Great year

Well, the year is coming to an end, and I must say that it's been one of the best years ever. I have had a great time in radio and have learned a lot. I hope that the new year brings more adventures and takes me closer to my dream[s]. Last year I wouldn't have thought that I would have done so much or would have felt so alive and refreshed and excited. In fact, I didn't know that life can be so fun, especially in my post-travel/expat existence. Sure, I've had some good times since I returned from my life abroad, but never this consistently. And to attribute it to work is quite a feat.

So Happy New Year to everyone--I'm assuming that no one at this time is into the new year yet, though that of course will change as the day progresses.


Going to LA

I'm going to Los Angeles this weekend--I'll be back next year. Well, it's technically next year because I'm returning on January 1. So it's just a short weekend trip. I haven't been there in probably a few years, and I'm not its biggest fan. Their downtown isn't that great, and people have even compared it to a third-world country. And of course, you can't walk around, unless you drive a car to a destination and park it--in other words, you have to take an intentional stroll. LA is also very expensive--I don't know how people afford to live there. There's no way I'd be able to afford a decent place in a nice neighborhood--I'd have to move to the boonies or forfeit most of my paycheck to make rent.

But probably the most annoying thing about LA is the plasticity. There are so many people who have fake whatever, and it's quite nauseating, especially because I'm female. I don't want to become anorexic or exercise a million hours a week to become acceptably skinny, I don't want to dye my hair blond or put tons of products in my hair, and I want to stick with minimal makeup--at this point, I just wear lipstick. That's not really tolerated there, it seems. Sure, there are different kinds of people there, but the tone is set by Hollywood, which trickles down to the masses.

Still, I'll be staying in a very nice place in Beverly Hills, so I shouldn't complain about my departure from the ordinary to the wealthy.


House to hip hop

This past weekend, I went to a really cool party in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is south of downtown Chicago. It was in a large space where a very cool, friendly dj resides, and I had a great time. What I love about living in an American city is the diversity of the people--sounds trite, but it's true. One week I might be with white yuppies, another week I might be in a situation with hardly any white people at all, among a mixture of professionals and people who have no office aspirations.

I found out about the party through a friend of mine who I used to hang out with when he was spinning records around the city. The music that he and other dj's I knew played house music and underground stuff--deep sounds that had warmth, positivity (don't know if that's a word) and good vibes. So the Pilsen-dweller, who had known my friend for a while, wanted to bring some dj's together to celebrate that type of music.

When we first arrived, there weren't many people there, so I just hung out and enjoyed the tracks and mixing. I talked to some talented dj's about music and the scene, and once again, I regretted never learning how to spin or really pursuing it. Late in the night, more people started showing up until the place was quite packed. But it was weird--no one was really dancing. I don't dance, but still, I was surprised that the clubby-looking people around me weren't. The dj who was on was incredible--his selection and mixing were just so tight, soulful, and groovy (not in the 60's way), and really should have inspired people to move or at least show interest in what he was putting out there.

Since it was getting really late, my friend and I wanted to leave, and we noticed that the music went from house/underground to hip hop. I guess the crowd was so passive, the dj and host discovered the only way to get them going was to play it. And I heard that it was hip hop from then on. Which really wasn't the intention of the night.

Ok, hip hop is popular, but Chicago is known for house and for creating innovative music. Yet there are people here who want and only are aware of and open to hip hop, which is quite sad. I wish that there were more outlets for people to hear more variety, more quality, more of what the alternative has to offer.


Great book

I just finished George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. What a great book--I highly recommend it. The writing is excellent, detailed, high quality, and readable though I didn't make my way quickly through it. I think it's because he has such detail about his life as a tramp that I had to take the time to savor it.

Well, it got me interested in his life, so I looked for a biography. I settled on Inside George Orwell because it's the most psychological one I found. Other bios are either literary, which really wouldn't give me much insight into how he thought and lived, or just too academic. I want to know about the man who wrote the books I've read so far: Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm, and 1984.

Actually, when I was in Romania in the mid-90's traveling around, I met a Romanian who read 1984 when it was banned back during communism--someone from a British governmental entity "smuggled" it in. She said that 1984 described Romania at the time. Which would help explain why they'd want to ban it--in addition to the government's contempt of freedom, culture, and thinking.


Chinese Christmas

This is cool: last year I went to someone's house on Christmas Eve, and was one of a handful of non-Mandarin speakers there. Since I'd studied it a tiny bit, I did my best to try to guess some of the words people were saying, even using my Japanese to infer the meaning, but after a while, I just got lazy and stayed in the English world with those who were willing to speak it with me.

Well, this year, I'm going to someone else's house, but it's going to also be filled with a bunch of Mandarin speakers. And since it's happening tonight, it's too late to take out my Chinese books and cram for such an occasion. The cool thing is that since a lot of the folks there are from China, they haven't been inundated with Christmas, so to them it's a new and/or different experience. The host has decked her place out with Christmas decorations, and even though it's not a new thing for me to see them, I'm going to be seeing all that stuff differently, because to her, it's fresh and something that she never did back at home. So I can celebrate Christmas Eve with people who are discovering it, rather than those who are just doing what they "should".

I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas and never had "tree envy" or any Christmas-related resentment, and now that I'm older, I still pretty much don't care about it, but it's refreshing to be with people who are exploring it as part of Western culture.


Chaucer rapper

Mad Minerva often has interesting links--and she seems like an interesting, smart person who[m] I'd love to meet someday.

Her latest interesting contribution is a guy who raps Chaucer.

She also mentions a Chaucer blog that is written in Chaucer language--very cool and nerdy.


Jesus celebrated Chanukah?

I just told someone who goes to Bible school that Jesus celebrated Chanukah (or Hanukkah, depending on how you transliterate it), and they didn't believe me. So I'm posting this info for anyone else who doesn't know, either:

From John 10:22-30 (New Living Translation):

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah. He was at the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon's Colonnade. The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."

Jesus replied, "I have already told you, and you don't believe me. The proof is what I do in the name of my Father. But you don't believe me because you are not part of my flock. My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. The Father and I are one."

John 10:22-23 in the Amplified (which tries to take all words and meanings into consideration, thus the brackets are theirs): "After this the Feast of Dedication [of the reconsecration of the temple] was taking place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in Solomon's Porch in the temple area."

And finally, the New International Version (NIV) of the same: "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade."


The trenchant gamine

For some reason, I've been curious about Judy Garland's parents because she lived a tragic, short life, and had lots of talent. So I wanted to know what type of background she came from. I don't have the time nor desire to read a biography, but I came upon a good review of one.

Things were going fine until I read this sentence: "Now the gamine was overlaid with the trenchant sophisticate."

I was an English major and am obviously into language, but I could not understand what that sentence meant, even by trying to understand it in context (one of the rules of reading comprehension).

Gamine means "a playfully mischievous girl or young woman." When I saw that word, I had no idea that it implied a female, or even a human being.

Trenchant is a word I should know, but it obviously hasn't stuck yet: "vigorous; effective; energetic."

So now that sentence makes sense, and I can continue to finish the article before I move on to all the stuff I have to do today.


A movie you should see

I rarely go to movies because they're expensive and some of the other movie-goers are usually idiots who like to talk during the show or are just annoying. You'll see that I have two favorite movies, though there are other ones I've seen and enjoyed, though not enough to list them as my faves.

An excellent movie that I saw recently was the The Queen. At first, when my family invited me to see it, I was like, "Who cares about the Queen and Diana?" I was in junior high when they got married, and to me it was such a fairy tale. I still remember how I felt watching the wedding and all that surrounded it on TV--absolute envy and hopefulness that I would one day experience such a thing (though without the pomp or wealth). I'm sure I was one of millions of girls who thought that.

Little did I know what a failed nightmare it would become. And as Diana continued with her PR campaign to make up for her misery, I didn't follow her, but it was hard to avoid her exposure because she was everywhere in the media, mostly unwillingly. Surprisingly, when she died, I was really affected. I really didn't care about her, or so I thought, but she'd been in the background of my own life for so long, I just always assumed she'd continue being there.

