1.30.2005

Huh?

People from Iraq are ecstatic because it's the first time they've voted in their lives. I asked a middle-aged person from mainland China if they'd ever voted in an election. "No," was the answer, and there was no speculation on when, or if, it might happen.

There's not much voting going on in Hong Kong, either, and won't be for a while. I saw an article about how "Many people in Hong Kong have been demanding the right to democratically elect a successor to their chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, a former shipping tycoon chosen for his position by an 800-member committee that tends to side with Beijing.

"But the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee said 'universal suffrage shall not apply' to the selection of Tung's successor in 2007 or members of the Legislative Council the following year."

Okay, so Hong Kong isn't bursting with voting options. But check out this reasoning:

"'Before 1997, the Hong Kong compatriots, including your fathers and mothers, had no democracy,' Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters in Shanghai. 'Now, everything follows the rule of law, and this is real democracy'."

That's right: there was no democracy before 1997, but now there is real democracy. The Foreign Minister said so.

1.29.2005

Great bookstore

If you're in Chicago, stop by the Prairie Avenue Bookshop on South Wabash, just south of Van Buren. It is by far the best bookstore I've seen. I went there today, and saw lots of really cool photography, design, architecture, and other visually intriguing books. This is one of the few times when I wish: 1) I was well off to be able to buy lots of books there, and 2) I had a bigger place to put all those books. Chain bookstores just don't have the same effect.

You can also order online from their site.

Jay is gone

This happened a month ago, but I didn't find out until now:

"Effective today Jay Marvin is no longer a member of the WLS on-air staff. For the past two-plus years, Jay has co-hosted the 9am-11am program. We wish Jay the best and thank him for his contribution. Eileen Byrne will continue to host the time slot."
--John F. Gallagher President and General Manager WLS-AM 890/WRDZ-AM 1300 Chicago IL 60601

There's more information about his departure in this article.

Jay Marvin was my favorite radio personality, even though I didn't agree with his opinions all the time. I even got a chance to meet him, and always thought I'd see him again around town. But he's leaving Chicago because he's gotten job offers at radio stations in other states.

What a bummer.

1.27.2005

Too much information

Who would've thought that almost 20 years ago, The Police would be right. Their album Ghost in the Machine had a song called "Too Much Information." Here are the lyrics:

Too Much Information
Words and music by Sting

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane

I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh
I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh

Overkill
Overview
Over my dead body
Over me
Over you
Over everybody

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane

I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh
I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane

I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh
I've seen the whole world six times over
Sea of Japan to the Cliffs of Dover
Oh

Overkill
Overview
Over my dead body
Over me
Over you
Over everybody

Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane
Too much information running through my brain
Too much information driving me insane

And there was no Internet when that song was created. There's so much information today, it's easy to get lost and drown in it and go crazy trying to keep up. It's like chocolate: a little is tasty, but too much can make you sick.

1.26.2005

Never vergessen

January 27 is the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

See these sites for pictures:

Auschwitz in the 40's
More pictures from that time
Auschwitz in the late 70's and early 80's

When I visited Germany with my family, we went to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

My great-grandmother died in the Sobibor Concentration Camp:
"Built in March 1942 as a part of Aktion Reinhard in the General Government in Poland Sobibor operated from May 1942 until October 1943 for only one purpose: to kill as many Jews including children as quickly as possible. No selections were made for work or death - victims were brought to the camp in cattle cars and all but a handful were gassed immediately after arrival."

Another relative of mine was in Auschwitz when he was a teenager. And survived.

Find out more about The Holocaust here.

Don't forget.

One of the first

I was one of the first customers at a new cafe called Netccino, which opened today. It's on Taylor and Bell, east of Western Ave. If you're in Chicago, and are anywhere near Little Italy, you should stop by. The decor is really nice, the Italian coffee is tasty (can't remember the name, though it's not Illy), and the owner seems cool.

The area is also interesting, and reflects the variety that cities should offer. It even has its own newspaper.

False friends

You know how they can be: you think they're your friend, but then they betray you. Who hasn't had this experience?

If you think I'm talking about people, think again. Sure, people let you down, but words can too. I was thinking about this last night in German class, when I looked at the word "bekommen." Makes you think of "become", right? It actually means "get" or "receive." And there are plenty of other examples.

