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  • A Word, Please: An expert has her not-so-secret source

    A Word, Please: An expert has her not-so-secret source

    Wouldn't it be nice to have your own grammar concierge? Anytime you needed help writing something, anytime you needed a bet settled, anytime you were just curious about a language issue, you could call an expert for answers. Your information valet would have so much experience studying grammar...

  • Read On: Return of 'The Twilight Zone'

    Read On: Return of 'The Twilight Zone'

    The greatest television drama of all time is about to unfold on screens big and small, plugged and unplugged, beginning on Monday. It will play clear through Thursday night and is destined to dwarf "Roots," "The Civil War," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men" and everything that came before in terms of sheer...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Dressing for success appears to have gone out of fashion

    The Whiteboard Jungle: Dressing for success appears to have gone out of fashion

    As my wife and I were having lunch recently, we noticed a man with tattoos on his arms, wearing a white T-shirt, jeans, bowling shoes and an Oakland A's baseball cap, plugged into earbuds. His appearance would not have caught our attention except that he was carrying a bag with the U.S. Postal...

  • A Word, Please: Avoid too many Ss for appearance' sake

    A Word, Please: Avoid too many Ss for appearance' sake

    I don't hear many people saying "for goodness' sake" these days. "For conscience' sake" and "for appearance' sake" are pretty much nonexistent in my world, too. In fact, the only "for … sake" expression I hear lately includes a word I wouldn't use in this space even if I could. So you might think,...

  • A Word, Please: A significant change to the Internet

    A Word, Please: A significant change to the Internet

    It's official: The Internet is over. So is the Web. It's hard to believe, I know. Just last year, it seemed these two powerhouses ruled the world. But as of this summer, they're done. Kaput. Over. Dead as e-mail. Meet their replacements: the internet and the web. You'll see these substitutes anywhere...

  • Learning Matters: Musical features important message for teens

    Learning Matters: Musical features important message for teens

    What do we want our children to learn on their way to adulthood, and how do we want them to spend their time as they get there? How can schools and communities provide authentic work-based learning experiences where young people can gain the skills they need in life? Those are some of the questions...

  • A Word, Please: To whom do we attribute these errors?

    A Word, Please: To whom do we attribute these errors?

    A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times reported: "Edric Dashell Gross, whom police said is a transient known to frequent Santa Monica, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder." And with that, we have another entry for our Don't Use "Whom" Unless You Know What You're Doing file. This...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: History should be maintained, not eliminated

    The Whiteboard Jungle: History should be maintained, not eliminated

    There was a time when the name "Burbank" was nationally recognized. The TV comedy show "Laugh-In" and "The Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson made Burbank a household name, referencing it with the popular mocking proclamation, "Welcome to Beautiful Downtown Burbank." Though a joke, it brought attention...

  • Learning Matters: Taking a look at summertime choices

    Learning Matters: Taking a look at summertime choices

    By any definition — school year, season or temperature — summer is here. Luckily for families concerned about day care or summer learning loss, or who just want their children to have active fun away from video games, the community offers plenty of options for children and youth. I started exploring...

  • A Word, Please: Looking at 'one word, two words or hyphenated' issue

    A Word, Please: Looking at 'one word, two words or hyphenated' issue

    Health care, healthcare or health-care? Make up, makeup or make-up? Water ski, water-ski or waterski? Cell phone, cellphone or cell-phone? A lot of questions posed in this column elicit the answer: There's no right answer. Different dictionaries, different publications and different industries...

  • A Word, Please: A period of declining punctuation

    A Word, Please: A period of declining punctuation

    Fine. Sure. Yes. No. Hardly. Whatever. In a longer piece of writing like an article, blog post or even email, periods are usually necessary. They show the reader where one thought ends and another begins. But what if you have only one brief thought to convey? For example, if you want to give a...

  • Read On: Shooting holes in assault-weapon dogma

    Read On: Shooting holes in assault-weapon dogma

    There's a joke going around Twitter that goes something like this: Man: "I'll take 2 boxes of Sudafed." Clerk: "Sorry, by law you can only buy one at a time." Man: "OK then, just the one box of Sudafed and these seven guns." Yes, it's true. It's easier to buy enough firepower to blow away a small...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: School should be a place where students thrive

    The Whiteboard Jungle: School should be a place where students thrive

    "Graduation rate at Glendale's high schools tops 90%" according to a Glendale News-Press headline recently. On the surface, this statistic is celebratory, something Glendale Unified should prominently display at the top of its website's homepage. Before we pat each other on the back for a job well...

