A grammar colonic for the feisty

Some people think I complain too much.  Those people bug me, and let me tell you why (just kidding;  I’ll save that one for another post).  AndyRooney
Rather than taking the low road and calling my persistent grumbling a personality defect, I like to think of it as a foible, an idiosyncrasy, or even a positive attribute that demonstrates my unique approach to life.

In that positive spirit, here is today’s list of common grammar gaffes that bug me:

  •  “Every” and “day” don’t automatically go together because they’re next to each other.  The everyday misuse of those words bugs me every day.
  • Don’t capitalize stuff just for yuks.  Like most things in life, there are actually rules to capitalization, and Your Emphasis has not been increased just because you incorrectly capitalized the first letters.  ALL CAPS ARE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY, HOWEVER!
  • Advertisers of America, take note:  “Less” and “fewer” mean different things.  The fewer times I see them misused, the less I’ll complain.
  • So do “further” and “farther.”  If I see any further misuse, I’ll have to go farther away from the offender.
  • “Anyways” is not a word.  If it was a word, it would mean exactly the same thing as “anyhoo.”
  • “Myself” and “me” are not interchangeable.  I myself wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t happened to me just the other day.
  • When it’s more than one, get rid of the apostrophe.   It’s not just true for my friend; even my friend’s friends make that mistake (OK – that’s a reach,  but I was stuck on it and I just wanted to move on).

You know, that felt great, like a grammical colonic.    I’m feeling more verbally regular already.

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The Republican clown car hits a tree

The clown car of Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election has created a lot of angst among people who are seriously concerned that Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or Ted Cruz might be elected president.  I understand their concern, but  is it even possible for anyone among this field of Republican candidates to satisfy the base during the primaries and then win the general election?trump-carson-cruz

The Republicans have come (or sunk, depending upon your point of view) a long way from the party of Lincoln to the party of Cruz, but there’s a clear historical context for the change.  Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” helped shape the constituency that controls today’s Republican party by capitalizing on Southern Democrats’ hatred of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, luring racist Democrats to vote the other way.  The strategy worked, as Nixon won the South and the election that year.  Reagan was able to consolidate support of the new and traditional Republican voters by creating a strong coalition of social and fiscal conservatives, which turned into the Republican juggernaut that dominated federal politics well into the 2000’s.

Today’s challenge for Republicans is that their increasing reliance on social conservatives – many of the same people who became Republicans through the Southern Strategy – alienates the vast majority of ethnic minorities and social moderates.  The Republican base – no longer the “big tent” of their heritage –  is a homogeneous group that has grown increasingly isolated from the rest of the country. Anti-immigration policies have generally shut out Latino minorities, the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, while opposition to same-sex marriage and women’s rights have alienated large swaths of the rest of us.  All that’s left in the party, it seems, are angry, disaffected white men, and fringe religious groups.

All this means that by appealing to the base, Republican presidential candidates must alienate so many potential voters that by the time the general election rolls around, they don’t have the votes to win.  By the time Romney won the nomination in 2012, calling himself  “severely conservative” along the way (that’s a good thing?), he tried unsuccessfully to win back the more moderate voters whom he had alienated.  The same strategy is in place today, with Jeb Bush relabeling himself the “most conservative governor” and several candidates toughening their positions on divisive issues like immigration.  But it gets worse, as the leading candidates are either political neophytes (Trump, Carson, Fiorina) with no track record to use against them, or so extreme that they’re isolated within their own party (Cruz).   The base no longer wants someone to move way right; they want someone who’s never been anywhere else.

Most American voters don’t share the beliefs that are now central to the Republican party.  For example, research by the non-partisan Pew Institute found that more than 70% of Americans believe that we should not deport undocumented workers, a stark deviation from Republican dogma.  A Qunnipiac University poll found that over 90% of all voters believe in universal background checks for gun buys.  In another Pew poll, 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage. And according to an AP poll earlier this year,  2/3 of Americans say that the rich are not taxed heavily enough.  By sticking to unpopular, divisive stances, the Republican party is marginalizing itself on a national scale.  Yes, individual candidates can still win in gerrymandered voting districts, but even this engineered success will be challenged as hard-line Republicans become minorities in their own voting districts.

