I can barely think straight. I've just spewed 50,000 words of make-believe in one month. Now I've got the more serious stuff to take care of.

Depeche Mode's typo

I saw the Depeche Mode show yesterday, and I highly recommend it.

But if you're going and are able to read the scrolling text on one of the stage decorations (or whatever they're called), check out the typo. I was facing the left part of the stage, so I was able to read the flashing words and phrases that accompanied the lyrics that they were singing.

However and unfortunately, I thought I would remember the phrase with the typo, so I did not write it down or punch it into my cell phone or even make a call to record it somewhere, but there is definitely a typo: they use it's, as in the contraction of "it is" instead of the posessive "its". I think the phrase refers to a "beast" (that is within us? ie, our dark side?) and the phrase includes the beast's something, so they have to use "its". I looked over some of the lyrics from the setlist, but couldn't find any phrase like that.

Whatever. The important thing to know is that they definitely had a typo, which is a common misspelling of the posessive "its". No tragedy, just something that language nerds may notice.


Online French dictionary

Wow, those folks in Quebec really know how to put together a dictionary. Usually I use Word Reference to look up French (and Spanish) words, but wow, I think Le grand dictionnaire might be better.

You can look up French definitions, meanings between French and English (which I need), and between French and Latin (which somebody out there must need). Sometimes if you look up a word, they will give you categories to choose from so that you can get a more appropriate and specific meaning, and they can also give you several synonyms.

So it's very helpful and it's five years old, which l’Office québécois de la langue française is really excited about. And of course, you can also get other useful French-related info there.



I have to highlight another big-time brainy, talented person who I suspect is not human: Cory Doctorow. This is just a fraction of what he's doing:

European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)...very active in promoting the BBC's Creative Archive project to the UK government...visiting lecturer at Yale University Engineering, a fellow at Stanhope Centre in London, a Contributing Writer to Wired Magazine and a columnist for Popular Science and Make Magazines...on the committee for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference and...advisor to Ludicorp, Inc and Musicbrainz...co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing...co-founded the open source P2P technology company OpenCola...

He's also published a lot of short stories, novels, articles, and non-fiction books. How does he do all that? I need to download whatever he's had. Or get at least a drop of that magic elixir he must be imbibing. The Internet really provides plenty of opportunities to get a glimpse of people's intelligence and creativity.


Another smart one

Wow, smart people are popping up all over. Mad Minerva, an excellent blog, has created a satire site.

This might not sound like a big deal, but consider this: she's a graduate (doctorate?) student at Harvard, her blog has informative and interesting posts (and she posts a few per day), she has a social life, she does big-time research for her dissertation, she reads a lot of non-academic texts, and she is writing satires on the side. That's in addition to all the stuff I *don't* know about.

Either she's not sleeping or she's a high-energy dynamo. If she ever makes it as a prof, I want to be on her email list.


Quiz answers

Here are the answers for the Thanksgiving quiz:

1. False - It was in the early 1620's.

2. False - It was three days.

3. True. See the turkey post.

4. False - They only brought chests and boxes.

5. True - They ended up in Massachusetts because they couldn't get to Virginia.

6. False - Many were poor farmers with little education.

7. True.

8. True - Buckles weren't popular until the 17th century.

9. True - They were Puritans who separated from the Church of England.

10. False.


Thanksgiving quiz

Here are ten statements about Thanksgiving--true or false?

1. The first Thanksgiving feast was in the late 17th century.

2. The feast was two days.

3. They did not eat turkey.

4. The Pilgrims brought furniture with them.

5. They wanted to go to Virginia, not Massachusetts.

6. Many were highly educated.

7. Some Pilgrims lived in the Netherlands before going to America.

8. They did not wear buckles.

9. The Pilgrims were separatists.

10. They ate cranberries at the first feast.

Click here for answers. The statements are based on information at the History Channel and a Plymouth site.


At least I'm succeeding at this

Well, I've passed 32k, and will most likely be at 35k tomorrow for Nanowrimo. Why does this matter? Because there are other things I've pursued that haven't worked out, so if anything is going to be a bright spot this year, it will be this.

Not that life doesn't have bright spots, but it seems like I've seen examples of L.I.F.--Life Isn't Fair--in my life and other people's lives lately. I'm not saying that I don't have a good life, but Nanowrimo is an opportunity where you can write to reach a goal, and the 50k goal is all that matters.


Online Multilingual Bible

This is very cool! It's a multilingual Bible--you can look up a verse in four different languages at the same time! Check out the Unbound Bible.

