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 RĂªve' 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.