Adobe has the worst customer service

I pity anyone who has to get any type of help from Adobe. Unfortunately, they've taken over other software companies, so they've gotten too big and moronic.

Here's an example: I called up one time to simply ASK about some software they were offering, and got someone who was an outsourced robotic operator. She kept asking what my account number was, and I told her I didn't have one because I was a new customer, but she kept asking me as if she didn't understand what I was saying. It's as if they crammed some programmed information into her head, so all she could do was act like a parrot rather than answer my simple question.

Another example: they told me they would deliver an upgrade of some software that I ordered, and repeatedly asked me for documentation to prove that, even though I sent it a few times. Then they said that they were finally satisfied, and said they'd send me the upgrade.

That was five months ago. And now, they're acting like nothing ever happened.

If there is an option for Adobe products out there, feel free to compete because they have to be reminded that their customer service is awful, and they're bloated way beyond the size and capabilities they can handle.


I want to go to France

This year is almost done, and I think I'm going to make a trip to France one of my resolutions. I usually don't make New Year's Resolutions because they can be made at any time of the year, but I think France should be a priority because I've never been there! I've translated French into English, I've read a lot about French artists and have seen a lot of French art, so I want to go to the country that has it!

Unfortunately, my French friend who's lived in Chicago for a decade has gone AWOL, so I can't talk to him about good places to go. But I can still read up on a lot of stuff, and I live within walking distance of Alliance Française, so I can find out more there.

I'm thinking of doing an intense language study, but maybe I should just take a trip there. But I'll figure it out when 2009 rolls around.


Chinese boxing day

In the past, I've hung out with Mandarin speakers and have enjoyed tasty Chinese food around Christmastime. I don't understand what they're saying when they talk to each other, but it's interesting for me to listen to another language spoken by people who are still discovering American culture.

This year, instead of hanging out with the Chinese people on Christmas Eve or Christmas, we ended up getting together on Boxing Day, which really isn't celebrated in the US; I'm just linking the two events. Boxing Day, btw, is celebrated in England, Canada, and other parts of the Commonwealth, and while the exact origin isn't exactly known, the basic idea was that the day after Christmas, landowners and other highly-positioned people would give things to their workers and other people in the lower classes.

So since we got together today, I'm calling this Chinese Boxing Day. I'm full, but it was fun.


It's ready!

The book I've been putting together is done! There were several contributors, all of whom are talented writers and interesting people. They all wrote about life in cities throughout the world. See a preview here and purchase it in print or purchase cheap download here.

It will eventually be available at various online booksellers.


What kabuki looks like

I've seen the word "kabuki" everywhere, but when I saw it in Japanese, I didn't recognize it: 歌舞伎

I guess because I've seen it so often in English, it's odd to see what it really should look like.


House spoof

My friend was just telling me how much he hates the TV show "House" because the main character is such a jerk, which reminded me of this funny spoof.


Stay tuned!

Between doing radio stuff and working on other people's sites, I've been finishing up the upcoming anthology. It's going to be ready this week--in time for the holidays!


Recommended radio books

Corey Deitz, who started working in radio years before massive consolidation and syndication, has a list of books about radio that he recommends including:

"Cousin Brucie"
"The Pied Pipers of Rock ‘n’ Roll"
"Did You Whittinghill This Morning?"
"Have Mercy!"
"The Rush Limbaugh Story"
"Empire of the Air"

I haven't read any of them but I definitely want to check some out. I already read his book The Cash Cage, which I'm going to read again because now that I've been working in the biz, I'm sure I'll recognize familiar situations.


Remembering Elliot Judd

I found out today that Elliot Judd passed away. He was a linguistics professor at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and even though I never took a class with him, I did talk to him sometimes, and he was one of the few nice people in that department. He was helpful and was really passionate about language, teaching, and English acquisition, and even though he had a good job and was intelligent, he wasn't arrogant, and seemed to be truly interested in people.

Here is his bio from his university page:

Elliot Judd's major area of research is in language policy, especially in the United States. More specifically, he is interested in the socio-political factors that have shaped American language policy, both past and present, in the areas of teaching English to immigrants, teaching foreign language to native-born Americans, dialect usage, and policies that promote the maintenance or loss of languages other than Engllish, including programs dealing with bilingual education. He has also studied language policies and practices for English teaching in other countries around the world. Another area that he has written on is TESOL methodology, and curriculum and materials development for both adults and children. He has helped design materials and teacher-training programs for use in adult, community-based education programs, content-based mathematics for ESL elementary students, and in academic programs for adult ESL/EFL learners. Judd served as President of the International TESOL Association from 2006-07.


Too bad my Italian disappeared

I know a really great guy who's actually related to the multilingual teen (intelligence and talent runs in their family), who said I can stay at his place in Switzerland when he's away traveling. A great invite! But the only "problem" is that it's in the Italian area, and I haven't studied Italian in a while, which means I won't be able to speak it.

I shouldn't fret because I can always take a phrase book with me, but still--I'd like to be able to speak to people around there. And it only emphasizes the fact that I really want to know the language of wherever I go, which is an impossible task, of course :D


I can study languages for free!

I've been teaching ESL at a city college for almost three years, and I just found out that I could've started taking FREE classes a couple of years ago! I thought that teachers had to be full time or teach several hours per week to qualify, but my boss told me that I am eligible as well. So I'm probably going to take a foreign language, though I *should* learn more computer stuff.

Of course, some people might ask, "Why don't you just study on your own online or with a book?" I can do that, but having a class gives me structure and deadlines, and I can meet other people who like languages too.


Free English/Spanish bilingual book and CD

This is what's great about college: students can devote lots of time to creating projects. I found out about Fluenz.org, which is a site with FREE bilingual English and Spanish books and audio that you can download.

The students have given the project a political purpose by saying that "language is a human right," which I guess is a result of the ideology they learn with increased education, but I just see it as a good way to learn English or Spanish, and the practicality is obvious without having to attach some political significance to it.

The book is actually for native Spanish speakers because it has English transliterations, but if you want to learn basic Spanish, it's definitely worth the download.


I don't speak Chinese

Someone who's originally from China told me that they had a dream where I was speaking fluent Chinese with them. I wish! I've been negligent in my Japanese studies (even though I still go to a class almost every week), so trying to master Chinese would be very difficult at this point.

I'm taking an online course in addition to working weird hours and teaching, so my language study is not as intense as it once was. Anytime someone talks to me about language, I realize I miss it because I used to be very involved with it. So I really have to figure out a way to be more disciplined to improve my skills because I still love language!


Stargate trailer in German!

I know it's not a big deal to Germans, but it is to me. And the music is cool too!


Why I'm glad I'm not famous

I can point to thousands of instances of press violation of people's privacy, in addition to internet rumors and widespread gossip, and the latest is an article about some of the Atlanta "housewives". It's definitely creepy that they dig into police and real estate records to dig up dirt. And there's a lot more going on elsewhere about other famous people. Scary.


Thanksgiving timeline

Today is Thanksgiving, which is a very popular holiday in the US. I'd say it's more popular than Christmas because it's about food, family, history, and thanks, which anyone can celebrate. So today after work (I wanted the holiday pay) I'm going to catch up on laundry and proceed to eat a lot of great food.

Anyway, if you want to know a bit about Thanksgiving within a simple historical context, check out the Thanksgiving timeline.


When is "old fashioned"?

I just took a swig of some "gourmet soda" manufactured by a drugstore chain in the US. It's so gourmet, it has such fancy ingredients as artificial flavor, sodium benzoate, carmel color, and citric acid. Yeah, it's "gourmet" all right.

But that's not what I noticed: it has the word "old fashioned" to describe what kind of root beer it is.

So now I'm wondering, what is "old fashioned"? It's 2008, so is that like 100 years ago, or 50, or more? And have they only been using such a phrase in the 20th and 21st centuries? I wonder if they used "old fashioned" in the 18th century, or earlier in England (since they've been around a lot longer than the US).


European tapestries

I saw the European Tapestries exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I highly recommend going there (if you're in Chicago, of course).

