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Monday, May 31, 2004

It's Cherry Season - Now What?!

ItalianFood.About.com has some excellent ideas about what to do with the cherries that are coming to season right now. You can only eat so many now, so how about saving some for a rainy day when dreams of cherry blossoms are a long way away. The Cigliegiolo (Cherry Cordial) recipe certainly caught my eye.

Books with more cherry recipes

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Event: L.A. Kids Read Festival - June 5

The L.A. Kids Read Festival is a free day of fun for families featuring storytellers, crafts, refreshments, live music, dance, and theater performances to kick off the Summer Reading Club.

W H E N : June 5, 12:00 noon - 4:00 p.m.

S I T E : Los Angeles Central Library

630 West 5th St., Downtown Los Angeles

C O S T : Free

S P O N S O R : Los Angeles Public Library

I N F O : 213-228-7480, http://www.lapl.org

From the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Festival Guide

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Getty Family Festival - June 6

06/06/2004 10 am

Explore the cultures of the Middle East and the Mediterranean as we celebrate the exhibition The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance. From Persia to Pisa, trace the movement of ideas from east to
west with a day of music, dance, and storytelling. Find out how flamenco reveals the Islamic roots of Spanish music. Create your own vessel inspired by the glass and ceramics on display in the exhibition, or learn a folk dance from Andalusia or Iran. No reservations necessary. - Info

Photos from previous events - 1 | 2 | 3

Location: Museum Courtyard

Event: 22nd Annual Salute to Recreation Family Festival

The largest annual Department of Recreation and Parks event in the San Fernando Valley, features plenty of activities for the whole family, including a children¹s area, a petting zoo, carnival rides, games, food booths, an International Village, a Hawaiian Village, an arts and crafts boutique, Teen Night, and entertainment on four stages. Catch the fireworks extravaganza on Saturday night.

W H E N : June 4 - 6, Friday 6:00 p.m. ? 10:30 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. ? 10:30 p.m., Sunday, 10:00 a.m. ? 9:00 p.m.

S I T E : Northridge Park, Van Nuys

C O S T : Free event

S P O N S O R : City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks

I N F O : 1-888-LA PARKS (527-2757) http://www.laparks.org

From the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Festival Guide

Shareware Music

I came across a reference to this site, Magnatune.com via another interesting weblog, Church of the Customer.

Magnatune.com applies the concept of "shareware" to music, allowing you to download and listen to music before you decide to buy.

Here is the blurb from their site:

We're a record label. But we're not evil.

We call it "try before you buy." It's the shareware model applied to music.
Listen to hundreds of MP3'd albums from our artists. Or try our genre-based radio stations.

If you like what you hear, buy our music online for as little as $5 an album or license our music for commercial use.

Artists get a full 50% of the purchase price. And unlike most record labels, our artists keep the rights to their music.

Founded by musicians, for musicians. No major label connections. We are not evil.

While I can't bear out their claims, I did find some great music on the site. I was wandering through their classical section, but they have a wide variety of music available.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Friday Fun: Virtual Zen Garden

Here is a lovely bit of Zen fun for the end of the week.

Rake the stones into any pattern you wish or smooth over what you have already done. Remember, the goal here is relaxation, not a perfect garden. Be well!

Via Metafilter and Little Fluffy

Career-Op:Return to the Fold

Career-Op: Return to the Fold

Douglas E. Welch, ComputorEdge Magazine

If you are working as an independent high-tech consultant, there may come a time when, due to financial pressures or personal preference, you need to “return to the fold” of a classic corporate job. While the reasons for your return might be varied, there are a few ways to insure that your return is as painless and productive as possible. In your time away, you have surely expanded your education and experience. Both of these can be instrumental in easing your re-entry back into the corporate world. What will hinder you is that nagging feeling of having failed at going it alone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition

I have needed to upgrade my Microsoft Office program for some time, but the cost for a new version of Office is nearly $300. I couldn't justify the cost when I don't use most of the programs included in the suite of Word, Entourage, Excel, Powerpoint (and Access, for Windows users.)

The recent issue of Wired reminded me that there is another option, Microsoft's Office Student and Teacher Edition. We qualify for this software since Rosanne is currently enrolled in her Master's program, but even if we didn't, Microsoft requires no qualifying documentation to insure that you are a student or a teacher. Office S&TE is available from Amazon.com for $129.99, a significant price reduction from the list price ($300) or even the upgrade price ($240) of a full copy of MS Office.

