Fingernails on a Blackboard

I’ve always enjoyed learning about words—their meanings and origins—and like anyone who spends a fair portion of their time working with them, I have compiled a list of a few words and phrases that strike me as being either frequently misused and/or over-used. Perhaps you will relate to some of these…

Vintage writer feeling fatigued begins to nod off#1) Give back: This seems most appropriate in a general sense, as in, “I feel indebted to those in the military and want to ‘give back’ in some way.” But I find this phrase being used all the time in place of “contribute” and “donate.” Don’t ask someone to “give back” if you haven’t given them something first; when what you really want is a contribution or donation.

#2) Climate Change: The evolved form of “Global Warming,” used pretty much exclusively as an emotionally charged term to manipulate others. If one has a science-based point that refutes so called “consensus” (which is how true science works), such a person is then labeled a “denier.” Here’s a news flash: the climate has always, and will always, change.

#3) Reach out: This overused phrase is what some marketing people apparently believe to be a more palatable or amicable way to say “contact.” The follow-up to reach out, used to replace just that—follow up—is the over-used phrase, “circle back.”

#4) Sustainable: An overused word cleverly used mostly as a way to market things; particularly agricultural products. In the 1970s, I think we used “ecological” instead. Honestly, does anyone really believe that professional farmers only plan on planting and harvesting one crop without thinking about what’s next? The word “organic” is a close cousin of sustainable that I wouldn’t mind not hearing so often, along with “all natural,” and its nemesis, “artificial.”

#5) Folks: This word is regularly overused by the smartest man alive (not to be confused with the most interesting man alive who drinks Dos Equis). I suppose he thinks it makes him more relatable to us “common folks,” because referring to us as “people,” “individuals,” or “citizens,” might go too far and allow us to believe we just might be close to his level.

#6) Free: I saved a big one for last. Now I’m not one to suggest banning words, but in this case, I would make an exception for politicians and the government. Did you know that in the U.S. we have programs where you can get free stuff? They actually call it “free.” Phones, medical care and food are but a few, and some are running for office offering to add college education. Unless one is a complete idiot, surely we all know that none of these things are free (unless donated). Let’s demand honesty and call it what is: Paid for by someone else.

So there you have it—some words and phrases that give me that “fingernails on a blackboard” shudder. I’d love to learn if you have a similar list, but  in the mean time,  feel free to reach out and let me know of any sustainable, yet free ways that other folks might give back to our world, working to halt climate change.




And Then I Wrote…


$13.9 TRILLION?  $18T?  $19T? OMG!

Many people will recognize those unimaginable numbers as amounts assigned to the national debt by various people attempting to induce panic. The $13.9 trillion number adorned TIME magazine’s April 25, 2016 cover. TIME also added that every citizen owed $42,998.12 in order to pay off the debt. The $18 and $19 trillion numbers were shouted out as ‘absolute truth’ by political candidates (Bernie and Hillary) in the current election circus, which is approaching its fourth birthday.

These numbers, which frighten many people who have never dealt with statistics, are totally spurious. Yes, we have a national debt somewhere within all the figures thrown out. These Halloween-like numbers are usually quoted by those who claim to have knowledge of business. To this I say, in my best literary fashion, “Phooey!” Let me explain.

Suppose you were asked to do an analysis of Steph Curry’s basketball skills. You could say, “Too short to do much rebounding; has questionable ankle.” Do you think that leaves out some of Mr. Curry’s unique skills with the big round ball?

If I, as a theater person, were asked to analyze Tom Hanks as an actor, I could say, ”Can’t sing: can’t dance; high-pitched voice; nice looking, but rather ordinary.” Do you think I may have overlooked some of Mr. Hank’s many, many wonderful qualities?

Let’s assume you, dear reader, have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your wallet, so you decide to buy a few shares of stock in either ABC or XYZ companies. Would you research the two companies’ liabilities only? Of course not. If you have any business sense at all, you will also research their—here comes the magic word—ASSETS. Curry and Hanks also have considerable assets in their professions that were not mentioned. Don’t be fooled by those scary guys quoting silly numbers because they often neglect to mention ASSETS.