I remember the night I turned on the TV to check the weather--it was very late at night, and I had to wake up early the next day for my Japanese lesson, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to melt in the hot Chicago summer. I saw the words "Diana dead" on the screen--what? I couldn't believe it. I watched TV for hours to find out what the heck was happening, and during that subsequent week, I read practically every article about her and watched all the TV specials I could about her. Stuff I usually don't do--I don't like to get caught up in celebrity crapola. I told a friend about my obsession, and she said she felt the same way--she hadn't cared about Diana, or so she thought, until she died. I think a lot of people were mourning her death.

I'm so not into movies that I didn't even know this one existed until I was invited to see it. Even after I heard the title, I still couldn't figure out what it was about--"The Queen" could mean many things. I really thought it would be uneventful and an unnecessary viewing experience, but it was absolutely incredible--so incredible, in fact, that I'm planning to see it again.

It doesn't have special effects or really awesome scenes, but the acting is superb, and perhaps because it's a British production, it doesn't have that Hollywood mercenary style or the cheapness that pervades American films as they try to rope in the world for profit. It is an elegant, understated movie that is in excellent taste, and I walked away wanting more. It's really like viewing fine art--the combination of excellent acting (which I already mentioned), cinematography, direction, whatever. If this movie doesn't get an Oscar, at least for Best Actress, then there really is something wrong with popular culture.


Not worth it

I got a free ticket to see The Pursuit of Happyness, and it's a good thing I didn't pay for it because it's not worth the dough.

Will Smith is a good actor, and so is his son--actually, everyone is great in this movie. But the story is full of struggle after struggle, obstacles followed by more obstacles, letdowns and frustrations--for most of the movie. I kept looking at my watch, wondering when it was going to end because I felt like I was being barraged with negativity and frustration most of the time. I knew what the ending was going to be, but I had to wait through a lot of stomach churning endurance to get there.

So I'm glad I didn't pay--it's not even a movie that has to be seen on the big screen.


Like swords

Bruce (who can speak Cantonese) sent me a link to this rapoff (freesyling battle) between two rappers. Definitely check it out--Jin (a Chinese-American guy who also speaks Cantonese) totally blows the other guy away. Impressive.

As I was watching it and reading about these types of battles, I was wondering why people do it. It seems dumb. But then I realized that it's really the lastest incarnation of an old activity: sword fights. They're just using words as weapons.


The bloody man

This morning, I was at a gas station and saw a gangbanger-type of guy--the type of guy who hip-hop fans revere and imitate. This guy, though, wasn't just wearing the fashion--he had the eyes of someone who was drugged and apathetic even about his own existence, and he really looked like he'd emerged from the streets--though which streets, I'm not sure, because I wasn't in the city but in Indiana near some smallish towns.

When he walked in and I was going out, he barely uttered a hello. I looked at his car, which had no license plates and was left running--so anyone could've walked up and stolen it. As I was pumping my gas, I wondered if he was going to do anything crazy inside, but he seemed so sleepily high that I wasn't sure he'd be able to manage it. After he left, I went back inside to get my change, and told the girl working behind the bullet-proof glass that his car didn't have plates. She said that there was blood on his shirt, which I hadn't noticed.

The guy is a thug, but I sort of pity his self-destructiveness.



I didn't know that there was an area of Canada called the Prairies, "an area of flat grasslands in Western Canada. The phrase 'the Prairies' in Canada usually refers to the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan."

I've been to Manitoba, but when I was up there, no one told me it was part of the Prairies. We don't really have that here--we have the Midwest, where I live, and west of us is Nebraska and so forth, which is considered the Great Plains, but I don't hear people use that term, like "my friend lives in the Great Plains." They'll just say the state. But it seems like Canadians like to say "the Prairies."

When Americans say "prairie," we're referring to what falls within this definition: "a region of flat or hilly land dominated by tall grasses, typical of the American Middle West."

So in the U.S., "prairie" is a physical condition of the terrain, rather than a geographical area that Canadians refer to. I like those Canadian Prairie-dwelling accents though. :)



I came across the term "isochronic recurrence" and since I've never gotten deep into linguistics, I had no idea what that meant. Then I found a pretty decent definition of a related word, isochrony: "A sequence of events is called isochronous if the time separating each pair of successive events is strictly equal." And, interestingly though not surprisingly, "The absence of isochrony is called anisochrony."

Now I'm trying to understand what the heck mora means. I read about it, but can't figure out what they're saying. But it sounds interesting, like lots of other language stuff out there.

Critical condition

A family member is in critical condition--it's so bad, I didn't go to work yesterday and won't go today, and I probably won't go to my beloved Japanese class, with the best teacher on the planet. One thing I've noticed is how caring people can be. A lot of people are busy, but it's incredible how some will take time out to talk to me on the phone or email or chat via IM. Even strangers--yesterday someone walked up to me at the hospital and asked me how my mom was doing and how I was doing. I had never met this person before, but they had a sick relative nearby, and heard what I was going through, and encouraged me. Incredible!

I think it's because a lot of people have experienced loss and suffering, and it's just one more thing that connects us as humans.


Canadian pizza in Malaysia

And speaking of Canada, Jordan shared this photo. What's funny is that to me, pizza is a Chicago thing more than a Canadian thing, but then again, I'm biased.

Congrats AP

Canadian Blog Awards

Arrogant Polyglot has come in third place for the best cultural blog. Considering that Canada is quite big and there are a lot of blogs coming out of there, that's quite a feat. Now I wonder if he's going to keep his "arrogance" under control--if/when I meet him, I'll find out for myself ;)


Get the book

I just got a copy of Air in the Paragraph Line #11, edited (and some written) by the talented Jon Konrath. The theme is work, and the writing is really good. It's not puffed-up literary preciousness, but real writing, where communication matters more than self-importance.

I got something published in there too: how teaching can be degrading, something which I've wanted to write about for a while.

Get the book and see for yourself.


Larry's party

I went to a party tonight in Ukrainian Village, which is west of downtown. I've had some challenging situations lately that have been emotionally draining, and a party was just what I needed. I'd never met Larry before, but I'd read his comments at Jon's journal and had been to his MySpace page, and when he sent out a bulletin about the party, I figured, what the hey? I might as well meet some new people. I knew no one there, but ended up having a good time. I even met some skateboarding dudes, who unfortunately invited their loser friends, which really killed the vibe of the party, I think. Which is pretty much why I left.

It was a night for hearty winter-dwellers: some of us were outside in the freezing cold the whole time, standing around a barrel that held burning wood. When I got home, I noticed that my face was stained with smoky ash. So now my eyes are dark, as if I've just emerged from a coal mine.


Does pre- matter?

I translated a word that would be "pre-wash" in English. As I was typing it out, I wondered if the spelling should be "pre-wash" or "prewash" (one word). When I was learning spelling, usually the prefixes were supposed to be followed by a hyphen. However, it seems like they don't have to be anymore. But I don't know if I want to make it one word because the concept of "before" is emphasized by the hyphen--it's a PRE-wash, not POST-wash (though there really is no such word).



Bruce lives in Markham, which is in Ontario, and sometimes says he's from "Markhong". Since I'm not from Canada, I didn't even think to ask what town that was--I just assumed it was a real town.

But he says that he's merged the two words "Markham" and "Hong Kong" because there are many Chinese immigrants from there, and while it's hard to pinpoint a specific article (unless I spend a lot of time researching it) that describes that situation, then the Pacific Mall could be proof of it: it's the largest Chinese mall in North America.


Interesting quote

I was watching Tom Wolfe speaking on Book-TV, and when someone asked him a question that he wasn't able to formulate a solid answer to so quickly or thoroughly, he said, "my brain is so full some things fall out."

At least he has plenty of outlets--books, TV, lectures, social life, etc.--that allow him to use his full brain.


Killing radio stars

I was watching Video Killed the Radio Star, and everyone knows it was the first video shown on MTV. I didn't have cable until a couple of years ago, but I remember seeing that video back then on my grandparents' TV. I wonder if it was during that debut year--or maybe I saw the video on non-cable TV, announcing the launch of the new station.

