© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What did you say?

I was working yesterday on an article about ruptured eardrums and came across this sentence in one of the references I was using. There's nothing wrong with it grammatically or syntactically, but I just hope no one takes it literally.

Teach your children about the damage that can be done by putting foreign objects in their ears.

Help, quick, can we get an editor over hear?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Twas the week before Christmas

Materialistic? Nous?

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm Sorry

Actually, I want to apologize for my post of November 10. It's a beautiful video. And there is no justification for making it commercial. The video is beautiful. The atttempt to sell is not. But if you click throu to see it, watch the commercial. It still is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Wonderful Ears

I was editing an article about yeast infections in dogs and found the following passage in the section about symptoms. In all fairness to the writer, she was rushed, and this was a rewrite, but still...

You may notice your dog scratching his ear or rubbing it on the floor or on a piece of furniture. That's a sign that he may have a yeast infection. You should check his ears for these signs: (2)

• Brown, yellow or bloody discharge that has a strong odor
• Redness or swelling
• Crusted skin on the near ear flap
• Loss of hair around the ear
• Head shaking or tilting
• Loss of balance
• Loss of hearing
• Walking in circles
• Unusual eye movements


I suppose you could tell if the dog was walking in circles by watching its ears. And even the head shaking and tilting might be evident. But the unusual eye movements? I'm going to be watching my dog's ears this evening. I'll tell you later what they say about her eyes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just because

This is just funny. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Part 3 is postponed

All the things I don't know, I am haunted by. Those who know, understand.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Random Friday

* Look for part 3 of Learning as I Go tomorrow.

* I miss the time when I posted a blog every day.

* One of my biggest pet peeves as a freelanceer who specializes in writing about health is editors who say they need doctors to write their articles. I don't want a writer operating on my wrist to fix my carpel tunnel syndrome. Sure, the writer will understand how I got it. But even if he's written about the operation, he/she still won't know how to do it. Why do editors think doctors know how to write?

* I know there are some doctors who can write well. I've edited their work. But it's because they are also writers, not because they are doctors.

* So those particular writers, if they're good surgeons too, could operate on my wrist.

* The last few weeks, I've been cleaning up some awful prose messes created by docs.

* Check out Bel's (aka Mommy's Nintendo) blog. She's writing about her spiritual journey.

* All my friends in Blogland: I'm coming back. I'm going to be catching up on your posts. They better be good ;0) (I know they will be).

* I'm out of aquamarine blue. I need a trip to the art supply house tomorrow.

Things I'm surprised I didn't say:

* Tomorrow is the Ohio State Michigan game.

* Fantastic basketball game on tonight between Syracuse and North Carolina. Kind of glad Ohio State lost their game against NC last night or they would be playing Syracuse tonight.

* There must be a poem somewhere in all of this.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thought for today

Time is simply a road map of the now. And the arrow that's pointing to tell us "you are here" is what we call the present.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just watch

This is actually a commercial from Thailand. I stole it from Butterfly Dreamer, whose site you should absolutely see. But, here's the rub: Watch it more than once; watch it at least three times. Get beyond the Pantene pitch. (She would have gotten there without beautiful hair.) Then, tell me what it does to you. -- I agree with Butterfly dreamer: It is "one of the most inspirational and beautiful videos I have ever seen."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning as I Go: Part 2 -- Getting Started/Painting #2

Step 3 -- Paint the sky

I only have a slight understanding of the concept of underpainting. It's the first layer of color or colors that serve as the basic definition of the painting in progress. It "blocks in" the composition and serves as a blueprint for subsequent layers of color as details are added or refined. This first layer, according to some of the sources I looked at, should lay down the darkest color for the sky, water, and foreground and then the overpainting will add highlights, brightness, and variations in color.

I read about it, but I wasn't really conscious of "underpainting" as I began the canvas. Start with the sky and work forward was the basic principle my father had taught me. So that's what I thought I would do here. But acrylic is different from chalk or pastel or watercolor. So I wasn't going to be able to do what I thought I was going to do. I saw very quickly I was going to have to go back to the sky multiple times.

The horizon was an accident, albeit a happy one. I got too much dark blue on my brush as I was painting the lower portion of the sky. But I saw immediately that it worked for the deeper water of the background. So I actually ended up doing what was in my ead two steps at once. From there it was a simple step to block in the lighter water of the foreground. And since the sky was pretty much dry, I decided to try to lighten it up.

I was satisfied with that day's work, and I felt like I'd learned something.
To be continued...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Learning as I Go: Part 1 -- First steps Painting 2

After I did my first acrylic painting [see it here], I read more about the importance of using natural light in the process of painting. It's essential for being able to see the actual colors I'm putting on canvas. So, since I didn't have room by the window in my office to set up the easel, and since I couldn't really count on having time during the day when the light was best to paint, I bought myself a daylight lamp to clamp onto my easel. It made all the difference.

I put the painting back on the easel, and the green and red paint I'd used to put grasses in the foreground and the blue grey gravel path popped. But the middle ground didn't. The surface of the hill extending down to the ocean was flat. It still is, but I intend to change it. First, though, I need to understand more about painting light--as well as the lack of light. So I've been reading about and studying samples of techniques such as "glazing," which I'll talk about in a future installment of Learning as I Go.

In the meantime I started a second painting. If you're interested, I want to share with you what it's like to be a complete novice teaching myself to paint.

Step 1: Choose the Scene
We went to some fascinating places this past summer in California and in New England, and I took a ton of photos. So I started the second painting by printing out a number of photos and spending a lot of time just going through them. I finally narrowed the choice down to two:

Choice 1 -- Hillside at Timber Cove where we stayed at the ocean in California

Choice 2 -- Lighthouse and Rocks off the coast of Maine at Fort McClary


I liked the first choice because I liked the different textures and I want to learn about painting grasses and foliage. I also want to be able to paint a hillside head on and give the viewer the feel of the ground rising.

I liked the second because there was a lot of motion in the water and because the challenge of painting daylight above the blue of the water was intriguing.

I decided I wasn't ready yet for the challenges in the first picture, and learning how to paint light is probably my first real task. So I chose the second picture.

Step 2 --Draw It
I made several sketches. (If I can't draw it, I can't paint it.) Here is the last one I made.

Doesn't really have the detail or the perspective I think it should have, but I thought it was enough to get me started.

Step 3 -- Paint the sky

[to be continued]

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A nightmarish week

My computer crashed last Sunday. I was trying to install the new Windows 7. But it got caught in an endless loop of rebooting. I couldn't even get a desktop. I spent the entire day Monday trying to get the issue settled with the help of someone from Microsoft spending four hours on the phone with me. The problem was that she didn't speak any known language. And the closest she came to English was repeating back to me the things I told her I tried, telling me that those were the things I needed to do. Finally she said she would have to put me on hold for ten minutes, would that be okay? I was tired of yelling at her that what she was asking me to do I had done already multiple times, both on my own and when she told me to do them, so I said yes put me on hold. She said she had to look for something . I hoped it was a translator. After five minutes, the phone disconnected. I supposed she had found what she was looking for and had no more reason to talk with me. Anyway, I didn't call back. I just spent the rest of the day doing those same things over again.

