Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Affect or Effect: The Big Showdown

My nephew Charlie has asked me to address the difference between affect and effect. Because Charlie is a member of our armed forces, off in the middle of nowhere, away from his family, fighting to keep the world safe, getting seasick on an aircraft carrier (okay, I doubt that he gets seasick), I have agreed to answer his question. Also because he's my nephew,and I love him. Also because I answer everybody's questions.

Okay. Moving on.

Now Charlie assures me that he knows the difference between affect and effect; he was just having trouble explaining it to someone else. He's my nephew, and I believe him. Okay, then.
Let's start with some simple definitions
Affect is a verb meaning "to do something that produces an effect or change in something or in someone's situation."

Effect is a noun meaning "the result of an action or event."

Okay. So affect is an action, and it must act upon something else:
  • How will the rain affect the crops?
  • How does that kid who won't stop talking affect the nerves of his teacher?
  • How will this missile affect that group of terrorists?

Since effect is a noun, we're using it to name the outcome or result of an action, not the action itself.
  • What is the effect of the rain on the crops?
  • What effect does that kid who won't stop talking have on his teacher's nerves?
  • What is the effect of this missile on that group of terrorists?

Easy, right? Let's have a quiz. Fill in the blank with either "affect" or "effect." The answers are at the bottom of the page. 
1. Dramamine had a soothing _____ on Charlie's seasick stomach.

2. The U.S. Air Force has had several important _____ on the War on Terror.

3. Johnny's habit of hiding a comic book in his text had a negative _____ on his grade in class.

4. As an _____ of the teacher's excellent work, all of her students are above average.

5. His mother's constant nagging did not ______ Harold's habit of wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

Very simple. Affect is the action, and effect is the result of the action.

 On a side note, the adjective form of effect is effective. This is commonly used to describe something that results in a desired outcome.

  • The class's behavior was effective in making their teacher hide under her desk.
  • Is solar power an effective source of energy?
  • Becoming concerned about your grade the last day of the quarter is not an effective strategy.

 Answers to the quiz:

1. Dramamine had a soothing effect on Charlie's season stomach.

2. The U.S. Air Force has had several important effects on the War on Terror.

3. Johnny's habit of hiding a comic book in his text had a negative effect on his grade in class.

4. As an effect of the teacher's excellent work, all of her students are above average.

5. His mother's constant nagging did not affect Harold's habit of wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

Very good! That's it! Now some of you picky people and grammarphiles might want to read the next little bit, but I don't recommend it. It's about some unusual uses of the words, and most people never need to know about this stuff. So just skip right to the comments, and let me know if this little lesson was at all helpful. What other topics do I need to cover in coming days?


*Now there is a word, "affective," but it has nothing to do with what we're talking about, so forget about it. Just pretend it's not there. The average person will never use it. It's a psychological term dealing with emotions, and we just don't want to go there. People who have Seasonal Affective Disorder are affected by this word, but not your average sailor, so forget it.

**Also, sometimes "effect" can be used as a verb in formal English (that's not your everday English). For example:
Many parents lack confidence in their ability to effect change in their children's behavior.
It means produce/create something, like "change." Now just forget it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hillbilly Speaks

As of course you know, I am married to my favorite hillbilly, whom I call The Hillbilly. Because I'm creative like that. For some time now, The Hillbilly has been threatening promising to write a blog post for me so that you can get to know him better. Well, he's done it, and here it is. Enjoy!

As my wife’s biggest fan, I thought it might be time to introduce you to her hillbilly.  I call myself the Missouri, Ozarkian, Redneck, Hillbilly.  Born in Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains.  Apparently a redneck, because according to my children, (when they were young and thought they knew everything), the whole town was redneck.  And yeah, I am a hillbilly!

 Hey, it is the Ozarks!  And though a girl I once dated  was less than impressed by my title and thought by using it, I must have  low self-esteem, she was wrong!  Let’s be honest, my title has a nice ring to it!

