Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

Nothing to Sneeze At

Posted by John on 16 February 2019 | No responses

While few of us can recall any particular Papal decrees throughout history, here’s a famous one many of us use every day: on this date (February 16th) in the year 600 A.D., Pope Gregory the Great decreed that saying “God bless You” is the correct response to someone’s sneeze. During his lifetime, Europe had been experiencing a decrease in population since plagues and famines were devastatingly commonplace.

The thought and hope being, that since common symptoms of a plague were coughing and sneezing, by invoking “God bless you” after people sneezed, this little prayer would protect them from death.

Ever wonder where the expression “Nothing to sneeze at” originated? Apparently, back in “more recent times” (17th and 18th centuries) people of all classes used snuff, a powdered preparation of tobacco taken by inhaling or by dipping—that is, rubbing on the teeth and gums. 

The wealthy carried a variety of fancy snuff-boxes created by craftsmen  decorated in rich detail and made from precious or expensive materials such as gold, silver, and ivory, and which were often adorned with artwork, gems and precious stones.

Sniffing a pinch of snuff could often result in a significant amount of sneezing–even on demand–and issuing a sneeze became a custom of people who disagreed with the subject at hand, and, furthermore, could be interpreted as a sign of disrespect to the speaker.

Conversely, then, if one becomes impressed by what is being spoken, or agrees that it is noteworthy, then that topic becomes “nothing to sneeze at.”

Anyway, that’s snuff of that…

The Walls of College Basketball

Posted by John on 7 February 2019 | No responses

On this date in 1893, the first intercollegiate basketball game was played…or maybe it wasn’t, depending upon which source you believe.

According to what Dr. James Naismith, the inventor and “father” of the sport of basketball, wrote in his book–Basketball: Its Origin and Development“Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the University of Iowa both played basketball in the season of 1892.”

Those games, however, appear to have been intramural (within the walls of the college) events–not intercollegiate or intermural–that is, not between these two schools, but rather between teams comprised of players from each school competing against each other. Geneva, however, did go on to play against New Brighton on April 8, 1893.

Further on, though, the same source for that statement–the National Collegiate Athletic Association (aka NCAA)–also posits the claim that earlier that same year, on today’s date (January 7th), Vanderbilt defeated the Nashville YMCA team by a score of 9-6. So, while it wasn’t an intercollegiate game, it was intermural, i.e., outside the walls of Vanderbilt with another institution.

Hamlin University in Minnesota became the real “birthplace of intercollegiate basketball”) when it hosted the first true “intercollegiate” and “intermural” basketball game against the University of Minnesota’s School of Agriculture on February 9, 1895, which was won by the state school 9 to 3.

Did you know:

  • Originally basketball was called “football in the gym”?
  • For the first few years they played the game with nine (9) players on a team?
  • At first, the hoops were made from peach baskets without the use of a backboard?
  • As a child growing up in Canada, Naismith used to play a medieval game called duck on a rock, during which a person guards a large flat stone from opposing players, who try to knock it down by throwing smaller stones at it. To play the game well, he figured out that throwing a soft lobbing shot was much more effective than a hard throw. Today, from that inspiration, Naismith’s concept for shooting a basketball the best way we now call having a soft touch viv-a-vis throwing up a brick shot.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…Perhaps the Second Season You’ll Coach Your Team to the Super Bowl

Posted by John on 24 January 2019 | No responses

Coincidentally, both the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots were each a No. 2 seed in their respective conferences for the 2019 playoffs, and here they are now in Super Bowl LIII.

Whereas New England’s Bill Belichick holds the distinction of being the only head coach to win five Super Bowls, Rams’ Coach, Sean McVay, who turns 33 today, January 24th–his claim to fame is that he’ll be the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history. This intangible advantage Belichick seemingly enjoys, however, is no reason for McVay to cede this so-called coaching mismatch of time in grade with his opposite number for several reasons.

First of all, Super Bowl experience is in his DNA: his grandfather, John McVay, who, in addition to having held NFL coaching positions, served as vice president/director of football operations with the San Francisco 49ers. He collaborated with head coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert in one of the most successful dynasties in NFL history, presiding over five Super Bowl-winning seasons. In 1989, he was named NFL Executive of the Year. It seems likely, then, that grandpa McVay might be willing to give the youngster some sage advice about the Super Bowl.