Then on Tuesday I got on my laptop and sent out emails to all my clients who had sent me stuff that I was supposed to be working on but which was locked as email attachments inside my failed office computer. Sometime close to noon a Microsoft guy supposedly in Cincinnati called me, said he knew about my problem (scary, no?), and he could help me solve it. After going back over what the problem was, he said the installation had failed and the computer was being tugged at by two operating systems, neither one of which could get control of it. "Oh," I said, "you speak English."

The man then asked if there were any important files on my computer. I asked him to repeat the question, and after I told him yes, he told me I needed to start Windows from the installation disk and do a "custom install."

I told him when I tried that before I got a warning saying it would wipe out everything on my computer -- all my writing, all my contracts, all my client lists, all my billing records and tax files. "Is that my only option?"

"Yes it is," he said. "But it won't wipe out your files. You'll just have to reinstall all your programs."

"All of them? It will take all of them?"

"Yes. But you just have to put the disks back in and reinstall them."

I didn't see any point in telling them that at least half of all the thousands of programs on my computer were downloaded, I had no disks for them, and I had no idea where the product keys for most of them were. Probably in a series of email archives. What would be the point? This was my only option.

So he talked me through the steps of getting the installation going. Once it was running, he said it would take a while and would it be all right for him to call me back in 45 minutes?

What the hell. "Sure," I said. "That will be fine."

The installation program crashed once. But I restarted it, and just as the second run was finishing up, the man in Cincinnati called me back and asked about the status.

When the computer was running and I had a desktop, he asked if he could take control of my computer and show me where my files were. "Okay," I said. But when he tried to locate them, they weren't in the folder where they were supposed to be. He did a search on a file extension and couldn't find anything. Then he asked for the name of a file. I gave him one and he searched for it. Then he found it, found the location of the folder it was in and added it to my "library." He then released control of my computer and said, "So now you see where they are?"

It's too late to make a long story short. But I can make it less long than it would be. I didn't see where they were, but I said yes, thanked him, and spent the rest of Tuesday reinstalling some programs and searching for my files. I got Outlook working, but couldn't find my email files to pull into it. I did find a folder that had program files in it. Some of them worked and some of them didn't. I went to bed that night thinking I was never going to work again.

Wednesday I kept looking for files. I started to figure out where they were. Still didn't have my email. Couldn't make my FileMaker database work. But I did feel I was making some progress.

Thursday I kept stabbing at the computer but also managed to get some of the work done that was scheduled for this past week. And by the end of the day Friday, I had managed to restore my database program, complete this past week's assignments, and even find my email files.

Now it's Halloween, but I'm not scared.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Ecstacy of Morricone

How can you not love it when this man makes music?

And if you've not seen Once Upon a Time in the West, it should be on your bucket list.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some of us would never get where we're going.

I got the link to this video from High Desert Diva's blog, which if you don't know, you should definitely check out. Why don't we have more initiatives like this?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day Personal Effort Climate Change.

Today is blog action day, and the topic this year is climate change.

I don't really have a lot to say about climate change that others who know a lot more than I do won't say better. But I can talk about some personal changes that have occurred over the past couple of years.

About a year ago, I was attending an adult discussion group at a UU church I was considering joining. The congregation was in the process of launching a major initiative to take themselves as much "off the grid" as possible. And nearly everyone in the discussion group was avid about being green. They were recyclers, solar power enthusiasts, hybrid car owners, and apostles for change. I found it a little disconcerting. I felt woefully under informed and under committed. Plus, I wasn't convinced, despite Al Gore, that climate change was an issue that was going to garner commitment from the mainstream, despite the group's insistence that the times they are a changin'.

One year later, I don't know much more. I don't know what my carbon footprint is, though I know what that means. I was convinced back then that climate change was important and ruining the environment. But I didn't really think I could make much difference. But something clicked and I started making little changes. Here are some of the things I've done:

  • I changed nearly all the bulbs in the house to energy saving fluorescent bulbs. I don't mind it takes a few seconds for the light to get bright when I turn them on.
  • I print out a lot of paper when I do my job. When I edit, even when I edit Web content, I need to print it out to do the final edit in hard copy. I still print it out, but instead of throwing the paper out, I turn it over and put it back in the printer to print the next file on the back.
  • When both sides are printed, the paper now goes into a brown paper bag (unless there is confidential information on it) that gets set out to be recycled on recycle day.
  • As often as I can, I empty my shredder into a brown recycle bag that I put out on the curb for recycling.
  • I found Greenoffice.com that sells recycled materials where I now buy as much of my office supplies as I can.
  • I put plastic jars and cans that have grungy stuff in them that I can't rinse out into the dishwasher so I can put them in the recycle bin when they come out.

Those are some of the things I do. There is more, but the point is even a little bit can make a difference, especially if that little bit makes me more aware of what more I can do. Each one of us needs to look at what we do, and then do what we can to make a difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Observances, part 2

"Domestic violence touches the lives of Americans of all ages, leaving a devastating impact on women, men, and children of every background and circumstance. A family's home becomes a place of fear, hopelessness, and desperation when a woman is battered by her partner, a child witnesses the abuse of a loved one, or a senior is victimized by family members."
"During this month, we rededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence. By providing young people with education about healthy relationships, and by changing attitudes that support violence, we recognize that domestic violence can be prevented. We must build the capacity of our Nation's victim service providers to reach and serve those in need. We urge community leaders to raise awareness and bring attention to this quiet crisis. And across America, we
encourage victims and their families to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Together, we must ensure that, in America, no victim of domestic violence ever struggles alone."
(Presidential Proclamation September 30, 2009)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Nearly one in every four women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. Three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner each day in America, on average.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet
The National Network to End Domestic Violence

Please, if you are in an abusive situation, tell someone and ask for help. And if you know someone who is being abused, don't remain silent. Reach out and help. In the United States call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or TTY (800) 787-3224.

Internationally, The Broken Spirits Network maintains a database with contact information for organizations around the world that can intervene, provide support, and help stop cycles of abuse. You can find the directory here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October Observances

Two important observances this month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Be sure you check out Rachael Chatoor's "Standing All the Way" on her Blog.

October is also Health Literacy Month. All month long there are events going on around the world to bring attention to the importance of and advocate for understandable health information. Find out how important clear health information is to individuals and learn what people and organizations are doing to ensure that people get the kind of healthcare and health communications they need here.

Effective health communication is a two-way process.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My first acrylic on canvass or why I like to paint

As a preteen and adolescent, I drew and painted pictures with chalk and with pastel. As an adult I've painted with watercolors and used charcoal and pencil. A couple months ago, S and I took a one night "class" on painting with acrylics. It was really more of a social night out. Everyone in class followed the teacher's instructions and painted the same picture. We had stuffed mushrooms and martinis and wine and cookies and cake. At the end of the evening, the teacher took our photos with our pictures and put us on her mailing list for future such events. It was fun and totally relaxing. But I didn't get anything I wanted to call my painting out of it.

