Not To Be Trusted With Knives

OK, I have to say this because it’s been driving me crazy.  The election of the first African-American president is an historic event.  I can’t count how many times I have read and heard in the last two days that it was an historical event.  Now, technically it is true that it was an historical event, in that it occurred in the past. But the people saying/writing this are trying to convey that it was a signficant event in history, not merely an event that occurred prior to today.

Historical means something that happened in the past.  So, yeah, the election of the first African-American president was an historical event because it happened last Tuesday. I also drank a cup of coffee on Tuesday, so that’s an historical event too.

Historic means something that happened in the past that is significant.  Like, say, the election of the first African-American president.    The fact that I drank a cup of coffee on Tuesday, while historical, not so much on the historic.

The American Hertiage Dictionary notes:

Historic and historical have different usages, though their senses overlap. Historic refers to what is important in history: the historic first voyage to the moon. It is also used of what is famous or interesting because of its association with persons or events in history: a historic house. Historical refers to whatever existed in the past, whether regarded as important or not: a minor historical character. Historical also refers to anything concerned with history or the study of the past: a historical novel; historical discoveries. While these distinctions are useful, these words are often used interchangeably, as in historic times or historical times.

But just because they are often used interchangeably doesn’t mean they should be used interchangeably.  People use “it’s” and “its” interchangeably, but that doesn’t make it right!

The only reason I even know the difference between these two1 is because of Grammar Girl’s recent podcast on exactly this topic.  If I hadn’t heard that, I would never have known the difference. But since I do, it’s driving me crazy!


1Historic and historical, not it’s and its. I’ve know the difference between it’s and its for a long, long time. Also, there, their and they’re! And to, too, and two!

{October 24, 2008}   The Five Things Meme

After a crazy 9 hour workday where I had way too much actual thinking work to do and not nearly enough time in which to do it, which occurred after staying out until 2:30 a.m. at Shower Power at the Odyssey last night (which is always a good thing to do before a day when you have a tonne of things to get done right?), I came home to discover that Rebecca had tagged me with this meme.  And I’m like “Score! Me no need think for blog tonight! Blog idea be hand-delivered!”  Because apparently grammar goes right out the window when my brain is mush.

So. I’m now supposed to fill in the answers to the headings in this meme:

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago1:

  • Completing the last year of my Honours Biochemistry degree, with a minor in Drama, at McMaster University.
  • Rehearsing my role as Desdemona in a scene from Shakespeare’s Othello in the park with my friend Jen (she was playing Othello)  (see “minor in Drama” above).  And saying “We are practicing Shakespeare in the paaaaark.”
  • Applying to med school and thinking about applying to grad school (see “Honours Biochemistry” major above).
  • Driving my beloved little white 1989 Honda Civic.
  • Watching WWF (the wrestling, not the Wildlife Fund) at Copps Coliseum. No, really.

5 Things on my to-do list today2:

  • Attend a workshop at UBC.
  • Participate in a WebEx meeting with a group of people with whom I am writing a paper.
  • Phone meeting with one of my trainees.
  • Work on my grant application.
  • Cook myself a proper meal.

5 snacks I like:

5 Things I would do it I was3 were a millionaire4:

  • Pay off my student loans.
  • Put a down payment on a house in Vancouver.
  • Travel somewhere outside of North America (which I’ve never done!  Isn’t that pathetic?).  Maybe Ireland?  Somewhere in South America?
  • Buy tickets to the 2010 Olympic hockey gold medal game.
  • Invest. ‘cuz the stock market is always a sure bet, right? 😉

5 Places I’ve Lived in (for various lengths of time)5:

  • My parents’ home in Milton, Ontario (18 years).
  • Moulton Hall Residence at McMaster University. In the Penthouse. (8 months).
  • Apartment6 on Main Street in Hamilton, Ontario (~2 years).
  • Apartment in Burnaby, BC (when I first moved to BC, lived there for about 6 months).
  • Point Grey area of Vancouver, BC (in one basement suite for ~5 years, and now in a different basement suite for the last 2+ years).

5 Jobs I have had:

  • Sessional Faculty, University of British Columbia.
  • Research Assistant, at both McMaster University & UBC.
  • Factory worker, Brake Parts Inc. (I worked on a line with asbestos-filled brake pads that were being cooked in an insanely hot oven.  Graveyard shift.  That was a tough job!7)
  • Telephone operator, Halton Answering Service.  (That was a fun job!)
  • Donut store employees8, Baker’s Dozen Donuts8. (Baking was fun. Servings customers, not so much.)

5 People I tag:

  • Stacia – because she’s pregnant and due any time now, so I’m sure she has nothing better to do than this meme.
  • Almost Dr. Jacks – because she always complains that it’s hard to come up with things to blog about. And it’s not like she has a dissertation to write, post doc apps to compose and job talks to give.
  • Dave – because he doesn’t blog nearly enough and I miss his writing. And it’s not like he needs to fix up his blog template, which he managed to royally fack up.
  • Jorge – because he also doesn’t blog enough and I miss his writing. And it’s not like he has an adorable little daughter that he’d rather spend his time with, like, rather than doing this meme.
  • John McCain. What? He has a blog. I don’t read it, but I’m willing to bet he hasn’t done this meme yet.

