Dec. 24–25, 2002

Another year, another round of great Christmas traditions at the Devine household.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I left my apartment and made the short trip to my parents’ house, then joined my family in attending Mass at Sts. Peter & Paul Church. It was so crowded that we had to stand in the back (despite arriving 20 minutes early). After the service, we returned home and lit the luminarias along our street in front of our house.

A common Italian tradition is to serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. But since our family is mostly Irish and we’re partial to seafood instead, my dad prepares his own traditional dinner: lobster tail and shrimp. It’s always a delicious meal, and this year was no exception!

After dinner, we drove around a few local neighborhoods to marvel at the elaborate Christmas decorations and light displays on the houses. Some of them make me wonder if Clark Griswold really exists.

We closed out Christmas Eve by watching A Christmas Carol. I’ve heard that the 1951 version of the film starring Alastair Sim is a classic, but my family and I are convinced that George C. Scott was the quintessential Ebenezer Scrooge.

Christmas morning started with our usual gift exchange and late breakfast, but outside, the steady rain turned into heavy snow by early afternoon. After a few phone calls, we decided to postpone the big dinner with our relatives until the following night — can’t remember that ever happening before. Since most of the food was already prepared, my parents, sisters, and I had a strangely subdued Christmas dinner, but we saved plenty of leftovers for the rest of the family, of course.

After dinner, we followed another family tradition by watching one of my all-time favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. For some reason, Harry Bailey’s toast at the end of the film (“To my big brother George, the richest man in town!”) gets me every time.

So, a rare white Christmas required some slight changes to our usual family customs, but we still enjoyed our time together, as always. Hope you and your family had a safe and happy holiday, too!

[ No. 37 ]

Dec. 23, 2002

I recently received a postcard in the mail from my high school. It appeared to be a typical plea for alumni donations, but this particular item caught my attention.

Although I will spare my alma mater the embarrassment of mentioning the school by name, I feel compelled to post the remainder of the postcard greeting:




Assuming that you received a passing grade in your third-grade English class, you would notice two glaring errors above. The author has failed to master the difference between to and too (as in “it’s not too late”), and has demonstrated an inability to form a common plural noun (holidays does not contain an apostrophe).

Sure, mistakes can happen, but consider the following:

  1. The copy, which was presumably mailed to thousands of recipients, contained two errors within just three sentences. Totally unacceptable.
  2. The postcard was published by a high school, which strives to educate its students about fundamentals such as grammar and spelling. (Shouldn’t school administrators set an example by taking the time to proofread their own writing?)
  3. Despite such a carelessly worded request, the alumni of the school are still expected to contribute their hard-earned money.

It’s also important to note that the academic institution in question is a private Catholic high school that charges an outrageous annual tuition. Makes you wonder if they’re applying equally questionable math skills toward the management of their finances.

[ No. 36 ]

Dec. 5, 2002

Time for a little segment called “Fun with Words.”

A friend of mine recently informed me that the words flammable and inflammable — which you’d assume to be opposites of each other — have the same meaning! After finding a reasonable explanation online, I can sympathize with those who complain that English is difficult to learn as a second language.

Also, after working on a Web site that discusses various medical conditions, I’ve decided that my new favorite word is pseudogout (a condition that causes pain and swelling in one’s joints). Sounds like a flimsy diagnosis, doesn’t it? Either you have gout, or you don’t. I just hope that vague prefix isn’t applied to other ailments — how would you feel if your doctor said that you needed to receive treatment for quasi-cancer?

[ No. 35 ]