If you are looking to upgrade, or buying a new machine, this is your best choice to get the leading software suite at a fraction of the normal cost.

Mac OS X 10.3.4 (Panther) Upgrade

Apple released its latest update to Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) today. It should be available in the Software Update system preference pane on your system. I have not yet installed the large (41 MB) update, but I will report back on any issues I might find.

Further information is available via MacCentral, MacUpdate, and AppleInsider.

From Apple.com...

The 10.3.4 Update delivers enhanced functionality and improved reliability for Mac OS X v10.3 "Panther" and is recommended for all users.

Key enhancements include:

  • improved file sharing and directory services for Mac (AFP), UNIX (NFS), PPTP, and wireless networks
  • improved OpenGL technology and updated ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers
  • improved disc burning and recording functionality
  • iPods connected via USB 2.0 are now recognized by iTunes and iSync
  • additional FireWire audio and USB device compatibility
  • updated Address Book, Mail, Safari, Stickies, and QuickTime applications
  • improved compatibility for third party applications
  • previous standalone security updates

For detailed information on this Update, please visit this website: http://www.info.apple.com/kbnum/n25764

Full Moon Hikes for June

WED 6/2 7:30pm - Franklin Canyon Ranch

Nearly Full Moon Hike Explore the canyon by moonlight on a moderately strenuous hike. Look and listen for wildlife, and enjoy a spectacular view of the stars and city from atop the canyon trail. Fun for all ages. 2hrs WODOC

THUR 6/3 7pm - Charmlee Wilderness Park

Full Moon Hike All ages welcome. Hike under the full moon. Reservations required 310-317-1364. 2hrs CWP

More info

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

A nice desk for a Macintosh

Flipping through the latest Pottery Barn catalog the other day, I am came across this desk, expensive, but quite a nice match for a 15" iMac.

It would also work well with a laptop and other small-format computers. The added advantage is the ability to stash everything away when guests arrive.


1st Thursday San Pedro ART Walk

On the first Thursday of each month, the artists, entertainers, and business people of San Pedro celebrate the arts with an evening of open galleries, studios, street vendors, and live entertainment in the downtown San Pedro
Arts District. Downtown San Pedro is magically transformed into a village of creativity surrounded by historical architecture, including the magnificent Warner Grand Theater, quaint restaurants and cafes, plus plenty of places to
shop for those unusual items and gifts. Bring the whole family for an enjoyable evening in this seaside village.

W H E N : June 3, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

S I T E : Downtown San Pedro between 4th & 8th Streets

C O S T: Free

S P O N S O R : The San Pedro Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

I N F O : http://www.1stthursday.com

From the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Festival Guide

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Career-Op: Moving Forward

by Douglas E. Welch, ComputorEdge Magazine

Over the years, I have been content to let my clients use whatever technology made the most sense for their own personal needs. A majority of Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 7.5 users slowly evolved into Win95/98/XP and Mac OS X. Often, my clients were using hardware and software that was woefully out of date, but as long as it worked, I didn’t push them to make a change. That said, times change and people change with them. Now I find myself in a new role with my clients – pulling and pushing them into newer hardware and software so they do not get hopelessly left behind. This role is not an envious one for any high-tech careerist, but it is growing in importance every day.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Mac OS X Helper Exploit - Fix Now Available

As per this MacMegasite posting listing below, Apple has released a fix for the recently discovered vulnerability in the Help system of Mac OS X. This is a small update and does not require a reboot when complete.

At this point, I would recommend that all users download and install the update.

Apple Security Update 2004-05-24
Apple Security Update 2004-05-24 is now available via the software update panel. This update fixes the recently reported help viewer vulnerability. It's a 712k download that doesn't require a reboot. [MacMegasite]

Dad & Grads Promotion on CafePress.com

I just got a note from CafePress.com. This is the company that produces my book, The High-Tech Career Handbook as well as a variety of photo-related items. (See also 1, 2, 3, 4) These are the products shown on the lower-left hand side of this page.

If you were thinking of picking up a copy of my book, now is the time to buy. The Dads and Grads Promotion starts 5/18/04. Save $4 on all orders over $40. Use coupon code DADNGRAD. Expires June 1, 2004.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

We're cooking now!

