Rants and Raves!

I'm a proofreader and copy editor, an occasional writer, and a travel enthusiast (70 countries) who's interested in grammar, linguistics, funny quotes, quirky stories and bargain deals.

This is the place for rants about lousy service and atrocious quality, praise for things done right and funny or interesting items that wouldn't fit within Twitter's 140-character limit.

For quality results that even a curmudgeon wouldn't grumble about, hire me for your proofreading and editing needs. I'm Chicago-based, if the occasional in-person meeting is important to you, but I'm happy to work with customers worldwide.

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A Toddler's Advice on Race Relations

Posted Sunday, December 7, 2014
In light of the recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere, I have to question why so many full-grown adults have so much trouble with a basic concept that my toddler son was able to easily explain before he reached the age of 3.

Some 22 years ago, we were visiting a couple of the more-remote Caribbean islands for the first time with our young son. We had taken a puddle-jumper flight from Barbados to Grenada and booked a multi-night stay at a local bed and breakfast. The housekeeper was a charming black lady who took an immediate liking to our son, which resulted in him getting custom-made treats when we returned after a long day's exploration. Like moms everywhere, her first instinctive duty was to spoil the visiting little tykes temporarily under her care.

While chomping down on his late-afternoon snack, my son glanced around, at us, at his host and at his treat and noted: "It's really interesting. Some people are brown on the outside and pink on the inside. Other people are pink on the outside and brown on the inside."

Yes. Yet they will all treat you right if you just give them half the chance!

Tags: travel, education, Caribbean
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Is Third World Travel Dangerous?

Posted Monday, November 24, 2014
I've been asked this questions quite a few times over the years, mostly by people who, like me, also live in Chicago. The irony here is that Chicago has over 2000 shootings and 450 homicides in a typical year, so almost anywhere else outside of a war zone would be an improvement statistically.

This is not to say that Chicago is particularly dangerous for tourists: most violent crimes happen between drunken family members, rival gangs fighting for turf or drug deals gone bad. And these sorts of incidents almost never happen at places visitors frequent like the Art Institute or the Field Museum or atop the Tower-formerly-known-as-Sears.

Yet somehow my fellow Americans have gotten the impression that the only thing the fine people of South Africa ever do is riot, because that's the only time they ever seem to make the news. That Thailand is too dangerous because of the coups, Colombia too dangerous because of the drug lords, and Egypt too dangerous because all Arabs are potential terrorists.

As it happens, the first time I visited Thailand, a coup actually did take place while I was in the country; I didn't even know about it until I returned home. Colombia is full of friendly people and beautiful sites and is safe enough if you avoid the drug trade. I was in Egypt as an independent traveler during the First Gulf War and the greatest threat I encountered was to my wallet, being overcharged by the occasional taxi driver or offered fake gold jewelry or just-made-yesterday antiquities from the occasional shopkeeper. On the whole, the Arab world has a long tradition of providing warm receptions to visitors; just be prepared for buzz-inducing doses of syrupy-thick coffee when negotiating souvenir purchases.

Of course, a traveler still needs to remain aware of unfamiliar surroundings and use some common sense, like not walking around random neighborhoods while wearing a Rolex watch or carrying $10,000 in cash. The worst thing that's ever happened to me across 70 countries over three decades is being pick-pocketed -- and that was in Rome after being surrounded by a group of noisy 8-10-year-olds holding open newspapers.

Americans aren't the only ones mislead by their local media. I once got a call from my grandmother in Germany, asking me if my house had been damaged by the tornado. Of course, there had been no tornado in Chicago, but rather in rural Iowa 300 miles away. From the European prospective, Chicago was the nearest city anyone there was likely to have heard of.

And for many years, when I traveled abroad and people asked where I was from, the usual response was: "Chicago? Al Capone. Bang Bang." Thank goodness that eventually changed to "Chicago? Michael Jordan!" with the hand dribbling an invisible basketball!

Tags: travel, Chicago

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Blogging with a Side Order of Spam

Posted Monday, November 10, 2014
I seem to have been discovered by the Secret Society of Spam Submitters. I suppose that's progress in a sense. I actually would like to encourage comments and perhaps even links to material relevant to the topic being discussed in a given post, if it might be of interest to the reader. I've discovered a lot of interesting stuff over the years by jumping tangentially from link to link; I also know how hard it can be to have new readers find you.

So if you're an actual reader, take note of the fact that relevant content will generally be allowed to stay in place while irrelevant self-promotions will be replaced by "I am a naughty spammer" or some variation thereof, along with your IP address, which may then be harvested by other sites to blacklist your efforts everywhere. Make it relevant and you might even be invited to become a regular guest blogger.

On the other hand, my sons are programmers, so it's pretty easy for us to blacklist you from our entire server. It's also easy for me to find the latest comments, regardless of where it's posted (or hidden by intent) because we built that feature in. Play nice and you could get your turn at show-and-tell with the other kiddies; otherwise you'll just get the dunce cap and a corner to sit in while the rest of us ignore you.

Tags: websites, technology,SEO

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