Authors Answer 132 – The Oxford Comma

What is the Oxford comma? I found this definition:

a comma used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items, before ‘and’ or ‘or’ (e.g. an Italian painter, sculptor, and architect ).

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But why is it such a controversial topic? Is it important to use the Oxford comma? Is it even needed? In many cases, it’s absolutely required to avoid confusion. It’s not always needed in every list, but should we be using it? We talk about that this week.

Question 132 – Do you use the Oxford comma? Why or why not? Give your own example where you would need to use the Oxford comma.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I do use the Oxford comma, and I personally think everyone should. For one thing, we really should have a set rule so that it stops being such a constant debate. For another, there are just too many sentences that can be turned into nonsense if you neglect to use the Oxford comma. For instance, “Let me introduce you to my boyfriend, my doctor and a rock star” describes one guy with an impressive resume, whereas, “Let me introduce you to my boyfriend, my doctor, and a rock star,” describes an introduction to three separate people.

Gregory S. Close

I think I prefer the Oxford comma.  It just makes sense to me.  There is and should be a difference between: “My heroes are my parents, Aragorn and Arwen. “ and  “My heroes are my parents, Aragorn, and Arwen.”  Unless, you know, your parents are actually Aragorn and Arwen, which is theoretically possible, I guess.

D. T. Nova

I use it most of the time. I would avoid it in the rare situation where it would increase ambiguity rather than decrease it.
“Universal Studios has rides featuring the Men in Black, Jimmy Fallon and Harry Potter.”

Eric Wood

I do use the Oxford Comma. I was taught that it was required and old habits die hard. “I have to thank my parents, Einstein and Beyonce.” It should read, “I have to thank my parents, Einstein, and Beyonce.” My parents are NOT Einstein and Beyonce and that’s how it reads without that Oxford.

Paul B. Spence

Yes, yes I do. I use it because it is the only way to write clearly and be understood. Those who do not use it will be misunderstood, misread, and the subject of schadenfreude. Note the use in the previous sentence.

Jean Davis

I do prefer the Oxford comma, however, I seem to find myself not automatically using it as often as I used to. There are so many good meme examples of why the comma is important, I think I’ll leave it at use the comma anywhere you don’t want to completely change the meaning of your sentence, like eating grandma or turning Hitler and Stalin into strippers.

H. Anthe Davis

I use it where necessary for the sense of the sentence, but I don’t use it religiously.  I actually find the typical construction pretty crude/boring; if I’m going to talk about a collection of things, it’s either going to be two for swiftness or a larger handful for variety.  Three drags on just a little too long for the first and isn’t complex enough for the second.  I wish I could search my documents for Oxford commas to give real examples, but I would use them for listing something that could be skimmed over and become confusing without a comma — say ‘She gathered red beets, greens, and white beans’ so that someone reading quickly wouldn’t think it was ‘she gathered red beets, green and white beans’.  The Oxford comma definitely has its use as a pause/break-up mechanism, but unless there’s a clarity-related reason for it, I don’t usually bother.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Yes, I use it whenever necessary. I have been told by some beta readers that it’s unnecessary, but I feel it’s a small gesture to make the writing as clear as possible. My favorite example to illustrate this is “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin” vs “We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.”

Jay Dee Archer

I always use it. I’m in a habit to insert that comma before the “and” to avoid confusion. It makes it easier, really. If I’m always checking my list to see if there would be any confusion, it takes more time. The Oxford comma makes lists clearer.

When I was teaching English, I made up a few examples of where the Oxford comma was required and how it changed the meaning if I excluded it. I wish I could remember some of the sentences. But here’s one I thought of involving food: “For lunch, I had my favourite pie, calamari and coffee.” Sounds disgusting. Calamari and coffee pie? Or how about this one: “I enjoy taxidermy, animals and children.” Basically, I said that I enjoy doing taxidermy on both animals and children. Add the Oxford comma, then it becomes clear.

How about you?

Join the debate! Do you use the Oxford comma? What are your favourite examples where the Oxford comma would be required? Let us know in the comments section below.

Star Trek S1E12 – The Menagerie: Part 2

And now, the conclusion. This is the second part of the only two-part episode of the original series. You can read part 1 here. While I nitpicked a lot for part 1, there’s actually not much for part 2. Let’s find out what I thought!