As some of you may already know, I am the main cook in our house. I really like to cook and Rosanne really likes the food I make, so it works out well.

Today, I picked up this book, Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli, at the library. I had placed it on hold after seeing it mentioned on the Splendid Table web site. I found several recipes that interested me, right off the bat. A lot of great general cooking information is also spread throughout the book. I don't think I will be making my own sausage or curing my own ham any time soon, but even that is interesting to learn.

One recipe sounded so good I actually made it tonight, Amatriciana Sauce. (page 111) I like spicy sauces, and this has a dose of pepperocini that does't hurt, but certainly warms you all over. Traditionally, this sauce is served with Buccatini, a large, tubular pasta (sometimes referred to as firehoses (SMILE)), but I made it with traditonal spaghetti that I had on hand.

All I can say is -- WOW! If you have a chance to make it, do it! A plate of this, with a simple glass of red wine, was a dinner fit for a king, queen or even peasant. Pick up this cookbook via Amazon or at your local public library, like I did.

Other books by Paul Bertolli

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Magazine Recommendations

I have been meaning to put up a list of my favorite magazines so you could see what gets read here in the Welch household. Finally, via the magic of Amazon.com I have gotten around to it.

I am a subscriber of some of these magazines, others I pick up at the newsstand or bookstore whenever the mood strikes. Still others I read at the local library when I am looking for a quick way out of a creativity rut.




Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Learning MS Word Tip-by-Tip

Word Answers

Lockergnome points over to a large collection for Microsoft Word tips that should answer some of your more esoteric questions (and even a few of your basic ones.)

If you are struggling with Word, as most folks do, this is a great resource to help you get back to completing your work instead of fighting with the program.

Other books on MS Word

90 Sols in 90 Seconds | via Metafilter

Two large, but great videos made up from photos of from the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Even though I have been visiting the Mars Rovers web site every day, these compilations really help to bring home everything that they have accomplished.

MacInTouch: Fixes for Mac OS X Vulnerability

Macintouch.com offers up 3 possible fixes for the Mac OS X Vulnerability I posted eariler today. I am going to wait for Apple's official fix, though. That is, unless it takes them more than a week to release it.

Be advised, if you do apply these fixes, you might have to undo them in order to apply the official fix when it is released by Apple.

Revenge of the spam filters

Seth Godin wonders about the issues with SPAM filters, and so do I. I haven't yet found an effective way of seeing as little SPAM as possible, yet still not excluding important messages.

I often get email from people I have never corresponded with before. Many of these come from readers of my weekly Career Opportunities column. I NEED to hear from these people if I want to keep my column on track to their needs.

For now, I continue to scan my SPAM folder regularly, looking for the one gem amongst the dross...and people wonder why I am grumpy sometimes.

Book Signing - Dutton's Brentwood

Dawn Comer Jefferson and Rosanne Welch, with with authors, Yuliana Min-Kim Grant and Chris Simmons, discuss "Three-Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work, and Family,"

Thu., May 20, 2004, 7 pm

Dutton's Brentwood

11975 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049-5003

(310) 476-6263

Mac OS X Vulnerability

Over the last 2 weeks there have been some rumblings of Mac OS X vulnerabilities that could put your data at risk. It appears today, that there is a valid problem in existence.

As you may have noticed, if and when you download a .DMG file from a web site, it can mount and install itself after the download completes. Unfortunately, this opens a hole where malicious software could do the same action and alter or delete your data.

There is no complete fix yet available, but I assume Apple will have some sort of fix in place before the end of the week.

In the meantime, you can reduce your exposure in the following ways:

Run Safari

Select Safari Menu, Preferences...

Click on the General Tab

Uncheck the checkbox labeled "Open Safe Files After Downloading"

Close the preferences window

* Additionally, as always, be aware of what you are downloading and where you are downloading from. Be especially careful with files ending in .DMG.

* Backup your data. Even bugs in legitimate software can damage your data, so take this as an opportunity to re-visit your backup procedures to insure that your data is protected.

Here are 2 articles detailing the issues of this vulnerability:


Watch this space for further updates from Apple regarding this problem.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Book Recommendation

The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways to Do Less and Accomplish More by Bill Jensen

With a title like this, Jensen's book should be flying off the shelf. I know it caught my eye when I first saw it. We all want to "do" less and "accomplish" more and there are some excellent ideas in this book to help you do just that.