Even prominent Republicans are disgusted.  David Brooks calls Republican leaders “The Incompetence Caucus.”  John Meredith, a prominent African-American Republican, is concerned about “The Republican Civil war” overtaking our country.  Colin Powell sees a dark vein of intolerance in the Republican party.

So can a Republican be elected president in 2016?  Do we even have a two-party race for the presidency anymore?  It’s looking increasingly doubtful that either of these questions can be answered positively by Republicans unless they take a long, hard look at who their base is today, and who they want it to be in the future.

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Have a nice day!

“Romeo????  Romeo!!!!  Wherefore art thou!!!!!!”



Screwing up the punctuation can turn an amorous inquiry into something your mom might say when you leave your skateboard in the hallway ( “Get your butt down here at once, Romeo Montague!” ). Replace a period with a question mark, say, and a valid question turns into a line from an a Abbott and Costello routine:

  • Where is the 2 PM meeting.
  • Who is responsible for this.
  • What is the next step.

Another assault on the punctuation mark is the misuse of the acme of urgency:  the exclamation point.   As you know, exclamations are meant to express sharp cries or emotions (Notice how they cleverly encapsulated the word “exclaim”  in “exclamation.”).   For example:

  • It’s a boy!
  • My pants are on fire!
  • You just drove over my foot, as$h%$&!

Now, which of the sentences below – all retrieved from my inbox – is an exclamation?

  • I don’t know, but I believe So-and-so does!
  • Just took a look but I don’t see any!
  • See you on Monday!

You’re right!  I mean, you’re right – none of them is an exclamation.  That’s the problem: the exclamation point has become so overused that real exclamations can go unnoticed.  Imagine a world in which every mundane statement sounded like a life-changing event:

  • It’s a boy!
  • I am joyless and devoid of feeling!

You wouldn’t know whether to hand out cigars or kill yourself.  Of course, emotions are much easier to understand in person:  the raised voice, the sweat, the fire licking under the door.  But if you completely misuse an exclamation point when you’re writing, the purpose of your communication is obscured so that you are no longer able to convey emphasis where it’s needed.  For example:

Hi Joe,

Great to see you today!  I’m glad things worked out!  If you don’t sign the contract by tomorrow, I’ll be fired!  Have a great evening!


On top of thinking that I’m a dimwit, Joe may not pay attention to the most important sentence in that email: about him having a great evening.   That would be a shame.

Using exclamation points inappropriately isn’t cute or friendly; you don’t seem like a nicer or more cheerful person because you use them indiscriminately.  Instead, you diminish the value of what you’re saying and maybe even run the risk of casting yourself in a negative light to your audience.  So if you want to close the deal or get that promotion, don’t misuse exclamation points!  I mean, don’t use exclamation points.

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Reality TV: Satan, sweat, and more!

Since people love reality TV, I’m going to pitch the following story.  Let me know if you think it has legs (That’s a pun. You’ll see).

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 12.49.18 AMIt involves six middle-aged men in a van taking turns running about 100 miles, stopping only occasionally to drop off and pick up runners, grab a meal, and tend to other basic needs that don’t include sleeping or showering. It’s loosely based on my experiences during the 2015 Reach the Beach Relay, in which I shared a van with – you guessed it – five other middle-aged men.

What scintillating topics might be covered when six men spend 30 hours trapped together in a tight space?   Here are a few ideas – out of thin air, of course:

