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Showing posts from January, 2014

One Space After A Period, Not Two

"Kid, what's this I hear about putting only one space after a period?" asked my friend, Karl.

Huh? I said. His question shook me from my reverie. We were sitting in First Edition, our favorite literary bar, for the open mic reading, and I was half-listening to some guy read a short story about how he got into a car accident with former Pacers legend Reggie Miller.

What are you talking about?

"I said, what is this nonsense about putting only one space after a period?" I stared at him blankly. "In writing, you dolt. We're writers. We're sitting in a writer's bar. We're listening to some skinny kid talk about fake car accidents. What else would I be talking about?" Short Story Guy looked up at us from his pages, flustered. His girlfriend shot Karl a dirty look.

So what about it? I said.

"I just heard from my editor yesterday that I'm supposed to be putting only one space after a period at the end of a sentence instead of two.&quo…

One-Sided Conversation With My Computer

"Turn on Speak-To-Text."

"No, not Sprinkle Tattoos, Speak-To-Text! Is Sprinkle Tattoos even a thing?"

"Cancel search."

"Stupid computer, I said turn on Speak-To-Text!"

"No, do not call Sparkle Twinks!"

"Because I don't even know who that is."

"No, I do not want to call my mother!"

"I know I called her last week."

"Speak-To-Text!"

"Speak-To— never mind. Open email."

"Open! Email!"

"Jeez, I can't believe how hard this— no, do not email Jesus."

"Email Paul."

"Not the Apostle. How'd he even get in my contacts?"

"Email Paul."

"Next one."

"Next one."

"Enter."

"Okay, write. 'Hey, Paul, wanted to see if you got those photos I sent you last—'"

"I didn't say send! Stupid computer."

"Email Paul."

"'Paul, sorry about that. I'm trying to use my voice reco…

Another Reason Not To Order Pea Soup

Erik is out of the office this week on a speaking trip. So we're reprinting a column from 2004, in the hopes that he's paying attention when paying his restaurant bill.

If I had to give one important piece of advice today, it would be this:

Tip your waitstaff.

These people are your waiters and waitresses, bartenders and baristas (that’s Italian for"person who pours you a fancy $4 cup of coffee and then has the stones to ask for a tip afterward”). They are the people who have devoted this stage of their career path — and in some cases, their entire careers — to serving you, providing you with nourishment, and ensuring you have a pleasant dining experience.

And yet they do it for less than $2.50 an hour, plus tips. So you would think that diners would remember this, and tip their waitstaff appropriately. Unfortunately, many diners have the keen awareness of a steamed clam, so it’s not very likely.

Here is the basic rule of restaurant tipping: 15% for regular restaurants and…

Just Say No To Lightbulbs

"Welcome to 2014 everyone," said the tweet. "Remember: pot is now legal and lightbulbs aren't."

Russ, the tweet's author, was referring to Colorado's new law allowing recreational marijuana use, and the federal ban on 60 and 40 watt incandescent lightbulbs. Both laws went into effect on January 1st. The ban was part of a 2007 law that eliminated 100 watt incandescents on January 1, 2012, and 75 watt bulbs exactly one year later.

This was a lot different from the 1970s, where we had been frightened by anti-drug films, but used incandescents like they grew on trees. Now, nearly four decades later, everything had been turned on its head. You could buy marijuana for recreational use, but we were about to start a War On Bulbs that could make the War On Drugs look like a slap fight.

I called one of my more disreputable friends who knew about such matters, to see if he could help me find someone to interview for this column. Two hours later, he texted me back,…

LSSU's List of Banned Words for 2014

Some days, the English language is a malleable, ever-changing tapestry. Other days, it's an industrial strength doormat that people wipe their muddy boots on.

Every year, someone — usually someone in the media — coins a term, and it gets overused until people start threatening physical harm to anyone who uses it in their presence.

It's why I love my job.

Because as a writer, December 31st is my Christmas.

This is the 39th year Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has released their List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

It's the day I sit at my computer, humming "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," seeing if any words I love to hate made the list. Not that I actually expect people to quit using them. I just feel morally justified when the offensive words are targeted for extermination.

This year, there were plenty of banned words for me to cheer, a few to feel bad f…