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Notes from the Smithy...#85

Notes from the Smithy

autumn††††††††††††††††††† #85



Hello again from Southern Oregon!The fires are out, and rains have returned, but what would you expect?It is Oregon after all.School should be well underway.I hope you have a great year!


NEWS†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† whatís happening

JUST FOR FUN††††††††††††††††††††† student answers

COMMON ERRORS††††††††††† contraction issues

ANOTHER ROUND†††††††††††††† educational fads

RECENT READS†††††††††††††††††† a few from me

MISCELLANY†††††††††††††††††††††† as it says




Things are getting caught up sort of.It was somewhat busy for a time, but I did manage to get all the scripts written for the major punctuation videos I will be doing.Now it is a matter of finishing the project and getting them uploaded to my web site.


The vocabulary books have been reprinted.In the new printing a note about getting the major tests from me will appear.You can still email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it to get a set of major vocabulary tests for Jensenís Vocabulary.I am the only source for these tests.They are free, but you will have to print them off.Each set includes the test and the answers.


The format writing book has been reprinted. There are no changes of substance happened for either the vocabulary or the writing books.


One item of interest was an order from a local public school for my vocabulary books.I used to teach at that school back in the 1970ís.I mentioned that to the office manager.She responded, ďI know, you were my teacher.ĒWhen she told me her maiden name, I remembered her, so it was some fun to go back to the old school and hand deliver a set of vocabulary books.God is good!




TEACHER: Why are you late?

STUDENT: Class started before I got here.


TEACHER: John, why are you doing your math multiplication on the floor?

JOHN: You told me to do it without using tables.


TEACHER: Glenn, how do you spell crocodile?



TEACHER: No, thatís wrong.

GLENN: Well, you asked me how I spell it.


TEACHER: Donald, what is the chemical formula for water?



TEACHER: What are you talking about?

DONALD: Yesterday you said it was H to O.


TEACHER: Winnie, name one important thing we have today that we didnít have ten years ago.



TEACHER: Millie, start a sentence starting with I.

MILLIE: I is..

TEACHER: No, Millie, always say, ďI am.Ē

MILLIE: All right, I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.


TEACHER: Now, Simon, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?

SIMON: No sir, I donít have to; my Mom is a good cook.


TEACHER: Clyde, your composition on ďMy DogĒ is exactly the same as your brotherís. Did you copy his?

CLYDE : No, sir, itís the same dog.


TEACHER: Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?

HAROLD: A teacher?



I thought of titling this article ďHomonym HeadachesĒ or ďContraction Confusion.ĒWhat follows will explain why.


With the advent of social media, tweets, texts and blogs, a lot more public writing is going on by average folks, especially younger folks.I suppose it is a good thing that people are writing more, but it also shows me that the writing skills of many are in disarray.While what is said isnít the issue here, I must admit that someone being at the mall or sharing that they are enjoying a cup of gourmet coffee isnít high on my list of interesting things to read.The real problem for me is seeing all the errors.Letís just look at the homonym errors.


ďItís a monster,Ē said Jim as he took its picture.


In speech itís and its sound the same; there is no distinction.In writing they donít look the same; there is a distinction.How does one know whether to use its or itís?Itís simple; the apostrophe in itís stands for a missing letter.Itís does not show possession.Itís is the shortened form of it is.


Thus, we can tell from the example sentence when to use the apostrophe form.


ďIt is a monster,Ē said Jim as he took it is picture.


In the first case, it is sounds good; hence, we use the apostrophe.In the second case, it is is obviously wrong, so no apostrophe would be correct.


Itís the little words that are used a lot that cause the confusion.The your and youíre homonyms are another set that are often misused.The same principal is in use here; the apostrophe shows the omission of a letter; the regular pronoun shows possession.


Youíre going to see your mother after school.

You are going to see you are mother after school.


The first you are works; the second doesnít.The first use is an example of a letter left out; the second use is the simple pronoun possessive.


Whoís going and in whose car?


Here is another pair of confused words.They follow the same pattern, a contraction and a possessive pronoun that sound alike.Whoís is really a contraction for who is.Whose is the possessive; it shows ownership.


