Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Re. punctuation: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.

I often assign one page response essays to writing prompts in my composition classes. A recent prompt was a Yogi Berra quote: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.” The quote is also attributed to Albert Einstein, physicist, and Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut, another physicist. Although Yogi did not originate the quote, he most certainly popularized it and gave it a humorous twist when he applied the concept to hitting a baseball coming at you at 100 mph.

One of the student responses included this sentence referring to an article she found: Yohan also said in his article, "How true is Yogi Berra's statement that, 'In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.'?", "There is always some aspect of nature that a theory does not fully capture."

My eye was immediately drawn to the six punctuation marks in a row which occur at the end of the article title which is rather long and has embedded elements requiring individual punctuation. So first there are quotation marks around the quote: ‘In theory . . . [blah, blah, blah] . . ..’ Single quote marks are used as this is a quote within an article title which is in double quote marks. Oh man, I just used ellipses on both side of my inserted “blah, blah, blah” into the quote indicating I eliminated some words from the quote and inserted others. And note the period after the last elipsis. Next there is the question mark [?] outside a single quote mark indicting the question is not part of the quotation itself but is a question about the quotation. The single quotation mark [‘] is a convention of punctuation for quotes within quotes: double quote marks [“] on the outside, single on the inside, and so on depending on how many quotes within quotes there are. And continuing from right to left in this punctuation string is a period at the end of the quote.
So in unpacking all this, I think the student nearly got it right, the only problem being the comma after the double quote mark. The comma should be inside the quote mark: .’?,”. The terminal period is mine, and outside the double quote mark because I am discussing the quotation mark as punctuation. Oh wait, I am also quoting her paper, so it should be: “ .’?,.” No wait that doesn’t make sense. Damn. And then the student quotes Yohan after the article title punctuation cascade, “There is always some aspect of nature that a theory does not fully capture.” And that is punctuated correctly.

Notice I avoided putting the student’s sentence in quotation marks in the first paragraph above because that would recast the sentence punctuation scheme of alternating double quote marks and single quote marks so that the double quote marks would become single quote marks and the single quote marks would become double quote marks, which would result in an article title in single quote marks which violates a basic punctuation rule: article titles are in double quotation marks. Editors might allow an exception to the double, single, double, single embedded punctuation rule, to allow a double quote, double quote on both ends of an article title but that would be weird: “”article title””. Note that microsoft word does not even allow for this possibility as the second double quote mark is pointed left. And where would that terminal period go? Inside the first double quote mark or the second double quote mark? Damn. This is turning into an irresistible force versus an immovable object paradox. I need to do more research on this.
Truly, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What a Life

Saturday Oct. 21, 2018

It’s been one of those mornings so far.
I woke up at 7 am and decided
to roll over and sleep some more.
I usually don’t do that.

I woke up again at 9 am,
made some coffee, watched
a Sylvester Stallone movie,
“Bullet to the Head,” and
now a Kristin Wiig ,
“Welcome to Me.”

I cracked a warped stretcher frame
to get it back to level. You have to
break the glue in the corners to get
it back in shape. You take the corner
to you need to crack and slam it
onto a hard surface. Will prime
it later.

There’s no Husker game today,
so maybe I’ll watch a rerun of a
national championship game
from the days of yore.

My main goals today are:
shave, take out the garbage,
and buy some acrylic paint.

My mother says my poems
should rhyme. And she’s won
more prizes in poetry than I have.

I painted a Day of the Dead
picture in the last week, and the
“a” key in my keyboard doesn’t always
work so I have to keep backspacing
and retyping. Maybe I’ll try to write a
stanza without the letter “a.”

So here goes. My keybored doesn’t
work often. I hit the key end nothing heppens.
I guess it’s not so eesy.

I golfed yesterday and won $1.50.

I’ve got a few papers to grade.

What a life.