It's unfortunate, though, that there's no Japanese, and there's only one version of Portuguese. It would be nice to have access to more modern Portuguese. But we can't have everything--I should be grateful for all the hard work they did to put it together, and all the time it took. Serious linguistic nerdiness abounds over there.

(Thanks to the Honorable Language Hat)

Where I'm headed

Here's an idea of what I have to deal with before I take the Japanese Proficiency Test (a bit of advice from an excellent study guide):

APPENDIX 2: Grammar structures that have appeared more than three times on the 2kyuu test:

kara to itte, arinagara, no sei de, okagede, ni taishite, o megutte, dake atte

…tokorode, sae, ireba, uchi ni, to itte, you ni, tame ni, kara to itte, ni kanshite wa, wake ni wa ikenai, toshitara, dakara to itte, ni hanshite, no sei ka

toshite, kara ni wa, wake, …zu ni (eg. shirazu ni), nagara mo, …mo…nara,…mo…da

toshite mo, dokoro ka, nai koto ni wa, koto ni wa, dake atte, toshite mo

You should also know mono vs. koto vs. wake (and all their various forms like kotonara vs. mononara, koto vs. koto da, etc) cold.

It looks goofy, but it's serious. I've already studied some today, and my mind is in knots from all the sample sentences.



I was reading through a bunch of bios, and their smugness and self-conscious, self-congratulatory style was too much too handle in one sitting.

How do people have the energy to write like that?


I just reached the halfway mark for Nanowrimo. Writing 50k in a month is hard. There are times when I'm in the zone and other times when I hit a wall. I've definitely learned a lot from this experience and am developing a good story idea, probably one of the better ones I've had (which doesn't mean it's well-written--it's just a bunch of haphazard scenes that are adding up to a good story concept, which I'll have to, of course, rewrite and develop better). And it looks like it's a Chick Lit type of story. I'm not a Chick Lit type, but for some reason I end up writing about such characters' desires and struggles.

Now I'll sleep until I face another day of translating and writing and studying.


Smart guy

I should have a series entitled "Smart People" because there are a lot of them out there. Like Tim Harford. He's a British economist and excellent writer. That guy's brain must be bubbling all the time, and what spills out in his book and elsewhere is both informative and entertaining. I don't know how people achieve that balance.

Here's an example:

The other day I was hurrying to lunch on somebody else’s expense account at a very nice Washington restaurant, The Oval Room. I began to fret that clad in my weathered racing green leather coat, I had as much chance of talking my way into the White House across the street as getting past the maitre’d without a jacket and tie.

Summoning up indignation in advance, I angrily asked myself why anyone would turn away the guest of a paying customer. Scruffs pay the bill the same as anyone else, so isn’t the dress code of jacket and tie commercial suicide?

Actually, the smart restaurateur, armed with the swift feedback of market forces, does what governments tend to find rather difficult: balance the competing interests of different people. Some people will pay to eat a meal surrounded by the smart set. Other people will pay to eat a meal without having to dress up. The restaurateur gets to decide whose wishes count - the snobs or the slobs.

He then proceeds to discuss economics, and I can hardly tell he is. I read an excerpt of his book, and the economic explanations were interesting and virtually painless there, too.



John Kass, who's a brave columnist for the Chicago Tribune, needs translation help:

I need your expertise in translating three frightening wordlike sounds uttered by Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday..."Djez-djez-djez!"

What? Is it some ancient curse? Something like "Rosebud"? Or is it merely the sound of a broken record?

...Some of you know that I speak at least two languages: English and Soutside. I'm also quite fluent in several Soutsidian dialects, including Bridgeport, Stickney and a smattering of Homer Township. But never have I heard anyone say, "Djez-djez-djez!" in anger.

...So please, wise and learned readers, you must translate. Send your translations to me. One of you may have the Daley Rosetta Stone. Please advise.

Well, I can't help him. But if you can, feel free to contact him. You don't need to speak Soutside--he speaks standard English very well.


Industrial yuppies

Yesterday I described Burbania, and here's another term that can go with it: Industrial Yuppies. These are the people who live in areas that used to have factories and warehouses when cities were the focus of industry. After the factories closed or moved abroad or elsewhere and the warehouses shrank or were shifted, the carcasses of those industrial buildings remained for several years until real estate developers had the slick idea to convert them to lofts, where the upwardly mobile moved.

Those people who dwell in those revitalized neighborhoods are experiencing urban life through scrubbed industrial eyes. They don't live in the obvious neighborhoods, which have existed and morphed throughout the years; they are in the new land, on the edge, where the future remains.