University of Exeter explains the concept well:

"The increased usage of English loan words in German may not be as much of a boon to the English speaker as it may appear. For it often exacerbates the knotty problem of 'false friends' (or more accurately 'false cognates') - treacherous words which appear to be the same in both languages but in fact mean something entirely different."

I found two sites that list German-English false cognates, and another site that lists genuine cognates.



1.24.2005

Monk insider?

If you didn't see the season premiere of Monk this past weekend, you have one more chance tonight. I must say, I had no idea that there was going to be a new assistant because Bitty Schram quit. They announced the casting change last August, but since I don't follow Monk news, I was totally surprised.

I went to the Jump the Shark site to find out what other Monk viewers think of this change, and saw the following comment, from what sounds to me like a Monk staffer:

What discriminating viewers have realized for a while was that Monk and Sharona had a dead end relationship that wasn't quite a friendship nor an Employer-Employee relationship, and that their interactions were increasingly shrill and unsympathetic. It wasn't growing and it wasn't going anywhere. On top of that Ms. Schram increasingly would spend far too much time on the sets arguing about how her character should be involved with each scene and it was becoming a drain for all the other actors to try and politely accommodate her. The show is actually quite odd to work on in that most of the principal actors confuse themselves into believing that they (and they alone) are the actual directors of each scene. The classic cliche of the Director having to sweetie/baby accommodate each inane comment has never been so pronounced in recent years as on this set. Don't get me wrong, these folks are all good and generous people, but the delusions of artistic importance are fairly stunning to watch on this set. If it didn't earn me such long and lovely overtime hours I'd probably be upset, but as it is...

1.22.2005

Hebrew site

My husband (the sweetest guy on the planet) just found this Hebrew site. It's beautifully designed with free lessons and sound files. Even if you subscribe for a year, it's not expensive, and you get access to a lot of good stuff.

Another Numa update

The Numa Numa dance post is still popular, so I thought I'd update it for new (and old?) visitors.

On another note: downtown highrises in snow storms. The snow has been falling steadily here in Chicago, yet downtown highrise living has won out because we can't see the true effects of the storm, since the streets and sidewalks have been shoveled and salted. After all, if the downtown doesn't look good, then tourists won't come here.

1.21.2005

More nice guys

I previously mentioned a nice guy, Richard Lindberg, who sent me a long reply to an appreciative email I sent him, even though I'd never met him and he seems to be successfully busy.

I'd like to add the bloggers Dr. Demarche and Smiley, from The Daily Demarche, to my growing list of "nice guys."

I emailed them a long foreign service-related question, and not only did they respond, but they even answered my follow-up emails. It's amazing how nice people can be who I've never met before and who are putting in long hours at "serious" jobs. There's certainly a lot of good will on the Internet. Thanks!


1.19.2005

Chinese site

I was just sent a link to a site that helps people study Chinese.

Notice how the Chinese characters are similar to Japanese, which helps explain why so many Chinese people are able to pass Level 1 of the Japanese Proficiency Test. One time someone gave me a Chinese test from a Chinese newspaper, and I was able to answer most of the questions correctly, thanks to my guessing abilities. I had no clue how to read the words, and I doubt I could get by in China with my lame pronunciation. Tones are killers, no matter if the language is Chinese or Thai. At least the Thai alphabet is phonetic. But then you have to deal with the complicated social rules, which Chinese doesn't seem to have.

100 no Shitsumon books

Someone from Belgium (cool!) requested information about a book called "Cent Questions sur le Japon" for Japanese people who want to learn how to talk about Japan in French. The publisher is Sanshusha, and they publish what I'm calling the "100 no Shitsumon Series" because each book has the title 100の質問 (100 no Shitsumon) in it. Here are links to the languages that are covered in this interesting series:

French
German
Italian
Spanish
Korean

What I find interesting is that the books are written in both languages, and are for Japanese people, but they're also helpful for anyone who wants to learn both languages.

1.17.2005

Don't forget

Tonight is the History Channel's documentary on The French Revolution. As they've said in their ads, "'For Two Hours, It Won't Kill You to Love the French.'' It's going to be on at 9:00 Eastern/8:00 Central time.

I'm planning on taping it because I will be in German class. Yes, that's yet another New Year's Resolution that I am keeping. Maybe by the end of 2005, I will have passed the Japanese Proficiency Test, will speak German better, and will have an interesting job.

