7.16.2016

What's good about the South Side

I've been teaching on the South Side (more specifically, southwest side) of Chicago for almost a decade, and I have met great people down there. Before that, my interaction with wonderful South Side people was in the southwest suburb of Burr Ridge, where I worked at an excellent company (and made the huge mistake of leaving, which I regretted for years [that's worth a separate post]).

What bothers me is the bad reputation the South Side gets because of the shootings and other dysfunction that's reported in the local media, national media, and probably international media as well. The South Side is not all bad--it's a huge place with beautiful areas, friendly, straightforward people, and the best Mexican food in the city. I was going to start a separate blog about the Good of the South Side, but decided against it because I don't want my hobby blogging to feel like a job (I do blog for work sometimes); I love blogging and want to keep the feeling of fun alive.

I was at the good writing gig and was talking to coworker Dan Frank, who's yet another super-friendly Southsider, about the positive aspects of the South Side that do not get reported or really noticed, unless you work or live down there. He took a picture of this nice, large house on Longwood Drive, south of 103rd Street. This is the South Side that you don't see on the news.


It's in a stable neighborhood with more birds and trees than the concrete and guns you often hear about.

There will be more positive news coming from the South Side...stay tuned.

7.07.2016

I don't want to type on glass

Just when I thought I'd found a great phone (I gave up my iPhone for a Blackberry Classic), the company is killing the Classic. This is horrible news for me and the other people around the world who totally enjoy the solidity, accurate typing (with a real keyboard), and reliability of this great phone. Sure, we don't have access to thousands of apps (which I still don't care about), but it's been so helpful for communication. I have seven email accounts on my phone (and sometimes have to add Outlook as well)*, have been able to successfully go online, talk to a human via voice, use the phone all day without charging (it's been on for over 12 hours so far today), input Japanese (lots of languages available), etc. I've also taken lots of notes on the phone because the keyboard is real. I don't want to go back to typing on glass or avoiding communication because the typing experience was a chore (I used to avoid emailing until I got to a regular computer). I got the phone in February, which was obviously too late because I'm the owner of a phone that is on its way to extinction, and it's barely entered my life :(

I will use the Classic until it doesn't function well anymore (as I've been using this MacBook Pro2,2 for this blog post...it's 10 years old at this point). I have to eventually decide if I'll go back to the iPhone or use Android (on which I can use the wonderful Filmic Pro app that obviously could not be used on the Classic).

I was afraid that I would regret giving up my iPhone, but I don't. I have totally enjoyed the Classic, and will miss it when it's gone :(


*I have 12 or 13 email accounts (hard to keep track), but I keep seven on the phone because the others aren't necessary to have access to all the time. Yes, I'm proud of the fact that I have so many email accounts, and look forward to getting more :p

2.15.2016

Why I got a Blackberry

It's too bad I'm not a rich, powerful, or famous person because my endorsement of Blackberry would probably affect a lot of people, and the company would be happy. I'm just an average joe, living life and trying to find ways to effectively communicate with others.

It took me a while to get a smartphone (which will probably not be called "smart" or maybe not even a "phone" in the future because such devices will be commonplace and won't need such a descriptor; but that's another post). The only reason why I moved from a simple cell to a smarter version is because I literally missed out on freelance work; people emailed me, and since I wasn't at a computer, I didn't read the emails for a while, thus missing opportunities.

I got a Blackberry Bold, and I was just glad to have something that combined my multiple email addresses (I currently have six on my phone, and have an additional three at a few workplaces). I wasn't happy with the slow Internet and was even more upset about the lack of multilingual capabilities. So I switched to an iPhone 4s, which had lots of great features.

This is not a slam against Apple because I've been using their computers since the early 80s, even when they fell out of favor. When people started noticing how great Apple computers were and bought various iProducts, I was proud of the fact that I'd been a loyal customer for so many years, not just a fair-weather friend. Of course, I liked the iPhone because it was a further example of the elegant technology that was characteristic of Apple.

But there were some things I missed about the Blackberry. The biggest feature was the keyboard. I could write long pieces of texts, and even typed out all my notes from a class on it. But I figured that ship had sailed, and we either had to choose an iPhone or Android.