  • Polite conversation about how the guy in van one nearly pooped himself during his run and charming anecdotes about everyone’s similar experiences.  Also some detailed discussions of the most effective peeing strategies for runners – not nearly as spirited.  Numerous references to Porta-Potties, their benefits, and pitfalls.  Finally, some academic discussion about the molecular composition of one’s body odor –  say, mine – compared to things that have died. Actually, strike that last topic, as I think it is not respectful of the dead.  Either way, hilarity ensues.
  • The anatomy of a waiter’s girlfriend and its impact on the participants’ collective future.  Before assuming that our protagonists are cretins, consider that during a rare, brief restaurant hiatus, a waiter offers to have his girlfriend stand on the relay course in a bikini as motivation for the runners to finish.  This, of course, sparks a lot of speculation:  would this cause them to stop and admire her beauty or run faster to [not] admire her [not] beauty? Either way, hilarity ensues.
  • An in-depth conversation about Satan’s asshole.  Satan’s asshole is (obviously) a leg during the relay that is so named because it’s a pretty tough run. I have no clue about how it compares to Satan’s real, ya know, butt, but I’m guessing it’s different. Van-mates discuss the origin and suitability of this name, and then try in vain to use other parts of Satan’s anatomy to describe additional running segments.  They fail, noting that  once you name something after Satan’s asshole, no other parts of his body seem worthy of association.

    Artist's rendition of Satan's asshole. Do you capitalize the second A?

    Artist’s rendition of Satan’s asshole. Do you capitalize the second word?

  • Donald Trump.   Assuming he’s still running for president, a raucous discussion of The Donald is must-see TV, followed by a smooth segue to pictures of train wrecks.
  • Driving skills.  Each participant takes turns driving.  One scares the others repeatedly.   We  really needed to give Stew more time behind the wheel. Hilarity ensues.
  • Lost stuff.  Participants lose sweaty articles of clothing, which end up touching others and skeeving them out.  Then sweaty undergarments go missing, raising suspicions and evoking dirty looks.  Tensions rise.
  • A discussion of Ginger or Mary Anne.  Mary Ann.

Season one concludes with a frolic on the beach, where participants are greeted by beautiful supermodels and a five-course meal.   The final scene shows a sunset dinner with  supermodels, champagne, and romance.   Fade to black.

What do you think?  We could film season one in the Fall of 2016.

* Disclaimer:  Certain topics did not arise during the actual van ride  (I still say Mary Ann).   The rest is true.

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Will there be a nativiaity scene in Nativia?

I recently came across a scintillating Facebook post claiming that Sarah Palin wants all the Native Americans to leave the U.S. and go back to Nativia.  I could easily see Palin uttering those very words,  but a visit to snopes.com confirmed that it was too good to be true.  Even after I revealed in the thread that the post was fallacious, lots of people continued to either gleefully revel in the confirmation that Palin is a moron (Does that still need confirming?) or lash out self-righteously about Palin-bashing.

As a deception, a Palin snope doesn’t even register on the danger meter.  Some are much more serious, like the strip-search phone call scam, whose success still blows my mind.  Apparently if you put it out there, somebody  will believe it – regardless of the consequences.

So how do you know what’s true and what’s a bald-faced lie?  Here are a few pointers:

First,  if your ‘evidence’ consists of an email, a Facebook post or perhaps a coffee-stained, stapled manifesto, it’s definitely true.   Just because you never heard it on the news or saw it in a so-called reputable newspaper shouldn’t deter you from following your heart.  In particular, you should always trust any assertion  by someone who keeps cash in mattresses or lives in a bunker.

Second, if it sounds like bullshit, you may be letting the facts get in the way of your point of view.  If you need further evidence, please Google Donald Trump.


Unlike the other nut-cases, this guy’s conspiracy theory is true.

Third, When you’re on the fence and looking for evidence, do a smell test of your sources.  As you know, the U.S. government, the CDC, the WHO, the New York Times, and all the rest of ’em are all out to get you. So if you have to choose between one those institutional liars and the guy in the tin-foil helmet clutching a semiautomatic weapon, is there even a question?

And finally, if you’ve been a victim of an Internet snope or scam at some point in the past, you should definitely go with your gut.  What’s the chance you could be wrong twice?

Following these simple steps will not only guide your decision-making process, but also make you a hero to all of your Facebook friends who can’t wait to find out that the U.S. is taking over Texas,  martial law is about to be declared, and that a fat woman starved her kids to eat more.

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For sale

Moving day is nearly upon us, and we must reduce before we can pack.  As such, some tough decisions on valuable items are in the offing.   Take a moment to consider buying one or more of these priceless treasures:

  • Previously used cat toy with 20-year-old catnip.  This toy was played with and often vomited on by Scruffy The Cat, a dearly loved family member who died in 1995. Dirty cat toy I’ve been holding on to this memento since his passing, but it’s time to find a new home.  $2,935.
  • Mexican jumping beans. I was given these beans as a nine-year-old, along with a guarantee that they would jump.  Sadly, they have not performed and my patience has worn thin.  However, my loss is someone else’s gain, as these beans are all-the-more likely to jump at any minute.  $1,500.
  • Jumping beansBaby shoe from 1961.  I have been told that this was my baby shoe, but I have no idea since my memory from the time is fuzzy (no doubt due to extensive ‘experimentation’ during college). If it is my shoe, I hate to part with it but it’s taking up too much space in my closet.  $2,000.*
    *  If it is not my shoe, you may have it for free but you must prove that it’s not mine.  If it’s your baby shoe, the price is $2,500 and you don’t have to prove it.
  • Camp underwear with my name tag stitched in. I kept these at first as fond reminders of my camp days, and then to use in case I lost my faculties.  So far I am still lucid, so it’s time to pass these on to someone with my name.  $700.
  • Sneakers in which I ran my first marathon. Stinky but historic.  $250.
  • First wife. I realize now that she can’t remain buried in the basement.  Free for the right home.
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Driving me to distraction

I wanted to write a post about the insanely bad drivers I see every day, but I thought that everyone complains about how others drive (which they do) and that it would just be a self-serving, hackneyed rant.  Then I came across some research that totally justified the self-serving, hackneyed rant you’re about to (or not about to) read.


Wicked wize wohds.

After crunching the numbers, Allstate recently reported that Boston drivers are the worst – literally.  In their 2015 Best Drivers’ report, which ranked driving skills in the 200 largest cities in the United States, Allstate not only determined that Boston drivers are the worst, but that Worcester – just down the road – is second-worst, Springfield, MA is fifth-worst and Providence, RI – which may be annexed by MA any day considering their tenuous fiscal status – is sixth-worst.  That’s correct:  Four of the six worst-driving cities in the ENTIRE COUNTRY are within 100 miles of each other, and all around me.

Now I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m an impatient driver who enjoys the upper end of the acceptable speed parameters.  But I also pay attention, use my signals, and don’t stop in the middle of the road for the hell of it.   For those reasons, I am in the extreme minority around here.  I can’t understand why the state with the highest percentage of residents with college and advanced degrees  would also have such galactically bad drivers; isn’t there some correlation between intelligence and not imperiling others with two tons of steel?BostonDriver1

I think I know the problem.  I recently renewed my license, at which time I was given a grueling test, the entirety of which included making sure I could see a few letters that were the size of the Eiffel Tower, identifying a triangle (I kid you not), and confirming that I saw green flashing lights to my periphery.  BTW – the RMV person told me that there were green flashing lights to my periphery and asked if I could see them.  This in-depth exploration of one’s driving skills is the equivalent of certifying a skydiver by asking him if he’s in the air.

However, there is a solution: I think Massachusetts can improve its sullied reputation by including these totally uncynical questions during the license-renewal process (answers in parentheses):

  • When is it OK to stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason (Never)?
  • What is that stick on the left side of your steering column and when should you use it (The turn signal indicator, which is used PRIOR to turning)?
  • How much space should you leave when passing runners and cyclists (More than the two inches you currently allocate)?
  • How many things can you do simultaneously while driving (Uh, zero)?
  • How important is it to pass that car on the highway, pull in front of it and then slow down (Apparently it’s crucial)?
  • Is it OK to cut off a car while pulling into traffic and then stop to let another car in, nearly causing the car you just cut off to back-end you (No)?
  • Is it OK to drive like crap just because you’re old (No)?

Now that I see them in writing, I guess the questions are a little cynical after all.   But they’re better than certifying my ability to control a lethal weapon by asking me to identify a three-sided shape.

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