Well, I'm not the first person to come to this conclusion, but when I saw the video and heard lyrics such as this:

Pictures came and broke your heart.
Oh-a-a-a oh
And now we meet in an abandoned studio.
We hear the playback and it seems so long ago.
And you remember the jingles used to go...

and this:

In my mind and in my car,
We can't rewind we've gone too far,
Pictures came and broke your heart,
so put all the blame on VTR
You are a radio star
You are a radio star
Video killed the radio star

I thought, "iPod and internet killed the radio star." I've said this before, but when people can get internet capability in their cars, then they'll be able to access a lot of interesting online stations, which will mean more splintering of the audience. And it's a lot more fulfilling to find out about good music from a friend than to listen through commercials and bad music to find some gems. But I still find out about music that way, though radio stars are now few and far between.



Today is Thanksgiving--I would've done a post about it yesterday, because I wanted to post a link to the Thanksgiving Quiz I created last year, but I totally OD'ed on my computer. I've been using it so much, so intensely, that yesterday after I did some work and read stuff and chatted and emailed, I just had to say "enough".

So now I'm back on it, and even though I have to work some very crazy hours for the next couple of days, I have to say that one of the things I'm extremely thankful for this year is working in radio, even if it's still only part-time (almost impossible to get full-time work in it). I love it, I love where I work, my coworkers are great, I just feel very lucky. In the past, I would say that I'm thankful for my health, my husband, etc., but this year, I'm extra thankful because I have not felt so alive in years.

And the person to thank for getting me on this path is Rick Kogan, who's got the best media gig around.


Psalm 65

My favorite Old Testament translation is by the Jewish Publication Society. Actually, they'd be mad that I'm using the term "Old Testament"--they call it the Jewish Bible, though a more preferable and generally acceptable term is the Tanakh. Whatever--it all has the same contents.

I stumbled upon Psalm 65 yesterday, which is just so deep--unfortunately, I have to type out the translation because I can't find it online, though there are plenty of other translations of it here.


Addicted to desire

I'm surprised there's no movie or book or short story or poem or whatever out there with the title "Addicted to Desire." I wouldn't write about it, but I'm surprised no one else has, really. I know that some people have written about the topic--sort of, but within the fiction world, it seems to be absent.

So I guess I'm offering a free bit of advice--it's a cool title.


Rich and Strange

This past week, I got home really late but couldn't fall asleep, so I turned on the educational channel where they usually show really old movies (usually British) late at night/into the early morning. Usually, they're sort of odd, but I was fascinated by one: Rich and Strange. The shots are great--they show different ports and countries, and each scene seems painterly or like a good quality photograph. But what was also interesting was the interaction--even though it was in the early 1930's, the characters seemed modern, which helped get me into the story. I felt like I was a part of their trip, though the editing was choppy and the sound was awful. Apparently, from what I've read online, none of the versions seem to have good audio.

When I told my friend about how interesting and cutting edge it was for that time, he said that it was probably a Hitchcock film, but I doubted what he was saying because Hitchcock usually did mysteries. But yes, it is by Hitchcock, which explains why the style is relatively sophisticated.



Sometimes I chat with Bruce--he's a Canadian, so he uses British spellings, including "tonne," as in, "I have tonnes of work." It makes it sound so fancy. We simple Americans keep it short--we say "ton". So if I write that "I have tons of work" it really looks as heavy as it sounds. But "tonnes"--come on--that implies white gloves.



I was going to do a long, self-pitying post about writing because I'm trying to successfully untie the knots I created in my previous drafts, but I got home, cranked "Confessions" for the umpteenth time, and I'm in too good a mood to write anything darkly introspective. But I just want to let folks out there know that I'm on Yahoo IM now, and while I'm still using AOL (the IM name is listed in my profile), my name for Yahoo is different--it's the name of this blog (lower case).


Madonna does not need any more publicity than she's already had for the past several years, and she doesn't need people to talk about her because she is already so insanely successful and rich, but I just have to mention her because I cannot get enough of her latest CD. Someone gave me a copy of it when I was in San Francisco. Amazing--I've heard it several times in just a few days. I think I'm addicted. It has excellent production and sound quality, an international style, it's deep, uplifting, fulfilling dance music. Not like the pimp and ho-laden stuff that hip hop offers. I like the sound of hip hop, but the lyrics are disgusting and the images are so sleazy and misogynistic. Madonna's latest stuff sounds empowered and positive.



I spotted a new word that Language Hat (aka The Great One) used: blogovial. I'm posting it here for posterity, because it just might spread, and as of now, it's not anywhere else online. I guess it means that a blog exists, because he says, "the blogovial existence of..."

So a new word: blogovial.

Refresh this blog

If you've been reading my blog and you've noticed some problems, it's because I switched to Blogger Beta, which is a new version of Blogger. Someone had a problem posting a comment, but that shouldn't be happening.

So what you should do is refresh this blog by pressing the "Refresh" button in your browser so that you will be able to comment and not get any weird messages. And even if you get a weird message after you post a comment, it should show up because I tried it with another comment and it worked. Unfortunately, it may still say "0 comments", but it should still be there.

So press the "Refresh" button and hopefully the Beta problems will go away. Hopefully.


Online foreign language stuff

Mad Minerva mentioned a huge online library of books, including foreign language resources. They also list a lot of English stuff.

It will take a while to wade through all of that, but I want to take the time to check it out. Just another detour that moves us away from paper books.


Suffering shins

I'm back from San Francisco and had a great time. That is one city that I could easily live in--I like the "vibe", the variety, the buildings, water, islands, cuteness. But there's one thing I'd have to get used to: walking up those hills. My shins are hurting. I walk a lot in Chicago and have walked miles at a time, but it's flat here, so there's no pain. But in SF it's just so hilly, it can be quite a challenge. Even though I'm walking again on flat surfaces, I still feel the San Francisco pain. But I definitely want to go back. :)


Going to SF

I am finally going to San Francisco--I've wanted to go there since this summer, but the airfares were too high, and my work schedule was odd. But I have this weekend free and I managed to find a slightly lower fare. However, in order to get that fare, I have to change planes in L.A. and fly back very early on Monday in order to get to work on time that night. But even those long travel times will be worth it because I need to get away! The only other time I had a vacation this year was when I went to New York for a couple of days for a wedding.

I'm going to leave tomorrow after work and will stay with a friend out there. I will also probably meet Mahndisa, who I only know via her blog. I might also meet up with another couple I initially met online but who I met in real life last year. Yes, there are some real losers online, but I've been lucky to connect with some quality people.

(pic from here)



Jon Konrath (great read) mentioned the word "eurotrash," which made me wonder what it exactly means. Sometimes I hear people use it, and never ask them why they're using it or what they're talking about.

I checked out the Urban Dictionary to see what people have said, and there are a lot of definitions over there.

Here are some blunt ones: "Pretentious, narcissistic, metrosexual Europeans" or "inept and often uneducated europeans who waste their families' money in exotic places that want nothing to do with them but need the money."

And a seemingly positive one: "ultra-urbane sophisticated inimitable style which others try to copy"

A friend of mine tends to agree with this definition: "A derivative of the phrase 'white trash,' Eurotrash refers to Europeans who have become subservient to low-end American cultural ideals."

So what does it mean, really?


Often times

Maybe I'm paying attention more, but it seems that people are saying "oftentimes" more often.

For instance, some would say, "Oftentimes, I think about my mom."

Isn't that redundant? "Often" takes care of that concept, so the addition of "times" is really integrated within the meaning of "often."

It's so unnecessary, it stands out when people use it, and then they just keep on talking as if it's not a big deal that they are being redundant.

Also, why is the official spelling one word? It seems like it should be two words: "often times." But that's a secondary concern because I hear people say it more than they write it.


Voting day

Tomorrow is our time to vote, and even though the choices aren't stellar, I have to remind myself of that trite idea that not all countries throughout the world allow voting. I've met people who are in their 40's who have never been able to vote in their entire lives. They have to become citizens of other nations in order to vote. Can you imagine never being allowed to vote or campaign for anyone, or say your political opinions, or post them online?

I'm going to vote, but I'm also going to do other election-related stuff: I'm helping a guy I haven't seen in a long time campaign for alderman (those elections are in February). Basically, Chicago is a kingdom, where Daley is our king, and the aldermen are his knights. So it's refreshing to meet people who aren't like that. The weird thing is that I found out he's running for alderman via an article about him hacking the Board of Elections website. I was very surprised to see his picture on the cover of the newspaper, and then hearing him being interviewed on the radio.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to help gather election returns and info for the news staff at a radio station--that should be incredibly fun. I did it for the primaries earlier this year, and had a great time.

