Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Language Predictions for 2015

English is a vibrant, changing language. Some language change is good (e.g., drifting away from sexist language), and some is bad (e.g., incentivize, office used as a verb). But regardless of our personal reactions to language change, it is inevitable.

New technologies and unexpected situations can sometimes suddenly give new life to old words or bring new words into the fold. These types of changes can be difficult to predict. Other changes, though, we can see coming. (Did anyone really expect on-line and e-mail to retain their hyphens?) If we're thoughtful and observant, we can spot where trendlines might shift or innovations might occur.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Today's Etymology Quiz

How's your Latin these days? Care to put it to the test? On Friday, I published a little etymology quiz in which you have to match up the Latinate adjective (e.g., aquiline) with the bird it describes (in this case, the eagle).

There are ten more match-ups to make over at, and the answers will be posted on December 26.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Plugged Back In to the Current Decade

I just discovered that this post has been idling as a draft since November 10th. No idea what I didn't post it way back then,but here it is:

My fortieth birthday came and went, and with it came an important “gift” I bought for myself. With the help of the women who donated to my FundAnything campaign (and they have my thanks), I have been able to replace my stolen laptop!

I can’t replace all the data (that is, all the writing) that I lost on my laptop, but I can get started on the future of my writing much more easily now.

I’ve had it since last Thursday night, and I am generally enjoying the freedom it affords. But seriously, this newest version of Office is messed up. Maybe I was set in my ways. Maybe I’m the only one who preferred the 3-D look of previous versions to the hip “flat” interface. Maybe I’m simply turned off by the ALL CAPS tab headings. Whatever it is, I’ll need time to get used to it.

Of course, the Office interface is nothing compared with switching from Windows Vista to Windows 8. I miss my Start menu. (If anyone can point me to a tutorial that shows how to reinstate it, I would appreciate the link.)

But I’ll deal with all this. Human beings are infinitely adaptable, and I am one of those, so I’ll be all right. And it’s wonderful to be connected again.

Now, on to my next hurdle!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Can This Be Smoothed Out?

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Super-Prem...
At least share! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We know that a baby teethes and a good bourbon soothes the nerves, but when your significant other finds out you spent almost $400 on a bottle of 23-year-old Evan Williams Kentucky bourbon, you might be looking for an expensive gift that smoothes things over with him or her.

Or do you need a gift that smooths things over?

Which is it, smoothes or smooths?

It depends on whom you ask, because the evidence is surprisingly inconclusive. I've written all about it over on, so learn more about this difficult little word over there.

Friday, November 7, 2014

On Turning 40

I understand that very few people who have spent any time beyond the age of 40 have any interest in reading of the anxieties and introspections of someone who just now nears that milestone. I imagine it’s like hearing about someone else’s root canal after having had one yourself: you don’t want to hear about it because either a) you know it isn’t as horrible as people have made it out to be or b) your experience was so horrible that no one else’s could possibly match it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today's Word: gavage

When I stumbled across this word today, it was in the phrase "orally gavaged," which sounded so horribly close to both "orally savaged" and "orally ravaged" that I cringed. Then I found out what the word meant, and discovered I wasn't too far off. Perhaps I was right to cringe.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

FundAnything Campaign Wrap-up

A month ago, I imagined writing this post about how people really came out of the woodwork to help me, an unemployed and struggling writer, buy a new laptop after mine had been stolen. About how I was inspired by people's generosity and found a new faith in humanity.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Done Dream

I don't usually write about my dreams, but I think this one reveals something interesting about me. Maybe just that I'm a supreme nerd.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Social Media Optimization (Catch-up) Tip

Last week, I was recruited to be a backup blogger for In all the hubbub that was the last seven days (long, aggravating story), I forgot to promote that post here. So that's what I'm doing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today's word: epigone

epigone: Generally a follower or disciple, but usually used to indicate an inferior successor.

At first blush you might want it to follow the pronunciation pattern established by epitome or Antigone, but it doesn't. It doesn't even rhyme with gone. It rhymes instead with loan, so that the phrase "Ed disowns epigones" has a nice little rhyme to it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Broccoli, Caesar, and Sex

The following autobiographical essay is completely true.

Well, okay, it's mostly true.


Something like this almost happened to I guy I knew.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Today's word: sororal

I took a few moments to click through the chronological navigation over on the right side of the screen the other day and realized that, even before my precious laptop was stolen, I had really been slacking off on this blog. I'll try to do better. (But, again, it would be much easier with a new laptop.)

So here's a little tidbit for the weekend, and I'll have a new story for you on Monday. Promise.

Today's word: sororal

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Update on the Stolen Laptop

The laptop is still stolen.

I’ve given up on ever seeing it — or the data it contains — ever again. In the meantime, I have a decrepit Windows XP desktop computer available for a number of minor tasks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

To a Thief

Among some of the worst things that can happen to a writer has to be the theft of a computer. I, unfortunately, was the victim of such a theft on Monday.

