ï»¿I had the best day at work yesterday Initially, I wrote about this in my Keel's Simple Diary, but I felt like I needed to elaborate publicly, though waited a day to see if it was wise to do so (i.e., if I should get personal in the online world of carefully curated text and images).
But when I woke up, I still had the feeling that I had the best day at work, and I feel like I should publicly record such an event, though I can't be specific because the people involved have no idea that I'm writing this post.
First of all, I had to wake up way before dawn, so you'd think the odds would be stacked against me because I got only a few hours of sleep. When I walked in, I saw someone I'd known for a while, and talked about our podcasting efforts. They're very successful at it and make money, and I've lost steam due to having interviewed lots of people and wanting to do more stuff in other realms. But what I've noticed is that when you talk about your struggles and dreams with someone, it helps solidify your goals. I'm still working on setting new goals, but at least I had someone to talk to along the way.
Then I got down to work, and the boss of the day was super-chill and very kind when certain things weren't lined up as they should have been. The atmosphere in the room was very relaxed, which matches what a Saturday morning should be. I thought that would be the extent of the experience: the understanding, motivated podcaster, and the relaxed boss. But then I was able to talk to someone else I hadn't seen in a while about work-oriented issues elsewhere, and my worry about those issues was minimized. And later we talked about writing, editing, and how they got published, and I felt some of my questions were answered, though I still wonder how I can get my own act together to transfer the ideas of my fake blog into a developed story.
While I continued doing my work, I saw a story about research that reveals that a certain percentage of people cry at work. I admitted to the few folks who were there that I had cried in my work life, and then saw someone who used to work at a place where such crying took place (though that's not only place, thus why I read the excellent Asshole Survival Guide). We talked about stuff at that toxic place that I hadn't known about before, and I said that if I'd known they were going through all that, I wouldn't have felt so horrible or paranoid there, and I wouldn't have felt so alone in my struggles. What I've learned throughout the years of working in toxic situations, in addition to having to get out of there ASAP, is to talk to other people to avoid feeling alone and isolated, because in the past, I have felt that way. The person told me stuff that a lot of people around town don't know about, and it wasn't about gossiping but revelation, because I really had no idea they had experienced all that. I thought they were in the preferred group while I was struggling towards the bottom.
As daylight was clearly established and the hours were winding down, a cool coworker showed up, and they did their work while I did mine, which is refreshing because it's super-annoying when you're working on a team where some people are either lazy or not detail-oriented. We talked about random stuff while they let me get some work done that was due, and then I went home to take a long nap.
In addition to simply liking the work I did, I was working in an atmosphere that was what a workplace should be: not stressful, trustworthy and talented people, positivity, learning opportunities, insight, emotional safety, and freedom.
I've worked in various situations, and while I've gone home thinking I had a good day, got lots done, and had no dysfunctional incidents, I've still had to be on guard, shut my mouth, stay within my lane (because I'm not at the top of the hierarchy of personality), and be on my best behavior, essentially suppressing my personality to survive conformity. There are workplace-cultural rules that people should not speak out of turn, should not show exuberance, and should only work within relevance. Yesterday's experience defied all that and we all survived well, and still produced results. I dared to speak to others who were more successful and they didn't diss or deride me for it, and I felt like I had fun and connected with others, which is rare in the robotic world that the anti-social aggressors have established. There are more days like that, which I'll write about in the future, because they have to be publicly acknowledged so that we can work against the coldness of efficiency. Author : Margaret Larkin
My favorite TV show is Japanese A long time ago, when I was still listed on Languagehat's blog list, someone complained that this blog wasn't totally language-oriented, especially because I would write about TV. What I should have said is that I was still working at home doing language-oriented work such as editing, writing, proofreading, and translating, and I would watch TV as a diversion or put it on in the background. I spent many days working at home, and the silence would sometimes cause more loneliness, so the TV and radio and Internet media were on to create some kind of companionship (when people say they want to work at home, I don't think they understand how isolating it can feel...I did it for years and still do it every week).
Now that I spend more time working outside my home (which I'm very happy about...I never want to work at home all the time ever again), I still watch TV, but I watch at the end of the day or very early in the morning. I have become a fan of NHK World, which has some boring shows, but has some interesting ones as well. What helps is that they don't dub all their shows, so if I want to listen to Japanese (since I rarely see Japanese people in Chicago), I can watch the Japanese video and read the subtitles if I don't understand (which is often). NHK is really a promotional outlet for Japan, and their positive images make me want to go there again. It's probably the best place to travel in Asia, and I would like to travel the entire country by train.
Recently, I have become hooked on an excellent show called Document 72 Hours. The NHK crew goes to a single location and films people over a 72-hour period, and people tell their revealing stories. It is so interesting and a slice of real life...it's truly reality TV. When I'm watching, I don't want it to end because so much more could be discovered, but they only have 25 minutes to work with. I'm surprised there's nothing like it in the US. Having such a show even just in Chicago would be fascinating and entertaining, and there are so many places to go, the crew would get a lot of content. Even just doing an audio series would be interesting...I wonder if anyone has done it. I'm just thinking out loud here, but maybe someone would want to pursue it...I can help out :D
If you've experienced toxic work environments, mean people, or workplace cruelty, then you'll know how it can make you feel. Maybe you're in such a situation now, but you don't realize it because you're rationalizing the situation, thinking it will get better. It won't, unless those people leave. Or maybe you're becoming one of those people, the result of what one of Bob Sutton's readers calls an "a$ factory." Whether you're suffering or are working in a healthy environment, you should read this book. It will change your perspective and cause you to proceed differently from now on.