This realization may came as a surprise, and a disappointment, to some folks—especially politicians. The United States of America has many, many assets, and I am not counting the more abstract assets of freedom of religion, speech, and a whole big bunch of other really good stuff.


            #1. We auction off all the properties under the National Park Service.

Just think how much Yosemite alone could bring from creative developers, not to mention Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and, even closer to home, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are over 400 more parks, etc., throughout the country (Listen to that cash register jingle).

#2. Next we sell every building and property the government owns in the U. S. and throughout the world. The IRS, courts, embassies, consulates; they all go, along with the art work, statues, and documents they contain. Just contemplate how much grain the Congressional buildings could hold. If not grain, how about fertilizer? Although, they probably could not match the amount of fertilizer that has been emitted from those buildings in our lifetimes. Washington, D. C. could become America’s new boom, though it would need to change its identification to Washington, V. C., Village of Columbia. Aside from the buildings, think of the money saved from bloated salaries, undisclosed perks, and extravagant vacation trips from Congress members alone!

#3. Next to go would be every battleship, aircraft carrier, destroyer, cruiser, canoe and rowboat. How many Silicon Valley billionaires have thought to themselves, “Gee. I’d love to have my own aircraft carrier.” Tanks, artillery, jeeps, automobiles, helicopters, bombers, fighter planes, etc., would be sold simultaneously with the naval vessels. Uniforms, rifles, small weapons, mess kits, tents, mess hall cookware and serving utensils would follow, including those assigned to the worst form of torment one human has ever perpetrated on another: creamed chipped beef on toast.

Think of the value of these sales: no more inflated salaries to people with inflated egos and not much else to offer. Current military academies could change to only be funded during wartime efforts if necessary. And, finally, the last U. S. government official left standing can pass out checks to all the citizens.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an accountant, but I would bet that the total would be three or four times what they claim we owe: “$42,998.12” (TIME magazine’s cutesy number…they could have added $1.88 and called it $43,000, but why make it easy for us?). Every citizen would then get exactly $223,146. 54—not enough for an aircraft carrier, but maybe enough for a life boat. (I made up that number from my perverted imagination. It contains my two birthdays: the actual delivery date and the day I got my honorable discharge from the Army.)

One important concern I know some of you may wonder regards American defense and safety from our friends and enemies. Although we no longer have the Western wilderness to protect us as in George Washington‘s days, we still have oceans on our east and west. Additionally, virtually every country in the world has some sort of religion that it professes to follow and most of those religions emphasize love, peace and the value of our fellow human beings. Sure there are some little, fat, strange leaders who like to sing, “We have nuclear weapons, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” and others who insist that their nuclear experiments are for “peaceful” purposes to help out the common, ordinary people whom they haven‘t cared about in centuries.

FEAR NOT: Part of my plan takes care of such exigencies. We will keep one or two thousand young people on duty in the silos where our nuclear, intercontinental weapons are stored. If the worst scenario should happen, then across the entire planet, we all will sing the 1960’s folk song, “AND WE’LL ALL GO TOGETHER WHEN WE GO.” Just think, however, Americans will go with no national debt, some real money in our pockets, and absolutely no liabilities or assets.

He Said/She Said with Robin and Shawn

Dear SSHS,

I attended a bridal shower recently and learned that the wedding invitations have gone out and I didn’t get one. I thought perhaps we could blame the post office, but another woman at my table hadn’t received one either. It’s a destination wedding, which I know was done so they could avoid having to invite everyone they know, but isn’t this a little weird? Should I say something to my friend, the mother of the bride?          –Sierra M., Concord

Wedding bouquet of flowers in hands of beautiful anonymous young bride. Wedding decor. Groom and bride enjoying each other. Just married happy couple hugging outside on summer or spring warm sunny dayShe Said: Miss Manners would say that anyone you invite to the bridal shower must also be invited to the wedding, otherwise it’s called gift-seeking. Yes, weird and very bad form indeed. As to whether you should say anything to your friend, I would ask myself, was I going to pay for a plane ticket and hotel had I received an invitation to the wedding? If yes, I would talk to your “friend,” but if you weren’t going to go anyway, don’t make an issue out of it, but do save yourself some money…you absolutely do not need to buy a wedding gift if you’re not invited to the wedding!

