Some Useful Thoughts from Outside the Field

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Eric Owyoung is a composer and musician who performs with his band as Future of Forestry. Like many another creative type, he also does teaching gigs (hey, my co-author and I have done them; it’s a way to even out the income stream), and he blogs about a recent one here. It’s got some good insights, not least this one:

Do you have a creative goal like making an album of ten great songs? If so, the worst idea is to try to write ten great songs. Set a goal to write 60 or more songs… no matter how bad they are, just barrel through them. Chances are that 10%-15% of them might turn out pretty good. Learn from your mistakes.

Handy advice, I think, for the sort of writer who tends to obsess over crafting the perfect sentence in the perfect paragraph in the perfect story, only…

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Peeve of the Day

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Listen up, people.

I keep reading bits of narrative lately where a character who’s walking around aimlessly or randomly is described as “milling about.”


Milling about is not something one person does, or even two people. Milling about requires at least a small crowd. The “mill” part of the verb comes from the idea that the random circular motion of such a crowd resembles the rotary action of a mill wheel.

One person alone pace, or might wander about, but they aren’t going to be milling, even if they’re doing it with a friend.

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A Truth Universally Acknowledged

It ain’t just the heroines. Any of the secondary (or tertiary) princesses in Hans My Hedgehog were in serious need of, at the minimum, a Bowie knife. If not a Thompson.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

From the Sibling Cabal’s No Story Is Sacred podcast, this trenchant observation – now with accompanying graphic – is available for purchase on mugs and more at Redbubble.

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Sometimes It’s an Analog Problem

Dr. Doyle's Blog

For the past few days, I’ve been having really bad audio playback problems on my desktop computer – sounds dropping out, sounds being fuzzy, dialogue on videos suddenly becoming harder to follow. Because we’d just had a fairly large Windows 10 update, and because I’d just said “The hell with waiting for the bad news, I’m going to switch over to the Firefox 57 Beta now,” I went about searching for a cure for the problem in my Firefox and Windows setups, to no avail.

Then this afternoon I finally wised up, and bethought myself of the maxim that when in doubt, one should always switch in a known good piece of hardware and see if the problem persists. So I dug out my emergency earbuds (I hate earbuds, so I never use them unless I have to; earmuff-style headphones suit me much better, and keep my ears warm…

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Pointing With Pride

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Romance writer Debra Jess, who’s one of my editorial clients, just won a Maggie Award from the Georgia Romance Writers for her novella, A Secret Rose, which (ahem) I edited.

From one Debra to another – congratulations! (And thanks for the acknowledgement, too.)

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Benefit Concert (Mexico and Puerto Rico)

Benefit Concert for the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico

Benefit Concert
for the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Mexico
Saturday, October 7 at 3:00 pm
Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois
Suggested donations taken at the door: Adults $10, Children $5
Additional donations are appreciated.
Cash and checks only * No credit cards will be accepted

All checks must be made out to “Globalgiving” and please indicate on the check memo “Puerto Rico and Caribbean Relief Fund” or “Mexican Earthquake Relief Fund”

Donations will be collected by the
Music Institute of Chicago and forwarded to Globalgiving

Music Institute Chorale
Music Institute of Chicago

Humbolt Park and Rogers Park
Neighborhood Choirs of the Chicago Children’s Choir * 847.905.1500, ext. 108


My connection to this:  My sister will be singing in this concert.

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How It Turned Out

Some of y’all may recall the post From My Mail a while back, requesting votes to get a grant from State Farm for Camp Mariposa in Nashua, NH.

Camp Mariposa is a mentoring and addiction prevention program for youth (ages 9-12) who are impacted by the substance abuse of a family member.

Well, today’s news is that Camp Mariposa is indeed one of the recipients of a grant.  So, to those who voted, thanks.  Good job.

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Banned Books Week Has Rolled Around Again

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Because the people who want to control what the rest of us read just don’t ever stop.

(Confession time here. I’m a First Amendment purist, of the stripe which, if we were talking the Second Amendment instead of the First, would undoubtedly get me labeled a “free speech nut” and have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms searching my house. And I regard with a cold and fishy eye the sort of statement that begins, “Of course I’m in favor of free speech, but….”)

