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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How My Dog Got Me Out of a Traffic Ticket

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Buddy. Image by Amanda Jo Dahl Sales.

Two springs ago, I decided to go to Duluth’s (Bob) Dylan Fest musical gathering at a bar downtown. I wanted to arrive early to ensure nabbing a chair to sit on. I had hurt my foot or hip or something, I don’t recall now, and knew there was no way I could stand up and listen to music for several hours without pain.

I rushed out of the house and made it to the bar in plenty of time. As I walked from the parking lot to the building, I realized that I had left my Dylan Fest tickets at home. Cursing, I got back in my car and raced home.

Apparently, I raced a little too fast, because a cop stopped me a few blocks from my house.

“Do you know how fast you were going?” he asked.

“Um, about 43 mph?” I admitted.

“Yep. This is a 30 mph zone and you were going over the speed limit.”

I explained about leaving my tickets at home and not wanting to be late to the event. (I didn’t get into my medical reasons, though.)

The policeman took my license and went back to his patrol car to run a check. When he returned to my driver’s window a few minutes later, he said, “Hey, aren’t you Buddy’s mom?”

I looked at him, dumbfounded for a few seconds. Then I realized he must be the cop who lives in my neighborhood. I had spoken to him and his wife a few times while I was out walking my goldendoodle, Buddy. They LOVE goldendoodles.

I smiled and answered in the affirmative. I told him it was nice to see him again.

“Buddy’s a great dog,” he said. “I’ll let you off with a warning.”

I drove to my house, thankful, yet a little chagrined that I got let off from a ticket not because the cop knew me and thought I was a great person, or even because I am a world-famous blogger, but because of my dog, who is way more famous than I am. 🙂

What’s Your Prison?

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Alcatraz Island at night. San Francisco.

Walls all around us, inside us. Some built of fear, some of strength.

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A typical Alcatraz prison cell.

What’s it like inside your walls? Cozy? Snug? Cold? Dark? Rotten?

Are they keeping your heart safe, or are they keeping it lonely? Are they keeping others safe?

Whispers filter through the chinks. Come out, come out and play, they say.

The voices won’t wait forever. Someone else will grasp their warm hand and walk them toward the grassy dunes, open in the ocean wind.

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Alcatraz Lighthouse

Hemingway’s Cats

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A descendant of Hemingway’s polydactyl (many-toed) cats sits sleepily in a box on the front porch. My son took this photo.

I read in the New York Times recently that the multi-toed descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cats at his house in Key West, Florida, all survived Hurricane Irma. The house fared well, too.

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Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida.

My youngest son and I visited Hemingway’s house about five years ago. We delighted in seeing the cats, which lounged around in the yard and in the house. One was even sleeping on Hemingway’s bed, below a painting on the wall that depicted the house surrounded by cats.

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I am glad to hear that everything is okay there.

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Hemingway’s writing studio above the pool house.

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Thinking of St. Martin Island . . .

 

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Children in a Carnival Parade on St. Martin Island, 2012.

According to the New York Times, 95% of buildings on St. Martin Island have been damaged by Hurricane Irma. This is such a tragedy, I can’t even begin to imagine it. The island is such a magical place. Please see my post about my trip there five years ago.

My thoughts are with the tourists and residents there, and on all the other islands affected by the storm.

Okay, so I’m Being Lame

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I think it’s lame when bloggers write about how they don’t have anything to write about. Or they start off a story by apologizing for not writing in a while. Seriously, I don’t think anyone notices they’ve been gone (well, maybe their stalkers notice – grin).

I believe bloggers should just write a story when they have an idea and get on with it. Stop apologizing first!

But here I am saying that I haven’t written in a while and that I don’t really have much to write about. I do have an idea for a book review, but I haven’t finished the book yet. So, I’m in a holding pattern of sorts. Maybe I’m gathering strength for the next four years of blogging?

Anyway, I’m still alive, still out here. Just living life, enjoying the last of a fleeting summer, and waiting for my meandering thoughts and feelings to gel into something worthy.

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. 🙂