Convert Roman numerals

You no longer have to be perplexed by the Roman numerals you see all around you on copyright dates, statues, people who are trying to trick you. All you do is type in a number or Roman number then click the "Convert" button, and the Handy Roman numeral converter will take care of the rest. Almost instantly, the Roman secrets of the universe will be revealed.

Sounds almost too easy to be true. Too bad other things, like all the languages on the planet, aren't that easy.


Happy dog!

Happy Chinese New Year!

According to Mad Minerva, it's the Year of the Dog, so here's hoping this won't really be a dog year--I need some good things to happen.



Someone sent me the Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Writing:

10. The phone rang.
9. My favorite show is on T.V.
8. I’m behind with my e-mails.
7. I’m waiting for my friend to give me the latest edits.
6. I just got my 43rd rejection slip and am consoling myself with chocolate and/or beer.
5. My kids needs: a ride; a meal; to be pick-ed up, to help me do their homework.
4. What I wrote yesterday is iguana!
3. My muse has abandoned me.
2. I can’t think of anything NEW to write about.
And the number ONE reason to avoid writing…The words just don’t flow anymore, it’s too much work.

John Banas added these excuses:

I am trying to avoid Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
I need to look for a job
Mortal fear of being rejected
I have NO IDEA where my story is going next
Playing on the internet is more fun
I can’t get Don’t Worry, Be Happy out of my head!
The Boss is looking…
I cand tipe welk…
I keep getting more email that I JUST HAVE to respond to…
All those voices in my head won’t SHUT UP AND GIVE ME A MOMENT’S PEACE!!!!!
I’m too busy coming up with top ten lists

This is my rationalization: I'm so tired and have a weird work schedule, and I'm still getting used to the "new" life that I'm transitioning into to try to settle down and attempt to work on stories that nobody cares about. After all, I just got a rejection from a place that I thought would be a good fit. :(

But I doubt this drought will last much longer, unless some cool stuff develops in the radio world. Not that anything is really developing, other than a possible subbing opportunity towards the end of next month. If it's definite, I'll post the link here so that people can listen online.


Still dumb!

What has happened to the show Monk? It's still awful! It used to be a mystery with comedy that came from the characters, but now it's just a stupid situational comedy. There's no mystery--I can easily solve it within the first few minutes. Maybe since Tony Shalhoub won an Emmy, he's on auto-pilot now. Where is there to go but down from his high perch?

I'm not obsessed about it enough to join a message board and talk about it with others, but I did send an email to the network to ask them if they fired the previous writers. This reminds me of when the horrendous Enterprise debuted. I gave up on that T&A series after a few shows--the producers went for the LCD by abandoning intelligence for cheap thrills and stupid characters, with at least one bad actor/slut thrown in with a smattering of semi-decent ones.

Hello, Hollywood, there's still intelligent life out here!


Not a typo

Mad Minerva had a post about a German company that is banning whining, and even set up a happiness website to discourage negativity.

I thought that the BBC article about the company had a typo because they used the word "whinging," not "whining," like we lowly Americans say. I'd never seen "whinging" before, but according to MM, "It's a Britishism for "annoying complaining...supposedly 'whinge' has Old English roots."

She sent me some sites that define it, including "a scholarly article from the International Journal of Language, Society, and Culture by an Australian National University prof" called "An Analysis of 'whinging', 'dobbing' and 'mateship' in Australian Contemporary Culture." (I shouldn't be surprised she sent me a scholarly article since she's an aspiring Harvard academic.)



Via Language Geek, I found something very cool to help people learn English (seven accents/dialects) and for us English native speakers to learn a bit about Portuguese, German and French (a couple of dialects each), Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian, and Thai: Fonetiks, created by a guy who speaks seven languages(!).

The site is a language lab where you can hear a bunch of audio files: "Online pronunciation guides to 7 varieties of the English language and 9 other languages; Instant sound; Pronunciation samples by over 40 native speakers; All 230 pages free; Click on a flag to open a dictionary."

I've barely scratched the surface, but it seems like it has the potential to offer a lot of language learning enjoyment.


Life's weird

I received a bogus email asking me to "confirm" my credit card information, and even though I already suspected it was fake, this stupid sentence gave it away:

"You have been pre-indefinitely suspended from eBay because credit cards information incorrect ."

