Need a Good Laugh? Surf the Web.

March 13, 2017 – The beauty of the Internet is that there is always something new to discover.

I came across a site appropriately named, which is devoted to providing a good laugh to movie and television fans.

The premise is that story lines in reverse create a completely different and humorous outcome. Some plot lines even improve. For example:

“If you watch The Wizard Of Oz backwards, it’s about Dorothy escaping Oz by running away from the Emerald City and getting home to Kansas in a flying house.”

Or, “if you watch Pretty Woman backwards, it’s about Richard Gere transforming Julia Roberts into a hooker.”

And my favorite, “if you watch Scarface backwards, it’s about a man who gives up cocaine and crime to follow his dream of becoming a dishwasher to earn enough money so he can visit Cuba.”

The site is updated frequently, so even the latest Oscar nominations have been added. And if you’re clever enough to come up with your own backwards movie or television show, the site welcomes submissions.

Listening to the Silence

silence5February 27, 2017 – When I worked in PR and advertising back in the day, we spent a lot of time assembling media packages. My co-workers and I would amuse ourselves by discussing the deeper questions in life while working the assembly line of brochures, trinkets, and press releases. It helped pass the time.

I once posed the question – would you rather lose your sight or your hearing – and received a witty response from a co-worker. He said, “My hearing, so I don’t have to listen to this absurd conversation.”

We chuckled; he had a quick sense of humor. Still, the go to response for most people would be to keep their sight. Getting through life without it would be difficult. However, the thought of never hearing a baby’s laugh or a beautiful piece of music is enough to make me at least ponder the question.

I began to take notice of how often I was surrounded by silence after that conversation. In the office, I sit at my desk surrounded by white noise and the sound of my co-workers typing on their keyboards; in my car I listen to the radio; At home, it’s conversation, the television or music. Even when I go to bed at night, the sounds of the ceiling fan or the humidifier fill the room.

The last time I drove to work in silence was several years ago when my battery light came on as I was driving onto I-95. I managed to pull over and quickly restart, but fearing it would happen again, I pulled back on the road after turning off the music. I surrounded myself with the sounds of silence, and because the windows were shut, even the traffic seemed hushed.

It made me ultra-aware of what is going on around me, and affected me in other places outside of my car; the clock in work that sits above my desk, for instance, began to drive me crazy. Oddly, I could hear it tick, and had to turn on music to drown it out. I’d never noticed it before.

There is something about silence that is appealing. As long as there isn’t an annoying clock ticking in the background to spoil it.

It Does a Body Good

imagesJanuary 27, 2011 – Quick! Name a sound more appealing than a baby’s laughter.

I don’t think you can.

Laughter is important both mentally and physically, whether you are a child or an adult, because it instantly improves your mood. It also works your abs, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system, and reduces pain by releasing endorphins.

It’s documented that people who have a positive outlook on life—those who tend to laugh freely—are better equipped to fight disease. Like crying, laughter also releases pent-up emotions, and brings more oxygen into the body, which makes the Joni Mitchell lyric ring true… “Laughing and crying, it’s the same release.”

A wise man once said, “We don’t stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.” Here’s a little something to keep you young.



Crescent Moons, Magazines and Peppermint Tea

downloadDecember 2, 2016 – Anyone up for solving a mystery?

The song, My Favorite Things, from the musical The Sound of Music, is played at Christmas each year, and I’m not sure why. Aside from the lyrics “brown paper packages tied up with string, or snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes” – and are a both a stretch – there isn’t a reference to December 25 or any of its holiday traditions. Yet artists from Tony Bennett to Luther Vandross include it on their Christmas recordings.

And while we’re on the subject … the items Rogers and Hammerstein mention in their song are nice, they aren’t included on a list of my favorites. If I were to rewrite the song, I’d include the things below:

Curtains fluttering in the breeze
Early morning walks with my camera
Georgia O’Keeffe and Vincent Van Gogh paintings
Sunflowers and daisies
Crescent moons
Sunsets at the beach
Crisp mornings in autumn
My brother-in-law’s margaritas
Long drives
Magazines and peppermint tea
Mack’s Pizza at the Jersey shore
Listening to Joni Mitchell on Sunday mornings
Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream
Warm towels straight from the dryer

Happy Belated Google!

googles-18th-birthday-5661535679545344-hp2x-2September 30, 2016 – On Tuesday, Google officially became an adult.

