Happy Holidays

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Nothing says Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth like a decorated tank. (As seen in Superior, Wisconsin.)

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Photo Caption Contest!

 

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My family celebrated Thanksgiving early this year. This is my favorite photo from the memorable occasion. My dog Buddy is looking longingly at the turkey carcass.

It begs a photo caption. Suggest your best one by commenting below. I (the sole judge) will send the winner a free copy of my novel, Plover Landing. I will ship it anywhere in the world, so put your creativity caps on, people!

The contest will be open through Saturday, November 25. I will contact the winner privately for their address.

The Story of the Target Credit Card

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I was in the checkout line at Target the other day, about to pay for my purchases. The cashier was trying to interest me in applying for a Target credit card. This is our brief exchange, which left both of us laughing:

Cashier: “Can I tell you the story of the Target credit card?”
Me: “Sorry, no. I’ve been told it many times . . . and it doesn’t end well.”

How Donald Trump Cost me a Boyfriend

trump-frowningIt’s been almost a year, so I figure it’s safe to write about this dating mishap. I had tentatively dipped my toe into online dating after a long absence and some unsatisfactory experiences. One of my first dates was a local man who was a few years my junior. We met for lunch at a popular restaurant and had a good time.

We kept in touch and made plans to meet a few days later at an evening work event I was hosting. Then we’d go out for drinks afterwards. The event was on November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election.

During the day, I had a lot going on at the office. My date emailed me a few times, saying his grandson ended up needing unexpected surgery in another city, and his daughter wanted him to go along with her for support. He wasn’t sure he would be able to make it back in time for our date.

I knew he had a grandson, but he never mentioned he was ill. I was understanding and told him not to worry about trying to make it back in time. I wished him and his grandson the best.

He replied that he’d let me know his logistics as the day progressed. After a few more brief exchanges, he emailed me, saying that he wouldn’t be able to make our date because the surgery took longer than expected. Again, I sent my good wishes and said I hoped we could get together some other time.

That evening, after the event, a group of us wanted to go out and have a post-election debriefing/support session. None of us were Trump supporters, and like much of the nation, we were in shock at his election. I got home from that late and depressed, with no energy to turn on my computer and check for messages from my wayward man friend.

The next morning, I dragged myself into work and checked my email. It contained a nasty note from my date. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something snarky about my lack of communication skills and that he no longer wanted to date me.

It was bad enough having a president elected that I didn’t like, but now I was getting dumped, too!

Both things caught me off guard. Not to mention the irony that I am a professional communicator who was getting dumped for my lack of communication skills. 🙂

Although I had doubts about the veracity of his claim of a sick grandson, I gave the man the benefit of those doubts and, after taking time to collect my thoughts and rein in my feelings, apologized to him for not “being there” when he needed someone during a stressful time, and I explained my situation.

But I also thought it was a rather knee-jerk and severe punishment to break up with someone you just met because they weren’t attached to their email at all times. So I told him I would no longer be contacting him, either.

Despite all this, the person I’d really rather blame the whole thing on is Donald Trump. If he hadn’t been elected, I wouldn’t have needed a group therapy session, and thus might have had more time and energy to be attentive to my date.

So you can add my love life to the list of things the president has dismantled since his election.

Fun with Apostrophes

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As a writer, I care about the written word. I care about proper grammar. While I have been known to dangle a preposition at the end of my sentences, I usually try to do what’s proper, especially in my writing for hire.

I had an instance this week where I wanted to confirm the name of a bay in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. Someone who works for an agency in another state asked me to review a web site about this bay, which is the subject of a federal cleanup project because it’s contaminated. My office coworker is also helping with the project by providing engineering advice.

The title of the web page was first thing I noticed. It was called “Howards Bay,” which just screams out for a possessive apostrophe, doesn’t it? (Howard’s Bay.) Unless, of course, the bay was named after someone with the last name of Howards vs. the first name of Howard.

I’ve run across instances before where proper grammar for place names flies out the window because some mapmaker hundreds of years ago labelled places incorrectly on local maps. As such, writers like myself are required to grit our teeth and perpetuate the mistake because what’s on the map has become the actual factual name for those places. One example is the St. Marys River, which empties out of Lake Superior and into Lake Huron. It makes me cringe every time I write it, but there’s no possessive apostrophe in that name due to a mapmaker’s error.

Hoping against hope that wasn’t the case for Howards Bay, I investigated. I looked on the internet. I found that newspaper stories about the bay gave Howards an apostrophe. I found that many government documents (but not all) did not. I asked friends if they knew which form was correct, and received helpful suggestions about where else to check. I looked it up on the U.S. Board of Geographic Names website. It had “no data available” about this name.

Along the way, I discovered that that state of Wisconsin (where Howards Bay is located) has a state Geographic Names Council. Who better to ask? So I sent them an email. While I was awaiting their reply, I learned more about the organization. They seem mainly formed to approve new names for lakes and other geographic features.

They have a list of rules for new names. Among them is one that says, “newly acquired proper names for geographic features shall not be designated with ” ‘s ” or “s”, indicating possession, following the name. For example: Mott Lake, rather than Mott’s Lake or Motts Lake.”

Geez, I wish they would have had that rule in place when Howards Bay was being named!

The next day, I received the geographic names councilperson’s reply to my apostrophe question. Here’s what he said: All of our records that I have been able to find have no apostrophe for Howards Bay. I’ve attached a state sediment sampling document as evidence. I cannot give a more definite answer to the “official” name but I would say that the consistency in our records would point to this being the correct spelling.

In the meantime, with my dogged grammatical passion, I had asked the state cleanup project manager for Howards Bay the same question. He said: The apostrophe question has come up before.  I have not been able to determine which version is correct and occasionally catch myself using both. For consistency, the project team chose to perpetuate the mistake and go with the original name shown on maps, i.e. “Howards.”

Aaargh! Why are we at the grammatical mercy of ancient map makers? I say that modern writers should rise up and free themselves from this typographical tyranny! Add the apostrophe “s” and may the mapmakers be dammed!

Who’s with me?

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**Update** August 9, 2017

A friend of mine asked a research librarian with the Superior Public Library the origin of the name of Howards Bay (also called Howards Pocket). She said it’s named for John D. Howard who held an interest in a sawmill on Connors Point. He died in 1891.

So there really should be an apostrophe because it is Howard’s Bay. Darn those mapmakers! And there should be an apostrophe in Connors Point, too, but I’m not even going to go there. 🙂

Enough with “Farm-Raised” Ingredients, Already!

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By Thegreenj (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

You all know how I love critiquing television commercials. I just saw another one that reminds me of the 2015 ad for Lay’s “farm-raised” potato chips. This commercial was for Beneful grain-free dog food, which employs advertising professionals who are trying to sell us on the merits of all that “farm-raised” chicken in their dog food. The phrase is mentioned at least three times during the ad.

I ask you, WHAT OTHER KIND OF CHICKEN IS THERE? When’s the last time you heard of a flock of wild chickens captured and used for dog food? Never, I warrant.

While I have nothing against farms, and I am happy that chicken is the number one ingredient in Beneful’s dog food, the fact that it is “farm-raised” only makes me laugh.