Columns

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?

Read On: Dying is way past the epidemic stage

Read On: Dying is way past the epidemic stage

I think it probably hit me while I was reading a post from a Facebook friend who shared that she'd been away from social media for a while because, well, her gallbladder had burst a few weeks before, she'd been rushed into surgery — and she would have died were it not for the quick work of a...

Burb's Eye View: Sound the trumpets for the Senior Games

Burb's Eye View: Sound the trumpets for the Senior Games

Next month, the gladiatorial stage will be set, and all over Burbank, the sweaty thrill of competition will overtake the city's playing fields.

Start the Presses: Making a few political predictions

Start the Presses: Making a few political predictions

Election season is over, but the sad detritus of failed campaigns remain along the boulevards and byways of our lovely cities and, if history is any guide, will be there until at least mid-summer.

A Word, Please: Admiration and helpful hints for salespeople

A Word, Please: Admiration and helpful hints for salespeople

Once upon a time, in another life now recalled only in nightmares, I was a salesperson. My longest-held position (which I didn’t hold for long) required me to go door-to-door in office complexes trying to get companies to change their long-distance telephone service.

Learning Matters: New novel focuses on Armenian Genocide's aftermath

Learning Matters: New novel focuses on Armenian Genocide's aftermath

I received an email recently from a publicist asking if I intended to write a column about the Armenian Genocide. If so, would I be interested in meeting an author who was coming to town on a book tour?

Burb's Eye View: Volunteers help veteran get a home makeover

Burb's Eye View: Volunteers help veteran get a home makeover

He had lived in the house for more than 30 years, but now the pink paint was beginning to peel on Don Ray’s Verdugo Avenue home.

The Whiteboard Jungle: When a person's words become someone else's

The Whiteboard Jungle: When a person's words become someone else's

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Screenwriters James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck wrote this famous line for the John Ford-directed 1962 film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

A Word, Please: There's a thin line between right and wrong

A Word, Please: There's a thin line between right and wrong

Like everyone who lives in Los Angeles County, I've spent the last several weeks picturing myself in a jury selection pool for the Robert Durst trial.

Burb's Eye View: Couple help reinvent the Burbank bar

Burb's Eye View: Couple help reinvent the Burbank bar

A few hours before the Friday lunch crowd fills the tables at Tony’s Darts Away, owners Tony and Amy Yanow stand at the head of the pool table. They’ve stacked 21 pairs of brown Converse sneakers on the felt and are opening a couple boxes to inspect the custom embroidery on each shoe.

Start the Presses: A last chat before the election

Start the Presses: A last chat before the election

Election day in Glendale is nearly upon us. Tuesday means it’s time to boogie down to your polling station and make your choices.

A Word, Please: Some commas can give an editor pause

A Word, Please: Some commas can give an editor pause

A lot of people are taught that a comma goes anywhere you want to indicate a pause. On the surface, that system appears to work out fine. Commas often do just that. But not always.

Learning Matters: Taking a look at news in 1955 and now

Learning Matters: Taking a look at news in 1955 and now

While researching an upcoming column, I’ve been spending some time at the Central Library. Looking through old city directories in the Special Collections room and viewing microfilm of the Glendale News-Press, circa 1955 (it was a bigger paper then!), I’ve been hunting for information...

Read On: Making plans for the big night

Read On: Making plans for the big night

My beautiful and talented daughter Gabi is getting married two weeks from today. And it’s all great. She’s marrying a terrific guy with a fantastic work ethic and from top-notch stock. She’s 26. Not too young. Not too old. Nobody’s pregnant or anything. All is right in...

A Word, Please: Idiom takes the wind out of proper sails

A Word, Please: Idiom takes the wind out of proper sails

They say marriage is all about give and take. Compromise. Meeting each other halfway. But to read my emails over the years, you could only conclude that marriage is about something quite different: winning. Specifically, winning arguments. More specifically, winning arguments about grammar.

The Whiteboard Jungle: Test scores shouldn't be main factor in rating teachers

The Whiteboard Jungle: Test scores shouldn't be main factor in rating teachers

A lasting legacy of the “No Child Left Behind” federal legislation has been the notion of tying student test scores to teachers’ job evaluations. Due to the controversy of such an idea, school districts across the country that have implemented it have limited its impact on a...

