Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Buzzword alert

One of the business buzzwords I’ve been seeing a lot of lately is “turnkey.” Usually found in the context of “offering turnkey solutions to fit your company’s needs,” it’s one of those great words that people must think sounds easy and smart without actually meaning or promising too much.

But with my particularly odd eye, all I can ever think when I see this word is “turkey.” Somehow my eye skips over the “n” to reveal the true silliness of it all.

Today I challenge you to offer turkey solutions for all your clients. They'll thank you, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There are some things that money can't buy.

Vanana yogurt (that we bought by accident when we wanted plain) = $2.99

Strawberry granola bars = $1.99

The cashier at Trader Joe’s thinking you’re a cute couple because you and your husband delight in smelling the bag of potatoes while in the checkout line = Priceless.

Monday, April 21, 2008


We country folk tend to think that there is no wildlife in the city (except, of course, for pigeons, squirrels and rabbits and they don’t count because people feed them processed, greasy food in the park—they’re just mooching off the urban system). But as I write this, an immense bird is soaring between skyscrapers, diving then recovering altitude and swooshing past the office windows, barely missing the cold, hard steel of our building with its daring wings. As I look out again, I see that there are now several hawks (at least, I think they are hawks) soaring through this part of downtown.

Just this morning a fellow bus rider, who lives in the neighborhood of Morningside, informed me he had deer in his backyard this morning, and last fall Mr. Incredible and Lewis caught a long glimpse of a beautiful buck in our neighborhood. (In fact, deer present quite a problem for the City of Pittsburgh from time to time, when they leave the safety of the city’s expansive parks and venture out onto busy streets and highways. Every Pittsburgher has one of these stories to tell, of the day they were driving down __________ Blvd. and had to slam on their brakes because deer were crossing.)

Driving through the Strip District at rush hour one morning, I spotted an even weirder sight: two wild turkeys waddling and gobbling along the Amtrak rails, looking very much at home.

So perhaps we country folk are a little na├»ve when it comes to how easily nature can be crowded out of a space. From what I can see—turkeys amongst railroad tracks, deer prancing in the median strip, and osprey skydiving downtown—these wild animals will make do with any space we give them, no matter how humble. They are built for survival.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The normalization of the dangling participle

In my ardent, never-ending quest to become a better writer, I was reading an article today about grammatical errors to avoid. The title of the article was "Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb," which, now that I think about it, was a strange article for me to be reading. After all, I don't think I was actually afraid that I commit these errors; maybe I was looking for another error to catch people on. I hope that's not the case, because that's sick.

The author made an interesting assertion about dangling modifiers. He cited two examples:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.


Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential

And then he wrote,

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers. (emphasis mine)

Here's the thing: I'm not so sure that's true. I see these dangling modifiers all over the place. Granted, they are not prevalent in official, published material, so at least part of the English-speaking population is expecting the second part of the sentence to follow the first. But I think there are a lot of people who don't see there's a connection between the two, as if the first part of the sentence is just giving a certain amount of background information and the second part is providing an entirely different piece of information; as if what comes after the comma is not referenced by what goes before it.

Just another example of the widening and erosion of the English language . . . what a great language it is, but how ambiguous it's getting these days!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Deuces are wild!

Found in a great old sci-fi novel by Arthur C. Clarke bought at City Books on the South Side.

The welcome package

I’ve been wanting to post this photos for a couple of weeks now . . . here are some photos of the welcome package I received from Brady Communications, where I now work. See why I feel so good about this?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Risotto, a simile, and some news

My life is like a saucepan of risotto:
I stir and add broth, scrape the bottom of the pan,
Stir again, add more broth, scrape, scrape, sccrrAAAape
For what seems like an eternity.
(Forty minutes, in fact, of continuous stirring.)

And in the end I get a steaming, glutinous mass
Of short, stubby rice
With tender, golden onions
And bright green zucchini punctuating the creamy globs—
In short, a culinary masterpiece, the ultimate comfort food.

And nobody but me can understand why I would go to the bother of stirring, stirring, scraping
A saucepan of globby rice.

In other news, I have a new job, which I started today and I like very much. I am a writer (yes, I'm getting paid for it again!) for Brady Communications, a design firm in downtown Pittsburgh.

Disclaimer (Mr Wonderful insists I put this here): I did not take this picture. Someone has clearly aerated this bowl of risotto, and although it looks prettier than mine, I am confident mine was far more satisfying.