Look around you my dear friend


My whole life I have moved. I went to six different elementary schools alone. Fortunately, I was able to attend only one middle school and one high school. While attending those two schools, my family still managed to move twice. Once I was finished with my primary education and had moved out on my own I still managed to move 4 more times before leaving Flagstaff Ariz. From there I joined the military and went on a whirlwind adventure around the globe (more or less). After the military, I still managed to move around quite a bit. In all the various places I’ve been the true adventures have always been cut from the same cloth. Getting out into the environment and exploring the nooks and crannies often forgotten by those who would claim locality.Moving-Boxes-b
Once, when I lived in Fayetteville North Carolina, I worked for a logistics company who had a number of employees that were from that area. Retired military members and spouses. Every single weekend I went out and around. Explored the state. I would come back and retell the weekend adventures to my co-workers. After about 6 months of this one of them approached me and said with amazement “you have seen more of this state in sixth months than I’ve seen my whole life, and I was raised here”. She was, at the time, in her 50’s (an absolute sweetheart of a woman as well).


It brings up a good point that chapter 10 in The Phantom Tollbooth echos very well. Stop and look around you. Enjoy the journey. There is so much to see in everyday life. Let go the habits and the comfort zones that we’ve allowed to creep in on us. Get up early, try new things. Go new place than for no other reason than you haven’t been there before. Look at the flowers in your yard, even if they’re only dandelions. Go for a walk, stop for no reason and just listen. Feel the wind. Life is the journey, not the destination. Enjoy the journey.

Tim R.

Have you ever been Voluntold?

It was my great privilege to spend a good number of years in the United States Air Force. While doing so you get used to a few things. First off you are actually working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When called you answer.


When off duty, it is with permission. Even the weekends are considered a ‘pass’. There are rules and regulations for all of it of course. Truth be told it’s a good life that I recommend to anyone who has the ability to do so. Not necessarily to the point of retirement, but at least one term of service. There are things you will learn that you simply cannot learn in any other way.

I have had the opportunity to make lifelong friends that I consider family. Sure we have a row every now and again, but family all the same. I treasure the time I was able to spend overseas. Not as a tourist, but as a member of the community, at least to far greater extent than just visiting. To be able to immerse yourself in a foreign culture over an extended period of time helps you to better understand a different point of view than your own.

Cherry blossom festival

There are also extra duties to be performed along with your assigned field of expertise. With these extra duties, it is often asked for members to volunteer. Should not enough people volunteer, then the choice is made by higher in rank as to who will perform these duties. This is an experience sometimes referred to as being ‘Voluntold’. I always found it amusing and the change in term is meant to be so, in a ‘poke you in the ribs’ sort of way.


It is in this chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth that we find our very own Mr. Humbug being ‘voluntold’ to go on a little trip. After listening to the chapter tell me what you think…would you want to make that trip? Sounds exciting to me!


The box that Milo is given to help him in his journey is one I keep on hand at almost all times. Very few things I’ve found hold as much importance. But the King is correct in what must be done. In and of itself, it is simply a box of tools. Proper use of tools is the only thing more important than having a generous enough supply of them.

Tim R.

Be careful what you ask for.

A friend of mine has often expressed frustration with one of his children for that child’s constant taking of words very literally. At least that’s how it has been described to me. In my experience, it has always been of great advantage to be able to perform vocabulary gymnastics to a degree. It’s amazing the agility in a situation you will have when you are able to take away from a given set of words in a particular order multiple meanings.

Royal crest

Just think of always having more than one opinion based on being able to interpret words in different ways. Placing emphasis in differing areas of a sentence. Knowing the various definitions of keywords, instead of just the most common one. Would you not see this as an advantage?

King Azaz

The frustration can come in when children get this and constantly use it to form their own loopholes in rules and instructions given by parents. Personally, I find this hilarious. When my children do this I get smarter for it and I’m grateful. Fortunately, when I was younger my parents had this problem with me. My mother was rather adept with language herself though so I didn’t get away with it much once she saw what I was doing. Mom’s are tricky that way. The best part is it becomes a game, of sorts, of escalation causing our children to get better and better, more thoughtful, and plan ahead.


It’s a fine line and almost sounds like I’m encouraging recklessness, but nothing could be further from the truth. So many of our children’s traits we simply do not know, nor do we know how they will use them. What we do know is that everything they do can be used as a teaching tool. So while it may seem like a bad thing on the surface, the question becomes how, as parents, we turn it into a good one. I like to think I came out alright. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

In this chapter, we are going to a banquet! Who doesn’t love a good meal? As you can probably guess if you’ve been keeping with the story thus far though, it’s going to be a banquet unlike any you’re familiar with. Let’s just say it will give you food for thought, and let you listen to the chapter to see why.

Tim R.



Contrast can be key

In that light is how I view this chapter. Mostly in dialogue. When you look at the two of the characters introduced in this chapter, you will find one to be loud and blustery, Officer Shrift. Full of heavily expressed emotion. The other is more meek and mild, soft-spoken and of a gentle nature, Faintly Macabre.

I wish I knew the author so I could ask him “Did you do this on purpose?”. Whether he did or did not can only be guessed at. However the difference between the two shows ‘Contrast – the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association.’ This is a key concept I first learned in color theory as it applies to photography. Want to make things stand out from each other? Amplify the difference in the color spaces within the photo. In the case of this book, I believe it to be a subtle nuance to the understanding of the English language. One not, necessarily, picked up on at first.

