hunt down and (with permission) correct myriad malapropisms and misprints at every turn of their journey on a circuit of the United States (or “Staes” as noted earlier…)  Men after my own heart, I’m afraid we are just voices crying in the wilderness.

Actually, There's 16...

Actually, There are 16…

I’m guessing if every one who emails or posts (and who doesn’t?) would only take a moment or two to click on “review,” “spell check” and “proofread writing” periodically during composition or when completing a missive, 90 percent of offending verbiage would evaporate into a black hole in cyberspace.  As I write this, misspellings are consistently called out by a red squiggly line underlining each one.  I mean, it’s obvious.  No one, not even we sticklers, is mistake-free.  What we need is a bit more self-awareness and concern for the decline of our language to take responsibility to clean up our own act when it comes to good writing and writing well.

Read the dictionary for fun.  Buy a thesaurus (no, it’s not a kind of dinosaur…)  Use spell checker.  Reread your writing to spot obvious flaws easily corrected.  Pride yourself in your written communication skills.  You might not see the difference, but everyone else does.

By the way, don’t rely 100 percent on your spell checker to get it right vis-a-vis correcting spelling errors.  As you know, “vis-a-vis” is spelled thusly.  Here’s what my spell checker suggested as the correct spelling(s):  bis-a-vis via-a-vis, vi-a-vis, vs-a-vis and, of course, is-a-vis.

Happy hunting and pecking.

I Think "White" is Redundant

I Think “white” is Redundant


As a postscript to my last offering concerning poor driving habits rife in our modern society:  Yesterday, alone, I:  1.  was passed on the right on a one lane (curvy) road while going the speed limit, 2.  was cut off in mid-left turn with the green arrow by a right-turning pickup truck towing a trailer, and 3.  followed a prominently signed corporate vehicle as the driver, first, crossed the double-yellow center line in a curve, then blew through a stop sign, then blew through a red light to turn right into traffic.  I called the cops on the first one and the company on the last one.  The company owner was genuinely appreciative of my call.

Anyway…  I’m guessing most of my readers like to go out to eat occasionally.  My dear, long-suffering wife and I enjoy the ability to dine out on a regular basis, not because we don’t cook (she’s a self-taught hash slinger of the highest order), but because we thoroughly enjoy good food made better if someone else cooks it.  My philosophy is:  If you don’t cook, clean your plate without complaint, because you don’t know where your next meal may be coming from.

On the other hand, too many dining-out experiences are substandard and therefore worthy of dishonorable mention if not complaint.  Restaurants vary in quality, cleanliness and consistency.  It can be difficult to know in advance what the breakfast, lunch or dinner experience will be like until it’s too late.  By too late I mean:  You’ve ordered your food and now you’re committed to the adventure for good or ill.


    The Object of My Affection

The day I was inspired to begin this string of rants (remember the blue-hair in the Buick who almost creamed my corn in the parking lot?) I was heading for Mickie D’s to buy “lunch.”  Actually, I was in the mood for some comfort food and the McCheeseburger fills the bill if not my stomach.  It’s warm and chewy and tasty, with that little surprise of pickle tang about half-way through it.  I ordered my treat, unpacked it from the sack and wrapper, staged the napkin for easy reach in case the ketchup got loose and tried to escape, and with pleasant anticipation, took a bite.

It was cold.  And crunchy.  Usually even if it was left over from the last batch of mass-produced burgers from five minutes ago, it’s still warm from the heat lamps.  But this was a different animal altogether (although, I am assuming it was cow…)  A horse of a different color to stretch the metaphor and beat a dead horse at the same time.  The bun was the texture of burnt toast.  The meat was tepid and the cheese (the horror, the horror…) was c-o-l-d cold.  How this combination of abominations came together I can’t begin to guess.  I hardly noticed the pickle piquancy.

I finished it, of course.  My dollar investment was not going to go to waste.  That’s wasteful.  Like I said, I don’t cook; not wasting food is a survival technique I learned as a child.

I finished it, but there was no joy in my enjoyment of it.  It satisfied only my hunger, which is small consolation when my expectations were so great to begin with.  Sadly, this comfort food was just the opposite:  discomforting food.

So I went back to the “restaurant” to speak to the manager.  I’m guessing if you are like many people (unlike me) you wouldn’t bother taking the time and composing a complaint for such a trivial matter.  However, it’s what I do.  I have always felt it was productive to give constructive feedback to someone who cares and can do something about the issue at hand.  I’m not expecting or hoping to change the world, just the little corners that I haunt.

Walking up to the counter and turning my back to nearby customers to exclude them from hearing my comments, in a quiet voice I asked to speak to the manager.  Who should I be speaking to but the Manager Herself.  This was perfect, because I did not want to A. “make a scene,” or 2. involve any other customer or employee.  I’ll talk to the manager privately, and let her do her job vis-a-vis quality control.

Holding my receipt as evidence of my veracity, I mentioned the three points of my case:  the bun was dry, the burger was shopworn, and, worst of all, the cheese was slightly icy.  Hardly nonplussed (she did not fall off the prep table yesterday), the manager apologized and offered me a replacement cheeseburger.  While I understand offering to replace the problem product with another one just like the other one, I wonder:  Why would I want to take a chance on another possibly crappy cheeseburger?  Not only did I not want to risk getting a second cold, crunchy, tasteless wad of beef and bread, I also did not want a refund.  Yes, it’s a trivial amount of money (albeit a day’s wages in Sneakerland, Bangladesh), but that’s not the point.  I’m not in it for the money.  I’m interested in  CQI;  in business-speak it’s known as continuous quality improvement.  There has to be a counter to the slippery slope of decline in quality in products and services, and I’m the self-appointed vanguard of this movement.

So, who likes flies in restaurants?  Raise your forelegs.  I thought so:  Only other flies.  Yet how many (indoor) eating establishments have you patronized where there were noisome and numerous winged ordure-eaters present at the table?    I mean, come on!  If you (as the restaurant owner) don’t care enough to monitor and control the vermin and disease vector population, what do you care about?

We went out to eat the other evening to a local Greek food restaurant in downtown Bellingham, Washington.  (I don’t worry about ruining their “reputation” because, as few readers seem to be hitting on my blog their secret is safe…)  We sat down and I immediately saw a large dead fly on the window sill at my wife’s elbow.  (I don’t know why I emphasized “large:”  fly is a fly is a fly to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.)  The pleasant waiter came up to the table presently and asked if he could get us something to drink besides water.  Unable to contain myself, but in a controlled voice, I said, “No thank you, but could you get rid of that dead fly?”  Pleasantly, he asked rhetorically, “Oh, is there a fly over there?  I’ll get rid of it.”  He went away, presumably to steel himself to the task and gather the necessary equipment.  Shortly, the corpse was removed.

To Name But One in a Long List

To Name But One in a Long List

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spy a live fly buzzing in the window right beside me.  If I had been alone, or twenty years younger and dumber, I would have packed up my appetite and bugged out for the Indian food restaurant next door at that moment.  But I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I simply gave my wife a pained look and stuffed the proverbial sock in it.  We (I) pretended to enjoy the rest of the meal, despite the reduced portion size and increased price since we last ate there.

Which brings me to my next point:  Why is it an inevitable law of nature that portion sizes are inversely related to the price of the entrée?  Go to a buffet, pay $8 and get all the industrial food you can force feed yourself.  Pay $16 for an entrée masquerading as an appetizer, only to find out the dinner salad was “extra.”  A $12 hamburger?

Consistency is another trait some eateries seem to have a problem maintaining.  I have a few favorite restaurants which I depend on to provide a good meal and good service each time I show up, weekdays, weekends, lunch, dinner, whenever.  I’ve been spoiled at home because my live-in chef never misses a beat when it comes to high quality noshing.  Each and every dish she prepares is a feast for the senses.  (Well, there was one time she decided to clean a cast iron skillet with Pine-Sol, then make me tuna casserole…  I still have a vague sense memory of the result…  I think we buried the skillet in the back yard…)

Every once in a while, though, a place we’ve patronized for years suddenly “goes bad.”  A favorite selection  is now bland, or lukewarm, or too spicy, or gristly, or, worst of all, no longer available on the menu.  This happens too often:  I go to a specific restaurant hungry and salivating for a delicious dish I know this joint serves as a regular item.  This happened at the Greek place last week:  Looking at the menu, my wife said,  “They have eggplant moussaka…” in her most come-hither tone of voice.  Tempted beyond my limit I responded, “Cool!  That’s what I’m having!”  The pleasant waiter returned and asked me what I wanted.  “I’ll have the moussaka, please,” in my best Greek-inflected accent.  “I’m sorry, but we don’t have the moussaka tonight,” he said cheerily.  Just like that.  Not “Sorry, we’re sold out of the moussaka,” (the place was empty) nor “No problem, we’re a Greek restaurant, after all, and we can probably scare up some eggplant, potatoes, onions and bechamel sauce and easily create a serving for you, since, after all, we are a Greek restaurant…”  Nope.  Just a polite but perfunctory, “Yes, we have no moussaka, we have no moussaka today!”


As you can imagine, despite the fact there are around 420 restaurants to choose from in this small burg in which we live, by choice and necessity we patronize only a handful on a regular basis.  Which makes it all the more heart-breaking when having decided to return after a long absence to one of our former favorite haunts, we sit down to a high-priced mini-meal of poorly prepared  grub that, quite literally, might contain a grub, or two.  Or four.

And it’s not the waiter’s fault, so you still have to tip…