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.


Stargate cancelled?

I saw a Stargate SG-1 fan, and the first thing he said to me was, "Have you heard the news?" Well, I couldn't figure out which news: there was no 9/11-type of incident occuring, and there's just so much bad news out there, I don't know what's important sometimes.

And then he told me: Stargate SG-1 has been cancelled. Wow, no surprise there: it was going downhill when some of the actors were scaling back and they added the party slut to the show--I talked about it when I noticed the decline. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to watch it for a while because Comcast yanked it from regular cable, but I doubt I've been missing much. What made the show good was the chemistry of the cast and the interesting storylines and history/mythology.

The problem is, I can't find any official information about the cancellation, which makes me wonder if it's just a rumor. But the guy I was talking to is a big fan, so he probably has acquired a good tip from somewhere reputable.


Online socializing

The future is now. What I mean is, who would've thought, when the Apple II came out, that we would develop social lives through a computer? But it's happening. I found out about a "listening party" at a message board, but had no interest in joining. Then an online friend--someone I met through the message board and chat with (via AIM) occasionally--sent me a PM, urging me to "attend" the "party," and gave me the password. So since I've got nothing else to do, I'm going to "attend". So we're going to put in a CD and discuss it via a chat room.

It's weird, but hey, I'm a social person, and this is a high-tech alternative.



Sometimes when I see something or think about a particular situation, I tell myself it's "twee." That's not an American word--it's British: "It means excessively or affectedly quaint, sentimental or mawkish, sometimes coupled with words like nauseatingly."

Tonight I was walking around with a couple of friends who were discussing ancient Greek (!) and I saw something that I thought was "twee." Then I wondered why I'm using British words in my head, when I've never lived there (though I visited) and know only a couple of British people who I not only rarely see, but who've never used that word around me.

I love it: twee! It's such a cute word, and so effective! So maybe one day I'll say it out loud--I'm sure other Americans will wonder what the heck I'm saying. Then I can snobbily explain to them, "Oh, it's British. Are you from the States?"


2 years

Well, it's official: I've been blogging here for two years. What's interesting and synchronius (a word I just made up to make "synchonicity" into a simple adjective) is that I just printed out a second draft of a pretty good novel I've been writing, which has about 45,000 words, and the number of unique visitors to this site is almost 45,000 as well. So maybe it's a sign: that even better things are to come. (Well, not really, because I don't believe in "signs"--I was just being an English major-type.)

Here's a list of the lands throughout the world that have visited this year (2006) so far--around 120.

Thanks for visiting!

United States, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, China, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, France, Iceland, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Taiwan, Belgium, Sweden, Russian Federation, India, Israel, Romania, Malaysia, Austria, Singapore, Czech Republic, Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire), Philippines, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Hungary, Denmark, Mexico, Finland, Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia, Norway, Portugal, Colombia, Egypt, Pakistan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Lithuania, South Africa, Senegal, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Ukraine, Chile, Ecuador, Croatia, European Union, Luxembourg, Greece, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Jordan, Guam (USA), Slovak Republic, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Latvia, Tunisia, Moldova, Panama, Qatar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Nigeria, Belarus, Cyprus, El Salvador, Palestinian Territories, Macedonia, Sri Lanka, Monaco, Bangladesh, Algeria, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Benin, Albania, Trinidad and Tobago, Armenia, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Myanmar, Saint Kitts & Nevis Anguilla, Mongolia, Macau, Kazakhstan, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Syria, Polynesia (French), Bolivia, Gabon, Antigua and Barbuda, Virgin Islands (USA), Libya, Bermuda, Netherlands Antilles, Madagascar, Lebanon, Andorra, Malta.


Fret wankery

I saw someone say online that they don't like guitar solos that are "fret wankery." But what does that mean? Does that mean aimless playing, without focus or style? Like a garbled mess? So, for instance, someone is just playing a bunch of notes that don't amount to anything meaningful?


Thai online laugh

People like to use "lol" to indicate laughing online, but I recommend the Thai Online Laugh: 5.

I discovered this at a Thai site that had a webcam on Koh Samui, and there was an area next to the webcam image to chat online. Everyone was chatting in Thai, and I couldn't understand any of it, but I kept seeing the number 5 everywhere. So at one point, I stepped in and asked (in English, of course) what 5 meant, and they said that 5 is "ha" in Thai, so when they want to laugh, they say "555" or however many 5's they want. So to them, "ha ha ha" is "555".

It's so cool, I use it now, and have to explain to people what I'm doing. I think it's something that we non-Thai speaking folks should adopt.

First Sox game

I'm putting this on the record: I'm going to my first White Sox game tonight. I haven't been to a baseball game in a long time, and that was the Cubs. So hopefully, I'll have a victory to report because I certainly need to live victoriously vicariously through something, since I'm not exactly having a lot of success myself. And watching a game with thousands of screaming southsiders is certainly a good way to get my mind off of self-loathing.

So tonight the Sox, tomorrow a return to a shmoe existence.


Blogs matter

Sometimes I hear writers from the MSM talk about blogs, as if they're some silly cultural phenomenon that they have to tolerate. Some think it's quaint that people want to write in their blogs, but I don't think they understand the importance of them.