The younger McVay may also benefit from his nine years of tutelage under his former Super Bowl-experienced bosses:

Even though he didn’t succeed in reaching the Super Bowl in his first season as a head coach last year, McVay planted the seed for the Rams to grow from their record of 11 wins and only 5 losses to 13-3 this year, and he was subsequently named Coach of the Year for 2017 by the Pro Football Writers of America.

You might even say McVay could have the home field advantage in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium: he played football locally for Marist High School where he set school records in passing, and in his senior year, he won the state championship and was named Georgia 4A Offensive Player of the Year.

Last, but certainly, not least, in college he won his alma mater’s prestigious Scholar-Athlete Award. The college from which he graduated–  Miami University–is renowned as the “Cradle of Coaches,” having produced the list below of illustrious coaches.

So, McVay’s definitely in good company, and he may very well succeed in his latest adventure: Super Bowl LIII.

Induction year Name Sport Miami class of
1992 Weeb Ewbank Football 1928
1992 Bob Kurz Football 1958
1992 Bill Narduzzi Football 1959
1992 John Pont Football 1952
1993 Paul Brown Football 1930
1993 Mel Knowlton Football 1937
1993 Ara Parseghian Football 1949
1994 Bill Arnsparger Football 1950
1994 Paul Dietzel Football 1948
1994 Jack Llewellyn Football
1995 Jack Faulkner Football
1995 Joe Codiano Football
1995 Bill Mallory Football 1957
1996 John Brickels Football
1996 Hal Paul
1996 Dick Shrider Basketball
1997 Jerry Hanlon Football 1956
1997 John McVay Football
1997 Frank Shands
1998 Carmen Cozza Football, baseball 1952
1998 Marvin Moorehead
1998 Ernie Plank Football 1950
2001 Dick Crum Football
2001 Darrell Hedric Basketball 1955
2001 Lou Kaczmarek Football 1950
2001 Rich Voiers Basketball 1957
2001 Walter Alston Baseball 1935
2001 Earl Blaik Football 1918
2001 Leann Davidge Tennis
2001 Woody Hayes Football
2001 Raymond Ray
2001 George Rider Football, baseball, basketball, track, cross country
2001 William Rohr Basketball
2002 Peggy Bradley-Doppes Volleyball (UNC Wilmington Director of Athletics)
2002 Denny Marcin Football (New York Jets) 1964
2002 Nick Mourouzis Football (DePauw) 1959
2002 Jim Rose Basketball 1951
2002 Marvin McCollum Basketball 1948
2002 Ron Zook Football 1976
2004 Rodger Cromer
2004 Carol Clark Johnson
2004 Clarence McDade
2004 Ron Niekamp Basketball (Findlay) 1972
2004 Bo Schembechler Football 1951
2006 George Dales
2006 George Gwozdecky Ice Hockey (University of Denver)
2006 Danny Hall Baseball (Georgia Tech)
2006 Bob Kappes
2006 Stephen Strome
2006 Randall Whitehead
2008 Terry Hoeppner Football
2008 Randy Walker Football
2011 Jerry Angelo Football
2011 Elaine Hieber
2011 Dave Jennings Swimming
2011 Rob Patrick
2011 Gary Quisno
2011 Pam Wettig
2014 John Harbaugh 1984
2017 Sean McVay Football (Los Angeles Rams) 2008


“A Beautiful Mind” – Redux

Posted by John on 13 January 2019 | No responses

We lost a dear friend–Steve–this past week to a crippling experience with ALS; may God rest his soul in peace. Perhaps the best way I can think to honor him is to compare his intellect to Princeton Professor, Dr. John Nash, the Nobel Laureate in Economics, whose biographical drama film was entitled, “A Beautiful Mind.”

Steve also had a brilliant mind–the sole utmost I’ve ever known–having graduated cum laude from Princeton with a B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering many years ago. You knew he had to be super intelligent, since anyone who had taught himself how to read at age three had to have special mental prowess.

