Archive for July, 2012

The Year of the Flood

Author: Margaret Atwood
Pub: Vintage Canada, c2009
List price: $22 (cheaper on Amazon!)

Speculative fiction, absorbing, and incredibly well-constructed. Atwood creates a world in the future when The Flood (not water, but a pandemic) has killed off most of humanity. The flood was, in fact, a plague created by man himself tinkering with genetics.

The few people who have survived have made it through because, for one reason or another, they have been in some kind of isolation and so escaped infection. (e.g a person who was in jail, or accidentally locked in a room.) The details of this future world are quite horrifying. The imagination required to create this complex scenario boggles the mind. The story of the year of the flood is told by two narrators: Ren, and Toby. Ren was locked in a high-end sex club, and Toby has been barricaded inside a spa. This was described on the book jacket as a gripping read, and that it certainly was. Check the descriptions on Amazon (spoilers!) if you want to know more. I’d call this book a tour de force. Just amazing.

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Lie, Lay and Laid (and more)

Lie, Lay and Laid (and more).

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An English grammar lesson for those whose teachers failed to teach them the fundamentals.

Written because I am so sick of the errors I see in places where the editors and/or writers should know (and do) better.

1. “Lie,” “lay,” and “laid” – simplified!

a. Lie (verb) means “to tell a falsehood.”
Present tense: lie
Don’t you lie to me!
Past tense: Lied.
I lied when I told my mom I had done my homework.
Participle: lying.
I had been lying when I told the cops that I had witnessed the scene.

b. Lie (verb) means “to recline”
Present tense: Why don’t you go lie down for a nap?
Past tense: lay, lain (past participle, which always requires a ‘helper’ verb)
He lay on his bed for an hour before he got up for dinnertime.
He had lain there for 3 hours before he was found.
Participle for this verb: lying
I was lying on my bed when the doorbell rang.
The dead body had been lying by the side of the road for 2 days.

c. Lay (verb) means to “put” or “place”
Present tense: Please lay that book on the shelf before you leave the room.
Please lay the table for dinner.
A bricklayer lays bricks!
Past tense: laid
My father laid down the law to me last night: no more skipping my     homework.
The table was laid for 8 for dinner.
She had laid the table for 6, but 8 people appeared for dinner.
Participle: laying
Mom is laying the table for dinner.
George is laying out his game of Solitaire on the table.
They are laying the foundation for the house  in several stages.

George is called a bricklayer because he lays bricks!


‘Lying low’ vs ‘laying low’
‘Lying down’ vs ‘laying down’

laying low” is always wrong!
It should be “lying low” or “was lying low,” or “has been lying low.”
“Laying down” is usually wrong (unless one is “laying down the law“)
I have been lying down for a nap before dinner.
The criminal we sought had been lying low at his mother’s house.

Don’t bother mom because she is laying down for a nap. (WRONG!)

Don’t bother mom because she is lying down for a nap. (CORRECT!)

Simple present tense:
Why don’t you go lie low while the cops are searching for you?
In the simple past tense: lay low
Sam lay low while the cops searched for him.

“Laid low” is always wrong except in the grammatically correct expression: “I was laid low by the flu bug.”

This is correct because the flu bug literally forced you down onto your bed.

The incorrect usage of lie, lay, & laid has been common for more than 30-40 years – dating back to when North American schools stopped teaching grammar. (Yes, you know that they did.)

Somehow the education establishment thought that young people could absorb correct grammar usage by osmosis, and so stopped instruction in the fundamentals of English grammar.  The saddest thing is that the teachers working today were therefore never taught English grammar rules, and so the kids today don’t get the lessons either. If I were still teaching English in a high school, I would teach this lie/lay lesson to every class.
Lucky children have parents or grandparents with good grammar. The unlucky others have been failed by their schools.
It’s probably a futile task to try to correct the usage of these verbs, but it’s worth a shot. English grammarians don’t get it wrong, but the average Joe or Jane on the street could not care less (and there is another lesson in that expression!)
The differences between these uses of  ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ were always taught (drilled into us) up until the cessation of grammar lessons in English.

Unsolicited advice: if you cannot remember the distinctions between these variations of lie, lay, and laid, may I respectfully suggest that you use another verb instead. This advice is especially useful for anyone who wants to be upwardly mobile. (‘By their grammar ye shall know them.’)