Later, I may write about the emotional impact of having my laptop stolen, how I had taken my hard drive space for granted, and how I feel like an utter moron for not having established a backup routine for my data. That may come later.

It occurred to me this morning, though, that the laptop lid bore a rather large sticker advertising this very blog, and that the thief might in fact decide to come visit in order to revel in some anonymous fame, paradoxical though the concept is.

So this morning, I address this blog post to the person who made off with my laptop from the library a little before 2:00 on Monday.

Keep the laptop. The hardware means nothing to me. A glorified typewriter is all it really is.

But the data on that computer is irreplaceable. I'm a writer, and the literally hundreds of thousands of words held in hundreds of files on that hard drive represent not only my past but my future. It holds, among other things, almost 40,000 words of one unfinished novel as well as sketches and outlines and preliminary scenes of four or five other possible novels. It holds short stories, essays, and blog posts both finished and unfinished. It holds my life's work.

Those words are very important to me.

So please, person who took my laptop, if you have any decency in you, and if you haven't wiped it clean yet, please pop out the computer's hard drive and drop it into the book return slot at the library where you found the computer. You can get an inexpensive hard drive online or at Best Buy or somewhere and still have a decent laptop for super-cheap to use for whatever you want, and I will have the product of hundreds of hours of creative work returned to me.

Please, just the hard drive. The rest is yours.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Thing about Going to the Local Zoo

The thing about going to the local zoo is that, after you've been there a few times and gotten to know all the animals, you end up spending more time watching the other zoo-goers than the ostensible main attractions of the place.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After My First Game of Peeve Wars

I received my Grammar Girl's Peeve Wars card game in the mail (along with some other grammary goodies) this weekend, and through an unexpected twist of fate, I actually got to play the game with my sons on Monday morning. Now I'm here to report.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weird Al's Blurred "Word Crimes" Lines

I can’t not respond to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song “Word Crimes,” can I? So here goes.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dusty Story Ideas

I have been doing some cleaning of late -- you know, when I haven't been busy searching for a job and sending out resumes and losing my hair over the whole kerfuffle -- and whenever I clean, I find all sorts of old story ideas. I'm sure many writers have the same sort of experience from their house cleaning.

They usually show up in the margins of pages of legal pads, and those have been piling up around here over the last couple years. But I also find plenty of (literally [literally literally]) scraps of paper with little ideas written on them.

Sometimes, they will be neatly separated from whatever meeting notes, stories, or doodles occupy most of the page. Occasionally, they'll even be labeled "Story Idea." Other times they're just a few words that might spark an idea -- or might serve as a good writing prompt. Like this:

Book characters meeting the actors who will play them onscreen
Can you just imagine what Captain Ahab would have to say to Gregory Peck or Patrick Stewart? Or Romeo Montague to Leonardo DiCaprio? Or Frodo to Elijah Wood?

Sometimes, though, there's more text but less explanation. This one especially caught my eye because it looks almost finished. Also because it was so obviously derived from Monty Python.
  "Hey boy! What are you doing there?"
  "Sorry, but from the back..."
  Olivia vomited over the rail again. Watched her dinner fall some 200 feet to splash into the dark waves below.
I think this was supposed to be the beginning of a modern retelling of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

You ever find an old, dusty story idea from days past and turn it into something wonderful?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Appearance Will Be Made

Though it doesn't have the flash, glamour, or legalized prostitution of Las Vegas, Indianapolis (at least this year) does have one thing in common with Sin City: Me as a conference speaker.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Refreshed and Refreshing Ebook

This morning, I uploaded a brand new cover for my ebook, Seasonal Work, and dropped the price to $1.99. And that's for the whole book, not just the cover!

If you haven't bought it yet, now would be a great time. Especially for me! (See yesterday's post.)

It's available in multiple ereader formats. If you can't find a file that's compatible with your ereader of choice, then you've made a bad, bad choice for your ereader. But even then, you can download it as an RTF and read it on your computer.

It makes a great Father's Day gift (if you don't like your dad very much)!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting Fired 32 Ways: A Life Lesson

Fired, axed, canned.
Sacked, dumped and given the boot.
Shown the door and bounced out.
RIFed, outplaced, unhired, and decruited.
Given the pink slip.
Involuntarily separated and put on indefinite unpaid leave.
Transitioned out, laid off, and let go.
Right-sized, downsized, and lateralized.
Given a career change opportunity.
Restructured, removed from the talent pool, and relieved of duties.
Released, discharged, dismissed, eighty-sixed.
Given the heave-ho.
Terminated, but allowed to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities outside the company.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What Does Bladder Control Have to Do with Plate Tectonics?

