Tag Archives: Boston

I’ve Discovered I Can Write In Code

These are the size of Post-it notes I use. 3 X 3.

I have an old zipper briefcase from my last job of eight years, and I carry it around with my resumes, currently.  Today, as I was getting ready to embark on yet another “vetting,” for a job opportunity…this one involves a background check and hair drug screen…I found a 3 X 5 sticky note, okay the correct term is Post-it note…in the front pocket.  It dates to 2000.  I know this because the date appears on the note at least once.  The problem is, I can’t remember writing any of the scribbles on this note.  It doesn’t sound at all like me, or my schedule or anything else.

I know it has to be mine.  It’s in my handwriting.  It has my name and a password on the bottom half of one side.  The password is not in my handwriting, and  I have no idea what the password 35c3b4wd goes to, but it sounds like a software key maybe.  Some of the things are crossed off like they’ve been completed tasks.  Here’s an example:  “Bosto 9.30  RSV , 3564552011, King NS Park Newberry,Trans Logan, workout fac.”  I think I get this one a little now.  I’ve been on the phone, making a reservation for Boston on September 30 for a King bed in a non-smoking room.  When I’m on the phone I write conversations down in what is known as speed writing.  It’s a form of shorthand that I learned when I was a service representative for Mountain Bell.  We were required to “shorthand,” using this speed writing technique, both sides of the conversation on a “contact sheet.”  All very barbaric in today’s technology, but the customer would call and say, “I have a call on my bill that I don’t recognize.”  I would write down, “Call CNK.”  Translated it means the customer is “Claiming No Knowledge” of a call on their bill.  We could go back to any call on a contact sheet and read the code to know what was being done.  If we didn’t complete the task during the call, say, we had to get additional information, the contact sheet would be put in pending shelf in a five-tier desk tray.  I know, too much information, but it’s why I still make speed writing notes when I’m talking on the phone making a reservation for example.  But I’ve never been to Boston, if “Bosto” stands for that on the sticky note.

The note on the top half of the sticky note on the side with the software password, says “Tanner, 100,000 prem flier, Bus C, Chicago – NY, Fri no later 6:30, No Fat meal, Cancer July 22nd contractual, disallowance 84.10.”  (The commas denote a new line in the message.)  This one makes no sense.  It’s in my handwriting, but I certainly wouldn’t take a bus from Chicago to New York on a friday evening, and eating a no fat meal, cancer or otherwise wouldn’t be my choice.  It’s obviously missing a lot factual information in the speed writing.

Now, maybe, I could have looked at these notes twelve years ago and made some sense out of them.  What concerns me is that I saved this sticky note which has a lot of unrelated, it seems, information on it.  Maybe I saved it because of the password, but I think it just got stuck to the inside front pocket of the briefcase all these years and went unnoticed.  It was a “sticky” note after all.  Right underneath that previous note is this:  “Wed noon – Thurs 10A, 12:30 pres.  1 hr b4 (obvious speed writing for “before”), an arrow (I draw a lot of arrows in my notes.) Naperville – 68, brakes WP Timing Belt.”

I must have been short on sticky notes, at least the 3 X 5 size, because this one is pretty much completely filled up.  Check this one out:  “Fall Cat, BB Bear, 250, GT Well, 100, Rainbow, cancel, Growling.”  What the hell kind of code is that?  It’s in my handwriting.

This is the best.  On one side, in the top half, is written:  “Ima Confused.”  Now that’s funny, because I seriously am.  Right under that is: “Chic-Wash, Nov 12, Leave noon, avail early AM, another arrow pointing to Reagan, BWI another arrow pointing away to an equal sign.”