What does that mean? Oh yeah, the low-life thieves can't write a normal sentence. I've even included the space between the last word and the period, exactly how they created it. They're so desperate to steal my credit card info and my identity, they don't even bother to proofread.

In other news, my proposal was accepted, so I'll be speaking at a conference for ESL teachers. Pretty cool. And the acceptance came the day before a rejection from yet another fiction outfit. The difference between this most recent rejection and the others is that I've got other fish to fry; ie, I like my job and have oddly gotten some stuff published, though that stuff is just letters to editors and an upcoming blurb for a book. Yes, an author I've never met before asked me to write a blurb for his upcoming paperback edition of a hardcover non-fiction book. All I did was write an appreciative email and a short while later he asked me to write a "reader's endorsement." So I'm getting stuff I don't really care about published, but the stuff I slaved over is getting zip interest. Life is weird.


Writing hope

John Deaver sent me this good advice from JA Konrath (aka Joe Konrath):

Hope is a Four Letter Word

I hear from a lot of unpublished writers--at least a dozen a week. I can break them down into two distinct groups.

Those that will get published, and those that won't get published.

The difference between the two doesn't come down to talent, or hard work, or luck.

The difference between the two is attitude.

The ones who will never get published, hope that they eventually will.

The ones who will get published, know that they eventually will.

If you want to be a member of any club, act like you already are a member. You can watch the party going on through the window and lament that you weren't invited, or you can figure out a way to get invited.

In short, to be a professional writer, you need to act like a professional writer, even though nobody is paying you yet.

Be confidant. Be bold. You aren't buying lottery tickets, you're choosing which people you'll allow to buy your product.

And here's the secret---no one is actually confidant. Everyone is faking it.

But if you fake it long enough, you begin to believe it. The more you act like a writer, the more you become a writer.

Once you take hope out of the equation, possibilities become eventualities.

Actually, his site is great. There's always something going on, and a lot of great writing advice there, and at his blog, too. He is one of the most grateful writers I've seen--he gives 100% to his creative pursuits and wants to help other people because he's achieved success after years of struggling.



The good thing about reading other language blogs is that sometimes they look up stuff that I've been curious about for a while, but have been too lazy, tired, or indifferent to do.

Arrogant Polyglot took the time to find out what "sic" means, and this is what he found: "Of latinate source, 'sic' means 'therefore'. It serves to indicate that some type of semantic or lexical mistake has occurred."

It's "used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally."

So I guess it would be appropriate to quote Arrogant Polyglot this way: "When I started my MA programme [sic] and found myself striving to comprehend academic articles, I noticed from time to time that silly little word."

Since we lowly Americans spell "program" without the "e," I can use [sic] on my turf, right?


Is he high?

Whenever I watch the show FreeStyle, I often wonder if Aaron Foster films it the day after some serious pot-smoking sessions, or if he takes a toke before the filming begins. He looks as if he likes to "wake and bake." He *is* from northern California, after all. ;)

Usually when you see people on TV or elsewhere, their eyes are focused in some way, even if they're not that intelligent. But his eyes disappear into a haze, and staring into them too long makes me feel lost.

I'm sure someone out there knows if he's partaken in such activities, or if he just has the appearance of a Californian representative of the flakey variety.


Annoying accent

Sometimes I come across annoying accents, and this is one of those times I can't ignore it: Michele Addey on the show Double Take.

She is "Originally from England...and went on to study painting in Paris." I'm assuming she lives in L.A., since that's where a lot of HGTV shows take place.

I wonder if her accent has changed a lot since she left England. Maybe that's the source of its annoying quality--living in different places has mixed it up. But I think what makes it especially annoying is her need to sound really "up" when narrating the show, because I notice that if she's just talking with people on the show, she sounds less grating and nasal. Maybe someone told her that when she reads the script, she should be more peppy, so she's forced herself to sound really hyper. But it sounds unnatural and whiny.

Does she also talk like this when she's off camera, or is she more subdued? After all, TV requires people to be more outgoing and emotional, and maybe she's stepped out of her comfort zone. It makes it difficult to watch the show without trying to analyze her voice and wonder what's going on.


Face of stone

I just saw the season premier of Monk. That show has become predictable, with not much plot, and even a non-mystery type like me can easily solve it quickly. It's hardly the show I started watching a few seasons ago.