Season 1, Episode 11: The Menagerie: Part 1

Original Air Date: November 24, 1966

Stardate 3013.1

Planet: Talos IV

Featured Alien: Talosians

Main Cast: Kirk, Spock

Main Guest Characters: Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), Commodore Jose I. Mendez (Malachi Throne), Fleet Captain Pike (Sean Kenney), Lt. Piper (Julie Parrish), Lt. Hansen (Hagan Beggs), Number One (Majel Barrett), Dr. Philip Boyce (John Hoyt), Vina (Susan Oliver), The Keeper (Meg Wyllie), Yeoman J. M. Colt (Laurel Goodwin)

Things I Noticed

Pike said the Enterprise was from a stellar group from the other end of the galaxy. We now know that’s not going to be true according to later Star Trek series. For one thing, Talos IV isn’t that far from Starbase 11. And being only 100 years after the founding of the Federation, the explored part of the galaxy is quite small. Talos IV isn’t that far from Earth.

When the Talosians communicate telepathically, the veins on their heads pulsate. Weird.

The creatures on Rigel VII are humanoid, wear clothes, and seem to live in a medieval-like society, so why do they roar like animals rather than speak?

Number One has blue nail polish. She can wear it. It’s just that it was interesting to notice.

The pilot episode was the first time we saw Orion slave girls.

The image shown on the screen during the trial is washed out. You’d think they’d have better video equipment.

They have lasers, not phasers. Even in the time of Captain Archer, they had phase pistols (phasers).

At the end of “The Cage,” they said hyperdrive, not warp drive. Of course, at this time, they hadn’t established the technology of Star Trek.

My Impressions

There’s not really much I can add about this episode that I haven’t already said about Part 1. The episode continues in much the same way, though this tends to be far more about “The Cage” than original footage. Even the main cast members have been reduced to only Kirk and Spock.

The acting by Shatner and Nimoy is still quite good. I really enjoyed the high quality of acting in this episode. No overacting, no awkwardness, no silliness. Just plain good acting.

The final scenes with the Talosians appear to also be from original footage of the pilot, though I don’t recall seeing them in the pilot.

Overall, I thought this pair of episodes was very well done, even though they were essentially clips episodes.

Verdict

★★★★★

Your Voice

What did you think of the conclusion? And do you know if the final scenes with the Talosians are actually original footage from the pilot? I haven’t seen the original “The Cage” in quite some time. Should I review it? Let me know in the comments section below.

Week in Review – May 8, 2017

I’ve been fairly productive in the past week, though not so much online. Other aspects of life have been receiving a lot of attention. But let’s find out what’s been going on.

Reading

Still at 79% in Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. I didn’t read in the past week. I’m going to set aside some time after my daughter’s asleep at night to read.

Writing

Like reading, I may try do some writing in the living room at night. It’s about the only place and time I can do it.

Videos

I uploaded two videos to my main channel, but none for my science channel. I have two videos recorded for my main channel and one for my science channel. I’ll be getting plenty of recording done over the next three days for both channels.

Patreon

Nothing yet. I need to think of a strategy, as well as promote my science channel much more.

Languages

I studied a little more French. I should try spend about 15 minutes a day on this.

The Blog

Things have returned to almost normal. I’ve been posting far more regularly. Hoping to get back to daily posting after our trip to Japan.

Studying

Nothing.

The Next Week’s Goals

I’ll be getting more work done on the A to Z Challenge, which has already ended. I still plan to complete it, as it’s some quick and informative content for my science channel. I’ll also be doing a lot more watching and reviewing of Star Trek. Expect more very soon!

How was your week?

Getting Back to Work! The Jay Dee Show 28

After my big and unexpected break, I got back to work on doing videos. Well, I did get a couple up. I’ll be getting another couple up over the next day or so. In the past week, I uploaded two videos to my main channel. My science channel, nothing yet, but I have something to edit and post.

On my main channel, I posted a couple videos that are completely related to each other. The first is all about why I disappeared. I called it “I’m Back! Part 1.” Enjoy!

The second video I uploaded is Part 2. But this one features my extremely silly daughter. I also talked about my plans for May.

As for my science channel, expect the next A to Z Challenge video soon. That’s also a blog post.

So, did you enjoy the two videos? Let me know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 131 – Grammatically Difficult

English is not an easy language. It’s said to be one of the more difficult languages because of inconsistent spelling/pronunciation rules, irregular verbs, articles, and so on. But do authors find English grammar difficult? Let’s find out!

Question 131 – Which rule(s) of English grammar do you find most difficult?

