Facebook, Stop Promoting Pronoun-Antecedent Disagreement

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Oh grammar, you tricky beast. Even though I spend my days getting paid to edit other people’s writing for these little problems, even I need to double check the more complicated rules from time to time. It’s easy to slip up and make little mistakes like a misplaced comma here or there, but there are certain rules that we should always be getting right. And now, it seems that even the social media behemoth is now getting one of those major ones wrong.

 

It makes me blush at the nerdiness of a post title like this one, but friends? Pronoun-antecedent agreement (complicated as it may sound) is one of the more basic rules you learn in writing. When you’re using a pronoun (he, she, it, his, hers, theirs) it refers to something earlier in the sentence (Max, Susan, that girl, your classmates). That thing earlier in the sentence? It’s called the antecedent.

So let’s say we’re talking about Vin Diesel. I’ll wait while you finish oogling his biceps and liking his page on facebook (seriously, you won’t regret it).

If Vin Diesel is updating a cover photo, we would say HE updated HIS cover photo because he is a singular man, and the pronoun referring to him must agree in number to the antecedent (in this case, Vin, or Dom Toretto if you prefer). If we were talking about the whole cast of The Fast and The Furious (RIP Paul), we would say THEY updated THEIR cover photos because in this case, the antecedent (the whole cast of the movie) is a plural, or a group of people.

In gender-sensitive times, it’s become popular to use THEY or THEIR incorrectly when referring to a generic singular word like “a student” to avoid being accused of gender discrimination by limiting the sentence to women or men, but the easy way to avoid this problem is to pluralize the sentence and say students/their. And I get what Facebook is doing. They’re attempting to be gender neutral, and I applaud their efforts in instituting new categories of genders to select. However, with all the technology out there, can’t they script their application to select the gender appropriate pronoun based on the person’s profile selection rather than defaulting to the plural THEIR?

We all have a tough enough time remembering those little grammar rules as it is. We don’t need social media to subconsciously reinforce the wrong rules all day when we scroll through our news feeds, even if we do get to look at Vin Diesel while we’re doing it.  

Bright Lights = Bad Decisions

lightsIt’s not news that your environment impacts how you feel. In cooler temperatures people tend to feel more calm and collected, and are able to feel empathetic with other’s emotions, while on hot summer days you might feel more easily agitated. It’s also well-documented that lack of sunshine in the winter can affect people’s moods. But now researchers have explored the connection between exposure to light and decision making. Typically when someone dims the lights, it’s to create a certain ambience – in a restaurant or in a home – that feels closer, more romantic. Yet a recent study has shown that lowering bright lights can help people to make more rational (read – less emotionally charged) decisions.

Exposure to bright lights turns on the hot emotional system, which can make reactions more extreme. In the study, participants were placed in two scenarios. In one experiment, people were participants in a script with an aggressive character. When experiencing the same scenes in bright and dim lighting, participants found the character less abrasive when the lights were lower. In another experiment, participants were given a tasty juice in bright and dim lighting. They drank more of the beverage when emotions were activated by the well-lit room. The co-author of the study, Alison Jing Xu Ph.D suggests using these results to lower conflict by dimming the lights when hashing out a disagreement with a co-worker, arguing with a romantic partner, or when you are about to indulge in a sweet snack to avoid letting your emotions overrun your better judgement. And wouldn’t every workspace be a better place if we got rid of all the harsh fluorescent lighting anyhow?

How to Sleep Anywhere When You Suck at Sleeping

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I often have a hard time sleeping. And I am one of those people who becomes very grumpy when sleep deprived. In order to sleep well, I need complete silence, complete darkness, and a comfortable place to lie down. As such, I’ve made some investments in my apartment that have made my bedroom a haven for difficult sleepers. I have a down featherbed, padded mattress pad, super soft sheets, 100% down pillows, blackout curtains and a white noise machine. Sometimes it’s almost too comfortable to get up. But there are times when I can’t sleep in my specially designed sleeping cocoon – when I am on vacation, when I need to sleep in transit, or if I stay over at a friend’s home. Luckily, a year living on a noisy avenue, and in an apartment where hoards of pigeons congregated outside my window have forced me to develop some handy coping strategies so I am not biting all my friends heads off when I visit them, or ruining a trip by being irritable. Here are the tools you need for sleeping anywhere, even when the conditions are not ideal.

Figure out your sleep soundtrack

If you prefer silence or white noise, buy some travel ear plugs. I think the best ones for blocking sound, and the most comfortable for sleeping are the mushy foam kind that you can roll down to fit into your ears. If you need music or television, download some soothing songs and make a sleeping playlist, then get some sound cancelling headphones for when you’re catching zzz’s on a plane.

Pick a side

Everyone has a side that they sleep more comfortably on- mine is the left. So, when I am booking a trip that I know I’ll want to sleep on the way, I make sure to snag a left hand window so I can lean against it and snooze (or a right hand seat if I know my travel companion will lend me their shoulder). If you’re a stomach sleeper, pulling out the tray table in front of you and putting a pillow down is a pretty good substitute.