After seeing such an intelligent show dumbed down, I went to the Jump the Shark site, where a lot of people have complained about Monk's new assistant. Among the complaints about her lack of acting ability, someone said, "She asks for a raise, talks about Trudi and searches for Monk in the graveyard with the same face of stone!!!!!" I never thought of that before. She does seem to not have much emotion, but I don't think she's a bad actress. But it is a good phrase to use when describing people who seem flat, such as: "Wow, Bob really has a face of stone. He never changes his bland reaction."

One of the more amusing comments about just how lame Monk has become is this:

While entertaining and interesting in the beginning, this show is now aiming squarely for the nursing home demographic. Old folks sitting around watching the show, shaking their heads and smiling at "that crazy monk"... anticipating when he'll put his hands in front of his face like a mime and do an exaggerated look around the room. It's become a caricature of itself, much like the later Columbo shows, but with even less of a plot.

I never watched Columbo, but I get the point. I hope they can find some good writers among the thousands who are trying to make it in L.A.


Desperate liar

What is wrong with this guy? Here's a summary:

This 36-year-old claims he went from being an outsider at his suburban Michigan high school to being a drug abuser and criminal as a young adult. According to his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," he struggled with the death of a friend, went through rehab and found the strength inside himself to overcome his weaknesses and leave the bad behind. Oprah picked his book for her on-air reading group, making "A Million Little Pieces" a multimillion-dollar seller.

However, The Smoking Gun "counters Frey's literary claims of extended jail terms and outlaw behavior. They also accuse Frey of making up relationships with people in high school and placing himself at scenes he wasn't present for. The Web site suggests that interactions, such as fights with police and drug busts, were wholly made up."

WHY? Is he that money-hungry and desperate to be such a phony? Look at all the proof. Really sickening. The story speaks for itself, what more commentary is there to offer? It's obviously unethical. If he wanted to do something dramatic, he should have written fiction! I'm sure there are a lot of people bothered by this, especially those who have written honest non-fiction and fiction that is truly fictional. But who cares--Oprah doesn't, and that's all that matters.


I want this

This is one of the times when I wish I had a lot of money. I went to a Japanese bookstore today, and there were a lot of books I wanted to buy. The thing is, my Japanese isn't good enough to fly through a book, even a slim one, but I like foreign printed matter. There's something comforting about it, even though I posess some printed items that I don't understand, and some language textbooks that I haven't cracked open (Burmese, Korean, Greek). But they're there, and it makes me feel good. Weird, but true.

Anyway, I saw this book in the Japanese joint: 海外のビジネスマナー (Kaigai no Bijinesu Manaa), which is a book that helps Japanese businessmen deal with various cultures throughout the world. I'm not a business person, and of course, I'm not Japanese, but the topic is interesting. I'd like to know what they teach Japanese people about other countries and if there's anything I should learn, too. It's tempting to buy it, but should I shell out the $20? I'm tempted...I could read it in my private lessons and cherish it. It would take forever to read, especially since there are a lot of English books I still have to finish reading. I've got to finish a book by the end of this week to return it to a friend and I've got another one to read for a book club, and I've got work-related stuff to read, in addition to other Japanese stuff and Chinese (if I ever get around to it). So the reading material is overflowing, but this book is sitting there at the store, waiting to be bought.

I'll think about it, then return to the store to look at it again. It could be a reward for the positive developments in my life. Hmmm, good reason. Better than an expensive meal.



I'm going to volunteer for something interesting and helpful at The Chicago Lighthouse: Chicagoland Radio Information Service (CRIS), which "is Chicago's only radio reading service for the blind and physically handicapped. Broadcasting on a sub-carrier channel of WBEZ-FM, CRIS utilizes hundreds of volunteers to provide verbatim readings of the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and many more newspapers and magazines."

Actually, I'm going to be reading comic strips and columns on the air next week. Imagine trying to describe a comic strip to someone who can't see, and then doing the dialog. It should be interesting. And a lot of people need this service: "Some 40,000 people a day who can't see to read or can't hold a newspaper listen to Chicago, suburban, state and national news, plus sports, features, ads and special programming, on CRIS. They need a special radio that can pick up a subfrequency of FM."

I guess the funding for Internet streaming isn't there right now, but they might put the broadcast online again, so my voice will go from the subfrequency station in Chicagoland to the world, if they can get it up and running some day.


Too happy?