I had been thinking about painting with acrylics for some time. Not because I'm a visual artist. I'm not. My father was, but I didn't inherit that particular gene. I'd been thinking about it because I enjoy painting, and when I was working regularly with watercolors, it gave me a way to relax and forget whatever was stressing me. I wanted to try acrylics because the stuff I'd read about working with them sounded interesting.

My father had used them, but that's because he used everything, even some media he invented himself. When he painted, though, he generally preferred oils.

The one night class, at least, gave me some basics about handling acrylics and how to start working with them. So when we went to California this past summer, S bought me a basic set of acrylics and a few canvasses for my birthday. I thought about using them there, but didn't. When I got home, though, I selected a few photos I'd taken to use as subjects while I learned about the medium.

OK, drum roll, please.......................................................

I call it Path at Pine Cove, Twilight. I'm probably not going to frame it and hang it, but I'm not unhappy with it.

Since the photo I painted from is a twilight shot, the foreground is supposed to be dark. But the flash on the camera washed out the color. So I tried to take the picture without the flash and got (another drum roll please ).......................

If you look at the photo on the easel above the picture, you'll see this is actually the way I envisioned the picture turning out -- wonderful what digital photography will do to your work, but it isn't an accurate representation of what I'd done. So I took another photo. This time I got (you know, drum roll)............................

....the picture I wish I had painted!


I like to paint because I'm not a painter. There is no pressure. I don't have to be good. If I'm going to get something out of it I need to try to be good. But there's nobody standing over me saying I should do this and not do that.

My father would do that when I was a teenager and later when I'd show him some of the drawings I'd done as an adult. But that's what fathers do.

And there's no gate keeper judging me in terms of whether I get paid or whether anybody else gets to see my work or even whether I'll get more work from them. So there's none of the pressure I feel -- regardless of how much I like my work -- as a professional or a poet. When I paint, it's my time for me. It relaxes me, and that's good for my blood pressure and my soul.

Just me, thinking about what I see.

But something more happened with this painting. Something I hadn't expected.

When I work with watercolor, I do a painting, sometimes two paintings, in an evening--most of which paintings I don't keep. But it took me weeks to do this first acrylic. That's partly because I wasn't sure all the time what to do next and partly because of time. It was also partly because I wanted to think about what I was doing and about the mistakes I made so I could learn from this experience.

My "studio" is set up in a section of my office, which occupies the entire third floor of our house. The table where the easel sits is about fifteen feet away from my desk. The whole time I was painting the picture, the canvass stayed where, as I worked during the day, I could simply turn and look at it any time I wanted. I also saw it whether I wanted to or not whenever I'd get up from the desk or simply turn in my chair to think about the next paragraph or prospecting letter.

Every time I saw the picture, I saw something different. The mistakes I made, I would stare at for days. I was clueless how to fix them. But when I would figure it out, just by looking at the painting so often I would wonder whether I could mix the colors again so that the correction would fit with what's there. Then, I would simply look at the painting and know what to do. Sometimes I'd get up from my desk right then and spend maybe 10 minutes painting, clean up, and go back to my desk and back to work.

A couple of days ago, I figured out how to do a key part of the picture I was having trouble with. At dinner that evening, I asked S if she wanted to see what I was doing. When she said yes, I went up and brought the painting down. I was excited and started explaining what I'd done that day but soon began chronicling the entire process I'd gone through. I'd point to something in the picture and talk about how I did it or about a mistake I'd made and what I'd done to fix it or how the mistake had actually worked out better than what I had intended to do. And I'd explain what I had learned from that and what I would try to do with the next picture.

As I explained these things I realized something. I was looking at the picture the way my father looked at pictures -- his own and his students. I was solving problems in one of two ways. I was either calling on the advice and critiques he had given me over the years, or I was solving them with what I remember seeing him do or hearing him talk about doing while I watched him paint.

Sure. My painting is for me, and I'm learning about painting and about seeing. But a big part of why I like it is I'm also learning about my father's painting.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This is why I blog

So I can say things when I need to remind myself

There are things that happen as you get older. There are battles that are lost that never should have been lost. There are dreams that never should have been left unfulfilled. There are projects that should have been completed. And there is time that you can never get back.

I have done things that have made a difference in people’s life.

I know that because the people have told me—called me out of the blue and said thank you.

I know that because I’ve run into people at random—people I don’t remember—who have said something I did made a difference in their life. I got off the train at South Station in Boston, was walking with what seemed thousands of other people in Boston who had gotten off of other trains and heard someone—a total stranger—say to me “Professor [grandpa]? You don’t remember me, but you were my teacher in business writing when I was junior at St Anselm. I use what you taught me every day. I’m vice president at [a big bank in Boston], and the way I got there was knowing how to write. And it was your class that taught me how to do it. I always meant to call you and tell you thanks..

And I’ve seen writers who wrote for me as their first editor win awards for work they did for me, win awards and publish books when I was the first editor who believed in them.

But you get older, and the work you set out to do hasn’t been done, and you think you’re starting to run out of time. The clock hasn’t stopped ticking yet, but the tick-tocks are coming faster and faster and sounding fainter and fainter.

It’s the angst that destroys. So how do you answer it?

  • Trust the people you know.

  • Know that you have influenced other people’s life.

  • Understand that no work ever gets done by whining about the fact it’s not getting done.

  • Accept the fact that when you die you die. What you’ve done to that point is the sum total of your work.

  • Accept the fact that you’re alive.

  • Work.

It’s hard to imagine I’ll ever be satisfied. But I can still keep working.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

5 Minute Therapy

My therapist recommended I watch this video. Do you think she was trying to tell me something?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Character Envy

Jason, the narrator of my novel, is a poet and teacher of creative writing. He seems to have little respect for his own poetry and he doesn't much care for students. Here's a fragment from one of his poems:

If we touch the magic
That makes us real dissolves
Like bullion in a cup of water
And we become mere parodies
Of what might have been.
Thin, watery imitations
Of a hearty broth.

In the following scene he's walking in the woods with his brother's 14 year old step daughter. Jason's father, a painter, died of a stroke in his studio just a few days before. Jason's been called to New Hampshire by his aunt (who is actually his father's mistress) and this is the first time he's met any of his brother's new family. Candi, the young girl, is a big fan both of Jason's father and of Jason's poetry. She's taken him to a spot in a field where she used to go and watch Jason's father draw.

I sat down beside her. “You liked Pop did you?”

“Very much. It doesn’t seem fair, Jason, that he died so soon after I met him. I danced with him at Howard’s and Mother’s wedding. I was so nervous when he asked me because they were playing a waltz and I was so sure I was going to step on his feet. But he made it easy. I didn’t even have to think about what I was doing. He made it feel like magic.”

“Pop was a good dancer. I can remember when I was little watching him and my mother dance together in our living room. I also remember when they used to go to square dances. He’d wear a cowboy hat and she’d wear this big flared skirt with all these layers of petticoats underneath it.”

“You wrote about that,” Candi said. “’My Mother’s Petticoats.’ It was in your first book. How she would swirl in front of you, fanning you with her skirt and being dissolved in a cyclone of lace.”