One day, I'd had enough of the iPhone. It happened when they did an OS update, which made my phone almost inoperable. Until then, I'd managed to use it for videos (with an excellent Apogee MiC that I could plug in to it), photos, Google Voice (which has been discontinued for Blackberry), email, and other things. Even though the system seemed solid and the design was pleasant, it seemed that they didn't care about older phones; with every OS update, they made the phone less enjoyable, almost seeming to punish us for not upgrading to a 6. I didn't want a 6; my phone was enough for me, and the Apogee MiC's plug fit my phone, and I didn't want to get an adapter for the newer versions. I also liked the thickness and smaller size of the 4S; the 6 was bigger and thinner, which I didn't want (even though lots of people want such sizes, and it was Apple's response to the popularity of Samsung's bigger phones).

There was also the annoyance of the forced U2 album, which auto-played at random times, even when I was using the phone to make an actual phone call (I would hear some music starting, wondering if there was some kind of on-hold music somewhere, but it was a U2 song that I hadn't requested or downloaded or even knew existed). I eventually followed the directions to remove it from the iCloud (which continues to send messages that I have to log in, even though I didn't, and still don't, care about using it). That imposition was part of the larger iPhone issue: they're really into their identity to the point that I end up finding out about executives' personal lives and personalities, as if they're aspiring to dish out their own version of celebrity gossip; the company seems to be about its image and people, as well as the product. I don't care about the people; does the product work? It does? Good. I'll buy it.

I was way overdue for an upgrade, so out of curiosity, I checked to see if Blackberry was still around. I found the Blackberry Classic with very good reviews. They were so convincing, I went to a Verizon store to check it out. That was a mistake. I told the salesperson that I was interested in the Classic, and she did *not* want to accept my request. She tried to convince me to get an Android. I kept telling her I wanted the Classic, and she asked me why, not accepting my reasons. So I left the store and called Verizon for the upgrade. When I said that I wanted an upgrade, the person probably assumed it was in the iPhone family, because when I said "Blackberry Classic," there was a long pause. Silence. Disbelief. But he processed my request. (Dear Verizon: it's okay to want a Blackberry.)

The Classic is fantastic, but if you're into lots of apps, stick with Android or iPhone. People say there are plenty of apps, and you can find some in the Amazon App store. But in other places, when I see apps advertised, they give only iPhone or Android options. Also, some apps don't behave like they should, even though they can be loaded.

But I don't care about apps anyway, except for Filmic Pro, which was my go-to friend when I created iPhone videos. They don't have an app for the Blackberry (of course), so I have to use my husband's iPhone instead. And Google products are pretty useless on Blackberry as well (though I have a Chromebook and an Android OS on an SD card in my aging Nook, which is another topic for another post).


Bottom line: I don't regret returning to Blackberry! This is why:
1 - Excellent typing. I've resumed taking lots of notes and communicate with people a lot more because typing is so easy. Before I'd wait a while to respond (if it wasn't work-related) because I knew I'd have typos. And of course, I'd never write anything that was lengthy. Now it doesn't matter!
2 - It's now international! I easily loaded the Japanese alphabet on my phone, and can switch back and forth with no problem.
3 - Anything can be done on the touchscreen, but there are options, like the menu button. I can also select text by touching the screen, but I can also use the trackpad. Options!
4 - I like how the text looks when I'm reading an eBook (Amazon works very well on it), article, etc. I feel like it's solid and sleek.
5 - I can put files where I want! When I had an iPhone, I couldn't download files where I wanted; it forced files into "boxes" or apps that I didn't choose or create. But the Classic allows me to use it like a computer, with file folders and a directory that I can control. So if I download an mp3, it's a pure file; I can put it where I want. Same goes for a PDF, photo, or anything else. And mp3's just play when I hit them; I don't have to open iTunes or whatever to process them. I like the flexibility!
6 - They've improved the Internet speed and photo quality, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on better tech.

When people see my Blackberry, I get perplexed looks, with comments like, "They still make Blackberrys?" Or "The company is still around? I thought they went bankrupt." Or "God bless you for having a Blackberry." I'm a throwback, and apparently, I'm part of the one-percent, which seems to be the market share that Blackberry has. But I don't care. This is not a popularity contest, and I'm getting what I need out of my phone. Like I said earlier, I can't affect many people because I'm not rich, powerful, or famous, but at least I'm one person helping to stem the tide of the company's failure.