  • A Word, Please: Your danglers won't just fix themselves

    A Word, Please: Your danglers won't just fix themselves

    Recently, the Los Angeles Times described the movie "Dheepan" as the "Palme d'Or winner about Sri Lankan refugees trying to escape their violent past in France." That made reader Rod do a double-take. "The question is where the 'in France' should go," Rod wrote. "There's a serious difference between...

  • Learning Matters: Issues seem to take a backseat when campaigns heat up

    Learning Matters: Issues seem to take a backseat when campaigns heat up

    "Keep your core tight, and don't forget to breathe." That's the advice I've been hearing this past month at the fitness studio I frequent. And now that our local primary election season is over, the advice sounds useful for voters and candidates exhausted by the oxygen-depleting deluge of negative...

  • A Word, Please: Fielding some softball questions

    A Word, Please: Fielding some softball questions

    The questions coming my way lately have been short and sweet and easily spun into some helpful tips. Here's a sampling I hope you'll find useful. A reader named Walter wanted to know whether, in "I speak French, but I don't speak Swahili," there should be a comma after "French." MORE: Read past...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: A teacher's work is not finished even as school year ends

    The Whiteboard Jungle: A teacher's work is not finished even as school year ends

    The misnomer about the end of the school year is that things are winding "down." Actually, things are winding up. During the last couple of weeks, especially the past few days, a mad dash occurs to evaluate student work and compute final grades. Every year, I feel like I am running a 10-month marathon,...

  • Read On: Not to mention him again, but ...

    Read On: Not to mention him again, but ...

    It's become nearly impossible to write about Donald Trump and his unfathomably successful presidential campaign without striking the same flabbergasted tone that's been tossed around pretty much daily. But here goes: I am a member of the same media that has served to create this escalating nightmare....

  • A Word, Please: A situation where there are no rules

    A Word, Please: A situation where there are no rules

    "I and Ted watched TV last night." How do you like that sentence? I'm guessing that, as a literate person who'd pause to read a language column, you don't. Neither do I. For my money, "Ted and I" is a much better way to start the sentence. The question is: Why? MORE: Read more of June's columns...

  • Learning Matters: Organization is key to modern-day parenting

    Learning Matters: Organization is key to modern-day parenting

    I've never kept closely to routines, certainly not the daily schedules of reading, studies, exercise and sleep my ninth-grade English teacher encouraged. I still remember Mrs. Finkenbinder's homework assignment to create a daily schedule, and I recall liking the idea even as I recognized my own...

  • A Word, Please: British leaders trip over their language

    A Word, Please: British leaders trip over their language

    Sometimes, when politics get too nasty and the national outlook seems too bleak, it's easy to succumb to despair. So if the months and months of comments about "losers" and "Lucifer in the flesh" and "blood coming out of her wherever" have you down, here's a little something to cheer you up: Other...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Giving praise for a local high school senior

    The Whiteboard Jungle: Giving praise for a local high school senior

    Too often educators get caught up in negativity. Like a peace officer who mainly interacts with the worst citizens in society and forms an overall suspicious attitude toward anyone he encounters, teachers often generalize about all students especially when they have several who misbehave or don't...

  • Read On: Eden cherishes iconic role on 'Jeannie'

    Read On: Eden cherishes iconic role on 'Jeannie'

    Actors who make their living (or at least try to make their living) acting will tell you that all it takes is a single big role — one with which they can be identified — to alter the course of their lives. Then there are the actors who achieve that iconic role. Too many of them will tell you that...

  • Learning Matters: Clark Magnet High staff members help make a difference

    Learning Matters: Clark Magnet High staff members help make a difference

    I recently received an email from Scholastic, a company known for school book fairs, asking if I wanted to write another column about Clark Magnet High School's latest win in the Lexus Scholastic Eco Challenge. I last wrote about the team and its streak of wins a little over a year ago. "Yes!"...