Nothing in this book is easy, though. Someone as inclined to follow the rules like myself will find it difficult, if not impossible, to implement the more demanding recommendations. This is a shame, as these people are those who would probably benefit the most.

Even if you don't think of yourself as a rabble-rouser, you should still read this book and take heart that there are some possible methods of extracting yourself from business situations that leave you feeling busy, but not very productive. There are ways of escaping the bureaucracy and yet keep your job.

The cutest, yet still effective, idea in the book is the "Less-O-Meter" associated with each chapter. These graphical gauges give you an "at a glance" reading on how much Courage you will need to put this tip in place, how difficult it can be and the possible yield to your productivity and happiness.

You may be ready to take on your whole company and engage in full-scale "pushback", but implementing even one idea from this book could do a world of good for you, your job and your career, while helping your company, as well.

Bill Jensen Web Site

** Other books by Bill Jensen

History was not black and white

Poverty's Pallette

Most younger people's visions of America of the 1930's is the bleak, black and white photographs "created by the New Deal-sponsored photographers who traversed the country in the 1930's and early 1940's," Unknown to most of us, though, are the color photographs that were created when Kodak released its color film products in the mid-1930's.

This collection of photographs helps to clarify the realities and look of everyday life from that period, without the bias that black and white photos have given to our remembrance.

Via MetaFilter

Career-Op: The Rules

by Douglas E. Welch, ComputorEdge Magazine
As I move through my high-tech career, a series of rules have developed over time. Sometimes it is a rule for how to go about solving a particular technical problem. Other rules deal with how I work (and play) with those around me. Whatever the focus, though, these rules were not developed at some high-level strategy meeting. They were developed over time, layer by layer, like an oyster develops a pearl. This has many advantages. Instead of being based on some ideal goal and purpose, these rules have developed out of the day-to-day reality of working in a high-tech career. In no particular order, here are the rules that I find myself living with on a daily basis. Your list will certainly be different, but hopefully this will spur you to analyze and create one for yourself.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


Addicitive game with no score and no winner. Create ball drops that make their own odd music as they bounce. You can alter walls, friction, gravity and the number of balls to keep things interesting. (Windows/Mac)

Warning: Dangerous timewaster!! -- but it is almost Friday.

Clip Art Crafts from MSL

Martha Stewart Living has been providing cute monthly crafts, in PDF format, that you can print out on your own color printer.

Currently they have a series of colorful recipe cards and customizable Father's Day coupons for kids to give as presents.

Book discussion, signing and reading

Rosanne Welch and Dawn Comer Jefferson discuss "Three-Ring Circus: How Real
Couples Balance Marriage, Work, and Family"

Sat., May 15, 2004, 2 pm

Borders - Yorba Linda, 22401 Old Canal Rd, Yorba Linda, (714) 974-4743

with authors Wendy Hunter and Yuliana Min-Kim Grant

Three Ring Circus Web Site

LA Blogs mentioned in LA Times

LABlogs.com, to which I sometimes contribute, got a mention at the end of an LA Times article today. To Live and Blog in L.A. focuses on the founders of blogging.la, but is nice enough to mention LA Blogs and other LA web sites in a sidebar.

The article link above is only available to paper subscribers of the LA Times who have set up a free CalendarLive account. Bummer!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

According to this story from Broadband Reports, a new verison of Spybot has been released. You can download it from Download.com using the link below.

I highly recommend some form of Spyware/Trojan Horse cleanup program as part of a well-protected computer system, along with Anti-Virus software and updated Windows software.

Spybot Version 1.3
New ad/spyware killer released. The latest free version of Spybot: Search and Destroy has been released, according to our security forum regulars. Version 1.3 is available at Download.com or Major Geeks. Users in our forums have been tinkering with, and giving their thoughts on t.. [Broadbandreports]

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Looking for graduation gifts?

Do you have a friend of family member graduating from high-school or college?

Are they considering a career in High-Tech?*

The High-Tech Career Handbook would make an excellent gift!

Give graduates the benefit of years of experience and the best of Career Opportunities, the high-tech career column from ComputorEdge Magazine.

Visit http://welchwrite.com/htch/ to order.