Sometime back, Cynthia claimed I was outdoorsy and rugged.  And I guess that is true.  I was born in a house with no bathroom.  That was not that unusual in rural Missouri in 1951.  One-hole outhouses were  common and even two-holers for those who were up and coming.  Now, though you might think that was what made me tough, it isn’t.  However, if in the winter, you can go out side in 0 degree weather and sit down in one of those,  you are tough!  It makes you not mess around and you just get the job done!  On the opposite side of that, in the summer, if you happen to sit down and put your hand on a snake, (I have done that), it does take care of problems such as constipation!

The old Meents family home

   However, though I have used outdoor toilets many times, I do not remember ever  having one.   My parents had a bathroom built when I was two which also meant that they needed an 8 foot deep hole for a septic tank.  And I had a tricycle!  That’s it kid, go ride your tricycle around that hole.  That’s it, headfirst into the hole.  It will get you ready for motocross and such!

Or go play around Dad and your sisters while they unload rocks from the trailer!  Yeah, not a good idea either.  I still have an extra part in my hair over that one.  For some reason, I don’t remember much of that year!  But you can see why I became tough and hey, from three on, I have a fairly good recall.

So, I grew up surrounded by a loving family, cows, dogs, cats, chickens, and sometimes pigs and horses!  I was able to roam over hundreds of acres. (ours and the neighbors).  Our parents didn’t start worrying about us until chore or supper time and most people didn’t lock their doors.  I don’t reckon that we’ll see those times again.  It was a good life with lots of fun and experiences that most children will never have again.

Inside the Old Barn

At any rate, before I get all maudlin, if you would like to occasionally hear about some of those times or current thoughts, or just hillbilly wisdom, let Cynthia know.

From the Hillbilly’s Corner!

That's my Hillbilly!! Do you love him as much as I do? Would you like to hear from him again? Let me know!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Return of the Zombie Apocalypse--Part Two

Yesterday I began telling you how my students responded to the Zombie Apocalypse assignment. Apparently there will be no shortage of supermodels in the post-apocalyptic world, and the male pop singers will also be well represented. The surest way of surviving the zombie attack, however, is to be the mom of the kid building the zombie-proof shelter. These kids really like their moms.

The shelters themselves were quite varied. M.R. says that her shelter is pretty big: It has an exercise room, (we have to be fit if we are going to try and rebuild civilization) a spa, and a lounge with books, games, and electronics. S.P. has built a "deluxe" bunker: I put a lot of time and money into my bunker; it is full of food and water (the necessities). It contains a lavish movie theater for those nights I can’t sleep and  a pool to stay in shape for swim season. According to C.H., her bunker is huge: A good amount of entertainment is stocked up. For example, I have a few guitars, a Rubic's cube, a hacky sack, video games, and Netflix. 

Sure to keep you occupied during those zombie-filled weeks and months.

Not all of the bunkers were stocked quite so benignly. R.Y. said that his bunker had, "an armory with all the weapons and explosives that a man could desire."  It seems many of the boys weren't content to wait until the zombies starved. Several of them wanted to take the nuclear physicist into their shelter believing that he could "totally NUKE the zombies."  B.D. seemed very excited about the prospect of zombie decapitation...I'm sorry that was "zombie DECAPITATION!!!"  And don't worry about how these inexperienced young boys were going to be able to stand against the zombies. I.T. points out, "I have been training on video games for a long time so I know what to do in this situation" 

I don't know about you, but that certainly makes me feel better.

There were several surprises for me when the kids reported whom they would take with them into their shelters.

First there was the young pregnant woman with a small child. Some of the kids would take her for purely emotional reasons. A.M. points out, "The next person, or people I should say, would be the pregnant lady. C’mon you can’t leave a baby with a whole bunch of zombies., well you can but that would be just messed up." And M.B. says, "I would choose to let the pregnant lady in, because, well duh, you can’t let a pregnant lady get eaten. It’s just not right."

