The plastic solar lotus Buddha next door

Love my new apartment. Been here a couple months. It has good vibes, maybe because of the guy next door.

My neighbors have a solar-powered LED lighted lotus Buddha figure by their front door. Sadly, the little solar collecting panels have been ripped out of Buddha's knees. I feel compassion for the Buddha, as my knees often feel powerless.

The neighbors with the Buddha hauled a couch to the dumpster. First they tried to get it out the dining room window. Then they took it out the back siding door, over the railing, and all the way around the building. 

One Sunday they loaded up a U-Haul, but they left the Buddha, a floor lamp, a green lawn chair, and a bunch of trash bags out front. Eventually the floor lamp and trash bags disappeared. Management sent workers to install new window blinds, carpet, and paint the place. Peeking in, I could see new black appliances waiting for installation. A van of women came to do a make-ready cleaning. Still Buddha sits out front. 

Since then a college student in a Yogi Bear costume has moved into another apartment. A family has moved out leaving a toy kitchen beside the dumpster. That delighted a crew of barefoot, unsupervised kids for a couple days.

A young woman hospital worker arrives home each morning about the time I'm waking up to do my knee exercises before breakfast. When I head out the door I smile at a woman in an orange sari sitting on the steps leading upstairs. She looks drowsy, but the infant in her lap is bright-eyed and surveying the world.


© 2013-2019 Nancy L. Ruder


Social media posts as picture postcards, just faster

Summer reading of the best kind--I got a postcard from my grandson in the mail from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo. How awesome is that? Personal hand-printed mail that traveled across geographic space over ticking hours and minutes and days to land in my physical mailbox. Woo-hoo! Sting rays and bats and tigers, oh my!

I'm struggling with my lunch break reading of Gretchen McCulloch's consideration of social media linguistics, Because Internet.  I'm intrigued by our turbo-changing informal writing culture. My problem is keeping track of McCulloch's cohorts of internet and social media adopters: Old Internet People, Full Internet People, Semi Internet People, Post Internet People and Pre Internet People. Really, they just need catchier names. The important idea is that we are in an era of unprecedented informal written communication  activity. People who would never have picked up a pen or typed out a memo are communicating by text, tweet, and post. They are creating new ways to add intonation, layers of meaning, emphasis, breath pauses, and speech-mimicking spellings.

McCulloch compares Beatle George Harrison's postcards with brief messages and doodles mailed in the '70s with use of emoticons and emojis today. Brief informal written communication isn't new, but the number of people participating is vastly different. Doodles and tiny faces are just attempts to indicate mood in a tiny box for a message.

Across cohorts and generations we still have some gaps of interpretation and understanding. My "NEW fiction" may just indicate a special library shelving location, while my coworker takes it as a shouted criticism of her shelving efforts.

We may need to identify and acknowledge those internal critics, editors, and even mentors perched on our shoulders with red pens and twinkly star stickers. Who is grading us for spelling, punctuation, legibility, and turning in our work on time? How do we feel about what goes into our Permanent Record? On my shoulders sit toga-clad judges who happen to be my great-aunt Emma and Miss Helen Madsen from seventh grade English class.

I am often guilty of being too flip, too blunt, too esoteric in speech and writing. Social media is a complex Venn diagram of audiences -- those we have in mind when we post, those with access to the post now, those viewing the post in the unknown future, those lacking the Rosetta stone to unlock the meaning.

What about the sensory experience of texting or posting? I don't get the joy of twirling the display rack of color postcards  (5 for $1.00) in the corner of the souvenir shop. Across the generations I DO get the XOXOX hugs and kisses I received from my grandmothers via the U.S. mail.

© 2013-2019 Nancy L. Ruder


Fungus vs. Snickers

How to write an effective request email to Human Resources:


I had a dumb-as-fungus moment this afternoon when I had a craving for a Snickers. The # is missing for that selection in the snack machine, so I punched in the price 1-0-0. Doh! 100 is the # for those icky cinnamon rolls. That cured my whole chocolate craving, but if you have contact with the snack machine vendor I would appreciate having the selection number back. Otherwise, I will surely do the same dumb thing again.

If you like those cinnamon rolls, there’s one on the break room island for you!


Getting results!

1. I received an instant reply requesting information about dumb-as-fungusness.

2. The Candyman vendor got an instant request for snack machine repair with forwarded message.

3.  A young friend showed me a fossilized mosasaur jawbone with six teeth he found at the river yesterday, and it looked more appetizing than the petrified cinnamon roll.

4. There's an amazing fungal growth in the lawn across the street that is larger than a pan pizza from Pizza Hut.

5. I first learned the expression "dumb as fungus" when Dave Barry had a syndicated humor column in the Omaha World Herald when Reagan was president. My father preferred "like a rock only dumber" but I have always been partial to fungus.

6. My sister, an extremely successful,highly-regarded music education professional who shall remain nameless confesses she feels a lot of pressure to punch in the numbers and/or letters as soon as the coins go down the chute in the snack machine, resulting in occasional performance anxiety.

7. Would Betsy DeVos recognize a fungus if it jumped up and grabbed her Snickers bar?

8. How do we define intelligence, and what is the sensitive term for "dumb" in a world where the rules are in constant change?

9. Are you as smart as a  slime mold?

10. Who wrote that book about smart tree roots?

11. Do you take it personally when the vending machine spits back your dollar bill? Yes, it's worse than a quarterly performance review.


A significant reason why the United States is having trouble competing in the modern industrialized world is that most Americans, through no fault of their own, are, in the words of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, "as dumb as fungus."
That is why this newspaper, at great expense and physical risk, is once again presenting "Ask Mr. Language Person," the educational feature that answers common questions about grammar, spelling and punctuality.

© 2013-2019 Nancy L. Ruder