Tag Archives: Blogging

To Whom It May Concern

Sometimes having a blog with your name plastered all over it can hold you back from what’s really on your mind. When personal crises hit, you desperately want to write about them, but you can’t because you feel watched, like anything you say may be used against you. The same holds true for political opinions.

I’ve been a dimsel in damstress. The curl of smoke over my head rises from an existential blast zone that craves discussion, but I stand stupidly speechless. My honesty, phrased as diplomatically as a seasoned observer of crazy can express, has cost me. When a relationship—whether it work, family, friend, or love—demands more of your soul than you are able to give, we have the right to bow out. Wouldn’t someone want to know why? Not if the parties you’re dealing with are controlling, narcissistic, or immature, and you find yourself the target of blame-laced, ego-driven invective. These true colors, in shades of infection, necrosis, and death, cannot be countered. It’s like trying to respond rationally to an internet troll. I make my choices and take my beatdowns. But I will never, ever respond—that’s exactly what they want.

But frankly, this self-imposed whining freeze is getting old.  Thought I’d start with a few minor rants and work my way up.

Clicking around the blogosphere can be painful. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at one blogger’s About page which read ‘I’m a journalist and shit.’ It hit me hard that it’s a different world now, and helps explain the following sparklers seen on my home page…

By journalist who wants to be a pulp fiction writer:
The mayor has journeyed into swamp-like depths to help people stranded in buildings overlooking the murky waters that flooded their homes and their lives.

By journalist assigned the end of the world story:
World survives Maya apocalypse

By journalist covering the NYC subway beat:
Man faints in NYC subway, not struck by train

We have these ‘After 5’ walks in my town where the shops stay open late. Here’s a press release that showed up in my inbox a few months ago:

Xxxx Originals Gallery is having a Spring Fling and tossing out artwork at incredible prices! New artwork is on the way so we’re flinging out anything that’s been just sitting around. This is a great time to pick up fabulous deals on really spectacular artwork. So come in to the gallery and catch the deals we’re flinging out the door!

So where’s the What Not to Say to Starving Artists article?

I don’t agree with people who insist that humankind doesn’t have choices. If it is the custom of a culture to beat women, and for the acceptance of this to be passed down to sons and daughters, that may make them good citizens, but not good humans. Your culture is not an excuse for your cruelty. If beating, burning, cutting, raping, or murdering your wife or daughters, or the wife or daughters of your neighbors is the custom, and people defend it as that, then we may as well throw the words good and bad right out of the dictionary.

We saw these three beautiful babies on Carr Canyon Road about two weeks ago and stopped to let them cross. The mother had already crossed—but there must be several.

My yard’s been full of cactus wrens this year. They’re not usually so gregarious. Look at this silly nest they built on the tip of a branch—it barely contained them.

I’m fascinated by what people have in their refrigerators, especially when I’m asked to clean them. I arranged this little composition that I think covers all the food groups.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen a ghost bike, on a nearby rural road.

My town recently got its first pot dispensary. Some people with medical marijuana cards are annoyed though, because they’re no longer allowed to grow a few plants in their yard, but must patronize this place and pay big bucks. If you live within 25 miles of a dispensary, you have to do business there.

Our precious hardwoods are being defoliated by caterpillars. I think they’re webworms but please correct me because it’s hard to find pictures that look exactly like this. Plus, there are about three different kinds eating the trees—green, yellow, and black.

Check out their suction-cup feet, perfectly designed to climb trees and eat them. They’re everywhere, in house, driveway, yard, laundry shed. At first I thought they were cute—until there were thousands.

Caterpillars in driveway with their scat, which is also everywhere.

This enormous western polyphemus moth was found already dead in a customer’s garage on Carr Canyon Road, a Coronado Nat’l Forest road near Sierra Vista.

This javelina came right up to our car, then stalked off when we didn’t feed it. I think javelinas are beautiful and mysterious, like all wild animals, but I just read there is an aggressive pack in Tucson that is slated to be shot. This is what happens when animals’ habitat is destroyed by humans.