And now letís add a third word into the mix: there, their, and theyíre.The first word has a different meaning.There refers to a place, but it can also be used to start a sentence.


He looked over there.

There were five boys at the race.


The other two words are the same familiar grouping, a contraction and a possessive pronoun.


Their is the possessive pronoun.


The kids saw their dog running towards them.


Theyíre is a contraction for they are.


Theyíre (they are) going to have fun at the park.


In summary, hereís the key?When you see the wrds who, they, it, or you with an apostrophe, supply the letter that is missing.If the sentence sounds good with the missing letter supplied, then the apostrophe form is correct.


Itís time to go. ††It is time to go. ††††††††††† ††(yes)

He saw itís picture.†† He saw it is picture.†† (no)


The rule is so simple, yet so many people misuse these forms.I wonder if the distinctions are even taught.Well, at least now those of you reading this know the differences and can teach them to those who donít.After all if youíre teaching these, itís a good bet that your students will improve their writing skills, and whoís to argue with that?




Having been in the education field since the late 1960ís, Iíve seen fads in education come and go.Of course, these fads are all guised in the clothing of the next best thing for kids and bringing all children up to speed in their basic skills.


Common Core, the latest fad to hit the education marketplace, has the same goal: standardize and improve the educational experience of all students.It sounds good in theory; in practice I think it is just another effort by the politicians and educrats to influence the education and training of young people across America.


The first craze I encountered was when our district, and I believe most of Oregon, got all wrapped up with performance indicators.Each grade, at least in the English curriculum, had a series of these markers in which the students had to show proficiency.One I remember was that the student had to be able to find the various parts of a newspaper and discern between editorials, news stories, and advertisements.Of course, as teachers we had to teach all this stuff and then give the students a standardized test and make sure they passed it.


Teaching for the PIís trumped everything.This lasted for a few years and then suddenly slipped away.In English, reading lists changed.Lots of dead white guys fell off the lists to be replaced by more modern writers, many of whom reflected minority backgrounds and diverse cultural views.


Common Core is just the new iteration of change.It replaced No Child Left Behind.I predict it wonít last.However, the taxpayers will have to pay for all those new texts, and the teachers will all have to get training.Unfortunately, all students will see the standardized tests change to reflect these new measures.Thus home schools and private schools wonít be able to totally circumvent the issue.


Reality tells us there is no standard person; we are all individuals.Why not reflect that with localized control and individual direction for education instead of some federally imposed standard?




Below you will find some short reviews of my last quarterís reading. Summer is a busy time, so I donít always get a book read every week.However, here are my titles and comments on the books I did read.


Larry Schweikart is a conservative historian.He wrote Seven Events that Made America America: And Proved That the Founding Fathers Were Right all Along.It was an uneven book in my estimation. Two chapters were very good, and the others were just ok.The author relates the event, gives some background in most cases, shows where it has taken us or influenced us as a society, and finally comments on what the Founders would think, positively or negatively.The history in the Johnstown flood chapter was fascinating, and his chapter on how rock music took down the iron curtain made those chapters the winners for me.


Darrell Waltrip is a name NASCAR fans will recognize.His book, Sundays Will Never Be the Same: Racing, Tragedy, and Redemption--My Life in America's Fastest Sport is his autobiography although the book begins on the day of the death of Dale Earnhart; after that it flashes back to Darrellís early life and proceeds forward.I am not a NASCAR fan although I have watched portions of a race or two at my sonís house.The book was very well written; the story flowed seamlessly, and the characters were colorful and interesting. It gives a glimpse into the NASCAR fraternity and its growth over the years.I was taken in by the story and read it quickly.Darrell portrays himself as an ordinary rural kid who loved to race and had the good fortune to make it big time.I enjoyed the book and recommend it, especially to NASCAR fans.


Julie M. Fenster did some digging into the archives and wrote an interesting book about automotive history, Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race.Julie Fenster has the touch. The characters were interesting, and the details were excellent: 21,000 miles, three continents, six countries, all sorts of terrain and weather. The New York to Paris automobile race in 1908 came at a time when the auto was new; trains and horses were the primary means of transportation. Mechanical breakdowns, personal difficulties among the racers themselves and their sponsors, geographical obstacles, and language issues at various points all made for a very interesting and exhausting trip. Ms. Fenster created a very good story from an historical event, so credit all around to the author, the racers, and the cars.