Judging by the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 list, children’s and young adult books tend to get hit the hardest — unsurprising, since everybody agrees that Protecting the Children is important, as is Molding Young Minds.

This year’s top ten list is mostly full of books that were challenged by people who wanted to protect the children from LBGTQ characters and…

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Dotard -- Don QuixoteThe news lately is full of the word “dotard,” and all of the news sources feel compelled to add a definition.   As if everyone didn’t already know what dotard meant.  In the small fishing village whence I come, “Dotard!” is constantly on every man’s lips.

Seriously, I’ve known it since I was eight or ten, on first looking into Chapman’s Homer The Lord of the Rings.  Who can ever forget the scene where Saruman says to Theoden, “Dotard!  What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs?”

You have to admire the wizard’s command of invective.  (I also admire his use of the word ‘but,” but that’s for another post.)

Still, Saruman should have been a bit more careful with what  he withdrew from his word-hoard since “dotard” shares with “wizard” the derogatory suffix, -ard.  From bastard to buzzard, -ard is how you tell folks that you don’t think much of some person, animal or object.

I will now tread heavily into Dr. Doyle’s territory (but seeing as I have a degree in the same subject as she, and lots of experience as a writer and medievalist, I’m not going to slow down).

The -ard suffix comes from the Teutonic hart, which entered Low Latin as -ardus, thence to Old French as -ard or -art, then made its way into English after William the Bastard imported every Tomás, Dickon, and Harry in Normandy who couldn’t find an honest job into Angle-land.  (Did you hear about the old Saxon chief who knew all the angles?)

Anyway…. that’s where we find folks who are drunkards, dullards, and braggarts.  A sluggard is the worst kind of slouch or slug.  Cowards, cou-ards, come from the Latin caudus, a tail, as in showing it, via the French.  A laggard is someone who lags, really, really badly.  A bastard  is someone who is the get of unmarried parents; bast is Frankish for marriage.  Lollard is obviously derogatory (from lollen, to mumble).  A dastard is someone who is dazed (i.e. stupid), and not in a nice way.  Stinkard (a smelly or despicable person) and blinkard (someone with weak eyes, thus stupid) are words you don’t hear too much any more, but are perfectly good if you’re playing Scrabble.

Jumping over to the animal kingdom we have the buzzard (an inferior falcon), mallard (a wild drake), and haggard (a wild hawk, not to be confused with haggard, lean, from hagged).

Other things:  the tankard (a little bitty tub). The petard (which keeps hoisting people); a variety of explosive which literally means Inferior Fart.  The poniard (a very small sword), billiards (referring to the billiard cue as a small stick), and mustard (due to the musty smell).

From the word Spaniard you can tell the English opinion of folks from Spain.  Same with Savoyards and Lombards. For that matter, from communard you can tell the language’s opinion of folks who live in communes.  The -ard is disguised in cockade, coster-monger (a cost is an apple), beggar, and duffer (duff = deaf, and therefore stupid).  A lumber-room was a pawn shop, because so many pawnbrokers were Lombards.

Some -ard words aren’t derived from the Teutonic -ard ending and therefore aren’t derogatory, however.  Take lizard.  Please.  Orchard comes from ort-yard., that is, garden-garden. Custard meant a pie with a crust; the ‘r’ migrated from the front of the word to the back.  A leopard is leo (lion) with pardus (panther).  A steward is a sty-warden; the keeper of the sty.

A bustard is a slow bird (the -tard here is Latin, the same as in tardy).  Hazard comes from the Spanish, azar, a die. Blizzard is an American word, dating to the 18th century, of obscure (possibly Native American) origin.

Which brings us back to  wizard  and dotard.  A wizard is someone of inferior wisdom. And a dotard (the connotation is senility) is one who dotes, that is, is silly,  and not in a nice way.

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Nostalgia Calling, However Briefly

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Every once in a while, I run across something that makes me wish for a moment that I’d stayed in Academia.† Like this call for papers:

Inside Out: Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages, the 38th Annual Conference at Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies.

Not that I’d have anything to present — material culture was never my field — but my word, the papers should be fascinating.

Not often, though, or for very long. I got out at just about the same time as Academia started devouring its own young.

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