Columns

A Word, Please: A more complete story about sentence fragments

A Word, Please: A more complete story about sentence fragments

When I was a kid, the “Do as I say, not as I do” school of parenting reigned supreme. Those adults lecturing children on the dangers of smoking? Smokers, one and all.

The Whiteboard Jungle: School year should not start so early

The Whiteboard Jungle: School year should not start so early

One of the most asked questions I get as a teacher is why does school start so early in August instead of September.

Burb's Eye View: A quiet game of kings and retirees

Burb's Eye View: A quiet game of kings and retirees

I’d been at the table for about an hour, taking in what wisdom I could from Ivor Baron and Jose Solis. Sometimes the chess pieces blurred around and away, leaving a thinner collection of game pieces that should have been easier to read.

A Word, Please: One more reason to distrust the news media

A Word, Please: One more reason to distrust the news media

Robert Siegel of National Public Radio, Jason Stallman of the New York Times and every other journalist who uses “fewer” with confidence, please take a seat. You’re about to get a lesson in language you didn’t think you needed. There’s a gaping hole in your grammar...

Burb's Eye View: Young Scout is organizing an athlete send-off in Burbank

Burb's Eye View: Young Scout is organizing an athlete send-off in Burbank

This Friday, athletes from Botswana and Zimbabwe will leave Burbank and make final preparations before the Special Olympics begin the next day. They’ll be greeted with a send-off from people from across the city, wishing them well in the upcoming games.

Read On: Time for a midsummer Q&A

Read On: Time for a midsummer Q&A

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s mid-July and I have yet to enter a swimming pool this summer. Maybe it’s just that life leaves me filled with confusion.

A Word, Please: The confounding black sheep of punctuation

A Word, Please: The confounding black sheep of punctuation

Here’s a fun thing you can do with your writing: Take any two simple, clear sentences and use a semicolon to mush them into one. For example, imagine you have a paragraph with just two sentences.

The Whiteboard Jungle: Lee's 'Watchman' was never meant to be seen

The Whiteboard Jungle: Lee's 'Watchman' was never meant to be seen

Imagine you wish to write a book. And you do.

Burb's Eye View: Library reading club welcomes grown-up reviews

Burb's Eye View: Library reading club welcomes grown-up reviews

Three years ago, the Burbank Public Library modestly invited every single person in the city to become a book reviewer. A scant few, dozens maybe, have taken the library up on its offer.

Burb's Eye View: Having two cities to call home

Burb's Eye View: Having two cities to call home

Recently — in the last year maybe — I stopped telling people I was “heading back home” when visiting Mom and Dad. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just kind of happened. I’ve settled so comfortably in the Burbank area, and aspects of it remind me so much of...

Read On: Hoping for the two Americas to come together

Read On: Hoping for the two Americas to come together

So we’ve arrived at America’s birthday, the day she gained her independence. And while in nation terms, she’s still relatively young, the United States is looking every one of its 239 years about now.

The Whiteboard Jungle: Mandating civics courses would benefit students

The Whiteboard Jungle: Mandating civics courses would benefit students

The other day, my son was practicing his guitar playing with a new music book and came upon Samuel Francis Smith’s “America (My Country, ’Tis of Thee),” you know, the 1832 patriotic song that is not “America the Beautiful” and whose melody is the same as England&...

Burb's Eye View: Disney athletes sing for cancer hospital

Burb's Eye View: Disney athletes sing for cancer hospital

Before he sang a note, Christian Morales smiled under the sweat-inducing orange lights of Sardo’s karaoke bar. He politely thanked everyone for their attendance.

A Word, Please: There can be trouble with whomever and I

A Word, Please: There can be trouble with whomever and I

“Since I gave up hope, I feel much better.” The slacker attitude of this once-popular bumper sticker has gone the way of Lehman Brothers and pension plans. But if we apply the same idea to grammar, the message is timeless: Since I gave up hope, I talk much better.

