Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Defining Kinds of Stuff (with Parentheses and Numeral Rules!)

by Chris McGinty

Nathan recently wrote a response to my post about getting rid of half of my stuff. He said I think too much. I find this funny, because he doesn’t realize that I’m almost finished with a two part post about the very subject of getting rid of my stuff that shows just how much I think too much. I also find it funny that he and Miguel were discussing me and my “trip,” as Nathan called it, about getting rid of half of my stuff, because my two part post starts by discussing how I think Nathan and Miguel are entertained by some of my extreme theories and beliefs, even though they rarely agree and often think I’m dumb. The point is they were discussing it, which makes me feel like my statement that they’re entertained is valid, and not just my ego ghost writing for me.

At first when I started reading Nathan’s post I thought I was going to have to smack him down (in writing of course) because it didn’t sound like he understood the difference between his stuff and my stuff. Near the end though I realized that he had probably actually read my whole post, and understood that I have stuff that is more a burden than a joy. Still I thought I would define how I view things, and where his stuff fits into that equation. He also, as an aside, asked a question about parentheses. I thought I’d research it and list my findings. And a bit about numbers.

Parentheses Note # 1: In the last paragraph, you will note that I used parentheses in mid sentence. I could have also surrounded it with commas. Parenthetical information is not always put into parentheses. Some feel that when commas can be used, parentheses shouldn’t be used. I admittedly don’t understand all the “guidelines” for when to use commas, dashes, parentheses. As I understand it, it is more of a style choice, kind of like throwing the word guidelines into quotes previously. It suggests that I’m discounting the value of the word. I used it because with grammar it is sometimes hard to define the difference between rules and guidelines. Also, according to “Strunk and White’s: The Elements of Style” “kind of” and “sort of” shouldn’t be used the way I used it. The proper use is, “A Ranger is a kind of Ford vehicle.” Improper is, “My Ranger is kind of unusable right now.”

Necessities & Necessary Luxuries – This is stuff that you absolutely need. It’s hard to define sometimes if a car is necessary. If you live in New York City, probably not. If you live in Fort Worth/Dallas, probably. Is a TV necessary? Even keeping food in the house isn’t necessary if you’re willing to leave the house every time you need to eat. So for sake of argument we’re going to define this category with some things not necessary for survival, but necessary to maintain a lifestyle that isn’t leaning toward third world country status. Let’s face it, we survived as a society before everyone had cell phones, but they do actually improve overall safety. Emergencies can be called in on the spot. If your car breaks down you don’t have to walk a mile or two to find a way to get hold of someone to help. TV and radio allow for weather emergencies and such to be broadcast. Again, we survived, but it improves overall safety.

Entertainment – Books, CDs, DVDs, computer, games, etc. Nathan talks about how my lifestyle probably doesn’t require as much stuff, but I think when he talks about enjoying his stuff, he’s probably mostly talking about stuff in this category. The truth is, most of what I will be keeping is in this category. I have one hell of a music collection. My issue is that I should have it organized in nice bins made for CD storage, cassette storage, or vinyl record storage, not haphazardly strewn amongst a lot of crap that doesn’t entertain me. Nathan is organized. I’m not. It’s a lot easier to enjoy your things when it looks nice when you view it.

Tools – Not just ratchets and hammers; this category can include cars, dishes, etc. Now there is a difference between a car that is more of a utility and a car for fun, but mostly what I’m talking about in this category is anything not used mostly for entertainment that has practical value. Unless your can opener has mp3 storage, it’s a tool.

Decoration & Nostalgia – For my purposes here, I will define this as anything that has no practical value. The Iron Maiden tapestry that I own from back when tapestries of your favourite metal bands were a hot commodity has no practical value (unless I’m freezing to death one night, and it’s the closest thing I have to a blanket). It simply looks nice to me. Arguably, photos preserve history and are practical from that perspective, but again unless you burn them to keep from freezing to death… I will be getting rid of a lot of this kind of stuff, but I wouldn’t tell everyone to. Like entertainment, the question is: Does it look nice when you view it?