Another clue: ‘laid’ is only correct if something has been put or placed somewhere.

2. For our next lesson: “sink, sank, & sunk”
I notice the journalists are getting these verbs wrong all the time now.
Makes me crazy.

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We lost our chef. No one will give us a straight answer. He’s been gone for a more than a month now, and we miss him. For most of this time, questions about him have been evaded and left unanswered. The staff is well-trained in dodging questions when it suits the management. Finally this week someone answered that chef Earl has been sick. I don’t believe that at all. I think that he was upwardly mobile and left for a better job or better location. Fired or quit? Doesn’t matter.

There IS a new chef on the job, though he has never yet come out and talked to us as Earl did. There is nothing memorable about this guy and if he walked thru the house NOT wearing his white coat, no one would know that he is the chef. I certainly can only ID him by his white chef’s jacket.

Today, we had a house meeting led by Faraz. He told us earlier in the week to meet him downstairs at 2 p.m. today. Well, talk about a crowded room. The whole pack of residents from the 2 houses was crammed into the room, and the overcrowding was very dangerous. The last (and late) people through the door blocked the exit with a jungle of walkers and at least one huge wheelchair. Had anyone yelled “FIRE” there would have ensued a disaster. There was only the one door, and no other way to get out past all the “vehicles.”

Somewhere at this point I realized that this meeting room did not bear a sign that stated the rated capacity of the room.  Clearly the Fire Dep’t has not been around to rate the capacity of the various public rooms in our residence. If they had, the public rooms would all bear those little signs stating the rated capacity of the room.After everyone had squeezed in and overcrowded the room, Faraz got up to speak. In a place that had a microphone and speakers available, he chose to address the crowd with no amplification. Needless to say, half the people in the room could not hear him.
But the message was clear. He had called us together (into this unsafe place) to tell us that today was his last day at Revera Leaside. It’s pretty clear to me that he is upwardly mobile, and one can’t blame a guy for bettering himself, especially since he is a brand-new dad with a little family to care for.

But he should have called us together in one of the two lounges where we would all have had more room, and where there would have been 3 ways out for such a large audience. As it was, we were all crammed into a room that was way too small. Also, all of us had to use the elevator to get down to the basement. Just to complicate things, one of the elevators has been out of service for 3 days. Someone was moving in today, into #14 and using our only working elevator. It was slow work to even get to the meeting.

I was glad to get back to my room in one piece, and uneventfully. This meeting was an accident waiting to happen, bad in every respect, and I was glad that our luck held. So the big drama of the Friday afternoon meeting, which we had much-speculated on, was just an unexpected farewell from Faraz. His departure was bungled. He should have had a farewell tea, where someone could at least have represented us and thanked him for all did for us. He will be missed.

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I just never get tired of reading historical fiction about the Tudors. I have also read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen’s Lover, by the same author.
In The Boleyn Inheritance, the author tells the story of three of Henry VIII’s wives, giving voice to each of them in alternating chapters. The queens who tell this story are Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Rochford.

This book reads like a gossip tell-all of the Tudors, with a mad King Henry on the throne. The time period is 1539 to 1542. Queens are married, set aside, divorced, or beheaded by Henry. His word is law, and he does not hesitate to send anyone who disagrees with him to the Tower, for beheading. He kills many people: his closest associates, his wives, those who may even be rumoured to be against him, and of course, those who disagree with his departure from the Pope and the Roman Catholic church.

Once a young and handsome king & adored by all, by his middle age (“old” to his later wives) he has become very fat: a gross man, with a suppurating wound on his leg that causes him to stink. He wants (and his country wants) him to have a son, but he is getting farther and farther away from having a chance at that. His two princesses, Mary and Elizabeth, fathered when he was much younger, live far from court. Fat old Henry is “unmanned,” most especially with Anne of Cleves, who repelled him in her appearance. With young Kitty Howard, he is unable to impregnate her. All along, his wives are having liaisons, and the court becomes a very dangerous place. This is a very good read, and makes a good counterpoint to Hilary Mantel’s stories, which are told from Cromwell’s point of view. It was good to read Tudor story from the point of view of some of the women.

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