Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

“Shave-and-a-Haircut…Two Bits!”

Posted by John on 14 October 2018 | No responses

“Shave-and-a-Haircut…Two Bits!” are the lyrics to that familiar, seven-note musical call and response couplet/refrain:


                    BUMP, BUMP!

The catchy, hare-brained* melody dates back to 1899, while the origin of the words is somewhat sketchy, but traces back to around 1933.

A barber in upstate New York, Anthony Mancinelli, can actually remember those days when he gave a haircut that cost two bits ($.25), and he is still cutting hair as he’s done for 96 years! The 107 year-old works five eight-hour days each week standing on his feet from noon until 8:00 p.m.

The rest of his bio is also unbelievable:

He has all his teeth and takes no daily medication; he’s never worn glasses; and, his hands are still steady. “No aches, no pains, no nothing. Nothing hurts me,” says Mancinelli.

He visits his wife’s grave daily, then drives to work, services his customers, sweeps up his hair clippings, cooks his own meals, and is totally self-sufficient. He still trims the bushes in his yard, and even gives haircuts to himself.

*derived from perceived qualities of the hare, usually meaning flighty, reckless

“Eat Mor Chikin” Takes a Turn for the Worse

Posted by John on 4 October 2018 | No responses

In what sounds like a Chick-Fil-A television commercial run amok, a truck transporting 89 cows crashed on an interstate highway in Atlanta in the middle of the night earlier this week. Unfortunately, 11 of the farm animals died in the accident, the driver suffered injuries, and the event caused a few other fender benders.

Meanwhile, traffic was an utter disaster, as it took until late the following afternoon before all of the calves were rounded up. The use of portable corrals, help from nearby civilians on horseback, and police from two different county forces were required before the cows finally came home.

Incidentally, that expression–“until the cows come home”–comes from the fact that a cow is a notoriously languid creature that comes in from pasture at her own unhurried pace in time for the milking of its udder.

P.S. Wouldn’t you know it, though? The scene of the crime occurred where I-285 and I-75 connect, and that overpass intersection is appropriately designated as a…clover leaf.


Buzz Word Bingo

Posted by John on 19 September 2018 | No responses

A Texas man mowing his lawn last Wednesday was stung 600 times by a swarm of a certain species of an Africanized bee. Fortunately, he is recovering after he landed up in intensive care for three days. According to, the best way to be careful during such an attack is to run away in a straight line (a bee line?) while covering the person’s face because that type of insect is slow-flying (hard to be-lieve).

The innocent homeowner had been minding his own business, unlike an 11-year old Phoenix area boy last year who intentionally antagonized a hive of Africanized bees by shooting a BB gun at it, resulting in several hundred stings for him. For that unfortunate “good” aim he probably would have earned a grade of a “B” or better from a firearms instructor. Not sure, however, how the young boy might have done in a school spelling bee,* or in a Shakespeare class, i.e., Hamlet’s soliloquy, “…to be, or not to be….”

*According to Merriam-Webster, the ‘bee’ in ‘spelling bee’ is an alteration of a word that meant “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task,” and descends from the Middle English word ‘bene’. Bene also gave us the word boon, understood today to mean “blessing,” but which also has the meaning of “benefit” or “favor.” The word has historically been used to describe group activities (a “quilting bee”) or occasions when farmers or neighbors would help each other, such as a “husking bee,” “apple bee,” or “raising bee.”




So Long, Farewell…auf Wiedersehen, Good Night (MLB-style)

Posted by John on 6 September 2018 | No responses

Here’s a little “inside baseball” related to…baseball:

Now that we’re in September, it’s an exciting time for Major League Baseball as the teams head toward the 2018 playoff season. The franchises in contention are scrambling to add a reliever here, a power slugger there, etc., to their rosters. First, however, any player under contract with an MLB team whom they covet, has to be placed on what they term as “waivers” because the July 31st normal trade deadline is long past.

When a player is waived, any club may claim him, and the one with the weakest record in that guy’s league gets preference if more than one team tries to claim him. If no team in the player’s league claims him, the claiming team with the weakest record in the other league gets preference.

The player’s current or waiving baseball team then arranges a trade within two business days, or they can cancel the waiver, or do nothing, meaning the new team automatically picks up the player’s existing contract for simply a fee. So, yes, players can still be traded this month to help a club reach the playoffs, but a trade consummated by Aug. 31 was the official deadline for postseason eligibility.