H. Anthe Davis

I had a rather substandard English grammar education — I never diagrammed sentences and I didn’t know what a gerund was until I learned about it in Spanish class.  I think it was because I went to a weird little private middle school…  But anyway, since I never got rigid training in English grammar, I really just do whatever I want, and damn the rules.  Sure, I tried reading Strunk & White and other such writing advisories back when I was still honing my craft and uncertain of my voice, but adhering to strictures just got in the way for me.  I’m much happier not caring.

Jean Davis

For the life of me, I always seem to get lay and lie wrong. I blame my elementary teachers for not thoroughly drilling that into our young brains.

Paul B. Spence

English was not the first language I learned, and so I sometimes have some trouble with word order. As a follower of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, I am a living example of how language shapes the brain. My first language was ASL (American Sign Language) and so I think kinetically.

Eric Wood

Pretty much all of them. I need to make a conscious effort to make sure my tenses agree. I often have to look up which affect/effect I should use. And if it weren’t for spell check I’d never know what was spelled write or wrong. (see what I did there?)

D. T. Nova

Subjunctive mood. The rules for it basically amount to breaking more common rules in nonsensical ways, and what’s technically “correct” invariably looks wrong.

Gregory S. Close

It’s probably better to ask this question of my editor.  I don’t have any problems with rules of English grammar.  I write what feels correct at the time and then adjust later in editing if needed, based on feedback from my editor.  He picks up on things and makes recommendations, sometimes stronger than others, based on “the rules.”  But as a fiction writer, the story is ultimately more important to me.  I want to stay within the rules so that I don’t confuse the reader, and so that my language is clear and descriptive, not out of awareness of the rules in advance.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I don’t know if there’s necessarily any specific grammar rules that I find difficult, but in general I find that I have a difficult time separating my everyday voice and my literary voice. That is to say, I come from a place where we have a lot slang and a very, shall we say…improper dialect. We do things like pluralize things that make no sense being pluralized (“I likes my coffee”) and purposely mispronounce words for no particular reason (“She’s my cousint” instead of “cousin”). While a lot of those little bits of local flavor are easy to dissect and remove from my vocabulary when I’m writing, some things tend to sneak in and are only noticed when my beta readers (who aren’t necessarily from around here) contact me to ask what on Earth a certain word or line is supposed to mean.

Jay Dee Archer

I was an English teacher for eleven years up until about a year ago. English grammar was my life. I taught it. I thought about it. I read about it. I had to know everything. What I thought I had difficulty with was conditionals, especially explaining them. But I found that I enjoyed them. I enjoyed teaching passive versus active. I was also always good at spelling, but there was one word that always gave me trouble no matter how many times I reminded myself of the spelling, and that’s embarass. Or is that embarrass? I’m so embarrassed!

How about you?

Is there an aspect of English grammar that you find difficult? Let us know in the comments section below.

Star Trek S1E11 – The Menagerie: Part 1

This is the most unusual episode I’ve done. There was an issue in the production schedule, and they had to figure out a way to fill out a couple weeks. So, they brought back the episode “The Cage” and did it as a couple clips episodes! Of course, there’s new footage, but much of it is from the original pilot. Not only am I reviewing this episode, but also the pilot. Well, at least half of it. This is a two-parter!

Season 1, Episode 11: The Menagerie: Part 1

Original Air Date: November 17, 1966

Stardate 3012.4

Planet: Starbase 11 and Talos IV

Featured Alien: Talosians

Main Cast: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scott

Main Guest Characters: Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), Commodore Jose I. Mendez (Malachi Throne), Fleet Captain Pike (Sean Kenney), Lt. Piper (Julie Parrish), Lt. Hansen (Hagan Beggs), Number One (Majel Barrett), Dr. Philip Boyce (John Hoyt), Vina (Susan Oliver), The Keeper (Meg Wyllie)

Things I Noticed

First of all, this may be a minor thing, but I always imagined Starbases being in space. They go to Starbase 11, but it’s on a planet? Actually, I shouldn’t say a planet, because it appears it’s more likely a large moon orbiting a ringed planet. An M-class moon. This is also the first time that a Starbase is mentioned in Star Trek.

Captain Pike’s wheelchair is something I wouldn’t expect in the 22nd century. With the advances they’d have, there would be a more efficient way for him to communicate other than having the chair’s light flash once for yes and twice for no. Even early 21st century neural interface technology is more advanced.

Spock committing mutiny? Not expected from someone like him.

This is Malachi Throne’s first on-screen appearance in a Star Trek episode. He also appeared in The Next Generation. However, in the original pilot episode, he was the voice of The Keeper, though that had been replaced for this episode.

