Thursday, January 26, 2006

From Winter Wonderland

Thought I'd do something slightly different this time: Publish a poem I wrote while inspired by the wintry scene outside my window.

Softly snow in my backyard falls,
Cold and white as winter calls.
Light and lacy it drifts to earth,
Making cheery the warmly hearth.

Limb and leaf do snow embrace,
And cover gray walk's ugly face.
Turning autumn's colors to icy white,
Changing day to gray and night to light.

Cold and quiet snow settles the hills,
As families turn in to warm their chills.
Out windows they look on a magical sight,
To see nature nestled into pillows of white.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Watch the ends of your pencils

Memorable quote: “…getting the chewed end of the pencil…”
Citation: “Operation: E.L.E.C.T.I.O.N.S.”,
Codename: Kids Next Door, Saturday, January 14, 2006.
Usage: Cartoon show on the Cartoon Network; “Nigel Number One” of the Kids Next Door is robbed of the 4th grade presidency by the “Delightful Children,” the "Kids’" collective opponents. One of the other "Kids Next Door" characters describes the rotten deal Nigel has gotten.
Comment: It’s one of those simple turns of the phrase that makes you as a writer wish you had thought of it first. At least, that’s how I felt when I heard it.

What made it more memorable for my daughter and me is that at the end of the episode, they introduce the real winner of the class presidency: Eggbert Eggleston. No relation.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Put it where the sun clearly shines

Memorable phrase: “Congress and the Constitution have spoken as clearly as a bright sun on a cloudless afternoon about these matters…”
The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office” by Bob Herbert, The New York Times, January 12, 2006.
Usage: Article about Bush White House, columnist Bob Herbert urging the president to obey the law about eavesdropping on Americans.
Comment: Not rousing language, but certainly a clearly expressed simile.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

2005 Word of the Year awarded

Word discoveries: 2005 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society*
*Available to download; requires use of
Acrobat Adobe Reader
Citation: highlighted on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.
Usage: According to the
American Dialect Society’s website, “The words or phrases do not have to be brand new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.”
Other 2005 word-nominees include: Katrina (Hurricane Katrina-related words), podcast, intelligent design, and patent troll.
Other 2005 word-winner categories: most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, best Tom-Cruise-related word, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed.
Comments: It’s always useful to see what new words have been created and used in the past year, as well as what existing words have taken on a new life. Both say a lot about our society and culture through vivid use of language.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An epiphany on listening

Memorable Quote:
“Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”


Never have your dog stuffed and other things I’ve learned by Alan Alda, p. 161, (chapter 14, "Me and Hecuba"), copyright 2005 by Mayflower Productions Inc., ISBN: 1-4000-6409-0.


Rehearsing a part for the play The Apple Tree, Mr. Alda struggles to “listen” to his partner on stage so the dialogue between them seems natural, not forced. The answer, he discovers, is in how you as your character listen to the other character and react to the situation, not just the words.


This brings to me an epiphany.

As a writer, I’ve always struggled in an interview with not just asking a question and writing down the answer, then getting ready to ask the next question. Somehow you have to listen to the answer and see what other questions it raises. If it doesn’t raise a new question, you can go on to the next question on your list.

Furthermore, I’ve struggled as a person – often as a husband and father – to actually listen to the person talking, not getting ready to talk when it’s your turn again but to do something constructive with what you hear. What I’ve learned from Mr. Alda is that in all listening, you have to be looking to make a change – a change in perception or the way you look about a subject as a writer, as well as a change in what you hope to achieve from talking with a spouse or child. You can’t go into it with predetermined outcomes but hope you will hear what will make you do what is right.

Listening is often about solving problems, and often to solve a problem you have to first understand it. Sometimes you can’t know the problem until you’ve listened to someone describe it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A rose by another name isn't quite the same

Although I never intend to devote a page on this weblog to picking baby names as a topic unto itself, names are a part of language. They have meaning, and they are important both to new parents and smart authors. In fact, I think authors spend as much time coming up with a character name as parents do picking a name for a newborn.

With that, I give you Think Baby Names, which describes itself as “A concise dictionary on the origin and meaning of names.” It’s as important as a Webster’s is to a student seeking the right word and its origins.

When I googled the terms "baby names" I discovered there are 52,300,000 results! Here's what I found for baby names.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A twisted tale of irony

Link discovery: black hole
Citation: secondary reference:
Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary
Usage: Part of a rewrite of a cliché (sweep it under the rug) on my Cliché-a-Day weblog.
Meaning: An immensely dense object in space from which nothing can escape, even light.

Comment: Why was I not totally surprised when I tried to look up this term in the California Space Institute website and received a page replying, “Object not found!”? What irony!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Abramoff spurs cliché pile-on

Questionable Phrase: "waiting for the other shoe to drop," a cliché
Citation: Various television and cable news programs
Usage: Referring to politicians worried about their possible connection with lobbyist Jack Abramoff after his indictment in Washington, D.C. for corruption. Now that he has been indicted, members of Congress and their staff are waiting to hear if they might also be affected.

Comments: Use of this phrase is a clear case of piling on by journalists. Every cable news program I watched for several days used this cliché to describe the worry members of Congress and their staff feel over their possible exposure to legal action based on their connections or work with Abramoff.

Come on, folks, dig down into your bag of metaphors and find a different way to say this! If you want to stick with clichés, how about "tag - you're it"? Or "knock-knock, who's there?" But a better choice would be to come up with something new. Maybe, "waiting to see where lightning strikes next" or "waiting in line at the will-call window, but hoping they're sold out."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Superior list needs your attention

Notable list: Lake Superior State University “List of Banned Words and Phrases”
Lake Superior State University
Usage: This is the 31st such list, which is published each New Year’s Day.
Comment: This year the list includes 17 (I don’t know why 17 – why not a round number like 10 or 20?) unwanted words like “talking points” and “97% Fat Free.” I had suggested “Two Thumbs Up,” now so overused that nearly every film promotion uses the term to recommend you see their film. Lake Superior State’s list is worth visiting if not taking entirely to heart.