Eewww, gross! A comma splice!

A discussion in which several friends are taking part over on Facebook inspired me to revive and repost this seven-year-old rumination on comma splices and more. It’s from my now-mothballed “dr. shill” blog (Oct. 22, 2010).


The comma splice is among the most loathsome of errors. It should be wiped off the face of the earth with extreme prejudice. No, I’m not kidding.

They say post-apocalyptic cockroaches will inherit the earth. Sometimes I think comma splices will give them a run for their money.

On a beautiful fall day recently, my colleague Dr. Rhonda Sprague came to observe my teaching. From our third-floor lab, one could still see a good deal of flaming red and yellow foliage along Briggs Street as it ran to a dead end just outside our class.

As I reviewed the concepts behind identifying and avoiding comma splices, I mentioned to my students that comma splices increasingly creep into newspaper writing, especially at smaller newspapers and in quoted material.  Dr. Sprague startled me by raising her hand and asking whether they’re acceptable in novels, as she has noticed many during her own reading.

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“Gilded cage?” Maybe it’s not where you think.

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as seeing those who should get it  — who by all rights should be your allies, your friends, your family — making silly and ultimately harmful observations.

Especially when those observations add to a miasma of half-truths, stereotypes and unfortunate political leanings that are slowly and steadily choking education in this country.

"Gilded Cage," courtesy of KayVee.INC through Creative Commons.

“Gilded Cage,” courtesy of KayVee.INC through Creative Commons.

Of all the dismal news and opinion I’ve read in the last couple of weeks, the most disheartening was this blog entry about a former academic who quit to form a business.  The company will produce an online app that pre-structures essays for students so they can “focus on content.”

Starting the company, author Lindy Ledhowski wrote, was preferable to being caught in the “gilded cage” of a tenure-track and eventually tenured position.

In such a position, she “would face no risks, but … be safe.”  Now there’s a contrast whose supposed oppositions and subtleties I likely never will grasp.

Ledhowski found it far more attractive to “make jobs for other people” than be in “a job.” The professoriate, she apparently believes, is an area in which “stasis” would be inevitable, at least for her.

Personal ephiphanies are fine. When those are gussied up in the language of education’s most ardent enemies, it’s a little more problematic.

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MAPS.ME: A very handy offline map for travelers

If you’re one of those rare souls who aren’t connected all the time but have yearned for a good electronic atlas, MAPS.ME may be the next best thing.

Maps.ME gives wonderful detail and has a useful search function.

MAPS.ME gives wonderful detail and has a useful search function. (Sorry for the dark image — used another new app, Mobizen, for capturing the screen image but haven’t quite mastered the details.)

I’m one of the few who have yet to adopt a smartphone, but I do rely on my Nexus 10 tablet for a few things during travel.  The offline atlas that I’ve wished for may be here in its closest form with this Android app.

MAPS.ME is available for free in the Google Play store.  I also found it in Amazon’s Andoid App Store, but not the iTunes Store.

I’ve always been a hard-copy map guy.  The size and detail of an atlas or a laminated foldup map appeal to me far more than the miniature, highly focused capsules of the world given to us in a standard GPS screen, and I’ve seen too many folks who are slaves to their GPS while being completely unaware of their surroundings. Continue reading

Blogging: How often should I post?

Time to take a little break from politics.  One of the key questions I, like most bloggers, have faced recently is how often to post.  There’s a ton of good information and opinion on this topic, but I’ll start with what most of the professionals say and contrast it with what I say.

The pros say post frequently — maybe every day — and maintain a firm, consistent schedule so your readers know what to expect and can get it whenever they check in.

Or you can be like me: don’t worry about the principles in the above paragraph, as that’s primarily an approach geared toward audience-building and profit-making. Just do what’s right for you.

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Help! I can’t teach!

The happy (and hard-working) graduate

Graduation weekends are always special, but this one was particularly fulfilling for me, as I got to award my niece’s diploma onstage at the UW-Stevens Point afternoon commencement ceremony.  They’re also bittersweet, because graduation means some of our favorite people will be moving on.  Our niece Ivannia Herrera Gonzalez is one of them, and we couldn’t be prouder — she graduated early and magna cum laude.

But it means she’ll probably be leaving town soon. That’s tough, because it’s been really great to have more family around during her time at UWSP.  I’ll also miss our Pointer graduates and a whole slew of other students in communication and other areas.

Their leaving, regardless of how happy I and other faculty members are for them, is made a little tougher by the fact that we get to stay behind and try to keep things running smoothly when it’s clear that public support for education in Wisconsin is in serious trouble.  I went to a picnic tonight that was attended primarily by folks at the university, and that trouble was a constant theme of discussion.  At the same time — perhaps because it is  the end of the year and so many of the picnic guests were still beaming about our new grads and the prospects of at least a little summer break — there was plenty of optimism that we’d somehow survive next year’s troubles, too.

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