I felt humbled. I had actually forgotten that I’d included that poem in my first collection. “You really do know my work better than I do, don’t you?”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Did I get it wrong?”

“No. No. You got it just right. I’m surprised, that’s all. I wish I could remember my work as well as you seem to.”

“I like that poem a lot. The way you describe the air moving so fast around you and you stayed still as a stone, and then how your mother wasn’t even there. Nothing but the moving air and you felt left behind. I kind of know what that feels like. Everybody just comes into your life and goes and it’s like they were never there at all. And if the air didn’t move, you would never know it.” She had it just the way I had meant it when I wrote it. “Aunt Margaret was your mother’s sister?” she asked.


I like that pooem too. In fact, I wish I'd written it. That's what I mean by character envy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Peace Day

Monday, September 21 is the International Day of Peace 2009 (also see the Culture of Peace Initiative site as well as Peace One Day). The Web sites list "Peace Building" events that are going on around the world, from random acts of kindness to concerts to international forums. There are also events on the World Wide Web, on Facebook, and in other networking venues. I plan to spend time on Monday thinking about how I can be a part of peace building. I invite you to join me.

It's a dream worth sharing.

It's a wish worth granting.

Afghanistan: Peace Day 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Watch for it

Watch for the winter issue of The Raintown Review. (I'll let you know when it's actually published.) I got word today they are going to publish my poem "The Writer's Wife," which is in my mind one of my most important poetic works.

And while we're on the subject of watching for it, Pastor Sharon at Dances with God gave me an award a while back. I don't as a rule do awards, though I'm very honored when I get one. And this was a special award so I told her I would do it. I just haven't figured out how yet. But I will. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime, if you haven't met Pastor Sharon, you really should. Why not pay her a visit right now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


For L.M on the occasion of his third marriage

Let me sing for my love a song
And my love will cover me with kisses.

Then never stop singing. Let your voice fill the land
with your new bride’s name.
In the morning, sing to her as you make her toast,
spreading marmalade.
At noon, sing to her over cups of chicken soup
brimful with noodles.

Sing to her in malls; sing on the escalators
and in parking lots.
Sing at the counter and tables of fast food chains.

When you buy movie tickets, sing your lover’s name
while you count your change.
Sing in the soft glow of dimly lighted lounges
with fake fires burning.
As the singer on stage sings a final set and
your love sips wine, sing.

Sing on the drive home and as you check locked windows
while she combs her hair.
Sing to her in the rush of passionate embrace.

But give her also days without singing,
for her heart, just as yours,
must hear the splinters of other songs.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What a difference a couple of words make

This is actually another sign of the times. Looking for a place to have breakfast in Manchester, NH, I came across the Web site for the Manchester diner:

Many Have Eaten Here, Few Have Died

S pointed out that's not quite as bad as it could be. Just add "Only a" in front of few, and it's no longer just funny. It's a challenge. But, be afraid, be very afraid.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another sign of the times

This sign's on a placard in my hotel room here in New Hampshire:

High Speed Internet Access
And Remote Printing

See your desk drawer for details.

Well, I'm looking at it right now, and I've asked repeatedly for details. So far it's been nothing but mute.

As you leave, take a look at the spotlight post. Fantastic Forrest has invited us to join her in an important endeavor.

Monday, August 31, 2009


It's time to share some of my own writing bloopers. Here's two I made -- among several-- in an article I wrote today. The first one I caught before I sent the article to the editor. The second one I just saw.

1) I was writing about using plug-in timers that turn your lights on and off when you're away on vacation and I wrote:

"Look for timers that have battery backup so they'll still work if there's a power failure."

(I meant so the time would still be accurate.)

2) I just now saw this one:

"Always park your car in the garage with the garage door closed when you are there."

(That sounds dangerous no matter how you read it. I think I meant "Always leave your car in the garage with the garage door closed when you are home.")

Sunday, August 30, 2009

10 years ago in Boston

This is well worth the 10 minutes it takes to watch.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thinking about the reader

Here’s the “lead” paragraph from an article for the web I edited the other day:
For some expectant moms, even the slightest ache or pain can trigger a five-star alarm and trip to the doctor, but other pregnant women may well ignore a potentially serious warning sign because they think it is a normal part of pregnancy or they fear of being the girl who cried wolf.
This is from a professional writer with an impressive list of credits, including Woman’s World magazine, Arthritis Today, and the Wall Street Journal. The writer has a graduate degree in journalism, and has won awards for online reporting. I can only assume the writer was having a bad day. (Actually, what I really assumed is that the writer is used to having her work very heavily edited and simply doesn't care.)

That one-sentence paragraph has 52 words and a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 21.7. And can someone please tell me what a five-star alarm is? I know there is a product called a FiveStar Alarm that can be used to detect levels of dangerous gasses. So the writer may have been trying to use a metaphor, but I don’t think it works. I didn’t know there was such a product until I googled it, and I doubt many readers would know either. But what I really wonder is why a writer for whom English is not a second language would turn in an article with the phrase “they fear of being the girl who cried wolf." All that tells me is the writer didn’t bother to read any of the text before turning it in.

S and I were having dinner a few weeks ago with some close friends who are professional communicators like us, and at one point in the discussion the issue was raised about whether or not every assignment was equally important. J, an editor whose work I especially admire, said, “No, some assignments don’t matter. The job is just to get them out there.” Her point was that if an editor or a reporter treated every piece he or she is working on as if it needed to be perfect, the pieces that did truly matter might never get done.

I tend to agree with J. But that’s because I understand she wasn’t saying that there was any excuse for shoddy craftsmanship from a professional. And it doesn’t excuse a professional communicator for not considering the audience. You put out the best you can in the time you have with the attention it deserves. But if it isn’t clear, if it isn’t accurate, if the language isn’t at least used properly, you don’t present it.

If the writer of the one-sentence paragraph had any concern at all for the readers or for the subject matter, the paragraph might have looked like this:

For some expectant moms, the slightest ache or pain triggers a major alarm and a trip to the doctor’s office. But other pregnant women sometimes ignore a potentially serious warning sign. They may think it’s a normal part of pregnancy. Or they may simply not want to be seen as the girl who cried wolf.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


There was a moment when he heard his lover’s voice
And thought he heard a language, that was more language
Than he had ever heard before. Like black granite
Dropping straight to the sea. Like wind on which gulls glide.

Her words were more varied than roses in sunlight,
Than the mottled maple outside his window when
The sky’s light lay parallel to the earth. And why,
He asked, had he not heard it before? Heard only

Filtered expressions of common speech? The next day
In a boat on the lake he listened to the lap
Of waves from a dying wake. Heard a cicada’s
Hum winding in the August air. Watched schooling bass

Churn the water no more than a pole’s reach away.
He lay down, his face to the sun, and tried staring
At it through the mesh in his hat. That night he walked
The concession area past where swimmers splashed

In the afternoon. At the end of the pier, two
Men sat in an anchored boat, their light a halo
On the silent water, and he heard it again.
In their talk, their words like ice on the quiet lake.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Help Me I'm Reading and I Can't Get Up

I got a letter yesterday from a credit card company telling me of the changes in my "Credit Card Agreement." First, the letter provided a summary of the three changes. I assumed the intent was to use simpler language than the legalese used in the actual agreement. That way they could help me understand what the changes are. Very nice of them I thought. I do a lot of that same sort of thing for health consumers. That is I assumed it until I read the first summary. It felt like I was swimming in a tub of molasses:
Annual Percentage Rate for Variable Rate Accounts
The index for your account is changing from the Prime Rate. The new index will be the highest three month LIBOR (London Interbank Offer Rate) published in the northeastern edition of The Wall Street Journal in its Money Rates table at any time within the immediately preceding three months, including the month in which the index was determined, rounded up to the nearest one-quarter of a percentage point. As of July 1, 2009, your Margin would be the number of percentage points plus the index which would give you the same APR you now have on Purchases and Balance Transfers. This change is effective on the first day of your billing cycle that begins in April 2010.

