Monthly Archives: April 2009

That pesky punctuation mark

Perhaps no mark of punctuation — this one among the smallest in the English language — has caused more grief. It’s misuse appears to be what its best noted for.

Let me explain:

The apostrophe (‘), that little cosa that few people are able to master, more than anything else, has caused English teachers to turn in their chalk prematurely and declare, “never again.”

The last time I taught freshman composition at Luna Community College, I may have frightened a coed when I wrote “never again!” on her introductory essay. I’d meant that admonition to refer solely to her habit of writing “it’s” when she meant “its.”

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A strange birthday gift

“You’re doing fine, Dad! You can make it.” With that, my youngest son Ben, less than half my age, entreated me as I climbed and descended a mountain — all part of his and his wife Heather’s gift on my birthday. I didn’t need a pep talk; I needed some horse liniment.

The invitation was for my wife Bonnie and me to join Ben and Heather for a weekend at Carlsbad Caverns. We were to explore the famous Big Room by going through the Natural Entrance. I’d visited the caverns before, when I was about Ben’s age and much more physically fit than I am today.

The first physics lesson a visitor learns is that even though going 75 stories downhill does not require all the heavy lifting of going up, the body nevertheless uses muscles — different muscles — to provide resistance against falling and tumbling down. With every step I took in the descent, I became aware of how I’d be sore — but differently sore — the next morning. At least the path was even. Continue reading

Seeking computer illiteracy?

Whenever there’s an error in the Optic, some readers likely think we messed up. And they holler, “Hire a proofreader!”

But isn’t it possible that we merely plant a typo here and there? Why? To give readers something to talk about and us something to write about. Like now.

Alex Montoya of Las Vegas, now living in Flint, Texas, caught one of the plants, this time in an advertisement for Mora County manager. Montoya, my former student, writes, “I thought of applying for the position. I don’t think I meet the computer qualifications. The ad calls for one who is ‘computer illiterate.’“

No, Alex, if you’re lacking the “illiteracy” qualifications, Mora County simply has no room for you. However, what if, just what if … the alleged error were deliberate? We at the Optic get tired of going days without anyone calling to say, “You know that article you wrote about city government? Well, I want you to know that almost every word was spelled right.” Continue reading

Protocol schmotocol

Few things took precedence last week over the details of the visit by President Obama and the First Lady to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. The economy, bailouts, the war in Afghanistan, the G20 Summit: All of these paled as talk-show hosts and columnists spent days purely pondering protocol. 

For a few days, the big news was whether Obama had blown it by presenting Her Royal Highness with an iPod containing footage of her previous public appearances (she gave the Obamas a framed family portrait) and whether Michelle committed a breach by touching Queen Elizabeth other than during a handshake.

So, what constitutes protocol? What are the roots of this phenomenon that determine distance, occasions for touching, whether a curtsy or a bow takes precedence over a simple handshake?

To review: Both Obamas gave the queen a two-handed handshake, called a glove, apparently proper procedure. And while taking a group photo, neither Obama touched the queen. Notice, in scores of Optic photos, usually of cheerleaders, how many subjects put their arms around one another. Some day it may even be common to find U.S. presidents hugging the queen while holding two fingers behind her head in rabbit ear fashion. Continue reading

Now that’s service!

Except for the administration of the City of Las Vegas, which farms out its advertisements to the Journal North, bypassing the Tri-Weekly Optic, lots of people feel good about shopping locally and keeping the money in circulation.

I’ve tried to abide by that policy. A couple of times last week I was favorably impressed with local service — and remember, this comes from a man who believes it’s courteous to say “please” and “thank you” and to go way beyond our job description.

Let me explain: Continue reading