  • A Word, Please: Be careful if you choose to 'lay down'

    A Word, Please: Be careful if you choose to 'lay down'

    It was a long, nasty battle, riddled with insults, personal attacks and even name-calling. But at last, a winner has been declared. The victor pulled off a major upset simply by being simple. And this no-thinking-required appeal won millions of supporters and ultimately trumped what more informed...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Open advanced classes harm higher-ability students

    The Whiteboard Jungle: Open advanced classes harm higher-ability students

    "I find rowdy kids intolerable and just plain annoying." This is not a teacher talking, but a student describing what it is like for a smart kid to be in a class with kids of lower ability. About 15 years ago, a shift began in high schools instituting an open-door policy that allows any student...

  • Read On: Time to remember Mom, eccentricity and all

    Read On: Time to remember Mom, eccentricity and all

    I was all set to write another column about Donald Trump because we haven’t really heard enough lately about that guy, have we? But then I came to my senses and realized I had nothing really new to add to the discussion, that something as inexplicable as Drumpf’s ascension to the top of the Republican...

  • A Word, Please: 10 words that may astound or annoy you

    A Word, Please: 10 words that may astound or annoy you

    Are you the person friends turn to when they need a resume proofread or a grammar bet settled? Do you still beam with pride at having won your third-grade spelling bee? Then you're probably right. In my experience, people who think they're word savvy usually are. But the English language, like...

  • A Word, Please: A cartoonish headline has little behind it

    A Word, Please: A cartoonish headline has little behind it

    A single-panel cartoon penned by Jim Borgman in the late 1990s showed a news anchor sitting in front of three "Wheel of Fortune"-type wheels — the kind a contestant on a game show would spin hoping that, when the spinning stopped, a needle would point to a big prize. But the wheels in the cartoon...

  • Learning Matters: Music is more than an extracurricular activity

    Learning Matters: Music is more than an extracurricular activity

    Earlier this year, I shared my trepidation as I returned to the role of elementary chorus director, a once-a-week, after-school position I'd last held 11 years ago. I knew the challenges. I didn't know the students this time around, and they didn't know me. Except for the few children who participated...

  • A Word, Please: Using subordinates, you can bury main clauses

    A Word, Please: Using subordinates, you can bury main clauses

    If you ever want to clear a room, a single word will usually do the trick: grammar. For anyone who had a hypercritical English teacher or a particularly persnickety aunt — and that's a lot of us — the word conjures up some pretty unpleasant associations: sharp criticisms for using "me" in place...

  • Read On: Striving toward immortality

    Read On: Striving toward immortality

    I'm going to make a prediction here right now: Someday, I'm going to be big. Really big. Possibly even legendary. I'll be hysterically funny, sublimely profound, immensely talented and altogether spectacular — nay, a genius. Unfortunately, I won't be around to appreciate the praise foisted upon...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: With the current state of teacher salaries, tenure must stay

    The Whiteboard Jungle: With the current state of teacher salaries, tenure must stay

    Teachers and their unions collectively exhaled last week when a California appeals court overturned the Vergara ruling in 2014, which struck down teacher tenure in the state. As a teacher who has struggled with the virtue of tenure, this was the right call to make at this time. I, too, am frustrated...

  • A Word, Please: Explaining why the joke is funny

    A Word, Please: Explaining why the joke is funny

    In 2014, to promote a new exhibit on Vikings, the British Museum set sail with a clever public relations spectacle: an authentic-looking vessel manned by a motley crew that sailed down the Thames and past government buildings where members of Parliament had a front-row seat for the show. As one...

  • Learning Matters: Alex Theatre event to feature film, panel discussion

    Learning Matters: Alex Theatre event to feature film, panel discussion

    Next Thursday evening at the Alex Theatre, the Glendale Educational Foundation will screen the Sundance film, "Most Likely to Succeed" in hopes of inspiring interest and discussion about the future of education in our community. The film features students at High Tech High School in San Diego and...

  • Read On: 20 lessons from the circus

    Read On: 20 lessons from the circus

    I'm sorry, but I just can't help it. I am so utterly fascinated by this year's presidential campaign that it's difficult for me to think of much else. It is, with apologies to the Ringling Bros., the Greatest Show on Earth — or on any other planet for that matter. And we've still got nearly seven...