This book has really helped me, and after reading it, I was angry at myself for staying in at least a couple toxic environments for too long, and tolerating an abuser in another mildly toxic place. The book talks about the signs of a screwed-up establishment, and I stupidly went ahead and worked there anyway, ignoring the obvious. Then I suffered and felt horrible, and basically internalized the mud that was thrown at me. So that's what I thought about as I was reading this book: how could I let that happen, how could I end up hating myself, why didn't I leave ASAP when things quickly got worse. After a few weeks, I forgave myself and vowed to never be a victim again.
When someone is cruel or obnoxious or says insulting things in your non-work life, it's not hard to cut them out or to greatly minimize interaction. You can simply choose to not socialize with them, or decrease interactions at family functions, obligatory events, etc. But when you're stuck with such people at work, you can't just quit (though Sutton says to get out of a toxic environment ASAP, which I hesitated to do a few times...but I've learned that lesson now!). So this book gives concrete advice, other than what the lame articles online say, such as "meet with your manager," or "write a flowery email," or negotiate somehow. Many people aren't in such structured situations, and sometimes the workplace is too small to be able to do something constructive. What Sutton does is offer many examples of what a-holes are, if they're just temporary or certified, and even ways to recognize how you're choosing to ignore the signs and are rationalizing the toxicity away.
And most importantly, he offers strategies for dealing with the jerks. Most people would probably create their own mix, but he breaks it down, in addition to offering the general "Don't engage with crazy":
slow interaction and responses via email, etc.
be bland and a chameleon, basically seen but not noticed (this is especially hard for people like me who like to express our personalities and talk, but amazingly, I've been so successful at it, people think I'm an introvert, which I'm not...such acting skills are worth another post actually)
find a safe space
find humor in the situation
focus on the positive
think about your goals
distance yourself from the situation, even into the future
it's them, not you
detach (which I've successfully done, though I felt like I was turning cold)
There's also other advice, but it really depends on who you work with; for instance, maybe there are people who can be "shields" or others who you can team up with. I wish someone out there would write more about when you're either physically alone in a job, or very isolated, or one of the few (or only) who is experiencing hardship. One thing I learned was that we're not alone in our suffering. Even if you're not around other people, or seem to be suffering alone, all you have to do is read this book to see how many examples of a-holes there are in various industries. Another thing I've done is simply talk to people about their trials. But overall, if you've worked or are working in a place that is so polluted you can barely breathe, get out! Well, first get another job or get rich, then leave! That's his basic advice.
I barely scratched the surface, and I would love to go into detail of my negative experiences and how they messed me up and how I found tiny triumphs, but I obviously can't do that. I guess the only way I'd be able to write about my work experiences is if I became super-wealthy and essentially didn't need the approval of others anymore. Anyway, here's a video of the excellent author giving the basic concepts of dealing with jerks. THANKS BOB SUTTON!
Author : Margaret Larkin
Working alone is a luxury When I started this blog, I was working alone a lot at home, and I really started to hate it. I couldn't find many people online who were struggling with it, probably because not a lot of people were doing it, or they were doing it but weren't complaining about it online. Eventually I found one person who complained about it, but by that time I'd been toiling in obscurity for a while. Now there are lots of articles online about it, so I'm thinking that I was initially an outlier, then societal trends and the changing economy kicked in, and voila...something I'd been doing since the dawn of the Internet became a regular thing (which is why I eventually experienced a drought a few years ago...unexpected competition).
So after dealing with working at home and working in isolating introverted situations, I managed to find more extroverted situations to offset the introverted ones. And it was worth it! I now experience both, which is fine with me, because I still have nerdy pursuits, but I can also be in more social, team-oriented workplaces. Great! I was going to drop the introverted-type of stuff, but I like the stability and like maintaining a serial-comma world, where commas make sense and are used properly (which I've never posted about, but I will eventually).
So as I was chugging along, ready to do the home work, something awful happened: my fancy Apple Desktop, which has enough power to process audio, video, text, graphics, etc., and make everything run and look optimal, crashed to the point that I think it has died. The graphics card is creating stripes and whiteness of death, and I cannot use it. This happened just when I was having to create a new podcast, plus proofread some substantial scientific papers, plus do online homework at a multimedia site, plus do other stuff that can only be done on a RAM-filled, fully loaded iMac. I was already behind, so I decided to go to the public library to use their computer to get some time-sensitive work done.
Wow, what we take for granted. First of all, I had to wait for a computer. When I was able to start working, people were making noise around me, including a guy who was ranting to himself and other people, and another guy who was listening to loud music. I politely asked the music guy to lower it, and he amazingly complied. The timer was set, because the library lets people use the computers for a predetermined amount of time. Also, the MS Word wasn't behaving as I'm used to because the mouse would select more text than I wanted, and I had to make sure my marks and comments were accurate.
I had reached the finish line and was about to upload the document to a cloud drive, plus send it as an attachment to someone, when a fire alarm went off. I looked at the person next to me to see if we should do anything, and he didn't move. So I didn't either. Then people started telling us to leave right away because we were having a fire drill. I had to leave my windows open and hoped that the remaining time wouldn't elapse, because my files would be wiped; the alarm had gone off before I had a chance to send them or store them anywhere. So I went outside and waited and hoped that all the work I put into the document wouldn't be for naught.
When they gave us permission to enter the library again, I ran upstairs to the computer and finished the saving-sending process. I had some minutes left, and I made them matter. I was worried that someone would use my computer or I'd be locked out.
Then it struck me that I'd been taking my solitary pursuits for granted. I had my nice desktop, have a basic Chromebook (thus can't do anything with Word), but I still have something. Other people don't have such luxuries; they have to use computers in public places, wait for permission, ask for help, listen to people talking or loud noises while they do what they want. They have to put up with fire alarms or other distractions which break up their day. They can't decide to work in silence in their own space; they have to share it. I have had the choice of working in a workplace, in a coworking space, in a garden, on a balcony, in my home...wherever I want pretty much, unless I need the powerful desktop computer (which is still dead at this moment and must be replaced with another expensive computer).
