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Meditations from the Track Changes Column

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In the course of editing the writing of clients, I encounter much in the way of ticks and bad habits, not to mention sheer ignorance, particularly in the writing of beginners and illiterati — of which I edit more than I’d like — in addition to the usual complement of routine mechanical . . . → Read More: Meditations from the Track Changes Column

Above and Below

Don’t you hate it when you see above and below used as nouns?

This lumpy construction usually occurs when the author wants to refer to material within text in a position relative to where the monstrosity occurs. (More precisely before and after, if you want to get literal about it.)

The above is what I believed at the . . . → Read More: Above and Below

There Are Not All Types of People

“There are all types of people in the world.” So claims an author I’ve been editing. Sounds like a truism, right?

No there’s not.

To say there is sounds as though there’s some master catalog of types, and that someone has checked to be sure there is at least one of each.

There are exactly as many types of . . . → Read More: There Are Not All Types of People

Uncircling, Unfriending, and Unfollowing

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Though I don’t maintain an ironclad bullet list of rules about who I follow in my social networks, certain annoyances move me to uncircle, unfriend, or unfollow persons posthaste. (All three italicized words are social networking neologisms.)

Give me full sentences in some reasonable semblance of English. Persons who write habitually in the abbreviated . . . → Read More: Uncircling, Unfriending, and Unfollowing

Pressing the Elevator Button

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Now and then I notice the way naive people make fun of more enlightened individuals who press elevator buttons repeatedly in an effort to make them arrive sooner. I’ve been known to beat on the call buttons of a few recalcitrant elevators myself. This actually works.

What these quipsters don’t know or have never . . . → Read More: Pressing the Elevator Button

About Legacy Posts

As of July 25, 2011, I have migrated over 130 articles from my Neologistics blog, where since August 2005 I have posted many unsorted articles, including items unrelated to editing, writing, or literature. The articles copied from the old site have all been labeled with the category LEGACY.

It has been a longstanding shortcoming of Google’s otherwise . . . → Read More: About Legacy Posts

Reading in Installments

At any given time I have between one and seven books in my Recent Reading stack marked as current. These are books that I really am reading at present.

At this writing there are six on the stack:

Washington: A Life (Ron Chernow)
The Elements of Typographic Style (Robert Bringhurst)

The Associated Press Stylebook
Life (Keith Richards)
Marathon & . . . → Read More: Reading in Installments

Ultrarunning Hyperbole

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Certain tainted words occur repeatedly in journalism about ultrarunning, all of which cause noisy alarms to go off in my head whenever I see them. The four most frequent culprits are:

crazy
grueling
test[ing] limits
extreme

Rarely have I ever read an article about ultrarunning by a non-ultrarunner that does not use the word crazy to describe the . . . → Read More: Ultrarunning Hyperbole

Rubber Baby Buffer Dumpers

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Can you say “rubber baby buffer dumpers” ten times real fast?

It is not without reason that this blog has not been updated regularly for the last year. I apologize to all zero readers who have missed it.

Once an author being interviewed on NPR mused that the truly great authors, a group . . . → Read More: Rubber Baby Buffer Dumpers

Real Men Love Work

Author’s Note: I wrote this piece in February 2002, but never got around to publishing it. It seems particularly appropriate in these times of economic crisis to do so now.

Some people work for pleasure, others for money. It’s a fact of today’s life that most adults—men and women alike—must work outside their homes to earn money, whether . . . → Read More: Real Men Love Work

On TV

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We often hear people say dismissively: “Yeah, most of what’s on TV these days is junk, not worth watching.” The point-of-view seems to imply that the ones saying it have actually watched “most of what’s on TV these days’” so as to make a proper evaluation, which says much about . . . → Read More: On TV

The Consummate Word

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P.G. Wodehouse.

What he said.

How he . . . → Read More: The Consummate Word

What Is Jogging?

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Louis Armstrong allegedly said once, when asked what jazz is, if you have to ask, you’ll never know. In a roughly similar way, I’ve found that there are three types of people in this world who run: runners, joggers, and those who don’t know the difference. The attempt to define . . . → Read More: What Is Jogging?

From the Snake Oil Department

Tonight my wife brought home one of those ladies magazines full of self-improvement schemes targeted at desperate women of the type who are not in the habit of thinking things through clearly.

