Taking a Different Tack

On our honeymoon my wife and I stayed at a resort that had Sunfish® sailboats available for guest use, so we decided to try sailing. (Actually I must have had to convince my new bride to try sailing. I had nearly drowned her once while we were still dating when our canoe capsized in rapids on the upper Delaware River.) We set off from the beach into a long, narrow inlet. With the breeze at our backs we reached the other end of the inlet in a few minutes.

sunfish sailboat
A Sunfish® sailboat. Source: Oliver McCloud from New York City, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Returning to the resort took much longer. With the breeze blowing into our faces we had to zigzag back and forth across the narrow inlet to move in the direction of the resort. We tipped over several times en route, but eventually we made it back to the safety of the beach. We survived; our marriage survived; and we’ve spent many hours on the water since then in canoes, kayaks, and rowboats, but never again in a small sailboat.

The process of turning a sailing vessel so that it can sail against the wind is known as tacking. According to Merriam-Webster, the use of the word “tack” in that sense began in the early seventeenth century. The figurative use of the verb “tack” to mean change direction, or of the noun “tack” to mean a change in direction, began in the late seventeenth century.

Listening to a weekly interview show recently I heard the person being interviewed use the phrase “take a different tact.” No doubt most listeners would understand what he meant—to change direction—and even listeners who know that the word he should have used is “tack” would not not think ill of the speaker for using an incorrect word.

Editors notice such things, however, and we know that subtle errors such as that can mean the difference between good writing and excellent writing. If you want your writing to be excellent, hire a professional editor.

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Buy Locally, Give Locally

Thanksgiving is followed quickly by two important days: Small Business Saturday (Saturday, 24 November, 2018) and Giving Tuesday (Tuesday, 27 November, 2018). For Giving Tuesday in particular I would like to highlight some of the small nonprofit organizations that I’ve had contact with this year.

I haven’t donated to or volunteered with all of these organizations. In fact I’ve volunteered with only two, three if you count playing in the Bloomfield Civic Band as volunteering. The point is to encourage you to think about the charitable organizations in your own local area and support them on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year.

If you support a local organization and would like to give them a plug, please leave a comment, and I will add them to this list. You will see several organizations located someplace other than northern New Jersey, which is where I am located. They are small local organizations have been supported by family members and friends. I look forward to hearing from you with a shout out to your favorite nonprofit.

Urban Farming, Sustainable Agriculture


Autism Awareness and Advocacy

Services for the Homeless and Other Neighbors in Need

Welfare of At-Risk Moms and Children

Music Education and Performing Arts


  • Friends of the (your town name here) Public Library

From Andy Walsh  (Mostly Pittsburgh Area)

  • Light of Life Rescue Mission serves the needs of the homeless and others in the Pittsburgh North Side community where I work; in fact, their newest facility will be going up where I used to park.
  • The Watson Institute provides services for many individuals and families with special needs, including those with autism spectrum diagnoses. The organization has a rich history, having previously served polio patients and working with Jonas Salk in developing the vaccine.

Final Thoughts

Whether the enterprise is caring for the environment, caring for people who have fallen on hard times, or meeting any one of dozens of other needs, private individuals and small organizations will have a significant role in helping others face the challenges of 2019. This Giving Tuesday I hope we can all stretch our imaginations and our budgets a little to stand in the gap.

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Why Is The Catcher in the Rye a Classic?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was recently ranked thirtieth out of one hundred books featured in the PBS series “The Great American Read.” It is one of the many books included in the PBS list that I had not read prior to the airing of the series, so I added it to my list. It wasn’t long before I began to understand why it was controversial and even banned by some authorities when it was first published, but in a world where a book entitled Swearing Is Good for You exists, the language and sexual references of Catcher in the Rye seem tame.

Having satisfied my curiosity about why The Catcher in the Rye was controversial, I wonder why it is considered a classic and why it would make it onto the PBS list. I have my thoughts, but rather than share them (read: bore readers with them), I thought I would ask anyone who happens to stumble on this post. What makes The Catcher in the Rye a classic?

You would make my day, my week, and possibly my month if you would take two minutes to leave a brief comment here with your thoughts.

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