Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Failing Mechanics

The new year isn't going as happily as people were wishing me last week.

Rachel, Oz has died. Probably our biggest mistake of 2010 was trying to resurrect a 13-yr-old Corolla whose engine had cracked. Putting a different engine in a car with more than a quarter-million miles is not a good plan. I meet the junk man this afternoon to turn over her title and collect enough money from him to pay for yesterday's tow-truck.

My computer was fried yesterday. One tiny little repair/improvement resulted in a crash which means I need a new computer -- or that I at least need a new motherboard and processor and power source and operating system. My sons (of the Nerd Herd) are looking into it for me, and they think many pieces of my current [but deceased] computer can be used in the new computer. Main point of this paragraph (besides the whining) is that, if you need to contact me, you should do it via gmail instead of my usual email address if possible.

I have tons of work to do, especially editing, but right now I have very little ability to concentrate when my brain keeps drifting to "Where am I going to find a car?"

So now the question is, "What is going to happen next?"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Commas with Adjectives

Coordinate adjectives.

I know the rule to use a comma between words in a series. For example, When the child lost his marbles, his Matchbox cars, and his pet snake, the mother lost her marbles. Or Obama promised to pay for my groceries, my rent, and my utilities.

But there are adjectives that may not be equal in importance and therefore should not have commas ... because the words aren't really in a series. For example, The exuberant golden retriever chased the bone under the table. Or The lovely, fashionable Bethany picked up a Wisconsin accent this week. Or Some of the new LSB hymns we sang last year were very good. Or The decrepit, rattle-trap, slow-as-molasses computer makes me scream.

IF you can switch the order of the adjectives,
IF you can put an and between the adjectives,
THEN you use a comma. "The fashionable and lovely Bethany" or "the decrepit and rattle-trap computer."

But if you can't toss in an and, if you can't switch the order of the adjectives, then your words are not "coordinate adjectives" and ought not have the comma. The golden and exuberant retriever? The LSB and new hymns? Nope!

I usually have a good sense of how to employ the commas in these situations, but I've always been a little unsettled because I Learned The Rule in grade school and didn't learn the exceptions. So here's the qualifier for when the comma rule is and is not employed with multiple adjectives. And thus ends my grammar note to myself.

Grungy Grates on the Stovetop

Lesson #1. If you're going to bother turning on the Self-Cleaning feature on the stove, do it for the highest, most intense, longest setting available. The stove is always dirtier than you thought it was.

Lesson #2. The cast-iron grates on my gas stovetop were getting icky. I'd wiped them and washed them, but they were still icky with baked-on spill-overs. I stacked them in the oven while I was cleaning it, and the grates baked clean, quite nicely. Hot dog!