Norton Juster

I’m curious what you thought of the Humbug. Even before it was said I always say this as the type that would be associated with Politicians. Throughout the book, he plays the part of taking massive amounts of credit while accomplishing very little. You’ll see as we progress, still, he’s likeable enough and it just wouldn’t be the same without him.

What we might find out in this little adventure is that while sentences may be short, the penalties can be quite steep. Milo gets into a little trouble from all the mess of the last chapter.

Tim R.




Salesmen will be Salesmen

So far we’ve made it past the Whetherman, through expectations (and the doldrums), and to the gates of Dictionopolis. Where do we go from here? To market of course. Would you not wish to see words being sold? Not sure I could resist. Just try to get me out of a bookstore before I’m ready to go…I dare you.


The plays Mr. Juster put on words do more than just provide amusement, they teach. Differences between which and witch, which you will discover later, for instance. As it is we have run into whether and weather and learned those have different meanings. These type of words that sound the same yet are spelled differently, and have different meanings are called ‘Homophones’.

Homophones may be more prevalent than you would imagine. Here’s a list of some of them:


Who knew? There are also homonyms, homographs, heterographs, etc… Each explaining characteristics of certain types of words as they relate to each other in ways that may be confusing on the surface. I don’t know them all, that’s for sure. And to differentiate when trying to explain I often have to confirm what I remember by looking it up again. The point is to show that words are not just skin deep. There are many layers and levels.


It has been said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Whether this is referring to British English or American English I do not know. But one of the reasons is that there are rules that govern the use of words that I can almost guarantee are not even taught. If they are it is in such a manner as to merely associate you with them in brief and then carry on as the bulk of daily communication does not rely on knowing them.

Spelling bee

They can be a lot of fun though. I’ve always found that most things are simpler if you only know how they work. Just imagine how much better you might communicate with a greater understanding of how your own language works. The best part…It’s a lifetime endeavour.

Have fun in the marketplace where bugs abound, just not as you might know them.

Tim R.

The Land That Once Was…

We have a problem. An ever increasing problem. I read recently that when you put a period at the end of a sentence in a text it equates to yelling. Someone is trying to hijack grammar! The comma is losing it’s importance as is the apostrophe. Twitter, text, Facebook posts, Instagram, They’re all guilty of neglecting the subtle art that grammar is. Words are only words without the ability to convey rhythm, inflection, tone, and meaning. Grammar is hard in that words are the paint and grammar is the brush. It is how we cover the canvas with the picture we paint.


A lesser but ever increasing issue as well is spelling and vocabulary. The understanding of the words we use. I have the opportunity to be a father. One of the primary means of learning these things as my children grew older was to employ a dictionary. That’s right, a real live, bound and published, paper dictionary. Where there is no autocorrect, no instant access to word definitions They contain multiple and official meanings of the words, as well as a pronunciation guide and usage examples. These days all one has to do is ask a digital assistant what something means and they get the most common answer, which many times is not the right one, from a search engine. Add to that the ignorance of the words in the definition that they do get and you have a thorough lack of understanding on your hands. In the hands of one with understanding, technology can be a wonderful time-saving resource and certainly has its place, but we are losing the basics.


Forgive my rambling. Literacy is a passion of mine. I work towards ever increasing the literacy of those around me.

Today we rejoin Milo on the road in The Phantom Tollbooth as he arrives at Dictionopolis. The very place where words come from. There are some strange characters indeed, and a little bit of wisdom which I would do well to remember.


Tim R.

The Whether man is my favorite

When reading aloud I often find that words will trip me up. Specifically when they are in dialogue. Authors write so as to give their character’s personality (thank goodness for that). As such, a challenge is created when trying to convey that personality to an audience. I can only hope I do well with this.


In this book one of my favorite characters, while being short in appearance, is the Whether Man. I’ve always seen him as an excitably positive fellow and read him in just that way. The dialogue written for him rolls off the tongue so well I had no rereads to make. It was just plain fun.

whether man quote

Do you have fun when you read? Do you find yourself immersed in a different world from the one in which you live? Can you see yourself as the main character? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good movie as much as the next person. Although it seems as if more movies today are stories converted from comics and books than as a story unto themselves. The problem with this I find to be in that conversion. A book has so much more scope for the imagination than a movie could ever hope to have. When you try to condense that scope into a singular lens through which everyone must view, and we all seem to see the same thing, then it is the viewing public who ends up being cheated f the full experience of the story. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling are probably the largest victims of this condensation that I can think of. Soooooo much is lost from the books. The portion of the public that has read the books know just how much is missing. The portion of the public that has not are being shortchanged in the story altogether. Yes, yes, the overall themes remain largely unchanged, and my opinion may not be a popular one.


I’m not saying don’t watch the movies. What I am saying is if you’re going to watch the movie, read the book. In my opinion, read it before watching the movie. If not, you run the risk of making yourself rather lazy in the efforts afterwards. That being said I have seen all the movies and enjoyed them well enough. I just wish more books stayed books, and more movies were written as movies in the first place.

I hope you’ll enjoy this second chapter of the Phantom Tollbooth. It was fun to read.

Tim R.


A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: