a few language tidbits

I got an email with the following subject line:

Michael, Stop Fracking Now

I thought that was interesting. First, I prefer to go by Mike. Second, I am not doing any fracking. As far as I know, there are no oil or gas deposits in my back yard.

Of course, what they meant was for me to send them a contribution so they can lobby congress to put an end to fracking. I think, though, that there must be a better way to phrase that subject line.


I saw the following ad on a Web page a while back:

Simple Steps to Dating Beautiful Women Most Guys Ignore

Is it saying they will tell you how to date those beautiful women whom most guys are inexplicably  ignoring? Or is it promising to teach you the steps on dating that most guys ignore? The second, of course. But on a quick first reading I initially took it as the first.


I’ve read one Lillian Hellman book,  Pentimento. Another book of hers is entitled Scoundrel Time. I always took it as “a time for scoundrels.” But I recently read an essay in the Sunday New York Times which made clear that the phrase means, “that scoundrel, time.” How about that?

I do love the English language.


This place has been around for a while, but I haven’t written about it. Tacomania has a few locations in the South Bay, but the Gilroy location only opened up last fall. They moved into an old building that had been a variety of fast food places. They took a taco trailer, put an awning over it, and made it part of the building. I believe it was the same trailer that had been selling tacos at various locations around town. If not, the fact that the trailer disappeared at the same time they started working on this place is a very strange coincidence indeed.

In any case, they did a nice job of remodeling the interior. Nothing fancy — simple and plain, but comfortable. You go inside and place your order at the counter. The order is transmitted to the trailer, so you go outside to wait for it. When it’s ready the cook rings one of those old-fashioned front desk bells and hands you your order.

Tacomanina doesn’t work for Terry, as they rely heavily on onion and cilantro. For me, though, it’s a nice lunch when I’m getting it on my own.

Why I Read

Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books
Wendy Lesser
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (January 7, 2014), 239 pages
Kindle Edition $10.67, Amazon Hardcover $18.63

I have seen several mentions of this book since it was first published. I read an almost loving review, which I believe was in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Most recently I heard Wendy Lesser interviewed on Forum on KQED radio. The conversation was fascinating, but perhaps that was to be expected since Forum host Michael Krasny is a professor of English at San Francisco State. In any case, I had trouble focusing on the work I was supposed to be doing since I wanted to give my full attention to the interview. It was that interview which prompted me to finally pick up Why I Read as my next book.

The book was enjoyable enough, but I realized that I would rather hear Lesser talk to a sharp interviewer than read her on the printed page (or Kindle iPad app screen, as the case may be). That said, the book was still well worth my time. As some of the Amazon reviews suggested, the book has a conversational style. And I’d much rather that than be preached at, certainly.

Lesser’s chapters have titles like “Character and Plot,” “Novelty,” and “Grandeur and Intimacy.” She covers a lot of territory. In one chapter she moves from Cervantes to Shakespeare and Chaucer to Swift and on to Mailer and Capote and their “nonfiction novels,” as she calls that genre.

One nice thing about Lesser is that she makes no pretensions about offering up any sort of canon, à la Harold Bloom. She does, however, provide a list of “A Hundred Books to Read for Pleasure,” ordered alphabetically and without comment.

In the end, I’m glad I read the book. Lesser had some interesting comments about mystery novels and books in translation, to mention just two topics.

And that KQED interview is here, if you’re interested.

Sacred Music Friday: Crown Him With Many Crowns

Crown Him With Many Crowns, Westminster Abbey, 50th Coronation Anniversary

Great Courses update

I haven’t written about The Great Courses for quite some time, but I am listening to those courses as much as ever. Since I have shifted my exercise preference from the treadmill to walking outside, it’s been a while since I bought a DVD set, but I continue to listen to audio downloads on my ancient iPod while I’m out walking.

I thought I’d mention a few of the courses I’ve listened to over the past several months.

Most recently, I finished Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity. Much of this was material that I knew, but it was nonetheless an excellent review. Kenneth Harl is a great lecturer, and he gave equal treatment to the pagan perspective, which one usually doesn’t find in surveys of the period.

Myth in Human History — This was an enjoyable overview of world mythology. Grant Voth not only discusses the well-known Greek, Roman, and Scandinavian myths, but he brings in stories from North and South America, Africa, and the Pacific. He divides up the course into what he calls units (a good old pedagogical term!) covering such themes as Heroes, Gods and Goddesses, and the Trickster.

The Western Literary Canon in Context — John Bowers takes us through what he admits is his own personal set of selections for the western literary canon. A good set it is, though. He starts with The Epic of Gilgamesh, and takes us up through the The Lord of the Rings. It’s a great survey.

I do love The Great Courses. Really good stuff.

Pineapple Village

I have written about the Chinese Fast Food place near us, between our grocery store and our favorite Mexican restaurant. After changing hands the new owners added a short menu of entrée and rice dishes in addition to the offerings on the hot table. They were quite good. In fact the dishes rivaled our late, lamented Thai restaurant. That obviously didn’t work, though, because one day I walked in and they had a completely new menu. It smacked of the work of a consultant, or at least some kind of pre-packaged commercial offering. That didn’t work either, because they closed shortly thereafter.

The location stayed vacant for a while, and then late last summer work began inside. We couldn’t see what they were doing because the windows were papered over, but eventually a permanent lighted sign that said Pineapple Village went up. That’s how things stayed throughout the winter and into the spring.

Finally they opened their doors in April. They opened on a Thursday and we went in for lunch on Friday. We were quite impressed. They offer a bento plate for lunch. It includes appetizer, salad, rice, and entrée, beautifully arranged on a square black plate. The flavors are marvelous. They just pop. We’ve been back again for lunch since then and have gotten takeout for Friday dinner.

We’re adding Pineapple Village to our rotation.

instructions in recipes

I wrote recently about Molly Katzen’s rather satirical take on the extremes to which one might take the instructions in a recipe. But in reality there are some instructions in recipes that annoy me.

What is it with “stir with a wooden spoon” or “cook in a non-stick skillet”? Our Tovolo and Oneida nylon spoons are perfectly fine for stirring whatever needs to be stirred. Our Calphalon stainless steel pans are more non-stick than the non-stick (I can tell you from experience) and can cook whatever needs to be cooked.

I suppose I can see the point of “cook in a cast iron skillet,” since the nature and flavor of cooking in  cast iron is different, but not everyone has cast iron. We went many years without cast iron. We (foolishly) kept the cast iron Terry brought home from her grandmother’s house after her death in storage for the longest time. Only recently did we bring it in to the kitchen. And I am glad we finally did.

But for the most part please don’t tell me what kind of utensil to use. Just give me the instructions that I need.

Really. Thanks for that.