— When I made one of my almost daily pilgrimages to the public library today, there was only one car in the parking lot. Since the only people indoors were two library employees, the vehicle must belong to one of them. The library was actually quiet!
That one guy who is one of my major pet peeves wasn’t there. He’s the guy who takes not one, not two, maybe three, usually four of the daily newspapers with him to his seat rather than taking one, reading it, returning it, taking another paper, and so on. He invariably is at the university library when I’m there as well, and he does the same irritating thing there.
Now I feel better. On to other things.
— As my two granddaughters and their mom came through from Rochester to Pierre on Friday, they stopped at the Perkins restaurant on N. Cliff Ave. in Sioux Falls where I frequently meet them for lunch—a break in the long drive for them, and for me a chance to see them. Olivia, the third grader, has read all seven of the Harry Potter books, she tells me. That reminds me of a note I read in Entertainment magazine this week. Isn’t it amazing that in the eight Harry Potter movies, in the writer’s opinion at least, there wasn’t a lemon in the bunch. “Also miraculously,” he wrote, “the original cast is still intact, and not one of them has ever pulled a Lindsey.” That refers, I presume, to Lindsey Lohan?
— The daily newspapers I check out regularly all give readers the opportunity to post blog messages without revealing their identities. On this day when things seem to be bugging me, that is another of those things. In the Argus Leader, they’re on the opinion page in the left-hand column; in the Rapid City Journal, they’re at the top of page 2; in the Pierre Capital Journal, they’re on the opinion page. What a great chance to people to submit digs at others! I hate it.
— This is an idea which makes too much sense. And when Congress is involved, common sense is out the window. There is a website, www.onestepamerica.com, whose mission is to obtain signatures on a petition which would amend the U.S. Constitution. They’re saying it would be “one step, one baby step in the right direction,” and indeed it would. But constitutional amendments, and rightly so, take years because once Congress gets its lagging butt into gear and does something, a good many states’ legislatures then have to ratify that amendment, and that takes years and years. This proposed amendment nevertheless would state that no law can embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title. No cramming a hundred and one unconnected measures to a bill, no home-district gems to impress voters, no hidden agendas. This would add one simple line to the U.S. Constitution. “If we all take one small step together, we can move our nation forward,” they say. Correct, but impossible. I see the Republicans in Congress want to submit a constitutional amendment which would require a balanced budget. Well, that’s just great! It looks good on paper, and it sounds good on the campaign trail as they run for re-election and/or try to unseat the sitting President, but that amendment, too, would take years and years. In the meantime, Congress, you boys and girls done anything lately?
— This weekend the remaining members of our own 200th Engineer Company of the South Dakota National Guard are home in Pierre, Chamberlain and Mobridge areas with their families and friends for three final days before they head to their deployment destination in Afghanistan and environs. Godspeed to you all! Can we be so amazingly fortunate in this coming year that every last one of the 200th’s men and women will come home safely just as happened in 2003-04 when they spent a year in Iraq in the first year of the war there? I pray that is the case. In the meantime, how fitting that we bid them bon voyage on Independence Day weekend. What amazing people the Guardsmen are, not only for what they do going overseas but for what hundreds of them have done here in our home state regarding the flooding in the past six weeks.
— As a former English teacher who once upon a time taught grammar back in the days when high school students still were expected to master that subject, I always find it interesting when grammar issues come to the forefront. Such was the case recently when a furor arose over the Oxford comma. To use it or not to use it? To do away with it forever or not? For those who aren’t aware, the Oxford comma refers to a comma used before a coordinating conjunction, such as in the phrase “red, white and blue” or “red, white, and blue.” Do you put a comma after “white” or not? The answer to that question depends on what authority one trusts.
Take this example: “I went to the game with my friend, Steve and Andrew.” How many people went to the game then? Three of you? Four of you? Or this example: “I went to the game with my friend, Steve, and Andrew.” How many people went to the game in that case? Three of you? Four of you? The comma doesn’t clear up the ambiguity at all. I hope I never had sentences such as these on grammar punctuation tests back in the school-teaching days of the early ’60s. Some sharp cookie in my class would have realized that to use the Oxford comma and to not use it could both possibly be correct.