So I'd like to proclaim that while I am not a fan of solitary work, which I've been doing for years, at least I have the luxury of being alone. I'm not at the mercy of a public institution, though I'm very glad we have that option. Libraries are great places to get things done, so I thank our culture for including them in its priorities. Author : Margaret Larkin
It\'s harder to write when you\'re busy belonging I often do searches to find answers or information about how I'm feeling or issues that I'm interested in, and one day I came upon a thread in Quora, the topic of which I forgot at this point. But one of the posters made a good comment: "I feel like someone has to be the outsider to be the narrator of society."
Being an outsider makes it a lot easier to write, creating a way to process what's going on and what we see, especially if we're not getting what we want from the world. I reckon visual artists do this as well; they experience life and shape it into colors and forms, thus they've found their space to create a place just for them, and for others to experience what they have.
Sharing is important when we can't in "real life." We are on the edge, on the outside looking in, and we can't stay silent; we have to find a way to bridge what we're taking in and what we want to express. For long stretches of time, I felt like an outsider, even though I didn't want to be. And when I wasn't officially in that position, I'd formed such a habit of observation and creating an alternative commentary and streams of thought in my mind that I'd have to take the time to write it out, or create some other reality where I could be someone else who's fully participating in a life that is very different from mine.
Recently I've been working in non-introverted, enjoyable situations, that I've felt more like a participant to the point that I haven't had the time or psych to observe and feel the need to express myself on that alternative path. The main issue is living life instead of just existing and getting through the days. Of course, if we're alive, we're living life. But a lot of people are just working or getting stuff done, and they don't feel connected or alive until they're doing something they enjoy. Otherwise, they're being disciplined to get through what they have to, then finding a way to release themselves from the chores. But doing something that's enjoyable, plus working and socializing with people we should be with, makes the disciplined striving less necessary. The struggle is within a pleasant, desirable orbit instead of a construct of what should be.
I definitely believe in positive thinking, though not the kind where people claim that if you think it, what you want will happen. Positive thinking is being positive in spite of a challenging situation. You might want something, and being positive about your desires might lead you down some interesting and fruitful paths, but you might fail. So the positivity comes despite the failure. It's there before and after. It's finding alternatives when the main choice isn't possible. But when it does happens, sparks fly, you're in the zone, you're on your way. And that's when the sense of belonging begins, and the need to ace observation and successfully channel it is decreased.
Maybe that's why creative people often perceive a struggle, even when things might be improving in their external world. The struggle creates the friction that leads to a need to soothe it, but on the person's terms, not based on what the world might offer. Author : Margaret Larkin
Not writing has made me feel very irritated I have been working a lot and have used my downtime to read books, go to the gym, go to Mitsuwa (where I went today), play tennis, socialize, and just lie around like a blob because I can't afford to get sick (I work for myself via my own decade-old business, so no sick days or paid vacation or personal days or anything like the rest of the working world has). During last week and weekend, I'd get an idea to write down in my journal, here at this blog, or in my fake blog, and I wouldn't write, just continue on the treadmill of work/rest life, and tell myself that I'd do it when I "had time." I technically had time, but I just wouldn't take out my computer or paper-book journal, and I figured it didn't matter. But by Saturday night I was getting very irritated, and by Monday I felt like I was having an emotional meltdown. I had been doing what I had to, but I did not carve out time to create anything, and it really was wearing me down and making me nervous. So yesterday when I had a tiny slice of non-work and non-workout time, I wrote something in my fake blog real quick, and it took the edge off but not totally. So I wrote again this morning before work, and I'm in the process now of writing more. Basically, I need to write something that is not work-related, just creative, within my control. Not evaluated, just put out there. If the internet was how it used to be (I have a lot to say about the good ol' days), more people would be reading what I create here, but I guess that ship has sailed on the social media/pictograph sea.
I've written about the need to create, to control something when life is out of control (not in a dysfunctional way but when decisions are in other people's hands and you have to produce and perform for them), but I need to follow my own advice. I've become a habitual observer, walking down the street seeing people and scenarios that make interesting stories in my head, but I don't put them down anywhere, which makes my head fill up and cause a bottleneck that has to be smoothed out.
Writing isn't the only answer; I can also express via audio and video, but writing is the fastest way and only requires simple tools and a simple process: typing on a computer or writing on a piece of paper with a pen. Also, I often want to process my observations via words, and I can do it via fiction or via straight reporting, though doing it honestly via Twitter or here would get me in trouble. If I were rich and didn't need anyone's approval, I would really post what I think of what I see, but I don't have that luxury (and not many people do). Author : Margaret Larkin
It\'s ensure, not assure In my copy editing/proofreading gigs, and even in other jobs that don't primarily focus on text, people often use "assure" when they really should use "ensure." For instance, I've seen people mistakenly write "They used that instrument to assure they would be accurate." That is not correct because "assure" means, according to the Cambridge dictionary, to "promise" or "make certain" or "say with certainty...that something is true," as in "I assure you that you will get the job" or "The mayor assured the people that corruption will be investigated during her administration." Basically, it's a way to let other people know that they shouldn't worry about something. I assure you that what I'm writing is true.
"Ensure" simply means to make sure of something. So you ensure that you have your bus pass. You ensure that all the doors are locked. You ensure that you've done all the necessary paperwork. Basically, when you're thinking "I want to make sure," use "ensure."
Here's a visual: the name of the drink Ensure implies that you want to make sure, i.e., ensure, that you get all the nutrients you need.
Author : Margaret Larkin
the Sun or the sun? I was proofreading something that referred to "the Sun," but I wasn't sure if it should be capitalized. My hunch was that it shouldn't be, but when I did a search online, I found conflicting results. For instance, NASA capitalizes it in a student worksheet, but they could be doing that for stylistic purposes. Meanwhile, The Atlantic, which seems to take language and writing seriously, does not capitalize it.
