Monthly Archives: July 2016

Plagiarism now a household word

Oh, I pity today’s comma chasers. But first, let’s make one thing clear. The term comma chaser doesn’t refer solely to that tiny punctuation mark but is a generic term for editors and teachers, and even parents who take the time to look over their kids’ homework.

And while on this subject, let me stress that every person who checks submitted work for spelling, punctuation (not just commas), apostrophes (especially) and content already has a place reserved in the Great Hereafter.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Heaven will be populated only with erstwhile English teachers asking, “To whom do I owe this heavenly honor?” Or people like Winston Churchill, who became tired of hearing, “Never end a sentence with a preposition.” He answered, “This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.”

No, Heaven should contain all the people who try to improve language — any language. And while still on the subject, I believe that even people who don’t teach language but who nevertheless remediate grammar and usage issues ought to get the fast track to paradise. Why? Because they (and we) have already spent our hell on earth. Continue reading

Has objectivity vanished?

Strictly as a joke, I recently wrote to some Facebook friends that I was considering returning to full-time teaching. Why? To save time, which I’ll explain in a few graphs below.

The career move would be iffy — especially for one who gave up the tweed jacket with leather elbow patches about 16 years ago. Would I even stand a chance, given that Latino professors with doctoral degrees have become more plentiful lately.

Today’s stable of professors probably grew up in the iPhone era and wouldn’t recognize a pencil and a reporter’s notebook.

But to get to the point, I joked to friends on my Facebook page that even a 24-hour-a-week job at the Optic can be daunting. I added that seeking full-time teaching work, at Highlands, Luna Community College or even the United World College, would give me the time I need for things I enjoy, like traveling across the Atlantic and this year — (we already have the tickets) — flying to Puerto Rico.

My returning-to-work reference apparently drew the attention of a number of people. “What do you plan to teach?” “Will you try to get your old job back?” Continue reading

Religion and hot chile

A young man, who left his studies at a Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, came to live in Las Vegas around the time I entered Immaculate Conception High School.

Frank Reesor, who died in his 40s, became my next-door neighbor, and more importantly, an older brother who spent time with me discussing religion, morality and maturity. We hit it off well when we discussed the deity, but on another subject: chile, we differed.

I tried. My way of welcoming Frank to Las Vegas was to immerse him (not literally) in our favorite cuisine, and to use him as a resource, for any questions I had about religion.

A matter about which there was divergence was what Frank called my morality. Because he had spent years in a monastery — not to become a priest, but to live out his life as a Trappist Monk — he urged (I didn’t say “encouraged”) me to look into a religious vocation.

To my recollection, no one had ever called me a heretic until Frank gave me that title after a discussion in which I questioned too many things. Once he even used “heretic” as my name, as in “Hi there, Heretic.” I must have deserved that title, as I did in fact pepper my side of the discussion with “why?” Continue reading

Some like it extra picante

Should I apologize for invoking the names of Ana Granado and Phaedra Wouters, our foreign exchange students, just one more time?

I admit it and plan to write about other things in future columns.

But now there’s an exception. Only last week, our youngest son, Ben, and his wife, Heather, made us grandparents — for the sixth time. Now we have at least one grandchild from each of our three boys. Of the six grandchildren, the latest one, Henry Alexander Trujillo, somewhat balanced the mix, as now one third of the sweet darlings are males. You do the math.

Naturally, a grandparent 77 years older than the newest arrival is bound to claim that the newcomer resembles the paternal grandparent’s side in all the right ways. I agree.

My first look at the 7-pound, 10.5-ounce new arrival, then about six hours old, convinced me that H.A.T. was the handsomest creature ever born. And the world’s best researchers and statisticians can sustain these findings, I’m sure.

But then I remembered the words of Margaret Vazquez, a retired anthropology professor at Highlands University, who told her classes of a custom of residents of New Guinea who apparently didn’t necessarily think of every newborn as good looking.

Vazquez cited yet another anthropologist named Margaret, this time Margaret Mead, author of a best-selling book, “Coming of Age in Samoa,” who observed that people in New Guinea look at a newborn and remark, quite simply, “How baby!” Continue reading