I saw this regal horned lizard in my yard just a few weeks ago. Kind of a rare sighting, they’re only found in southeastern AZ and Mexico.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year, in fact it’s not quite over. I’ve never seen this many tiny frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There was even a huge barn owl couple who sat on the street wires all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats shift takes over and drains the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s awesome.

We’ve had a incredible monsoon this year. I’ve never seen this many frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, bats, birds, rabbits. There were even two huge barn owls who sat on the street wires every night all summer and made these funny shrieking sounds. The hummingbirds go to bed at nightfall, then the Mexican long-tongued bats take over and drain the feeder, which I refill in morning. Every night I stepped closer and closer to the bats, to where I can stand within a few feet of them. It’s so awesome.

Unplugged

I’m just a soul whose intentions are good…oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.
(Not written by, but made tearfully famous by Eric Burden in 1965)

Changes. They’re harder when we get older but are often worth the struggle. I just got back from a week in CT, my home state. A family member I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years called because she needed me. I did not hang up on her, I got on a plane. A highly emotional reconciliation and physically demanding visit followed. It was wonderful. I have been telling people all my life I have no family but now that has changed, and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She had me ROFL when she said, in all earnestness, “well you know you come from a long line of over-reacters.” Ha ha, like you don’t? I laughed so hard I fell off the couch.

I spent the week ‘unplugged,’ my first since the beginning of the computer age. No email, no google, no Trayvon, no bitter news to keep me in a constant state of agitation. (First thing I read when I got back though was this unholy alliance between Hollywood and Washington. It’s always been there, but this spectacle splashed all over front pages everywhere makes me sick in a whole new way—two professional groups of liars teaming up, a powerful fusing of the sordid with the corrupt. America, running on a currency of lies and coverups is now one big hateful reality show. Incontinent conservatives, please stop! You’re HELPING him!) But my hiatus was freeing, and had begun before I left. Too ashamed to dispense my moody posts, too involved in my own demise to comment on others. I apologize to my friends for neglecting you, but I do not sparkle with wit and humor, I crackle with confrontation and cynicism.  My friend Harry from The Fool Folds his Arms had these wise words:  I sometimes wonder if the Internet was invented to keep people occupied and passive while the powerful continue to chip away at what little they don’t control already. Well put Harry.

When I got home I learned of two shocking deaths here in AZ. The first was an older woman I adored, cancer. It happened fast and I didn’t know and I still can’t believe it.

The second was the untimely death of a young man whom I had struck from my life because of his cruelty toward his animals. I grew to hate him. I will not miss him but I am not glad he is gone. Like wishing for revolution and getting it, then cowering as the new regime inflicts more aggression and brutality than the last, I can’t know what will replace him. His (very nice) family is dumping the house cheap. Is it wrong of me to feel in my heart it’s about to get worse? No, it is merely experience speaking for me—I can’t unknow the past. Does the deletion of a selfish person add balance to the world? Absolutely not. It doesn’t work that way.

Here are a few pictures from around town this week.

I tried to research this bird but could not be sure what it is. Can anyone help? Saw him along the San Pedro River.

We don’t get many bluebirds in my neighborhood so this was a treat. He hung around for a few days and now he’s gone. But the exotic orioles are beginning to arrive, and they too, are just passing through. Time to buy oranges. The swallows are back and rebuilding their porch light nest with great dedication and style.

Funny young pigeon watching me at a customer’s house. I was so flattered how close he let me come to him.

These new solar panels in the historical part of town have got everyone’s panties in a twist. Irate letters to the local papers abound…’the town wouldn’t let me put a carport in because it wasn’t historical!’ and ‘why didn’t you make them put the panels IN BACK OF the inn?’ etc., etc. Now I learn they are selling the power generated from these back to the power company. What do you think?

Look familiar? Although not the exact model as “Christine,” they used several models in the movie and this ’59 Plymouth Savoy was one of them. I love the flag on the antenna. Don’t see many American flags around here.

 

The Month in My Sepulchral World

It’s not that I don’t have much to say, rather too much. Most Americans know that something is very wrong.  I’m so troubled by all of it, and it manifests in avoidant behavior.  At least I’m self-whiny though, and try not to inflict it on others, so I anesthetize with work, books, and Netflix.