The Internet giant, which officially incorporated on September 4, 1998, has decided that instead September 27 is its birthday.

For something that has been around for only 18 years, it’s difficult to imagine life without Google, especially when it’s estimated to process over 3.5 billion search requests each day worldwide. I’m probably responsible for 10 to 20 of those daily searches, which makes me doubly embarrassed to have missed this special milestone.

Happy belated birthday, Google. I certainly hope won’t cause too much of a ruckus celebrating. You’re not 21 yet.

Words I should know how to pronounce

maxresdefaultSeptember 16, 2016 – I often peruse the dailywritingtips and ragan websites to stay up-to-date on best communication practices. The article below has appeared on both sites, and it’s too fun not to share.

Now, I may be from Philadelphia, and we’re known for unique word pronunciations, but I thought I was better than most. However, if graded on this list, I would barely pass. How did you do?

# # # # # # #

51 words you should know how to pronounce

By Maeve Maddox | Posted: August 18, 2016

Fred Astaire drew laughs back in the 1930s with his song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in which the lovers can’t agree on the pronunciation of words like either, neither, and tomato.

On a personal level, I cringe when I hear someone sound the “t” in often or pronounce pecan with a short “a,” but I have to acknowledge that both these pronunciations are widely accepted alternative pronunciations that can be justified by the spelling.

Alternative pronunciations, however, are a different matter from out-and-out mispronunciations. The latter, no matter how common, are incorrect, either because of the spelling that indicates another pronunciation, or because of what is widely agreed upon to be conventional usage. Word of caution: I’m writing from an American perspective.

Here are 50 frequently mispronounced words. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it provides a good start:

1. aegis—The ae in this word is pronounced /ee/. Say EE-JIS/, not /ay-jis/. In mythology, the “aegis” is associated especially with the goddess Athene. It is her shield with the Gorgon’s head on it.

2. anyway—The problem with this word is not so much pronunciation as the addition of an unnecessary sound. Don’t add an s to make it “anyways.” The word is ANYWAY.

3. archipelago—Because the word is from Greek, the ch is pronounced with a /k/ sound. Say /AR-KI-PEL-A-GO/, not /arch-i-pel-a-go/.

4. arctic—Note the c after the r. Say /ARK-TIK/, not /ar-tik/.

5. accessory—the first c has a “hard” sound. Say /AK-SESS-OR-Y/, not /ass-ess-or-y/.

6. ask—The s comes before the k. Say /ASK/ not /aks/.

7. asterisk—Notice the second s. Say /AS-TER-ISK/, not /as-ter-ik/.

8. athlete—The word has two syllables, not three. Say /ATH-LETE/, not /ath-uh-lete/.

9. barbed wire—Notice the ar in the first syllable. Say /BARBD/, not /bob/.

10. cache—The word is of French origin, but it does not end with an accented syllable, as cachet does. A cache is a hiding place or something that is being hidden: a cache of supplies; a cache of money; a cache of drugs. Say /KASH/, not /ka-shay/.

11. candidate—Notice the first d. Say /KAN-DI-DATE/, not /kan-i-date/.

12. cavalry—This word refers to troops that fight on horseback. Say /KAV-UL-RY/, not /kal-vuh-ry/. NOTE: Calvary refers the place where Jesus was crucified, and it is pronounced /kal-vuh-ry/.)

13. chaos—The spelling ch can represent three different sounds in English: /tch/ as in church, /k/ as in Christmas, and /sh/ as in chef. The first sound is heard in words of English origin and is the most common. The second sound of ch, /k/, is heard in words of Greek origin. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. Chaos is a Greek word. Say /KAY-OS/, not /tchay-os/.

14. clothes—Notice the th spelling and sound. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/.

15. daïs—A daïs is a raised platform. The pronunciation fault is to reverse the vowel sounds. The word is often misspelled as well as mispronounced. Say /DAY-IS/ not /dī-is/.