I haven't written any fiction since Nanowrimo. The same thing happened to me last time I did Nanowrimo, but that was because I was sick of trying to make my dream come true, and I was too despondent to keep trying after the frantic month was over. This time around it's because I've been too excited lately about the possibilities in the world of media.

Don't get me wrong: there's no on-air stuff in the works, but the radio thing is a totally new field for me. And, best of all, my boss is incredibly nice and cool and trusts me! It's unbelievable. I've barely started, and he assumes I have the ability and the brains to be able to handle whatever is thrown my way, and he's encouraged me to learn as much as I can about various aspects of the biz. Sometimes I can't believe this is life, because I've certainly been in less-than-stellar circumstances in the past, and sometimes I wonder if someone is going to come along and pull the scenery away and say, "Just joking. Now back to dismal reality."

So I'm wondering if it's easier to write creatively when life isn't so peachy, because I'm sort of too happy and hyper to sit down and ponder and try to pull stuff out of me, from deep inside. That's usually an area I reserve for time to be free, but with a cool situation, I feel pretty free already.


Check your work, Bill!

I saw a post at Language Hat about William Safire's On Language column that began:

I've been trying to lay off William Safire—we all know his limitations and he's frequently amusing and occasionally even informative, so why keep thumping him?—but sometimes he says something so mind-bogglingly ridiculous I can't be satisfied simply muttering at my copy of the newspaper, I have to go public.

Well, I don't know Safire's limitations because I don't usually read his column, and if I do, I don't analyze it to see if it's correct. Actually, I probably wouldn't be able to catch all of his mistakes because I'm more of a language lover than a linguist. But apparently there are a lot of annoyed linguists out there who often think he's wrong.

Safire's column was about the word "good...one of the basic words of the English language - originally used in the place of God to avoid irreverence." It sounds preposterous, and it is, according to LH: "The OED knows of only one such use...I can only conclude that our boy William dashed the column off before his first cup of coffee and (as usual) nobody at the Times bothered to even read it over before sending it to the printer."

Okay, may I ask why Safire doesn't have an assistant who can check up on this stuff? He writes for the New York Times, one of the most important, influential newspapers in the world! Someone over there has got to have the skill to verify what he's writing. And if no one wants to bother, then he should get someone to help out. I'm sure there are tons of people, including highly educated ivy-types, who would love to work for him. And I'm sure he has the dough to pay them, unless he's cheap.

So hire someone, please, before you embarrass yourself even more! Be responsible! Or step down, let someone else do that column--correctly.


Japanese in WWII

Someone just gave me an interesting book that is hard to find (since it's self-published and has no website) called "Kanji & Codes: Learning Japanese for World War II."

The introduction begins, "Between 1908 and 1946, the United States established fourteen schools at home and abroad specifically to train Americans to speak Japanese. The motivation was always to prepare for war with Japan, but for a while, war was only a distant cloud."

It seems well written and useful, with a lot of research. I doubt it will make its way into academic or intellectual circles, but it should. Too bad it's relatively obscure.

The only site that has info about it is at the 6th Marine Division:

What steps did the United States take in the 1940s to defeat their enemy in the Pacific? Read Kanji & Codes - Learning Japanese for World War II for some insights...American Japanese language schools date back to 1908, but the real push came from dedicated Army, Navy and Marine Corps officers who set up more schools in 1941, and against all odds, succeeded in training the men and women who help to win the war and go on to make a huge contribution in winning the peace with Japan.

Well, at least you heard about it here, too.

By the way, here's some info about the 6th Marine Division:

Our 6th Division was the final Marine Division to be formed during WWII. They would be the only Division formed overseas, fight overseas, and disband overseas...The Division was born in September 1944 on the Island of Guadalcanal. There we trained until sailing to Okinawa, which would be the Divisions first and also the last battle that the Division would be involved in.


30 k

I just found out that Metrolingua has had over 30,000 unique visitors. That's over 30,000 different people who've visited the site.

Here are [most] of the countries/territories that have visited (120, more or less):

United States
Great Britain
European Union
Hong Kong
South Korea
New Zealand
Russian Federation
United Arab Emirates
Puerto Rico
Czech Republic
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
Slovak Republic
Costa Rica
Cayman Islands
Guam (USA)
Trinidad and Tobago
Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire)
El Salvador
Dominican Republic
Saint Lucia
Sri Lanka
Brunei Darussalam

Just think if I tried to market this site. I've done nothing to advertise it, and I leave comments on only a few blogs, and most of them aren't even in my "genre." So it's not like those readers are dying to read what I have to say about language and other semi-related stuff--they'd rather read blogs that reflect their own content. And it's not like lots of blogs are linking here, either. Oh well--at least it's something that I can put in my letters to the PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex).