1I have to admit, I had to look in my photo album to remember what the heck I was doing 10 years ago. Because I’m old and my memory, she’s not so good.
2These are 5 things that were on my to-do list, that I actually did, since I’m writing this at night.
3Yes, I really am that much of an uppity grammar snob. It’s a problem.
4I’m taking “millioniare” literally here. Meaning that I only have $1 million dollars. But I’m also assuming that that is after tax.
5Now I feel like I have to list the one other place I’ve lived, since I’ve only lived in 6 places and this list just feels so incomplete without it! Apartment on Ontario St. in Milton, Ontario (~2 years).
6Wow, I was just proof-reading this posting and I’d written “apparently” instead of “apartment.” That is, I wrote “Apparently on Main St. in Hamilton, ON.” Because I guess I couldn’t remember those two years?
7On the plus side, I got to work two weeks on day shift and the lunch truck that shows up on day shift rocked. And one time I got to spend my shift painting a picnic table with a hot boy.
8My friend Jody would affectionately refer to me as “the Donut Hut Slut.” Has a nice ring to it, eh?

{August 7, 2008}   Unpossible

Kalev and I were going for a post-dinner walk around English Bay, eating our post-dinner ice cream from Marble Slab1, when we saw this2:

Me fail English? Thats unpossible!

Me fail English? That's unpossible!

Alternative captions for this photo include:

  • Is it unhumble of me to correct your grammar?
  • This cardboard’s unperfection is its lack of spellcheck.

1Mine, I will hasten to add, was misleadingly called “Double Dark Chocolate” when it really should have been called “regular ol’ chocolate with some bits o’ chocolate in it.” If it had just been called “chocolate,” I would have been fine with it, but the name wrote a cheque that its flavour couldn’t cash.

2If you’d like to see more photos of grammar atrocies, check out the Grammar Girl group on Flickr, to which the above photo now belongs.

So, I think I’m going to go with the expensive place for my laser eye surgery. I really did like the doc there and a few things about the cheaper place kind of freak me out. First, on their website they explain that the reason they are so cheap is because they do a “high volume” of surgeries. They spin it as “high volume = more experience = better surgery,” but “high volume” suggests “assembly line” to me. The second strike against the cheap place was an email exchange I had with them. I emailed to ask for their success rates and rates of complications, since this information is not provided on their website. The email I received back was atrocious. They provided limited success data and completely ignored my request for complication rates. Then they told me to phone if I had more questions, with the tone of it making me feel as if they were really put out by my having emailed. I’m sorry, but you are in customer service and if the customer prefers email, you should provide courteous, accurate answers by email and make them feel welcome to email back if they have more questions. And, for the love of all that is good in the world, your email should be professional. In their 9 sentence reply, they committed the following grammatical transgressions:

  • hyphenating “with-out”
  • hyphenating “thank-you”
  • spelling the word “merit” as “merrit”
  • not capitalizing the first word in a sentence (twice)

This email does not give me confidence in their clinic. I realize that it is not the surgeon who is writing such an atrocious email, but in my opinion, it reflects the unprofessional nature of the place1. In a last effort, I emailed back to ask, yet again, what their complication rates are. Their reply: “We have done over 46,000 procedures and we have never had a serious complication. The pre-operative screening eliminates those patients that might be a complication. Our turn down rate is about 4%. Phone if you have any other questions to [number redacted].” First of all – I didn’t ask if they had any “serious” complications. Their definition of “serious” may not be the same as mine. Twice avoiding my request for complication rates makes me feel like they are hiding something. Secondly, I don’t think they really meant that the patient might themselves BE a complication2. And third, wtf is up with their not wanting email? “Phone…” is a command. And it’s not inviting at all. I consulted with my mom and she agrees that I shouldn’t let anyone with such poor grammar anywhere near my eyes. So expensive surgery it is!

And since I’m going with expensive surgery, I’m following my friend Dan’s3 advice:

Definitely don’t go cheap on your peepers. Maybe you should start a “fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers”. After all, you have been entertaining many of us in the internets for a while now. Plus, if you can’t see how are you supposed to blog? So really, it’s not about your eyes so much as it is about our entertainment. (Dan’s comment on my recent bog post)

So now I’m putting a “donate” button on the sidebar of my blog – all proceeds to go to the “Fund raiser for Dr. Beth’s Peepers.” A button that looks like this:

Also, I’m going to follow Dave‘s suggestion and live blog the surgery. No, really.

1sort of like that whole “if the bathroom in a restaurant is dirty, you can bet their kitchen is too” kind of thing.
2Although that is kind of funny.
3You may remember Dan as my co-author on the Snow, Snow & Gillis (2007) paper about the Count and mathematics.

et cetera