After seeing various examples online, I assumed it's standard practice to not capitalize it, until I saw a discussion on Quora, with an answer by a highly educated science person: "The International Astronomical Union rules in this context, and they say that the names of each planet, each planetary satellite, each asteroid, each comet, each star, each stellar/planetary system, and each galaxy is a proper name and, therefore, a proper noun to be capitalized." Then he says that not capitalizing it is fiction-oriented. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aka MIT, one of the most prestigious science and technical institutions on the planet, instructs people to not capitalize it. And the MLA style guide (by the well-known Modern Language Association) makes the same conclusion.
So I'm assuming it should not be capitalized, thus I corrected what the author wrote. Now that I'm writing about it, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but when I saw it, it made me think about it for the first time, since I don't usually have to deal with the issue. I even discussed it with a professional writer, who didn't really know the answer either, which made me even more curious and concerned about doing the right thing. Author : Margaret Larkin
The friendly French guy I took a couple of French classes online, and while I didn't ace the second class (probably because I was working a lot, plus successfully finishing Nanowrimo), I really enjoyed studying it. There was a ton of grammar and vocabulary to learn, and there were lots of activities and quizzes and the awful final, which I bombed, even though I studied more than a few days for it. I was very upset about it, and still am, but at least I can still see the Friendly French Guy for a few more days (because even though I paid 100 bucks for the digital book, it has an expiration date, which I think is totally unfair).
In every chapter, he lectured about grammar, and seemed very happy to be sharing his knowledge. He had a French accent, of course, and was always upbeat.
I wish the publisher would let the French-challenged, such as moi, continue to access the site, so that we can continue to be entertained and tutored by Mr Friendly French Guy, who will become just a memory eventually :( I will miss him. Goodbye, Friendly French Guy :(
Author : Margaret Larkin
Still fake blogging It looks like I haven't been a productive writer because almost two months have passed since the last post, but I have been writing, just not here. I mentioned before that I have a fake blog, and I've even told people offline, but no one has read it. I don't even know if strangers have stumbled upon it because I can't see any stats. But even though I don't know if I have an audience, I've become pretty obsessed with it and post there once to a few times a week. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about it, like what would the person be doing now, how is the person feeling, etc. I listen to people talk or they tell me what they've been doing, and the conversations give me ideas about what to write. I never thought I'd be so into writing fiction because I'm not a fiction-type of person, but it's sort of taken over my mind at times.
There are not many personal blogs out there anymore because people are posting their lives on social media, and blogs have become more informational than a form of journaling, which makes my pursuit seem anachronistic. Social media is fine, but it's not as deep as journal-type blogs were, and I miss that aspect of the internet. Online expression is more superficial and utilitarian now, and greed has taken over certain segments of the internet to the point where it's hard to find more authentic voices.
I do more practical posts at my podcast-related blog and post here, of course, but what I like about the fake blog is that I can do something personal in someone else's voice, and it's very satisfying and fun. I also have a way to channel my thoughts in an alternative world, which is very different from my real life. It's a way to offset rut-related feelings by imagining "What if..." to create a different path to explore.
If I were a gifted fiction writer and disciplined and driven about it, I'd try to write a book from my bloggy sketches, but right now, I just enjoy blogging. I don't know if other people feel the same way as I do, but I think the online writing world is not as interesting because long forms of expression exist in a different way, and have been replaced by short bursts of self-celebration. I sort of wish we could go back to the "good 'ol days" of the internet before the mercenaries took over, and I wonder if written creativity will continue to thrive for those who still want to bypass the professional gatekeepers. Author : Margaret Larkin
I have met people who fancied themselves as business people (meaning they're pretty much failing at it or are inept or are too cheap to pay anyone) who wanted me to produce content for free, telling me I'd get "exposure." For instance, one person who was building their digital identity after their broadcasting one was fizzling told me about a website they were either creating or had already created (they were vague), and they wanted people to write for their blog. I asked them how much they're paying the writers, and they said "oh nothing, you can get exposure." Obviously, the person hadn't done their research or assumed I was new to the digital world because I had already been blogging for years, and had even gotten paid for doing blog posts for other people or had gotten paid for editing them. By the time the has-been mediaite had met me, I had already experienced professional writing, and at that point was picky about who I'd write for, for free.
Another time, a person who was working for a company asked me to not only write something, but go out into the community, interview people, record the interviews, edit and make them sound pretty, post them somewhere, and they would be broadcast, again vaguely somewhere at some time. I asked how much they were paying for such a project that sounded like it would be both time-consuming and energy-expending, and they said that I would have to find the advertisers, and besides, I would get "exposure."
In both those instances, the people asked me; I didn't approach them, so I assumed since they asked me, they would have something to offer more that just "exposure." They didn't even bother to offer a gift card or another kind of perk. While the has-been was an individual, the other person worked for a business that had been set up by someone else, and even they didn't have the money to pay for a service that they requested.
I have had exposure for years, which I built up. Some of it has been through work, so I happened to get paid for it. Other exposure has not been for work, but has led to paid work. That's what exposure does: it gets your name out there so that people can do an online search and find out what you're able to do. But after a while, it's not as necessary, unless you have a goal in mind.
For instance, once I started teaching others about podcasting (and after I'd gotten exposure for my own podcast), I wanted to write about it. So I contacted a publicity pro whose excellent website, The Publicity Hound, did not have such information. It took a while, but I was able to write a two-part article about it. More recently, I wrote another how-to podcasting article after contacting the International Association of Business Communicators, whose website didn't have anything about it either. I didn't get paid to write those, but the difference was that I contacted them and knew they were a chance to get exposure. It was my goal, and I took action to achieve it.