When I first saw the info about the exhibition, I thought it was no big deal, but when I walked into the gallery, I was really impressed because the tapestries are huge and beautiful. I seriously wanted to cheer and yell "All right!" because they were so striking. But I think people around me would've been weirded out, and security would've hauled me away :D

I'm definitely going back--they're there for just a couple of months, and I just have to see their magnificence again. They come from the 15th through 18th centuries, and you can see the detail and hard, meticulous work the weavers and dyers did to create such beauty. The Art Institute catalog calls them "masterpieces," and they really are.


Fired vs laid off

There seems to be some disagreement on the meaning of "fired" and "laid off".

I thought that people are fired when the employer doesn't think they're doing a good job, but people are laid off when there's not enough money to pay them. I thought it was just another meaning for redundant. But someone told me that when people are laid off, it means that they might be hired back. So when there's no chance of being hired back, then they're fired.

Anyway, there have been reductions in staff everywhere, and that often happens in radio, in good and bad economic times, because it seems that media companies are always getting rid of people. Today I saw three people kicked out due to financial reasons, which is really sad, because the two I knew (I didn't really know the third) were really good at what they did.

So since they don't have a chance of being hired back, they've been fired, even though it was because of finances. Or maybe it wasn't, because one person was replaced with someone who was cheaper. So that position was necessary after all.


I'm living on British time

When I got to work this morning at 4 AM, I was listening to the beginning of the BBC's World Update, and they said that it was 10 AM in England/Britain/whatever they call it. Which made me realize that I have been living in the British time zone ever since I started my new work schedule. Which is why I probably feel like I have jet lag all the time.

So I'm basically working a late British schedule: from 10 AM to 6 PM instead of weird Chicago hours. I haven't been there since the late 80's, but if I go again, I won't have to adjust to their time zone.


Swedish Lebanese drinking song

The singer is from Lebanon, and a Swede made up some Swedish lyrics to go along (he doesn't know what the guy is really singing about). The Swedish song is about drinking and hats. You can see the story and translation at the site (click on "Explanation in English").



Somebody mentioned splades in my spork post, and I found a site that explained them with this simple diagram. I guess it's a British and Australian thing, because I've never seen them in the US.




Companies have really gone crazy with the "gourmet" concept, but I've found proof of overkill: the combination of "premium" and "gourmet".

The example I found was a "Premium Gourmet Syrup" which seems so unappetizing, they're probably using "premium gourmet" to convince us that it's palatable. It's pumpkin flavored, and what's pitiful is that it's been out on the counter for months--ie, it's not fresh for the current fall season.

There's also French on the label to assure us that it is truly "gourmet", but the company is located in Florida. And here are the "gourmet" ingredients: sugar, water, pumpkin flavor, spice flavors, and salt. When I see "flavor", I assume it's artificial, because if it were real, they'd make a point to state that.

Yet another desperate attempt at hypinng up quality.


I'm on Leopard!

Even though Leopard came out last year and folks kept telling me how great it was, I didn't get it until this week, and installed it on my computer yesterday. Tiger was a good system, but Leopard is better! It has a lot more features, works smoothly, and looks great.

I use PC's at work but have been using Macs at home since the early 80's, and I don't know why more folks don't use Macs. Oh yeah, they want to make life more difficult for themselves. I guess it's more cool to work at using a computer instead of just enjoying using one.

btw--I don't have an iPod--it's not worth the money for me. Which means I don't have an iPhone either, just am a loyal Mac user :D


Lots of French informational videos!

When I discovered a French video for tying a tie, I went back to the site to see what other instructional videos there are, and there are a lot!

So check it out if you want to learn new things while practicing your French at the same time: Netprof.fr

Right now, I'm interested in the history of Paris (and would love to go there someday), but I might do something crazy and watch the computer how-to videos, because they have stuff there that I want to learn. Of course, I can do that in English, but I really need to improve my French, and what better way than to do that through topics I'm interested in.

Bottom line: this is a great site!


news24 loads!

After much time trying to figure out what was wrong with my Internet access because I couldn't access foreign sites or government sites, and after whining about it, it finally worked itself out and now I can go to News24.jp! The only problem is that I can't access it from anywhere in my home because there's something wrong with the wireless router, which might have been the cause of my strange accessibility problems.

My ISP said they'd never heard of such a thing: why wouldn't I be able to go to foreign and government sites? I still don't know what was happening, but at least I can now view Japanese news and practice reading it as well. So thanks for putting up with my whining and have a nice day :D


About sporks

I clicked on a commenter's link, and saw their oddly interesting blog, which included a a post about sporks:

Sporks are mainly a tool for good, for the betterment of mankind, but apparently a bane to most females since sporks are the antithesis of the overwhelming need to have even the most utilitarian tools of living to convey one’s social status via being as expensive as possible. However, as noted below, sporks ARE a multi-purpose device, a must-have in every man’s cache of tools.

Someone out there is having a lot of fun online with their "Old Coot" alter.


How to tie a tie in French

This is something ordinary that's been made more interesting because it's not in English :D Sounds like the guy enjoys his cigarettes--he has such a voice.


More trash with money

A couple of years ago, I watched the Real Housewives of Orange County, which was interesting in a disturbing kind of way, because it was basically about well-off women who conspicuously consumed and passed their materialistic values to their spoiled children.

I watched both seasons of that tackiness, but only watched a couple episodes of the crazy New York version because NYC is a great place to be rich, and I didn't want to see them enjoying something that most of us can't have in such a great city.

Now I've started to watch the Atlanta version, and it's just more trash with money. One of the women says, "I knew I was destined for greatness" or something like that, which is pitiful, because she didn't create any of her wealth, just married a basketball player who is gone six days a week. What a relationship. But at least she's rich, and that's all that seems to matter to them.

What I don't get is that not all the women are housewives on these shows, and some of them aren't even married, but maybe it's because these were the only people the producers could find who'd want to prance around on TV showing the world how rich and entitled they are.

You might be wondering why I watch such trash, but it's interesting and amusing: these people think that we want to be like them, and I'm not one of those wannabes, but I enjoy the entertaining stories and drama they bathe their heads in.

I wonder what's going to happen now that a lot of broke people throughout the world have watched them in their oblivious wealth. At least I think they're going to be hit up by their desperate relatives who want to sponge off what their spouses have accumulated.


Had went

I've noticed a development in English (at least in the American version), and it's that people will combine the simple past tense of "go" (went) with "had". I have no idea why this has happened because I remember people just saying "went", as in "I went to his house."

Now I often hear people say, "I had went to his house" when they're telling a story. Why are they making the past tense more complicated than it is? Are they trying to sound fancy? What they're doing is combining the past perfect with the past tense, and if I were to point it out to them, they'd have no idea what I'm talking about.


Comcast can't load Japanese sites

For some reason that Comcast can't explain, I can't access news24.jp at home. I can access it anywhere else, even if I use my own computer elsewhere, but I can't get it at home.

And I just discovered that I can't load any Japanese sites, actually.

Yes, I'm annoyed, because when I call Comcast, they have no idea what I'm talking about, and for some reason, they won't try to get to the site on their own computers. In fact, yesterday someone told me that they don't have access to the internet, which doesn't make sense.

Comcast is over-rated: they advertise high speed internet, but sometimes I can't access even their own site, and sometimes I can't access the internet at all. Other times, sites load slowly, unlike their phony advertising says.

Tonight, after talking with one guy who couldn't help me, I was transferred to someone else, and I asked them if Comcast doesn't work because I live in a high rise downtown in a big city, but they hung up on me. I wasn't even yelling, just asking that question: "Is it because I live in a high rise in downtown Chicago that I can't even get online?" And they seriously hung up. So I called back, and after another person reset the modem so that I could connect, he had no clue why I can't access that Japanese site.

So if you have a choice, don't choose Comcast because they're all hype. I'm thinking of switching back to DSL (even though I know AT&T isn't the greatest), which Comcast says is slower, but Comcast is behaving like a DSL connection, and even like a company in the developing world.

Actually, I got better service and had better connections through a tiny local ISP run by a couple of Wicker Parksters back in the mid-90's before huge corporations took over and over-worked their staffs and built too much on too many promises.

I'd like to know of other options--I wonder if other people are also having trouble with Comcast.


Interview with Jon Konrath

I said before that Jon Konrath's journal is gone, which I'm still bummed about, but I've found a good interview with him.

