Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Recalling a former Black Cow patron

I don’t view myself as a creature of habit but I have become susceptible to routine. Table 10 in the café was occupied; subsequently, I decided to sit at table 11. Since Nate Neven, the morning barista, created the perfect café latte, the Black Cow Café in Montrose was a...

Around Town: The best way to learn a language

Following the recent dust-up over teaching Mandarin in the local high school, the La Cañada Unified School District should note that there are a lot of smart people in this town with free advice, even though the U.S. Department of Education just announced that “more than $63.3 million&...

A Word, Please: Speakers shall say whatever they will

A Word, Please: Speakers shall say whatever they will

History has never been my subject, a fact I attribute to my “cut to the chase” type of thinking. In history, the chase always goes: Dude One fights Dude Two for the right to control Thing A and, when a victor emerges, everyone has to live under dude rule.

The Focused Student: How to win the daily homework showdown

Last month I introduced “The Focused Student” and I must say the response has been positive. Thanks for taking the time to read this column. I know you want to help your kids, and I hope my ideas will be useful.

Around Town: Learning a language isn't the same as speaking it

Applying to college? Now that we've discussed the advantages of being multilingual, it's time to take another look at the issue.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Seeking answers during a Texas visit

Davy Crockett, as a congressman from Tennessee, lost his third bid for the office to a man with a wooden leg.

A Word, Please: An editor's effort to correct a pet peeve

A Word, Please: An editor's effort to correct a pet peeve

Did you hear the one about the guy who went onto Wikipedia and deleted 47,000 instances of the phrase “comprised of”?

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Reagan and the return of U.S. optimism

On April 30, 1975, the fall of Saigon was the culminating moment, representing the spiraling decent of American prestige throughout the world. On the evening news Americans witnessed images of Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians and the remnants of...

Around Town: Wealth didn't cultivate understanding

The cherry trees are blossoming at the Descanso Gardens tea house and it's snowing in New York.

A Word, Please: An eggcorn is also known as a mondegreen

A Word, Please: An eggcorn is also known as a mondegreen

When enough people use a word wrong, eventually it becomes right. That’s how every word in the language came to be. People started using a word differently than before (read: wrong) and it caught on and at one point started being right.

Around Town: A guide for getting through a cold or flu

If, like me, you hardly ever get sick, there’s one advantage to catching the common cold or flu with the optional cough enhancement.Television. Nothing beats a binge day.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Speaking from the heart at Scout event

Last Sunday I spoke at an Eagle Court of Honor. Five Boy Scouts from Troop 398 were receiving Scouting's most prestigious award: Eagle Scout. Those being honored were Jacob Abbott, Chad Anderson, Jax Jacinto, Robert O'Brien and Matt Olson.

A Word, Please: Left dangling, a participle can lose its logic

A Word, Please: Left dangling, a participle can lose its logic

Danglers are an extremely important language concept. Not so much for writers as for jokesters. Danglers in writing and speech don’t necessarily hurt the reader. Often the message comes across just fine despite this dreaded error.

Around Town: It's time for the NFL to pay taxes

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, it's time to take on the tax code.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: An out-of-town trip provides inspiration

If I believed in writer’s block, I’d use it as an excuse for not being able to conceptualize my topic for the week. My mind has been on overdrive and regardless of how many brain cells I’ve burned, I ain’t got no thoughts from Dr. Joe. In the last 12 years, “Thoughts...

The Focused Student: Helping teens learn, grow and succeed

After years of teaching, I've come to the conclusion that — even here in La Cañada — most teenagers drive their parents a little crazy. I'm highly qualified to make this diagnosis, as I'm the father of two teens as well as the executive director of the Hillside School and Learning...

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Exploring the deeper meaning of patriotism

When I was a kid, the criticism of older people would tick me off. I'd wonder what right the old geezers had to criticize me. Of course, now that I'm an old geezer, I understand the importance of an adult in being an adult. My beef is found within the context of a great story.

Around Town: The benefits of being multilingual

Years ago, on a trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador, a friend complimented me on my Spanish fluency. She said, “Es un adorno para saber un otro idioma,” which literally means that a fluency in a second language is an ornament.

