Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fake ID

Perhaps one of those drunken, drugged revelers is responsible for the last word on the fifth line. Its incomplete, though Im still able to identify it.

As the cheerleading squad at the University of Texas might shout, Give me a t! The 20th letter of the alphabet — the one that can be found in front of shirts and bills — is missing. In other words, were dealing with identity theft.

Return t to its rightful entity and well have solved this case of ... wait for it ... mistaken identity.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The New Kid on the Blake

He ames. He shoots. He … effs up.

A couple of months ago, four people were found dead in a burning Florida mansion owned by James Blake. (The four victims were renting the $1.5 million home in Avila, a gated community north of Tampa.) You may have heard of Blake. The former pro tennis player, who was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world in 2006, won 10 singles titles in his 14-year career, which reached an unthinkable low in 2004. In the span of a couple of months, Blake broke his neck during a practice session when he fell headfirst into a net post, lost his father to gastric cancer and developed shingles, which temporarily paralyzed half his face and blurred his vision.

A year removed from that very difficult stretch, rising from the lowest of lows, Blake defeated Rafael Nadal and three other players during a memorable run at the 2005 U.S. Open that culminated with a dramatic match against Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals. Agassi won the 2-hour, 51-minute match, which lasted well into the New York night, in a fifth-set tiebreaker, but Blake won admiration. After Agassi smacked a forehand winner to clinch the 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 victory after 1 a.m. ET, both players received a lengthy standing ovation. “At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn’t the winner,” Agassi told the crowd. “Tennis was.”

I’ve never been much of a tennis fan, but I followed Blake’s career, with good reason. We grew up in the same town and attended the same high school, Fairfield (Conn.) High. Our attendance didn’t overlap; I graduated two years before he enrolled as a freshman. Still, he was a pro athlete from this sports nut’s neck of the woods.

James Blake is a man indirectly associated with a Tampa tragedy. James Blake is a former pro tennis player who had an up-and-down career. James Blake is a fellow Mustang, as we FHS grads are known. James Blake is a lot of things. James Blake is not Jeff Blake.

The caption leads us to believe otherwise. The first name in the caption doesn’t play well with others, so I ask that we not spin that jazzy Jeff. Have James step in front of Blake lively.

Jeff Blake is a retired NFL player. He was a quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals and six other teams beginning in 1992. Jeff Blake, likes James Blake, is a 6-foot-1-inch athlete who had a 14-year pro career. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. You fan the flames when you can the James — the one that belonged in the photo caption, that is.

Here is high school sophomore Jeff James Blake's photo
as it appeared in my brother's 1995 FHS yearbook.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It Goes By So Fast

I planned on writing in great detail about today’s mistake. That won’t be possible. I can’t find the time. You’re hurting, readers, and that’s understandable. Fortunately, I know of something that heals all wounds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Right (or Left) Is Wrong

When Write Is Wrong pales in comparison to when site is wrong. We’re all familiar with wrong-site surgery, even if we aren’t familiar with the term. Wrong-site surgery is a botched procedure in which the surgeon removes or operates on the wrong body part. These medical mix-ups occur far too frequently, and when they do they often garner national attention. Examples of wrong-site surgery include a cancer patient who sued after surgeons removed the wrong testicle, an ophthalmologist who operated on the wrong eye of a 4-year-old boy and a doctor who removed the wrong arm of an elderly woman.

The alarming rate of wrong-site surgeries has led many cautious patients to go out on a limb and mark their limbs to let the surgeon know which body part needs to be operated on … and which needs to be left alone!

Have charts been swapped? Have blood samples been mislabeled? Have X-rays been flipped? Surgeons need to double- and triple-check to make sure, when it’s operation time, the left arm is indeed the right arm. They must have protocols in place, and they must be patient with their patients.

The stakes are far lower for editors, to be sure, but the goal — mistake-free work — remains the same. Take, for instance, this excerpt from a “Tips for Your Hospital Stay” sheet that was mailed from a health-insurance provider to a family member undergoing surgery.

When it reached my desk, I scheduled an operation for the second bullet point, stat. This morning I will be removing a gangrenous to. Thing is, the sentence has more than one to, so I must be 100 percent certain I’m removing the true to. The left to is the wrong to; the right to is the right to. So, make no mistake, I’m making like a competent surgeon and amputating the right to. The ‘delete’ key will serve as my scalpel. When the operation is complete, I’ll visit you in the waiting room.

[Hours pass.]

The operation was a success. To is gone; the bullet point got that out of its system and is as good as new — even better. It’s resting now, but I’ll let you sneak a peek.

You and your surgeon should use a marker to indicate the part of the body or extremity that will be operated on.

I have another surgery scheduled for noon, so now we, like the bullet point and its rotted to, must part. Before I go, however, I’m curious to know if you heard about the guy who had to have his left leg amputated because it was infected. The doctor accidentally removed his right leg. The infected left leg was amputated shortly after the erroneous procedure. The guy planned on suing the doctor and the hospital, but his attorney told him he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Have a Miner Problem

All nine miners were adults — no minors. All were at least 23 years old.