They don't really want me to understand what they're doing, do they?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another sign of the times

Saw this at the gas station up the road from the house:
Guaranteed Gasoline

As opposed to what? Milk and honey? Everyone knows cars won't run on milk and honey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My latest publication is now on line

"Captain Lee" [click here] is now live on line at The Chimera, Issue 6. It's a sonnet sequence and was included as part of their "Feature Theme: poems in well-wrought form." It's the only sonnet sequence in the group.

I hope you spend some time with the e-zine reading the other poetry there as well as mine and then come back and let me know what you think. And I'll be happy to answer any questions about "Captain Lee," that you leave in the comments. It may take a couple of days, though. Our phones aren't working and neither is the DSL, and God Bless AT&T who can't tell me what's wrong or when they'll be fixed -- or even let me talk to a real person instead of their computer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sound Can Find No Home

Still, body stripped & blanket draped, you lie
where your final cries rise to mix with sounds
in undulant trees & descend disguised
as August noise. The waning day dies loud
with voice as evening winds laced with smells
of charcoal fires convey laughter from crowds
gathered about a store-front clown, and swells
from a calliope mount toward clouds
drifting in the silent advent of dark.
Sonant waves wash across your heaveless breasts,
but sound can find no home within the stark
confines of your lifeless form. Pulsing crests
pass unheeded, & grief’s urgent sobs die
at your ears. Life’s flood ebbs, returns, flows by.

Originally published in Red Jacket, 1993.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Another Signs of the Times

Name on a bakery in South San Francisco

Galli's Sanitary Bakery
I don't even want to guess what that means.

Had no Internet access for the past two days, but had a very close encounter with nature and with my most severe phobia. Will catch up next week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Leaving Eden but Still Drifting

We close the gates behind us
today at noon .
Our travels aren't over.
Travels that took us
the last few days to Fairfax,
but always returned us to Sebastapol,
to the double wooden gates
at the end of a graveled lane
that open onto Eden.

Last night after the Sonoma County Fair,
we ate dinner in an Italian restaurant
at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa.
Today we'll have lunch
with my son and his family
to say goodbye
and to be with
our youngest granddaughter
one more time before driving to Jenner
on the coast and up Route 1 to Timber Cove
to an inn that sits on a cliff above the ocean.

When we get back to Atlanta,
I'll paint what I've seen
and let Eden infuse my days.

The house we've been staying in is at the end of a gravel lane. The property backs up to a state park, and there is a vineyard bordering the north side of the property. The land has an olive grove that the owners harvest to make their own olive oil each year. There are apple trees, peach trees, pear and plum trees, fig trees, walnut trees, and one lemon tree. The grounds are surrounded by blackberry bushes with the most lush blackberries I've ever tasted. There are flower gardens, rose trellises, a vegetable garden surrounded by huge lavender and rosemary bushes. Aside from Hawaii, it is the most Eden like setting I have ever been in. And everywhere you drive, it is more of the same.

This has been a time to just let go of schedules, of deadlines, of angst over whether or not we are doing the right things with our lives or over why we aren't doing the things we know we should be doing. It's been a good week, and there are a few days left, and I intend to enjoy them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gray Sonoma Morning

waiting to eat a second breakfast
with my granddaughter
it's overcast, not the typical fog
that rolls in from the ocean overnight
and obscures all but the hint
of an outline of hills
behind the olive trees
then burns off and lets
the sun come through

the fog is gone now
as it always is by this time

I can clearly see the field
and the hills with their foliage
but the crystal clear air
is chilled and filled with random
drops of condensation
and the sky is still grey
I've photographed the grove
and the hills behind
in as many different lights as I could
and I've stood or sat
just looking from the deck
to lock the various shades of light
and the olive trees
with the shivering silver
of their green leaves
inside my mind so that later
when I look I can see
what the photo doesn't show

it's grey this morning
a quiet calming peaceful grey
the quail
still walk along the edge of the yard
and through the bushes
behind the garden
the roses still stretch
up from the porch
as if pointing at the sky
where yesterday I saw
an eagle and three hawks
and last night
as I did the night before
I saw
through the front room window
two stars
rising above the eastern horizon
to shine brightly
through the distant trees

Monday, July 27, 2009

Still adrift in California

dancing before breakfast
and then the farmer's market in Sebastapol
coming away with fresh caught wild salmon
and baskets of tomatoes
eggs benedict market style for lunch
market style=no ham or bacon
spinach with sundried tomato pesto instead
then a visit to screaming mimi's ice cream
the hottest spot in town
for a taste of local strawberries
an afternoon of photos
and a set of new acrylic paints
red headed woodpecker in the tree outside the window
that evening planked honey mustard salmon
and roasted corn on the cob
home made pesto and summer squash
market tomatoes
and ice cream with
the sweetest blackberries I've ever tasted
all made sweeter by family
summer in Sonoma County

Sunday, July 26, 2009

California drifitn', back next week

adrift in Northern California
enjoying a private Edenic retreat
listening to Bob Marley's One Love
on S's play list
contemplating generations
and anticipating the soft sweetness
of the freshly picked blackberries
I plan to add to my next pot
of Twinings green tea

Monday, July 20, 2009

a rather disjointed post

My favorite NPR (National Public Radio) program is This American Life. Sunday night I was listening to it -- I know, I should have been on the blog reading all of your fantastic posts, but it was This American Life -- which is a collection of stories and this week's topic was fear of sleep.

The first story was about sleep walking and doing things when you did that could kill you. It happened to Mike Birbiglia, a comedian who told the story at a club called The Moth. You can access the club Web site here.

It would be worth your time to spend some of it on both of the sites linked above. But that's not what this post is about. Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, does very insightful commentary about the stories and the story tellers. When Birbiglia's story ended he gave background on the comedian and the club and concluded with the statement "Catch him before he becomes too famous." So I'm sharing him with you. But that's still not the point.

I've met a lot of people in the Blogosphere. And I've made a lot of friends. And I watch them become more and more famous. And they still say "hey" to me. That's good. The Blogosphere is a place to catch people before they become too famous. That's the point. I'm glad I'm here. because I'm glad you're here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'm standing up for my writing


I have some kind of sciatic nerve problem, or at least that's what the physician's assistant thought it was yesterday. It's aggravated by sitting at my desk, partly because I don't have good chair poster when I'm leaning over the keyboard working. After about an hour or so, my leg begins to hurt enough to make me very uncomfortable, and after about another hour, I can't bear to sit there any longer. The only thing that helps is to stand up and walk around. So I started last week standing at the kitchen counter to work when it got bad.