Burb's Eye View: CicLAvia opens vistas, raises questions

Burb's Eye View: CicLAvia opens vistas, raises questions

I came home from Sunday’s CicLAvia bike ride filled with adrenaline and curiosity for how it might work in Burbank. And if Burbank is ever to try something similar, it has some serious questions to ask itself before inviting more than 100,000 cyclists to try their tires on its streets.

Piece of Mind: The road toward a sensible future

Piece of Mind: The road toward a sensible future

Attachments. We all form them, not only to people, pets, personal belongings and places, but also to our daily routines. Some of those bonds are vital to our happiness; some we could shed.

A Word, Please: Some rules we don't have to abide by

A Word, Please: Some rules we don't have to abide by

The essence of drama, as they say, is conflict. Comedy is no different, as every show from “The Honeymooners” to “30 Rock” proves.

Learning Matters: Praising examples of two remarkable educators

Learning Matters: Praising examples of two remarkable educators

Parents worry a lot about whether schools are adequately serving their children, and educators do, too. Given the task of instructing students who have increasingly diverse needs, teachers, counselors and administrators feel the pressure of their assignment, as societal issues and educational...

Burb's Eye View: Burg-muda Triangle is an intersection of change

Burb's Eye View: Burg-muda Triangle is an intersection of change

When the neon sign was taken down at Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in 2013, a new era began in Burbank’s high-steaks grill game.

Read On: A new app for your best friend

Read On: A new app for your best friend

As we know, one day there will be an app for everything. Getting you into bed. Getting you out of bed. Providing companionship in bed. Eating. Breathing. Escaping from prison.

A Word, Please: There's a sound reason to use 'a' or 'an'

A Word, Please: There's a sound reason to use 'a' or 'an'

Steve in Glendale wrote to tell me about a snag he hit recently when writing about a blogger on a National Public Radio website.

The Whiteboard Jungle: People need to do right thing when accidents occur

The Whiteboard Jungle: People need to do right thing when accidents occur

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m the type of person who believes in doing the right thing. It is a philosophy that flows through the way I conduct my life, including my teaching.

Burb's Eye View: Plans for community gardening are taking root

Burb's Eye View: Plans for community gardening are taking root

This past weekend, I was reminded of how satisfying a tiny patch of earth can be.

Start the Presses: Spring will be a season of change

Start the Presses: Spring will be a season of change

Spring is (nearly) in the air. Besides the annual annoyance of losing an hour of sleep due to Daylight Saving Time, it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

A Word, Please: There's no use calling a word not a word

A Word, Please: There's no use calling a word not a word

If you do a Google search for the term “isn’t a word” and throw in the term “grammar” to sift out the silliness, you’ll get a lot of hits. Most of them are people saying that some word isn’t a word. Or that some other person said that some word isn’t a...

Learning Matters: Weighing in on three election day measures

Learning Matters: Weighing in on three election day measures

A few months ago, I shared information for prospective members of the Glendale Unified school board, outlining some of the realities of that office.

Burb's Eye View: Small change as a token of the bigger kind

Burb's Eye View: Small change as a token of the bigger kind

Last week, I received my first personal email from my 6-year-old nephew, Owen. He’s the oldest of his siblings and cousins, which means he will be the first of his generation to try new things.

Read On: Getting together for a street hockey tradition

Read On: Getting together for a street hockey tradition

Well we lost another icon on Friday with the death of Leonard Nimoy, the incomparable Mr. Spock of “Star Trek” fame and by all accounts a good and decent man of real character. His looks to have been a life especially well-lived. After all is said and done, what more is there?

The Whiteboard Jungle: Tuition is not main hurdle for most community college students

The Whiteboard Jungle: Tuition is not main hurdle for most community college students

What does $1,400 buy nowadays? One year of cellphone service with T-Mobile, one year of television with DirecTV, or one year’s tuition at a California community college — for 60% of students, that is. The other 40% pay no tuition.

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