Archive for December, 2010

While perusing the final pages of my 2010 version of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, I came across this saying for the entry of December 30, “A red sun has water in his eye”.

Apparently, this bit of folksy lore means that rain is to be expected if the sun at sunrise or sunset appears red.

Sunrise here in the northern Virginia area came yellow so we’re precipitation free today.

Cruising the Internet came up with other bits of weather saying including:

  1. When the walls are more than unusually damp, rain is expected.
  2. The further the sight, the nearer the rain.
  3. Clear moon, Frost soon.
  4. When deer are in gray coat in October, expect a severe winter.
  5. Much noise made by rats and mice indicates rain.
  6. Anvil-shaped clouds are very likely to be followed by a gale of wind.
  7. If rain falls during an east wind, it will continue a full day.
  8. A light yellow sky at sunset presages wind. A pale yellow sky at sunset presages rain.

Curious how you don’t hear much folklore anymore. Probably has something to do with all the Doppler8000 and StormWatchCenter technology that local meteorologists use to tell us, with 50 percent accuracy, that there may or may not be rain today.

My favorite piece of weather forecasting technology is the Weather Rock.

Great thing is…it’s never wrong.


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Continuing on my quest to complete The Post Puzzler No.36, the Sunday crossword puzzle from The Washington Post (which is much harder than the puzzle found in the Post’s Sunday magazine), here is where I stand after week 2:

Week 2 - 18 Answers

So how did I get here…

14 Down – The clue was “Surgical glove material”. Most are made from latex

25 Across – The clue was “Unlike a taskmaster”. Since the opposite of a taskmaster is someone who is easy, I needed a synonym for easy ending with “x” from latex, which is lax.

13 Down – The clue was “Sometime spitter”. I know my Discovery Channel documentaries (or at least epsiodes of Dirty Jobs) and know that it is the llama that spits.

21 Across – The clue was “Oil source”. With the “e” from Odie, the “m” from llama, and the “e” from latex, I was able to surmise sesame.

I decided to move on to another portion of the puzzle.

48 Across – The clue was “Hawaiian harvest”. This is a staple of crossword puzzles as any four-letter answer dealing with Hawaii is taro.

40 Down – The clue was “Rode the bench”. The “Rode” in the clue means that the verb that is the answer is also in the past tense. To “ride the bench” in an athletic contest is to “sit” and the past tense is sat.

I went back to the upper-right corner.

7 Down – The clue was “Graf’s other half”. The Graf here is tennis player Stefanie Graf, who is married to Andre Agassi.

18 Across – The clue was “Really getting to”. With the “a” from Agassi, the “i” from Odie, the “a” from llama, and the “t” from latex – and plus the fact that I have been married for over fifteen years – the answer of “nagging at” was easy.

27 Across – The clue was “Utterer of famous opening words”. This one tricked me at first because I was trying to come up with names of characters who said famous opening words (e.g., Ishmael from Moby-Dick), but then I turned the clue around to wonder about words that actually opened up items. Famous words that open include “Open Sesame” as said by Ali Baba.

6 Down – The clue was “Appliance accompaniers”. I work with computers. They come with manuals. I used to work at a help desk and more than once wanted to shout “RTFM“.

8 Down – The clue was “Carrier puller”. In only had the “g” in nagging at to work with, but I figured that Carrier meant an aircraft carrier and a boat worthy of pulling such a craft would be a tugboat, or tug for short.

11 Down – The clue was “Trash collectors”. I put out my bins every Sunday and Wednesday nights.

6 Across – The clue was “Knaidel”. I had no idea what this words means. Now, I could have gone to Google for assistance, but I am adamant not to use the Internet to help me with this puzzle. However, with the “m” from manuals, “a” from Agassi, “t” from tug, “o” from Odie, “b” from bins, “l” from llama, and “l” from latex, I was brought back to my friend regaling me with tales from his Passover seder and drooling over his grandmother’s matzo ball soup.

Man…this is going to take a while.

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Continuing an earlier rant about the laziness of journalists, I will add this vial of vileness to the list of journalistic sins – the anonymous source.

Now this person disagrees with me and sees the necessity of the anon.source, but this person (who knows a thing or two about the news business) calls the practice evil.

The lastest silliness of the anon.source comes from an article in the December 24, 2010, edition of The Washington Post. Entitled “2 hurt by package bombs in Rome”, the story uses two versions of the anon.source.

The instance used in the 17th paragraph is used frequently, the candid anon.source:

An FBI official in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly said that the attempts…

This is just a fancy way of having the source say “I could fired by saying this because it goes against policy, but…”

How do you as a reader even know that the anon.source is actually a FBI official? If the person can’t even speak candidly without attaching their name, how do you know the source is credible?