Honestly, I can write things down, look at them 15 minutes later, and not have any idea what it means, so it’s not so amazing that I can’t understand any of these cryptic notes on a 3 X 5 sticky note from twelve years ago, but I’ve never had the opportunity to look at a 3 X 5 sticky note from twelve years ago and I find it disconcerting.  Like part of my life has disappeared from memory.  When was I in Boston, taking a train from Chicago, what does Naperville have to with a 68 something that needs brakes, WP and a timing belt, why do I need 100,000 premium fliers, and whose is Reagan and what does BWI stand for?

I’m going to throw away this 3 X 5 sticky now because it hardly seems like there is anything on there that I need.  Maybe I better shred it.  What if it could be used as evidence against me for something I did in this “other” life I know nothing about?  What if I have multiple personalities, like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde?  If I knew what the password was for, maybe I would keep it for that, but I don’t.  In the corner in small print is the phrase “hammer toe.”  What the hell could that mean?  Sounds like a rogue agent, don’t you think?  Okay, that’s enough.  WTF.

I think I could use an “Enigma” machine.  I wonder if they still have one of those available.


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I’ve discovered that I do “requests.”  I’m sitting at a keyboard, so a stretch could put me sitting at a keyboard in a piano bar, right?  So why not do requests?  Ideas given freely should be utilized, I think, so when a friend emailed me about how fired up she is getting over people overusing the word “really,” I figured what’s the harm in looking into it?  I hope she leaves me a tip.

There seems to be a lot of people who are incensed about the overuse of certain words.  A simple search of “Do People Overuse The Word Really” on Google turned up 20,400,000 hits.  I got to search page three.  By then it was clear that there are a number of overused words, some defined as words that should be cut from prose all together.  According to some, if really is in a sentence, it should be rewritten.  For example: “I’m really writing this.”  That sounds like I’m being totally defensive about who’s writing this piece.  By the way, “totally” is obviously another word that should be lined through.  “Really” adds nothing to this.

In Journalism 101 we would write a four or five paragraph article using some stated facts, and then edit what we had written down to one paragraph.  It was really difficult to do.  There I go again.  Was it “really” difficult, or just difficult?  Anyway, (there’s one I overuse a lot along with “so,” and “well.”) those of us who write kind of fall in love with the words we put on the page, as well as the order in which we put them, and we’re not really happy about seeing them go.  Oh my god, there I go again.

But I think what my friend is saying, is that, at least in her part of the world, what is commonly referred to as New England or the Northeast, the word “really” is now being used like “like” was used by the Valley Girls of the 80s.

“And he was like, you know, seriously, and like, I wanted to, totally, like, and he’s like, no way.”  And the other girl is..”like, I know.”  Know what?  It was worse than “um” and “uh” for krisakes.  I remember walking behind a group of young girls in a mall once, a place I frequent less than once a year, and they never formed a complete sentence during their entire conversation, yet they seemed to be communicating somehow.  Seriously?  Really?

So, (see?) without really asking my friend what she was all fired up about with the use of the word really, her statement, “You get to the point where you would like to say to people really do you have to use the word really so much???” kind of sums it up.

What I noticed in my unofficial research is that people say “seriously” more than “really,” but sometimes together as in “You still like Madonna?  Really?  Seriously?”  My research was done in my part of the world which is commonly referred to as the Southwest or the Land of Enchantment.  Here it is often said as “realmente” or “en serio.”  Bilingual with the help of a English/Spanish dictionary, you see.

How about “literally?”  As in, “I mean that, literally.”  Here’s some thesaurus entries for that word:  actually, completely, correctly, direct, directly, faithfully, indisputably, letter by letter, literatim, not figuratively, plainly, precisely, really…what?  Seriously?  Really?  Really is a synonym for literally?  I use literally a lot.  I use really a lot, but I’m not sure I use it when I’m talking.

I guess it’s now an epidemic in the east according to my friend, at least in the northeast, like around Boston.  No really, I think people are really, using the word, really too much from what I’m told, really.  So you should stop.  That’s what I think.  You’ll start to sound like Canadians that use “aye” at the end of every sentence.  I found a poll online with 27 responses that shows Americans think Canadians say “aye” 9,000 times a day, but actually say it less than ten.  I’m going with 9,000.  They are ending every sentence with, basically, the word “right,” or the phrase “isn’t it.”  “Cold up here today, aye.”