Because I'm a writer and an editor, I go through a lot of words on the average day — the ones I read, the ones I write, the ones I think about writing, the ones I delete, and on and on. Words become the constant hum of the warp drives in my own personal USS Enterprise. Occasionally, though, that warp drive will hiccup and grab my attention, and I'll notice for the first time the strange connections between words that I've known and used for decades.

Today, the engine hiccupped.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Sonnet for J

This peasant life, though pleasant be, it sours
Like ripest fruit, which gives so sweet a taste
That from the vine the sated mouth devours
Yet over time decays to naught but waste.

My roots within her earth — she has a hold
On me. I grow in dreams, in fertile lands
Of queens and light and cliffs of glass and gold,
Forsaking stalk and stem and their demands.

My plight and plot: a slow death by ennui,
Light-starv'd in this suburban oubliette,
But in my mind a meadow, light, and She. . .
I dwell within, I wilt without, and yet,

Although my blossom withers here, I know
My heartwood's safe with her. She makes it grow.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Any Appropriate Title Would Be Too Mushy

confessions (Photo credit: dickuhne)
I really was a horrible, romantic, lonely, lovelorn galoot in college. Here's a short poem from 1995:
With beauty all around me,
My mind absorbs the art
Of every face that smiles
And tears my world apart.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4, 1968

All the trees in the yard are dead,
Bare brittle branches sway in the wind,
Lifeless on a clear, sunny day.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was taken from the world 46 years ago today. The preceding was a poem I wrote on this date in 1995. Every time I read it, I see a different interpretation. Which, I guess, is why I like it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Readings of Old Poems

An old friend has inadvertently inspired me to thumb through old journals going back over two decades, even though I can't possibly be that old. I had already planned on posting a bunch of poems this month -- National Poetry Month -- but now many of those will be poems I wrote long ago, to people I haven't seen in years.

In college, I swung wide arcs from lovelorn to world-weary. Looking back, I really should have been medicated.

Here's one I wrote for Alison that she never saw:

Love --
For me
To be
Much freer
To see her
Without my mask --
No easy task.
I sense the presence
Of my renaissance
In the curls of her hair,
In her deep brown eyes, where
I would dive and die so deep
And leave my heart there to sleep,
And with each beat my love extol --
A buried treasure in her soul.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

National Poetry Month 2014

Some people say that poetry is hard,
And they are right. The thought of rhythm, rhyme,
And form, and worse — the shadow of the Bard
Who set the standard high for all of time —

It's all enough to drive the meek away,
To lock their inner poets deep inside.
But April marks a change: It's thirty days
Of celebrating poems nationwide!

So if you've thought of writing, now and then,
From out that part inside that rarely speaks,
The time is now to grab your fav'rite pen
And write a poem in the coming weeks.

And even if your poem coughs and dies,
Success can only come to him who tries.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Public Speaking at ACES 2014 and Things to Come

At 10:45 am Vegas time (1:45 Eastern) today, I will be presenting a breakout session with the admittedly dry title “Editing Online Content for the New SEO” at the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society (ACES). 

This is my first time presenting and only the second time I’ve been to the conference. My nerves are starting to get edgy, but it’s still nowhere near the worries I had about getting through airport security to get here. Apparently, I fear the TSA.

(Frankly, the main reason I’m writing this post is because it has been too long since I’ve put anything up here, and I don’t want anyone who visits this blog after seeing my presentation to find it stale.)

At any rate, if you were unable to attend the ACES conference and want to get a glimpse at what my presentation is about, check out my recent post over at DigitalRelevance, 5 Reasons Hummingbird Could Bring Back Copy Editors.

And don’t worry; I’ll soon be posting with more regularity once again. You can look forward to a conference wrap-up post or two, wherein share some of the great information I learned, complain about an overlong, labyrinthine lunch walk too and from an In-N-Out Burger, and get al fanboy about rubbing elbows with some of my editorial heroes.

For those of you who attended my presentation, welcome to Logophilius! Please comment below and tell me what I did right and what I did wrong.

Monday, February 24, 2014

In Search of Awesome: The Four Types of Quality

I am republishing here a blog post I originally published at DigitalRelevance back on February 6. I'm gearing up for my presentation at the American Copy Editor's Society's annual conference at the end of March, and a discussion of quality will certainly play a role in that presentation.

How do you judge quality, both of your own creations and in what you find from others? Do you consciously hold your own work to a higher (or, Cthulhu forbid, lower) standard than the work of others, or do you expect others' work to live up to your own skills?

Here's the post:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Four Ways to Simplify Your Blog Posts, and Why You Should

Though I haven't been posting much, I have been writing. Occasionally.

One of my latest at the DigitalRelevance blog has been getting some great traction. In complete honesty, I hope to garner even more traffic by posting a link to it here.

So go read 4 Ways to Simplify Your Blog Posts, and Why You Should — and leave a comment.