The other instance, used in 15th paragraph, is laughable:

In Washington, an official with the Department of Homeland Security who was tasked with giving the U.S. government’s response said,…

They can’t even name the person giving the response?

Why the secrecy? Why can’t the reader know who this person is? Was the person “tasked” simply the the closest DHS intern available (“Here Jimmy, read this text“) or was it Janet Napolitano?

This type of anon.source does a disservice to the reader because how can we judge the credibility of what is being said when we don’t know who is saying it.

As Al Neuarth states in this article,

It’s so simple. Most anonymous sources often tell more than they know. Reporters who are allowed to use such sources sometimes write more than they hear. Editors too often let them get away with it. Result: Fiction gets mixed with fact.

The only way to win the war against this evil is for journalists at all levels to ban all anonymous sources.

Until or unless we do, the public won’t trust us, and we put the First Amendment in jeopardy.

And you know he means it, because he put his name next to those words.

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Man of Magic

A day late, but let me pay homage to what would have been the 100th birthday of American modernist poet, Charles Olson.

Anyone who can tackle Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, as he did in Call Me Ishmael, and live to tell the tale is either insane or a genius.

As a sample of his genius, I offer this link to his poem, Bagatto.

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As a father of three kids, I am quite familiar with the line of Berenstain Bears books as they were a common pick for story time before bed.

One of the books, The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With School, ending with the lesson that it was never too late to correct a mistake.

Apparently, the folks at The Washington Post feel the same way. The Decermber 24, 2010, edition of the paper ran this clarification on page B4

The Dec. 25, 2009, obituary of sportscaster George Michael included a quotation from a 1984 Washington Post article in which Michael said his first wife, Patricia Michael, “ran away to Mexico with an 18-year-old.”

Patricia Michael recently contacted The Post to dispute the accuracy of that statement. She said she had traveled to Mexico alone and, upon her return, was unable to reconcile with her husband. They were later divorced.

What I find interesting about this situation is how did Patricia discover this item that needed clarification and when did she discover it.

How long did it take her to finally decide to contact the Post and try to set the record straight? Did she ever think of letting the quote just slide?

On the other side, how long has the Post known about Patricia Michael’s request for a clarification? Is there a minimum time limit the paper has to print a clarification?

Are there some things that should simply be left alone or should one always strive to set it right. I’m pretty sure I know what Papa Bear would say.

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Posting New Words

I have written before about the need for a proofreader in certain conditions. I certainly have done my own goofing up in the lexicon department as I have fallen prey to the tyranny of the spell check. Certain words may be spelled correctly, but may not be used in the proper context – such as “there”, “their”, and “they’re”.

However, at least when I use the spell check feature, that functionality catches words that are completely made up.

Apparently, the headline writers of The Washington Post do not use the spell check function. Below is the headline from the front page of the December 26, 2010 edition:

12/26/2010 Washington Post front page

Please note the sub-headline reads “Timing Promps Ethics Questions”.

Promps? Promps?!?

What kind of word is promps?

Dictionary.com has no entry for promps.

Gee, could the Post have been looking to use the word “prompts“?

So the next time the Post feels the need to tweak a politican for creating new words, they should take a long hard look in the mirror.

Maybe that would promp some self-reflection (tee hee).

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Once again, allow me to dive into my randomly generated favorite number, 36, and see where it takes us.

I enjoy crossword puzzles and one of my favorite weekly activities is to tackle the puzzle in The Washington Post. The Post, a few months ago, started publishing a new puzzle, The Post Puzzler, and I find it much more challenging than the puzzle placed in the paper’s Sunday magazine.

So, when Puzzle No.36 came out last week, I though it would be an interesting idea to see how quickly I could finish it.

Well, after two weeks, I wish I could have found an easier number to try and tackle.

Week 1 - 5 Answers

Wow – only five clues solved.

10 Down clue was “Pet of Doc Boy‘s brother”. Doc Boy’s brother is John Arbuckle, who owns two pets – one of which is Odie

24 Down clue was “Conan airer”. Conan refers to Conan O’Brien whose new show airs on TBS.

29 Down clue was “Google co-founder Sergey”. His last name is Brin.

33 Across clue was “Top”. With the “S” in TBS and the “R” in Brin, I was able to surmise that the answer was surpass. It’s a guess, but I’m going with it.

50 Across clue was “Fantasy Island’s owner”. Played expertly by Ricardo Montalban, that character’s last name was Roarke.

(Although I just realized I spelled his name wrong on my crossword puzzle….I’ll change that.)

Let’s see how long it takes me to solve this one.

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