He Said: Wow, so you’re special enough to come to the pre-party but not the party itself? Robin’s absolutely right, tacky and bad form indeed. Question is, should you say something to your friend? No! You have nothing to gain as you don’t want a sympathy invite to the wedding now, do you? Remember, this is someone else’s big lifetime event and they can invite/exclude whomever they want. Don’t make it about you, but keep this in the back of your mind and understand this person may not be as good of a friend to you as you thought.


Dear HSSS,

I’ve started dating a very interesting guy that I’m really attracted to. He told me that he likes me a lot and wants to continue our relationship but that he has to be honest when he says that the extra weight I carry is a having a negative effect on his physical attraction for me. I am up about 15 pounds up from where I’d like to be. Should I continue seeing this guy or is he a Shallow Hal?

–No Skinny Winnie, Oakland


He Said: Dump him like those 15 extra pounds you want to get rid of! I know that attraction and romantic connections are hard to come by but this one seems toxic from the start. The beginning of a relationship is where two people usually feel the most physical attraction and if he’s already knit-picking then you have an uphill battle ahead of you. I will give him a little credit for being upfront and honest with you and revealing who he really is, but now it’s your turn to take the hint and make the right next move.

She Said: I intentionally let Shawn answer this one first as I thought maybe guys would see the honesty thing as more important than the message—especially after every woman I ran this past said, “Buh-Bye, Dude.” Extremely proud of you, Shawn! So moving on from this, if you want to lose the 15 pounds you’ve gained, go for it, but do it for you. And consider the huge favor this guy has done you by showing his true colors early on. It’d have been so much worse to find out about his shallowness after you’d fallen in love.

Robin Fahr is a communications specialist and host of Conversations seen daily on Tri-Valley TV, Channel 30 and online at Shawn and Robin HeSaidSheSaidgraphicalso host He Said/She Said on Send your questions to

5 Summertime Beauty Tricks

 …To Make You Looking Fabulous!

When it comes to facing sweltering, dry summer elements, keeping your make-up looking fresh and natural is key to the season’s trying temps. That said, when summertime rolls around I like to pull out a few of my favorite beauty tricks to look fabulous while combating unwanted puffy eyes and dry parched skin.

  1. Moisturize Smart. Since the summer is characteristically a very dry season, it’s a great time to up your game and use a serum with peptides to give the skin an intense moisture surge. Neuro-Peptides will lock in moisture like no other serum or cream, smoothing the complexion, repairing the cells, firming the surface and intensely hydrating the skin. Neuro-Peptides will secure your skin’s youthfulness and suppleness for the future of your skin’s health.
  1. De-puff. After a day spent in the sun (and possibly poolside drinking margaritas), you will most likely find yourself with a major case of puffy eyes the next morning. To reduce puffiness, apply an anti-puff eye cream (preferably Ongrien Premier Eye Cream), the night before, massaging the eyes towards the nose for 1 minute. This will ensure deep penetration into the delicate eye area and help reduce toxins. The next morning your eyes will look refreshed without ANY puffiness… works like a charm!
  1. Lighten Up. Since cake-face is never a good look, use a wet sponge instead of a dry sponge when you apply your face make-up during the warmer months. This makes your regular or custom foundation a bit lighter and sheerer, which is ideal for summer. It’s a good idea to use less foundation and more primer (unless you’re up for risking a serious facial landslide) and preferably a primer that is silicone-based to prevent smudging and sliding. A good primer is key in the summer months for that fresh-faced glow.
  1. Go Sheer. After you have applied your foundation, add a little color to the skin with a matte peach fusion bronzer. Matte peach fusion bronzers give the skin the oh-so-natural look, while also looking healthy and youthful. Add to the cheeks, forehead and chin for that effortless summertime healthy skin glow.
  1. Chill Out. While I love a bright lip color, going to the beach with a bright red lipstick can be too much (unless you live in Malibu in which case wear those gorgeous reds and be seen!). A great alternative to lip colors are Lip Liner Stains. They last all day and look sensational with a little gloss. Lip Liner Stains come in so many amazing colors. You will love the natural, and effortless way it makes the lips look while chilling on the beach or poolside with your besties.