The titles on the cover featured articles designed to help women lose “winter toxins” (toxins??? name one), another about how to make a . . . → Read More: From the Snake Oil Department

Do-Tasks and Not-Do-Tasks

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There are two kinds of tasks: Do-Tasks and Not-Do-Tasks.

Most of the big life goals we set out to accomplish are achieved by Doing a sometimes complex array of tasks, often in some logical order. For instance, say I want to run an ultramarathon: I know I must train for it, so . . . → Read More: Do-Tasks and Not-Do-Tasks

Neglected Pianos

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Sometimes I hear about neglected pianos, upon which I go on a bit of a rampage. As the owner of a Steinway model K, which I bought brand new from the dealer, an instrument I have always tuned and cared for myself, the idea of a piano sitting in a . . . → Read More: Neglected Pianos

A Thought on Literary Precision

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Compare the consequences of a lack of a single punctuation mark in English and in software. Imagine what would happen if high school students were not permitted to graduate for failing to insert a quotation mark in an essay.

I’ve heard the likely apocryphal story of how the lack of . . . → Read More: A Thought on Literary Precision

Mechanical Aids in Races

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The use of mechanical aids to assist a runner in moving forward is against the rules in most ultramarathons. For instance, a runner will be disqualified for getting a lift in a car, riding a bicycle, or hopping along on a pogo stick.

Some fools classify trekking . . . → Read More: Mechanical Aids in Races

The Paradox of Censorship

Censorship imposed on one sector of society by another is an act of the first group’s taking away freedoms that belong to the second group, regardless of the first group’s intent.

Censorship is perpetrated by persons, organizations, committees who have seen, heard, read information they don’t like or approve of, and so set . . . → Read More: The Paradox of Censorship

Failed Diets

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Some diet plans, notably Weighwatchers, depend on logging everything that is eaten, playing on the theory that if you have to log it, you may eat less.

One reason some people fail miserably in all attempts to control weight is because they become obsessed with food, and in the process . . . → Read More: Failed Diets

Routines

A friend once told me: “The more I repeat things the more good things happen.” He spoke of living his life according to an orderly daily routine.

Most lives progress in cycles with controlled variations, from which emanate all that becomes one’s productivity, that by means of which we will make our mark, . . . → Read More: Routines

Boredom Yet Again

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Time for a rant: About being bored on the track—speaking as one who has spent a total of twenty-three 24-hour days and nights circling various tracks and short, flat pieces of road. The topic comes up often.

Persons who say that they are bored, as distinguished from those who fear they may . . . → Read More: Boredom Yet Again

Such a Lonely Word

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We recently heard a Bible talk that touched on honesty. It included exhortation to students to avoid looking at someone else’s paper during tests.

My high school (attended 1957-1961) prided itself on what it called the “honor system,” something they began to prepare us for as early as seventh grade. . . . → Read More: Such a Lonely Word

What Is Economy?

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Recently I mentioned to a friend that it was difficult to communicate with some persons I need to keep in touch with because they either do not use computers, or do so infrequently. Sending them email is next to useless, and other means of contacting them is way too slow. He suggested that . . . → Read More: What Is Economy?

Half Crazy

Most distance runners have been asked by non-runners: “How far is that marathon you’ll be running?” We all have our own saucy answers. I’m sure somewhere there’s a smart aleck who replies: “It’s just a standard marathon.” “Ummm … Oh! Great!”

One day a man at the gym asked me as I whizzed . . . → Read More: Half Crazy

The Dumbing Down of Holidays

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Modern American society has dumbed down so-called holidays. The word “holiday” is derived from and sounds like an Old English expression “holy day,” a day set aside for religious observance, for worship of and paying tribute to God. These days few people are willing to be thought of as devoting . . . → Read More: The Dumbing Down of Holidays

On Being a Soldier

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People can put any spin they want on words to defend war and those who join the military — willingly or otherwise. They can call them freedom fighters or defenders, and imply they had a choice by saying they make sacrifices. The one that gets me is when they . . . → Read More: On Being a Soldier