‘Uncivilization’ coming soon to a town near you
I’ve been reading about ‘preppers,’ millions of Americans who are preparing for the worst.  There are over a million hits for advice, a disturbing gauge of our anxiety as a nation. Preppers believe America is headed for a social, environmental, or financial meltdown. They’re buying generators and storing food, similar to survivalists but they don’t live in the wilds of Montana, they live in the cities and suburbs of America. If I could afford it I’d do the same—every day the news warns us of major upheaval.  Here on the border many folks say your best investment is ammo. Can’t say I disagree.

The CruelPhone5
All this news about iPhones manufactured in China under wretched conditions, and they blame it all on the insatiable Americans. I don’t know one person who could afford a $700 phone. If they didn’t hype these phones, wouldn’t people be content with the amazing phones they already have? Apple has a million reasons for making them in China, many of them absurd. In the end it always comes down to the greedy Americans who won’t work for $17 a day and live in dorms with 20 people sleeping in one room. There’s a high rate of suicide among Chinese workers, so the company sprang into action and installed nets along stairways so they can’t jump off the buildings. Thanks Foxconn and Apple, your compassion is heartwarming.

Yummy!
I was going to make a joke about the word pizzle (steer or other animal penis) and offal (entrails of butchered animals) but I discovered that steer pizzles are a popular dog chew, prepared by stretching, twisting and drying the organ. Here are some quotes from sites that sell them:

♦  The rich flavor and crunchy texture keeps dogs chewing for hours!
  The first time I had Coco sniff one her eyes got big and tail wagged and
she’s been nuts for them since!
  Pizzle stick blowout! ValueBull Jumbo 20% off!

I read further and found many recipes for pizzle and other entrails. One recipe said  first, slice the pizzle open along its length and remove the urethra. That might make your stomach lurch but if an animal has given us its life, the least we can do is eat all of it. What I can’t stand is animals like seals being killed to make powdered pizzle, as well as other species nearing extinction because some cultures believe their horns or other body parts will do everything from increasing virility to warding off evil. Chemical tests show the body parts have no medicinal effect—the pizzle I guess just tastes good.

Boyfriend Story (sorry, the drivel made me do it!)
I dated this baker once, Bob “Shortcake” Pizzelle.  Little guy, looked like a breadstick. He was flaky though, and had this constant glazed look. He kept promising to whisk me away but it was always some half-baked scheme—we weren’t exactly rolling in dough. He was crusty about it and we had a big fight. When he called me an old baguette I had to batter him and insert into a preheated oven. He was pretty mad even though I deliberately undercooked him. As I walked out I heard him whimper, ‘don’t leave, I knead you!’ Forget it, you crumb, this little tart is done.

Insight and Faith
My philosophy has always been to carry on no matter what. Two extraordinary  friends have inspired me recently, their convictions more powerful than any new-age notion promising to autotune your life in five easy steps. It doesn’t work that way. One friend, devastated after just losing her job of 15 years writes:
My circumstances may change greatly, but I’m more than mere circumstances, and knowing that will be my saving grace.

My other friend sent this:
I-91, somewhere between Nowhere and Not Much
Infinite stars on a fine night to ride with a thousand wishes
May we still have the faith to make wishes, and the focus and fortune to be led by their light.

Thank you both for inspiring me, and to all who continue to fight the good fight.

I usually hate all pictures of myself, but I like this one. We met some people on the shooting range who invited us home. We sat around their tiny trailer and drank beer and talked for hours. Look—they even gave me a glass. Barely visible is my .327 Taurus revolver on my hip. When I got my CCW I had to go back a couple times because they couldn’t get clear fingerprints. The sheriff’s department explained that the chemicals I use to clean houses has worn away my prints—it happens. We believe that the right to bear arms is about protecting ourselves from both crime AND the government.

Old wood and rubber wheel in their yard. It was attached to some strange metal thing, like part of a train. We can’t date this or determine whether it was a wooden wheel ‘modernized’ with rubber, or if it was built this way. If you know, please tell me. Note the cut-line in the wooden rim, we think this is how they adjusted the wheel.