Here's something that people don't tend to talk about: Burbania. It's a geographical term. You've probably heard of "suburbia," which refers to the suburbs that surround cities, and of course there's the term "urban," which refers to the city.

But Burbania refers to the areas within a city where they are creating condominiums and townhomes out of existing warehouses, factories, and other industrial buildings that are no longer used for those purposes, or eager developers are building those dwellings from scratch within those former industrial zones.

In these types of neighborhoods, there aren't many, or any, stores or cafes or places to go--the people who live there have to drive their cars (or most frequently SUV's) out of their area to do or consume anything. It's as if they are creating a gritty, industrial version of the antiseptic suburbs they grew up in--they want to live in the city, but it doesn't occur to them that that they have the opportunity to walk places, which is something they probably didn't grow up doing in their suburban sprawl.

So instead of moving to neighborhoods that were intended to be that way, they buy into the urban dream to be able to tell their fearful, suburbanite friends that they live in The City, and Everything is Okay.


How to get freelance work

Even though I'm not all that excited about working at home all the time, I know that I can get even more work from companies, organizations, and/or individuals who need help. I've been working in a variety of non-salaried situations for over a decade (both at home and in-house), and I'm sure I can do that for the rest of my life. Businesses need help, but they don't want to shell out a lot of dough for benefits and they don't always have consistent work that would justify hiring someone full-time.

So if you want to find freelance work, I want to offer you some tips. I'll probably have more tips, but I might lack some brain cells today due to dream-pursuing, computer overload, and socializing.

1) When you meet someone from any type of business or organization, ask them if they need any help. You have nothing to lose by doing this. One time, before a class I was taking began, I was talking to someone who had a very interesting job in an interesting organization. I asked her if they needed any extra help there, and she said no. That's it. I didn't risk anything by doing that, and she wasn't turned off that I asked. However, another time, I was talking to someone who was complaining about all the work their company had, and I asked her if they needed any help, and she said yes. So I got the overflow and consistent paychecks. If someone says no, someone else will say yes. Guaranteed.

2) Look around you to see what businesses--big and small--need that you can offer. For instance, I know some pretty successful immigrants who can't write English that well, so I can ask them if they need me to either proofread or edit or write things for them, or even tutor them. I have something they need that they don't have.

3) Call places. This has worked for me, and again, you're going to hear "no," but eventually you'll get at least one "yes." One time I was looking for teaching work, and I opened up the Yellow Pages in the phone book and started to call every language school. Eventually I found someone who needed a teacher because another one just left. It is not scary, and you don't have to be fake or hyper or anything. Just be polite, and don't worry if they don't need someone. Just keep trying because sometimes timing can be on your side.

4) Tell people what you do. I don't mean that you should sell yourself and be pushy or obnoxious, but just let people know what you can do. And don't limit it to people who are just in your profession because you never know who they know.

5) If you're working in a situation where there are other freelancers, let them know what you are able to do, even if you're not using that skill in that environment. And then, when they go somewhere else, they will contact you to let you know about the new opportunity or will have the supervisor or workplace contact you.

Basically, I don't strive to find work because I just naturally talk to people or contact places to let them know what I can do and how I can help them. Believe me, once people know that you can do something well, they will keep using you and/or will let others know about you. Then you'll eventually have to turn the spiggot off.


No big deal

Pajama Guy mentioned my Nanowrimo pursuit, and it's really no big deal. The big deal is getting a novel published. That's why I encourage anyone who's ever thought of writing fiction to do Nanowrimo. It's still not too late to start.

If I ever get published, I can't wait to encourage and help people write--I feel like I'm learning a lot by pursuing this. The goals I had five years ago are different now, and I've become a lot more honest.

Later, after operating in the non-blog, non-fiction writing language-related world, I want to post a few tips for getting freelance work, since people have asked me about that on- and off-line.


Thank you Sony

Sometimes, nerdiness can make you feel weird. And sometimes it pays off. My interest in accents and language and other cultures led to a generous move by Sony. This is what happened:

The remote that controls both the VCR and television has never worked properly, and instead of sending it back to Sony and demanding a new one, I've called to ask them what to do. They've given me tips, which temporarily fixed it, but then it wouldn't work. I got another brand remote that worked consistently, but then one day, when I was setting the VCR to tape Startrek (which I've been overdosing on) that one didn't work either! It was a taping crisis! Startrek: TNG was going to be on in the afternoon, but I had to leave my place in the morning, and I needed to set the VCR, and the only way to do that was through a remote! Time was running out, and if I just let the VCR tape, it wouldn't get all three episodes of TNG! A major crisis in bad-weather Chicago!

