kid in a candy shop

Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation coverOne of the blogs I follow is CMOS Shop Talk, from the good folks at the Chicago Manual of Style. They recently ran an interview with Bryan Garner about the May release of his Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation. (What took them so long?) Ann Curzan, the instructor in the English Grammar Boot Camp video course that I am taking often quotes from the author’s Garner’s Modern English Usage, and he seems to me to frequently take a conservative, overly pedantic, and restrictive stance on grammar and usage. But, I thought, he is writing the Chicago Guide for the Chicago Manual of Style, so he is going to have to adhere to Chicago style, rules, and conventions. Right? And in any case he is the author of the Grammar and Usage” chapter in the Chicago Manual of Style.

So I bought it.

And what a pleasure the book is. It tells me all about mass nouns and count nouns. It distinguishes between qualitative adjectives and quantitative adjectives. It discusses linking verbs, phrasal verbs, and ergative verbs. It discusses compound sentences, complex sentences, and even compound-complex sentences.

So much fun.

It’s that little old grammar nerd, me.




Secular Music Friday: Lift Us Up

A lovely counter to the negativity in this election cycle. Thank you, Peter Yarrow!

Food Network conventions, part 2

Recently I wrote about how most Food Network cooking shows have to have some kind of plot, which I find annoying.

Food Network logoThere is another common thread. Food Network seems to want to coordinate show themes on specific weekends. I can see that for Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Halloween and so on, but the coordination goes beyond that. For example, not long ago The Kitchen, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, and Guy’s Big Bite all had shows about tailgating on the same weekend. Valerie’s Home Cooking was right there as well with a football-themed show. Why Pioneer Woman was out of sync with a program on mashups I have no idea.

The following week it was about competition. Trisha cooked as if she were a contestant on Chopped or another of the competition shows, with her sister Beth as judge. On Pioneer Woman Ree competed with herself, asking the cowboys to judge variant versions of the same dish. Valerie’s husband and his brother competed for the best home brew beer.

Show biz. It’s all show biz.


High Fidelity

High Fidelity book coverHigh Fidelity
Nick Hornby
Riverhead Books (August 1, 1996), 260 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon paperback $10.00
purchased as a Book Riot Kindle deal for $1.99

Nick Hornby is an author of popular comic novels. His most recent book is Funny Girl, published in February.

High Fidelity was published in 1996 and was made into a movie released in 2000 starring John Cusak. I have not seen the movie, but it figured in many of the Amazon reviews of the book. Hornby is British and writes for a British audience. The circumstances and setting are London and its environs. Hornby uses a lot of British slang. I spent a lot of time looking up words in the Oxford Living Dictionaries. “Knackered” means extremely tired. “Bitter” as a noun is a kind of beer. “Berk” means a stupid person.

Rob is the narrator of the novel. He owns a struggling used record store with two highly unmotivated employees. He is self-centered, immature, and an expert at sabotaging his relationships. I got a number of laughs in the first part of the novel, but Rob’s boorish behavior started to wear thin three-quarters into the book. He ultimately reflects, “It’s not what you like but what you’re like that’s important” and begins to change his ways. Sort of.

As far as comic novels go, you could no doubt find a better selection.


Some months back I heard a guest on a food segment on NPR say that when she’s in the store and sees someone buying salad dressing she wants to ask them why they would do that, and she wants to tell them that it’s really easy to make your own dressings. It is.

Food Network logoI had two vinaigrette recipes in my database. One is by Geoffrey Zakarian from The Kitchen on Food Network. It includes olive oil, red wine vinegar, tarragon, and Dijon mustard. You can find it here. The other is from Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. It is just olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and black pepper. It’s here. She also has a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Just recently I saw Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame make a simple lemon vinaigrette. I added it to my database and tried it. It is marvelous. (I added some garlic powder, which the recipe did not call for.)

A simple Google search or a search on any cooking web site will return more vinaigrette recipes than you’ll ever know what to do with. And the thing is that you can mix and match and improvise as much as you want.

I plan to do a lot more of that.

house husband

Terry found a job. It’s not a high-paying job. It’s a part-time on-call job. But it is a job. She worked a half-day Wednesday, all day Thursday, and most of Friday. So I did my part.

househusbandOn Friday I did the grocery shopping. (OK, I would have done that anyway.) I loaded the dishwasher, ran the dishwasher, and emptied the dishwasher. I took out the trash, recycling, and food waste. I replaced the kitchen trash bags and the paper bag in the food waste container. I put away the Calphalon pans that were on the dish drainer. I hand washed and put away the glasses in need of hand washing. I put my jeans in the washer, put them in the dryer, folded them and put them away. I gave Tasha both of her walks. (All right, I would have done that anyway as well.)  And I watched The Chew, being sick of the current news cycle. (Where was Daphne?)