So tomorrow is going to be a full day of election goodies. I just have to be sure to ingest enough caffeine.


Annoying accent

There is something annoying about Debbie Travis' accent. She's originally from England and now lives in Montreal, and has probably traveled around because of her television and modeling work, so her accent has probably been affected by her surroundings, and since Montreal is French-oriented, she probably speaks with people who speak French and English.

The "problem" is that her accent is not totally British, but it's hardly North American. It's way more British than North American, so I'd say it's an altered British accent. On her shows, she seems busy and quite stressed, so that could affect the way she speaks, and also, she's speaking for television, so she's putting on her "performance" voice. It just sounds nasal and the words are blended and flat, but not in a Canadian way nor in an "international" style. I wonder what her accent used to sound like before she left her native country. It was probably more pronounced and grating, but less annoying than whatever blend she has now.


Might not do it

I said that I was going to do Nanowrimo, and was making pretty good progress, until I came upon a story about a participant wearing a costume while writing in a store window. And then I wondered why I was doing it.

I have my own story that I have to finish editing. It's painful to go through it and work out all the problems and write new scenes and try to make it good. I don't want to be grown up about writing, I just want to have fun. But finishing rewriting a book will be more satisfying than writing thousands of words that aren't going anywhere.

I wish I hadn't read the interview with the costume-wearer, but it made me prioritize. I've been trying to figure out for the past several hours how to successfully digitize some vinyl I have, and am now tinkering with my third audio editing software. I'd rather successfully complete a podcast of digitized records than spend that time doing Nanowrimo, so I guess for now I'm not going to do it. I still have time to go back and resume that project, if I feel like I have to take a break from maturity.


Fiction is lying

I'm sure I'm not the first one to say this, and I don't have time to look it up right now, but sometimes writing fiction feels like lying. For instance, I started on this month's 50k-word project, and I wanted to start with a "what if" based on stuff I'd experienced, but realized if I continue along that path, then it wouldn't be fiction, so I started "lying." I know there are authors out there who've gotten big-time recognition for fiction that was just thinly veiled non-fiction, probably because they wanted to communicate a theme that was based on their seemingly interesting reality. Or it could be that they were too lazy to create fiction with the things they'd learned from their bizarre experiences. There's one local author who's of the more intellectual group, and when I read his stuff, I thought that there was nothing fictional about it--it was just a bunch of essays, posing as short stories and eventually as a loosely-constructed novel. But an agent saw his work in a literary fiction publication and was impressed, and they've milked the guy's background enough to make him into a name on the lit fic scene. It's one of those things that falls under the L.I.F. category (Life Isn't Fair).



I just re-registered at Nanowrimo, and I'm still trying to figure out why. I've done it a few times and have succeeded at writing 50 thousand words, and after I "won" last year, I thought that was it: time to move on and grow up. But tomorrow is November, and I guess I've gotten into the habit of doing it.

It's fun--no need to worry about plot or anything constructive. You just thoughtlessly write and write until you hit the 50k mark. And after a while, you realize that putting out all those words is not a big deal. The big deal is finishing something that the industry wants. That's a real feat.


Someone asked me if I know about any resources that explain the sounds of English, and I found Phonics on the Web that has good explanations of the different types of sounds. It really breaks down individual sounds more than gives a lot of rules, but helps clear up some issues, such as C and G and R-controlled vowels (never heard it put that way before).


lego Stargate

Here's something delightfully nerdy: a Stargate made totally from Legos. It rotates, "spins the inner ring randomly for x seconds, then reverses direction, seven times" and its chevrons light up!

Check out all the features. It takes real talent to create this type of thing. Incredibly nifty!



Here's a blogger I actually know offline--Austin, who's in my Japanese class. He is a very smart, interesting guy. We've started going out after class with another guy (usually) to talk about Japan, traveling, history, culture, repatriation, being weird, etc. He wants to be a professor, but I don't meet a lot of people like him (who are either aspiring academics or already there) who are intellectual but open. The ones I usually meet exhibit the typical academic cul-de-sac thinking, which not only is predictable but lacking critical thinking.

Unfortunately, his blogging isn't as frequent now because it was really more of a journal of his life on Tsushima, an island in Japan. However, he's recently posted a list of words he learned there:

Tsushima actually boasts two dialects, one for the whole island and the other for Tsutsu, an isolated village at the very southern tip. Tsutsu-ben is so different that even other Tsushima-jin find it incomprehensible. Tsushima-ben itself is strange to the mainlanders who come to the island...the biggest distinction is that Tsushima-jin attach "cha" and "cho" to the end of damn near everything, and even use the particle "chi" in place of the usual "wa." Along with vocabulary, a woman saying she "didn't eat, I'm alright but I feel bad" can be very different:

Standard: "Tabenakatta. Daijoubu kedo astashi wa kibun ga warui."
Tsushima-ben: "Tabenakacha. Dogeemonai kedo ondo chi anbe ga warui."

Here's the list he created--just from what he knows, which is why it's not that long:

rigacho ... Arigato ... Thanks

Anbe ga warui ... Kibun ga warui ... To feel sick

Iibai ... Ii ... Good!

Osha ... Omae ... You (rude)

Ondo ... Atashi ... I, me (women's speech)

Katsu ... Tobikomu ... To dive (esp. pearl diving)

Koke ... Koko ... Here

Saen ... Tsumaranai ... Lame, boring

Se de ... Osu koto ... Pushing

Tau ... Te wo todoku ... In reach

Tawan ... Te wo todokanai ... Out of reach

Dari ... Baka ... Stupid

Chi ... Particle "wa" ... Particle marking sentence subject; is

Dogeemonai ... Daijoubu ... Alright

Nanchi ... Nani ... What

Nemaru ... Kusaru ... To rot

Yasukaran ... Takusan, ippai ... Many, full of~

Wakarancha ... Wakaranai ... Don't understand

Waya! ... Dame! ... No good, stop that!

I want to do another post about where he lived because it's a small place with a rich history. It's between Korea and Japan.


Real and cartoon people

Here's something that I've wondered about for a while: why do some commercials have both real and cartoon people in them? For instance, a woman will be in a clothing store, and then a small cartoon woman will come up to her and talk to her about how great the clothes are, etc. Or a woman will be in a grocery store, and a bunch of cartoon people will surround her, giving her advice about a fabulous bathroom tissue.

It's just a mixture of realities: is the real person the true reality, or are the cartoon people the reality? Why would they put both drawings of people and real people together in a 30-second commercial? Why isn't the real woman wondering what all those cartoon people are doing there? If commercials are supposed to make the viewer identify with the folks in the ad, then how can they think that we are going to accept the existence of cartoon people in a world that otherwise looks like ours? Is all possible humanness thus negated? I think it's strange, and it's a mystery that obviously hasn't been solved because I've seen those weird combos for a number of years, and the questions just keep multiplying.


Damaged art

Language Hat (aka the Great One, another person I'd like to meet someday) mentioned an article from the New Yorker about the follies of rich people and art:

He began to tell the story of the Picasso’s provenance. As he talked, he had his back to the picture. He was wearing jeans and a golf shirt...without realizing it, he backed up a step or two as he talked. “So then I made a gesture with my right hand,” Wynn said, “and my right elbow hit the picture. It punctured the picture.” There was a distinct ripping sound.

Another rich guy was going to pay "a hundred and thirty-nine million dollars for it, the highest known price ever paid for a work of art" but the deal was off. Then, "Later that week, Wynn’s wife, Elaine, took the painting to New York in Wynn’s jet, where she and 'Le Rêve' were met by an armored truck."

That's quite an expensive mistake.


2000 kanji

I came upon a list of The Top Two Thousand Kanji:

This list was produced by scanning over a million kanji on thousands of Japanese web pages and ranking them according to the number of times they were seen. In total, over 3200 distinct characters were encountered. However, in order to eliminate anomalous entries at the lower end of the frequency scale, the list was arbitrarily truncated at 2000 entries.

Each kanji character on this page is linked to its entry in WWWJDIC, an online Japanese dictionary that provides more information about the character and words that use it.

