Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My other passion...

I do love words and reading and writing (prose, poems, limericks, double dactyls, etc.) and language and linguistics...and of course epicaricacy.

However, I also love basketball. That's why this article bothered me so. When our 2 youngest were in junior high, they desperately wanted to play traveling basketball, and they were both cut from the team. Given that many, many kids were cut from the traveling team and there was great interest in community for the development of "B Teams," my husband and I took up that challenge. We developed the Winnetka Basketball Association (WBA). That took a lot of work. First, we needed gyms. The school district was refusing to give us any time, and the private gyms were way too expensive. So, we did a little investigating. Sure enough. In the evenings, on the weekends, we saw teachers and other groups playing in the gyms. So, through the freedom of information act, we asked for a schedule of their gyms. Suddenly, out of the blue, they told us we could rent their gyms for an reasonable $15/hour (Illinois politics goes way beyond Springfield!). Okay we had the gyms.

Now we had to get the kids (besides our 2), so we sent letters to the parents to see if they had any interest. Of course they did. We pencilled out a budget (rent, referees, scorekeepers, brochures cheaply done, coaches, etc.), and developed a brochure. We had to hire coaches, find referees (ours was a ripe 80, but he was good!), and get some high school gym rats to scorekeep for us ($12 per game). That was in 1995. We created a Board of Directors (interested parents and a few "advisors") and had frequent meetings, at least in the first few years. We developed a parent handbook (you must respect the calls!) and a coach handbook (you must play each child at least 4 minutes per game). We came up with a mission statement that was something like, "To give kids who don't make the park district's traveling team a chance to play traveling basketball." Eventually we even helped start a league of "second level" teams.

The teams are still alive and well. Indeed, I continue to be on the Board (as the treasurer), even though my kids are well out of junior high. We want to be sure the teams that we started stick to our mission. It is great to see such success. Last year some parents got a little out of hand at a game, criticizing the ref (nothing very serious), and the Board sent out a blast email to all parents, reminding them about our stand on being good role models for the players. This year 2 kids wanted to play on our team as well as another traveling team (they were great players, evidently), and we had an emergency Board meeting to discuss what to do. I reminded them of our mission, and the decision was made that those talented kids weren't able to to play with us because they had an opportunity to play elsewhere. We wanted to give the opportunity to others who wouldn't be able to play. can imagine my passion about the situation at Dallas Academy. The Covenant girls team (yes, they are a Christian school, though they obviously don't follow Christian principles) crushed Dallas Academy...100 to 0, for heaven's sake. What was the coach thinking??? More importantly, though, how about the Covenant parents? Or even the players? What kind of people were they? One Covenant player had 48 points! The "hapless dribblers" (as the Trib calls them) from Dallas Academy were a team of kids with learning disabilities and hadn't won a game in 4 years. Now, I can understand not letting them win. But how about letting them make a basket?! Apparently the Dallas Academy players celebrated wildly when they almost made a basket, playing with all their hearts.

The Covenant coach was fired because he refused to apologize. That's fair. But the editorial didn't mention a thing about the parents, players or referees. I am so proud to think that we set up a team where that just wouldn't happen. It's in our handbooks and our Board monitors parental and team sportsmanship. To us, teamwork, working together, fairness, sportsmanship, and mutual respect are some of our goals. Apparently that's not the case at this Christian school.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Comments are Closed"

Too bad. I wonder why. There was a wonderful post on Language Log related to giving bad news. It is a subject I know a lot about and one that both medical and nursing education have been focusing on. With my background in oncology and having conducted research in hospices, I would have liked to have commented. But their comments are closed? Why? Are they afraid the comments won't be at their level? Well, of course their knowledge of linguistics is amazing, and I'd never deign to comment on one their technical posts. However, in this post do think I know more than they do. Indeed, Mr. (Dr.?) Shuy carried out an ethnographic study... while I gave the bad news.