MM is 2

I just found out that Mad Minerva is celebrating her two-year blogiversary. At this point, it's my favorite blog. It has good info about the Chinese scene, academics, politics, culture, thought, and other interesting observations and links. She's going to Haavaad to be a prof, and I really hope she becomes one. It's hard to find critical thinkers in academia--they usually participate in cul-de-sac thinking.

Actually, I have several blogs bookmarked, but the blogs listed on this page are the ones that I feel are the most interesting (thus the title "Personalities"). I still love Rumored (though it's a journal) because his posts are thoughtful. If I'm having one of those introspective moments, I enjoy going over there. It seems honest, as if I'm hanging out with someone at a cafe and we're talking about whatever. I don't think there are many people who enjoy hanging out and talking freely about stuff. I don't know why. Maybe it's because people are busy and they like to put people in pre-defined slots. It's disappointing, but it makes me search for the Exceptions. Sometimes I meet them, and if I don't, then I tolerate the Other Types.


[unintentionally?] funny blog

I don't know if this chick means to be funny, but her blog Theidlereceptionist is, perhaps unknowingly and non-self-consciously. Maybe it's because I've done receptionist stuff, and I've heard complaints from receptionists about disappearing pens, though not as funny as hers:

Some of you may remember my previous posts on pens and their importance to me. Namely that people shouldn't STEAL them from my desk.

Some may even remember how I took the time to affix small WARNING LABELS to each of my new Pentel RSVP pens that say "Please don't steal me!"

Lateley I've been noticing my RSVP pen count depleting from it's original menagerie of 6 pens to a paltry 3.

"Ugh. Who even cares anymore? My LABELED pens even get stolen. Screw it."

At least that was my thinking until I saw a co-worker (slightly my superior) WITH ONE OF MY PENS. AND SHE TOOK THE LABEL OFF.

And here's something else that receptionists can relate to around this time of year: "I am back at work. So is everyone that had the last two weeks off. And they all feel the need to greet me with a, 'Happy New Year!' preface before whatever it is they came up/called to say in the first place."

It's a part of her complainy post, which also has a funny line below this confounding New Year's picture: "So there you have it. Chickens in front of some tree surrounded in...mustard? Lemonade?"

What adds to the humor is that the chickens also look confused as to what their purpose is, so it reinforces what she said. I doubt she planned it that way, but a clever humorous writer would do that.

Even her use of the word "complainy" is cutely funny. I've never heard that expression.

You know when something is funny when you can't help but laugh out loud, and this is one of those cases. Maybe because she's being blunt and free with her thoughts, or maybe it's the random collection of posts, but it's just really funny (except for some of the vulgar-type stuff). She also has not been to college, so her writing isn't forced or precious. Sometimes blogs are written well, but they lack personality because the person's academic writing has influenced their other writing. Or they're trying too hard to be entertaining, and it just sounds fake.

But she could be the real deal. Or she could be a good writer who is able to adopt a seemingly authentic voice. It's probably the former, but I have no idea.



I came upon this a while ago: Germish. It sounds like a condition, as if someone is coming down with something and says, "I'm feeling quite germish today." But it's really about the blending of English and German:

Used in all German-speaking countries, Germish owes its existence in part to the cultural predominance of English language pop music, to the international computer slang, and to the use of English as the lingua franca of politics, business, and science.

Because of discrepancies in their pronunciation, syntax, grammar and word use, imported English words must adapt the German language, or German language patterns adapt the English use.

Here are a couple of examples:

Ich musste den Computer neu booten, weil die Software gecrasht ist.
(I had to reboot the computer because the software crashed.)


Hast Du schon die neuste Mozillaversion downgeloadet/gedownloadet?
(Have you already downloaded the newest version of Mozilla?)



There may have been a Startrek drought, but I found a nice replacement.

If you haven't seen Inspector Lynley, I highly recommend it. Great acting, stylish, it takes place in England, and, well, check out the Inspector. :)

The year's first post

2006 has arrived in my time zone! Happy New Year!