But I also wrote a couple articles for free after someone asked me. In that case, I had been wanting to write about my experience doing technical editing, since I'd been toiling at that alone in obscurity, and I wanted to communicate with the larger world about it (since I'm not a solitary-loving introvert). I was at a meeting of the Society for Technical Communication, and the newsletter editor, Robert Delwood, was talking to me about my experience. Then he asked me to write articles for the newsletter, and since no one gets paid to write for it and it's an organization (not a business), I didn't make such an assumption. And he didn't have to say "you'll get exposure" either. It was just a request for a contribution. What resulted was a description of my struggle, and another about the importance of grammar.
Ok, so it might seem like I'm self-promoting, which I sort of am, but I'm also making a point: if people want something substantial done and especially can afford it, they should pay. They shouldn't make the "exposure" argument unless someone suggests it, e.g., if someone says to them, "I have no online presence. Can I write something for you? I need the exposure." But for a business person to try convince someone to give them free content via the "exposure" argument is not good business.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Wanting to know lots of languages has diluted my ability to get better I have a problem that a lot of people don't face because they're usually focused on one thing or just a few things, or they're boring and don't do much other than what they need to. My problem is language-oriented, which is apt for this blog, since the theme is supposed to be language, and is the reason why it was created (though I ended up writing about other topics, which caused me to get dropped from lists and publicly questioned, though this was before social media exploded).
My problem is that I want to understand everything I read or see, and I can't. For instance, I started studying Swedish after I saw shows and movies and listened to lots of happy, shallow Swedish dance music that was created for the world stage. I wanted to find out more about the artists and actors, so I searched online for information. The best was in Swedish, so I attempted to study it, and barely succeeded. I cannot converse and barely understand anyone. It's frustrating. Then I tried reading Swedish sites, learned tips, etc., but I barely made any progress.
I also love French and really just want to read anything in it and try to understand some shows, such as Maigret. I'm such a fan of Bruno Cre?mer that I ordered his memoir, Un Certain Jeune Homme, from the UK, and when I got it, I could barely understand it. So I put it to the side and after I took an online French course and learned about the imparfait tense, I could understand it better. But what about the news in French, and websites, and videos, and more? I still have trouble.
And then there's Spanish. I studied that a while ago and have been teaching mostly Spanish speakers English for several years, and while I don't need the language to teach, I'd like to understand what they're saying to each other. And I teach in an area where there are many Spanish-speaking stores, so I could easily practice it there. I also see Spanish speakers all around Chicago and would like to get involved. But that's a lot to learn to be able to converse.
Then there's Japanese, which is probably my "best" language, though it is very difficult to read and I still don't understand everything I see on TV, so I try to practice reading and listening often, though don't know enough to ace it.
And there's German and Portuguese and Italian, all which I've studied and was intense about, but nothing enough to put me in the "capable" category.
So I've been overwhelmed by opportunities and interest to learn those languages but am not brilliant enough, nor do I have a photogenic memory to remember all the vocabulary and grammar and meaning of it all. My mind is struggling between desire to do it all and frustration because I'm not a super-language-human. I've met some people who know a few languages, and obviously I'm envious that they have that ability. What's odd is that people think I'm good at language, but I think it's because they haven't attempted to learn anything, other than what was required in school.
Then an ESL student told the class about a video she saw about learning languages (pasted below).
Chris Lonsdale says people can learn any language in six months. He said he learned Mandarin that way, and at first I was skeptical, but I saw a video of him giving advice to Chinese people about learning a language, and he sounds fluent to me! He even has slides in Chinese!
He seems so confident and effectively communicative. Even though I have to watch his video again to really learn the concepts (though I briefly wrote some down), one thing I realized is that I have to think about *why* I want to learn those languages, and zero in on that aspect, because I will never be totally fluent and capable in any language, other than English. He says that it's important to make language learning relevant, and since I'm not planning on living abroad again, I don't need those languages for survival, so that's not my motivation. In order to make a language relevant to me and to thus have motivation, I need to make it relate to my personal goals.
I hadn't thought about my language goals. I just wanted to somehow absorb it and proceed like a blob and have a kind of download into my brain. That is not possible, unless I'm a Borg or some character in a sci-fi movie. I can't approach language learning like a blob and assume I'll learn through osmosis or mere exposure. I need to figure out why I'm doing it.
Right now, here are some vague goals, which need to be refined and pursued more intensely:
Swedish: I want to read about the actors and singers in Swedish. And I want to go to Sweden, though they speak English and there's not a lot of pressure to be perfect. Spanish: I want to talk with people in Chicago. French: I want to be able to read the book I bought. And I want to go to France, where I'll have to be able to use it. Portuguese: I want to be able to read about Brazil. I've been there before and did okay, but I've forgotten it all.
Japanese and German are more general, because I want to be able to know them well enough to use them in those countries. So if I narrow down my goal, I want to learn them well enough to be able to talk with people and function on a trip there.
Maybe I'll feel more motivated as I define my goals more. I would much rather be super-smart and dive right in, understanding everything to be able to fully function in all kinds of languages, but that's impossible.
Author : Margaret Larkin
People who have high-level jobs should be able to write I recently got a shocking email: it was actually well-written, had no grammatical errors, and seemed literate, as the person chose to write complex sentences that utilized correct punctuation as well. This is not an isolated incident, because I've gotten emails over the years from various high-level people who know how to write, or who have the resources to check their writing. But the recent email stood out because before that, people at the same workplace who are supposedly well-educated (they have the degrees to claim authority) would consistently send out emails full of run-ons, comma splices, incorrect verb use, and other issues that resembled emails from people who either lack formal education or are just learning how to write. To verify my opinion and to avoid being considered as too judgmental or insensitive, I showed a professional writer one such email from a highly paid, highly placed individual, and the pro agreed: the email was poorly written and lacked the essentials that anyone who's legitimately gone through high school should know.
