Historic or Historical?

Grammarly–useful for editing, fascinating for details!

I downloaded the app and began using Grammarly to make punctuation and spell-checking more efficient.  If it tells me I need a comma, I either decide it’s correct and tough the button to add it, or I think, “No, you didn’t understand the construction of that sentence,” and tell it “ignore.”

The “possibly confused word” tags sometimes save me from embarrassing mistakes and sometimes teaches me the nuances of definitions.  Did you know that “historic” and “historical” have specialized meanings?  I titled a chapter “The Historic Context,” and Grammarly informed me that: “The word Historic may be used incorrectly. Review the following notes to determine the appropriate usage for your context.”

  1. Historic is an adjective that describes something important, significant or notable in history.
  2. Historical is adjective that describes something concerning history or past events. These are events of less significance than historic events.

Perhaps the second definition fits the chapter title best because when history is the background or context for Grandpa’s actions, the events may not be significant, just whatever happened to be going on.  It’s historical that he attended the University of Iowa and that he worked on his father’s ranch, but there’s nothing notable about that as far as you and I are concerned.

Or the first definition is better because the building of the Panama Canal, certainly a significant American achievement, is the reason my mother was born in Panama.  On the other hand, my mother’s birth didn’t change history, but the Canal did, so it depends on whether the adjective is applied to baby Ruth or the Canal construction.

How did I decide?  The chapter title sounds better with “historic.”  Adding -al seems either affected or too much like hysterical.

The usage may be more important in  complete sentences:

  • “The Panama Canal was a historic achievement.”  Okay–definitely right.
  • “The historical background for my mother’s birth in Panama was not only the need for surveyors to lay out railroad track and buildings there, but the liberal vacation policy which gave Grandpa time to visit home and meet Linnie Coon.”  Probably the better choice.

I can’t use “historic” again without thinking.  Thanks, Grammarly!

Research is a Chain Reaction

Sometimes research is easy:  What’s the population of Springfield, Missouri?  Or the average high temperature of Mesa, Arizona in October?  One question, one answer.

More often, at least for me, research is a chain reaction.

Question:  Where is the Rosario Mine in Honduras?  I’m curious because my grandfather, on a steamer from Panama to San Francisco, wrote about ta “Secretary of the Rosario Mining Company 5000 ft. up in the Honduras Mountains, who came four days on mule back and twenty miles in an open boat to take our steamer.”  So exactly where is the mine?

I found Rosario Mine–Internet research is great!–but where there used to be the mine, there is La Tigra National Park, so I search that.  Do they have tigers there?  Not exactly.   It is named after the female puma, which is called la tigra, and yes, las tigras do live there–at least a few of them.  Also, the mountain where the mine, and now the park, are located, is called La Tigra.

Now I want a photo of that animal.  I search “puma, Honduras” and discover that “The Puma Energy brand is the leading oil products brand in Honduras.”  Scratch that.  Add “animal” to search.

Pumas are called, according to that site, “cougars, panthers, and mountain lions.”  Not tigers.  Are there tigers in Central America?

  1.  There is a “Tigers” soccer team:  “While many fans in Nuevo Leon are dreaming of a 2017 Liga MX Apertura final between Tigres and local-rival Monterrey, each side still has semifinal series to navigate.”
  2. There is El Tigre Island, on the Pacific side of Central America, which my grandfather sailed past in 1914 and mentioned in his journal.

True tigers live only in Asia

That last site, All about Wildlife, seems like an excellent reference and the photographs distract me from the gold and silver mined at Rosario where you would now take a hike instead of digging a tunnel in La Tigra Mountain.  I’ll take a break from my Panama book writing and learn about exotic animals for a while.

You see what I mean by a chain reaction?

 

 

 

John Scalzi–Science Fiction and Good Advice

The author of Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi, wrote a column, “Ten Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing.”
He speaks to me, first:

“I hope you don’t mind if I don’t go out of my way to use current slang and such; there’s very little more pathetic than a 36-year-old man dropping slang to prove he’s hip to the kids.

What may be more pathetic is a grandmother doing the same.  Some of the fictitious characters I write about do “drop slang”–or worse.  Nate and Derek use words I won’t either speak or print myself, but I wouldn’t be fair to them if I cleaned up their language.

