Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

Arrivederci, Roma

Posted by John on 11 August 2018 | No responses

As most people realize, the translation of the word, arrivederci, means “good-bye” in Italian, but translated more literally, it speaks thus: “until we see you, again”–in other words, a more genteel way to depart company.

One of the best ways to ensure that some day we will meet again–hopefully in Rome, Italy–is to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain with one’s right hand over the left shoulder, a legend born from the movie classic, “Three Coins in the Fountain.” 

Originally, in 1629, the famous Baroque sculptor, Bernini (who also designed the canopy over the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica; the sculptures in the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza Navona) began the construction project. Ultimately, over a hundred years later, the predominant designer became Nicola Salvi, who died eleven years before the fountain was completed in 1762.

The showcase sculpture within the massive monument/fountain is a statue of “Oceanus,” who is depicted riding on a giant clam shell and represents water in all its forms – rivers, oceans, lakes, etc. – not to be confused with Poseidon–the god who was able to control the sea; Oceanus was actually looked at as the deity that physically represented the sea.

This past Wednesday evening, at a time of day when the light makes the fountain a perfect backdrop, two tourists (one American, one Dutch) and six of their traveling companions added credence to this myth when they got into a brawl over where they wanted to try their luck and take a selfish selfie doing so. What started as an exchange of words became a physical fight when their respective family members joined in, startling onlookers.

Since they ultimately all got arrested–and more than likely never completed the drill of tossing the coin–each is now persona non grata in Roma, so they may never meet again to enjoy la dolce vita that Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg made famous in the movie of the same name.

Ciao for now!


Molinari: Golfer Par Excellence

Posted by John on 23 July 2018 | No responses

This past weekend Francesco Molinari became the first player from Italy to ever win “The British Open”  at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. “The Open,” as it is more reverently called, has claim to being the oldest of the four annual major championships in professional golf, having first been played in 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, also in Scotland.

Although used as common terminology when referencing any golf course, a links style layout is traditionally found in the British Isles and set along the seacoast. They are designed with several challenging bumps, slopes, few trees, and deep bunkers. Also, the first nine holes typically run straight out, with the 10th hole then starting to face back toward the clubhouse. The word itself means “a ridge.”

On the other hand (or paw), a lynx is a wildcat common in Europe that lives in high altitude forests, preying upon deer, fox, sheep, goats, etc. They are characterized by their short tails, black tufts on their ears, and large, padded paws. The body color of a lynx varies depending upon its environment, from medium brown to beige-white.The species had been considered extinct in Italy until around the turn of the 21st century when they began to reappear near the country’s northern border at Switzerland.

As a personification of this wild cat genus, famed for elusiveness and ferocity, as well as for keen eyesight, this Turin-born, Italian “lynx” (Molinari) stealthily broke out of the pack of some of the world’s better-known golfers, rediscovered his putting stroke, preyed on two birdies, and digested 16 pars during the final round of the tournament to earn having his name engraved on the Claret Jug trophy.

For more information on these unique types of golf courses, click on the following links: here, here, and here.

Monumental Caper Keeps Viewers in Suspended State of Disbelief

Posted by John on 15 July 2018 | No responses

Watched the thriller, “North by Northwest” the other day. On one hand, “they don’t make movies like that any more,” and, on the other, the same holds true: that is, how and where do you find a match for Cary Grant; a director like Alfred Hitchcock; and, a spine tingler final scene of a protagonist hanging by his fingernails on the edge of Mount Rushmore?

Yet, though this movie is called one of the Top 50 Movies of all time, it seems to lack the finesse and polish of pictures I’ve seen using the cinematography of a James Bond film, for example.

Incidentally, that scenic ending on Mt. Rushmore, actually ended in MGM’s studios, since The U.S. Department of the Interior was (and is) very careful about preserving the sanctity of the South Dakota presidential monument. They gave Hitchcock permission to film on site, but he was not to depict any acts of violence taking place disrespectfully on the heads. Therefore, the climactic scene was actually shot on a very realistic mock-up of Mount Rushmore in a studio in Los Angeles. Who knew…?