Or were they?

After informing us that the “mine nine” ranged in age from 23 to 58, the writer quotes Santiago Tapia, the youngest miner at … 21? One need not go digging below the surface to know that Tapia is out of range. Either he is at least 23 “ore” the range is 21 to 58.

After perusing this Peruvian tale, I’ve got to ask an age-old question: Ironic, isn’t it, that the word recount was used in the headline? A recount of sorts is needed in the body of the article. Only in a dictionary — or perhaps a Major League Baseball lineup — should 21 come between 23 and 58.

Based on the age discrepancy, I assume the writer did not minor in math. A minor in journalism is also questionable. When determining the age of subjects in an article about a cave-in, a journalism student treats the findings as more than “miner” details.

I’m a veritable mine of groan-inducing puns, and I could go on for … wait for it … ages.

Friday, July 18, 2014

"Be" Bopped

This can’t be right. Where’s be? I don’t see a be? Gee.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Little Prep Work

Robinson is working up a sweat doing pushups and sit-ups. Ill one-up him and perform a checkup. Upon further examination, Ive diagnosed this ESPN The Magazine paragraph with a preposition deficiency.

Its in the last sentence, of all places. Its a small word, but its of vital importance. Without it, the sentence is out of sorts. Im a man of few words, so those are all the clues youll get out of me.

So, have you figured out how the sentence got off course?

By forgetting of, of course!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tee-Oh, Ar-Oh, Oh, No!

Photo by Paul K. Buck/AFP/Getty Images
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Something is ROT-ten in the state of TORONTO. Well, it was 20 years ago today, when the Blue Jays faced the Rangers in Texas.

Joe Carter, a Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, hit a Game 6 walk-off home run against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams to win the 1993 World Series. His historic homer, which came with one out, two strikes and two men on base in a game Toronto trailed 6-5, cemented Carter’s fame, especially north of the border. He will live in infamy, however, for something he was involved in the following season.

For six innings of a July 14, 1994, game against Texas, Carter sported an error as easy to spot as the CN Tower on the Toronto skyline. The five-time Major League Baseball All-Star played right field and batted cleanup as a member of TOROTNO.

I’m on to you, Carter. You don’t have ONTO on your chest.

The ROT in the middle of Carter’s uniform led to rotten luck all around, or so it seems. Carter went hitless in four at-bats against the Rangers that mid-July day, and the Blue Jays lost the game 7-3. Less than a month later, MLB players went on strike, and the 1994 World Series was canceled. The Blue Jays haven’t won a World Series or so much as sniffed a postseason berth since Carter donned a uniform that was for the birds.

Toronto’s luck ran out when RON ran out. RON should run in the middle, after one TO and in front of another. Do we want Carter’s uniform TO ROT? NO!

A (musical) note: Carter is wearing a Blue Jays jersey, which we could slangily shorten to Jer-Z, which sounds a bit like Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Corey ... wait for it ... Carter. If I were Carter (Joe, that is), I’d do as Jay-Z suggested on The Black Album and Change Clothes. I’m not talking about a Suit & Tie. Put on a TORONTO uniform. I’d be Crazy in Love with that.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Lost Boys

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Phil Knight and I don’t mingle. They have eye-popping net worth. My net is worthless. I am not part of the 1%. I barely qualify to be among the 99%, though that’s another story for another day.

In my Connecticut hometown, however, I am a member of an exclusive club. As a man, I am part of Fairfield’s 7.5%. I am one of the haves. That is, I have a Y chromosome.

Fairfield has its plusses. It’s a coastal town with five miles of beaches along Long Island Sound. Settled in 1639, Fairfield is awash in history; it’s chock-full of sites with ties to the Revolutionary War era. General Electric and Bigelow Tea have their headquarters in Fairfield. Its schools (including two universities) are strong, its crime rate low and its golf courses plentiful. Not a golfer? Hike, fish, camp or simply relax in Fairfield’s wooded areas, lakes, rivers and bird sanctuaries. The picturesque New England town was the setting for the TV series Who’s the Boss? and was a filming location for movies such as The Stepford Wives (1975), Revolutionary Road, Confessions of a Shopaholic and And So It Goes, a romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton that opens nationwide two weeks from today.

Sounds like a charming place to call home, huh? Well, what keeps some folks from settling in Fairfield is the town’s unusual makeup. A good man is hard to find; in Fairfield, any man is hard to find. Of its 59,404 residents, 31,187 are female and 4,455 are male. The other 23,762? Your guess is as good as mine. They look male, but perhaps they’re humanoid aliens. (Have you seen They Live?) They could be cyborgs. (The Terminator, anyone?) Another possibility: androids. (I refer you to the aforementioned The Stepford Wives.) Maybe they’re simply androgynous. It’s a mystery.

