Mourning the semicolon; it turned into a wink and was gone…

I’m of an age when I can fondly remember articles, objects, bits and pieces, things that just don’t exist anymore…

Card Catalogs — Yes, I was a librarian who learned how to catalog and classify a book and type a perfect catalog card (in triplicate) with accurate punctuation, including semicolons; but we’ll get to that later…. (Old librarians never die, they just get reshelved.)

Electric typewriters  — especially the Selectric, which greatly aided in typing the aformentioned catalog cards in triplicate with semicolons.

LPs — Ah, the sound of the needle hitting the vinyl; wondering how many we could stack at a time; sprawling on the floor next to the speaker reading liner notes and the words to Leonard Cohen songs; filing the records alphabetically in orange crates; arguing if Old and In the Way should be filed under Garcia, Grateful, or Old… (Old guitarists never die, they just come unstrung.)

Words — Perfectly good words have been hijacked. Like hoe, cloud, text, troll, dirt, tablet. Being a country girl at heart, I was startled a few years ago when a colleague told me she would never read or tell a story that had the word hoe in it. “Really?” I asked. “I guess you wouldn’t read Peter Rabbit out loud?” Can I just say that in my garden, one of my favorite tools is a hoe? Although while using it, usually I’m staring at the clouds or watching for trolls in the dirt. (Old Gardeners never die, they just spade away.)

And now semicolons. Just in case this surprises you as much as it did me, use of a semi-colon now dates you; modern writing methods reject semicolon usage. So all of us who perfected the use of putting together two similar sentences and joining them with that lovely little winking punctuation mark? We are marked as over the hill; just like that, our skill is no longer needed. (Old semicolons never die; they just wink over the hill…)

I’m not sure how this has come about, but I can certainly posit theories with the best of old grammarians. (Old Grammarians never die, they just lose their verbs.)

Theory 1: The Internet has shortened everyone’s attention span, so that long sentences are simply an annoyance. Short sentences please. Or no sentences. Just a verb maybe? If a sentence is too long, shorten it. Have two thoughts joined together? A period in between will do just fine. Hey, the shorter the better. And no long words either. (Old programmers never die, they just cache in their chips.)

Theory 2: No one has time (or wants to take the time) to sit down and luxuriously read long novels with elegant prose and graceful sentences. We want that first chapter, no, the first paragraph to pull us in with action; if it doesn’t deliver, well there’s another book on the Kindle that will. I used to give a book sixty pages before I gave up on it; the other day a reader bragged that she never gave any book longer than the first paragraph… (Old writers never die, they just start a new chapter.)

Theory 3: Texting and emails and emoticons have ruined punctuation and spelling.  Nthng els 2 b sed ;-) The Carnegie Mellon professor, Scott E. Fahlman,  is credited with inventing the emoticon in 1982 when he used :-) and :-( on a bulletin board. (Old professors never die, they just lose their class.)

Graph from Grammarly.com

Theory 4: Simplicity in writing is now a virtue.  People who hate semicolons (Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, probably Hemingway) are terse, get to the point, and put-down-that-period writers. I don’t hold that against them, certainly, but it is their style, which goes hand in hand with Theories 1 and 2. (Old theorists never die, they just keep making assumptions.)

Theory 5: Readers want the sentence to be over before it’s over; a semicolon means there’s more to the story. There is beauty in a semicolon allowing the writer to build on a thought; a semicolon also allows the writer to believe that the reader can follow a semi-complicated sentence. It’s about trust between the writer and the reader; yet, a semicolon is also about tone and nuance in a sentence that commas and periods just can’t get across. (Old readers never die, they just turn the page.)

In researching semicolons (to find out if reports of their death were greatly exaggerated) I found this brilliant quote by Lewis Thomas, scientist, essayist, and lover of semicolons:

I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. . . . It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn’t get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.

As an old librarian (who has not checked out quite yet) I suggest that we enjoy that pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is always more to the story….

Technology Battles

We’ve got some problems here, Siri —

you don’t come when I call,
you give me bad advice
or none at all.

you say, “I didn’t get that”
or you change the subject
and fall totally  flat.

 

You’ve gotten me lost —
your directions are wrong
and come with a siri-ous cost.

Yes Siri —

lying to your partner
is a capital offence
And so rude to be silent;
I demand recompense.
I’m reconsidering our relationship
You show no remorse —
I’m breaking it off,
Dissolution? Divorce?

I’ve set you up
and set you up
and set you up
yet still you ignore.
Oh Siri, Siri,
I’m showing you the door.

Oh wait,
maybe it’s because you’re American male?

I could give you one last dance—
and change you to British—
at least then when you’re wrong
perchance
I’ll be charmed by your accent
and the extent of your content
and you won’t be so frus-TRA’-ting
and I shan’t throw you in the dust bin.
But seriously Siri
This IS your final chance…

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Updates, Schmupdates: or, if it ain’t broke, do an update

I’m old.

Old enough that I don’t always like to check my age category, because it’s too far down on the list.

Old enough that my time left is precious, and I don’t want to spend it re-learning what I thought I already knew.

Old enough that I believed the lie that technology is supposed to make our lives easier and simpler.

Lately, I’ve been fighting technology, and it’s wearing me down…

Quote on technology by Richard Foster

First there was Windows 10 on my office computer. Now I have to put in a password every ten minutes when the screen goes to sleep. (Is that why it’s called Windows 10?) Oh yes, I’ve set and reset the settings. Ten times at least. The screen is not supposed to go to sleep — ever. But there it is, every ten minutes it starts snoring. Does exactly what it wants. I think I’m going to start calling it HAL. (Proof that I’m old.)

Then there was the new iOS on my iPhone. Now the blue tooth in the car just circles around and around, and I can’t play the music that is on my phone. I used to be able to do this… And yes, I’ve uninstalled my phone and reinstalled it. Three times. Nothing. No music. I’ll have to go back to CD’s I guess.

Then there was El Capitan on the MAC. Yep, the wireless printer stopped working. This is actually one of the success stories, because after uninstalling and reinstalling the printer three times, it has finally started working again. But my new writing program Scrivener — advertised as El Capitan ready — has frozen repeatedly. It is frozen as I write this (which is why I’m doing a blog post instead of writing on my novel).

And then there is the WordPress update. For a year now, they’ve been telling me to switch to  the improved posting experience, but I’ve always been able to get around it. Because the old way of posting had commands right at my fingertips. Easy. Visible. But today I tried to get in the back way, and BAM, the new dashboard is the only one to be seen. I was beyond frustrated…

New and improved rarely means improved. It means frustrated and irritated, which quite frankly, I don’t need in my life. Is there anyone who does?

cat and computer

I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve turned off automatic updates. I’ll just have to put up with those annoying little numbers on the App Store. And those banners on the Mac that make me feel like I’m way behind the times? I’m blind to them.

I can take it.

Because, yeah, I’m old.

(If you are a frustrated WordPress user, here’s the workaround, courtesy of  Life in the Realm of Fantasy. Go to My Stats; click on WP Admin; click on posts; and Voila — you are at your old familiar dashboard. Thank you, Connie!  NEWS: And just this morning I noticed that from my home page drop down under My Sites, WP Admin is actually one of the tabs. Yes! Eliminate extra clicking!)