In addition to an honor-filled career in chemical engineering, Steve had aptitudes working on both sides of his brain. He was an inveterate writer of three different blogs before the practice became popular; he authored a book of one hundred 100-word stories; enjoyed being a gourmand cook; and he became a connoisseur of wines and specialty distilled spirits. A world traveler, his language skills were quite proficient. My friend’s sense of humor was unmatched and he could regale a story or joke with the best of them, enchanting you with his warm smile or unique chuckle. He was the only person I knew who could sport either a Panama hat or a colander on his head and still look debonaire.

“Elisson” (a nom de plume tribute to his father, Eli), was a genuine person, interested in either reading on any subject matter, or listening and learning from others. He had an eclectic playlist of music, an appreciation of golf and the Masters Tournament, and pop culture, in general.

Steve also was devout in his Jewish faith, a magnanimous leader, cantor, and gabbai at his synagogue. He and I personally benefitted from a special Judeo-Christian relationship enjoyed between my church and his congregation. Appropriately, whenever he posted on his blogs about the passing of either a friend or a celebrity, he would always close with the Latin phrase: ave atque vale (hail and farewell, I salute you and goodbye).

Steve, ave atque vale.

Christmas Carell (at the movies)

Posted by John on 22 December 2018 | No responses

Schools and colleges have ended their semesters. The students have vacated the study carrels of their libraries and are homeward-bound, because “there’s no place like home for the holidays,” as that eponymous carol verse explains. Incidentally, have you noticed how variations of the old-fashioned library carrel have now found a repurpose as a work station  for students at home taking on-line courses in front of a computer, or for telecommuters?

Once they’ve arrived home, after church and all of the carols are sung, after all of the presents are exchanged, and after all of the festive gatherings and dinners, many students and their families will head to the movie theaters next week to see the latest special releases.

With a name that sounds like a traditional Christmas song, it seems quite appropriate that actor Steve Carell should be featured in–not one–but two new movies debuting right around the holidays. In “Welcome to Marwen,” he portrays a World War II fighter pilot who suffered memory loss and reimagines a world of his own as a tool for psychological healing. In the movie “ViceCarell stars as Donald Rumsfeld in a movie about former Vice-President, Dick Cheney.

As for our family, the young ones want to see “Mary Poppins.” We’re also planning, however, to attend a special live production of–what else–Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.

Merry Christmas!

Tonight’s Forecast Calls for (Meteor) Showers

Posted by John on 13 December 2018 | No responses

The Geminid meteor shower tonight (December 13th) should be spectacular: experts estimate up to 120 meteors an hour at its peak. By the way, a meteor expert is called a meteorist, not a meteorologist, or weather forecaster. Also, be careful to not confuse a meteorologist with a metrologist,  a person who studies weights and measures.

The asteroid “3200 Phaethon” is responsible for this meteor shower, orbiting the sun closer than any other asteroid. This asteroid heats up to about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit on its closest approach to the sun. It is while it is at that point near the sun that causes it to shed dusty debris. The net result of these particles causes meteor showers as they plunge into the Earth’s atmosphere at 22 miles per second, and then vaporize in the streaks we call “shooting stars.”
Before you decide to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to look for these shooting stars, however, note that the local Atlanta meteorologists are calling for cloudy weather with rain showers tonight, which would put a damper on the showers occurring above the clouds.

PBS “Snow Bears” Complements “Coca-Cola Polar Bears”‘ 25th Anniversary

Posted by John on 2 December 2018 | No responses

In what could almost pass as an hour-long tribute or infomercial for the Coca-Cola Polar Bears’ 25th Anniversary, an Atlanta PBS television station recently broadcast the Nature series real-life, wildlife documentary, “Snow Bears.” The program features the adventures of a mother polar bear and her two offspring trying to survive the physical elements and the dangers of their arctic world. Describing this dramatized story in terms of vintage Coke themes, “It’s the real thing,” so to speak.

Nature’s weekly documentaries about various animals and ecosystems began in 1982. They’ve received 22 Emmy Award nominations, and have won eight of them.