* much of the advice in HTCH is applicable towards all careers, not just high-tech

Reviewing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has an excellent system that allows you to comment on upcoming legislation and other issues that effect your high-tech world. I regularly use this system to make my views know to the US Congress, FCC and other governmental departments.

The latest "Action Alert" advocates for a review of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that provides for a better balance between the rights of copyright holders and the public. These action alerts are sent to appropriate committee members and representatives via email or fax.

Review the latest EFF Action Alert

Top 100 Library Books

Librarian in Black points over to a list of the Top 100 Library Books.

I love lists like this, since it gives me a feeling for what I have read and what might be worth reading in the future.

The #1 book? In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Well, that is one book I have already read.

Monday, May 10, 2004

A few new things...

Trying things out...

Trying out a few new things that Blogger.com has provided on their site.

You will now notice a "comments" link below each message. I am also posting
this message via the email posting service in order to test it out.

Be Well!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Unstuck by Keith Yamashita & Sandra Spataro

While the design of this book is first rate, I had a difficult time connecting to the ideas within. It attempts to be the place "to turn for inspiration and immediate solutions," but I found myself answering many of the question within with "How?", instead.

I get the feeling that the book would be great companion item to seminars provided by the authors, on its own, it seems too terse and fragmented to follow. There just wasn't enough information presented to give me a handle to use the concepts of the book. Like the print analogue of a web site, the book directs you to specific sections based on your needs or answers to a given exercise. While I am an experienced web users, I found it frustrating in a traditional print publication like this.

That said, the real-world examples given in the book were the most useful. This could be a personal preference, but I tend to develop a better understanding when given a good story as an example. There were tidbits that I found useful and led to further thinking on my part, but these had to be teased out of the text and graphics instead of being immediately observed.

I feel the authors are onto something here, but without their personal guidance down the path of becoming "Unstuck," the book can be a bit frustrating.

Amazon.com: Unstuck

Unstuck Web Site

Friday, May 07, 2004

Career-Op: Training your replacement

by Douglas E. Welch, ComputorEdge Magazine

Outsourcing has been much in the news lately. Along with this trend another, more disturbing, one has emerged…companies asking employees to train their own replacements. In the professional equivalent of “digging your own grave,” companies are threatening to withhold severance pay or eligibility for unemployment unless their current (soon to be former) employees transfer their knowledge. I find this to be one of the most repugnant policies I have ever seen. Any company that will do this to their employees deserves to go as bankrupt financially as they are morally. If you are ever faced with such a choice, here are some guidelines to help you through the ugliness.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

What I'm Reading...

God's Secretaries : The Making of the King James Bible

I finally heard a term used to describe books such as this and the Michelangelo book I mentioned a few weeks ago -- a micro-history. This books use a particular historical figure or event to illuminate the period. This book was mentioned in some publication, I can't remember which, and I added it to my growing collection of books to get from the library.

The reign of King James I was tumultuous and filled with political and religious fighting. James sought to use a new translation of the Bible to help bridge the growing gap between the traditional Chruch of England and the growing number of Puritan's who sought a simpler, purer and less Roman Catholic religion. Instead, the disclusion of many, more radical Puritan leaders seems to have only pushed the country close to the Civil War that would occur a few decades later.

Thime time period is important for American's, as the persecution of Purtains in England led directly to their arrival in America. Already, at the very beginning of its history, America was filled with radicals not content with the status quo in England. Given a choice of surrender to the traditional dogma, imprisonment or exile, they chose to leave their home and create a new life based on their own beliefs. Even in America, though, the thought of religious freedom was a moot point. Just like James and his bishops in England, they demanded strict adherence to their religious beliefs.

God's Secretaries is an illuminating story of an often-ignored period of history and the creation of one of the most well-known translations of the Bible in the world today. In time, even the Puritans began to use the translation as their own official text, despite their exclusion during its development.

The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch

This book of essays follows the familiar path of Cameron's non-fiction writing, teaching writers how to deal with themselves and their work. Roughly following the cycle of a year, first living in New York and then retiring to her summer retreat in Taos, New Mexico, Cameron covers the ins and outs of a writer's life.