The trailer we visited—Arizona livin’ on the cheap.

The Difference between Satire and Sarcasm

I stay away from commenting on political blogs because I have to watch my blood pressure. But reading a friend’s blog the other day, I saw a commenter heckling the writer with sarcasm. The writer maintained civility, but finally told the commenter how rude he was. At this point I entered the fray and tried to explain to the commenter that we do want to hear what you have to say, but can’t take sarcastic comments seriously. The commenter’s reply was this:

“Sarcasm is a great tool when debating politics. Where would we be without satirists in this country? Its use works quite well. While it may irritate some, its purpose is to illustrate the ridiculousness some adhere to without peering beyond their particular veiled perspective.”

The commenter probably thinks he really taught me a lesson. He did, but not the one he intended. I know from experience that when people are scornful and sarcastic, you must let them have the last word, so I did not point out that these two words are not interchangeable. If you battle a sarcastic commenter, it will never end.

There’s a reason great satirists of the world are beloved. Think Ambrose Bierce, Oscar Wilde, H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Heller, Tom Lehrer, Woody Allen, Christopher Guest, Monty Python, The Onion. Satire is intended to educate, make a point, or show absurdity in a brilliant, witty, and humorous manner. Sarcasm is what gets you sent to your room, embroiled in a bar fight, or fired. Sarcasm is wounding and is a favorite tool of bullies. Satire and sarcasm are the difference between the Wall Street Journal and a tabloid, Masterpiece Theatre and Jersey Shore, leadership and tyranny.

It’s also the most overused and ineffective device used by Internet commenters who are full of their own perceived superiority. I can think of no worse way to get someone to see your point of view than sarcasm. It’s not funny, not clever, not gracious. It’s what ten-year-olds having a tantrum do, what married couples who hate each other do, or what the co-worker nobody in the office can stand does. No good can come of it because it’s intended to be humiliating rather than constructive. Here you are desperately trying to win people over, and all you’re doing is further alienating them.

I am open to discussing politics without fury, with a rational, intelligent communicator. Sarcastic comments put your immaturity on display for all the world to see. It’s right up there with showing the top of your G-string above your jeans or spitting a wad of phlegm in public.

The Week in My Infotoxic World 11-8-11

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The Information Abuse Superhighway

Are you as afraid to look at your homepage as I am? Is the entire planet contaminated by a rapidly spreading virus composed of computer-enhanced human ignorance? There’s a sense of malaise around the internet, with some bloggers questioning what we’re doing here. Part of the helplessness many of us feel is a side effect of the filter bubble, an algorithm-driven defilement used by major search engines to collect and control every one of our keystrokes. Google keeps harassing me to “customize” my news, so I can skip those offensive alternative viewpoints. Quite a change from the “fair and balanced news” MSM boasted just ten years ago.  Controlling our exposure to information serves to isolate both sides and is deadly to human development. It’s one of the worst things to come out of technology, period. A nanny Internet goes a step further than a nanny government, it paralyzes our minds. We don’t know where to turn for truth, for hope, or for compromise.

The infection is also spread by Smartphones and Twitter and laptops. I just read a reasonable post by a successful person on a subject that interested me—but his ever-constant Twitter feed displays a much less relatable, and less interesting, persona. Why do I need to see personal minute-by-minute updates when I came to read an essay? He was heading down to the Occupy protest in his city. I was going to comment. Discuss. Interact. Now, I’m not. I’m Occupied-out and not impressed.

Nowadays I read my home page for one reason: in the morning to find out if we’re going to make it through the day, and in the evening to see if we’ve made it through the day. How close to me are the quakes, floods, fires, bombs…how close are the US mobs defecating on American flags, how close to my home on the border is the latest drug-cartel slaughter. I’m afraid to even click on a link on my homepage, because it changes what I see on my homepage within minutes. It’s literally useless.

Many live in filter bubbles of their own making, it’s so very obvious and easy to see in a certain area of the town I live in. The personalized info-smog makes it a snap to remain unchallenged by creating a world of denial. I don’t want to choose sides and then have propaganda shoved down my throat. Fight the filter bubble by choosing what you read yourself. Don’t let search engines decide for you.