By the way, anyone is welcome to post comments here!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander's Inaugural Poem

After the inauguration I posted that I didn't much like Elizabeth Alexander's inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day." Some liked it, like Others not so much. In fact, the Tribune called the response "mild" and said it only ranked 429 on Here's a quote from the Times online: "Mr Obama understands the music of cadence and beauty that simple repetition can bring; Professor Alexander, alas, sounded merely repetitious, or at the very least, confused: 'All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.' That tongue seems like a pretty crowded place to me. Ouch."

Today, however, Mary Schmich made me think about it. As one who is always for the underdog, I wonder if I should have given her more of a chance. Like me, Mary has begun to feel a little protective of Alexander. Since my daughter and husband graduated from Yale, I feel even more so. As Schmich says, poetry is highly individualistic, and, let's face it, most Americans don't much care about poetry. They just wanted the day to continue. Besides, like some on Wordcraft, I am certain some think poetry must rhyme and have perfect meter (Roses are red, etc.). She also had a tough act to follow. Further, as only the fourth poet at an inauguration, she had a lot of pressure. Robert Frost spoke at Kennedy's and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams spoke at Clinton's. According to Schmich, all three got mixed reviews.

So I read "Praise Song for the Day" again. And again. I began to like it more. Mary cites these as the best lines, and I have to admit, I like them, too:

Say it plain: that many have died
for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who
Brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the

picked the cotton and lettuce,
built brick by brick the glittering
they would then keep clean and
work inside of.

Nice. But then I like free verse poetry. I suppose I can understand that some don't.

Perhaps the next president should have a limerick reading. Now that would have to get good reviews!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Did Bush Cause a Little Epicaricacy?

I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman who hated Bush. Suddenly he's not so enthralled with Obama either. First he criticized him for screwing up the oath (that was the chief justice's fault) and then he was skeptical of his handling of Guantanamo Bay, the economy, and other things. Yet, this person (not an American) had, rightly so, continually criticized and made fun of Bush. So what's up? Wouldn't you think he'd be supportive of Obama who is about 180 degrees from Bush? I suspect Bush created a little epicaricacy...this man loved that he made the U.S. look so stupid. Now he doesn't have that. Indeed, we are earning a little respect worldwide. Life really is quite complicated, isn't it? I had expected my friend to be as thrilled as I am.

BTW, I did sign up for tsuwm's worthless word for the day. However, I had to do so through my Yahoo account, which is obamabarack60. I developed that account during our chat masquerade party, and I don't have another account with them. It looks a little stupid, but oh well. Perhaps tsuwm won't notice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My 100th Post!

It is celebration time. Who'd have thought that I would have had 100 various topics to write on. Well, in all fairness, they're not groundbreaking. But still!

This just must be my week. Tsuwm used the word epicaricacy in a post about cacozelia (which isn't a bad word itself!). Here's the link to his post. (I can't figure how to sign up for his word a day, though. Perhaps he doesn't do that.) Then here's the link to James Robbin's use of the word epicaricacy. Robbins has some other great words in his column, but in tsuwm's other quote I loved the word quaquaversally.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

He nailed it!

I do, after all, have a little time to reflect on Obama's speech. How amazing it was. It was humble and yet it was inspiring. It was intellectual and yet it was down to earth. It attracted people from all walks of life. If anyone can pull the nation together in these very tough times, Obama can. Conservatives and liberals alike were inspired by Obama's speech. I think the SF Chronicle should call it a success!

There were gaffes, and the Internet is always excited about that. Here's Language Log's analysis of the 44th president comment.

Then of course there was the oath. Roberts really screwed that up, and after trying to cue him, Obama finally went along with him. Not being a Roberts fan, I had to take a little epicaricacy in his screw-up. Heck, he had one thing to do.

All in all, it was a beautiful ceremony. My only complaint was with the poem. It didn't inspire me, and I thought she did a poor job reading it. Arethra Franklin sang beautifully, as usual. I loved the Musical performance from John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill.

