Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Banish You Guys, A Scourge on the Language

The ugly, low-class phrase you guys has become the most common way to address listeners.

I have heard people with master’s degrees address a group of educators – all with advanced degrees – as you guys.

I have heard highly-paid business professionals of mixed gender, all in suits, addressed as you guys.

Game show announcers and media commentators with seven- and eight-figure incomes call listeners you guys.

Some of my students are so baffled by this turn of events that when I ask them not to use you guys in formal speeches, they ask, “What should we call a group of people then?”

They were surprised that the English language already has a perfectly good word for addressing a group of people: you.

Once known to every elementary school child that you was both a singular and plural form of address, this has become obscure, esoteric knowledge.

Decades ago, the Modern Language Association and the American Psychological Association acted on research that demonstrated gender-exclusive language has a constrictive effect on people’s abilities to imagine non-gendered roles and characteristics for women.

This is especially true for young children who take what they hear literally. If doctors are referred to as he and nurses as she, they assume those are the roles they must fill.

Gender-inclusive language became preferred.

Women were often told that when a word such as mankind was used, of course it included them. I am pretty sure that if the convention had been to refer to all people as "whitekind," only ignorant racists would argue that people of color should simply know that of course the word included them.

Today the word guys is freighted with traditionally masculine attributes such as watching football, drinking beer, and ogling women. So it is even more offensive to call any group you guys when it may include people born male who choose not to self-present as traditionally masculine.

I am on a one-woman crusade to stop this scourge on the English language.

I have asked colleagues to please stop referring to a group that contains me as you guys as I am not now, have never been, and have no intention of becoming a guy.

I quietly suggested to a department assistant director who supervises a small group of women, all highly accomplished and most with master’s degrees, that it is disrespectful to refer to them as you guys, as she often does as meetings.

I have edited my own speech so that this phrase, as catchy as the flu, does not disgrace my own address.

I penalize student speakers – just a little, just a reminder – who use this phrase in formal speeches.

There is a perfectly good, simple word in the English language for addressing any group of males, or females, or both, or any mixture of males, females, hermaphrodites, transgenders, bisexuals, and the coming generations of cyborgs, chimeras and clones – and that word is YOU.

It is sufficient.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Catfish Dewey's: Neighborhood Joint with Great Service, Lots of Carbs, Less Flavor

If you are a vacationer who wants to visit a seafood restaurant where the locals go, add Catfish Dewey's to your Fort Lauderdale things-to-do list.

You will need a rented car or plan for a taxi ride that, in my experience, could easily be $30 or more.

No local restaurant has been able to equal the fried oyster po' boy at King Neptune in Port Salerno, but I keep trying.

My first choice was the 15th Street Fisheries. On this sunny South Florida Sunday, I could think of worse things to do than eat on the water.

The parking lot at the marina is small, and the line for valet parking was long.

So I turned around. I don't like crowds when I eat. I headed along to Catfish Dewey's restaurant in Oakland Park.

I figured it would be a family restaurant; all-you-can-eat catfish usually is, and I had plenty enough of that in Georgia. I don't bother with AYCE menus, because my appetite is small. Quality matters more than quantity.

The first dish was conch fritters that arrived along with my iced tea. These were perfect -- warm and tasy. Conch can be tediously rubbery. The serving was generous, probably around eight. I couldn't finish my portion.

The coleslaw arrived next, piled high -- so high, I had trouble forking it up from the small, shallow side bowl. It lacked seasoning, but I give this Florida restaurant props for the generous portions.

Some eateries skimp on the slaw, and I can't understand that. Cabbage is cheap.

The owner of an Italian restaurant once told a friend that one secret of his success was generous portions of spaghetti. "It's cheap," the restauranteur explained, and diners love you for it.

Catfish Dewey's subscribes to this philosophy.

My waitress -- and I'm sorry I didn't pay attention to her name because she deserves a shout-out -- was solicitous without being obtrusive.

This is not the kind of restaurant where the server introduces herself and acts as if you are going to be BFF from then on. You are more likely to hear, "What can I get you, hon?"

She kept my tea full, got the tartar sauce I asked for promptly, and delivered the check in a timely way without even having to catch her eye.