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I’m irritated with academic-types this week because they manage to plant  snide snippets of their political views into venues where they have no business doing so. In no way should any reference book reflect the personal, especially political, opinion of its contributors. It should not be tolerated but it is, it is. I have little recourse but to resort to negative fantasy…

The Professors

Two English professors were co-writing a scholarly paper regarding the etymologies of words describing difficult people. They passed the manuscript back and forth with notes attached through interoffice mail.

The professors began arguing over the word ‘stubborn,’ whose uncertain origins date back to the 14th century. The first professor called the second professor an ‘obstinate oaf’ to which the second retorted ‘recalcitrant rube.’ The notes began to get ugly. The second professor’s temper finally got the better of him. ‘I will not tolerate such pertinacious disrespect!’ he gasped as he marched into the first professor’s lovely walnut-paneled office and stabbed him through the heart with a medieval dagger.

Well, so much for the old saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’!

Surviving the Nonjudgmental

The word judgmental is the spiritually-correct label of shame. Apparently the reasoning is this: it’s not judgmental to say that a person who committed an act of cruelty did a bad thing, but it is judgmental to say that the person who committed the act is a bad person.

In a world of 7 billion people, many behaving badly, being judgmental is a survival skill as well as a cause of suffering within a social structure. But a truly nonjudgmental person would not support taking sides, so in our daily lives, being judgmental is unavoidable if we have values that guide us. A man who beats children or animals can’t be a good person in some unidentified way we just haven’t tried hard enough to find.

Wild Bill wrote last week of rescuing a dog whose owner had tied cinder blocks to it and dumped it in a lake. I am judgmental because I freely base a person’s (the abuser and all like them) entire worth on a single act, even though there are several million articles that say this is the wrong way to live.

Every day, judgments are made in millions of blogs, news articles, and comment sections. News articles are passively judgmental while commenters are viciously so. People who consider themselves nonjudgmental encourage public condemnation of Christians, atheists, conservatives, liberals, smokers, alcoholics, yuppies, welfare mothers, celebrities, adulterers, prostitutes, or anyone who does or doesn’t share our beliefs. We are judgmental out of jealousy, poverty, wealth, frustration, self-preservation, compassion—just about any emotion or life stage imaginable. It is not possible to ask humans to not be human, the lesson to be learned is in our reactions.

I am pleasant to everyone I meet but that doesn’t mean I want to fraternize, it means I want to live. I don’t publicly denigrate or feel superior, I judge. Every single one of us knows people we think are useless, mean, difficult, stupid, or annoying. If you’ve never had contact with someone and then said to yourself, “what an asshole,” then you can join the rest of the people on the head of the pin who are candidates for sainthood.

There are so many interpretations of this word that it’s become one more smarmy term whose reputation can’t be lived up to. I judge this word meaningless.

A Whole New Kind of Politically Incorrect

Sometimes I speak to men and women just as a little girl speaks to her doll. She knows of course that the doll doesn’t understand her but she creates for herself the joy of communication through a pleasant and conscious self-deception. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

In these times of poverty, foreclosures, fear, and anger, most people are somehow able to afford Smartphones and Kindles. I understand that Kindles come with a dictionary, with larger downloadable versions available should the default not be adequate. I envy those with Smartphones and the ability to quickly research any question on their mind no matter where they are. When I am reading a book I am never far from a dictionary, but what a joy it must be to have a Smartphone handy instead of a cumbersome tome.

Yet we are not smarter. Our vocabularies dwindle as abbreviated text and computer-driven writing advice increases. Error-ridden blogs, newspapers, and even books are now acceptable. I just read a post that began: So here’s some info about a blogging workshop I’ll be facicilitating next week. With a facicilitator like this, would you sign up?

We fear appearing intelligent. In a world of flamers, trolls, and Wall Street Occupiers, we don’t want to stand out. Eloquence has become politically incorrect. We’re afraid we’ll be seen as arrogant if we use any more than the several thousand words used by teenagers, if we publish works that we proofread first, or if we dare use a word that the least articulate reader may not know. We’re uneasy asking readers to learn something new. What a drag.