11.06.2015

When "we" is really "I"

I recently went to an event at a professional organization to hear a specialist speak about a technical issue, and before I went, I looked at the speaker's website (I won't link to it here or mention the specifics because I'm not being complimentary and don't want the person to know I'm being critical). All over the website, it used the pronoun "we," as in "we provide," "we train," "we deliver," and even the title "Who we are" on the About page. So I assumed there were at least a few trainers/consultants working for the company. But when I asked the speaker how many employees he had, or if he used freelancers instead, he said, "I'm the only one who works there." I was surprised, but when I really thought about it, I realized he's not the only business person who puts "we" on his website. Earlier this year, I was looking at an acquaintance's website, and since "we" was all over it, I naturally asked how many people worked for the company. But I got the same answer: "I work by myself."

I think it is misleading and even untruthful to put "we" on a business website when there is really just one person working there. Are people seriously impressed (and do they believe it) when a business *appears* to be more than just a one-man show? It ends up being hype and can even affect the person's reputation because other people might find out that he/she is putting misinformation on the official site. It also seems like individual business people are trying to puff themselves up to attract attention. I know of an established company that hired someone who implied that they were larger than they actually were, and when they were given a large project, they couldn't handle it, because their "we" was really "I." So the large company had to find an alternative when the single person couldn't deliver on time (he was totally overwhelmed, though I don't know if he scrambled to find some freelance help). People don't always end up being exposed like that, but they're still taking a gamble when they claim to be something they're not.

Some people seemed talented and professional, but when their website ends up being hyperbole, it's not only insincere but not respectable. Plus, some people create a website with "we" all over it, and they haven't even bothered to create a proper business (ie, registering with the Secretary of State, paying the fees, creating an LLC or incorporating). It's better to be honest and say you're a freelancer rather than create a fancy website and pretending to be more than you actually are.

So I commend those people who are truthful in the representation of their business and services. One such person is language fan/pro Sarah Dillon. When she only had her translation/interpretation business, she was totally upfront on her website about working by herself (I've never met her, so I'm just summarizing her approach based on what I saw). Now she's become a consultant, but she still makes it clear that she's alone. There's nothing wrong with that, and she doesn't seem to be a wannabe. So I'm assuming the way she works is ethical, as well.

10.30.2015

Language nerd?

I was doing a search for the meaning and usage of the word "twee" because I like the sound and connotation. I've heard British people say it, and I like how they apply the word to a variety of situations. I don't really consider it a common American word, so I was surprised that a professional journalist wrote an entire column/article (whatever it's called) in the Tribune pretty much focused on it. Even out of the gate, he seems obsessed with it:
Twee is pervasive, genteel and hard to bear, pixie-haired, wide-eyed and precocious. Twee is also out of hand, and more complicated than it seems. See, though being twee is often regarded as a negative quality, tweeness is not necessarily insufferable.

Obviously, he's into language in a general sense because he's a professional writer and seems to be doing well (and lucky to be working in the shrinking newspaper biz), but he *really* seems to be into language because he shapes his piece around the word "twee" to the point that I wonder if his intention was to write about the word or about pop culture (which seems to be his beat). It's almost nerdy, which is refreshing to see in the simplifying media world. (I'm a proponent of clear, simple writing, so it's not a knock against what 21st century mass writing has become, just an observation.)

But back to the American vs British usage of the word. Because I pretty much never hear people say it in the USA but have heard Brits use it, I assume it's not at the top of people's minds here. So it's surprising that he shapes the essay around the word, as if people have heard it often and are nodding their heads in agreement. Are people sick of the word, or concept? I don't know if they hear it enough to get sick of it, or even know what it really means and how it can be applied.

I'm not saying what he's doing is wrong, it's just atypical because his post seems like it's meant to be a review of some TV shows, but it's also a review of American culture, yet also expresses a fascination with the word itself. His enthusiasm is obvious, and his writing seems to be really good (which is why he's living the dream).

10.20.2015

Japanese transliteration mistake

I was walking down the street and saw this sign, which has some clear mistakes.


They transliterated すしと as "sushiito." The double-i means it's a long sound, but すしと doesn't have that: す=su し=shi と=to. If they were truly transliterating it, the Japanese would be すしいと: す=su し=shi い=i と=to. It seems like they're trying to be clever because they've created a sushi burrito, so they've combined the two words, but they failed in the execution.

Also, I'm concerned about the spelling of "kimchi." According to my favorite Japanese language site, Popjisyo (which now has other Asian languages), when I pasted the Korean word 김치 in, it translated it as "kimchi." Even an official kimchi museum in Korea spells it that way. But the sign has that spelling, plus "kimchii." Why couldn't they at least settle on one? (Thought I suspect the double-i would be wrong anyway.)