A Word, Please: Ten common usages mistaken for mistakes

A Word, Please: Ten common usages mistaken for mistakes

Some people just love to correct others’ grammar and usage. They know it rubs people the wrong way. But they justify it like this: “I’m doing the poor ignoramuses a favor. I’ll endure their resentment for their own good. I’m no hero. Just your average, everyday martyr.&...

Around Town: Adjusting to life with a new pet

Our house has been so quiet ever since the death of Miss Audrey Hepburn, our black Lab rescue dog from the Pasadena Humane Society. We all miss her, and we are still adjusting to the...

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Collecting war stories seldom told

Harold Krebs was like any other boy in the one-horse Oklahoma town. The only difference was, he returned from World War I well after the Marine Second Division came home. Krebs arrived home too late to a hero’s welcome and struggled with integrating back into a post-war society. He had been at...

A Word, Please: Grammar lists often forget to check the facts

A Word, Please: Grammar lists often forget to check the facts

If you search the Internet for the term “grammar mistakes,” you’ll get a lot of hits, many of them published lists that school you on the linguistic atrocities people supposedly commit every day.

Around Town: Ceremony lifts us up in insecure times

After the murders in France, it was a relief to attend the change of command ceremony for the 2d Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment in Pasadena.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Political correctness is a dangerous weakness

Marianne is the national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason. She is the Goddess of Liberty. You’ve seen Eugène Delacroix’s painting of her called “Liberty Leading the People.” Her caricature was popularized during the July Revolution in...

A Word, Please: 'Graduate' is a grammatical free-for-all

A Word, Please: 'Graduate' is a grammatical free-for-all

National Public Radio recently asked listeners to submit their top grammar peeves.

Around Town: When a lawyer had the region to himself

La Cañada Flintridge boasts more lawyers and judges per square foot than any other region in the county. Do you want proof? I don’t have any, just an opinion based on anecdotal evidence.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Zamperini's life is an inspiring story

The cheers of the crowd on Colorado Boulevard muted the steady gait of Traveler, the University of Southern California mascot as he preceded the marching bands, equestrian units, floats and carriages. Traveler, the riderless horse, moved with solemn deportment while representing a fallen soldier,...

A Word, Please: Meaning can get lost at a certain level

A Word, Please: Meaning can get lost at a certain level

In September, the “Chronicle of Higher Education” published an article by linguist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker titled “Why Academics Stink at Writing.”

Piece of Mind: The rhyme and reason behind our Top 10

Media outlets have been busy these past couple of weeks producing every kind of list possible that can sum up 2014. A nod is given to everything from the year's viral Internet memes to a mournful list of celebrities who have met their demise since last January. Not to be left out in the cold, the...

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A special night at Bal Blanc de Noel

“Dad, we got this,” Sabine reassured me. We entered the Bunker Hill Room of the Omni Hotel. Yeah! I have ice in my veins, but I have to admit I was overwhelmed as to the significance of the moment.

Around Town: Where to hook up with fresh fish

There were only nine recipes for fish in the La Cañada Thursday Club's 1980 cookbook, “Never on Thursday, Volume II.” There were three recipes for canned tuna, three for shrimp, one for crab meat (possibly canned), one for “fresh or frozen cod or haddock,” and one...

A Word, Please: A guide on how to write names of holidays

A Word, Please: A guide on how to write names of holidays

The new year, that is, New Year’s, is upon us. Soon after will come Presidents Day, also known as Presidents’ Day, then Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Veterans Day, Xmas and a bunch of other holidays no one knows how to write.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Faith's gift in the midst of horror

On Friday morning I received a heartfelt Christmas greeting from a Dr. Joe fan while I was at Starbucks. As he walked out the door he asked, “What you writing about for Christmas?” I commented, “I haven’t a clue!” He said, “Write a personal Christmas story about...

Around Town: The twists and turns of 'The Interview' controversy

Leave it to the Canadians to get us into trouble on Christmas.