Last weekend I had to work both Saturday and Sunday, and I thought why even bother to sit down? So I used some wire shelving we have to hold my laptop and stood the whole day each day while I worked. I also found that in addition to my leg not hurting, standing let me think a little more clearly about what I was writing. Whenever I got stuck, I just walked around in a little circle and by the time I got back to the keyboard, the words I needed were there. So I kept standing all week long.

Yesterday when I saw the PA and she was giving me some exercises to do, she suggested that I should try to stand to work. (I told her that usually I could hardly stand to work, but I don't think she got it. So I just said OK.)

A few months ago I was working on an article about physical activity and I came across a research study that focused on the benefits of standing as opposed to sitting. It turns out that people who do their job mainly sitting (like bus drivers, for instance) have a tendency to die sooner than people who stand more. We all know about the value of exercise, but this was true even with low level physical activity. So maybe pain is not such a bad thing after all.

Here's the first draft of a poem I did today after coming across some notes I'd made for an essay. Too early to tell whether I like it or not, but I thought I'd share it.

The running of the ideas (first draft)

When the gates were opened for the running
of ideas, three men were trampled at the start.
Two more scrambled over the walls that lined
the street. And only the bravest stayed in front,
shouting the whole way, cheered on by rabble
leaning from the balconies above
and smiling critics -- middle-aged women and men
holding dry martinis, drinking rum.

At the ring the crowd roared as the first idea--
proud, brave, and very strong--gored the rider's
mount and threw the rider to the ground.

No one could slow him. No one could tire him,
until the bravest fighter of them all
stood before him and with his cape and grace
took pass after pass and brought him to his knees.

The crowd chanted its approval. They'd seen
a work of art. And the idea, its hind legs
lashed to the horse, was, without dignity
and without ears, dragged from the dusty ring.

© copyright 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The poet in me is a recluse

He doesn't want to be. He just withdraws.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just some random and spontaneous thoughts on breaking into poetry

  • Who do you read? I know people who go to art museums and look at an abstract and say. "My five-year-old could do and has done better than that." The truth is, there's a lot of abstract work I don't like. But unless I look at a lot of that, and where it came from, I can't critique it. And if I can't critique it, I can't do it. Do you read one poet? Do you read one style of poetry? The abstract painter I appreciate understands and can do perspective and realism. In fact, the realism painters I appreciate understand and can produce the abstract concepts that underlie it. The same is true with poetry. If you can't see what there is that connects Billy Collins, Alan Ginsburg, Ezra Pound, John Milton, John Keats, and Timothy Steele, you need to read more.
  • Why do you want to write poetry? Do you have a vision to share? Or are you writing in your diary with broken lines? The point is poetry is an art form. If you want to become a poet, if you want to be read by other people, please make it because you want to share what you see. And to share, you have to be aware of an audience.
  • How resilient are you? Poetry is an art of rejection. Most people aren't going to understand you. And the gatekeepers, the people who edit the journals where your poetry is going to be published, aren't even most people. And the natural response to rejection is to become imitative. When you do, you've destroyed your reason for being a poet.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the master s words

there is a way they have
............to make you feel dwarfed
....with all, their, commas,
.....and broken phrases
.......and misplaced parenthesis
........and wordsthatruntogether
........................to obliterate thoughts
it s a little like drinking christmas
............wine without a glass or
.......making illicit
........for the first time
they have a way to make you feel smaller than an ant
.........crawling across a super highway
but they lift you up above the clouds
.........................to drop you
....................past birds
........................for an updraft

Originally published in Wisconsin Review, May 1976.
published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Friday, July 10, 2009


water color on paper

Monday, July 6, 2009

It Was Just a Silly Typo

“Time came and went to fast.”
It gave up hours, minutes, gave up seconds.
It passed up the future, ignored the past.
All transactions pending were suspended.

Time came to seek a place of solitude,
To find a way that it could reckon
With the stationary sun over truths
And other matters it knew could not be answered

In earth’s day to day rotation. It called to
The stars to join them, to stop their dances.
It even asked the Western Wind to lie still
Against the water until it calmed the prancing

Waves. And when all things had bowed to time’s will,
Time rose again and went to have its fill.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

More signs of the time

Saw this in a gift shop on the square in Marietta, Georgia.

Hardwork must have killed someone.

Happy 4th.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Notes on Getting Published

(1) I once sent a group of poems to the Amherst Review. I waited a year to get a response. Finally, almost one year to the day after I sent them, I got a letter saying they wanted to publish one of the poems. I sent them the writer's info and waited again. One year later the issue with my poem was published.

They had left out a word.

(2) The only sure way to get published is to outlast the rejection slips.

(3) The times they are a changin.

Typically, when you send a poem to a literary journal, you can expect to wait anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to get a response. Ideally you can use that time to get your mind off the work you just sent out and turn to other work that needs to be completed and sent out. Then when the to-be-expected rejection letter comes, it's no big deal, because you've already moved on to other things that have assumed greater priority. That let's you get reacquainted with the work that came back. You can look at it objectively and analyze it to determine whether you need to trash it, revise it, or simply find a better match to send it to.

But now we use the Internet to submit our work. Some journals still take three months to decide to tell you no. But one day last week, I got a rejection email 12 hours after I had sent the poems.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I know I haven't posted much about the agonies of editing recently. Wait. Come to think of it I haven't posted much of anything recently. Hmmmm. Well, anyway, as I was saying, I got this gem of a sentence today in an article about feeding an adult dog.

An adult dog's diet can contain up to 50% carbohydrates, including 2.5% to 4.5% fiber, according to the National Research Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies.

.............. let's take a look at that sentence. First of all, it's 30 words. Now 30 words is a long sentence in an article aimed at an audience whose reading skills are defined as basic. The company I'm doing this work for defines basic as high school level. But that may actually be a little high for the general lay audience of adult readers they are trying to reach. When I edit or write for them, I shoot for an eighth grade reading level. (Which has nothing to do with the level of the intelligence of the audience. It only involves the ease with which the audience can take the information in.) The reason I aim for an 8th grade level is that a 6th grade level, which is more accurate, takes more time than they want to pay me for.

But this isn't really about reading level (or how much I get paid). It's about putting information in a sentence the audience can use. Now when we take a look at the sentence, it seems there's some important information in there. How do I know? Because there's a really impressive source being cited. Come on, we all know about the "National Research Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies," don't we?

PROBLEM # 1: Who says this (or "says what," because by the time I get to the end of the sentence I've forgotten what I was being told)? And why am I supposed to believe them? Their name sounds impressive. But who the hell are they? I just formed a group here in Atlanta where the CDC is located. We call ourselves the National Citizen's Healthcare Oversight Committee. Now we're probably going to be able to convince a lot of people about what we say. Why? Because we're right here where the CDC is.