Knowing you’ve got years to grow and learn means you’ve got the time to take risks and explore and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t … It’s time to gain the life experience that will feed your writing. It’s time you need to write — and time you need to not write and to give your brain a break … And it’s the time you need to screw up, make mistakes, learn from them and move on.

I’m Not Going to Tell You to Get Good Grades, But, You Know, Try To Pay Attention.  High school is often asinine and lame — I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here — but on the other hand it’s a place where you’re actually encouraged to do two things that are a writer’s bread and butter: to observe and to comment … and as a result, you might learn something, which is always a nice bonus for your day. School is a resource; use it.

(Also, for the love of all that is holy, please please please pay attention in your English composition class. You should know English language grammar for roughly the same reason you should know road rules before you go driving: It avoids nasty pile-ups later.)
John Scalzi

Zoe’s Tale is part of the Old Man’s War series, but it’s a good read by itself, and was nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  If you are a science fiction fan, you may want to check out John Scalzi’s “Whatever” site, especially the “Big Idea” category.

Curiosity Forever!

Curiosity is a normal human trait.  Some people are insatiably curious.  Most explorers and scientists possess more curiosity than average.  For some of them, it is their strongest talent.

David McCullough quotes Miriam Rothschild who quotes Karl Jordan who may be the epitome of curiosity.  Karl, 96 years old, curator of the Tring Museum (I didn’t recognize either his name or the museum either, so don’t think I expect you to have heard of it),  is peering through a microscope.  He tells Miriam,  “I shall know it all in the next world.  I shall know it all in the next world.”

Suppose God made us to be naturally curious, which seems evident if you’ve ever tried to answer a small child’s questions.  Suppose there is new life in “the next world,” after death.  If we are ourselves in that life, we will still be curious.  Can you imagine the excitement of finding answers to every question you ever had, a solution to every problem you ever faced?   That’s what Karl Jordan expects.

David McCullough interviewed Miriam Rothschild for his book Brave Companions.  He obviously enjoyed knowing her.  She’d be fun as a friend; there’s no time to be bored with her!

“Miriam Rothschild knows all about butterflies and fleas, birds, fish and poisons, lady bugs (my first real love), medieval meadow grasses, Shetland sheep dogs, photography, farming, Clark Gable, and the wild flowers of Israel.  She designs her own clothes.  She has an art gallery devoted to paintings by schizophrenics.  She owns a pub.  She has raised six children…”

So begins David’s chapter on Miriam in his book.  His interview ends with the quotation from Karl Jordan, the curator of the museum the Rothschild family founded.  Check out the museum website for a photo of Lord Rothschild driving his carriage with a team of three zebras and one horse!

Most of McCullough’s books are at least as thick as the Harry Potter books, but this one is not so thick, and because each chapter tells of a different person, you can read the chapters that interest you most.  The subjects include pioneer pilots, the Brooklyn Bridge architect, explorers, a photographer, of course Miriam Rothschild, and more.

Curiosity drives exploration into every kind of knowledge.  Curiosity must be why David McCullough finds out so much about the people and events he writes about.  Miriam and Karl possessed so much curiosity that maybe you could say they were possessed by it.

“I shall know it all in the next world!”

 

Identifying Friends

Derek’s best friend is Andy.  Andy’s parents never minded feeding Derek when he showed up at meal time, but Andy’s dad hasn’t ever invited Derek to join them on a hunting trip. When they were in fourth grade, Andy helped Derek sneak in through his bedroom window, and that’s how Derek (and then Nate) got chicken pox.

I thought at first that Nate’s best friend was Russel, but when I realized Russ isn’t dependable enough to be a true friend, I found Hiram, known to his buddies as “Hi Ho Silver” because his last name is Silberman.  One year Hi and Nate got into trouble setting up a haunted house for Halloween.  When I  find out what happened, I’ll write that story.

A chance to talk about Three Tales!

This could be the first time in my life that I’ve looked forward to talking in public!

Tomorrow I participate in a Writers’ Club panel at the Hesperia, CA library.  Four of us who published a first book within the last year will be on a panel, talking about the challenges of publishing, problems solved, how we reached this point, or anything else asked by the moderator or audience, which I expect will be small.

The best part of it is the opportunity to hear what my fellow panelists have to say.