A lot of the other kids had a very practical reason for keeping her, a reason that hadn't occurred to me:  The second person i would take would be a pregnant woman because she is young and has a small child and an unborn one. Three people in one deal and they would be great for the new civilization which needs more people.

Several kids decided that the elderly woman who had once been a chef would be an asset because, "Although we would have the food in our shelter with us, we would need to know how to prepare it, especially once we are free to roam the planet again. How do we do that? Well we bring the elderly chef of course! She would be the one to teach us how to cook foods and bring certain foods to an edible state." Or as C.E. points out, "everyone knows that elderly women make the best food." Personally, I hope the zombies don't agree!

Probably the biggest surprise was the kid who said he'd take the highway worker who holds the stop sign. I had kind of thrown him in for fun thinking he'd be left behind for sure. However, D.K. made a very astute observation. "Because in movies, most of the time, the guy that seems the most useless develops into a very significant and powerful character in the movie." He then goes on to cite examples such as  Neville in the Harry Potter series and Samwise Gamgee in the Trilogy of the Rings.

Of course not everyone who said they'd bring the highway worker had such literary backing. A.A. would bring him because, "he never bothered anybody before the apocalypse, and he seems like a pretty helpful guy since he had the conscious to hold the stop sign when he didn’t need to. He’s also pretty strong since he carried a stop sign all morning long."  So there you go.

These little essays were written in the form of blog posts over at My students have been posting weekly and commenting on each others posts for some time. I'd like to close by sharing one final post with you. This one, written by M.B., has a little bit of everything and quite a few chuckles. To give you bits and pieces would be a disservice. So here it is:

In this very interesting blog, our city has been taken over by flesh eating zombies. Fun! Now apparently, I have created a fortress able to keep the zombies away from my precious little brain, while everyone else is turned into human happy meals. I have enough food to last for six people for a while. I am allowed to let six people into my fortress of protection, and once the zombies run out of human munchies, their stomachs will implode and we will be safe again. First, I would choose to let the pregnant lady in, because, well duh, you can’t let a pregnant lady get eaten. It’s just not right. Next I’d take my mom. No explanation needed. I’d also take a doctor, because if anyone comes in hurt, the doctor can treat them. A soldier would also be very useful, just in case any zombies penetrate my impenetrable fortress of impenetrability. They shouldn’t though, especially since I put up a sign saying “No zombies allowed”. Next I would let in an elderly chef lady, so we can eat really good food. The zombies don’t get any. The last person I will allow into my fortress would be a nuclear physicist. He could figure out how the virus was spread, and maybe even find a cure. Once the zombies are gone, we will have to re-colonize, which will take time. Who knows, the virus could be a result of a meteor crash, or an experiment gone wrong. All questions could be answered in the City of the Dead… but not in this blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my world.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Return of the Zombie Apocalypse--Part One

As I'm sure you recall, my 8th grade honors students asked if they could write about the Zombie Apocalypse, so I came up with a fun and educational assignment. If you haven't seen that assignment yet, be sure to check it out before reading this update. I promise we won't start without you.

Many of you wanted me to share what the kids came up with, so here we are. First, I am happy to report that almost all of the kids are taking their moms into the zombie shelter with them. As J.P. said, "First off, my ma came along, Why? Dude. She’s my mom."

 I believe there were two boys who were leaving Mom behind, and I hope the zombies eat them both. (Ok, truthfully, I hoped that before I found out about the whole throwin' Mom to the zombie horde thing.)

Another theme that popped out at me was the astonishing concern fourteen-year-old boys have with repopulating the planet. Most of them seemed to see this as a sacred duty which they were determined to fulfill. One young man, B.D., said it best: First, I would take the supermodel, so I could repopulate after the apocalypse- If you know what I mean!