First of all, we can't all be paid columnists for the shrinking print media, but we like to write. Are we supposed to wait around for someone to approve of us before we communicate with the world? Sure, we don't have the thousands of readers the print media columnists have, but we're communicating with the outside world.

I wonder if those columnists would blog if they didn't have their columns. It's easier to keep writing when you have a paycheck coming and have readers' emails and letters and editors' opinions to bounce off of, but those bloggers who don't have many commenters or emails from readers (such as me) are motivated to write, because we like to write and communicate.

What's weird is when columnists decide to set up a blog after they've had an established column. It's like they're looking at the trends, and they're thinking, "Whoa--all those youngsters are blogging, I should too." It borders on being fake and insincere, because I think they're "settling" with it, because they might as well join the commoners rather than fight against the uprising.

Blogs take the expressive and creative power away from the few folks who used to be given the platform to speak out. Only a handful of blogs have huge readerships, but at least we no longer have to wait for someone to speak to us, and we can interact with the writers. Before, if you wanted to communicate with the columnist, you'd be lucky if they even read your letter. Now we can go to a blog, leave a comment, and know that it's being read by at least a few people. And chances are the blogger will respond.

I guess it's a kind of virtual cafe where the intelligentsia are allowed to congregate away from the MSM Tower.


Radio is like...

I thought about this today, but don't know if other people have said it: Working in radio is like being in love with someone who doesn't have time for you.

That's how I would describe what I read in The Cash Cage (check out the free excerpt) before I started working in The Biz, and I've discovered that type of situation as well.

If you are even thinking of working in radio, I highly recommend the book. The author, Corey Deitz, has been through a lot, and even though other people won't have the same experiences, it still serves as a kind of warning. It's just better to go into something with your eyes open, no matter what industry you're working in.

But I think I should read the book again--I'm sure my perspective will be different.

Update: I emailed my "Working in radio is like..." statement to Deitz, and he replied: "Well said!"


French building words

I was searching for a French term and found the definition I was looking for in a French Building and Renovation Jargon Guide. It's from a site that helps English speakers survive in Languedoc-Roussillon, which is in southeast France.

So if you want to know various terms that have to do with building or renovating anything, or are just curious about what household words are in French and English, check it out. I've never been to France (though I want to go), but even if I do go someday, I doubt I'll need to know all these words. But they're handy.


the Odge

Here's something that I came across when I was looking up a French phrase online: The Odge, which stands for Online Dictionary German-English. It has more than 400,000 entries. All you have to do is enter the word that you're looking for, and it will provide the translation.

You can also add words, so if enough people participate, maybe the dictionary will exceed a million words by the end of this year.

They also offer you a way to enter letters with umlauts (ä ö ü) and an esszett (ß), so you don't have to worry about digging it up from your computer's keyboard. Just click on the letter, and it's entered into the search box. Handy!

It was odd to discover the site on the way to translating a French phrase, but hey, Europe is more united now, so it makes sense. However, I stopped at this detour long enough to forget the French phrase I was looking for. Oh well.


Give blood

I've been to a few hospitals in just over a month: one in the western suburbs, one in the northern suburbs, and one downtown. Each reason was different: I visited one person who was dying, I took another to the emergency room a couple of times, and I visited another who was suffering after I took them to the emergency room the week before.

It was the last person that made me decide to give blood, because they were getting a transfusion. Some kind soul out there decided to give blood so that the ill person could feel well again, and it worked! If it wasn't for that blood, who knows what would've happened? Many people have been helped because of other people's generosity!

If you ever see people revived because of others' blood, then maybe you'll feel inspired enough to give blood. But even if you haven't, think about doing it--it could save someone's life!

So I'm going to set up an appointment to give blood, and intend to do it regularly.



I mentioned the word behooves, and how it's odd that people are using it today--hundreds of years after it was common in the English language.

Here's another word that I see people use, just in written form, usually in comments in blogs: methinks.

Now what is up with that? "Methinks that he should have a different policy." Why not say "I think"? Is it so difficult to do that, or do people want to sound clever? I can see a dude type out "methinks," then stroke his scraggly beard, like, "That was a good one. Let's see what they think of *that*," and then chuckle to himself before he downs another Pepsi.

Like "behooves", methinks comes from Old and Middle English, and it shows up in Hamlet:

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Well, that's fine for Shakespeare, but come on, do people really have to resort to his language when they're telling someone they're wrong in a flame war?



This word sounds weird and is archaic, but I've heard people use it. Why? Why resurrect such an odd word? I have a hard time listening to someone after they say, "It behooves us to take this into consideration." It just sounds so prissy and proper, as if we're living in Victorian England (though the word is a lot older than that):

Middle English behoven, from Old English behOfian, from behOf
transitive verb : to be necessary, proper, or advantageous for
intransitive verb : to be necessary, fit, or proper

I wonder if German has a variation of this word, since Old English sounds similar. I don't know German well enough to be able to pluck it off the top of my head. All I know is while people, especially Americans, are speaking in a straightforward style, the use of this word is like a stuffy anachronism.