Spock creates a fake transmission from Starbase Operations. How he does it is by opening a front panel and manipulate something inside. I’d think there’d be an easier way to create a voice file. Later, he used colourful tapes with recorded messages.

McCoy says they can’t tap into the brain, but with current science, we can. We’ve advanced farther today than they imagined we could by the 22nd century back in the 1960s. But then, I said that about Pike’s chair.

Death penalty for approaching Talos IV? I find that hard to believe. Kind of odd that this is the only case for a death penalty, and I’d be more inclined to believe that the death penalty had been abolished at this time.

The top secret file has a few interesting things (thank you pause button!): They refer to Spock as Half-Vulcan Science Officer Spock (why so specific about his species?), the location of Talos IV is the third quadrant of vernal galaxy (there are 4 quadrants in the galaxy, and it’s later established that they are quadrants Alpha to Delta), and what’s the the all caps? Also, the top secret file is a hard copy.

Starbase 11 only has one shuttlecraft? You’d think they’d have a warp-capable ship available. The ship’s library says it has ion engine power (a later episode said ion engines are beyond Starfleet capabilities), but shuttlecraft should have impulse engines, if I remember my Star Trek Technical Manual correctly. And I’m surprised that the shuttlecraft has such a small supply of oxygen. It should have the ability to extract O2 from CO2.

Spock’s rank is revealed to be Lt. Commander. I’d always thought he was a full Commander.

In the recording from the pilot, the computer printed a message on paper. Paper!

After beaming down to the surface, you can notice Spock limping. Leonard Nimoy must have injured his ankle or leg. Shortly after, Spock smiled when they found a singing plant. This was long before his emotionless persona was established.

Vina is wearing makeup. They have makeup on Talos IV? There are no other women on the planet, so how does she know how to put it on?

My Impressions

This is the reason I didn’t review the pilot. Should I go back and review it? For the longest time, this was the only way to see the pilot episode, although that is available to watch now.

Overall, this was a very strong episode. The courtroom drama, seriousness, and acting were very well done. The performance by Leonard Nimoy is excellent. William Shatner and DeForest Kelley do a great job, as well. Jeffrey Hunter did well as the original Captain Pike, but I found him to be dry and too serious. He didn’t have enough personality. I prefer the crew with Kirk far more than Pike’s crew. William Shatner may have some acting shortcomings, but I actually enjoy watching Kirk. It wouldn’t be Star Trek without him.

What I found interesting is how Number One (Majel Barrett) was never given a name. She’s supposed to be the second in command, but we don’t have a name. It was a remarkable thing for a show in the mid 60s to have a woman as second in command. It’s too bad the final episode of the series says a woman cannot be a Captain of a starship. Of course, that’s a load of bull. But it reflects the time it was made, not the actual future.

As I said, this was a strong episode. I thought it was one of the best in The Original Series. It was full of drama and extremely series. Great stuff! Part 2 will be coming soon.

Verdict

★★★★★

Your Voice

What did you think of this episode? How would you compare the two Enterprise crews? Did you find Pike as dull as I did? And what did you think of the acting in this episode? Let me know in the comments section!

You Can’t Please Everyone – Comments

Over the last couple months, I’ve been receiving a lot of comments on two posts which talk about things that bring a lot of controversy. One is about politics, the other is about climate change.

I’m better at talking about climate change, so I don’t have a problem rebutting climate change deniers’ claims. One comment questioned what I said in the post and provided some information about Mt. Etna’s CO2 output, thinking he won the “debate.” Well, the information he told me matches what was said on Snopes, as well as scientific sources. It only confirmed what I’d said. That backfired.

And about Snopes, if I refer to a Snopes article, don’t say it’s not a legitimate source. You know why? The information they give references scientific journals, government research, and other legitimate sources.

But then, we get to the political post. The topic doesn’t matter, but what does matter is how people comment. I was insulted in a rather crude manner. The first rule on this blog for comments is this: Do not insult anyone. The second rule: Be civil. These people broke those rules.

If you want to have a constructive conversation, then behave. Use intelligent arguments, not reactionary ones. Don’t use all caps on random words. Whenever I see comments like that, I can pretty safely assume that the person is irrational and illogical. All caps don’t make an argument stronger, it makes the person look like they’re shouting. Don’t call me or other commenters idiots. Behaviour like this makes a person less credible. It’s not worth my time to debate with people like this.

Now that I got this off my chest, I’ll return this blog to normal.

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.