Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dusting off old memories

Boy, I’ll tell you. These computers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

And speaking of oddball constructions in the English language, “cracked up to be” is one of the strangest, because there is no way of figuring out what it means.

A scholar could probably look it up in some archaic tome – after dusting it off, of course – and trace it to its origin. I do not have the resources to do that. What I do have, in my basement, is a large quantity of dusty tomes. But I would have trouble laying my hands on one dealing with the origins of commonplace phrases which need to be identified and possibly challenged.

For now, let’s just say that I am not about to go prowling about in the basement, which is an area of the house that is known only to me, the lady of the house and the two cats.

Even the two dogs do not go down there. It is not that they are not allowed to go down there. They can go down there if they wish, but they choose not to. For what reason I do not know. But they have decided against it.

It has gotten to the point that when it comes time for Mary to play with them (about 10:30 a.m.) and she is doing laundry, Maggie will fetch her red ball, take it to the top of the steps and, with Tricia watching, drop it so that it bounces on every step on the way down.

That is usually the way they begin their morning playtime activities.

But I digress.

When I said computers may not be all they’re cracked up to be, I meant that they cannot be trusted to know everything they are supposed to know.

For example (and I am going to cite only a single example, although there are possibly thousands), spell check, a feature for which computers have gained much of their fame, is not infallible – far from it. In other words, it doesn’t always work (“always” being defined here as 100 percent of the time or more).

I spent several weeks addressing the subject of old-fashioned typewriters and how they are so comfortable and reliable to work with. Let’s get over the fact that “with” is a preposition and move on.

Many of you loyal readers, and perhaps a handful of disloyal ones for all I know, responded by letting me know how fond you are of typewriters. Legions of you described, in writing, how much you like typewriters and how important they were, and are, in your lives.

If I had the space, believe me, I would mention the names of all you typewriter-lovers, but the constraints of the available room does not permit that.

Which takes us back to Square One. That square, in case you were wondering, belongs to Ray Stopar, a graduate of Collinwood High School, I believe in the year 1946 (a good year, if not a great one).

Ray was a Linotype operator back in the Golden Days of newspapering. He said he worked for many years for, I believe, Don Foley. That would have been the Willowick Leader, and Don was a fine gentleman I knew very well a couple of generations ago.

Here is something, however, that Ray does not know about me. When I write, I scribble. Not as badly as Dave Jones or Dudley Thomas back in the early days of The News-Herald, but bad enough so that others cannot always read it, and sometimes even I cannot read what it is that I have written.

This can often become a problem at home, but I will not get into that right now. Let’s just say that the lady of the house does not trust me to make out a simple shopping list, because it is a foreign language to her.
I told her it is Greek, but never mind.

When I talked to Ray on the phone recently, I wrote down his last name as Skopar. Well, it looked like Skopar to me. When he called to report the error (he called it a “typo” but actually a typo is something different) he told me his name is really Stopar.

Since it is his name and not mine (mine is Collins), I took him at his word.

We had a very nice conversation, and he said he would like us to have breakfast together some time. I am going to have to disappoint him on that one, because my breakfasts are severely limited – seven days a week.

On six days, I have breakfast with the lady of the house. We have grapefruit (I have begun buying them by the half-bushel from Harlingen, Tex., thanks to information I received from my good friend Clark Hill), coffee, Cheerios, (sometimes I have Cranberry Almond Crunch), bananas, blueberries, and she always has an apple, toast, and other goodies that get our day started.

And on Sundays I have breakfast with my brother at Burgers-n-Beer in Downtown Willoughby. So you see, Ray, I have no openings for breakfast on my jam-packed schedule.

But maybe we could make it for lunch someday.


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