But for now, by the end of today, I will know more about Japan, Germany, and France.

Weird ingredient mystery

Last week, I mentioned that I was going to mention a weird gum ingredient: it's nicotine. Or is it?

The gum is called Black Black, produced by Lotte in Japan. The gum is popular because it contains caffeine. You can buy it at Japanese food stores. I bought mine in Arlington Heights, where more Japanese people live.

One day I was looking at the list of ingredients, and saw the word ニコチン (nikochin). I went to my sort-of-trusty Katakana dictionary, and saw that ニコチン was "nicotine." But after the word ニコチン, there was 酸アミド (san-amide) which means "acid amide." So I wondered if it was some sort of acidic version of nicotine, which kind of spooked me, because how many gums have you seen that have nicotine in them?

After some research, I discovered that the ingredient may look like some form of nicotine, but it's actually niacinamide. According to a British site:
"Nicotine can be oxidised to nicotinic acid (niacin) which is present in minute amounts in all living cells. The corresponding amide, niacinamide, is an essential B vitamin."
(Note the British spelling of "oxidized." That's cool.)

Here's some more information:

"Niacin is a member of the B-vitamin family. It is sometimes referred to as vitamin B3. Nicotinic acid was first discovered as an oxidation product of nicotine and thus, the origin of its name. In fact, much of the confusion caused by the use of the term niacin for both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide, as well as for nicotinic acid alone, was created by the attempt to dissociate nicotinic acid from its nicotine origins."

Strangely enough, you can't see the picture of the gum on the Lotte site, and there doesn't seem to be any explanation from the company about that ingredient. So it's up to the researchers and other online pundits to explain what this ingredient is. There are still people online who claim that it's nicotine. They could be right. As long as the company is silent about it, then conspiracy theories will abound.

1.14.2005

Okay, I get it already

I'm probably one of the few people who's gotten three rejections from the same place. First, I got an email (not a form email) that basically said my stuff was worthless and to get lost. Then I got a mailing with my submission returned to me, reiterating that opinion. And finally, I got a letter in the mail, telling me that they're sorry they had to send a form letter, but alas, there are too many submissions to deal with. I got it the first, time, okay? They didn't even know they'd already personally and specifically rejected me. [Note: I only sent the submission once, but got three rejections.]

And that's not all. From another place, I probably got one of the fastest rejections in the history of submissions: less than one hour, maybe not even forty-five minutes. I emailed a query, and when I checked my email a short while later, lo and behold was a rejection. A form one, of course.

Basically, if you ever want your ego challenged, first fail in a job (or jobs), create something alone in obscurity, get lots of negative feedback from other writers, and then submit it to the publishing-industrial complex. That should take care of you for a while.

1.13.2005

Only 2

As part of fulfilling one of my New Year's resolutions, I've been trying to look for an interesting job. I've been going to Careerbuilder.com, and even went there long before this year began, but only have found cubicle jobs. So I decided to do a search online for "how to find an interesting job." Only two sites had that term. Maybe, after mine is the third, I'll get hits from other people who are pursuing a similar goal.

Update: I'm the third.

1.12.2005

Tudor history

I know, I said I'd post something about a weird ingredient in some Japanese gum I recently bought, but I thought I'd throw a curve ball by mentioning a Tudor history site. I found it when I was doing a search for a phrase unrelated to anything Tudor (which I can no longer remember) and was impressed by the site creator's bio:

"I am not a professional historian, but I do consider myself an amateur historian of sorts. At one point I would have thought that would have been a bit of a stretch to say, but now that I've racked up hours lost in the volumes of the Calendar of State Papers in my university's library, I think it's a justifiable statement. I also took several history classes in college, including one on Tudor England, so I also do have a bit of an academic background on the topic. My degree and current job are in astronomy, for those who are curious."

Her profession is astronomy, but she's done extensive research on Tudor history? What's up with that? She must have quite a brain to not only study all that history, but to set up a site about it, in addition to her other site.