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Half the Universe's Missing Matter Has Just Been Finally Found"

“Half the universe’s
missing matter has just
been finally found”
I saw this headline
on The Huffingtonpost this week
heralding an astronomic discovery.
“’The missing baryon problem is solved,’
says Hideki Tanimura
at the Institute of Space Astrophysics
in Orsay, France,”
leader of one of the groups
involved in the research.
I didn’t know the baryons were missing.
Scientists used the
Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect
to detect baryon filament strands
between galaxies where nothing
was previously thought to exist.
The Sunyaev thing has to do
with background radiation
from the Big Bang exciting
those thinly spread baryon particles in the vast
distances between galaxies
so they are detectable.
And that’s pretty cool.
It’s something of a prodigal son moment
in which the lost has been found,
a Eureka moment like
Archimedes in his bathtub.
But the headline says “half the universe’s
missing matter” has been “finally found.”
I’d probably say “has finally been found.”
“Found finally” has the sense that
that’s it, it’s over, the mystery is solved.
“Finally found” is slightly less
terminal somehow,
a grammatic nuance,
perhaps as undetectable as
those baryons.
And I’m presuming the headline writer
meant that “all the missing matter”
has been found, not just half,
meaning there’s another half of
the missing matter still missing.
At any rate, all that empty space
is not so empty after all.
But why, I wonder, are those
missing baryons,
like favorite pair of cuff links,
or earrings,
always in the last place
you look?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Motorcycle Ads

I often amuse myself
looking at the motorcycle ads
on Craigslist.
This time of year you can find
some pretty good bargains.
The riding season is about over.
Motorcycle owners are thinking
about moving up to a bigger bike,
or quitting riding altogether, or
selling that bike they got for their wife
who never really rode much,
or clearing out their garage.
Occasionally, you can see a
motorcycle for sale at too low a price.
You wonder if it is misprint, or the
owner is uninformed about the
Kelly Blue Book values.
I usually set search parameters
of $2500 maximum price
and 500 minimum cubic centimeters.
I get nice cross selection of
Buell Blasts, and Yamaha 650 V-twins,
Honda Shadow 750s,
or Vulcan 800s, and the occasional
older Harley Davidson 883 Sportster,
or Suzuki 650 thumpers,
and a few other older assorted
barn finds and choppers and
cafe racers and rat bikes.
"Thumper" is a nickname
for a single cylinder engine
so named because of their
distinctive sound, a throaty,
rhythmic pulse. A cafe racer
is a stripped down minimalist
motorcycle made lighter to
run faster while a rat bike is a bike put
together from assorted other cycle parts.
I'm pretty satisfied with my
ten year old Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD,
though, with its 34 horsepower,
and windshield,
and saddle bags,
but like to daydream/windowshop
for that bigger, better bike out there.
Motorcycle riding is about the
closest you can get to flying
without leaving the ground.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Willie Nelson's Bucket List

Willie Nelson’s Bucket List

I read the other day that
Willie Nelson visited Omaha’s
Junkstock last week
after one of his gigs
in Kansas City because
it was on his “bucket list.”
I would not have guessed
that Junkstock would be on his list
with all the things he's done,
all the places he's been,
all the girls he's loved before,
and all the people he's met.
That’s pretty cool, though.
I played a gig there a couple
of years ago with my band.
We did our 60s rock and roll
covers of The Beatles,
The Rolling Stones,
Paul Revere and the Raiders,
and many more to an appreciative
Junkstock morning audience.
Willie probably played
with the Beatles,
and for all I know, the Stones.
My own bucket list included
riding my motorcycle to
Sturgis, S.D. and Devil’s Tower
in Wyoming. I rode to Sturgis
a couple years ago
mostly to be able to say I did it.
And Devil’s Tower was just another
100 miles up the road and
I always wanted to see that,
so I kept right on going
after hanging around Sturgis
for a while.
I always wanted to play in a
rock and roll band, check.
I always wanted to be an artist, check.
I always wanted to write poetry, check.
I wanted to be President
and an astronaut for a while
when I was a kid, but well,
neither will happen.
Next on my bucket list is shooting
my age in golf. That’s not
so easy as you might think.
You’ve got to pretty good
to shoot 75 at 75.
You've got to be pretty good
to shoot 75 at any age.
I had a chance this summer
when I got to 4 under par
at a par 70 golf course,
but several bogeys
on the back nine put an end to that.
I ended up shooting a 71,
which is good, but I am 67.
I don’t have any other current items
on my bucket list.
I have no desire to jump out of an airplane.
Or technical climb a mountain.
Or take a cruise to Alaska.
I’m pretty content where I am
and what I am doing.
And I like that Willie Nelson
included Junkstock on his.
I would add Meet Willie Nelson
to my list, but it's unlikely.