The list was created by a guy who's just one of many brains online (it's hard to meet such people offline). Think about it: he created a program to scan the internet to find frequently-occuring kanji. That's a lot of work! Plus, all you have to do is click a kanji to find out its info--ie, convenient programming. The only complaint I have is the font he chose--it's not the "typical" font you see in Japanese text. It looks more like Chinese, though it's not.


Great lecture

I went to an excellent lecture by David Cannadine about his latest book, Mellon: An American Life. I ended up buying the huge book--it's hundreds of pages. If he is coming to your area, I highly recommend seeing him--he's very knowledgeable and his lecture is very interesting.

He also answered the audience's questions--they were quite good. Whenever I am in a non-academic setting surrounded by intellectually curious people, I'm quite impressed because once people are out of school, they really don't "have" to be interested in different stuff--they can just turn off their brains outside of work and veg.

Another thing that was noticeable was how Cannadine was self-effacing. Even though he's a highly educated, accomplished academic and author (and whatever else that's applicable), he downplayed all the work he did and people's positive reactions to the book. He would say something that sort of was humorously apologetic, but then he'd launch into all this incredible information and how he was qualified to make certain conclusions. He's British, so maybe that self-effacement is typically British--I've heard that some Brits tend to be like that.


New era

Well, this is the first post on my new computer. It may seem overly dramatic to be so emotional and celebratory about it, but I wrote and edited a lot and did lots of translations on my old one, in addition to reading and researching a lot online, so it's really a new beginning for me. When I look at my old computer, I think about all those days and nights working in isolation, but with this new one, I can start fresh with a new attitude and new goals (or reaching those I've already set).

This new computer is really great--I don't mean to do a commercial for the company (though if they were to pay me for endorsing it, I'd gladly take the dough), but it's going to make my computer-heavy life a lot easier and more enjoyable.

The first task is to finish the thing I'm writing for Jon Konrath's zine, which I can do tomorrow since I'm not working any crazy hours. Then on Monday, I'll be doing my first translations on here, which includes trips to online dictionaries and sources.

Now if I can only get some more radio gigs, things would be even better. :)


new Mac

I was going to do a decent post tonight, but I can't because my husband is configuring my new Macbook, and I'm just quickly borrowing his computer to do this post before he has to get back on it.

I've been using a Mac Clamshell for six years--I got a lot of work done on that thing. But now it's time for a new era in my computer use. Maybe I'll get my act together to finish revising the novel I'm working on and get up the nerve to send it out. It's so easy to get sidetracked by activities where you're actually accomplishing tangible goals instead of pursing dreams that may never become reality.


Cool book

Someone sent me a very cool book called Mixtionary, which is a kind of dictionary of words that are mixed together. What they do is take a couple of words and combine them to create a new word.

For instance, they have created a word "Corpensation," which is a combination of "corporate" and "compensation", and the definition is: "Massive renumeration within corporations for high-ranking executives, while those doing the actual work are forced to produce more with far less."

It's fresh with great illustrations--the artist is a professional with tons of experience. It's just a cute book (it's also small) with interesting new words--no need to be a linguist to appreciate it. If you're into words and visuals, then you'll like it.


the Metamorphosis is depressing

Last week, I decided to read The Metamorphosis because I was thinking about how isolating modern society is, and wanted to see what Kafka had to say about it, since for some reason I was under the impression that he wrote about such a theme in that book (which I first read a long time ago).

So when I read it (you can get it for free online at the link above), I was expecting to be somehow comforted by the fact that he was from a very different time and culture, but was dealing with the same types of things we deal with in the technology-saturated 21st century.

I was wrong: the story was so depressing--the guy turned into an insect-type of creature, and nothing ever turned around from there. There were just details of his condition and the hardship the family endured. Then the guy/insect died, and his family was relieved and went on with their lives. How cynical and dark. I could go ahead and read a bunch of commentary about it, but why should I? I shouldn't have to read analyses on what the symbols and subtexts mean, I should just be able to walk away with something meaningful. That's why I like some sci-fi: we can extract meaning from it without going to a bunch of nerds to help us figure it out.

I don't know why I thought that Kafka wrote about societal isolation. I'm sure the story is about that in a way, but it left me cold--it even made me feel isolated from the story itself, in even a repulsive way. So if it was his intention to express isolation by isolating the reader, he succeeded.


Media burn

If you are into the visual media, I highly recommend going to Media Burn.org, "the first website of its kind, created entirely from progressive nonfiction videos and television programs." I'm still using a computer that's six years old, so the videos I view there aren't downloading so fast for me. However, I ordered a new computer, and when I get it, I'm going to view a bunch of stuff there.

I went to the site's launch party--not only was I alone, but I didn't know anybody there. It seems that most of the people were from the visual arts and video/TV/film world, which I'm not a part of. But I ended up meeting a few cool people, including a couple of guys who helped set up the site. I also met some locally well-known people who were surprisingly friendly, and some others who allowed me like 10 seconds to talk to them, because they probably figured I'm not "important" enough.

But it didn't matter, really, because I ended talking with a big-time major person in the media who was very friendly and encouraging. I was so shocked that they actually wanted to talk to me, even though I'm pretty much a peon in that world, and it's not like I'm some successful lawyer or other type of professional--I'm just working my way through life. I'm often impressed when successful and/or well-known people will spend time with me, even though I'm barely at their level of accomplishment. I am still totally psyched that I met them, and am amazed that they have even responded to my follow-up emails. It sounds pitiful, but if you have ever tried to accomplish certain things and came upon folks who have made it, then you know what I'm talking about: they can either be jerky or be surprisingly friendly. And usually it's the former.


Goo is cute

I was looking up a French word, and came across the word "substance gluante" which means "goo."

The English word "goo" is a lot cuter than "substance gluante." The French word sounds so grown-up and serious. I like "goo" a lot better.


leaped or leapt?

I was reading a column by Toby Young, and he said, "I leapt on my bicycle." Which made me wonder what the difference is between "leapt" and "leaped." I figured it's a British thing to put a "t" at the end of certain words, and I think I'm right because I found a list of Spelling differences between American and British English:

Generally, the rule is that if there is a verb form with -ed, American English will use it, and if there is a form with -t, British English uses it. However, these forms do not exist for every verb and there is variation.

The British use of "t" at the end of words reminds me of German because they have plenty of verbs that use a "t" at the end. Which makes sense, because old English is scarily similar to German.

The list I found is a part of a List of American vs. British Spelling, where there's lots of good stuff, including Common Words in American and British English, and related links.


Dead French

I got this photo from Arrogant Polyglot, who speaks and reads and writes French very well, but doesn't seem to be arrogant about it. :)


Rick's new book

Rick Kogan's new book, A Chicago Tavern: a Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream is finally out, and there's going to be a book release party this Friday and Saturday at the Billy Goat.

I'm mentioning his book here because he gave me a chance, and it's because of him that I was able to get into radio (which I'm still working in part time). If (or when) I reach my goal, my gratitude will be even greater, though there's really no way to help him out because he seems to have an incredible life already.

He is also one of the few people who practices what he preaches: he has said that people shouldn't have to go to certain schools or get certain training to enter journalism--talent matters, no matter what someone's background is. When I first heard him say that, I thought, "Yeah, whatever--another successful dude doling out the usual trite advice" but I've seen him give people a shot, including me--when I met him, he didn't even ask me what I did for a living or where I was from or where I lived or anything--and then he had me on his show a few times just to offer comments about stuff. The only reason why he knows what I do or where I'm from, etc. is because I've told him--without being asked. And I still don't think he really cares. To him, what seems to matter is someone's character and their abilities (including potential).

There is another person I've met in the biz who's similar, who's given me opportunities and has been encouraging, without requiring me to prove myself or jump through hoops, and if he ever has a book or show or whatever to promote, I'll be sure to help him out too.


Internet ghetto

I was talking about MySpace with someone, and they shuddered and said it was the "ghetto of the internet." It works for some people, but it can get quite sleazy at times, especially when you log on and there are half-dressed people looking at you beneath gaudy flashing ads, or when you get invites to join murky groups or friend requests from people whose pictures do not include clothes. I think it's much easier to find quality people through blogs than to wade through the muck to reach similar people in the online ghetto.