I'm surprised that a restaurant in a major part of the city (downtown Chicago) made such mistakes. They could've gotten some native speakers or knowledgeable non-natives to proofread the sign. Way to go! How's your food?

10.16.2015

I think I figured out what a friend is

For what seems like a long time, I've been wondering what defines a friend. A lot of people have several "friends" on Fakebook and other social media, and someone might say they're going out with a friend after work, or going on a friend's boat or to a party with "friends." But are those people really friends? Does it matter?

I think it's easier to make friends while we're in school because a lot of people are around us every day, which makes social connections easy. Once we leave school, our environment isn't saturated with people. Some workplaces have a lot of people, but they're silently working at computers or are guarded because they have to maintain a public face in order to survive the politics and maneuvering. One wrong word and they could be out of favor with coworkers, or even out of a job. So as we get older, socializing becomes more superficial because there's more at stake, and lines have been drawn.

People also get busy and live on their own track. If you happen to be on the same track, such as at a job, in a neighborhood, or at your kids' activities, then they'll let you in, and you seem to become friends (or remain friends if you met at another stage of life). But once the track changes, individuals continue moving in their own direction, and crossover is rare or non-existent. Especially in the USA, Americans travel on their own path, and busyness just creates walls between people, or they don't even bother to notice who's around them. Even if people had lots of friends as they were growing up and in university, conditions change because their friends might not be motivated to keep in touch or make an effort to meet up offline as they take on more responsibilities and are worn out from their personal and professional lives. One big life change is having kids--the parents have so much to do every day that friendships become auxiliary, and free time is pretty much non-existent until the kids get to a certain age (as long as they're not high maintenance or the parents aren't the helicopter types).

Sometimes we go through life assuming that people really don't give us much thought, until someone dies. A person who seemed to not have many friends could end up with over 100 at their funeral, where people say positive things and remember the person fondly, as if they really were friends. Maybe it takes death to realize who our friends are, but let's hope not--by that time, it's too late.

Here's what I've realized: friends stay with you no matter where you work or who you are. For example, I worked with someone who I got along with very well. When they got a job somewhere else, the communication via email, text, and even in person continued. That is a friend. Here's who is not a friend: someone I work with who ceases to communicate with me when I leave the job, even when I make an effort. Essentially, the relationship is contextual. Friendships aren't contextual; acquaintances are. Some people will consider their coworkers their friends because they eat lunch together, talk about problems, recognize each other's birthdays, etc. But unless that person is a friend, it all crumbles when someone moves on.

Time also determines friendship. It's very hard to remain friends with someone as life continues and changes occur. I have a couple of friends who I've known for several years, and we really don't have a lot in common at this point, but we keep in touch, go out occasionally, talk on the phone, and generally make an effort to stay connected. It's history that has bonded us, not every similarity.

Which brings me to the next point: friends accept you even if you have different views or lifestyles. A key to enjoying a friend is hanging out with them and talking about whatever you want to, and feeling comfortable enough to express yourself and disagree with the other person without any condemnation. It's also the opportunity to relax and be yourself. I don't care how free American culture claims to be; not many people create an atmosphere for others to be themselves, and people are self-conscious, so they reign in their personalities if they want to feel like they belong.

Friends don't control others. There is the obvious way of controlling, which is sadistic and usually refers to abusive romantic relationships. But what I'm talking about is more subtle and is revealed over time. Some people were raised in chaos or simply have a need for their world to be ordered. That includes people. So they want their friends to behave in a certain way and to say certain things. If the person crosses some kind of perceived line, they're punished or ignored. There's a lack of freedom in conversations or behavior, and there's a kind of standard set which stifles the non-dysfunctional person. Controlling people aren't friends and won't be until they lighten up.

As life throws us curveballs, our definition of friendship changes. They're no longer just the folks we go out with and have fun. They're the ones who encourage us, are available, can talk about anything, and know how to take it easy. They also can give constructive criticism and don't have a problem with receiving it, either. Basically, when we meet someone we click with, it begins a journey and develops from there.

There are a lot of people I like who are interesting and nice, and I wish we could be friends. They are acquaintances or simply people I have met who I might not see again. Because they don't care about becoming friends, or they just don't make the time, the "acquaintance" status doesn't change. And then there are other people who I used to know, who I wish I could still be friends with, but geographical distance or disinterest caused communication to cease.

I know some people who I don't see often, but they call me a "friend." So what they recognize is the connection or history, but we don't carve out a space to hang out. I guess that's okay, because it could be the thought that counts in the end.