What's funny is that I've never met him and don't write the same type of stuff as he does, and may never even be published in his literary journal again (I had one essay published in #11). I'm not even his type of reader and have different interests, but his writing affected me, as well as his projects (which inspired me to do my own). But despite all the differences, he deserves a mention here.

I've also downloaded Dealer Wins, which is about his trips to Las Vegas, so at least I'll be enjoying that while I look for other folks to read online.


What does "good" at Japanese mean?

I've noticed that there are Westerners who will say that they're good at Japanese, but they can't really read it. Which makes me wonder if being "good" at Japanese means that you have to be able to read *and* speak it.

Of course, Japanese is difficult to read, so a lot of Westerners spend their time trying to become fluent. But I think it's weird when I meet someone who's fluent who can barely read it beyond hiragana and katakana.

I wonder what Japanese people think--they talk with Westerners in Japanese, but when they go out to eat, for instance, and the Westerner can't read the menu so well (or at all), does their opinion of them change?

When I was living there, I met a lot of Japanese people who expected foreigners to not speak it, let alone read it, so maybe their expectations are already low.


I might not be able to translate anymore

I'm not sure yet, but I think my radio life is becoming so productive that I might not be able to translate anymore.

Right now, I work mainly for one show, but I've also started working for another show on the side. And because I've been posting stuff here and doing other online nerdy stuff, a couple of other radio guys want me to do stuff for their sites. What's weird is that I started this blog because I love language--I had no idea that it might lead to some paid gigs.

I will still continue to teach ESL, which takes up an entire Saturday, so really, Sunday is the only day that will be work-free. Which means that I might have to soon make a decision to not translate, because I don't have much time left, and my days start at 4 AM.

I guess if I made better money doing it, I might think twice, but I'm not so sure at this point.

I'm not going to stop posting here because I love language and always will, but my profile might change, so stay tuned :D


It's gone!

My favorite "blog" (I put it in quotes because it's really a journal, and he doesn't call it a "blog") has been discontinued! Jon Konrath's Rumored journal is gone! All that's left is an explanation of why he decided to pull it, and even that is a good read.

I discovered Rumored when I was at a temp job with a lot of downtime. I was reading a lot of stuff online, and I did a search for a very specific phrase--I honestly don't remember what it was, but it had to do with how I was feeling at the time. Then I found his journal, and I spent like a few hours reading it. I loved the honest writing and the down-to-earth style. Even though there's a lot of writing online, it's hard to find good writing that's intelligent yet personal. It seems that the people who have been trained in writing are too formal or have some kind of agenda. Rumored didn't have that--it was expressive and communicative.

Unfortunately, he removed the archives too, but you can see some of his writing at his site. I've never met him, but I felt like I got to know him somewhat through his posts.


Dashes instead

I used to be very conscientious in my use of semicolons--I knew the rules and applied them correctly. But then I took a creative writing class, where the teacher said that he didn't like using them so much, and I started using dashes instead, first in my creative writing (which hasn't been published, btw), and then in emails and here in this blog. At this point, I'm so used to using dashes instead of semicolons, my use of them has been limited to formal writing, which I really don't do that much, since a lot of my writing is via online communication and quick notes.

So now I'm wondering if semicolons are being used less, for stylistic reasons and because people don't know how they're supposed to be used.



I'm sure I'm not the first to say this, but there are a lot of dumpy places that call themselves "Cuisine" (ie, a dinky restaurant that is "Thai Cuisine" which has just a few tables and chairs surrounded by peeling paint and cracked floors). For once, I saw a true hole in the wall that said "Food": it's on the corner of Chicago and Orleans in Chicago, and I actually ate there once, and I'm surprised it hasn't been condemned--it looks as if it never left a South Asian busy street. It said "Indian and Pakistani FOOD", not "cuisine".

For some reason, I guess such places think that putting the word "cuisine" after the food description will make potential customers think that they're going somewhere special, and I'd be surprised if they really thought that.


It's 7:00 and time for bed

I got home less than an hour ago, and I have to go to bed now because I now have to be at work every day at 4 AM. So I will respond to comments and post something tomorrow.


First and foremost is redundant

I heard someone use the phrase "first and foremost", which it reminded me that it's redundant. Sure, they have different meanings, because "foremost" suggests strong emphasis while "first" is at the front of the list, but putting those two words together isn't necessary.

I know it's an idiom, but still--when people use that, it seems like they're just filling space.


Japanese news site

A really smart guy I know who speaks both Japanese and Chinese fluently (and Spanish too, I think) told me about a Japanese news site news24.jp that has both video and text. He said that he spends 30 minutes a day listening and reading, and his Japanese is awesome. It's not great just because of that site, but I'm sure it helps him maintain his aptitude.

For some reason, I haven't been able to access the site, but I'm going to try to make that a daily habit too (unless it ends up being too difficult).


Found a Cadfael fan

I was talking to someone who takes life very seriously and doesn't participate in much frivolity, and he was describing a seemingly boring novel (though not to him) about life in monasteries and Medieval times, which made me ask the inevitable question: did he ever watch Cadfael?

He said he loved it. Which made me think of my Cadfael post, where I challenged myself to watch an entire episode. It actually wasn't bad once I was able to sit through the simplistic scenery and drab times.


I can't believe this guy has a radio show

I got an email from an interesting guy (Michael Sheehan) who taught at a City College in Chicago for over 25 years (which is a feat in itself since education can be rough, for various reasons that I might do a post about another time) about his English blog Wordmall. He's retired and lives in Michigan, where he writes, is involved with various organizations, and has a language-related radio show--and it's not on NPR!

The reason why I'm making a big deal out of the fact that he's not on Public Radio is because commercial radio stations usually don't cover such obscure topics as language. His show is on just once a week for an hour, but still--if I were to suggest a similar show where I work, they'd laugh and remind me that people aren't interested in such subjects.

I looked at the station's site, and I couldn't find his show, but there were some other things I noticed: the station is owned by a shockingly small company, not a huge media corporation (which is extremely rare in today's radio world), and the station has mostly syndicated programming, which isn't surprising, because most radio is syndicated now. So it makes the presence of a language show even more amazing!

I told him what I thought, and he ended his friendly email with these positive words:

Since retirement in 1994, I have had an unbelievable life. Way leads unto way, but this has been one heckuva ride.

UPDATE: There are now podcasts of the show available. Go to wtcmradio.com and click on the Ron Jolly Show. Scroll down for a list of podcasts, and look for "Words to the Wise with Professor Mike Sheehan," then click to listen.


Failed attempt at understanding Japanese

I work in a building with a couple of Japanese companies, and sometimes I'm lucky to hear some Japanese conversations going on in the hall or elevator. Today a couple of Japanese businessmen got on the elevator and were talking about something--but I couldn't totally understand! I know that they were talking about business and work, but I couldn't get the details. Little did they know that I was intensely eavesdropping--they probably thought I was a clueless American :D But still, in a way I was clueless because I couldn't decipher everything they were saying.

This may not be a big deal to a lot of people, but to me it is because I still study and translate Japanese, but I think I've been away from Japan for too long and there aren't enough Japanese people around to get enough listening practice. Maybe those guys were using idioms or more polite language than I was used to--I don't know. But I hope to keep running into Japanese people to be able to improve my eavesdropping skills :D


Funny office memo

My husband works for a British company, so he works with several Brits who I hope are enjoying our fine country, and recently, a new president arrived from the UK. I guess he was concerned about intercultural communication in the office, so he sent everyone in the company a link to The Best of British: the American's Guide to Speaking British. Now the employees can become bilingual in English :D


My German-translating friend took this cool photo

photo by Jerry Barmore
My friend who knows a lot of German took this photo, and I wanted to post it here because it's so cool. Not only do I know the photographer, but I know the model--we used to work together, though I haven't seen her in a while.


new Pompeii book

If you want to know more about Pompeii, or if you want to see how other historians have been wrong about it, then check out Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town. It was released in the UK yesterday, and will be released in the US later in the fall.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm mentioning it here because I saw Mary Beard's 10 things you need to know about Pompeii, which is myth-busting and interesting.

She's also a very smart, interesting, nice person, so her book deserves a mention here. She's achieved more than most people, including publishing many books, getting published and interviewed for top publications and other media, being an editor for the Times Literary Supplement, and teaching at Cambridge. I'd say that's the cream of the crop in the intellectual world.