Start the Presses: Facts and figures behind city salaries

Start the Presses: Facts and figures behind city salaries

In the last few weeks, we've seen a lot of stories and a lot of online sputtering regarding the salaries of local officials.

Learning Matters: Dealing with change can be a stressful experience

Learning Matters: Dealing with change can be a stressful experience

For involved parents and school district personnel, a change in superintendent or principal is like getting a new choir director for a singer: emotionally unsettling and personal.

Burb's Eye View: Getting to know the residents of Stough Canyon

Burb's Eye View: Getting to know the residents of Stough Canyon

The small king snake, though safely behind glass, was nonetheless imposing. It curled itself in its enclosure and bared its tongue to 5-year-old Benjamin Spangler.

Read On: Man seeks to share his new beginning

Read On: Man seeks to share his new beginning

Peter Vanlaw thought that having a heart attack at the age of 51 might be the end of his life.

A Word, Please: English users can write a wrong word

A Word, Please: English users can write a wrong word

The hardest thing about English grammar isn’t grammar. Not in the strictest sense of the word, anyway. Narrowly speaking, grammar has to do with the way we order and inflect words to make sentences.

The Whiteboard Jungle: The contributions of fathers should be appreciated

The Whiteboard Jungle: The contributions of fathers should be appreciated

Sunday will mark my 17th Father’s Day, a special accomplishment for me considering that I have been a dad longer than my father was for me.

Burb's Eye View: Animal shelter features a purr-fect program

Burb's Eye View: Animal shelter features a purr-fect program

Earlier this month, CatCon filled Los Angeles with thousands of pet owners looking to fill their cat fancy with the latest trendy products manufactured for their felines.

A Word, Please: There exists more than one form of there

A Word, Please: There exists more than one form of there

“A man is walking down the street.” “There is a man walking down the street.”

Learning Matters: Exploring history of a local barber shop

Learning Matters: Exploring history of a local barber shop

What can we learn in a barber shop? What light might a barber shed on a young person thinking about careers? Those are the questions I’ve been mulling since the day I found myself face to face, shopping cart to shopping cart, with my Los Angeles Times columnist hero, Steve Lopez.

Burb's Eye View: A sea change for multitasking

Burb's Eye View: A sea change for multitasking

If you’ve ever asked someone to multitask, consider what you’ll get in return. Sometimes jobs are best handled one at a time.

Read On: The marketing of Caitlyn Jenner

Read On: The marketing of Caitlyn Jenner

OK, I really didn’t want to do it. But I simply have to.

A Word, Please: A wide array of influences drive 'through'

A Word, Please: A wide array of influences drive 'through'

Now showing at a news site near you: the spelling “drive-thru.”

The Whiteboard Jungle: The arrival of June means a time of goodbyes

The Whiteboard Jungle: The arrival of June means a time of goodbyes

Each June, I struggle finding the right departing remarks to say to my students as the class runs its course (pun intended).

Burb's Eye View: Upgrades include hopes of eradication

Burb's Eye View: Upgrades include hopes of eradication

When the upgrades at Johnny Carson Park are completed this year, a new stage will replace the old one. It’s not big enough to bring in a band for a concert, which is just as well: The beetles are already there.

Start the Presses: Debating doctor-assisted death

Start the Presses: Debating doctor-assisted death

About two weeks ago, I received a letter from a La CaƱada high school student, Olivia Garland, who wrote to me as part of a class project on persuasive writing.

A Word, Please: Readers punctuate grammatical concerns

A Word, Please: Readers punctuate grammatical concerns

Some interesting stuff landed in the mailbag for this week. Let's dive in.

Burb's Eye View: The Media City is perfect for a staycation

Burb's Eye View: The Media City is perfect for a staycation

I had scrubbed the oven wall so hard that the grease eventually filled and stained each tiny groove in my fingertips. Not exactly how I planned to spend the day off.

A Word, Please: The dummy word that holds things together

A Word, Please: The dummy word that holds things together

Have you ever thought about the word “do”? My advice is don’t. The word “do” is one of the bugbears of English that make our language incredibly difficult to master — for nonnative speakers and even for people born into the English-speaking world. Almost no one...

