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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Nobility not required, but courtesy is nice

winding-trackI ran into the Queen of England on the Green Circle recently.

At least I think it was The Queen.  Y’know, the one with the little corgi dogs who have the run of the kingdom, because they’re Royal with a capital “R” and I’m definitely not.

That’s “not” with a lower-case “not on your piddly little life, peasant.”

But there were two corgis, right on the groomed cross-country skiing trail, being walked by The Queen Her Own Self.

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Powers Bluff Offers Himalayan-Sized Fun

Choosing between the year’s best football game and one of the best winter afternoons to get kids outside is always a tough call.

Read more about how I made that call by following this direct link to the column on the Gazette site.  I’ve also included a few extra pictures of our trip to Powers Bluff County Park below.

This column serves as a bit of a supplement to an older column I posted earlier this week — about a proposed ski-trail expansion at Rib Mountain State Park in Wausau.  As much as I love winter sports like those at both parks, every park use comes with a set of trade-offs.  I think we’ve probably got the right mix of opportunities in our region without having to sacrifice Rib Mountain’s trails to more high-end recreation


Time to start asking questions about Rib Mountain proposal

(Originally published Nov. 17, Portage County Gazette)path

Some potentially bad news confronted me last week, reminding me of what we should all do when that happens: ask lots of questions, and head for the mountains.

Or the mountain.  Because I’m writing literally, not metaphorically.

I am not talking about the possibly apocalyptic farce that is our so-called election or its aftermath.  I’m talking about Rib Mountain State Park, which apparently is still the target of ski-slope expansion plans.

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Who’s planning it?  Why?  Is it viable?  What will it do to our beloved state park?  On balance, will the costs be greater than the benefits? Who exactly will this benefit?

Most importantly – should we go hike more trails over there right now?  The answer to that is yes. Continue reading

Naked on the day it was burned

A few hours after Trump’s travel ban for Muslims started getting serious news attention (including nonstop CNN coverage), the naked guys were standing around the locker room at the YMCA, transfixed by what they saw on television.

It was the end of a Wisconsin Badgers basketball game, however, that enraptured them. Out in the fitness area, virtually everyone was ignoring several screens with live coverage of our constitution going down in flames, complete with stranded travelers and unjust detentions.

One of a series of related cartoons posted on the San Jose Mercury news site.

One of a series of related cartoons posted on the San Jose Mercury news site.

From what I could tell, life was simply moving forward for most exercisers. I didn’t see a single animated conversation, and certainly not one that appeared to focus on the travel ban.

Around that time, a friend of mine — a technology entrepeneur from one of our staunchest Pacific allies, in the U.S. to do business — said he was busy at an airport, spending a substantial amount of time “chatting up the CBP officer to make my case that I’m no criminal”  (CBP being Customs and Border Protection),

We’re all being faced with serious personal choices right now.  Ignore what’s going on around us?  Post a few outraged comments on social media? Join a march?  Boycott a business? Something more?

I’ve seen all sorts of things.  One friend told me yesterday, with a clear tinge of shame, that he’s just trying to keep his head down and do his job,  Several friends took part in the recent women’s marches.  One new acquaintance — a Facebook friend, really — is posting an endless series of anguished comments, multiple times daily.

Fixing this is going to need more, and it’s tough to know how to proceed.  Part of what I’ll do is write more, including on this blog, where I’d committed to focusing more on parks and the outdoors and less on the political side than I have in the past.

As we have seen, however, with the rebellion of National Park Service employees amid renewed political efforts to weaken science, sell off public lands, and silence dissent, there can be no avoiding politics.

I’ve posted nothing since mid-November for multiple reasons, all of which were stressful, but none more so than the thoroughly deflating and demoralizing election in which the worst elements of our national character changed the nature of our country.

It’s time to come back. I’ll still stick mostly to the outdoors, as I’ve got some projects in the works, including the continued production of my outdoors column.  But the ugly side of life in America cannot be ignored now.

Not everything in nature can be beautiful.  It often seems that little in politics is, but there are glimmers of hope here and there through the smoke of our principles being incinerated.

Many are resisting in ways large and small.  Doing so creatively and appropriately, forcefully and effectively, is the task we must all continue.