We need not pen periphrastic phrases or long-winded circumlocutions, recondite riddles or abstruse analogies, bombastic observations or cryptic correspondence. But I say, writers (and speakers): mutiny against the mundane. Not by making a spectacle of your composition with specious synonyms that have strayed from the concept you are trying to convey, but by choosing from the powerful array of options available to us all. Our language is the richest in the world. Lexicographers are reluctant to report a number, but with derivatives and inflections it is estimated to be around a million words.

We are free to describe our thoughts with unimaginable ardor, animation, and artistry. If readers are insulted by this, you have no need to apologize. Instead, instruct them how to use their Smartphones for something productive.

The Week in My World 9-23-11

The gnawing of homesickness abrades—not for my native home, but for someplace that feels like home. But whether inspiration to act is born of ecstasy or sorrow, the result is the same—you are moved to discover resourcefulness you didn’t know you had.

Finding Love in Arizona

The two dogs rescued from my neighbors have been adopted into wonderful homes. I continue to keep a close watch on the yard, which right now is blissfully empty. But there are thousands more animals hanging on to life in similar hells. All mammals have an instinctive will to live. I am researching how to approach schools to talk about how to care for animals. There are scripts to be learned and protocols to follow.

A Story to Share with My Victims

I promise never to use the word share unless it’s to share buried treasure, my bed with dogs and cats, or pizza with a friend. I promise to never share news, an absurd encounter, or personal confessions. Those, I’ll just flat out tell you. Leave the word share for something tangible, like your meal or your toys. You may not notice the almost imperceptible cringe of a polite person when you say you have a story to share, but it’s there.

The Trials of Tag Surfing

A good way to show disrespect to your readers is frequent use of the following phrases:

As I said  •  as I said before  •  like I said    as many of you know    as I mentioned before    I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while    I haven’t posted in a while and for this I deeply apologize    now I know a lot of people will be surprised about this revelation  •  everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about  •  if you know me then you know that when I  •  it’s a well-known fact that I do not like…

All these phrases do is highlight your ego.

Was it a Girl Shad or a Boy Shad?

Before personal computers existed, I ran a typesetting shop for 12 years. My job was not to edit, but to set the type for a variety of businesses—but naturally I corrected errors. One of my clients was the Griswold Inn, a historic restaurant and inn in Essex, Connecticut. The inn changed its menus frequently and was a steady customer.

The owner at the time was a wealthy businessman from New York who used pompous phrases such as “I’ll see you in a fortnight” or “ring me up” or “it’s frightfully good.” Brochures outlining the inn’s history were available in the lobby, typeset and printed long before I came on board. The owner wanted to make some revisions and asked me to re-typeset the brochure. As I was typing it and fixing the usual errors made by careless typesetters (and careless business owners who sign off on proofs before printing), I came across a howler I will never forget. The copy explained how the inn was situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, and it read:

In the spring, when the androgynous shad swim upstream to spawn…

There, in a haughty Connecticut town full of extravagant homes, luxury cars, sumptuous sailboats, and trust-fund kids, not one person had ever reported the fact that shad are anadromous. I fixed the ridiculous blunder and never said a word.

The Awkward Alsatian

Before restaurants started creating their own menus with computers, they were a primary source of work for typesetters. Owners were often difficult to work with, and would insist I set the copy exactly as they had written it. One testy man from Alsace, France, was not a native speaker. His menu read: I welcome you to sample the flavors of my region. This struck me as both distasteful and hilarious, but there it stood.

Life’s Rich Knots

Your Friend’s Problems

A friend of mine allowed a 35-year-old man to park his RV on her property and hook up to her facilities in return for the completion of an agreed-upon punch list of work. The man had broken up with his wife and lost his job and blah blah boo hoo.

Six months later he has yet to fulfill his obligations and my friend claims she has asked him to leave. Since his truck is in a thousand pieces in her garage, I don’t see this happening without a sheriff.