  • A Word, Please: There's correct, and then there's standard

    A Word, Please: There's correct, and then there's standard

    Is it canceled or cancelled? That's what a friend who contacted me recently through Facebook needed to know. It was 3:45 a.m. and she was finalizing a legal brief. I'm not sure what she meant by "finalizing." I don't even know if she's a lawyer. Such is the nature of friendship these days. All...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: University of California's change indicates a sign of the times

    The Whiteboard Jungle: University of California's change indicates a sign of the times

    Young people who attend school today may be the least read of any previous generation. Well, life is about to get even easier. In a sign of the attention-deficient times, the University of California has announced a change in the personal statements previously required in applications. No longer...

  • A Word, Please: Who do uninformed content providers answer to?

    A Word, Please: Who do uninformed content providers answer to?

    We used to read articles. Now, more and more, we read content. What's the difference? An article represents an honest attempt to provide quality information gathered by a professional willing to put his name on it. Content is anything that will get your eyeballs on a business' Web page. MORE: Read...

  • Learning Matters: New GUSD superintendent faces immediate challenges

    It's a new day for the Glendale Unified School District and its new superintendent, Winfred Roberson, who begins his work here this week. I wish him the very best as he acquaints himself with more than 26,000 students as well as teachers, other staff, parents and a host of individuals and organizations...

  • A Word, Please: The ease of using single quotation marks

    The punctuation mark that annoys people the most is, without a doubt, the apostrophe. Whole books have been written lamenting atrocities like "five carrot's and three kiwi's" (for the record, that should be "five carrots and three kiwis"), and those books have made millions. People who know the...

  • Read On: A hunt for the Easter holiday's history

    OK, boys and girls of Burbank, Glendale and surrounding regions, I'm about to make a startling admission. Well maybe it's not all that startling, quite frankly, given that I'm Jewish and all. But here goes: I don't get the whole Easter thing. MORE: Read more of Ray's columns >> Now, I don't want...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: If you go to Disneyland, prepare to spend a lot of money

    Many families cherish the memories of taking their children to Disneyland for the first time. I just experienced what in all likelihood will be my last. This week, my wife and I treated our youngest son to an overnight trip at the Disneyland Hotel. A stay in a small 364-square-foot room is $595...

  • A Word, Please: Sorry, Gerry, 'predominate' is also an adjective

    Dear readers, I'd like to introduce you to someone. His name's Gerry Coleman and if you don't know who he is, don't feel bad. Neither do I. Heck, for all I know, he doesn't even exist. But every conscientious user of the English language should know about Gerry, or, as he prefers to be called:...

  • Learning Matters: It's getting harder to draw students toward teaching

    Teachers matter. That was the message I took away from the Glendale Educational Foundation's recent Denim and Diamonds awards dinner at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Christine Walters, school board president, may have said it best when she called out her third-grade teacher, Melinda Lanzafame...

  • A Word, Please: Case turns on meaning of a participial phrase

    In February, the Supreme Court heard a case that hinged on the grammar of a single phrase in a federal law. The law calls for a 10-year minimum sentence for anyone possessing child pornography if he has prior convictions for "aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving...

  • Read On: Even a scratch can be potentially dangerous

    Please allow me for a moment to share in the ongoing drama that is my life. It doesn't take much for life-and-death struggle to break out at any moment. All it really takes is a scratch. Literally. MORE: Read more of Ray's columns >> So I'm going about my business a couple of weeks ago when I run...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Candidates and culture lower the bar

    Last week, I took my son to see the animated film "Zootopia" and saw a trailer for "The Angry Birds Movie," which included a 15-second scene of an American Bald Eagle character urinating in front of other birds. While the action was not shown, the sound of it was in full Dolby sound. This is what...

  • A Word, Please: When it comes to grammar, being self-taught helps

    A reader named Al was taught that the word "towards" is for physical direction while "toward" is for more abstract uses. My friend Tracy was taught that the word "percent" must always follow a number, while "percentage" is for all other uses. A user on a grammar message board wrote: "I was taught...

  • Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Responsibility and its online importance

    You know what's great about the Internet? Everybody gets a voice!You know what's not so great about the Internet? Everybody gets a voice!More often than not these voices become mere static where issues and their zealots fall into a labyrinth and are subsequently sequestered from the true issues...

  • A Word, Please: 'Wake' variations may awaken confusion

    One day not long ago, Steve in Burbank woke to find a newspaper on his doorstep. Or perhaps he awakened. Or maybe he just woke up. I suppose it's possible he even awaked. I don't know. And neither does Steve. Which is why he found my email address in the paper and wrote to me: "Please straighten...

  • Read On: Gamesmanship trumps the naysayers

    So, in my world these days, ladies and gentlemen, there is pretty much only one subject that matters. Here's a hint: It's two words and rhymes with Monald Mump. Yes, this past week was the one where the Conventional Wisdom officially evolved from "Donald Trump is a whacko who will self-destruct"...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: 'Open House' closes the door to discussion

    Get ready for a new kind of "Open House" experience, where having a quick conversation with your child's teacher is discouraged, replaced with exhibits of student work. Hopefully, schools are getting this message out to parents in order to dampen their disappointment when they approach a teacher...

  • Learning Matters: When it comes to career technical education, collaboration is key

    Career technical education is not new in the Glendale Unified School District, but over the last few years, it has been renamed and renewed as a topic and a goal. "Preparing our students for their future" became the motto in 2011. The district's strategic plan calls for students to "…Participate...

  • A Word, Please: For less confusion, seek the modifier's noun

    Not long ago, I used as an example in this column "Having already missed two mortgage payments, Jane asked her mother if she could loan her some money." I was making the point that editors usually prefer "lend" to "loan" as a verb, but reader Catherine spotted another interesting issue here. "Reading...

  • Commentary: There was more to George Washington than the cherry tree

    Many have heard the story of George Washington confessing that he had chopped down the cherry tree because "I cannot tell a lie," but most do not know of the many achievements and the honorable character of this amazing person! As a young 17-year-old, Washington began his adult life as part of...

  • Read On: We are living through interesting times

    All right, so let me just say that I'm feeling unusually positive about everything at the moment, a genuine departure from my typical default position that mass catastrophe is imminent and we're all going to die, like, tomorrow. I've decided that this — right now — is kind of the greatest time...

  • A Word, Please: Common errors with commas

    Liz in Newport Beach posed a good question about commas. Consider the following two sentences. "Days are usually great, but, when they aren't great, they still pass in 24 hours." "Every word should bring something to the table and, if it doesn't, it should be chopped out." MORE: Read more of June's...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Washington's birthday should be moved to February's fourth Monday

    Today is the 207th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. If you already knew that, congratulations, you are in a select minority who do. See, while schools close for two days in February, the reason for these closures remain vague for most. All it means is a three-day weekend. If you are as old...

  • Learning Matters: Teacher partnerships prove that two is better than one

    About 11 years since I last worked as an elementary chorus director, I stood again in front of about 50 students who’d signed up for this once-a-week, after-school activity. Still considering myself a novice in comparison to the “real” music teachers I’ve observed over the years, I felt more than...

  • A Word, Please: More tips on how to write bullet-proof prose

    Last week, we looked at words and phrases that, while fine in general usage, are considered no-nos in professional editing. But there are more — lots more — than we could fit into a single column. So here are more terms that, though fine in casual usage, you might want to skip if you're writing...

  • Read on: Questions to stump Web hackers

    It seems to me that with each passing year, life gets increasingly more absurd. Donald Trump is a serious candidate for president of the United States. A woman in Norway claimed this week to be a cat trapped in a human body, potentially giving rise to the trans-species movement. Perhaps craziest...

  • A Word, Please: One objective of copy editing is precision

    They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And though I don't know who "they" are, I can guarantee that they're not copy editors. A big part of my job is fixing errors that aren't really errors. NEWSLETTER: Get the latest headlines from the 818 straight to your inbox >> Imagine, for example, I have...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Reckless driving around schools is more than a troubling concern

    Against my better judgment, I recently watched "Mad Max: Fury Road," curious how a high-octane action film could earn 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. The only thing I got out of the film was recognizing a connection between its subtitle and a line from Shakespeare's "Macbeth":...