Parentheses Note # 2: In the previous paragraph, I used the period outside of the parentheses. The reason for this is because the writing in the parentheses is not a complete sentence, so the period is closing the sentence that came before. I always default to putting it in the parentheses (apparently doing it wrong!). The reason I did this is because you typically close sentences in quotes like that, “You know,” Chris said, “like it is here.” Note the odd thing where there is an exclamation point and a period above. The period closes the sentence, while the exclamation point shows an emphasis to the parenthetical information (do you understand?). It’s considered awkward, and it is argued that you should just create a separate sentence. More on that later.

Parentheses Note # 3: Another weird one is with your typical list like this: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran, The Bolshoi, and a-ha. We understand that the use of commas here, and that the comma after “The Bolshoi” is not required. Look at the following: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran, The Bolshoi (who have been called the best band you’ve never heard of) and a-ha. I can ignore the comma before “and” by using the parentheses as a surrogate comma, or by considering that a comma is not required. Look at the following: My three favourite bands are Duran Duran (a friend of mine says they are the second greatest band ever according to her friend, but she can’t remember who the first was), The Bolshoi, and a-ha. Since the comma is required, and is part of the main sentence, it goes outside of the parentheses.

Trash and Throwaways – Trash is a clear concept to most of us, but there is a subsection of trash that sometimes isn’t so clear. I call it throwaways. I talked about throwing some of my decoration and nostalgia items away. As I stated before, I’ll scan photos and take video of things I held onto for memory sake, and then I’ll save them as computer files. It’ll be throwaway to me, but maybe not to somebody else with similar stuff. What I’m talking about here is stuff that is really trash, but seems like it may be important. Since Nathan made mp3s of all the audio shows, the original tapes can technically be thrown away. As long as we have backups of the mp3s and they’re saved to the web server, we no longer need the original tapes. (Nathan, don’t throw them away unless we properly back them up.) It just seems like they still have value. And if we still used cassettes to record our show then there would be an argument to reuse them, or if we recorded anything on cassette. Since we don’t, they could probably be simply thrown away, or at the very least given away to someone who would record over them. Somebody like Nathan, who is not a pack rat, typically holds onto very few things like this. Things of this nature are why I am getting rid of half of everything I own.

Parentheses Note # 4: In this case, I put a full sentence into parentheses. The reason is because it was parenthetical to the paragraph. In this case, the period is closing the sentence inside the parentheses, so the period goes inside.

Note about Numbers: According to “The Elements of Style,” the way that I’ve been serializing the parentheses notes I should use the numeral. Also as I write this, June 29, 2010, I would like you to know that you use numeral for dates as well. The exception is in quotes. Nathan said, “I read this on June thirtieth. It was 2011 though. I found note number two particularly helpful.” A rule that I’ve heard, and I’m not sure how official it is, is to generally spell out numbers under 100. We will be hitting 200 posts soon, so I should probably start reviewing ten posts a day, but Post # 75, posted by Nathan on March 23, 2010, is still one of the best written for the blog. Note again that the serialized number is a numeral as well as the date. That’s the best that I understand it at least.

I hope this was useful in a “number” of ways. I know that as I go through and edit our posts I will have to fix some parentheses stuff, because I wasn’t doing it completely right. Also, I hope I was able to give you a different way to think about types of stuff. Stay tuned for my different way of organizing; a way that will make Nathan think Julie Morgenstern is just someone who likes to clean house occasionally. Oh, and I’m going to have to write a post about aversion to self help gurus, because there are those who you should avoid and those you shouldn’t. I find it a curiosity when people just avoid the whole lot to be safe. Finally, below are the links I used to research parentheses. I actually used five pages, but one wasn’t written clearly and the other was a user submitted answer that did not match what the rest of the pages, and “The Elements of Style,” were saying. I went with the presumption that it was wrong.

http://wps.ablongman.com/long_faigley_penguinhb_1/0,7325,506571-,00.html

http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/parentheses.html

http://www.kcitraining.com/styleguide/faq/faq85.html

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