I would prefer to be busier with more freelance work, but I can play the house husband role when circumstances dictate.

photo credit: gpointstudio, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Secular Music Friday: What I Did for Love

I’ve shared this before, I know. But it was on my mind with the recent retirement of Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. Then there was also Dick Enberg’s retirement. Southern Californians will remember him as the voice of Angels baseball for many years. In recent years he broadcast San Diego Padres baseball. And there was the final Rose Parade broadcast by Stephanie Edwards and Bob Eubanks back in January. All were artists who loved their craft.

The song “What I did for Love” from the musical A Chorus Line is about artists and their love for their work. The song takes place in the play when a dancer injures himself and has to be taken out of the rehearsal room on a stretcher. When director Zach asks, “If today where the day that you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?” The character Diana Morales sings:

quoteKiss today goodbye
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can’t regret
What I did for love, what I did for love

Look, my eyes are dry
The gift was ours to borrow
It’s as if we always knew
And I won’t forget what I did for love
What I did for love

The irony is that while the song says “Look, my eyes are dry” I always get tears in my eyes when I hear the song, or even think of the lyrics.

Here it is. Enjoy. And it’s OK if your eyes aren’t dry.

the dangers of Pinterest

Pinterest logoI wrote last week about having joined Pinterest not as a deliberate decision, but because I was trying to track something down. I had to join to get there. Once I got there, however, there was no there there. But the damage was done and I was hooked.

There’s recipes there. Lots and lots of recipes. Really good recipes. I fixed two in a row that I marked 5 star in our recipe database. Pretty impressive. I can’t say that I’ve ever done that with Cooking Light.

I don’t generally share recipes here, but I’m passing these on to you as an example of the sort of thing that you can find on Pinterest.

I have to make sure that I don’t grab large quantities of recipes from Pinterest and save them. I need to be selective. That’s a good problem to have, I suppose.

jury duty: learning the moral

I turned my recent jury duty experience into a Toastmaster’s project from the storytelling manual, “The Moral of the Story” and I won best speaker. That was nice.

I described how the defendant, though a convict in the state prison system, wore dress slacks, a dress shirt, and tie, exemplifying the Toastmaster maxim “dress the part.”

I described how the attorneys, both young women, worked to engage their audience, potential jurors, and described their personal situations in order to connect.

Best Speaker ribbonI talked about how the defense attorney drove a point home with simile and humor. When a potential juror said he would “try” to be fair and unbiased, she asked, “If you are going to Vegas with your buddies for the weekend, and your wife asks you ‘Will you be faithful to me when you’re gone?’ Would ‘I’ll try’ be a sufficient answer?”

The prosecutor used an example, asking, “If a friend shows up at your front door wearing a yellow rain slicker and they’re covered with water, wouldn’t you assume that it was raining outside?” The defense attorney countered with, “Wouldn’t you look out the window to see for yourself?” I said that I was sorry not to have been on the jury just to learn what that line of questioning was all about.

I took my moral not from Aesop, but from Dr. Seuss:

quoteFrom here to there,
From there to here,
Toastmaster skills are found everywhere. 


Originals book coverOriginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Adam Grant
Viking (February 2, 2016), 335 pages
Kindle edition $13.99, Amazon hardcover $16.20
purchased as a Book Riot Kindle deal for $4.99

Adam Grant teaches business at the Wharton School, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania. His previous book was Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.

In Originals, Grant discusses how nonconformists achieve success and drive innovation. He discusses how behaviors you might think are the most successful may not be the best approach.

He describes how the founders of online eyewear maker Warby Parker took the safe route. They didn’t quit their jobs or drop out of college to devote to full time to their startup. The left themselves with a fallback position. Grant also describes how procrastination can often produce better results than barreling right ahead.

Grant explains how sexism is still pervasive in many industries: “In an international bank and a health-care company, I found that voicing new revenue-generating ideas led to higher performance evaluations for men, but not for women. Other studies show that male executives who talk more than their peers are rewarded, but female executives who engage in the same behavior are devalued by both men and women.”

There is a long discussion of “horizontal hostility.” This is when groups with similar goals waste energy fighting each other, such as happened in the suffragette movement. Grant explains how younger siblings are treated differently by their parents than older siblings and are more likely to take risks. That is certainly the case in my experience. My brother engaged in flying gliders and scuba diving when he was younger, activities I would never consider.

Originals is a fascinating study of nonconformity and innovation.