  • A Word, Please: He or she may be happier with 'they'

    Changes in language can come as unwelcome news. I get that. You spend years carefully following some usage rule you were taught is important — perhaps by using "literally" only in its strictest sense or never using "they" to mean "he or she" or, in my case, always putting the period before the...

  • Learning Matters: The reality of having hope tempered by experience

    In the early morning and premidnight hours on Wednesday next week, local volunteers will join with city staff, outreach workers from the city's homeless shelter and officers of the Glendale Police Department to conduct the annual count of our homeless population. It's an exercise that will be occurring...

  • A Word, Please: The persistent, unabated collapse of grammar

    I received an email recently from a reader named Fred who’s unhappy about the way that language and writing standards have gone down the tubes since his school days in 1950s and ‘60s. Here’s an excerpt: “Teachers have told me that punctuation is no longer being taught (considered by students ‘who...

  • Read On: You're a winner every day you lose

    If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you didn’t win a share of this week’s $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot. It’s too bad, because you had the money practically spent in your head, didn’t you? Between buying the little Ferrari you’d had your eye on, snapping up that small Caribbean island and...

  • Guest Column: Burbank Little League does city proud

    The year was 2010, the Burbank Little League Majors Division Softball All-Star team was down to its last out against the national powerhouse from Warner Robins, Ga. Unfortunately, the locals could not finish the rally and lost, 8-6, but there was much to be proud of. The league, established in...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: The CAHSEE has turned out to be a wasted endeavor

    This year’s 10th-graders have reason to celebrate because they no longer have to take the California High School Exit Exam, known as CAHSEE. Last October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 172, suspending the test for three years through the 2017-18 school year. Since 2004, the CAHSEE was administered...

  • Learning Matters: When it comes to publicly desired subjects, some hurdles are meant to be jumped

    Public education exists to provide what the public believes necessary to secure the constitutional “blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” In other words, we want our children to know how to assume responsibility for the world and for themselves, and we want them to be safe. But...

  • A Word, Please: Don't let state codes rob you of speech

    Imagine a world where women aren’t women. They’re females. There are no children, only juveniles. A place where there is no “about” or “near,” only “approximately” and “in the vicinity of.” Where no one gets or uses or learns anything but instead acquires, utilizes and ascertains everything. Here,...

  • A Word, Please: A look at the visual component of writing

    If you want people to take your writing seriously, grammar is important. So are punctuation and usage. But there’s another ingredient that lots of people overlook: aesthetics. In writing, looks count. In fact, many of the style rules followed so religiously by publishers exist exclusively to make...

  • Read On: Here are some predictions for the new year

    Guaranteed to happen in 2016: Donald Trump will say something so utterly outrageous and offensive that pundits predict it will do irreparable damage to his presidential campaign. And then it won’t. Trump will lose interest in the presidential race and ultimately drop out sometime in the spring,...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: GUSD would be wise to follow BUSD's example on calendar issue

    January will be a busy time for Glendale Unified School Board members as they tackle two of the most significant issues left over from 2015: the search for a new superintendent and a new starting date for school. While the public has a minor say in choosing a superintendent, parents can have a...

  • Learning Matters: GUSD encountered its share of issues in 2015

    We tell our children to look both ways before crossing the street. School boards do best when they follow the same advice in their decision-making, looking thoughtfully to their history before stepping off the curb into the future. The Glendale Unified School District faced some big issues in 2015,...

  • A Word, Please: Unwrap vast grammar knowledge this holiday

    You’ve had a lot of opportunities to make New Year’s resolutions. By now, no doubt, you have six-pack abs, you speak eight languages and your cuticles are the envy of hand models everywhere. Good Housekeeping will be at your place any day now for a photo spread titled “America’s Most Spotless Garage.”...

  • Read On: 'Wonderful Life' star's familiar straits

    Gather ‘round the newspaper campfire, ladies and gentlemen, and I'll tell you a classic Christmastime tale of goodness, cluelessness and the common man (or in this case, woman) getting kicked in the teeth by Corporate America. Our story begins in a little town called Los Angeles, where a guy named...

  • A Word, Please: Why is it so difficult to catch our own errors?