The Indian History of the Modoc War was written by Jeff C. Riddle, a man of mixed blood.His mother was a Modoc Indian; his dad was a cowboy, farmer, hunter who migrated to Yreka, CA from Kentucky.It was honest as it explored the faults on both sides, white and Indian. The biographies at the end were interesting. Having wandered about Capt. Jack's stronghold myself previously, this book makes me want to go back and see things I doubtless missed 25 years ago. The writing is acceptable for a fellow who claims little schooling. Perhaps one of the more impressive things about the book is the industriousness and adventuresome character of many of the early settlers. Of course, some were ruthless and conniving as well. It is a good and illustrative history about a small war most people have not heard of.


I took one of my Louis LíAmour books off the shelf this quarter.It was The Shadow Riders and was a run of the mill LíAmour western.However, he had a couple of interesting bit characters in this story.Happy Jack was an uncle who helps out but has a somewhat shady reputation.Another uncle, Martin Connery, is a pirate turned rancher.These two characters added some color to the story.Otherwise, it was a fairly typical hayburner, but I liked it and enjoyed my evening with it.


A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeareís The Tempest was written by Hobson Woodward.It is really three stories in one.The first is about how a shipís company managed to survive a hurricane that ruined the ship; the second is about the man who recorded all this and how he and the survivors made a huge difference at Jamestown.The final story is how Shakespeare adapted those writings into his play The Tempest.I liked it, but it would likely not interest too many others.


†Richard Mayburyís book, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, is an economics book for middle school kids.Itís basic stuff but good.If all young people had to read this book and absorb it, the economics of our country would change.Did you know that if you refuse as payment for a debt the paper or tokens the Federal Reserve puts out that you can be put in jail for refusing the government money?It's called the legal tender law.There is much more.Get your kids to read it; maybe you ought to as well.


Daemon and Freedom are two books by Daniel Suarez and should be read in that sequence in order for the second book to make sense.The first book has a sex scene that does nothing to further the story.Both stories contain violence and cursing. It is a war story of sorts with two sides vying for control. The books champion individual enterprise and rail against the government-corporate complex that controls too much of peopleís lives.The story, and both books form one story, is set primarily in the US.It is sci-fi with a lot of technical stuff, especially about computers and the internet.Inveterate war gamers would probably love these two books.


Firebase Freedom is by William Johnstone with help from his nephew, J.A. Johnstone.It is part of the Phoenix Rising series.The premise is that Muslim president has disbanded the US military, declared himself president for life, established a private army of his own to enforce Sharia law, and so forth.The writing is disjointed in my opinion.Too many things happen that stretch the imagination too far.The book has lots of violence, some sex, and of course cursing.It is filled with parallels to the current political situation.I donít recommend it.


A Rising Thunder is another Honor Harrington novel by David Weber.I really like David Weber, but this book wandered a bit for my tastes.Honor is in the book but not necessarily central.There are actions scenes of violence where thousands of people are killed when spaceships fight, but it is not graphic violence.Some of his characters curse, which is part of the military persona.On the other hand, the marriage scene has this:

†† ďThough I may speak with bravest fire,

†† and have the gift to all inspire,

†† and have not love, my words are vain,

†† as sounding brass, and hopeless gain.Ē


Kearny's March: The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846-1847 is by Winston Groom.It is well-written and informative.Groom is a good writer who has nice expression and works in quotes from original materials seamlessly. The period is exciting and pivotal, especially for me since I live in the West. It is a good look at a period in American history that brings in a number of human interest stories and small battles to fill out oneís understanding of the times. I grew up in the area of Santa Barbara and heard stories of Fremont and his men as a child. History has its connections to life.



1.This newsletter is posted quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe.


2.Remember, if you have questions, I am only an email away, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .I am your support, so use me when the need arises.


3. After the first of the year, two or three of the titles will disappear from the major retailers.I will have a very few copies left and will sell them until they are gone.However, I am not going to reprint them.


4.The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution this coming winter, Lord willing.



Frode Jensen