Actually, my group is going to be more successful. Everybody has heard of the CDC. Well, not everybody, but enough. Can I have a show of hands. How many of you out there know what the "National Academies" are, or is it is?

Solution #1: Actually, I happen to know a little bit about both the National Academies and the National Research Council. But I'd have to Google them to be able to tell you who they are and what they do. And there was a paucity of hands raised just a moment ago.

So the first thing to ask as an editor is does the writer explain anywhere in the article who or what these agencies are? No. As a matter of fact, that is the only time their names appear in the article. So the solution seems easy. If you are going to call on an authority to vouch for your claim, then you need to make sure your readers know who that authority is. So the first option is to tell them.

But, no. That's a problem because it's going to take up a lot more space than it warrants and that's going to take the reader farther away from the real point of the article: What kind of dog food should I buy for my dog? (As I type this, Yeats is staring up at me with a hungry look in her eye. But then, she's still a puppy. Puppies are supposed to be hungry.)

The second thing I ask as an editor is do we really need the attribution. The answer is no. This is not a scientific paper for a peer reviewed journal. The website where this article will appear has a major reputation as an authoritative source. And underlying that is a rigorous fact checking and medical review process. Plus they hire good editors who are going to check these things out, even before the article gets to those stages. So we drop the attribution and come up with this:

An adult dog's diet can contain up to 50% carbohydrates, including 2.5% to 4.5% fiber.

Now that's much better. The message is clear with nothing about the National Academies to get in the way. It works because the website and the parent company have believability.

And look at that. I've actually solved two problems. I've cut the sentence in half. It's now just 15 words. A manageable chunk of information.

Problem #2: Yes there is a problem number 2. How do you calculate and confirm those percentages when you buy dog food. And I'll tell you that elsewhere in the article the writer pointed out that coming up with this information is hard because you can't rely on the label. And right. The writer didn't tell the reader how to determine the necessary percentages. Oh, me. An editor's work is never done.

Solution #2: Ignore the problem. Let the readers do some research of their own. You of course know that's not the correct answer. The correct answer is to send the article back to the writer and ask for more information. Taking the attribution out was an editor's call. Explaining how to figure the percentages is a writer's job.

Unfortunately, I didn't send it back. I didn't have time, and this article is part of a major launch, which is scheduled to happen very soon. My decision to let the article go as is was based on the fact that there was enough information in the article to make it useful and interesting and that it was an important part of the launch and needed to get into review. That was step 1 in figuring out a solution. Step 2 was realizing there really isn't enough time to make the article complete. It needs to go into review.

I would never knowingly make that kind of decision with an article that would involve injury. But now you know how articles that are less than perfect end up in print or on the web.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Protecting cyclists

A friend sent me these two awareness tests. Let me know how you do.

Here's the first:

And Here's the second:

Monday, June 29, 2009


I've spent most of the day looking at online literary journals. In particular, I'm looking at what gets published under the heading of poetry. Whenever I do that, I often come away discouraged about the lack of poetry in the poems that actually get published. Today was no exception. I did, though, find a couple of journals I would recommend. One is Boxcar Poetry Review, which has just published it's 20th issue. The other is Blackbird. I'd recommend spending a little time with each of them. And if you do, come back and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Harvard Square

At Au Bon Pain the old men sit around
a table, scratch their noses, and contemplate
the fate of kings and queens then demonstrate
their prowess with a calculated frown.

A young musician plays her violin.
Her notes compete with phrases in the air
and foreign words that jostle through the square
like cups and napkins blowing in the wind.

Beside a tree a great dane lies untended,
doesn’t move for a boy with purple hair,
doesn’t mind a woman lost in prayer,
keeps its head down until, its vigil ended,
it rises when its master says, “Come on.”
Old men in baggy pants exchange their pawns.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

I had a conversation with an artist named Kashley yesterday. He was alone in a gallery in Roswell, Georgia. He had told the owners of the gallery, both of whom had other commitments, that he would mind the gallery for them since he was going to come in and paint there that day anyway. He has a series of limited edition still lifes that are all about cocktails, and he likes to display the original next to the reproduction so that people can see that the reproductions are not digitally enhanced. So he had an original there, and he was painting a new picture.

The pictures are extremely detailed. They include vodka bottles or whiskey bottles. A liquid being poured into a glass. Glass ashtrays. Cocktail glasses with olives in them. I'd seen the work before, and what I admire about it the most is the way he works with the transparency of the glass, the way the light plays through it and then through the liquid, and the way he handles the texture of the surfaces that can be seen through the glass--a table, or a wall, or a fireplace.

It takes him three months to complete one of the paintings. The process begins with staging the still life and taking hundred of pictures of it. Then he takes a month to complete the first rough painting, which he then goes back to and paints over, filling in detail and pulling out color and light. This second painting takes another month. He then repeats the process again, adding more detail and removing brush strokes.

He also does abstracts which grow out of the textures and colors he finds in nature. He's been painting professionally, he told me, since 2006, and he currently has work in galleries in three different states. You can see some of his work on his Web site here, but it's much more impressive when you can see the actual work in front of you.

I enjoy the paintings, and I enjoyed the conversation with him. And I enjoyed watching him work. I have no other reason for telling you about him than that.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Fascinates Me

Ok. Cloudia caught me sitting at my desk and really made me feel guilty with her latest comment on my last post. (If you've never visited her at Comfort Spiral you are really missing something special.)

I promise I'm coming back to the Blogosphere soon. But I have been busy writing articles about the health benefits of having pets, Ewing's sarcoma, DTaP, and the like, and editing articles about things like rheumatoid arthritis or how to get your dog to eat dog food. (My days are simply eclectic.)

But I am coming back. In the meantime I found this little gem by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and thought you might enjoy it. (I was looking for a video of the theme to High Noon, but came across this instead and found it fascinating.) Have fun. And in the meantime, please do not forsake me. . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009


One thing I never shared with you
..........was the moon outside my window
..........when I was a child in August
..........with a chill in the summer air.
It was so clear and white
..........that late at night
..........it had to be closer than it really was.

Published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

Some thoughts about other things

My father was an artist. He used to tell me that anyone could draw. Although, he did manage to let me know that he didn't think I did a very good job at it. He also wasn't very enthusiastic about my poetry when I was a teenager.
My youngest brother and my second son got his talent.

I did enter art work in the fair when I was a kid. I got my share of ribbons. But I never felt like I really understood what my father did when he painted, or worked with clay, or did pieces in enamel.

As a teenager, I liked to work with chalk and also oil pastels. I liked the feel of using my fingers to blend the colors in a sky and on a lake.

I drew pictures once in a while, mainly sketches and doodles, after I became an adult. But I didn't get serious about it again -- and I'm really stretching it to say serious -- until we moved to New Jersey in 2000. Then I started working with watercolors. They were crude, but S liked them and started buying me more paints, pencils, sketch pads. And I kept it up after we moved to Birmingham, Alabama, a year and a half later. I did more pencil sketches than anything. I like to draw.

Two years later we moved back up to Massachusetts, and I lost the incentive. So the art activity (and the photography I'd been getting more and more into) dropped way off. Now that we live in Atlanta, I'm interested in doing more art.