So I called Sony to see if they could help me, and let them know that their products have gone down in quality, since my TV is a decade old, and it works fine, but the dumb remote has never worked consistently. The guy who talked to me had a very slight accent, as if he was from an Asian background. He sounded American and had a non-Asian name, but I bet he spoke an Asian language at home. I was guessing Chinese, but I didn't want to ask him, in case I was wrong and/or he'd be weirded out.

I told him I've lived in Japan, so I know what their quality and work ethic are like, that I wish the products were still made there, etc. When I mentioned Japan, he thought that was cool. But I could tell he wasn't a Japanese chap, so I took a chance, and just asked him if he was Asian. He asked me how I knew, and I said I'd been to Asia, I knew Asian people, blah blah. Then I asked him if he spoke another language, and he said Chinese. I knew it, and told him that I had a feeling he did.

It turns out he immigrated from Hong Kong when he was eight, so I said, "So you speak Cantonese," and he was surprised that I knew that. Basic knowledge, it seems, but not for a typical American, I guess. We talked about that and Asia and other stuff. Overall, he was impressed. I didn't mean to impress him, I was just being my nerdy self.

Well, the remote still didn't work, so he hooked me up with a higher level customer service rep, and I got another remote. For free, outside the warranty period. I called Sony back to tell them to thank the guy who originally helped me, and regretted not getting his email address. So maybe he'll find this post on the Internet and see that I still appreciate what he did.

Nerdiness helped, without me knowing it would. I was just being myself, and someone appreciated it.

So thank you Sony and the guy who gave me a break!


Not so bad

Earlier this year, I said that even though I might be a fiction failure, I got a gig helping someone with a non-fiction book. Well, it's fall now, which means it's been released.

I'm mentioning it here because I'm in the acknowledgements (my non-fiction, work name). Hopefully, the other person who wants my help with a book will contact me sometime, at least within this century. Until then, I'll happily continue with Nanowrimo, successfully working towards a goal before resuming the typical fiction dread.


What language is this?

Watch this hilarious video! You will crack up! The interviewer is laughing, but the topic must be very serious because the audience is completely silent, and a woman is wiping tears from her eyes.

What language is this, and what are they talking about it? (And did the interviewer keep his job?)

Update: It's Flemish and fake.


Thanks to Languagehat's suggestions, I've slightly modified the American Culture Quiz: the question and explanation for #6, and the explanation for #9.

Of course, it's difficult to make generalizations about cultures. These questions were created in response to non-Americans' questions, and I tried to make the quiz simple yet informative, and offer answers that reflect the most appropriate things to do.

If anyone else has any comments or questions, feel free to do so via email or here in the comments section. I'm going to create 10 more questions for a Part 2 quiz.


American Culture Quiz posted

I have created an American Culture Quiz, based on questions that non-Americans have asked me. I am working on Part 2 of the quiz, so if you have any questions about American culture, or know anyone who does, please let me know. My email address is in my profile, or you can post a comment here.

And if you are American and would like the world to know certain things about our culture, I can include that, too.


Win and lose?

I think I'm going to "win" Nanowrimo because it's all about quantity, not quality, but I'm not sure I'm going to "win" the Japanese Language Proficiency Test I'm taking in a month--yikes! One month! There's still a lot to learn, and I haven't taken any type of test since 1999, and haven't taken the Japanese Proficiency Test since 1993 (level 3). I'm taking level 2 this year, and I'll be lucky if I get half of those questions right. All that kanji and difficult vocabulary and grammar questions will be staring at me, wanting answers. I might let them down!

But I'm not worried--if I don't pass this year, I'll try again next year. This year could be considered a trial run. But it would be nice to get that sparkling certificate in the mail.


Oldest Japanese firm from Korea

I was at Languagehat, and a commenter provided a couple of interesting links.

One is a U.S. Trademark History Timeline, which starts from a cave drawing.

The other is a list of the world’s oldest family companies, "a compilation of the world’s 100 oldest continuously family-owned firms—all firms that can indisputably claim to have outlasted governments, nations, cities and certainly once-mighty corporations. All of the listed companies are at least 225 years old; four have lasted in the same family for more than a millennium."

The oldest is the Japanese temple-builder Kongo Gumi, founded in 578! There's no 1 in front of that number--it's a three-digit year!

Actually, the Kongo family is originally from Korea: "Prince Shotoku brought Kongo family members to Japan from Korea more than 1,400 years ago to build the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple, which still stands."

And in they're in their 40th generation! Imagine the parties they get invited to--serious old money going on there.