Legally speaking, to waive means to give up, or forsake; to relinquish (something, such as a right) voluntarily.

From a baseball perspective, think of these trade rules and all of the legalese involved, as waving good-bye to a player. Typically, the teams giving up the players are, in essence, saying, “Wait ’til next year.” The fans of these “also-rans” can get their fun doing the stand-up–sit-down wave during some boring, meaningless games over the next few weeks, although they could possibly play a spoiler role and knock other teams out of the running, as well.

P.S. Judging from today’s standings, it looks like many fans in Chicago will again be able to get to cheer their Cubbies from those rooftop seats on Waveland Avenue this playoff season for the fourth year in a row.

“Hole-y Mackerel!” Moment on International Space Station

Posted by John on 31 August 2018 | No responses

A micrometeorite strike has been blamed by NASA and its Russian counterparts as the cause of a tiny, “micro-fracture” pressure leak on the International Space Station Wednesday.

NASA explained that the space station crew is conducting troubleshooting and repair work: “The leak has been isolated to a hole about two millimeters in diameter in the orbital compartment, or upper section, of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the Rassvet module of the Russian segment.”

Once the hole was identified, crewmembers applied Kapton tape–a kind of aerospace duct tape–to slow the leak. “Flight controllers are working with the crew to develop a more comprehensive long-term repair,” NASA added. “Once the patching is complete, additional checks will be performed. All station systems are stable, and the crew is in no danger as the work to develop a long-term repair continues.”

No official word what the crews had for dinner to celebrate the repair. Incidentally, astronauts consume many of the foods they would have at home on earth: scrambled eggs, spaghetti, chicken teriyaki, broccoli au gratin, oatmeal with raisins, etc. During the holidays they have turkey, candied yams, cornbread dressing, and other seasonal foods.

I wonder if this particular recipe for mackerel, quinoa and leek cream tortillas–created a few years ago by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti aboard the International Space Station– happened to be on this week’s menu?



When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie Bill

Posted by John on 26 August 2018 | No responses

Younger baseball fans may not realize that on Dec. 1, 1964, the Houston Colt .45s baseball franchise officially changed the name of their team to the current nickname, the Houston Astros. The ownership theorized that the new name was sleek and futuristic because the NASA Johnson Space Center, south of Houston, was a hub of astronautical engineering that back then was working on putting a man on the moon.

Recently, Justin Verlander, ace pitcher for the defending World Champion ‘Stros. revealed that he was “slightly” overcharged for lunch during a visit to California at The Beverly Hills Hotel.

His bill indicated a “miscellaneous” charge for his role in stifling the Los Angeles Dodgers during the last year’s championship: a line item that hit him right between the eyes and amounted to an astronomical $1,000,000! Verlander kept his good sense of humor, and, of course, his money.




On a somewhat smaller scale, his restaurant overcharge reminds me of my 6,621.60 Euro pizza bill that I got a couple of years ago when traveling in Italy and, unlike Verlander, I had no idea what I did wrong or might have spoken incorrectly in Italian. Turned out to be a simple typographical error, thank goodness, and, oh, the pizza pie was delizioso!



U.S. Coast Guard to the Rescue

Posted by John on 18 August 2018 | No responses

An individual U.S. coast guard literally lived up to his title and came to the rescue recently in Orange Beach, Alabama, when an uninvited guest struggling on the nearby waves inadvertently tried to crash the wedding party of him and his bride.

As you might imagine, the couple–Zac and Cindy Edwards–had their wedding pictures go viral after Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Edwards, a virile-looking, heavily-tattooed groom, took time out from his post-nuptial photos to save a teenager flailing against the virulent Gulf of Mexico current.

Realizing Zac was also trained as a life guard, it was Cindy who actually commanded her husband to “go get him!” despite the photo shoot celebration going on. Ironically, the rescue conceivably may never have happened had not the couple postponed the wedding ceremony from the original date one day earlier.

Fortunately, the story has a great ending: the young man’s life was saved and the couple is living happily ever after–said Zac, “We’re very much in love, we’re very, very happy. We’re very blessed and she’s an amazing wife. God had a plan, and everything fell into place.” Cindy’s reaction to it all: “A package deal. Hero and hubby in the same day.”






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.