And it's a lot easier to hack--there are predators all over trying to get your personal information by sending phony emails or posting false bulletins. I read blogs every day, but I haven't been visiting MySpace that much.


Moving vocabulary

I found a site with lots of stuff going on, including daily Japanese-English quizzes.

They have really a cool feature: moving flashcards. There are two columns of words: on the right is Japanese and on the left is English. Just drag each Japanese word on top of the corresponding English word, and it lets you know if you're correct (through cool sound effects!). There are different quizzes like this--just "Enter a number between 1 and 343" or click the "Load Next Quiz" button.

There's lots more at that site--I'll need to explore it more to find other cool stuff.


European history

Even though I haven't had a lot of time lately, I still feel like I have to make the time to catch up on European history because it will provide a context for analyzing current societal trends. It's not like I have a job that requires me to understand society better, but I just want to broaden my intellectual horizons and not readily accept others' viewpoints until I can formulate my own. So even if I agree with someone, I want it to be an informed decision, based on what I've learned.

A while ago, someone gave me the textbook Civilization in the West, which I think was written for college students for a survey course or maybe high level high school students. It seems too large and dense for a high school book, though. So far, I've read about ancient Rome and the family in 16th century Europe, and some smatterings of other info in sections that seem to be articles, which in a way are easier to read because a lot of the book is just straightforward facts, which are hard to take in a lump sum.

Even though I sometimes choose to watch TV or space out, I still feel like I have to read a lot of this book before I'll feel satisfied enough with my knowledge of European history. The problem is, it's so huge, I can't carry it around easily, but I'll continue to try to tackle it.


Interpreting gone?

I think people are not really using the word "interpreting" anymore. It seems that they're using "translating" to mean both interpreting and translating.

For instance, I told some people that I don't speak a certain language well, but I translate it. They kept asking me how I can do it, and I explained that reading it is easier than speaking it. But it still didn't make sense to them, so they kept asking me how and why. Then it dawned on me: they thought I was talking about interpreting but were using the word "translating," so I explained the difference: that I was talking about translating, ie, the written word, not interpreting, ie, the spoken word. They finally understood.

I've also heard the word "translator" when people describe someone's profession--even though they're an interpreter. I've heard this from all types of people and even in the media. It's wrong, but I think it's easier for people to use that word than think too hard about how the words apply.

I know that professional language folks know the difference, but I'm afraid that the word "interpreting" or "interpreter" are no longer going to be used that often, and eventually, I wonder if they'll be used at all.



Last year, I heard that Orny Adams was coming to Chicago. Actually, he told me--I emailed him about the DVD I'd seen him in and asked him if he was ever coming to Chicago, and he told me he was. (I'm always surprised when well-known people respond to my emails. Not every one has, but some have, which still surprises me.)

Well, he came and went, and the night was sort of disappointing. Not because he wasn't good, but because he wasn't the only comedian there. Originally, I think he was supposed to be the only headliner, but when I went to the club's website, I saw that he wasn't going to be alone.

I felt like I was just getting into his routine when he had to stop to make room for the other headliner, who was great. But what's weird is that between the professionals' sets, they brought a novice on stage, and he was nowhere near their level. Plus, afterwards, even though Orny said he wanted people to say hi to him in the lobby, I didn't really get a chance to say much to him because he was drained, it seemed, and it's not like I'm famous or anything, or even an acquaintance, so it's not like I have "permission" to chat.

I would've liked to hear at least an hour of his comedy, and what I ended up hearing was maybe half an hour. But at least I got exposed to another good comedian. I just wish I could have heard more from each guy.

Update: he said he's coming to Chicago in 2007. Let's hope we're all still around by then.


Radio and language

Things haven't developed exactly how I wanted them to, but I'm not dead yet, so I still have time to attain some goals. But along the way, I've found something interesting: doing the sound board for some foreign language stations--they're all foreign languages, all the time. I haven't started working there yet because I have to actually be hired, but I've got a good chance. Unfortunately, they're languages I don't understand, such as Russian, Polish, and Korean. I asked the dude in charge how he can work a board for shows he doesn't understand, and he said they just point at you to give you cues to play whatever they've told you to play (the on-air folks are bilingual). At one point when we were talking on the phone, he had to put me on hold, and I heard a Korean song, then a commercial. The only think I could make out were the endings ("da" and "o" which are similar to "desu" and "masu" in Japanese) and I could tell that they were saying numbers. Another day I heard a Polish commercial, and guessed a similar thing--that they were saying numbers, which was probably a phone number.

So if I do end up getting some work there, it would be a good blend of two things I love: radio and languages!


San's comment

I've decided to take advantage of the multilingual feature in Blogger and use Japanese as my default language. So that means that all the directions--and everything else--are in Japanese. So when I go to publish this comment, I have to click on the button that doesn't say "publish" but something a lot more wordy.

But what's cool is when I see people's comments in this or other Blogger blogs, because instead of just showing the name of the commenter, it attaches さんのコメント (san no komento) after the name. So, for instance, if a guy named Joe leaves a comment on a blog, then it will say "Joe さんのコメント" (Joe-san's comment).

As you probably know, Japanese people use the word "san" after people's names, such as Tanaka-san or even Judy-san if the person happens to be a gaijin (they usually call foreigners by their first names, then attach "san" to it). So seeing "san" after commenters' names is really cool, and so different.


Make money

I was reading an excerpt of Ayn Rand's money "lecture" or what seems to be a character's soliloquy and saw this statement:

If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to MAKE money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before...

Is that true? That sounds preposterous--there must be some language or culture in the world that has the phrase "to make money." Also, human history is so old that it doesn't seem possible that the U.S., which is a relatively young country, would be the first to create it--we speak a derivative of British English, which itself comes from a mish-mosh of other languages that have been around for a long time.


English in EU

I learned via Mad Minerva that English is the most widely spoken language in the EU--just check out the chart, where they report: "English is the language which is most widely 'spoken' in the EU. While it is the mother tongue for 16% of the European population, a further 31% of the EU citizens speak it well enough to hold a conversation."

Why did they put "spoken" in quotes? They don't believe people really speak it?

The largest language group, in terms of native speakers, is German. Which means I should start studying it again--just in case opportunities present themselves, cuz you just never know.


White, no sugar

I've never heard of this term to describe tea with milk: white. Well, I'm assuming it means tea with milk, because when someone asked Lynley if he wanted tea, he said, "White, no sugar."

I found that phrase at a BBC site underneath a picture of Prince William, who I'm assuming said that (or would, since the article was about summer jobs) because it says, "Mine's white no sugar, William."

I can't imagine anyone saying that in Da Windy City, or anywhere else in this big land.



In an episode of Inspector Lynley, he and Havers went to his family's estate, which she called a "pile." Then he told her not to use that word.

Okay, I'm American and have never lived in England (though I visited there), so I don't get what "pile" means. Plus, I don't even quite understand if what she was saying was rude, thus if he was letting her know that it was offensive.

According to my edition of the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, pile is "a lofty or large building or mass of buildings: the noble pile of Windsor Castle."

Sounds harmless to me. But maybe in modern British English, it has negative connotations.


Untying knots

Time for some whining: I did a draft of a novel, then rewrote it, and now I have to comb through it for problems, and have realized that although it's fun to write a draft, it's painful to try to whip it into better shape. This is one of those times that I have to keep myself from falling into despair because I'm pursuing something that is difficult and solitary. It's one of those times when I think, "I wish I knew someone in the business who is waiting for or wants something that I'm writing," because I have to dig myself out of some problems, and I need some solid and constructive help that is going to have concrete results, because I'm having a hard time working by myself in this orbit out in the wannabe universe.

Right now, I'm looking at the "scenes" that I've written, and see that it was fun to write the drama and conflict, but the problem is that they're not in order, or there are clumps of scenes that are in order, and then the next clump should go elsewhere. So now I have to untie the plot knots that I've created--I've literally gone through part of the draft and have numbered scenes in the order that I think they should go and have written notes to myself where I think a scene should be created and inserted.

In other industries, you're either already working within an organization or know someone who is, so all you have to do is contact them if you need some help. But in the impossible fiction-writing world, the established/successful writers and/or editors and/or agents and whoever else is in the biz don't want to deal with you unless you're already in the system. And even then, they may not even want to talk to you because they have their own impossible dreams to fulfill in the ever-shrinking scene as they compete for readers and consumers. And besides, they have thousands of hopefuls clanging the gates around their moats, so why the heck would they want to deal with any peons?