A Word, Please: A mistake is not quite the same as an error

A Word, Please: A mistake is not quite the same as an error

Not long ago in this space, I wrote about exceptions to a grammar rule. I added, “But none of those exceptions apply in modern publishing.”

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The call to destiny is rooted in character

Is it nature or nurture? Although we are genetically predisposed toward certain temperaments, experience and perception play a critical role in behavior. DNA is not definitive. Genetics may determine the cards we are dealt, but it’s my belief that experience, perception and will determine...

Around Town: A system is in place for justice

The unsurprising revelation earlier this month that Rolling Stone magazine failed to fact-check its article on gang rape at the University of Virginia proves, once again, that campus rape charges should be sent to the police, not to the student conduct board. (Around Town, “The ‘talk&...

A Word, Please: Don't beat yourself up over reflexive pronouns

A Word, Please: Don't beat yourself up over reflexive pronouns

Dave in Elkland, Pa., wrote to me recently about pronouns ending in “self” — myself, yourself, and so on — and how annoying they can be at times. “‘Myself,’ in particular, drives me near distraction,” he wrote.

Around Town: Pining for a less commercialized Hanukkah

It’s time for Around Town’s annual hat tip to dreidels, latkes and menorahs. Hanukkah, an eight-day Jewish holiday honoring the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem around 160 BCE (or B.C.) after the successful Maccabean Revolt against the Greek-Syrian soldiers who seized the temple...

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Censorship serves as counterproductive force

While waiting for alchemy, Mamish, my daughters’ grandmother, carefully steeped the loose tea leaves in an old cracked ceramic porcelain teapot. Tea in an Armenian home is sacred. The girls’ grandfather Baba and their Uncle Raffi discussed the intricacies of engineering the repairs on...

A Word, Please: A holiday gift list for mindful language lovers

A Word, Please: A holiday gift list for mindful language lovers

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a language lover. And if you’re a language lover, there’s a good chance your holiday gift list includes some birds of a feather — fellow language lovers who’d be delighted to get the perfect language...

Around Town: Gluten-free tips for those so inclined

After a successful kosher, dairy- and gluten-free Thanksgiving, with everything made from scratch, I’ve decided to take this whole gluten thing up a notch.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A memorial to a hero and an alumnus

There’s a small vestibule dividing the front desk from the rear side of the campus at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada. You might say it’s a hallway where teachers stop and chat before hustling off to class. However, I find deeper significance there. When I’m asked...

A Word, Please: It's not possible to badly split an infinitive

A Word, Please: It's not possible to badly split an infinitive

Not long ago while editing a series of articles, I noticed that the writer had strange ideas about where to put adverbs. Many were placed before the verbs and some before the subjects, too.

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: NatureBridge program provides learning opportunity

I have various medals, most of which I’ve earned from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They signify a young man’s bravado and the misplaced intentions of the nation’s preoccupation with an ism it didn’t understand.

Around Town: 'The talk' can serve as an effective tool

La Cañada teens are fairly sheltered. Our town has a low crime rate. Yes, there are drugs, but no nightlife. Yes, there’s booze, but except for hurried drivers, the streets are fairly safe. If you run out of sugar, you can safely jog to the grocery store, coyotes and bears...

A Word, Please: There's correct, and then there's also correct

A Word, Please: There's correct, and then there's also correct

Sometimes it seems like grammar is all darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t propositions. If you say “Who are you visiting tomorrow?” some people will look down on you for not using “whom.” But if you use “whom,” others will think you’re out of...

Thoughts from Dr. Joe: It's good to know the bear necessities

Bears! They're everywhere in La Cañada, stopping traffic on the 210, eating pumpkins on Viro Road and dining on trash at Baptiste Way. They've even caused lockdown situations at Paradise Canyon Elementary and Saint Francis High. It's typical of human imagination to create catastrophe...

Around Town: Let's sit down and do the math on Sagebrush

Common Core, for all its foibles, is the most misunderstood yet most effective method to comprehend the Glendale Unified School District's $23-million demand to resolve the Sagebrush dilemma.