16. dilate—The word has two syllables, not three. Say /DI-LATE/, not /di-a-late/.

17. drowned—This is the past participle form of the verb drown. Notice that there is no final d on drown. Don’t add one when using the word in its past form. Say /DROWND/, not /drown-ded/.

18. et cetera—This Latin term is often mispronounced, and its abbreviation is frequently misspelled. Say /ET CET-ER-A/, not /ex cet-er-a/. For the abbreviation, write etc., not ect.

19. February—Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.

20. foliage—The word has three syllables. Say /FO-LI-UJ/, not /fol-uj/.

21. forte—English has two words spelled this way. One comes from Italian and the other from French. The Italian word, a musical term meaning “loud,” is pronounced with two syllables: /FOR-TAY/. The French word, an adjective meaning “strength” or “strong point,” is pronounced with one syllable: /FORT/.

22. Halloween—The word for the holiday Americans celebrate with such enthusiasm on Oct. 31 derives from “Hallowed Evening,” meaning “evening that has been made holy.” The word “hallow” comes from Old English halig, meaning “holy.” Notice the a in the first syllable and say /HAL-O-WEEN/, not /hol-lo-ween/.

23. height—The word ends in a /T/ sound, not a /TH/ sound. Say /HITE/, not /hith/.

24. heinous—People unfamiliar with the TV show Law and Order: S.V.U. may not know that heinous has two syllables. (The show begins with this sentence: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.”) Say /HAY-NUS/, not /heen-i-us/.

25. hierarchy—The word has four syllables. Say /HI -ER-AR-KY,/ not /hi-ar-ky/.

26. Illinois—As with Arkansas, the final “s” in Illinois is not pronounced. Say /IL-I-NOY/ (and /Ar-kan-saw/, not /il-li-noiz/ or /ar-kan-sas/). NOTE: Some unknowledgeable folks may still be trying to pronounce Arkansas as if it had something to do with Kansas. The pronunciation /ar-kan-zuz/ is waaay off base.

27. interpret—The word has three syllables; don’t add one. Say /IN-TER-PRET/, not /in-ter-pre-tate/.
28. incident—Something that happens is an “incident.” Don’t say “incidence” when you mean a specific event. There is a word “incidence,” but it has a different meaning.

29. “irregardless”—See the real word, regardless.

30. jewelry—The word has three syllables. Say /JEW-EL-RY/, not /jew-el-er-y/. The pronunciation /jewl-ry/ is common but not correct, as it removes one syllable from the word.

31. library—Notice where the first r comes in the word. Say /LI-BRAR-Y/, not /li-ber-ry/.

32. medieval—The word has four syllables. The first e may be pronounced either short [med] or long [meed]. Say /MED-EE-EEVAL/ or /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/, not /meed-eval/.

33. miniature—The word has four syllables. Say /MIN-I-A-TURE/, not /min-a-ture/.

34. mischievous—This is the adjectival form of mischief whose meaning is “calamity” or “harm.”
Mischievous is now associated with harmless pranks, so that the expression “malicious mischief” has been coined as another term for vandalism. Mischievous has three syllables, with the accent on the first syllable: /MIS-CHI-VUS/. Don’t say /mis-chee-vee-us/.

35. niche—Though many words of French origin have been anglicized in standard usage, this one cries out to retain a long “e” sound and a /SH/ sound for the che. Say /NEESH/, not /nitch/.

36. orient—This word has three syllables. As a verb it means to place something in its proper position in relation to something else. It comes from a word meaning “east” and originally meant positioning something in relation to the east. Now it is used with a more general meaning. Say /OR-I-ENT/, not /or-i-en-tate/.

37. old-fashioned—This adjective is formed from a past participle: “fashioned.” Don’t leave off the -ed. Say /OLD-FASHIOND/, not /old-fashion/.

38. picture—There’s a k sound in picture. Don’t confuse picture with pitcher. Say /PIK-TURE/, not /pitch-er/. Pitcher is a different word. A pitcher is a serving vessel with a handle, or a player who throws a baseball.