Not to be outdone, P.S. managed to find a female auto mechanic, doctor, and iron worker. And I.T. was apparently listening in class: Last but certainly not least is a super model which I can use to repopulate after the zombies are all gone and she would be brunet instead of blond because Mrs. Meents said that we want more smart genes in the world.
The management of this blog does not necessarily agree, in whole or in part, with the opinion represented in this statement.

However, even though he recognized the necessity, O.C. wanted no part of this: Then for the fourth, the super model. To repopulate the world… not going to be me either, I’m too young for baby momma drama.

Lest you think only the boys are shallow, I need to point out that the girls were bringing some celebrities with them too. C.H. said, "Bringing the lead singer of Avenged Sevenfold, Matt Shadows, is probably the most important part of surviving the apocalypse. Since he is with us, I may die happy if need be"

Most of the kids thought very practically, identifying the professions that would be most useful in rebuilding the world, weighing one scientist against another, considering the psychological and spiritual needs of the survivors, speculating on what would be left once the zombies had starved to death. They had some interesting and astute insights.

 I had wondered what they would do about the wheelchair-bound carpenter. Many of them recognized that he could teach them important skills even if he couldn't do the actual work.

I am also happy to report that many of them consider their 53-year-old teacher to be an asset to the survival team, even though as H.J. points out, "she may be older." They either feel that it is important for their new populace to be properly educated or that it is possible to kiss up to their teacher and get a good grade on the zombie assignment. One or the other. I can't be sure which.

Of course, many of them brought a sense of humor to the assignment. For example, this is A.A.'s reason for bringing the doctor: I would keep Doc for obvious reasons; to play with his stethoscope! It’s so fun, listening to a heartbeat. But I hate it when people come and tap on the part that you put on the person’s body because it hurts your ears. He could also heal wounds if we got cut. It’s like a two-for-one deal!
Well, this is turning into one of those novel-length posts, and we still have a long way to go. For example, what kind of necessities are these kids stocking their shelters with? How did the young pregnant woman with a child fare?  Which kids said they would bring the sign-holding highway worker and why? WHY?  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is there a subject in this sentence?

English Class Pop Quiz: What is the subject in the title of this post?
The answer appears at the end of the post, but by the time you read this, you'll already know.

A reader asks, "What is the subject in the following sentence? 'There was no chance, however, to stretch our legs.'"

What a great question! The short answer is, the subject is "chance."

Remember that the subject is the person or thing that is being discussed -- what or whom the sentence is about. It is often helpful to find the verb first. Ask yourself, "Who or what is the verb was talking about in this sentence." Well, a chance was. What kind of chance? No chance. No is an adjective describing the noun chance.

It might be easier to look at a positive example rather than a negative example. Take this sentence:

There were three girls fixing their makeup at the mirror in the back of the classroom.

There the verb phrase is were fixing. Who or what were fixing? Girls were fixing. The subject is girls.

My end-of-the-year confiscated makeup collection

The word there often acts as placeholders for the subject, which will appear after the verb.

There is the boy who put the tack on the teachers chair.

Good old-fashioned tacks

There goes my sanity.

There are too many punctuation errors in this essay.

The subjects of these sentences are boy, sanity, and errors.

I hope that helps explain it for you. Please let me know if there are other any questions. I live for questions

Pop Quiz Answer: You don't really need me to tell you, do you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Disneyland Pictures for Wordless Wednesday

It has come to my attention that I never really posted my pictures from The Princess's trip to Disneyland. Since today is Wordless Wednesday, I'll just do that very thing!

First morning breakfast--too excited to eat
Hurry up! Can't wait to get there.

Waiting for the gates to open!


Beautiful sunny  day

The Little Mermaid
Our little princess




Snow White

The Princess in Pixie Hollow. Grandma bought her the kitty and she wouldn't put it down.


Outside Minnie's house.