1.11.2005

Katakana spelling changes

I've seen changes in English spelling from time to time, but I was surprised to see a change in a Japanese Katakana spelling. I had to translate an American's business card into Japanese, so I wanted to ensure that the words I was using were correct. I looked in a Katakana dictionary that was revised in 1994 (the original publishing date was 1972), to check the correct spelling for the word "fax". The dictionary spells it like ファクス (fakusu) but there are a lot more spellings like ファックス (fakkusu) on the Internet, even at companies that manufacture fax machines.

There's also another Katakana spelling that I found that's questionable, which I'll talk about later. Hint: a weird ingredient in gum.

1.10.2005

More scary German

Okay, you're probably wondering, "what's up with her obsession with scary German?" Well, if you've ever studied German, unless you're Dutch, you've been scared, too.

I wasn't going to mention the scariness of it again, until I found the great book, 1001 Pitfalls in German. Note how many pitfalls there are. That's a lot.

Plus, the author, who's a professor, admits that it's scary: "The very sight of some German compound nouns may frighten you. They may appear monstrous and cumbersome, may compound your confusion and make you want to pound your head against the dictionary."

Written Japanese and Chinese can also cause head-pounding, so they're not excused. But their grammar isn't the nightmare that German is.

1.07.2005

Read this book

I just finished How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young. It's a non-fiction book about his experiences working for Vanity Fair magazine and his life in New York.

At a later time, I'm going to post some interesting passages from it, but for now, I want to mention it because it's better than a lot of fiction I've read. I started reading a New York Times bestselling novel at the same time I started reading his book, but I gave up on the novel because it was so boring--the author would describe every inch of a room, for instance, and one room would continue for a few pages. Also, there wasn't much of a plot, and the main character was passive. It's probably one of the few instances of a movie being better than the book.

But Toby Young's memoir is both entertaining and thought-provoking, though I didn't like the vulgar language he used when describing women. It seems like the first half of the book had a layer of sadness, and the second half seemed to be written with more emotional distance, as if he'd gotten over the constant rejection and failure. Even though I don't read any of the magazines he mentioned, I've never lived in New York, and I have a different lifestyle than he had, I could identify with what he was going through.

1.06.2005

Lindberg update

I sent Richard Lindberg an appreciative email, and not only did he reply, but he wrote me a long email! And it has more helpful advice. I was surprised, because I've never met him, and I'm not "established" like he is, which just proves what a nice guy he is. I haven't asked him if I can post some of what he wrote, but if I can, I'll post it later.

1.05.2005

Encouraging advice

Someone sent me some advice from Richard Lindberg, who's a successful author. This is the most encouraging writing advice I've ever read. Usually writers say obvious things, such as "write every day" (duh) or "writers write" (duh) or "write a good query letter" (duh). Sometimes it sounds as if they're just doling out the advice to market themselves.

But Lindberg has specific, caring advice, and shares his own struggles. He also uses intelligent language without being condescending, unlike other writers who are like, "I've made it, okay? Now after I throw a few crumbs down to you, leave me alone. And don't even think about becoming successful like me. Just follow this paltry advice, and buy my books."

Lindberg says that getting published "all hinges on what the author is willing to accept, and how far down that path of travail he or she is willing to journey...never lose hope and do not become blind-sided by Nay Sayers, skeptical book agents or apathetic publishers."

He also says what other authors don't: "Personally, I would not recommend an agent for the first time author. Agents hate unsolicited manuscripts from unpublished authors. Hate them!" Sure, there are exceptions, but usually first-time authors are all giddy, telling you that you need to do what they did, and you'll be fine. And buy their books.

To access his full essay, you'll have to go to his site and click on "Advice to Writers." It really helped me get out of the self-loathing slump I was in.

1.02.2005

Broke one, kept one

So far, even though it's only Day 2 of the New Year, I've already broken a resolution.

Actually, I started breaking it yesterday, during the Monk marathon. I was reading the credits, and noticed that Tony Shalhoub is both the star of the show and is an Executive Producer. Which got me thinking: he's so "lucky" (meaning that he's worked hard and it's paid off) to do something of quality, which is creative and unique, and which also must pay well. And then it creeped up on me: Envy, one of my resolutions. I was supposed to avoid it.

Coincidentally, there is an ad for Stargate on the Monk site, which in the past had caused Envy to annoy me, because it seems like a cool, intelligent show to work for. So there I was faced with two sources of it, but I survived.

At least I've been keeping my other resolution: to study Japanese, which I did last night and this morning.