Oh, wait. Mystery solved. Fairfield’s population breakdown broke down when its percentages were male-adjusted. That number — 7.5 — isn’t man enough for me. Inserting a missing digit will certainly close my hometown’s gender gap. That’s this resident’s four-gone conclusion.

Person / Claim to Fame / Sex
Leonard Bernstein / Composer / Male (?)
James Blake / Tennis Player / Male (?)
Julie Chu / Olympic Ice Hockey Player / Female
J.J. Henry / Golfer / Male (?)
Don Imus / Radio Personality / Male (?)
David LaChapelle / Photographer / Male (?)
Justin Long / Actor / Male (?)
John Mayer / Musician / Male (?)
Charles Nagy / Baseball Player / Male (?)
Meg Ryan / Actress / Female
Robert Penn Warren / Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist / Male (?)
Tina Weymouth / Musician / Female

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tax Evasion in the Commonwealth

This list of the most taxed cities in America seems straightforward. Bridgeport, at No. 1, has the highest percentage, 24.5. No. 2 Newark has a lower percentage than Bridgeport (the Connecticut city that borders my hometown) but a higher percentage than No. 3 Philadelphia, and so on. Until we get to No. 7, that is. If Louisville’s taxes, as a percentage of annual income, are only 2.7, Kentucky’s largest city needs to move way down the list, far removed from the top 10 — and I need to move to Louisville!

Louisville must stay at No. 7, of course. What has to change is its percentage, which underwent some unforeseen tax cuts. Someone is missing. Or, to be more precise, some 1 is missing. Levy that lost digit and no one gets charged with tax fraud. Consider it a tax write-on, if you will.

I’m done. I won’t tax you with further puns, readers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Ship Wreck

A USA Today caption writer stepped in it. I suggest changes be made ASAP. That’s right — step on it!

First up, the comma quandary in the first sentence. Do we have too many commas? Not enough commas? It’s difficult to say for certain without knowing the writer’s original intent.

If the writer felt the couple’s hometown was essential information, no commas are needed. Therefore, we must delete the comma after Beach.

Dan and Laurie Castaneda of Long Beach 
walk the deck of the Azamara Journey on Tuesday.

If, however, the writer believed the material was not essential to the meaning of the sentence, commas must set off “of Long Beach.” That requires a second comma following Castaneda.

Dan and Laurie Castaneda, of Long Beach, 
walk the deck of the Azamara Journey on Tuesday.

No commas? Acceptable. Two commas? Sure. One comma, after Beach? Nuh-uh. Because the phrase “of Long Beach” is not critical to the reader’s comprehension, I’d side with the two-comma backers in this case.

Next up, the repetition, I repeat, repetition in the second sentence. Are we building something aboard ship? I ask because we’ve got a “for by for” lumbering around the first half of the closing sentence. If I were construction foreman, I’d order my crew to take down half of that forbidden twosome. “Wood” you?

Finally, the mislabeling in the second sentence. No, the ship is not the Titanic Memorial Cruise. The ship is the Azamara Journey, as established in the opening sentence. The ship was on a Titanic Memorial Cruise, which commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the legendary ocean liner’s maiden, ill-fated voyage. Passengers, the Castanedas included, sailed to the exact spot in the North Atlantic Ocean where the Titanic went down.

I have a sinking feeling this photo caption would be better off buried at the bottom of the sea as well.

Friday, July 4, 2014


It’s been 106 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Myriad theories exist to try to make sense of this long drought: billy goats, black cats, Steve Bartman. It’s all conjecture.

Until now.

I think I’ve pinpointed the true reason the Cubs have been, as many claim, cursed: scoring. It’s not that the Cubs don’t score enough, or that they give up too many runs. I believe they’re being shortchanged when they do score. The proof seems to lie in this MLB recap from my local paper. Chicago outfielder Nate Schierholtz had a half-dozen RBIs, yet the Cubs were awarded only five runs. Granted, five runs was enough to pull out this game against Washington, but I wonder how many one- or two-run Chicago losses over the years were the result of shoddy scorekeeping.

For those who are curious, the Cubs won this game 11-1.

Quick question before I go: If you are a young writer covering this hard-luck National League team, does that make you a Cubs cub reporter?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BET's Black Mark

Hello. Is it T you’re looking for?

I found it … in the oddest of places.

During Sunday’s live broadcast of the BET Awards, Lionel Richie received the Lifetime Achievement Award. When he accepted the award, his name flashed on screen as Lionel Ritchie and trended on Twitter all night long (all night).

The smooth singer known for his easy-listening ballads came into this world in 1949, and he was born Richie. (If you’re looking for a guy named Ritchie, may I suggest Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie?)

We’ve all misspelled words, but the impact is great when the word is a person’s name and is displayed in all caps during a key moment of an awards show seen by millions of people. The mistake, like Richie when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award, takes center stage.

If you wanted to do your best, BET, your best bet was Richie. Truly.