39. precipitation—This is a noun that refers to rain, sleet or snow or anything else that normally falls from the sky. As with prescription (below), the prefix is PRE-. Say /PRE-CIP-I-TA-TION/, not /per-cip-i-ta-tion/.

40. prescription—Note the prefix PRE- in this word. Say /PRE-SCRIP-TION/, not /per- scrip-tion/ or /pro-scrip-tion/.

41. preventive—The word has three syllables. A common fault is to add a syllable. Say PRE-VEN-TIVE/, not /pre-ven-ta-tive.

42. pronunciation—This word is a noun. It comes from the verb pronounce, but it is not pronounced like the verb. Say /PRO- NUN-CI-A-TION/, not /pro-nounce-i-a-tion/.

43. prostate—This word for a male gland is often mispronounced. There is an adjective prostrate , which means to be stretched out face down on the ground. When speaking of the gland, however, say /PROS-TATE/, not /pros-trate/.

44. realtor—The word has three syllables. Say /RE-AL-TOR/, not /re-a-la-tor/. It refers to a member of the National Association of Realtors, not simply a real estate agent.

45. regardless—The word has three syllables. Please don’t add an ir- to make it into the abomination “irregardless”.

46. sherbet—The word has only one r in it. Say /SHER-BET/ not /sher-bert/.

47. spayed—This is a one-syllable word, the past participle form of the verb to spay, meaning to remove the ovaries from an animal. Like the verbdrown (above) the verb spay does not have a d in its infinitive form. Don’t add one to the past participle. Say /SPADE/, not /spay-ded/.

48. ticklish—The word has two syllables. Say /TIK-LISH/, not /tik-i-lish/.

49. tract—Religious evangelists often hand out long printed statements of belief called “tracts.” That’s one kind of “tract.” Houses are built on “tracts.” Then there’s the word “track.” Athletes run on “tracks.” Animals leave “tracks.” Don’t say /TRAKT/ when you mean /TRAK/, and vice versa.

50. vehicle—Although there is an h in the word, to pronounce it is to sound hicky. Say /VEE-IKL/, not /vee-Hikl/.

51. wintry—Here’s another weather word often mispronounced, even by meteorologists. The word has two syllables. Say /WIN-TRY/, not /win-ter-y/.

Faith, hope, God and science

IMG_1785March 25, 2016 – My son and I — an atheist and a believer respectively — have a recurring debate about God’s existence. It comes down to faith, which I have and he does not.

He asks how I can believe in something with no facts to prove it. As a scientific thinker, he questions everything and always has. His mind works the way. I explain that I have faith and I don’t necessarily have to see something to believe it, a response that doesn’t make sense to him.

I offer that since he is unable to prove that God doesn’t exist, his opinion is faith-based, as well. He pauses for a moment, making me believe I gained ground in this never-ending debate. Then he responds that his opinion isn’t born of faith at all, but rather the opposite. He doesn’t have faith that God doesn’t exist because it’s never been proven that he does.

To prove he has faith in something, I look to find an example outside of religion. I say that I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, he says that the sun rises every morning, so there is evidence to back up the claim. I say I have faith that he will do the right thing, he responds that I raised him a certain way, and I can only hope he does the right thing. I say that every successful scientist had faith at the onset of an experiment or theory, he says the scientist merely had hope the theory would be proven.

The conversation leaves me frustrated and aware that faith and hope aren’t as interchangeable as I thought. Faith is based on beliefs that can’t be proven while hope is a desire for something to come. Faith and hope are as different as God and science, but I believe in all of them.

Stephen Hawking said, “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

Why do we have to limit what we believe? Science has not invalidated the existence of God just because it proved the Big Bang. If there isn’t a master designer, are we to believe it is all coincidence, and that everything occurred in such precise order that enabled our existence?

Science has also been unable to answer life’s greatest mystery to me—what gives us the ability to create amazing works of art, literature and music?

I may never convince my son to have faith; likewise, he’ll never convince me that having faith is useless. However, I’ll keep the faith that someday I’ll come up with an example that doesn’t involve religion. At least, I hope I can.