Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of Turtles and Pigs: Two Cool Things

Or nerdy things, depending on your perspective...

1. The Great Turtle Race

Eleven leatherback sea turtles have been tagged with a satellite tracking device and you can follow them on their 3,700 mile migration from Canada to the Caribbean. Each turtle has a name and a sponsor and an Olympic swimming "coach" that will provide commentary on their turtles throughout the race.

You can pick a turtle and sign up to get email updates on it's progress and then follow all of the turtles on a map:

My turtle is a 5'3" long / 970 pound female named Nightswimmer. Why is she named Nightswimmer? Because she's sponsored by R.E.M. How cool is that!? (There's also a turtle named Backspacer that's sponsored by Pearl Jam). I'm a little bummed there's not a turtle named Crush, but maybe he wasn't a leatherback...

2. Happy Anniversary Strunk and White

The Elements of Style turns 50 this year. Written by author E. B. White and his professor, William Strunk, it's a good guide for anyone who ever has to write anything. Which is a lot of us.

I received my first copy in college during freshman orientation - along with the APA Style Guide and the university's rules on plagiarism. It was like one of those scenes from a movie where someone enlists in the army and then promptly gets a stack of fatigues and a helmet slapped onto his outstretched arms.

Those last two publications were daunting with lots of meticulous rules to follow and a lecture of what would happen if you didn't - bad marks for the former and expulsion for the latter - yikes. Both scared the beejeezus out of me to the point that I didn't even want to open either of them. But that little, unassuming and nonthreatening copy of S&W - that I could handle.

That eventually dog-eared and scribbled-on copy from college was "borrowed" by an ex-roommate (along with a vintage set of James Joyce's Dubliners and his Collected Poems, but that's a story for a much angrier day...). There's now a much less-worn edition of S&W sitting on the cabinet behind me as we speak. It's there next to the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage and a copy of Robert's Rules of Order (which is surprisingly handy to have around).

S&W is not the most orderly or user-friendly reference book in the world, but it has served me well. Besides - it's not a manual or a rule book - it's the elements of style. And after all, who has better style than the man who wrote Charlotte's Web - except for maybe the man who taught him. Go here and listen to E.B. White read a passage from Charlotte's Web. A very, very cool thing.

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