There were 1. 6 million in attendance, which dwarfs the 400,000 for Bush. Here's a site that talks about numbers on the Internet.

Good job, Americans!

Monday, January 19, 2009


I will be watching the inauguration in the morning, and then flying back to Chicago in the afternoon. Because of the time change, I won't arrive home until late. Therefore, I am posting this tonight.

In my office I have a watch-like count-down gadget for Bush's presidency. It will say zero tomorrow. YES! All over the U.S., and even in most parts of the world, we are so happy that Mr. Bush finally will no longer be our president.

I do worry about our expectations, though. People are even holding high expectations for his inauguration speech (I don't think I even listened to Bush's!). Here's what the SF Chronicle wrote today about their idea of the "test" for a speech that will be successful :

"The test: to not only master the present, but to meet the standards of those who have stood before him in the same place, to deliver a soaring sermon for the ages and at the same time to address the precise set of daunting circumstances now facing the nation."

Geez. Let's give Obama a break, okay? He has a lot to deal with (probably more than any president since FDR), and he won't be perfect.

Martin Luther King Day Makes One Think

What a courageous leader Dr. Martin Luther King was. His work changed our attitude toward racism. I imagine he would even be surprised to see that we will be inaugurating an African-American president tomorrow.

It all makes me think about some of the drivel I post about, such as yesterday's complaint about our weather. In the scheme of things, others' rude comments about Chicago's weather is so trivial. Who cares? I must remember to write about more important things.

Thank you, Dr. King, for your leadership across the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


It has been so cold in Chicago...-15 one night. I have been fortunate enough to be out of town during this time period, but the reaction in other cities is interesting. In South Carolina there was the reaction, "Oh, how can you live there?" Well, first of all, it is a record cold and certainly doesn't occur every year (though it does in some areas, such as Minnesota). However, secondly, did they remember Hugo?

Then I am in SF now. It all brought back memories as to why I left when I was in grad school at UCSF. I had job offers in Chicago and in SF, and I chose the Chicago one. You'd have thought I was going to Tristan De Cunha (the most remote place on earth). "What?!!!", they said, "You're going to that cow town?!" Things haven't changed much. On TV today they showed the depths of cold in Chicago, and then the announcer said something like, "Here's to Chicago: 'LOL'."

My daughter had it right. Her SF friend called her and said, "Oh, it must be so awful there. But it's just gorgeous here." My daughter said, "No, it's not bad at all." That's a Chicagooan for you. Nothing really gets us down. We laugh through it and look forward to better times. On the day it was below zero, my husband said he walked to Panera for breakfast and "it wasn't bad at all."

One can't generalize, I know, and I don't want to do that. I am sure these comments are isolated. They just annoy me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Linguists Doth Protest too Much...

I am wondering why the linguists are all in a snit over Paul Payack. Okay. They don't agree with him that there will be a million words (or that they're even countable, the way I understand it) by April, or whenever Payack's deadline is. It is quite clear that Payack is no linguist and not an expert on words. Therefore, so what? Forget about him. Don't buy his books, read the articles that are written about him or write about him. We get Smithsonian, and I plan to write them about their stupid article on Payack. It was poorly researched and poorly written. Why, though, do the linguists keep the conversation going? Language Log is just as bad as anyone in keeping this going.

And, to be honest, why in the world do the linguists think it's impossible to count the number of words we have in English? You'd have to have a specific definition (for example, the number of words in the OED, or something similar), but I'd surely think you could. Of course the alogorithm idea is ridiculous (it sounds a bit like an ex-poster of ours!), and as Dr. Benway says in that link above, Mr. Payack has no concept as to what an algorithm is. That alone should make people ignore Payack and get on with real linguistic discussions. However, the more the linguists protest, the more we will hear about this ridiculous "algorithm."

I do wonder, as did arnie on Wordcraft, whether Payack actually graduated from Harvard. If so, with what degree?