    When Santa makes a list, he checks it twice. I think I know why. Any guy whose name transposes to Satan has surely been burned by typos before. To catch all the mistakes in a piece of writing, a single read just won't do. That's one of the first things we teach in copy editing class: Two passes...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Reading books is not a regular hobby among today's students

    For years, I required my advanced 10th-graders to read 2,000 pages a semester, averaging 100 pages a week, based on books that they chose. That way if a book we studied in class didn't catch their fancy, they had the freedom to find books that appealed to them as long as the selections were appropriate...

  • A Word, Please: A guide to using Latin abbreviations, e.g. and i.e.

    My friend Antonio recently asked me about i.e. and e.g. These Latin abbreviations, which are pretty popular in English, get confused quite a bit. It’s easy to see why. Even people who use the abbreviations aren’t likely to know what they stand for. They’re just letters, not closely associated with...

  • The presses stop: That's all, folks!

    One of the longest running traditions in journalism is that you work — and work hard — on your first day and on your last. A few slack off in the middle, but not many, and certainly not me. I sat in on nearly 20 hours of grueling endorsement interviews in 2009 a week before I officially became...

  • Read On: Fashionable, wearable SoCal moments

    I heard the other day that Amazon took in more than 500 orders per second — per second — and nearly 50 million orders in total on Cyber Monday this past week. It's impossible to even conceive of just how massively e-commerce has altered the holiday-shopping equation. But it's important to note...

  • A Word, Please: The not-so-subtle indicators of advertorials

    A sea change has taken place in your reading material in recent years. A decade ago, most of the feature articles you read — light pieces on everything from travel to fashion to personal finance — were created with two main considerations in mind: Is this something you, the reader, need to know...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Using the 'Chairman of the Board' as a teaching example

    New Year’s Day. 1994. Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra. A moment when my life changed for the better. That was the only time I saw Sinatra perform live. And because of it, I have learned why Sinatra is considered by so many as the greatest popular singer of all time. What amazed me about the show was that...

  • Start the Presses: A retrospective and the long goodbye

    After nearly seven years, more than 15,000 editions, and more fun than a man should be allowed to have in his work, I am stepping down as editor of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun. My last day will be Dec. 11. Tribune Publishing, the parent of our parent The Los...

  • A Word, Please: And the fight against misinformation goes on

    Reader Rick emailed me recently with this thought: “As an idea for a future article, I wondered if you would address the use of ‘and’ to start a sentence? I know back in my younger days in school (1950s and ’60s) it was a ‘forbidden rule’ to use an ‘and’ to begin a sentence. Now, I see it quite...

  • Read On: Political moves deny the helpless

    I am not proud today of the way my country is behaving. This isn’t the America I know. The nation I grew up adoring was the last great, benevolent hope of the world. The last refuge for the beaten down and disenfranchised. The only place where all things remained possible. But now I’m told more...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Explaining the unexplainable can be a tricky thing

    When my 12-year-old son asked me why the French flag appeared on Google last Friday, I knew I had to muster the best of my parenting skills to carefully answer his question. This led me to thinking: With the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, just how much awareness should children have of what...

  • A Word, Please: Legitimate synonym gives rise to hate mail

    A friend emailed recently to ask me to weigh in on a language issue she finds particularly odious. The subject line of the email was “Question.” The text of the message wasted no time getting to the point: “Historic versus historical. I HATE how they’re misused.” Most of my conversations about...

  • A Word, Please: Use a strategic 'and' to fix structural flaws

    Feel like putting your word smarts to the test? See if you can spot a problem in the following sentence: “Jones has been featured on ‘Today,’ ‘60 Minutes’ and in such publications as People and the Los Angeles Times.” No, it has nothing to do with the punctuation. It’s the words. Want to try another?...

  • Learning Matters: Doubts about the proposed K-8 charter school in Glendale

    The Glendale Unified School Board recently received a petition asking it to authorize the establishment of a charter school within its boundaries. The proposal is for a new K-8 dual-language-immersion program at a site yet to be determined, but likely somewhere south of the Ventura (134) Freeway....

  • Start the Presses: Property and social justice

    Today's online and print editions mark our fourth special, single-issue focused issue of 2015. You asked for more in-depth, enterprise work and we delivered. Literally. Our pieces look at the nexus between property, poverty and community. The high quality of our schools drive up home and rental...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: From 'why can't Johnny read' to 'why won't he?'