The oyster sandwich and old-fashioned southern greens I got (kale, I think) were also generous. There were seven or eight juicy plump oysters on the roll, lightly battered and fried exactly as the menu promises.

I prefer more seasoning on everything, so I dumped a lot of Louisiana hot sauce on them before dipping them in the tartar sauce, also not spicy enough for me. I skipped the huge role.

The greens were not the most flavorful I've ever had -- low in salt and not enough bacon or pork fat or whatever it is that makes this dish often taste so good.

Catfish Dewey's is a large dining hall with rustic red-check tablecloths and wood floor. Plenty of people were eating when I arrived toward 3 p.m.

I prefer to eat when the crowds are light, so my timing was excellent. There are always cars parked out front when I drive past, but there is more parking in the rear. Cars in the parking lot is a sign of a potentially good restaurant. I have tried a few restaurants whose parking lots are empty; invariably, people were avoiding them for good reasons.

Many Americans like restaurants with plentiful if somewhat bland servings. I cannot fault Catfish Dewey's as a seafood Florida restaurant that is easy on the pocketbook and has good service. Even though I prefer spicier food, Catfish Dewey's is an experience worth recommending among Fort Lauderdale things-to-do.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

DIY: Casters for A Small Pantry Cabinet; Saving An Insulated Wheeled Bag from Extinction for $0

I love a little pantry cabinet that I picked up for $40 in a thrift shop nine years ago. It is a perfect space saving idea for my small kitchen.

The problem is that the swing-out shelf doors need three inches of empty space on either side, making it hard to find the right spot for it.

The pantry slides into the folding-shelves by leaving the bottom two shelves up.

I also bought the folding shelves in a thrift shop. I stack two, instead of using a baker's rack for open storage. This gives me six shelves instead of the typical three or four on a baker's rack. The shelves are narrower, making storage more accessible and a better fit in a galley kitchen.

As the photo shows, the doors will not open, however.

That's why I installed casters on the bottom.

As long as I had it upside down, I put three screws into the backing which was coming loose along that bottom edge.

With casters, I can slide the cabinet forward when I need to access my canned goods, tea, and other dry goods. Then I can slide it back into its nook.

Unfortunately, the wheels made the pantry just a tad too high so that the top shelf would no longer fold down. Simple fix: I shoved some sliders under the bottom of the shelves. Sliders are intended for putting under furniture when moving them. Now the height is perfect.

Installing the casters was easy peasy, so I moved onto to fixing an insulated food bag with a saggy bottom.

This project required some creative problem-solving.

The bag cost less than $20 and was designed to fold into a narrow profile for storage. It has toted a lot of weight it was never meant to carry over the past decade.

I picked up some scrap molding at Home Depot.

The boards are shown along the back of the freezer bag along the pull-up handle. Right below that handle, there was another break where two boards meet but had no support. You can see how I cleverly used two curtain rod brackets to provide stability. They are just below and to the side of each wheel.

I placed the curtain bracket edges toward the bag--see close-up photo. Knowing me, I would rip into a bare shin with one of those if the edges faced out. I used a washer under each screw to compensate for the slightly raised bracket edges. See photo.

I had hoped the scrap molding wood could support the bag's bottom. This wasn't feasible. The original bottom was two wood sections with nothing but quilted bag between them and an interior square cardboard panel.

No wonder this poor bag was sagging!

Neither scrap strip was wide enough to screw into both of the original wood sections, yet they were too long to use in the other direction.

Instead, I used two shim strips that I had on hand. I inserted them under the torn vinyl cover and screwed them into the existing wood construction.

I sealed the opening with a hot glue gun and added a piece of heavy duty laminate. I took the photo on close-up setting so it looks a lot messier than it is.

Remember, this is on the bottom of the bag toward the pavement, where no one can see it.


With the main repairs completed, the scrap molding came in handy to stabilize the inside. I hot-glued the strips into place.

The bag has a fold-down bottom for the expanded dimensions; this covers the wood under-floor.

The bag no longer folds, but it hasn't been used in the slim-line configuration for years. Plus, I can probably get a few more years' use out of this handy bag -- and all the things I used to fix it (except my time) with FREE. Free is good!