Considering everything she's accomplished, she is not snobby at all, appreciates online writing by non-media folks and academic types, and is friendly--she sent me an email complimenting my blog, and told me about hers (which has thousands of readers). She even met with me when she came to Chicago to lecture at a university.

Believe me, I've met some folks who haven't accomplished as much as her, but because they perceived me as a peon, they barely wanted to talk to me. So when she took the time out of her busy schedule to hang out with me, it meant a lot.

She's also a good writer, so I'm sure her book is good.


What's up with Cadfael?

The mystery series Cadfael has been on several times, and I have never watched it because it doesn't seem that interesting. But tonight I'm making myself watch it in its entirety because I have to see why it would exist on modern television.

I'm still perplexed why Brits would want to watch it, and why the producers thought that it would be worth the money: there's nothing fancy about it, and there's a constant grayish-brownishness about it. Usually the British mystery shows transport us to rich people's homes and fancy parties filled with intrigue, but Cadfael is like porridge.

I seriously doubt that such a show would be produced in the US--people wouldn't have the patience for the drab aesthetics or bland personalities. I can imagine a Hollywood mogul screaming, "A middle ages mystery? Are you crazy?"

But such a show makes us focus on the words and the mystery instead of being distracted by pretty hairstyles and temperamental personalities. The show is still in progress, and it seems pretty good, and it's actually refreshing to not have a bunch of flash and egos thrown at me.


Get your [blank] on

It seems like a lot of people are using the phrase "Get your [insert word] on," and I'd like to know what the origin of that phrase is.

There seems to be much use of the phrase "Get your game on," but is that the original phrase? If not, what is? How did this whole thing start? I'm guessing it started in a more obscure subculture and has spread uncontrollably to the mainstream, to the point where even advertising is saying "Get your chocolate on" or whatever.

So if anyone out there knows the answer, please let me know so I can post it here.


Great ESL book

I'm going to a meeting on Friday where we're going to find out what the city-wide ESL books are going to be. Whoever the winning publisher is, they're going to be very happy because thousands of their books will be used throughout Chicago.

So far, I've been using the third level of English in Action, which is perfect for the weekly class I've been teaching. It has different kinds of activities, a practical workbook, and helpful information that's not overwhelming.

I'm just mentioning it here because starting in January, we'll no longer use English in Action, and I want people to know that it's a great book that has made teaching a lot easier and more enjoyable. Even though I've used the same book for over a year, it seems like I'm teaching a different class each term.

So thank you English in Action, and Heinle, its publisher!


We would be fired

I watched a few episodes of House during a Saturday TV marathon, and now I think I'm going to watch more often. I think I only watched bits of the show before, where I was impressed with Hugh Laurie's American accent.

I know it's fiction, but I can't believe what Doctor House gets away with: he's often a jerk and breaks the rules, and he's not really suspended and certainly not fired. And if he's dragged to court, the hospital will pay his legal fees (his boss said they budgeted like 50k per year to defend him). He's only a doctor, not management, yet they're often willing to take care of him no matter what.

I think the real departure from reality was when a rich administrator wanted to give the hospital over 100 million dollars, but he wanted the House out of there as a condition, and he expected the Board to vote for his dismissal. But they eventually decided to keep the House instead of the 110 million dollars!

Seriously--what business or organization would give up over 100 million dollars for ONE person, especially a jerk who often gets in trouble, and is a legal risk?

Maybe that's why the show is popular--in real life, we'd be fired, and seeing him get rewarded for his intelligence and talent is escapism for us. Though of course, there are plenty of jerky people in workplaces everywhere who get special treatment because they know how to play the game or know how to bring in the bucks. But Doctor House gets rewarded for just being himself.


Original Japanese Speed Racer opening with English subtitles

The show was called "Mach Go Go Go" in Japan, but was called Speed Racer in the US. I didn't check the translation, so let's hope it's correct :D

Below is the introduction and close of the American Speed Racer show that I used to watch (the Japanese close is the same, except with no titles and they sing "Mach Go" instead of "Speed Racer").


I just eavesdropped on a Japanese conversation

I hear different languages every day, but I don't hear Japanese that much, even though I live near the Japanese Consulate and work near a Japanese company. Tonight I walked to the store, and heard a couple of women talking. I didn't zone in on what they were saying because sometimes I initially think people are speaking Japanese when they're really speaking Korean (I can tell the difference between the two languages btw, but I need to get accustomed to them when I hear them in a sea of English).

The two women were talking about areas of Chicago, and I was psyched! There weren't many people around, so I could try to figure out what they were saying. The problem was that I looked like a creep because I slowed my usual fast pace to hover within close proximity to their voices. At times I couldn't hear them, so I slowed down even more to the point where someone might think we were part of the same group. I wonder if they noticed that I was eavesdropping. Eventually they drifted away, and I couldn't hear everything they were saying due to wind and traffic. But at least I heard something.

What I could figure out was that the younger woman was either born in the US or had spent quite a bit of time here, because she would occasionally throw in teeny English phrases, but very briefly, as if it was natural for her to switch between the two languages. Plus, even though her accent was good, it wasn't as "native" as the older woman. Bottom line: that younger woman is lucky to be fluent in both (which I'm assuming she is).

Now I have to get in the habit of eavesdropping on my ESL students because they often speak Spanish and my Spanish at this point is quite lame, and I have plenty of chances to at least get my ear used to it and even practice once in a while.


It's hard to translate Japanese when I have other work too

I used to do mostly language stuff, so I'd divide my work by doing translating on certain days, interspersed with other work on the non-translating days. But lately I've been busy with radio (which is one of the reasons why it's hard to take language classes), and it's really hard to translate after reporting to work before dawn. Even though today is Labor Day, I had to be at work at 4, then had non-work obligations after that, took a nap, then started tackling Japanese. But the mind power that's required to translate Japanese is far more than what's needed for French or Spanish or Portuguese, so I'm still not done, and I have to go to bed soon. And my mind is definitely active from so much Japanese processing, but it feels maxed-out, and I think I'll have to swim or go for a walk before sleeping, otherwise I'll have kanji and complex syntax dreams.

Thus concludes my Labor Day Japanese Translating Report.


We all want a golden ticket

I've seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory many times (the original 1971 version, not the remake, which I've never seen), and even saw a special DVD with commentary and interviews with the stars, which I highly recommend. Well tonight I saw the movie for the umpteenth time, and realized that it's very popular because both kids and adults want a golden ticket--something really great that's given to them that leads to a better life. I think that's why we identify with Charlie: all of us may not be living in poverty, but we often want something to come along that that will improve our lives in a surprising way, especially for being a nice person, because it seems that sometimes it's the jerks who get ahead and achieve success.


Guess the accent

Mad Minerva told me about a game where you guess the accent from videos of people reciting a couple of lines from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If". You have to guess which county they're from, and of course the more points you get, the better accent-guesser you are. Good luck!


How can a non-English speaker say that native speakers don't speak correct English?

Someone told me that their European relative who came to visit the US said that many people didn't speak "correct" English. Sorry to say this, but that's a stupid comment from someone who has never lived in the US, and doesn't speak English as a first language. What's unbelievable is that the person who made that comment doesn't even speak English well, so how would they know that people don't speak English "correctly" here?

I think it's because they assume that if Americans don't speak like a textbook, then they're not speaking English "correctly". If they'd bother to spend a decent amount of time here, they'd notice the varieties of English and not hold people to their high, unrealistic standard. Most people don't speak like textbooks, no matter what language they speak.

I'd like to see that person interact with a wide variety of Americans, and see how the Americans would react. I doubt the Americans would walk away thinking, "That person speaks correct English."


John McEnroe freaking out with French subtitles

I found this when for some reason I wanted to know more about John McEnroe: a collection of his hissy fits with French subtitles and French explanations. I didn't know they cared about him so much :D



I just realized that I've been posting stuff here for FOUR years. That's quite a long time for a baby blog such as mine. I'm just wondering why I haven't made the "blogs of note" list at Blogger if I've been around so long. And where's the book deal and interviews? Oh well, I'll continue toiling in obscurity....which is fine with me, because it seems like some quality people have visited this site!

So thanks for reading and there's more language fun to come! And nerdiness too!


It's over!

