David Rodeback's Blog

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Friday, September 24, 2010
I Almost Missed National Punctuation Day, and I Need to Unload My Desk

As I write, it's still National Punctuation Day, but only just barely. And I've been campaigning again . . .

National Punctuation Day

Weeks ago, I looked up National Punctuation Day and put it on my calendar. Then Life Beyond the Blog (LBB) took over this week, and I didn't have time to do it justice. This saddens me.

Last year, I was on on the ball, and I delivered one of my most commented-on blog posts ever, entirely without the aid of punctuation. Maybe it's just me, but it still tickles. That sodden, undifferentiated mass of words began thusly:

ladies and gentlemen treasured readers all it is my distinct pleasure to wish you a happy punctuation day yes its september 24 already where has the year gone when i worked as an intern in the office of us senator james mcclure of idaho one of my responsibilities was to draft responses to constituent mail when the topic or position didnt fit an existing collection of responses that could be sent automatically the first such letter was urging the senator to vote in favor of i forget the name but it was something like national cosmetics day or maybe it was a week i dont recall anyway my first draft was playful for my amusement and that of the office staff it pondered what the women of the world would look like without cosmetics i actually think most of them would look great but thats not the point this actually is not one of those stories where the joke goes in the mail by accident and causes a national embarrassment i wrote a serious draft after that which was approved

. . . And so on. You get the idea. The banter that followed in the comments was largely unpunctuated, too, so I wasn't the only one caught up in the spirit of the thing.

It turns out to be even harder to write entirely without punctuation than it is to read without it. It's been a long week, and I don't have the intellectual horsepower at this hour to attempt such a thing, or the willpower to resist my skeptical blogger's sense of "been there, done that." So, instead of producing an encore, I'll just offer three sage pieces of advice regarding punctuation, and then we'll move on to a couple of other matters, which we'll call, collectively, cleaning my desk.

Sage Punctuation Advice

First, no one should use parenthesis or the dash as often as I sometimes do. (Tonight is an exception -- or at least it was until just now.)

Second, do you remember how your choir teacher in school told you to breathe wherever there was a punctuation mark in the text of the song? That's actually unreliable, but it's not as silly as adding a punctuation mark to your writing everywhere you feel the need to breathe or everywhere that some sort of a pause seems appropriate when you read aloud. If this approach to punctuation made sense, we'd have a mark called the diaphragm, and we'd use it everywhere, and much more liberally when we've just run up the stairs.

Third, never buy a used comma. You don't know where it's been, and it's most likely been abused.

Desk Cleaning I

Shall we clean off my desk now?

I was chatting with a senior official of the Alpine School District last evening at Pleasant Grove High School's football stadium. I had noted that the turf was artificial, and he told me that it cost a million dollars.

If I were indifferent to the facts of a story, or if I worked for some Dead Tree Media outlet which had trouble telling the difference between news articles and the opinion page, I might have run off right then and written my inflammatory story, and called it "news." Surely, in difficult economic times, or approaching difficult economic times -- one or the other possibility nearly always applies -- it is unconscionable to spend a million dollars of the people's hard-earned tax money on artificial turf for a high school football field. Great story, right?

But I didn't do that. I kept listening.

As it turns out, the useful life of the turf is 20 years. In 20 years it more than pays for itself, because it's not necessary to water it all through the spring, summer, and fall. So unless we're going to stop playing football altogether -- I happen to believe sports are a valuable part of education -- then it actually makes fiscal sense to cough up a million dollars for artificial turf, instead of coughing up more than that for the real stuff.

Good thing I kept listening to someone who knew what he was talking about, right?

I'm just saying'.

Desk Cleaning II

I tried to be even more involved in the political process this year than I have been in most past years. I was fortunate to find some candidates who excite me. First, I went to work for Mike Lee. I wanted to be a delegate to the Utah State Republican Party Convention, mostly so I could vote for him, so I actually campaigned for that office in advance and filled the precinct caucus with my supporters, just to be sure I could get elected. I overshot: They elected me precinct chair, which wasn't my plan, but it got me to the state convention, so it was fine. (Moving out of the precinct a couple of months later wasn't in my plan either, but that's another story.)

I wrote endorsements and explanations in Mike Lee's behalf here at the blog, and they were picked up and passed around the Web, by the Lee campaign and by others. I carried flyers for him and talked to a lot of voters in person and by telephone. So I like to think I helped him survive the convention by a fairly narrow margin, then win the resulting primary by a narrower margin. I'll probably have more to say about that race before Election Day, but he will not need my campaign help to win in November.

I like Morgan Philpot almost as much and have written about him here (see the link). He's the Republican nominee running against multiterm incumbent US Congressman Jim Matheson. I thought I might bend my post-primary efforts toward his election in November, which I think is an important outcome. But his campaign is well-organized, energetic, and just pulled into a statistical dead heat with the incumbent with several weeks yet to go, so things are looking good there, even without much help from me. I'll write about that race sometime between now and the election, but I don't think his campaign needs my serious efforts very much, when it already has . . . well, yours, maybe, and certainly many others'. (There's always room for more!)

The third candidate I really like this year is my incumbent representative on the Alpine School Board, Tim Osborn. He represents American Fork and two precincts of Pleasant Grove. He finished second in the nonpartisan primary, behind challenger and establishment insider John Burton, who is well known and well spoken of. The primary numbers are not much of a worry, because turnout was so low, and the campaigning, not to mention the voters' attention to the campaign, had scarcely begun. I looked at this race and decided it's my best chance to make a difference in the next several weeks, so I've gone to work for the Tim Osborn campaign in my spare time, whatever that is. I offered my initial explanation why I support him just before the primary in a blog post entitled, "I'd Like to Keep Being Spoiled." We'll talk more of Tim Osborn in the weeks to come.

Well, that's about it for my desk tonight, except for the box my new, replacement iPod Touch came in, but I'll just recycle that. So let's call it a night, shall we?

Just remember what I said about used commas, okay? And let me be the last to wish you a happy Punctuation Day 2010.

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