I disliked him from the first day I met him. He’s a pathological know-it-all with the personality of a blister. He talks about himself obsessively, borrows my friend’s car, and walks into her house anytime he pleases. As he’s sucking up her electricity and hot water using her washer and dryer, he’s complaining about her cigarette smoke. I was curt with him until, in respect to my friend’s wishes, she asked for my cooperation.

A month ago he reconciled with his wife and moved her in without first asking permission. The wife does nothing but sleep and assist her husband in relating pathetic tales of woe. They are accomplished con artists.

I have since stopped speaking to him and his self-aggrandizing logorrhea is met only by my cold glare. My friend does not want to provoke them, so I must seethe quietly. At times I must get up and leave or I will explode in fury.

Our role in a friendship is often difficult to define. Is a friend’s job to empathize, yet remain a detached third party? Isn’t it natural to feel outrage when a friend reports exploitation or abuse? But at whom—the abuser or the victim? Maybe some people have a subconscious desire to be a doormat, or maybe I do not know how to be a friend.

Subscriber Button Drama

WordPress keeps trying to social-mediatize us. They took the Subscribe by email button off and replaced it with Follow at the top of the page. So many people complained that they returned the subscribe button, but with an obnoxious update—it announced to the world how many subscribers you have. Blogging is not Facebook. We are not here to play Farmville or Mafia Wars or endure the anxiety of publicly accumulating “followers.” Many blogs are specialized, personal outlets, and discussion is our goal. How many subscribers we have is nobody’s business but our own. I just now noticed that the number of subscribers information is gone, so thank you WordPress for listening to your flock.

A Little Antidote

I once worked for two Connecticut veterinarians. They were specialists in conditions other vets were stumped by, and charged usurious fees for consultations. One day as I was assisting one of the doctors in a poisoning case, he said to the client, “don’t worry, we’ll find the right anecdote.” I didn’t understand how relating a clever account of a humorous incident would help the dog one bit.

New Word Rants—Don’t Kill the Messenger

Oxford University Press periodically publishes new words, and they recently announced a small sampling from the list of 400 new words that appear in the now-available twelfth edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. These words will not appear in print for a while in OUP’s flagship American dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary, as the 3rd edition was just released last fall (with the addition of about 2,000 new words and senses), but updates are available online. As I browse blogs, I encounter indignant rants from folks who just don’t get it.

I am proud to be part of the New Words Program. Each month, a group of readers submit 20 new words. Our job is to read, read, read—and though we are all assigned specific subjects, any new submissions are accepted. Sometimes we find older words that slipped through the cracks, sometimes new senses of old words emerge. OUP in no way inserts as actual entries all the submissions they receive—after the group submits them, the lexicographers further research them to determine the number of times they are used in everyday language.

So you’re mad that “sexting” went in. Lexicographers don’t create new words or make judgments on their suitability, unless they are considered too obscene. The lexicographer’s job is to record the language. If they don’t define new words, the dictionary becomes stagnant and unhelpful to a person needing a definition. Without new words, we’d still be speaking like we did hundreds of years ago. Many words become dated or archaic as new words dominate our culture. That’s progress.

If millions of idiots are sexting every day, it has to be in the dictionary. I’ve read angry posts calling for a stop to this—this is the downfall of English! They’re ruining our language! No, they’re not—our culture is. What they don’t realize is hundreds of new words are defined each year from the fields of technology, science, medicine, computers, government, cosmetics, mental diseases, weather catastrophes, fashion, architecture, culture, and a host of other subjects. Note that not long ago, even “blog” was a new word, and someone had to research it and make a decision whether to insert it as an entry. I wonder if the people who are now fuming about “retweet” were also mad about “blog” ten years ago.

Yes, some new words are a sad reflection of our times, but a dictionary has no need to apologize. If you don’t want to see sexting in the dictionary, then make it obsolete. If you don’t want to see jeggings, stop wearing them. If you can put an end to cyberbullying, then we won’t have to record it. If you don’t want to see social media terms in, then check your obsession with Facebook and Twitter. Because this is what people do, it must be documented. If these words bother you, there are still hundreds of thousands of other exquisite words in our beautiful language you can use to express yourself.