Here’s an instance when “seein‘ is believin'” doesn’t necessarily hold true.

A “Revolutionary” Picture Worth 1,458 Words

Posted by John on 4 July 2018 | No responses

When the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775, who could have imagined it would lead to the renowned, unprecedented Declaration of Independence the following year, thus creating a dichotomy between the two continents of North America and Europe?

While we obviously have no photo of the signing of this great 1,458-word document, a realistic depiction, re-creating the historic scene does exist, entitled: “Declaration of Independence,” painted by Connecticut-born artist, John Trumbull. Truth be known, the artwork actually shows the five-man committee presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Congress on June 28, 1776, not the actual signing.

Although he wasn’t present at the convention, Trumbull included 42 of the 56 signatories–many of the figures in the picture from still life or in person–and visited Independence Hall to depict the actual chamber where the delegates met. Trumbull had no portrait of Benjamin Harrison V to work with, but his son Benjamin Harrison VI was said to resemble his father, so Trumbull cleverly painted his countenance instead. Since the debate and signings covered a period of time when membership in Congress changed, the men featured in the painting never were in the same room at the same time, but who’s counting?

If you’re a history buff, you can have your own copy of this congressional gathering by going to a bank and trying to find any two-dollar bill printed since the Bicentennial: the reverse side features this very same painting by Trumbull. Believe it or not, this currency currently has $1.2 billion in circulation.


P.S. Did you know that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and that James Monroe  also died on Independence Day five years later?

The More the Merrier

Posted by John on 25 June 2018 | No responses

Recently came across an article from the career website, “Ladders,” entitled: “Preserving the Office Morale When the Top Performer Leaves.”

Some key takeaways:

  • Be sure to have employees cross-trained on critical tasks so that when someone leaves, backups are available.
  • Be open with employees about such departures and let them know what to expect.
  • During the person’s exit interview, ask for suggestions and pose questions that might enhance the team and group culture.
  • Be sure to take the high moral ground: have an open, honest discussion regarding reasons for the departure without becoming defensive about your management style or denial of certain situations.
  • The author states that perhaps the most important question to ask is, “What changes to our business might have kept you on longer?“

The “moral of the story”* is to have a plan in place to determine any intellectual property or other information that may have been damaged or compromised that either is or will be important within the next month. Prioritize them based on importance and immediacy, then address them one by one, enlisting employees’ assistance. In other words, the more open the manager/owner/supervisor, the merrier the employees will likely be.


*We get this phrase from the morality plays, or allegorical dramas, performed during the Renaissance in Europe, in which the characters personify moral qualities (such as charity or immoral vices) while imparting appropriate lessons for the audiences. Read more

The Honeymoon’s Over

Posted by John on 12 June 2018 | No responses

Sadly, a couple from Poland on an intended, unique “year-long honeymoon,” climbing 17,000-foot peaks of the West Buttress route of Denali in Alaska, ended all too soon after just 10 days: the bride and the groom’s cousin precipitously fell 1,000 feet before landing in a crevasse on the glacier. Park experts say the two are lucky to be alive.

The woman subsequently underwent four hours of surgery to fuse bones in her neck, and to install rods and a plate in her scull* (sic) for stabilization.

Fortunately, no skullduggery was involved in the incident, and the bride claims that the nearly catastrophic fall has actually strengthened the couple’s relationship.

Perhaps, they should get it into their skulls to take less risk on their next getaway and try their hands at rowing a few sculls along a scenic river somewhere.

*As spelled incorrectly on source website.

Eureka: Oil Discovery in Italy

Posted by John on 5 June 2018 | No responses

My mouth went ajar when I read an article the other day in Smithsonian Magazine: conservators from the Archaeological Museum of Siracusa, Sicily had successfully pieced together an incredible amount of 400 shards of ceramic pottery to reconstitute a jar three-and-a half feet tall, egg-shaped and adorned with rope-like flourishes.