Here's some tragedy: I've just seen the LAST Inspector Lynley! I guess the Brits weren't into him anymore, so they didn't produce any more shows.

Yes, I'm bummed, even though I think I missed some along the way. But the bottom line is we won't see any more Inspector Lynley episodes! (Unless we want to watch reruns--but there will be nothing new!)


Got a blog book

I was in a bookstore looking at the front table with new releases, and saw a book that seemed to be an enjoyable read. As I was checking it out, I kept thinking that the writing style reminded me of well-written blogs, because it was breezy and friendly. So I got the book, and found out that it came from a blog by an anonymous waiter. So I was right: the writer was originally a blogger, and he'd attracted so many readers, the PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex) noticed. And he's probably making a very good living from something that started as a venting vehicle.


The uptight man

Someone just told me about a guy (I have to keep it vague lest they find out) who will over-analyze someone's speech. So for instance, if someone says, "Everyone took their books," the guy will get all wound up and point out that "everyone" doesn't match with "their."

Lighten up, dude. I can understand if someone writes comments about such grammar use, but to get uptight in a casual conversation? That's almost psychotic!


Interviews posted

One of the reasons I've sometimes lapsed in posting here (other than having an odd work schedule) is because I've been working on the anthology I'm putting together (which will be released later this month), and now there's been a new development: interviews with some of the authors! I've posted the audio at my site--check it out, and enjoy :D


Got rejected but got a book

This is different: I applied for a scholarship to a seminar (to attend the seminar for free instead of paying the big bucks), but I got rejected. I was sort of bummed, but I figured LIF (Life Isn't Fair) and moved on, even though I thought it was ironic that they wanted bloggers, and since I've had this blog for a while, they'd see I was legit. But I guess I'm not business-y enough for them.

Then yesterday, I received a book that was about the topic they were going to discuss, and basically they said thanks for applying, here's a book, feel free to review it on Amazon. So I started reading it and it's not bad, but I think I'm going to review it elsewhere online because it's easier to do that.

That was the first time that happened: getting rejected from something but getting a freebie for at least trying. So now I'm thinking that maybe life isn't so unfair after all :D


Didn't recognize Ethiopian

I screwed up today: I saw someone drinking a Coke with a non-English script on it (I think it's an Olympics-related series), and I couldn't figure out what it was. I thought it was Burmese, but the Coke's owner said it was Ethiopian. Which I should've recognized, because I did a post a while ago about how pretty Ethiopian was. I'm going to attribute that mind slippage to lack of sleep and a full plate of non-language things to do :D


Travel shows

Even though I love traveling (though I haven't been able to do it very much in recent years), I'm not a fan of travel shows. I'm interested in what they're talking about and want to discover new places, even if it's just via the TV, but what I find annoying is when the host does everything, to let us know, "Watch me--I'm having a great time!"

Yesterday I was watching something about Southeast Alaska, and I thought we were going to get different information and insight into the isolated life there. But we ended up getting images of the host introducing himself to the people, and in other scenes, he was struggling to drill holes and attempt difficult tasks. I'd much rather see information and images of the people in Alaska doing things, not the host bumbling through, giving us running commentary of his struggle.

Other shows will show the host swimming or taking crazy rides, exclaiming "I'm so scared!" or eating food, saying "This is delicious!" Well duh, it's supposed to be--I don't have to watch you eating it to understand that concept.

The "host having a good time in front of your eyes" structure must work, otherwise they wouldn't use such a gimmick in so many shows, on various stations. But it still doesn't make me want to watch.


Transliterating thoughts

When I was in high school, I used to write notes to myself (about heartbreak, hopes, wishes, etc) in Hebrew (I studied it when I was a kid), except I would transliterate English words using Hebrew characters. It was convenient because no one could read my inner teenage turmoil.

Well today I wanted to remind myself to write about certain stuff in a short fiction piece I'm throwing together, but I didn't want anyone to understand (in case they took a peek), so I used Romanji (English letters) to write sloppy Japanese. Even if a Japanese speaker read it, they'd probably think, "Her Japanese grammar is awful". But it came in quite handy :D


Jane Austen bio online

I just watched Miss Austen Regrets which was really good, and I was searching for more info for her online, I found A Memoir of the Life of Jane Austen, which you can read for free! So get it now before some jerk shuts it down. It's the first one, and was written by her nephew. It also gave her the fame that she wanted, though it was too late, because she'd already died quite young.


Making fun of BBC Brits

Someone sent me this spoof of the BBC--I obviously don't understand some of the phrases, which are probably made up for comedy's sake. And it also reminds me of British TV circa the 1960's. But it's still entertaining :D


Swag and signage

I've noticed that there are some words that people use in such a way to show that they're trying to be cool and/or important by using them.

Two words that people seem to try to elevate their status with are "swag" and "signage."

In some places, I've either seen people post the word "swag" online or use it in conversation, as in "Get your swag here" or "Be sure to check out the [insert group] swag". They give a kind of emphasis to that word because it seems like they want to appear as "clever". Because the words "t-shirts" or "hats" are just too ordinary for them.

About signage: I have seen people who want to be more important than they are say, "We need to put the signage there" or "What about the signage?" As if it's too much for them to just say "signs"! Are signs so significant that they can't use such a common word, but have to complicate it by saying what they perceive as a fancy version of "signs"? Is "signage" really that special?

There are other words I've noticed, but I have to start writing down my observations on a pad or something because I can't remember them right now. But they're out there!


A dumb question

I watched the movie Pride & Prejudice, and after the lovey-dovey ending (which was not in the UK version), I said to my husband, "That's a woman's dream--I wonder what guys thought of this movie," and he said, "This isn't the type of movie guys see."

Obviously. It's definitely a romantic, relationship-oriented chick flick, so I don't know why I assumed guys would've seen it.


I got an out-of-office reply in DANISH!

I emailed Lilly, and got an out-of-office reply in DANISH!

Some of you out there might not think it's a big deal, but it is to me because I don't live in a country that speaks Danish (or "where Danish is spoken"), so I often see such replies in English. But to see it Danish? It makes the whole message special!

Here's a part of it (I took out the names and dates, hopefully correctly), titled "Ferie":

Jeg holder ferie i ugerne...

Såfremt din mail angår Sprogligt...er du velkommen til at kontakte...i uge...Centret holder ferielukket i uge...

BEMÆRK VENLIGST: din e-mail vil ikke blive automatisk videresendt.

Med venlig hilsen

To Danes it might be mundane, but not to me!


You'll never see this in an American email

I saw this beginning of a sentence in a Brit's email, which I have never seen in an American one, and which I probably never will see: "Whilst I think of it..."

Americans NEVER use "whilst". That sounds like a very old word, and I seriously wonder when the last time that word was used in the good ol' US of A. Maybe it's never been used. It's just so different from what we say (we say "while").

Whilst sounds so fancy and formal, but it's used in everyday British English, I think, which makes it very interesting to see in an email.


I'm addicted to this song

White and Nerdy: I discovered it a while ago, but YouTube won't let you embed it (which is probably why it's gotten over 30 million views there), so I didn't post it here before. Plus, I figured since everyone's seen it, I shouldn't bother posting it anyway, but I think it's so good, I just couldn't resist. And maybe there are some nerds out there who haven't seen it yet.


Multilingual IM chat!

Someone sent me info about an IM program that is multilingual (!) which is very cool, especially if you want to communicate with people all over the world: Meglobe.

It's brand new, and I tried it, and it's easy to use. I also like the design--tastefully simple. All you do is type in your own language, and it will translate whatever you say into the other person's language. So for instance, if I choose English (which is easiest for me to communicate in) and the person I'm chatting with chooses Spanish, then what I type will be translated into Spanish, and visa-versa. It shows both languages at the same time, so you can try to learn some new words as well. You can choose from like 15 languages, and they might add more.

I tried using Japanese, and the translations of what I was saying were sort of odd, but you can add to the translations, which are kept in a database.

So it's nerdy fun that is educational and handy, and it's free--I even asked someone from the company if they're planning to keep it free, and they said yes.


This is KAZU?

This is how hard Japanese names are (as if Japanese isn't difficult enough): the character 一 means "one" and can be pronounced different ways. People usually think it's "ichi" or "hitotsu" because that's the most common reading, and if it's combined with other kanji, the pronunciation alters, though it's based on the basic reading of the character, so it's not such a big deal.