Unlike The Artist's Way and others, this is not a workbook, divided into a series of weekly exercises. While each essay has a quick "Try this" section, they are gentle proddings to think further about the essay you have just read. This is not a book to be swallowed whole in one sitting. I found myself reading 1 or 2 essays and then spending a bit of time absorbing what I just read. It was a fine companion for 3-4 weeks as I dipped into it again and again.

I have enjoyed Cameron's other books, so I was pre-disposed to read her latest. There is a highly spiritual element to these essay if not specifically religious. Here idea of "The Great Creator" might put off some readers, but if they supply their own verison of the "creator" that they relate to, this helps to put the essays into perspective.

Cameron takes a gentle hand with writers, not giving them full rein to be obnoxious parodies of how they think writers should act, but giving them and understanding on how they are different from those around them. Understanding, even from a distant writer of books, can be a well-spring of relief to an isolated writer wondering if they are crazy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Mac OS X Security Update Info from MacDailyNews

Apple releases Security Update 2004-05-03 for Mac OS X 10.2.8 Client and Server
Apple has released Security Update 2004-05-03 for Mac OS X 10.2.8 Client and Server.

Security Update 2004-05-03 (Mac OS X 10.2.8 Client) delivers a number of security enhancements and is recommended for all Macintosh users.

This update includes the following components:

- AFP Server

- CoreFoundation

- IPSec

Additionally, Security Update 2004-04-05 (Mac OS X 10.2.8 Client) has been incorporated into this security update. Those components are:
- Apache 1.3

- cd9660.util... [MacDailyNews]

Monday, May 03, 2004

Great, Free Botanical Fonts

Check out A Gardener's Notebook for great info on 3 free fonts designed using natural materials.

Here is one example:

Book Signing

Dawn Comer Jefferson and Rosanne Welch discuss "Three-Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work, and Family,"

Aroma Cafe/Portrait of a Bookstore, 4360 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, 1:00pm, (818) 508-6505

More info/future signings on the Three Ring Circus blog.

Wi-Fi at Fashion Square Sherman Oaks

Walking through the Fashion Square Mall today, I noticed several signs announcing that the mall was now a Wi-Fi Hotspot. I didn't have my computer with me, so I was unable to test it out, but the WestField Web Site, has a small announcement.

With the obnoxious heat hitting the Valley right now, this could be one place to get out of the house for a while and still catch up on your email. Westfield recently built an indoor play area for younger children at the West end of the first floor, so this could give the kids a chance to play without melting.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

I had been seeing this odd title scattered throughout my Internet travels, but had no idea what it was. When I had a chance to get a free copy of the book, I jumped on it, wanting to know what it was all about.

My friends have many reasons to think me odd and my choice of books is one of them. Only Douglas, they might think, could get excited about a book on punctuation. While I wholeheartedly agree that I am odd in many ways, many other people in Britain and America have found this book interesting as well. It is reassuring to know, sometimes, that I am not alone in my madness.

While the subject matter, the use (and abuse) of punctuation such as apostrophes, commas, semicolons and the like, may seem dry to most people, Truss' (oh, goodness, I hope I placed that apostrophe correctly) writing style is light, humorous and dry as a Los Angeles summer. I regularly found myself laughing out loud at some of her examples of horrible punctuation, and then quietly wondering to myself if I had committed similar faux pas in my own writing over the years.

The title of book comes from this punctuation parable, cited on the back flyleaf of the book:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air.

Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"I'm a panda," he says, at the door, "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-link mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

So, there you have it. Misplaced commas and apostrophes, abused or forgotten semicolons and colons not only make us look a bit foolish, but hamper the very communication we are desperately trying to achieve.

A few years ago, Lynne Truss presented a show on BBC Radio 4, Cutting a Dash, where she developed many of the ideas and examples for this book. Only in the UK could you have support for a regular show about punctuation. You have to love the British sometimes.

This edition for American audiences is exactly the same as the British version and might throw some American readers for a loop. Fear not, though. Even if you don't know what a "high street" is, or stumble over the concept of a "green grocer", the lessons, humor and fun of this book come through.

If I ever had to study punctuation as a class again, I certainly hope this would be my textbook. In fact, this book might just help students find the fun, and usefulness, of the English language better than dry dissertations on the use of the semicolon.

While Eats, Shoots & Leaves has left me a bit self-conscious about my own writing, the refresher course in punctuation will serve me well for years to come.

More information is available at the Eats, Shoots and Leaves Web Site.