Chinese whispers

I was listening to a sermon (in English), and a woman behind me was whispering to her kid in Chinese, probably telling him to settle down. I've heard different languages before, so it didn't strike me as surprising that someone was speaking another language in a mostly English situation. However, it made me wonder about whispering in Chinese and other tonal languages.

English and lots of other languages are easy to whisper in because all we care about are the words that are being spoken, and it really doesn't matter how we're saying them because it's the words that matter, not the delivery (unless you're asking a question or are angry or whatever).

But whispering in a tonal language is a whole other issue, because the tones convey the meaning of the words. So was the mother shifting or flattening or de-emphasizing the tones as she was whispering, or was she just partially expressing the words, thus it was up to the kid to get the context? It seems that whispering would deaden the tones because they're not uttering sounds, just punctuated breaths.

I should ask someone, and I will--next week I'm going to ask a Chinese person if whispering in their language changes the sounds of the words, thus the clarity of the meaning. Or I can ask a Thai person--who I'm sure is freaked that there's been a coup there!


Star Trek hell

Today I heard Kira say, "What the hell" when she was wondering why DS9 had disappeared. Even though I'd seen that episode before, I hadn't really questioned her use of the word because various characters say it.

But when I heard it today, I had to wonder: why would a Bajoran say it? Their spiritual beliefs do not include the concept of hell, so if there's no cultural basis for it, then her language wouldn't contain it, either.

Then my mind got going: have any other aliens used it, or is it just Bajorans, or more specifically, just Kira? Could it be that she never speaks English but only speaks in her own language, and the Universal Translator is converting her own Bajoran-based word to an English approximation, which equals "hell"? Did the writers even consider this, or does this go into one of those nerdy lists of Star Trek discrepencies (which I'm sure exists somewhere)?

This is another layer that I have yet to explore in that series, which can easily be answered if I did some online research, but I'm not obsessed enough with the show to do that.


Counting chickens

Sometimes I'm tempted to "count my chickens before they hatch," which means that I'm planning for something that hasn't happened yet, and it may never happen. Like, "What if I get a really cool gig, then I'll be able to do this and that, and I'll have a great time, and then I'll meet someone else who will give me an even better gig," etc.

Well, after I thought about that idiom, I wondered where it came from, and was surprised to find out that it was from Aesop's fable The Milk-Woman and Her Pail:

A FARMER'S daughter was carrying her Pail of milk from the field to the farmhouse, when she fell a-musing. "The money for which this milk will be sold, will buy at least three hundred eggs. The eggs, allowing for all mishaps, will produce two hundred and fifty chickens. The chickens will become ready for the market when poultry will fetch the highest price, so that by the end of the year I shall have money enough from my share to buy a new gown. In this dress I will go to the Christmas parties, where all the young fellows will propose to me, but I will toss my head and refuse them every one." At this moment she tossed her head in unison with her thoughts, when down fell the milk pail to the ground, and all her imaginary schemes perished in a moment.


Not America

A couple of Brazilians are staying with me, and when I've talked about this country (in English), I've said "America" because that's what Japanese people and other Asians and folks from some other countries say. Then it dawned on me: in Portuguese it's "os Estados Unidos" or USA (pronounced "oosa"), not "America" because they're living in America Latina.

What's interesting is that the Brazilian Times calls itself "O jornal dos brasileiros nos Estados Unidos da America"--they've literally translated "United States of America" into "Estados Unidos da America."

Overall, though, avoiding the word "America" with Latin Americans isn't a politically correct decision but an obvious one, since they really are from America--just not the same kind of one Americans are from. Which reminds me that in Spanish, Americans are called "Americanos." Which really confuses the issue, actually, because the land mass "America" is huge, along with the variety of different regions of Americans.

But I'll still call myself an American, and adjust when necessary, depending on which language I'm trying to tackle.


Hebrew alphabet chart

Even though I studied Hebrew growing up (and eventually spoke it when I went to Israel, though now I can't even put two words together), I recently had a brain freeze on how to write some of the letters in cursive. So I found a good chart to help me. It's straightforward, and provides the pronunciation, print version, and cursive version of each letter, which is a lot more helpful than the typical charts that usually just have block letters.


Not undersold

Sometimes I hear the line, "We will not be undersold" to advertise a sale. For instance, I might hear an ad for a carpet store, and they'll say what types of carpets they have, the discounts, etc., then they will proudly declare: "We will not be undersold."

I've never really understand this statement. What does it mean, exactly? They want to get rid of their inventory, but why do they have to phrase it like that? It sounds like some kind of legalese. Do they think that we really care whether or not they'll be undersold? All we care about are good prices for quality products--it's the company's problem if they have to get rid of their products.

Maybe, a long time ago, someone once came up with that line and said, "That sounds Important--let's use it" and then other companies decided to say the same thing because they wanted to sound important, too.

Well, they're just selling stuff--they're declarations are not for posterity.



I just had a very long day: I left at 7:30 am and got home at 9:30 pm. So I settled down, expecting to find some entertaining tv, when I saw that I had missed a fresh episode (at least in the U.S.) of the hot inspector. No! I can't believe it! I've become slack in my obsessive Lynley recording and/or watching (depending on if I'm around to see it "live" or have to tape it for later viewing). In the past, I would've sought out any important Lynley-related info and taped accordingly, but I missed it. Oh, the suffering we endure in our cushioned societies.

I just hope that some nutcase/evil people don't want to celebrate the 9/11 anniversary in some horrific way. :(


Loaf ward

I've been reading about the history of lords in England, which was sparked by yesterday's pondering, and saw that the word "lord" comes from an ancient compound:

hlaf weard, literally 'loaf ward'--the guardian of the stock of bread in a household. Since this was usually the master of the household, the word came to mean specifically that in Anglo-Saxon (in the somewhat reduced form hlaford). Hlaford was used by Christian missionaries to translate the Latin word for 'master'...

and the ancient word "[reflects] the Germanic tribal custom of a superior providing food for his followers."

I was also wondering how the Labour party deals with lords, and while I haven't fully come to understand how someone becomes a lord (besides inheritance of title), I did find out that in 1999 "The Labour government...banished the hereditary peers from the House of Lords."

That's some serious history-making! I wonder how the lords are dealing with it now?


Labour lords

I've been watching BBC Newsnight on C-SPAN, watching them talk about Tony Blair's resignation. It's weird to see them interviewing American politicians, but it's refreshing to not see all the bells and whistles that the American news has to put on to keep the attention of the masses.

There are some things I still don't get, which makes me realize that I have to read more about European history. I've been in the Asian scene for a while, and sometimes feel that I understand more about that area than Europe, since I haven't been fortunate enough to live over there or travel the Continent extensively.

I have to do some digging, or maybe someone out there can explain: why would Labour party members want to be called "Lord"? Isn't that title based on a privileged system of elite decisions? People don't earn the title, they're just given it, aren't they? And if Labour is for The People, as an MP said tonight, then are The People wondering why there are Labour Lords running around?

I guess it's one of those seeming contradictions based in a history that I have to better understand.


City shock

If I have to spend a lot of time in the suburbs for work or whatever, I sometimes get "city shock" when I go back home, especially if I have to take the "El" (what Chicagoans call the elevated train--there are trains that are just elevated and others that become subways, but for some reason, we call all of them "the El").

This is how city shock can occur: if I'm in a suburb that is far away from the city, where people mainly drive, and the streets can be easily navigated. If I spend some time driving in the 'burbs and then come back to the city, I have to weave through other cars, some that don't care about the rules of the road or with drivers that may not have licenses. Also, I may have to put on the brakes for various reasons, including guys pushing grocery carts in the streets or doors suddenly opening up, or folks sauntering against the light.

Another difference is customer service: especially in the 'burbs that are farther away from the city, the workers are nicer and simply do their job: there's not much emotional baggage because they don't have to wade through dank neighborhoods or stand in a crowded bus to get to work on time.

Also, the boony 'burbs are so clean and orderly, there really isn't much externally that can stress people out. All they have to do is wait for the traffic to move, and if they want to stop somewhere, they can just go into a number of strip malls, which are well-maintained.