But I had to look up this name: 一哉 which is probably very common in Japanese, but I had no idea how it was supposed to be transliterated. After much searching, I found out it is Kazuya. 一哉 is KAZUYA? I know the second character can be pronounced "ya", but 一 is KAZU? What? How the heck are we supposed to learn this language?

Do you see how crazy Japanese can make people, and what headaches it can cause?

This is why my brain goes on over-drive when I try to translate it or make sense of it. This is why French and Portuguese and Spanish seem relatively easy :D


A quiz I don't understand

People often post little quizzes at their blogs, with questions that start with "What kind of .... are you?" And Lilly posted a surprise: a quiz in Danish (which makes sense, because she's from Denmark, though she writes in English). So I can't take it, thus it gives me a good excuse to avoid those things because some of them can be annoying.

Update: Lilly said it's Norwegian, not Danish. Which proves I truly didn't understand it :D


Rush's quote

I've been working crazy radio hours in addition to translating and reading stuff for the anthology, but I managed to find some downtime at work today to read an article about a radio person here in the USA who has absolutely profited from syndication and consolidation: Rush Limbaugh.

People seem to either love him or hate him. On the air, he sounds arrogant and often twists information to fit his world view (as any idealogue does), but he's a talented radio pro, and he's raked in hundreds of millions of dollars because of it.

You should definitely read the article because it demonstrates what radio has become, and how the average shmoe has been squeezed out of it. Syndication and consolidation have put his show in hundreds of stations throughout the country (and Canada, I think), and if he weren't so entertaining, it wouldn't have happened. But the relaxed American laws (thanks to successful corporate radio lobbying) in the mid-90's helped extend his exposure, and people in every market reacted positively.

There are various parts of the article that are revealing and interesting, including the description of his early failures and his extreme current wealth. But this is perhaps the most interesting quote:

“I thank God for my addiction,” he told me. “It made me understand my shortcomings.”

Being Limbaugh, he said he believes that most of these shortcomings stemmed from his inability to love himself sufficiently. “I felt everyone who criticized me was right and I was wrong,” he confided. But, he says, he left his insecurities behind in Arizona. “It’s not possible to offend me now,” he said. “I won’t give people the power to do it anymore. My problem was born of immaturity and my childhood desire for acceptance. I learned in drug rehab that this was stunting and unrealistic. I was seeking acceptance from the wrong people.”

I never thought we'd read such words from him because his persona is so egotistical (though a lot of on-air talent is off the air as well as on), so it made the article even more worthwhile.


He's made it big time

Here's everyone's dream (at least those who write as a hobby): you set up a blog, it gets passed around, and you end up getting millions of hits and a book deal good enough to let you quit your day job. And you didn't do any marketing to get to that point, didn't query anyone, just posted stuff that people liked, and the PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex) noticed.

That's what happened with the guy who created Stuff White People Like. He has really made it, and he did it with a unique idea that has entertained a lot of people.


Go to Milwaukee

I went to Milwaukee on Friday to see Rush at Summerfest, and I highly recommend taking a trip there.

Even though I live a couple hours away (a direct shot south, actually), I had no idea how nice that city is. We walked around the historic Third Ward, which is full of rehabbed warehouses and factories. There are art galleries and good restaurants and interesting views there, since it's on the river and near the lake. It is also really clean. When we went to Summerfest, we walked along the lake and saw the art museum from a distance and downtown, which isn't packed with a lot of skyscrapers.

I really think Milwaukee is overlooked and a lot of people don't know how nice it is because it used to be gritty, and I actually expected it to be run down and provincial. But I was impressed with the general design, even the public signs, which were very tastefully done.

Since Milwaukee is in the midwest, it doesn't seem snobby and the people seem friendly, but there's also a sophistication there that is accessible for anyone to enjoy. I am definitely going back for a day trip and hope other people do the same thing because we should celebrate beautiful, manageable cities in the US.

I know Milwaukee has problem areas, but it doesn't depress the whole city. I am definitely guilty for assuming it was going to be just another failed midwest town (like Waukegan in Illinois). But it's definitely worth the trip.


Translation problem

Here's my translation crisis: I have to finish French and Japanese translations, but I also have to be at work in the middle of the night for the next week. Which means decreased sleep time and language time. Which means my language abilities might decline.

And today, after waking up in the middle of the night and working all day, I am doing something crazy and driving to Milwaukee for a concert. Which means decreased sleep time.

So it doesn't mean that my non-English language abilities are becoming non-existent, but they're challenged. If language were a commodity, I'd take up a collection :D


What's the difference between a nerd and geek?

Sometimes at work I stop and think, "This is so nerdy" and share that observation with some coworkers who also do nerdy work, and agree that radio can be quite nerdy because we have to deal with audio and obscure information (especially in talk radio). When I used the word "nerd" with a couple of engineers (one who has pens in his pocket sans pocket protector), they got all annoyed and said, "We're geeks, not nerds." Which made me wonder what the difference is between a geek and a nerd.

They said a geek is someone who is intense about a subject, but other definitions I've read say the same thing. And the other day, a couple of nerdy types told me that a geek is a practical nerd, but a nerd is intellectual: ie, a nerd might know the layout of a starship, but a geek would know how to build one.

I like that definition, but I prefer the sound of the word "nerd" better, so that's what I use. What's funny is when I'm discussing Japanese or ideas or language or audio with someone who's also into such stuff, and I'll stop and say, "This is so nerdy," and then they'll give me an example of something else they're doing that's nerdy as well.

I found a test which I took, and I'm mostly nerdy, with some dorkiness and geekiness mixed in. I think at this point, my work life is definitely nerdy, and my non-work life is mostly that as well. Which means I'm quite different than what I used to be.


A British email

I got an email from a guy who created My Language Notebook, which is a free program "to keep and organise your notes when you are learning a language." I haven't been able to use it yet because I have a Mac, but it looks like a nifty app.

When I saw the word "organise" in the description, I knew the creator was British because he used "s" instead of "z" (we Americans write "organize"). So I asked him, and he said he is from England, so I was right about that, and I thought that was the end of my questions.

But then he said he'd been to the U.S. where he "had a top time", and signed his email "Have a top one". So I just had to ask where such a use of "top" came from, because I'd never heard it before. This is his explanation:

Top is more of a Manchester word originally, but it was adopted by a lot of people in about 1990 at the height of the 'Madchester' movement. Most of my mates have been saying it ever since.

"My mates"--another British term. Which means his email exemplifies British English, which is interesting to me :D


Japanese with Mexican

I just did something quite nerdy: after my Japanese class, I went to a Mexican restaurant with a couple of very smart fellow students, and one of them said we should speak Japanese. So for most of our time there, we did that, until I realized that one of them wasn't paying attention to my badly spoken reflections. So we switched to English towards the end. But it was really nifty to be Japanese-speaking Americans in a Mexican restaurant. At least we got some practice, since I don't get many chances to speak.


Writing that seems hard

I've been watching Inspector Lewis, and it's such good quality (in addition to other Mystery shows), I can't help but wonder: how the heck do they write this stuff? They probably structure the episodes like plays (in acts), but beyond that, how do they create at that level?

Unfortunately, many people don't care about such refined quality, so these types of shows aren't plentiful and we have to sift through the junk to find gems. But I still wouldn't mind learning how to write like that, or at least spend the time trying to develop such a skill. Or have the patience to work on it.


Could the stereotypes be true?

Here's a revealing blog post by a successful Asian guy: The abused has become the Abuser. Here's an excerpt (the English is in its natural state, ie, I didn't want to correct it):

Enough of being the Know-It-All, Straight A student and basically carried the full weight of the team by doing all the work.

I have become the typical white Americans who abused their poor asian classmates that eager to show off their better than average number crunching ability to solve difficult problems.

It’s actually pretty easy and I’m amazed why I didn’t pick this role sooner. It’d have saved me so much time.

So this morning, I came to a group meeting, not ready, half asleep, and have no idea whatsoever for whatever we had to do.

Of course, then my one Asian classmate who obviously has studied diligently in the past week, has come and prepared all the answers and I happily accepted his explanation.

That's just a part of the story. I wonder if anyone else read this and thought about the stereotypes in it.