Well, (there I go again.) I hope I’ve done my part in pointing out something that is really bothering some of us, and warn you that this could really spread if we’re not careful.  Wait, did you just say, “Really? Did you just say that, Seriously?”


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Touché Cliché

The newly remodeled Journalism building at the University of New Mexico. This is the door that I walked through every day.

I’ve been noticing lately that I use a lot of clichés.  Warned about them constantly by my Journalism Professor,  Mr. Lawrence, and  by Tony Hillerman, the successful mystery author, who was a member of the Journalism faculty at the University of New Mexico.  I had the pleasure of taking several classes Mr. Hillerman taught, one being the “Art of Editorial Writing.”  I’m almost certain that I never learned the “art” but I do remember seeing the circled phrases on my editorials with a line out to the margin and the word “cliché” written in red ink, a lot of times.  Professor Hillerman hated clichés.

Cliché- obviously a French word because of the little accent mark that makes the e sound like an a –  is defined as “a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse, as sadder but wiser,  or strong as an ox.”  I’m not so sure I like it being called trite, but I know the reason I use so many clichés is my lack of originality, ingenuity and impact.  Need to work on that.

I’ll have to keep my nose to the grindstone, but not make a mountain out of a mole hill.  But when I use a cliché and I notice it, I can get madder than a wet hen at myself.  To make a long story short, I started thinking about this, like I said, and thought I should do something to stem the tide.  If I stick to my guns, I should be able to put a dent in it at least.  Somehow I think I’m fighting a losing battle, and am a far cry from making the grade.  I mean, I went to college a long time ago, so I guess I just missed the boat on this one.

I’m pretty sure if I look at boycotting the use of clichés in my prose, I might not have anything to string into a sentence.  At worst it won’t flow in concrete  sentences.  So I’ll have to lay my cards on the table, make my mark, let the cat out of the bag and lick my wounds.  Like a dog lost in high weeds.  Like it’s going out of style.  Like white on rice.  A loose cannon.

You see the reason I use clichés a lot is they are often used for comic effect, mostly in fiction, and I’m trying to be funny, often.  Salvador Dali – also French I guess because of the accent over the i so it sounds like an e – said “The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.”

And that’s the problem; repetition of a phrase that was originally very clever.  The rest of us rather unclever people just repeat clever things other people say, over and over and over.  That makes them a cliché.  I just like saying that word.  Cliché is a French word, as I mentioned, that refers to a printing plate of removable type.  The printer would have to set letters one at a time, so it would be easier and quicker to cast phrases that were used a lot instead of just single letters.  It it also called a stereotype.  From there it’s not much of a stretch to see how the ready-made phrases of printing type came to mean the overused phrases in language.  See I did it again.

What's with old guys and big glasses?

Hey, did you see where they “captured” James “Whitey” Bulger?  Got him in Santa Monica California in an apartment building where he was living with his girlfriend.  Whitey has been on the FBI’s ten most wanted list for 19 years, but he was on the FBI payroll for a longer time as an “informant”.  He informed on the other mob bosses in Boston to put them out of business.  I’m about as impressed with his capture is I was with the number one person on the FBI list, Osama Bin Laden.  Whitey was number two.  He’s 81 years old.  Probably didn’t even think about trying to outrun the cops.  And the beauty of it – there I go again – is that it was his girlfriend that got him caught.  She was a looker and when the FBI ran a local ad campaign for information they used her picture.  People recognized her.

Somebody just referred to what I was doing as being a “bump on a log”.  Do you know what that cliché means?  It means I’m lazy or don’t want to work.  Hey wait, that kind of fits.  Next time we’ll talk about euphemisms – not. 

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