A while ago, I worked for someone who was very smart and highly educated, but because English was not their first language, they had some issues with their writing. But they did the right thing: they made sure their writing was checked before being sent out, which I'm guessing helped them to keep their high-level job for several years, make good money, and even get a promotion. It probably also helped their reputation because other people could see that not only did they have the degrees, but they could professionally express themself (not a word, but I don't want to be specific about gender or other info) in a way that matched their prominent job.
If people have the money, they should hire people to fix their writing, even simple emails, even if it's in a ghost-writing capacity. And if people are working in education, they should definitely be able to write. It is ridiculous that students are told to attain skills, but the supervisors of those institutions cannot create coherent sentences. And it's especially appalling when administrators are hired who don't have the sense or capacity to communicate correctly.
In some institutions, high-level employees may be super-strong in science and engineering but weak in the written word. They bring in millions of dollars and lead development of innovative products. Their weak writing shouldn't bar them from such opportunities, but they should make sure they get help.
And I'm not talking about typos. Sometimes we spell something wrong or add an extra comma where there shouldn't be one. Those are minor, human mistakes. What I'm talking about is obvious literary negligence that belies a person's high rank, and the person doesn't care enough to recognize the deficiency or is too cheap or arrogant to get someone to help. Author : Margaret Larkin
For the first time in several years, I\'ve had a good holiday season I saw a great article about the #joinin community, which is when people share their struggles on Twitter during Christmas. I was going to post my thoughts on Twitter with that hashtag, but I realized it would've been too long, and I didn't do one of those serial tweets because I doubt people would follow along. So here I am, about to post something that I've told some folks offline, but want to tell people about online as well.
For many years, and I mean more than a decade (though I'm not sure exactly how many years, but long enough to make 2018 a notable year, and hopefully a departure from what I've experienced before), the holidays were awful or barely tolerable. Not just one or two holidays, but various ones throughout the year, including a big birthday I celebrated that was nothing like I'd envisioned back when I witnessed others celebrate theirs exuberantly. There are many reasons why the holidays were not stellar or what I'd experienced earlier in my life, and if I know you offline, I'll tell you. I'm not sure I want to share all the details here because it might be too personal, and the Internet has a lot more creeps online than years ago when I started (which is going to be the topic of another post).
Holidays were strained or sad, or I had to work at jobs that barely acknowledged us, at companies that were too broke to even pay extra (though they liked rewarding their executives and laying people off in the process). Even if holidays were not lonely, I detached myself from them and barely tolerated attending gatherings or didn't do anything special at all. I assumed that was how it was going to be, thus I'd have to adjust to the situation.
But things started changing in late 2017. I noticed I had more opportunities to celebrate the holiday season, but I was still in my detached phase, assuming the spike was an aberration. But this year, not only did those events recur, but I was invited to others as well. So when the season began, I welcomed it and just enjoyed what I saw as a bounty of invites that flowed in. And it's not necessarily that I had the actual holidays free, because I've had to work all of them, including the days around them. My work situation is not like other people where we get paid holidays off or where the places are closed (though some places I work are closed), and working the holidays isn't actually a disappointment like it is for other people.
A lot of people would think this occurrence is no big deal because they already have built-in family obligations that are pleasant, and/or already know a lot of social people who are used to reaching out during the season. I have met several people who have never known an unpleasant or disappointing holiday or birthday because they have events to go to or a large enough family to absorb them. Or if they're not close to family, they have a web of friends who they see. So they're probably wondering why someone would celebrate a positive holiday season and note it online.
But having a more positive holiday experience is very meaningful, and it's also proof that just because you might be struggling around this time of year, every year, it doesn't mean it will last forever. Or if you've lost such positivity over the years, as I did, it doesn't mean it's gone forever. It might take years, as it did for me, or you might be lucky...you might experience a temporary setback that is remedied with a move or with other changes in your life that result in a more upward trend. Amazingly, even though we're between two years as I post this, my active season probably won't end until early February. And then I can truly look forward to more good things happening in 2019. Author : Margaret Larkin
Spam conversation A while ago (not too long ago but long enough that I don't remember the exact date...maybe a few months ago), I was at an event (I remember where but don't want to be specific in case the person sees this and knows it's them...because it definitely is) and was talking to someone who seemed interesting. They had come to the event alone and I was surprised that they were so talkative, because usually people seem more shy when they go to something alone. Maybe they spoke more to me because I was volunteering and was in a more central location, which meant that people could easily walk up and ask where the restroom was or just chat a bit before they moved on. But this person really took the time to talk, and since I like talking to people (because I'm merely a fake introvert), I went along. We talked about the suburb they live in and other things that I can't remember.
And it's not unintentional that I pretty much wiped the specifics of the conversation from my mind, because it ended up as spam. Spam is usually encountered via email and social media, when someone hacks your account or when a sleazy person or group gets your email and bombards you with unwanted messages. Well spam conversation is similar. It's where a person is talking to you for a purpose that has nothing to do with you but what you can do for them--more blatantly, to sell you something.
In my case, that person was talking to me because they wanted me to sign up for their services (again, I won't be specific, but trust me, I remember what it is, that it's a service that requires clients). The person was with a reputable company and it wasn't a scam, as spam email often is, but it really blindsided me and annoyed me to the point that I abruptly stopped the conversation. When they continued to try to convince me to at least meet with them to discuss stuff, I bluntly said I'm not interested, and felt like I had been duped. Of course, they gave me their card (which I think I still have as a spam-conversation souvenir) even after I said I wasn't interested.