The type of show I wouldn't mind doing

This was on a while ago, but I only saw one episode, and I'm catching the rest of it now: Do You Speak American. It's a documentary about American English, where Robert MacNeil (who I'd describe as a "gentleman journalist" because he's been able to live a civilized media life) travels around the country and talks to people about American dialects and accents. It's the kind of show I wouldn't mind being involved with, but I'm quite far away from those types of media gigs (though I enjoy mine).


I should've seen this

Last week, when part one of The Murder Room was on, I didn't pay attention because I was doing other stuff. But tonight I got a chance to look at part two more carefully, and now I wish I'd seen the whole thing. Because I didn't know what was going on, I couldn't keep watching it, and I wish I had.

I think it's because I've never seen the PD James series, but have seen most of the other shows from Mystery, but since the quality of the programs is often consistently good, then I should've given it a chance.


Too many books

I went to the Printers Row Book Fair today, which unfortunately was initially rained out, and by the time it cleared up, many of the exhibitors had taken off. But as I walked around, I saw a ton of books, but far fewer people were buying them. Which is usually the case, and that's my point.

I talked to a guy from an indie press who was cleaning off the rain from his table, and there seemed to be a number of interesting titles there, but there were too many to all sell decently, and he told me that they just throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. One place was even giving away books. But the bottom line is that there were too many there and there are too many everywhere, and the buyers are scarce.

One guy who really took the time to talk to me and answer my numerous questions was David Gecic from Puddin'head Press. He was friendly and told me what it's like to have an independent press (he publishes mostly poetry). He's been at it for like 20 years, and he's managed to break even and do even better, while connecting with cool people around the city. At least he's accomplishing something.


Coming this summer

I've been working on compiling some bloggers' and emerging writers' stuff to create an anthology...so stay tuned (and I've changed my homepage as well). This is probably one of the most enjoyable projects I've worked on, and I can't wait to see how it will develop.


An overused phrase

It seems that commercial copy (advertising, marketing, etc) seems to often include the phrase "We work hard to ensure..." I think at this point, it's overused. People should think of other ways to communicate with potential clients and customers. When I see that phrase, it doesn't convince me that they're really working hard, it just shows that they're using a canned phrase because their writing hasn't loosened up and they don't know how to communicate with humans in a non-targeting way (the comma splice in this sentence was intentional, btw).


Japanese government internet TV

The concept is cool: the Japanese government posted a bunch of videos at a government "TV" site though they're not the most interesting on the planet. But still, it's a good idea. Some of the videos are in Chinese, Korean, and English.


Impact is a verb

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "Impact has been used as a verb since 1601, when it meant 'to fix or pack in,' and its modern, figurative use dates from 1935." But for some reason, I thought it wasn't a verb, because people used to say (or so it seems) "it had an impact on..." instead of "it impacted..."

I guess it's because I'm one of those people who's been affected by "its frequent appearance in the jargon-riddled remarks of politicians, military officials, and financial analysts." I had a loathsome job where a boss kept using that word, and I thought they were trying to sound "modern" and "slick" because they were about appearance, but apparently they used the word correctly.

Check out the usage notes for contact: it was originally a noun, and "was initially frowned upon" when used as a verb. Which means that "impact" is legit, while "contact" is newly legit.


I think I'm gonna be sick

I was just reading Mary Beard's blog and saw that she mentioned mine, which is unbelievable, not only because not many people link to me, but because she's part of one of the most prestigious schools and publications on the planet, and she thinks my little blog is "excellent". Actually, we met a couple days ago when she was doing a lecture in Chicago, and she's really nice and interesting, and open-minded, especially because I don't have a "title" or a byline or whatever "matters" to successful people.

I've been lucky to meet some well-known people, and I currently work with someone who was quite popular on Chicago radio for years. In fact, when I mention his name (not to be a name-dropper but just because I work with him and see him every day), people smile and some are "impressed" though that's not what I'm going for.

One time I met someone whose stuff I'd read for a while, and it was the kind of content that made me laugh out loud and lifted my spirits, especially when I was doing tedious work. They're too well known for me to mention them here by name, but their success has gone to their head for sure. I sensed they could care less about me, so I didn't say much and was very polite, but that didn't matter--I was a nobody and didn't have hot looks to make up for it, so they were quite snobby and distant, and I don't read their stuff anymore. And there are other people I've met who are either successful and don't want to interact with non-successful people, or there are non-successful people who only want to meet people who "matter" to boost their image or whatever.

Anyway, Mary Beard is not like that at all, even though she's achieved a lot more than most people, and she also has a comfortable career that doesn't "require" her to be friendly or curious about anything outside her elite world.


Precious and cold

I thought I hadn't seen The Last Emperor, so I just sat through the whole thing, then realized that I saw it a while ago. I know it won a bunch of awards and everyone loved it, but I found it precious and cold, as in *too* precious and cold. Yeah, I know that we "should" like it, but it seemed like the movie was a series of story boards, like every scene was carefully planned like a painting. Maybe that's what they wanted: to create a movie that's like Chinese panels. Or maybe they kept it safe because the Chinese government back in the 80's gave them permission to film it in the Forbidden City, so they couldn't cross any lines by suggesting anything negative or even emotional.


Who's buying fiction

The PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex) has become so consolidated (like radio), that they need to churn out blockbusters to make the profits they want. So obviously, the people who are buying those blockbusters are the general public, but it seems like the folks who buy the other kinds of fiction are writers or wannabe writers. I didn't really think too much about this until I saw all the books that are being featured at Karin Gillespie's blog. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I sort of "wish" the PIC wasn't so big. That way, they wouldn't be so impatient to only accept authors that are going to hit it out of the park the first time they're at bat.


The office in Japanese

I work with some folks who watch "The Office" (the American version), but I don't usually watch it because it doesn't seem that funny. This clip is funny, though, not only because they're speaking Japanese with odd accents while maintaining their Americanisms, but because it pokes fun at British humor as well (what Ricky Gervais says at the end). It's also funny to see how Westerners portray Japan (though I bet a well-informed person wrote the sketch, because it has some good Japanese details).


It still sounds negative

There's a billboard in my area that advertises an airline, and it says that people will leave "disgruntled" but arrive "gruntled."

They're playing with words, but it still sounds negative: "gruntled" still has the sound of dissatisfaction about it, so I don't think that ad campaign is going to work.



The past few days have been quite translating- and radio-oriented, so I haven't been writing outside of work, but I did have time to see an interview with John Grisham. I've read a couple of his books, which were okay, but the bottom line is that he makes a ton of money from his writing, so he's obviously doing something right!

I didn't watch the whole interview, just the part where he talks about writing ("chapter 5"), and he said what a lot of people say: make an outline. But for some reason, even though I've heard that advice many times before (usually from blockbuster authors who create thrillers, mysteries, etc.), his emphasis was pretty convincing.

I think I haven't followed that advice because I'm not writing a thriller or anything like that, though I'm definitely not writing "literary" fiction, but I will probably create an outline because it makes sense.

When Grisham was working on his first book with an editor, he had to get rid of hundreds of pages and change the rest (which made me wonder how he got a publisher in the first place, and how it's "unfair" that he didn't write stellar stuff and still got into the Publishing Industrial Complex), which convinced him that an outline would reduce the amount of throw-away material.

So I've been reading about how three-act stories break down, and I feel more sane. I've written complete drafts, but I always have to go back and fix a lot of it or get rid of it altogether. I'm still tempted to write whatever and meander down a path, but I think structure will help keep me on track and finish something that might see the light of day one century.


Like and go

Someone sent me a link to an article about the ugliest two words which the editors of the Webster's New World College Dictionary say are really annoying: "like" and "go." When I was younger, I used those words a lot when I was quoting myself or someone else in a conversation (example: I go, "How can you do that?" and she's like, "Because I want to.").

They also have a list of other annoying words, including the "Most cheapened cherished word: Awesome; a C+ on an algebra test is mediocre, not awesome. Dude."

I remember when "awesome" became popular in the 80's, especially with the whole Valley Girl thing (there are still valley girls because the San Fernando Valley around L.A. still exists). I agree it's been cheapened: the Grand Canyon used to be awesome, and other stuff was "cool" or whatever, but now everything is "awesome." And I'm guilty of using that word too, though I sort of joke around with it, or I use it in a light way.