When I was young, I never thought my father was very successful at teaching me to draw, which was strange because for years he taught art to kids in his home on Saturdays, and a number of them went on eventually to study art and take it up as a career. But now when I do pick up a drawing pencil, I can hear him standing behind me telling me I wasn't doing something right and know that I did, after all, learn something.

If you haven't visited Rene at Not the Rockefellers, you should. I feel like I learn something about writing when I read her blog. And I really like her mission statement: "To inspire and encourage others to write freely." It's followed by a wonderful quote from Martha Graham. Check it out at the top of the left hand sidebar.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In Between

Original artwork by the Grandpa

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Deaths and Funerals

She removes a book
From the broken shelf and lets
An envelope fall
From between pages

Then spreads its contents
Before her and counts, twelve red
Petals with a card,
Its message blurred by

Water from greens. She
Opens the Morning
wanting to read again
His name and feel young

Arms suddenly lift
Here from the floor to sway her
To the melodies
She’d thought she’d forgot.

Originally published in Ohio Journal, Autumn 1979.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

I have a new poem scheduled for publication in the July issue of The Chimaera an online "literary miscellany." The poem is "Captain Lee," and it will appear in the journal's Feature Theme section. The Feature Theme for Issue 6 is "poems in well-wrought form."

Monday, June 8, 2009

I've actually seen worse

[The person who sent this list of hospital chart bloopers to the listserve for freelance medical writers I'm on said she couldn't vouch for the veracity of the list. But believe me, I've seen worse. I'm willing to bet these were actually entered on patients' charts. The comments in brackets are mine. Enjoy.]


Actual writings from hospital charts:

1. The patient refused autopsy.
[My mother once called me and left a message saying that my sister-in-law's breast cancer surgery had gone well, my sister-in-law was doing fine, and they'd have the results of the autopsy in a couple of days.]

2. The patient has no previous history of suicides.
[Thank God for that. Hospitals need all the paying patients they can get.]

3. Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

4. She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot
in bed last night.
[Probably sprained something.]

5. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

6. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

7. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
[You think?]

8. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
[It's not me, Doc. It's you.]

9. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

10. Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

11. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

12. She is numb from her toes down.

13. While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

14. The skin was moist and dry.

15. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

16. Patient was alert and unresponsive.

17. Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.
[Sure glad I wasn't the patient!]

18. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got
a divorce.
[That's what happens when the guy you marry turns out to be an absolute s***.]

19. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

20. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

21. Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

22. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

23. Skin: somewhat pale but present.

24. The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

25. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
[I had that once. It seemed to last forever.]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brandy and Poets

For scrambled eggs and bushy haired poets,
A toast with brandy at three a.m.
For piano players and wooden back benches
Stories we’d tell never again.
Brandy and poets and breakfast in bed.

Dreams and words; how we both did know it
Over stingers and bourbons at one a.m.
Impossible dreams, emotional wrenches,
Stories they’d tell of us time and again
When dreamers and poets both dropped over dead.

Originally published in Post Crescent, March 1975.
Published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved.

(Figure I'd better post something. Yesterday I had 0 page hits.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More signs of the times and an apology

Strange, but it seems the swine flu is actually good for the economy. I saw this sign next to a gas station yesterday as we were driving along:

"Hand wash--$10"

Now for the apology. I've not been able to do anything in the blogosphere this past week, not even get to any of your blogs. And I am sincrely sorry for that and know it's my loss. But I'll be back in a few days, and I hope we can pick up where we left off.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More on poetry

Kringle from A Poetic Journey Through Life left a comment on my post about free verse and traditional form and asked to hear my thoughts about what she said. Here's what she said:
I found your post interesting... though I am no expert, I have done a fair amount of studying on the role of poetry and journal writing (I call it personal writing), in the development of the self. In my research I have found there are many reasons persons write... and yet too some of the poetic musings you discuss are related to semantics and syntax. Yet too, for many, poetry is merely an exploration and expression of self that leads to a transcendent place. Common themes I have found are the personal exploration and creation of selfhood through the personal writing. So perhaps part of all of this relates to the writer, the skill, and the purpose by which it is written? I'd appreciate your thoughts..

I think the points she makes are really good. Having taught writing for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time freelancer and having continued over the years by developing new writers as an editor and teaching as an adjunct faculty member, I'm well aware of the role writing plays in self discovery and development. And as a poet, I know the power of exploring poetic expression. One way we create and discover new knowledge is through metaphor, and metaphor is at the very heart of poetic expression.

I know that many people use poetry to both "explore" and "express" self. And there is a very long history and strong tradition of poetry being used in multiple settings as a form of therapy. And whether someone uses poetry as a form of private journaling or in a more formal therapeutic way, there is nothing "mere" (in the sense of limiting or simple) about the act. And anything that helps us achieve some level of transcendence is certainly outside the critical arena I intended that earlier post enter.

But we need to make distinctions. Poetry written as part of a therapeutic program and the lines and metaphors that you and I and millions of other people all over the world scribble into our journals at the end of a day or while sitting with a cup of tea in a coffee shop is not the same as poetry printed or posted on line in literary journals and zines or as poetry in even more mainstream publications. Poems in journals and poems that come out of a course of treatment are private poems. They are not and should not be subject to the same rules and expectations that poems presented as art are subject to. That doesn't mean that poems written in journals and written as therapy can't also be artistic and good. Some are excellent examples of the poetic art. But poems written for publication and for an audience are by definition an art form and can be expected to do certain things. There is a tradition they belong to. There is an ancient history of poetry as art and a history of theory just as ancient. Somehow the poems that are presented as art must carve out their place within that tradition or fall by the wayside. Those were the poems and that was the poetry I was referring to last Monday.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another signs of the time

Went to eat at a new Japanese restaurant today a couple of miles down the road from the house. This sign was on their door:

To our patrons:

We closed between 2:30 and 5 o'clock during the week

The message is clear. But come on. Someone could make a lot of money rewriting signs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I recommend that you find the book Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. I'll blog about why in a day or so. But it's worth finding first.

In the meantime, watch and enjoy. S found it for me. ILY, S.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some thoughts about free verse and traditional form

I've looked at a number of "literary journal" web sites over the last few days reading "sample poems" that reveal the editors' taste. I have to tell you I'm not overly impressed with a lot of what I see. And here is some of my thinking.

First of all, poetry should be something more than prose, or at least something different. And new poetry should do something more than old poetry, or at least something different.

Taking bad prose and breaking it into lines that make it resemble a poem doesn't change the fact that it's still bad prose.

Free verse is not prose broken into lines. Good free verse has structure of some sort and rhythm of some sort.

Free verse means verse that is genuinely "free" to explore language in interesting ways. It should use language in a way that prose doesn't and in a way that traditional form doesn't. It should explore new syntax.

Formal verse and free verse share the same grammar but not the same syntax. But some poets approach free verse as syntax without grammar.

Unless free verse genuinely explores the nature of rhythm of both language and image, it is a lazy approach to writing poetry.

When a person encounters a poem--either through writing it or reading it--that person should ask and attempt to answer -- what is exciting about the poem's language? what is exciting about the way the words are working together?