What makes the importance of these fragments even more jarring comes from researchers at the University of South Florida. They recently announced a study that used gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance analyses to identify the contents of this jar, found over 20 years ago during excavations at Castelluccio, Italy.

The research concluded that the artifacts are from the Early Bronze Age due to their location and peculiar shapes. The team also found organic residue  of oleic and linoleic acids, signatures of olive oil. That timeline equates to approximately 4,000 years ago, making that discovery the oldest historical trace of olive oil in Italy.

Incidentally, Siracusa was the home of the Greek mathematician, Archimedes, who reputedly shouted “eureka” (ancient Greek word meaning “I found it”) when he discovered displacement of water to be an exact measure of volume.


Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Posted by John on 28 May 2018 | No responses

Traveled to Connecticut about a week ago to attend a college reunion at Fairfield University where I earned a Bachelor‘s Degree in English many moons ago.

Since it also happened to be graduation weekend at this Jesuit Catholic institution, a “sermon to the class,” called a baccalaureate Mass, was celebrated as part of the reunion agenda. Back in the day, Fairfield was not a coed college, so not a single bachelorette was in attendance with our graduating class.

Since those days are long past, however, the Fairfield Stags are complemented by the lady Stags, or, as the British might call them: Stagettes.

More formally speaking, a university male graduate, or alumnus, is complemented by a female alumna, the plural forms being alumni (for both male and female) and alumnae (female only plural)

In today’s informal “text-speak,” an alum is frequently used to refer to any graduate, alums being the plural form.

Perhaps the only graduate who might prefer not to be called an alum, would be a chemistry major who would recognize that same a-l-u-m spelling as “a colorless astringent compound that is still widely used to purify piped water, in medicine, for cosmetics (in deodorant and antitranspirants), in food preparation (in baking powder and pickling), and to fire-proof paper and cloth. 

BTW, that word is pronounced: alum.

“The Man Without a County” (sic)

Posted by John on 12 May 2018 | No responses

“The Man Without a Country,” by Edward Everett Hale, was published as a short story in the Atlantic Monthly in 1863. It depicted American Army Lieutenant Philip Nolan, who had renounced his country during a trial for treason. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his days at sea without so much as a word of news about the United States of America.

While not involved is so dramatic a situation, I am feeling a little like a man without a county (not country), since we are moving from Cobb County soon, but the closing on our new home in Cherokee County won’t be ready until later this month.

We’ve had to flex our muscles for weeks as we’ve been packing and lifting boxes into place to prepare for the movers. Fortunately, we’ve been able to stay in shape. The lingering pollen season, however, has taken its toll, causing us to sneeze and cough frequently. Those airborne flecks of dust, granules, and seeds from certain trees flying around at times appear so heavy as to be a virtual “summer snow flurry.”

With no place to call “home” we’re trying to stay flexible: kind neighbors have welcomed us as family for a few days; we’ll also be headed shortly to my 50th college reunion; and, lastly, we’ll be visiting several relatives, as well.

Eventually, we hope to be settled around Memorial Day to enjoy our down-sized, three-bedroom house (although it does contain a “flex room,” which the builder said can be used as either a fourth bedroom, or as an office/study).

“And…They’re Off…!” (but not quite just yet)

Posted by John on 27 April 2018 | No responses

A food columnist in the local newspaper, anxious to prepare some delicious hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches, mint juleps and other goodies for a Kentucky Derby party happened to be a little off reading his calendar. In the April 26th print edition, he was encouraging readers to be prepared for “this Saturday’s race.”

Oops: the horses will be in the gate for the 144th running at Churchill Downs in Lexington on Saturday, May 5th–not this weekend.

Known as “The Run for the Roses,” this exciting event will feature 20 three-year old thoroughbred horses that will navi-gate a distance of one and one-quarter miles,

To put that into perspective, the pattern of movement an animal produces with its legs is known as its gait. A thoroughbred’s gait during a full gallop will produce an average stride length of 20 feet or more. These horses are able to take 150 strides a minute which calculates to speeds upwards of 35-40 miles per hour.

And now you know why the Kentucky Derby is also called: “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”