On Saying God

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Near the beginning of John Updike’s novel Rabbit, Run the main character Rabbit and his wife Janet are having a minor tiff while Janet watches Mickey Mouse Club on TV. Chief adult Mousketeer Jimmy appears onscreen and the following takes place, beginning with Jimmy’s words:

“God doesn’t want a tree to be a waterfall . . . → Read More: On Saying God

The Rudest Devices

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On July 13th I became the owner of my first cell phone. My resistance to having one in the past was not entirely for financial reasons, nor because I suffer from high-tech phobias, nor because I’m an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy. I’ve been an internetting software engineer since the mid-eighties, usually . . . → Read More: The Rudest Devices

Non-Utilitarian Apparel

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There is a certain arbitrariness born of tradition regarding what is considered dressy attire. Utilitarian wear is not the first principle of design.

There is nothing intrinsically praiseworthy from a practical standpoint about tying a piece of cloth around one’s neck that gets in the way. They don’t call it . . . → Read More: Non-Utilitarian Apparel

Giving Awards

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Mankind is inextricably addicted to the ceremonious giving of awards.

When I was a Boy Scout, our troop had a pancake making contest. I took it seriously, thinking the intent was to make the finest-looking stack of pancakes possible. Some of the other boys brought in pancakes that . . . → Read More: Giving Awards

Morons Need Jobs Too!

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To each person his own job is or becomes important. Morons need jobs, too. Give them their space; let them do their work.

When the average joe looks for a job, his primary objective is usually to find an occupation that will bring in enough money to pay the bills. Other . . . → Read More: Morons Need Jobs Too!

Music As Wallpaper

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Music today has become like wallpaper — part of the ambience. Hardly anyone ever just listens to it any more, unless it’s to get up and dance.

As a child I became accumstomed to simply listening to music, allowing it to take over my full attention. Even when I was little, I would sit . . . → Read More: Music As Wallpaper

A Simple Life

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Many people stumble along the path from birth to death with colossal holes in their lives.

They never read. How can a person know anything if he never, ever reads?

They never think.

They never work out.

They never learn to experience music or art or drama and sometimes cultivate a distaste for artistic beauty.

They are immune . . . → Read More: A Simple Life

Boredom Redux

Often I’ve claimed that I never get bored while running. I’ll stick to that claim, with a minor rider. Sometimes preoccupation with something else can interfere with whatever task we are presently performing, such that we do it less well, or quit it entirely. This postulate applies particularly well to running.

This . . . → Read More: Boredom Redux

Job Interviews Are Like Auditions

Cover of Sir Georg Solti

Recently I have been looking for work once again, and in so doing have had to make myself available for job interviews, the humiliating grilling in which a person is expected to lay his life’s work experience on the line in the course of a few minutes. He . . . → Read More: Job Interviews Are Like Auditions

Why Ultrarunning?

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On the Ultra List ultrarunning e-mail list one subscriber surmised:

“…some people get into ultrarunning to prove to the world that they’re “tough.” Deep down inside they feel weak, so they compensate by doing something physically difficult.”

Another responded:

Or to prove it to themselves. Running ultras is hard, painful, expensive, dangerous and . . . → Read More: Why Ultrarunning?

Why Do I Write?

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Recently I posted a comment to an excellent article written by a friend on Ergo Sum. What I wrote works well as a standalone thought, so I decided to post it here as well.

Why do I write? One reason is to teach myself.

Whenever I begin to write something — as I have . . . → Read More: Why Do I Write?

Why I Hate News Groups

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In earlier days of the Internet, I used to read Usenet news groups, now more commonly known simply as news groups. Today I will read some specific news group no more often on average than once in several months because I have come to detest them and the culture that . . . → Read More: Why I Hate News Groups

Terrorists Win

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Shortly after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, the president of the nation of which I am a lifetime citizen became accustomed to declaring that if people did not go along with his plans and proposals for coping with the aftermath, “then the terrorists win!” Thus was born . . . → Read More: Terrorists Win

Estimating Driver Attitude

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Drivers in Arizona wear their attitudes on the outside. The ones to fear most are those who drive trucks. Several secondary factors act as additive attitudinal properties. Among them are:

A hat. If it’s on backwards or a cowboy hat, score double.
A cigarette, which of course is a drug delivery . . . → Read More: Estimating Driver Attitude

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