Basically, people who go to a benign function and use it to get more sales seem like they're there to use people, not to enjoy the function. And having a friendly conversation that masks their true intention--to get a sale--is manipulative and deceptive. So I'm calling that spam, and I'm surprised that I didn't see it coming, probably because the person didn't seem like a salesperson. But that's their skill, I suppose, and why they can afford to live in the nice burbs (assuming that they have a nice house there). Author : Margaret Larkin
I just had a school cafeteria experience I wasn't going to write about this publicly, and texted a few people about it, but since they haven't responded, I'll write about it here, because walking around is not enough to process the school cafeteria experience that I just had.
I just started teaching somewhere where I probably know a few people...literally. And they're mere coworkers, not friends (unlike at Daley College, where I would say I work with people who[m] I consider work friends, some of whom I've hung out with outside school...but that's for another, shortly-forthcoming post).
So at this new place where I've taught and will teach again in the new year, I assumed going to the holiday event would be enjoyable. I don't know a ton of people, but I figured I'd meet new people or at least see one of the few I know. I walked into a large room with lots of people eating, standing in line, sitting at tables, and I looked around for one of those known people. Nada. I couldn't see them nor any of the people I'd briefly met since I started. So I got some food and looked for an opening at a table to join an already-established group. I approached a table with four chairs, two of which were occupied. I asked the pair if I could sit there, since I don't know anyone. They looked at me quizzically, then muttered an affirmative. I sheepishly sat down and a bright purple light was shining in my direction, and I dared not move the chair to an unlit spot at the table lest those folks thought I was usurping their cloistered coworker space, so I used that as an excuse to say goodbye, and they barely even nodded in acknowledgement.
I looked around the room and didn't see many available spaces, so I sat at an empty table, near someone else who was sitting alone at another table. Being the social person that I am, I thought of asking the person if I could join them, but they looked too engrossed in eating, and I suspected a repeat of what I'd already experienced across the room, so I sat at the empty table alone, at the corner, figuring that people would fill in the seats next to me. People came in and went, looking at me then walking away. As I was looking towards the entrance for the few people I knew, I noticed a few people came to my table, but sat at the opposite end. I figured I wouldn't get the group experience I was expecting (and not to be naive, but I figured since we all worked at the same place and it was a holiday gathering, that concept would spill over into casual interactions among the crowd), so I just ate and texted a few people about my plight. With no responses from the recipients, I finished eating my meal and walked towards the Big Boss of the place and told them (I'm not specifying gender) that I enjoy teaching there and answered their question about what I taught...thus the first conversation I'd had at the event. I didn't want to leave without a bottle of water, so as I was waiting for the bartender to give me one, I saw a person I'd met a while ago, and said hello. I thought we'd talk about the email they'd sent out that I'd responded to, but they quickly ducked behind a partition and instead of risking standing alone once again, I left.
As I was walking through downtown, I thought this is what people mean when they share their school cafeteria experiences: they sit alone, not part of a group, and no one attempts to befriend them or allows them to sit with them. Usually such people are shunned and they feel awful through those difficult years. My difficulty lasted less than an hour, and I feel better now that I've extricated myself away from there, but for those other people, their ostracism lingers.
And what's ironic about my cafeteria experience is that it took place at a school where some people probably grew up as outsiders. I figured since we're all adults, it would be no big deal to be with people I didn't know, but it ended up being an experience a number of them probably had but hadn't processed it enough to reach out to another solitary table-sitter. Author : Margaret Larkin
After more than a decade, I did Nanowrimo again I did Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) a few times, way back in 2002, 2004, 2005, and I think partly in 2006 (though I'm pretty sure I decided not to finish once I barely got through the month), and I really thought I was done with the whole thing, that I would never attempt it again, and would probably not write fiction again. Weirdly, doing all that fiction writing so many years ago led to non-fiction paid writing, including ghost writing, so it worked out professionally. Then I got into audio, then teaching and other stuff, so I thought fiction was gone from my life forever. At one point, when I started the fake blog (which I'm still doing), I started thinking about "what-ifs" so much to the point that I started writing an actual novel again. I was progressing okay, very motivated but not consistent, when someone at a writing group mentioned Nanowrimo. No way, I said, I'm not doing that, it's too intense and crazy, but at the end of October, I signed up, and started writing furiously on Nov 1. I almost quit after a few days because I realized my schedule was too packed to fit lots of writing in, but after reading some articles online about quitting, I decided not to. So I spent pretty much any free time I had, even if it was at 5 AM before work, writing and writing and writing. Halfway through I was dried out and thought I couldn't proceed. But some helpful people at the Chiwrimo group suggested I not only focus on plot but on developing the characters more, and I found myself writing a lot of interior thoughts and voila, after furiously writing all month, I actually finished a few days early.
I was so wiped out, I was numb. What remained was still a strong desire to write, even if it was just at the fake blog. So I've been doing that. But let me reflect on how this Nano was different than what I experienced early in the century:
1 - I'm way more real now. When I did it in the early years, I was a wannabe. Yes, I'm admitting publicly that I was a phony fiction writer. Even though I did Nano a few times, wrote a lot of fiction in those days even outside of November, took classes, formed a writing group and the Metrofiction website, I was of form and no substance. I wanted to make it, get my book done, find an agent and market, and live the writer's life. Then I got so discouraged going down that phony path, I gave it up and worked in the real world and was a writer, but the practical sort (which is fine with me). This year, I was very into the story and how the characters interacted and developed, and really enjoyed the process. I was frazzled, but the writing was really a part of me and I didn't skip to some impossible future in my head but just enjoyed being creative and working ideas out in the moment. So I can honestly say that I'm not a phony wannabe anymore; I'm a writer who may get published or who may not, but either way I'm still into the story and want to continue working it out. (And I really am a writer and am even in the useless Writers Guild, but I'm not a published fiction writer.)