Lately I've been spending a lot more time in the city, so there hasn't been much shock. But then I start to become nitpicky about stuff I see and hear. When I'm in the 'burbs, there's just a general wonderment about how people can live with such organization and not many surprises. But in the city, there's so much more to look at, the only way to process it is to attempt categorization.


Laborless day

Today was Labor Day, which was created in the 1880's as a "workingmen's holiday." But since a lot of people in different kinds of professions (not just industrial workers) have the day off, it should be called Labor-Free Day. It wasn't quite labor-free for me since I taught a class, but because it was a holiday, I stupidly forgot to finish up some stuff that's due (!) Which means that tomorrow will be filled with much labor to make up for my slackfulness. I could have also become lax because I've been preoccupied, wondering about some labor-related changes that will hopefully be coming my way, though it could just be another disappointment that can be stored with the rest of them.


Music I don't understand

Sometimes I prefer listening to college and independent radio because they play music that other stations don't--the playlists are up to the dj and the variety isn't predictable. Actually, if technology will ever allow us to run music from the internet directly in our cars, terrestrial radio is going to be in trouble.

Yesterday I was listening to a world music show and heard a lot of stuff from Zimbabwe, then music from Southeast Asia. It all sounded great, so I kept listening. I was making my way through the north side of Chicago, which has a lot of different kinds of ethnic neighborhoods, and then it hit me: what if the music I'm listening to has some bizarre lyrics? I thought about all the times I've listened to Indian music and Arabic music and Jamaican hip hop and other stuff, and I could be listening to a bunch of garbage. I remember hearing Cuban music, then watching the English subtitles on television, and realizing the music was all about admiring a woman's behind and wanting her. Great--that's really what I want to listen to [NOT]. So it made the interesting music raunchy and I just couldn't appreciate it anymore. One time, I was having dinner with a fluent Spanish-speaking friend of mine, and she was telling me what the Spanish hip hop that was playing in the background was all about. Not something that women would want to be subjected to, even though they put up with that trash all the time in English hip hop.

So I still appreciate music from different countries, but I can't help but wonder what they're really saying.


At this very moment

La Shawn tagged me to participate in a meme on how I feel right now:

1. Are you craving anything and if so, what?

I'm craving a change in my work situation.

2. What is the weather outside, and do you wish it would change?

The weather is perfect: cool, partly sunny, and comfortable--no need to change.

3. What two websites do you think you will go to next after you are finished here?

WordReference to use their French-English dictionary and Yahoo to check my mail.

4. Do you wish you were somewhere else and if so, where?

Yeah, I wish I was either traveling or at the radio station where I work part time.

5. Do you wish you were someone else, and if so, who?

I used to wish I was someone else, but at this point, I'm glad to be me. It's just the context I live in that is not so exciting. I've met some people who have really interesting lives, and I wouldn't mind being in a similiar situation as theirs.


Google as verb

Sometimes, it's illegal to make google a verb:

Google…has fired off a series of legal letters to media organisations, warning them against using its name as a verb...

Isn’t that a bit...uptight? Or does their legal team need something to keep them busy?

Google won a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, while "to google", with a lower case "g", was included last month in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

They should be glad they got into those esteemed dictionaries! And people often use their name, so it’s constant marketing. What’s next…arranging meetings with babies to tell them to stop saying "goo goo" incorrectly, in case their wails sound too much like "goo-gle"?

It’s the same dilemma that Kleenex and Band-Aid have had: people often call any type of nose-wiping tissue "kleenex", and bandages are often called "band-aids." I hardly remember what the proper name is for those things: Brits say "sticking plaster" (or just "plaster"?) and Americans say "adhesive bandage" (officially), though I’ve never heard anyone say that. We usually say "band-aid." Sorry, Johnson & Johnson. I don’t know how that spiraled out of control.


Interactive fiction

I used to think I'd become quite nerdy, but since I've never heard of Interactive Fiction before, I think I'm still on the non-nerd side.

Interactive fiction (IF) is a broad term. Strictly speaking, interactive fiction is anything in which you influence the outcome of a story, like continuous stories you can add to or those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books with their branching stories. But there is a more specialized meaning of interactive fiction...computer adventure games.

The first computer game was created more than 20 years ago. That means that folks who played them were really ahead of the rest of civilization since personal computers were in their infancy. Some of those guys have been playing for all those years--which means they are uber-nerds.

In general, computer adventure games are computer programs which tell you a story. In them you play a character in the story, and you move the story along through your actions. In many pieces of IF you have to solve puzzles to keep the story going, puzzles like "How do I open the locked door?" or "How can I get the bridle off the alpaca so I can return it to Barry?" In some games you also have to interact with non-player characters (NPCs) to keep the plot unfolding.

Because IF involves storytelling and puzzle-solving, it tends to emphasize thought over action...

So people using their minds to play games? Doesn't sound like they'd hang around MySpace too much. They've probably written the code for something that's way beyond it. Or they taught the founder of MySpace how to do it--while simultaneously writing the latest Mensa test.

IF comes in two flavors: graphic and text. Text adventures came first. Playing them is like reading a book in which you have to type commands to tell the protagonist what to do...Graphic adventures tell their stories through pictures rather than words.

There's an IF archive for text adventures. I tried going there, but it requires more brain power than I have room for.


Chat instantly

Here's a cute and portable chat program that doesn't require installation or downloading: Gabbly. All you have to do is paste 'gabbly.com/' in front of any URL and a chat window will pop up where you are--you can chat instantly. And if there are any spammers or obnoxious folks harassing you, you can "mute" them by clicking on their name.

Update: I have been using it to chat with a friend, and it's really great--we're across the country from each other but can chat in real time, as if there's no space between us. Gabbly also has an audio feature, though we haven't been using it. I've emailed other folks to participate, but they're too busy to jump in.



This is why I like to hang out with interesting people: my friend who lived in Samoa told me about fa'afafine:

In families of all male children (or where the only daughter was too young to assist with the 'women's' work), parents would often choose one or more of their sons to help the mother. Because these boys would perform tasks that were strictly the work of women they were raised as if they were female. Although their true gender was widely known, they would usually be dressed as girls.

As they grew older, their duties would not change. They would continue performing 'women's' work, even if they eventually married (which would be to a woman).

What's interesting about this cultural characteristic is that many cultures throughout the world are male-dominated, and women are treated more as objects or servants, but in Samoa, being a female is just another option.


Toby's done it again

I just finished reading Toby Young's latest book, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, and I highly recommend it. I really hope he writes more books like this.

I read his first book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and the new book was just as good as his first, but I think the latest one is more tightly written. But neither of them are sloppy--I really didn't want them to end--how many books can you say that about?

Even though he's an upper class British dude who's successful and well-connected, I can relate to his struggles. I really don't have much in common with him, except procrastinating writing pursuits, wanting to creatively express myself, self-loathing, and trying to achieve my goals.

He's definitely one of the few famous people I want to meet.


Stuck in French

This is interesting: I've been translating French lately (sorry AP!--it's not technical or complicated), so I've been sort of French-oriented. Nothing big, I'm just eavesdropping on French people's conversations, paying attention to French words that have made it into English, trying to decifer the 19th century artists' words at the Art Institute.

But now I seem to have also made it into the French MySpace zone: yes, I have joined MySpace because my friend Jerry kept talking about it day after day, telling me to go to his page, giving me updates on how many friends he had acquired, who they were, and why they were interesting. And he kept telling me that I have to join, it's so incredible, blah blah. So I caved because he was so excited, I thought he'd die, and I didn't want to see that happen.

So if you want to see it, go to myspace.com/metrolingua. The thing is, I wandered over to the international section and chose "French" because I've been in a French state of mind, and now I see French everywhere, except for what I type because I can't write French.

Because of how I'm plugged in, I've even seen some French begging from the site: "Bienvenue! MySpace France est encore en développement (phase BETA). Tu as des commentaires ou suggestions? Clique ici. Merci :-) !"

It makes me feel special because they could care less about all those English users enough to beg, and I'm not one of the masses. Well, I am, but I'm not like the other dopes on there.

Maybe I should maintain it in a non-English language to avoid the friend requests from weirdos and creeps that MySpace seems to have an abundance of.