The Princess and Grandma

Loving Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Random Blog Prompt Friday

So over here in Crazy Land, there's a virus going around, and the thinkers are not thinking very well. For this reason, I thought I'd copy my daughter, NearNormalcy, and go visit one of those Internet blog prompt generators that so effectively give writers ideas for weaving their words into tapestries of wonder that delight the reader into fits of bliss.

I didn't find one.

At least not one that worked quite that well. I did find this one, so let me go about answering the blog prompt generator's questions. I think 5 questions should be plenty, don't you?

1. I regret...    Well, now wait a minute, Blog Prompt Generator. We've just met. It seems a little early for true confessions, and besides that, three little dots isn't really a confession. Did you have something you regret, or...Oh. I see. I'm supposed to complete the sentence. We'll move on.

2. Name 5 things in  your refrigerator. Seriously? This is supposed to prompt an entire blog post? Okay, fine. I've got the same stuff as anyone else.
     1) a bottle of lactobacillus acidophilus (2 billion active cultures)
     2) a 73oz bottle of Chaka's "Mmm" Sauce (original recipe)
     3) milk in a fine china creamer left over from when we had the preacher and his wife for dinner 2 weeks ago
     4)a decorating bag full of frosting left over from Christmas fun with the granddaughters:

Fun with frosting!
      5) several cans of  Pepsi Throwback because I love it, and it's the best soft drink in the whole wide world, and it contains no high fructose corn syrup which is bad I don't care what the manufacturers say,

3. Describe a color in one word without using the color's name. Pretty.

4. In your experience...  Now, see, that's not really a question, so it's difficult to answer. In my experience, the sun comes up in the East, every morning, regular as clockwork. Well, except when the government decides it's time for Daylight Saving Time (it's not savings, folks). We need to save daylight for the farmers so they can...well... I don't really know, what with the invention of the electric light and all. So, in my experience government programs do not go away once they have outlived their usefulness. Can I get an amen?

5. List 5 things you want. Again with the lists!
     1) 10 grandchildren. My mom has 10, so I want 10. I've currently got 5. That younger boy is slacking.
     2) A red mustang convertible. The Hillbilly doesn't want me to have a convertible because they're dangerous (you know, for all those times I roll my car over), and besides that, I'm prone to skin cancer and shouldn't be riding around with the top down anyway. Fine!
     3) A puppy. The Hillbilly is allergic. You see how he holds me down?
I'll take a poodle. Or a chihuahua. Or whatever.

     4) A big piece of land with houses on it for all the children so that the grandchildren could come see us any time they want without even leaving the property.

     5) For this virus to run its course and leave me alone! My throat feels like I've swallowed barbed wire!  Enough!!

This ends Random Blog Prompt Friday. Did anything ring a bell with you? What's in your refrigerator, anyway? And do you have a better explanation for Daylight Saving Time? Did you know that's saving and not savings? Good.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse for Junior High

My honors students have been begging to write about "The Zombie Apocalypse," so I finally gave in. Here's their assignment:

The Zombie Apocalypse has happened: A virus has spread around the world, passed on by the bite of a zombie. Once bitten a person becomes a mindless zombie, wandering the neighborhood looking for food, human food. Preferably human brains. Billions of people have either been eaten or turned into zombies. There are few survivors.

Fortunately you foresaw the likelihood of the Zombie Apocalypse, and you are prepared. You have built a secret underground, zombie-proof shelter in your back yard. It took a lot of Saturdays of work, and the complete lack of a social life, but it was worth it. You have enough supplies to feed yourself and six other people until the zombies run out of food and starve to death.

You’ve got to think of the future. When the zombies have finally FINALLY died, you and these six other people will be the only ones left to rebuild civilization. It’s your zombie shelter; it says so right over the door. It’s up to you to decide whom you are going to allow into the shelter and who will be left to become zombie food.