I gave in

At first, I could care less about Barbara Walters or her memoir, but after reading an article about it in the New Yorker, I became interested, so I've started reading it. I borrowed it from someone, which means I have to read it asap so that they can finish it. So far, it's quite good and chock-full of juicy info, though I feel a bit cheap "looking in".

UPDATE: I can't take it anymore--her writing has a lot of subject-verb constructions, and seems like TV. And her voice is so arrogant and smug--too annoying to continue on. So I've stopped reading it. I don't care about her, and now I don't care about her writing about her.


Mysterious d

I was reading an interesting article in a British newspaper, and the woman featured in it mentioned a "Liverpudlian accent", which made me do a double-take: I figured "Liverpudlian" represented the adjective of "Liverpool", but it seemed odd because they threw a "d" in there. Why? Can't they say "Liverpulian"? It sounds weird, but Liverpudlian reminds me of "Lilliputian" for some reason.

(Side note: when I was reading the article, the woman seemed American, due to her drive, straightforward manner, and the fact that her wedding planning business was successful, and I was right--sort of: she spent many years in the U.S. when she was growing up, so no wonder I sensed the American "vibe". I'd love to hear her accent :D)


I think I know what my problem is

I was working on my story [novel] today (which will probably not see the light of day, though I want it to eventually) and I realized that I really need to find my voice.

"Finding your voice" is an overused and vague phrase, and I used to not think it was as important as plot or other stuff, but now I've realized it is. I think I had that attitude because it sounded so fake: "find your voice." And it seemed impossible, and part of some requirement for writing like 100 years ago, when fiction didn't have to be so hyper-commercial to succeed.

But I've noticed in different creative mediums that people hit their stride when they find their voice, whether they're singers, painters, writers, musicians, radio talent, or anything that requires a person to dig deep within themselves to share their craft with the world. I've been able to spot and develop a voice in non-fiction writing, but for some reason, I didn't want to accept that I needed to hone it in fiction until I started feeling fake about what I was writing.

So today I worked on the story, and anytime I felt like I was being fake, I got to the "truth" by getting to my "voice". But the problem is, I still haven't settled on a voice, so I have to keep working at it.



Even though I'm a native English speaker, I always assumed that people pronounce the word "insurance" like "in-SUR-ance". But my husband and some other people say "IN-surance" (ie, the stress is on the first syllable instead of the second).

I looked it up at Merriam-Webster and expected them to have just "my" pronunciation, but they have both! Check it out--they have audio samples of each.

So the question is: is there a "correct" way to pronounce it, and if not, then why are there two ways?


The right decision

Because I'm totally wiped out from some crazy work hours, I decided to watch Gulliver's Travels which was made in the mid-90's, though it was a mini-series back then. Tonight they showed the entire series in one night, which has made me even more fatigued.

Some of the American actors faked British accents, and while they weren't perfect (as is usually the case, though I don't know personally because I'm not British, but can recognize a bad British accent when I hear it), I was glad to see that Ted Danson (who did a great job) did not try to speak with one. I was surprised, since actors always seem to attempt it, but I accepted he was British because that was his character. Which just goes to show that you don't need to speak with a certain type of accent (especially if you're going to butcher it) when you're playing a character from another culture. Well, it'd be good to have an accent, but only if it's convincing. Otherwise, a bad accent is distracting.


She thinks it's English

This Bulgarian woman thinks she's singing English, and it's obvious she's not. It's almost unbelievable--literally :D (I saw this at Arrogant Polyglot).



I got a VIP pass to Artropolis to do some posts at an art blog, so that's what I've been writing. I'm quite tired because Artropolis has like five shows going at the same time, and each show has hundreds of booths. I've decided to focus on just a few shows, but I've still looked at thousands of pieces of art. But getting a VIP pass ain't bad, and I wouldn't mind doing it again for another show.


Confession time!

I said I'd sign up for German classes, but due to some bizarre developments (ie, I actually have more radio work than before, in spite of increasing consolidation and syndication), I don't think I'll have the time to take the class and study for it.

I'm still taking Japanese once a week (went there tonight), and I'll keep going as long as the class exists, but sometimes we have to do homework, and I barely have enough time for that. Plus, I'm still translating French and Japanese, and I'm sort of behind. In addition to teaching ESL. So German will have to wait unless my schedule becomes more consistent.


Strange Closets

I know a nice guy here in Chicago who's interesting and smart, and he's created a design blog called Strange Closets. He's not a designer, but

In my dreams, I'm a world-renown taste-maker, sought after for public appearances and too busy with my successful blog to take on any new clients.

He's very enthusiastic about his new blog, so I wanted to mention it here.


Kipling online

I found an Australian site called Words that contains various writers' works, including Rudyard Kipling. It looks like all, or at least most of his writing is there, including fiction and non-fiction. His American Notes seems quite interesting to me, especially because it was written in the late 19th century.


You'd never see this on American TV

I'm not saying that British TV is more intelligent than American TV (I have no opinion on the subject since I haven't seen all of British TV), but I would never see, and have never seen, an extended grammar lesson on an American TV show. Sometimes I think that since Brits speak the "mother tongue" (since we started out as their colony), they tend to be more "aware" of language, so it's not surprising when such discussions show up in their mass media.


An interesting problem to have

I've never read any Harry Potter books, but I do know that JK Rowling has become very rich from writing them. I can see why she wants to sue a guy who wants to publish a book based on her creation, but if you're going to write such insanely popular books, you've gotta expect people to want to make something off them as well.

A lot of writers would love to make a fraction of the money she has, and many creative people are toiling in obscurity, and probably will continue that way until they die. So while her copyright is being threatened because she wants to protect her unique, hard work, this is an inevitable problem to have. Imagine being in such a position that all you care about is your copyright, and the money doesn't matter. She is worried about principles, and a lot of us out here are worried about getting our work noticed or even out of our drawers.

Life is pretty good when what you've strived for has been not only achieved but surpassed in a big way, and what you end up caring about are concepts of what creativity is, and what you are about. She's living in the abstract at this point because she can pay her bills many times over.


She's not annoying

PBS has been showing a lot of Jane Austen lately, and I tried to watch the various series, but I kept thinking they seemed so annoying. Actually, I tried reading the novels, but I didn't have the patience for the writing. Okay, I was an English major and I've read lots of stuff, but for some reason, Jane Austen's stories were too clever and wordy or something. I do recognize her talent and creative and historical importance, but for some reason, I never got into her work.

Well tonight I started watching Sense and Sensibility, and at first I found it annoying, so I started doing other stuff when it was on, but actually, it's quite good, so I've dropped the other stuff and am enjoying watching it :D

So maybe Jane Austen isn't so annoying after all.


Good accents

I've been watching King Kong, which I've never seen before, and it's directed by a New Zealander (Peter Jackson, who did one of my favorites, "The Lord of the Rings"), thus it shouldn't be surprising that he got an international cast. But I can't tell that some of the actors aren't American, and I didn't know who wasn't until I looked up their bios. So I'm impressed.


Taking German again

I haven't taken German in a while--maybe more than a few years. So whatever German I was able to speak and read has diminished to the point where I don't think I could even take a trip there and experience it in German (ie, I'd have to mix it with English). So since my work schedule is sort of consistent, I think I'm going to sign up for a German class. I can't live life much longer with just bare-bones language involvement, so I checked out the Goethe-Institut site, and saw that registration is less than a couple of weeks away. Which means I better brush up on my German to avoid being placed in too basic of a class :D


Taiwan pics

I've never been to Taiwan, but I'd like to visit sometime. Luckily, Mad Minerva has some pictures of Taiwan from her recent trip (her family is from there) to give me some idea of what that place is like.


I can see why it won an Oscar

I just saw the The Counterfeiters, which won an Academy Award for best foreign film this year. It was quite depressing, but it was really good and thought-provoking, so if you don't mind deep movies that contain despair and hardship and plenty of moral gray areas, you'll definitely like this one.

The movie was made in Austria, so it's in German (here's the German site) and I'm sure if my German wasn't so awful, I would've been able to figure out some of what they were saying. Which means I really need to resume studying German.

Last year's Oscar winner was also German: The Lives of Others, which I also saw. And I think I was thinking the same thing about learning German again. Obviously there's some good culture coming out of that area.