As the snow bear family leaves the safety of their den for the first time, the mother bravely leads the cubs on a perilous 400-mile trek to the sea to find food. The flow of the story traces encounters with marauding male bears, extreme climactic conditions, foxes, walruses, narwhals, and the calving of an iceberg. Miraculously, as the nearby berg breaks, they scramble to safety from time to time on one passing ice floe to another, each one then becoming a haven, or a kind of local burg where they temporarily reside.

In case you missed it, the program will be streamed Thursday, December 6th at

Archeological Talk of the Town: Mosaics Discovery in Israel

Posted by John on 19 November 2018 | No responses

University of North Carolina archaeologists have just released detailed images of phenomenal Biblical mosaics discovered at the site of an ancient synagogue in Huqoq, Israel. Other collaborators include researchers from Baylor University, Brigham Young University and the University of Toronto, as well as the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University

The depictions include Noah’s Ark; the parting of the Red Sea; Jonah and the fish; and, the infamous Tower of Babel in Babylon. The latter features different construction techniques, and more pertinently, workmen with different hairstyles, clothing, and skin colors, to represent the various peoples who participated in the construction of this self-aggrandizing stairway to heaven.

While the word “babel” is derived from this eponymous tower, today it denotes “a confusion of sounds or voices, or a scene of noise and confusion” such as occurred some six or seven centuries B.C. Once the Lord had chastened these multi-national developers, these various peoples were scattered and became confounded, not being able to understand one other.

It was as if they had become born-again babies who could only babble an utterly meaningless confusion of words or sounds. The origin of “to babble,” however, is not related to babel, but rather is derived from either Middle Low German ‘babbelen,’ to prattle, or was formed independently in English as a frequentative (i.e. a verb of repeated action). Babble, then, is based on the repeated ‘ba-ba-ba’ made by a young baby or child practicing speech sounds.

OK, that’s enough babbling for now…





“Georgia, Georgia” No.1

Posted by John on 14 November 2018 | No responses

On this date (November 14th) in 1960–“Georgia on My Mind”–by Ray Charles Robinson, aka, Ray Charles, climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot 100. No one minded that he also won his first Grammy Award for the song that year.

Originally written and performed by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930, Charles’ rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” earned even more renown as the 44th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003.

Coincidentally, Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia the same year the hit song was composed, and he grew to be\ esteemed by his contemporaries to be “The Genius.”

He mined a wide variety of several music genres to earn his fame and popularity: the breadth of his musical successes ranged  from gospel to country, to blues, as well as R&B, pop and country. Mind you, while practically everyone knows he played the piano, Charles also had the mind-set and enough talent left over to play the organ, sax, clarinet and trumpet.

“Georgia On My Mind” became Georgia’s official state song on April 24, 1979 when then Governor, George Busbee, signed it into law.


As the (eSports) World Turns

Posted by John on 3 November 2018 | No responses

Everyone knows the world turns on its own axis.

Historically speaking, most readers are familiar with the following two axes (plural of axis): the Axis powers  known as the Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis (nations that opposed the Allies in World War II); and President George W. Bush’s term in 2002 to describe North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as “an axis of evil.” In each case, you might say even say there was likely a political axe to grind.

Have you ever heard, however, of Axis Replay, a unique, 12,000 square foot entertainment and event facility designed for video games and “eSports” opening this fall across from the Krog Street Market in Atlanta? You know, “eSports.,” a form of organized, multi-player video game competition played by professional gamers that has a global audience of 380 million people. It’s all happening right here in Atlanta, one of the nation’s top three best cities for gamers, and home to one of only two U.S. stops for the global, digital gaming lifestyle festival called DreamHack.

The “eSports” industry is growing rapidly locally and worldwide and is expected to top $1 billion globally by 2020. Brands are realizing the opportunity to be a part of the “eSports” wave and their contribution to the global esports economy has increased 48 percent since 2017. Axis Replay will host the kickoff of the Atlanta’s first-ever Esports Week Atlanta (EWA) on November 14th during which companies will be able to learn about the emerging “eSports” industry.

It may prove interesting to see if any company axes other media spending in order to sponsor “eSports” events.