Choose six from among the following people. You might need to do some research to find out what these people actually do.  Explain your reasons for each choice. Then describe what you think life will be like for you and the other survivors.
  1. A school teacher, age 52 (School teachers know lots of important stuff, y’all!)
  2. A pregnant woman (age 25) with a small child (the child is small, so we’ll count the two of them as one)
  3. A nuclear physicist, age 45
  4. A doctor, age 38
  5. An auto mechanic, age 25
  6. A super model, age 27
  7. Your favorite celebrity
  8. Your mom (Your MOM!)
  9. A major league baseball player, age 30
  10. A soldier, age 25
  11. A man in a wheelchair who once worked as a carpenter, age 35
  12. A plumber, age 60
  13. A priest, age 39
  14. An elderly woman who was a chef, age 72
  15. A biologist, age 68
  16. A psychiatrist, age 56
  17. A waitress, age 32
  18. Chemical engineer, age 49
  19. Iron worker, age 32
  20. The highway worker who holds the stop sign, age 26 (Yeah, right.)
 So, what do you think? Whom would you choose? What do you think the 14-year-olds will say? Personally, I can't wait to find out.

UPDATE: You can find the results of the assignment in Return of the Zombie Apocalypse Part 1 and Part 2

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Learning Photography: Changing Lenses

Canon EOS Rebel T3: A Great Little Entry-level DSLR

As you know, I'm a (very) beginning "photographer" just learning to use my Canon Rebel T3. I'm only comfortable referring to myself as a "photographer" because I looked it up in the dictionary: a person who takes photographs. I do that!

Anyway,  I've purchased several books on photography, and I'm working my way through them and sharing what I've learned. Be sure to take a look at my previous "photography lessons," also known as the blind leading the blind.

Today's lesson is about changing lenses. After all, you bought that fancy DSLR with the interchangeable lenses for a reason other than looking cool, right? So you can't just leave that kit lens on forever; at some point you're going to want something different, maybe even something better. You're going to have to change that lens....

....and expose the mysterious and fragile innards of your expensive camera to the dangers lurking in the environment!

Seems like maybe we want to do that right.

So, what are the things to remember? From my reading it seems to go like this:
  • Work fast.
  • Have everything prepared and ready to go before you start.
  • Work in the cleanest place you can find. The wet lawn is not it.
  • If you're outside, shield your camera from the wind which could blow dust and kryptonite and other stuff up in there.
  • Very important thing that I may or may not have forgotten at some point or several points when changing lenses: TURN THE CAMERA OFF!!
  • Keep the camera pointed down so as to keep the aforementioned dust and/or kryptonite from falling into the mysterious and fragile innards.
  • Keep the lens caps on both lenses.
  • Familiarize yourself with the red dot or white square on your camera and on the lens. They need to line up when you put the new lens on.
  • At this point, I would hold my breath because this is where it gets really scary, but that's just me. You may choose to continue letting oxygen reach your brain which, now that I think about it, is probably a good option too.
  • Remove the old lens and set it down gently.
  • Remove the rear cover from the new lens, line up the marks and twist the lens into place.
  • Place the rear cover on the old lens.
  • Breathe again.
Whew! I'm glad that's over. Until we have to do it again.

Now, eventually it's likely that you'll get some dust on your sensor. Bad bad bad! Next time, we'll discuss how to clean the sensor when it happens.

In the meantime, here's one of my latest "photography" efforts. I was practicing with exposure and light and photograph-y stuff like that. It's a self-portrait (because no one including my daughter will take time out of their busy day nursing sick children and husband to come pose for me).

So how are we all doing with the "photography" practice? Are we all comfortable changing our lenses? Will some of you who actually know what you're doing validate this post by telling me I got it right? Can someone tell me how all this kryptonite got here in the first place?

Leave some comments so I know you were here! Otherwise I feel lonely and inadequate and have to eat chocolate. Ok. I'm going to eat chocolate anyway, but you know.

Other posts in this series:

Amateur Photography Blogging
Getting to Know Your Camera
Focal Length