Determine your ideal sleep conditions

Then get the things you need to closely mirror them when you’re not at home. I like to be laying down on soft things in darkness. So, when I travel, I bring an eye mask in case the room I am sleeping in is bright, and a mini cushion to wedge against any hard surfaces I might want to lean against to get as close to laying down as I can. Sometimes it’s a mini pillow, sometimes it’s just a big sweater I can take off and ball up into a pillow. If you can’t sleep when your toes are cold, pack a pair of warm socks for the train. People might look at you like you’re a diva, but do you really care if it means you’re well-rested at the end of your trip?

Find Girl Scout Cookies Near You

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I encountered an interesting quandary this year when my little cousin gave up girl scouts in favor of 4-H. Can I blame her? No, horses are cool. But where was I going to get my samoas and do-si-dos this year? Handily for me, a friend’s co-worker had a bit of an ordering snafu that led to her needing to offload 100 cases of cookies instead of 100 boxes. But some people don’t have my luck, and are forced to cruise by elementary schools and grocery stores hoping to see a little girl in uniform setting up shop to find their cookies. Until now, that is. Kellogg has come up with an easy way to avoid looking like a potential predator, and still get your cookies. It’s called the Girl Scout Cookie Locator, and it’s a free app from the iTunes store. I downloaded the app, even though I already have my cookies this year, just to test it out.

It works by using the GPS in your phone, or by searching on an entered City/State or Zip Code. You can look for cookies on sale today if you need them right away, this weekend, over the next week, or if you’re really desperate, ANY COOKIES AT ALL NEAR YOU. After your results come up, you can sory by Date, Proximity, Name or view all results on a map. But the app doesn’t stop there, there are fun quizzes that will tell you your cookie personality, and recipes of things you can make using all the cookies you just bought. And if you know you are going to polish off your 4 boxes in one sitting (just don’t look at the nutrition info they have listed first) and need more soon, you can set up alerts for when the cookies go on sale near you.

Post-President’s Day Vacation Links

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Hi Friends! I spend the past 10 days or so relaxing, hitting the slopes to take advantage of all this fresh snow, and visiting the wonderful city of New Orleans over President’s day week. You may have missed my regular posts while I was on vacation, and please bear with me while I get back in the swing after my trips. Here are some links to keep you entertained while I get busy shaking the cobwebs out of my brain.

If this never-ending winter has you down, here are 10 proven ways that you can be happier.

A new nail polish always lifts my spirits. You too? I love the bright yellow they have pictured here. It just says sunshine.

Being born and raised in Upstate New York, I appreciated that The Huffington Post took the time to write an article about things upstate people can teach everyone else about living well.

This entire blog is dedicated to animals hitching a ride on other furry friends. LOVE.

I have a specific playlist that I listen to when I want  to fall asleep on a plane. This article covers the best things to listen to for your lullaby.

If Disney princesses wore historically accurate outfits, they would look like this.

If you loved Tara and Johnny’s commentary and matching outfits at the Sochi Olympics, don’t be too sad that they’re over because now they’re going to be on the red carpet at the Oscars. Is anyone else cheering right now?

If you’re thinking about doing a little spring shopping, here are all the staples that 20 somethings should have in their closets.

Say It Like Hemingway

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If you’re torturing over the perfect way to wish your love happy Valentine’s day, there’s an app to the rescue. You’ll be bold, clear and to the point with the Hemingway app. You enter what you want to say, and the website tells you how to say it like Ernest. Just enter text, and different shades of highlighting will lead the way. Yellow means you’re being too word, and you should probably cut down your sentence length. Red will tell you that you’re confusing and your meaning is unclear. Blue will tell you to quit it with the pansy adverbs and pick a verb with power. Purple will tell you to pick a shorter word, and green indicates you’re using the passive voice – don’t want to mistake have loved for love today! Then go have a drink and celebrate a job well done. That’s what Ernest Hemingway would do.

Snowy Day Links

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If you’re like everyone else in the northeast, you’re a little down and out that you didn’t get a snow day. It’d be cool if they existed after elementary school amirite? So, while you’re avoiding thinking about your commute home, here are some things to read.

While some things might be going wrong in Sochi, here’s why it’s tacky that everyone is tweeting about it.

The worst couples you’ll see while you’re out at your Valentine’s dinner tomorrow.

Ladies dancing in the red light district for a cause.

Who knew the Wikipedia had a gender gap? Here’s how people are trying to close it.

6 Reasons to Do Whatever You Want.

Here’s an interesting argument for looser drug laws. Marijuana may help stop the spread of HIV.

A brilliant commentary on the letters between stay at home and working moms that have gone viral.

How you shouldn’t act about Valentine’s Day.

Or if you’re looking for love, here’s some data on the words that are most successful in dating profiles.