    Kids don't read that much today, whether the material is e-books, online magazine articles or student newspapers; in fact, some don't read at all. This is not a scientific fact. I have no Gallup poll or think-tank report to prove my point. This conclusion is based on my firsthand observations,...

  • Read On: Beware of shady peddlers while shopping

    The next time you’re bopping through the mall this holiday season and see one of those people holding a jar of anti-aging face moisturizer dreck and promising to make you look like a million bucks (or at least $100,000) in 10 seconds, don’t walk but sprint as fast as you can in the opposite direction....

  • A Word, Please: Looking at a comma's role in a direct address

    The Internet has taught us many things, most of them involving cats and robotic vacuum cleaners. But there’s some valuable information floating around in cyberspace, too. And none more valuable than a meme conveying this shocking lesson: A poor grasp of commas can make you a cannibal. The meme...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Hallmark seems to have forgotten its long-standing slogan

    Last weekend, I went shopping at a Hallmark store to buy a birthday card for my youngest son. I had a hard time finding one appropriate. The "son" cards fell into two categories: for little boys and for grown men. Hardly anything fitting a child between 8 and 20 years old. What I had no trouble...

  • A Word, Please: Proposed 'ze' pronoun isn't a singular idea

    Have you heard the news? A number of colleges, including Harvard, are getting creative with the pronouns on their student application forms, offering the option of sidestepping old standards “he” and “she” in favor of a newly minted gender-neutral alternative like “ze.” It’s creating quite a buzz...

  • Start the Presses: A starman reaches for infinity

    On a recent Tuesday, I pulled open the sliding wrought-iron gate securing the driveway of a tidy home in a Riverside subdivision. The barking started immediately. The bark belonged to Gus, a four-legged creature that turned from watchdog to wiggling licker the moment I crossed the threshold into...

  • A Word, Please: Comma rules that may give you pause

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned in this space that serial commas, also called Oxford commas, are a matter of style. So either “red, white and blue” or “red, white, and blue” can be correct depending on whether you’re following, say, Associated Press or Chicago style. If you’re not bound by either...

  • Learning Matters: Student and parent attendance is important

    In the fairy tale, “Briar Rose,” better known as Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty,” a king and queen are granted their long-expressed wish for a child. According to Philip Pullman’s 2012 (Viking) version of the Brothers Grimm story, the king, unable to contain his joy, ordered a great celebration of their...

  • A Word, Please: Grammar-curious readers look for answers

    Some interesting questions have been piling up in my inbox recently, including one from a reader named Lorraine who asked about the expression “exact same.” This word pairing is a popular target for nitpickers. “Exact same” is nonsensical, they say. Redundant. So it’s wrong. Not exactly. Yes, it’s...

  • Read On: Recalling an interview with Dodgers legend Vin Scully

    I’ve been interviewing people as a journalist for nearly 40 years — I am, indeed, older than dirt — and have thrillingly managed to chat up some true American icons. Not to drop names, but they include Liz Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, George Burns, Roseanne...

  • The Whiteboard Jungle: Schools should be a safe place for students

    The website Everytown for Gun Safety reports that, on average, a school shooting occurs every week in the United States. It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around such a statistic. A school should be a haven for children, a safe place for parents to have their kids while at work. When students...

  • Start the Presses: Notes on our part of the world

    I want to remind everyone that the Burbank Community Advisory Board will be having its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. This meeting will be held at the Burbank Bar and Grille on San Fernando Boulevard downtown and is open to all. However, please email me — dan.evans@latimes.com — if you're...

  • Learning Matters: Recent trip to Sacramento brings back memories

    I attended an adult education summit in Sacramento last week, my first trip there since I left the school board two and a half years ago. Walking around Capitol Park, shaded by trees whose magnificence I’d previously failed to appreciate, I began thinking about the issues that have come and gone...

  • A Word, Please: Six words that may invite contradiction

    Because I’m a grammar columnist, anything I write can become a lightning rod for the Gotcha Squad. If an error appears in this column — no matter if it’s real or perceived — rest assured that I hear about it. I know that sounds like a pain, but there’s an upside. Unlike most people, I get a chance...

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