June, Sweet June… Bug?!

Summer is here. Kids are home. Vacations are nigh. What could be better? I will think of something. Let’s celebrate June.

1. He coached the Atlanta Falcons from 1988 to 1996. He coached University of Hawaii from 1996 to 2004. He coached SMU from 2004 to 2008. Who was he?

2. What was Beaver’s mother’s name on “Leave it to Beaver?” First and last name, please.

3. It was a rousing number in the early portion of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.” What was it?

4. She played opposite Fred McMurray in “Where do we go from Here,” then became his wife in real life for his remaking 40 plus years. Who was she?

5. Famous as the girl next door, she was married to Dick Powell and made a few movies with Van Johnson and Jimmy Stewart. Who was she?

6. She sang memorably with Stan Kenton and was known for years as the First Lady of Jazz. Who was she?

He Said/She Said with Robin and Shawn

Dear SSHS,

I have guests in my home quite regularly, and I’m getting fed up with all the dietary restrictions out there. From gluten and dairy-free to Vegans and Atkins, I feel like I’m running a restaurant when people come to stay. Any suggestions?                                             Juan Menu, Lafayette

concept of dietary restrictionsShe Said: Real food allergies and Celiac disease aside, it is not your obligation to check in with everyone coming to your lovely B&B to see what they will and will not eat. People are constantly jumping in and out of fad diets or eliminating food groups entirely, making it very difficult on hosts. I knew someone who went from Atkins to vegetarian in the same week, and expected everyone to oblige. That’s just bad manners. Do not cater to picky eaters. Issue your invitation and let all know what will be on the menu and that they are welcome to supplement their diets with items brought from home.

He Said: There’s nothing worse than taking the time and effort to host guests in your home then hearing them say they can’t eat this or that. It just makes you want to never have another guest in your house again. You can’t be expected to cater to everyone’s finicky food habits or needs so I suggest you politely ask ahead of time if they have any preferences. If any requests are unreasonable, then simply ask that they bring their own food that meets their needs or point them in the direction of the nearest store that has what they want. You’re providing the shelter and basic food, if they want more than that, that’s on them.

Dear HSSS,

A friend of a friend recently moved to the area, and I’ve been asked to show her around a bit and help her get acquainted with the area. I have a hectic work schedule and family life and really don’t have the time. Plus I don’t care for this person much. How can I get out of this?                         Janice, Danville


He Said: It’s always nice when a local can show a transplant around, but it’s not fair for a friend to expect this of you. First I would explain to your friend that you have other priorities and that you just can’t spare the time. Then, I would definitely let the friend know that you’re not fond of this person. If you don’t, this won’t be the last time this newbie reaches out to you. You can ask your friend to keep this info confidential or not, it’s really up to you. Also, there are literally a million social apps and websites where people can reach out and get info or meet people from an area when they move. Let the technology be their friend, not you.

She Said:  It’s time to just say no, and you will be amazed at how great that feels. You have little enough time as it is for your real obligations, and people will always ask, so it’s your job to protect your limited time. But, I do want to play devil’s advocate here a bit. You say you don’t care for this person, but how about inviting her to coffee when she arrives, telling her where some of your favorite hotspots are and giving her a second chance to be someone you do care for. Some of the best friendships start with two people not liking each other that much.  Her moving to the area could be a real game changer.


Robin Fahr is a communications specialist and host ofConversations seen daily on Tri-Valley TV, Channel 30 and online at Shawn and Robin also host He Said/She Said on       TheTalk  Send your questions to