The Whiteboard Jungle: Transition to middle school can be rough

The Whiteboard Jungle: Transition to middle school can be rough

This week, I attended my youngest son’s spring dance at his elementary school. After 12 spring dances (counting my oldest son’s tenure), this was my final one.

Read On: Earning money as test subject

Read On: Earning money as test subject

Zane Johnson is a healthy and strapping 31-year-old guy who is spending Memorial Day weekend as a hospital patient. And if that isn’t surreal enough, they’re also paying him to be there.

Burb's Eye View: People gather together at annual Relay for Life

Burb's Eye View: People gather together at annual Relay for Life

The candle-lit bags that line the Relay for Life course each year bear a message honoring a cancer survivor, a caregiver or someone who has died.

Learning Matters: Reflecting on substitute teaching experience

Learning Matters: Reflecting on substitute teaching experience

My one stint as a long-term substitute teacher was over a decade ago, but I still wonder about the children in that class and think about the lessons I learned with them. I’m sure I learned more from them than they did from me in those six weeks.

Start the Presses: Summing up the math of poverty

Start the Presses: Summing up the math of poverty

Uh-oh, Glendale and Burbank. Hear that? The city of Los Angeles is considering raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Are demands from the poorest among us to have our cities follow suit far behind?

Burb's Eye View: National Guard member to receive banner

Burb's Eye View: National Guard member to receive banner

The banner recognizing Paul McKenna Jr. for his military career hangs high above the parking lot at Burbank City Hall. There are many like it around City Hall and along Third Street, honoring those from Burbank who continue their service.

Read On: We should welcome the rain

Read On: We should welcome the rain

I’m not sure we’re yet taking this drought thing quite as seriously as we should here in Southern California. Because let me tell you, it’s a really big deal. Water is pretty close to the only thing we can’t do without — and the skies aren’t cooperating.

A Word, Please: Tips on how to avoid common apostrophe errors

A Word, Please: Tips on how to avoid common apostrophe errors

Let’s face it, grammar is more important for some people than for others. An ambulance driver probably has more important things to worry about than whether to hyphenate adverbs ending in “ly.” (FYI: Don’t do it.)

The Whiteboard Jungle: Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' still causing controversy

The Whiteboard Jungle: Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' still causing controversy

Full disclosure: I am an English teacher, I expose my students to the best literature, I consider John Steinbeck one of America’s greatest writers, and so I teach “Of Mice and Men.”

Burb's Eye View: Craigslist assembles strange bedfellows

Burb's Eye View: Craigslist assembles strange bedfellows

I still remember the first time I heard about Craigslist. It came from Craig’s competition — a classified-ads director who shuffled around the newsroom looking shell-shocked.

Start the Presses: Starlings and birds of a feather

Start the Presses: Starlings and birds of a feather

Who are Doug and Shelly Starling?

A Word, Please: For tighter writing, watch out for danglers

A Word, Please: For tighter writing, watch out for danglers

How big a problem is the dreaded dangler? In the real world, maybe not so big. Danglers, though sometimes serious, often aren’t so bad. Some don’t harm your message at all and could slip by even the most careful reader. But for anyone who puts a premium on precision, it’s a good...

Learning Matters: May Day can mark an emotional time for students

Learning Matters: May Day can mark an emotional time for students

For much of the world, the first day of May, or May Day, has one of three connotations: a celebration of spring, with pictures of children dancing around a maypole; a political holiday or demonstration in support of organized labor and the struggle of workers; or a call of distress in an emergency.

Burb's Eye View: Cancer survivor raises awareness of melanoma

Burb's Eye View: Cancer survivor raises awareness of melanoma

When the doctors told her about her cancer, Lesley Smith was sure they didn’t do the test right.

A Word, Please: Being an expert is all well and good

A Word, Please: Being an expert is all well and good

When someone asks how you’re doing, can you respond “I am good”? Or is the only correct form “I am well”? And why?

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