2 - I didn't feel sorry for myself this time around. If you've read earlier posts on this blog (and I shouldn't mention that because it's embarrassing to see how I used to write here), you'll notice that I did a lot of whining. I whined way more in my journal and in my head, but I was such a sorry sap. And it carried over into Nano when I did it those few times. This time, I didn't feel sorry for myself at all, I just wrote and wrote and went for the goal. No time to ponder, just wrote as much as I could and was very productive. I didn't think about being published or being invited to cool events like those famous authors are (who are introverted and would rather be alone, which is mystifying, but that's for another post), I just was in the moment, which left no room for emotions except from my main character who really went through a lot. If I ever can finish writing the book and edit it effectively, you'll find out what I'm talking about. She starts out one way and ends up another way, and if I were a better writer I'd be able to convey that, but who cares...at least I'm trying. See? I've changed as well. She occupies my mind and her world has become an extension of mine, and I'm not crazy, just have a new companion around who I want to write about.
3 - Nanowrimo is huge now. When I did it years ago, it was an alternative group and corner of the Internet that a lot of people didn't know about. I think I found out about it via blogs, but because social media wasn't around, it didn't explode and wasn't the institution it is now. Now they have lots of money, sponsors and deals, professional authors giving pep talks, groups all over the world, a sophisticated website, a more layered financial and social structure, and a lot more. Back then I felt like we were in a small town, at least those of us outside the San Francisco area, where Nano was established. It's sort of like being in Macao before it was handed back to China: it was a quiet place in the corner of Asia, not the wild development that it is now.
4 - I don't want to do it again. I don't know why I did it 3.5 times back in the day, but now that I've done it again, I really can't handle the experience once more. I might change my mind next year because it's a crazy all-consuming pursuit that puts you on a wild ride of intensity, and my life might need that at that moment, but it really took up all my free time. I didn't even have time to blog here or fake blog elsewhere. I didn't even write in my journal. Any time I had to write was devoted to Nano, and I don't know if I want to lack the breathing space again.
Author : Margaret Larkin
If you\'re in the people business, like people There are many jobs that don't involve people much, or at all, yet I see people who should be working in those industries working with people instead, and I think it's not a good fit.
Recently I met someone who I thought would be a people-oriented person since they (I won't say "he" or "she" because I don't want people to try to figure out who I'm talking about) have written lots of books to help people, talk about meeting various people, and are in different media communicating with people. They even travel around the country to talk to people while promoting their books, so I figured since they were in my area, I'd go see them.
Since they've been promoting themselves as a people-helper, I felt like I could talk to them freely, but I noticed they seemed sort of uncomfortable that I had tried to converse with them. When I saw them again, other people were attempting to chat, but they weren't encouraged to elaborate. By the end of the experience, the supposed people-person was busy doing required tasks and pretty much shut the door on any spontaneity or one-to-one human interaction.
It's just one example, but I've met other people like that in a people-oriented communication industry, where it's good to give lectures and network, or teachers, who need to interact with students as a group or individually. Why are they working with people? There are plenty of jobs where they can plant themselves in front of a computer or in a lab, where it would be detrimental to talk to or even think about other human beings, because it would impede progress. But there they are, making a living while being squeamish about human interaction, wincing when an individual has questions or wants to talk with them further about a topic or basically socialize. People who are not into people don't like small talk or words that have no function other than to connect people. They only like to talk to people about things that are relevant to their job or purpose. Otherwise, they're drained and even complain about it. Newsflash: get another career and leave those jobs to people who really want to interact.
Just off the top of my head, there are a couple of guys who I've worked with who have people-oriented jobs, and they really like people. One guy teaches all day and night, does a lot of community and organizational work, has a family, and is pretty busy. Yet he always makes time for people. He could lead a meeting of about 100 people, and after lecturing and back-and-forth discussions and challenges from the group, he'll make the time to meet with anyone who walks up to him. Even after teaching a four-hour class, he'll meet with students who need extra help, talk with me and other co-workers, and even take phone calls from various people. He's energized by people and has a passion and love for them.
Contrast that with the person I met recently, and the difference is stark. The person was only there to talk to the group, and seemed squeamish when people approached them. They looked drained and uncomfortable, thus were really only playing the role of a speaker. "Only watch, don't come any closer," was the vibe the person gave off. I can imagine them retreating to wherever they live with relief that the dreaded people interaction was over, and they can continue to write about how much they care and want to share. Whatever.
Another guy who exemplifies true appreciation of people spent many years in the hospitality industry. He had to talk to people for his job, but even after it was over, he'd continue talking to people wherever they were, really engaging and asking how they were doing. Like the other guy, he wasn't drained but energized by people. Like the other guy, he was in an industry that fit his personality. I'm sure if he did work in the introverted world that I'm in, he would greatly suffer. So like the other guy, he found a good fit.
So please, if you're squeamish about people, don't work with them. And if you've written a book, don't do a book tour or lectures. Or maybe you shouldn't get a book published because in today's environment, writers have to promote themselves and if they really make it big, have to get their appearance broadcast on Book TV. I would love to write a book and be asked to talk about it in front of people. I'm not scared; I've been teaching for years and have done workshops. No big deal. Plus, when people walk up to me to chat or ask questions, no problem. I'm not drained by them but welcome them, and feel excited to interact. Save such space and opportunities for people like me and other people-oriented folks because that's what we enjoy a lot more than pretending to be introverts to survive the computer-oriented world that we live in. The world that you'd probably be happier in. Author : Margaret Larkin
Fiction and fake blogging Wow, I'm really into writing, though you wouldn't guess it if you looked at the time that has passed between my last post and now. So here's what's happening: because so much work I do is technical and functional and straight-language oriented, I've had the urge to write fiction again.
When I started this blog years ago, I was writing fiction and failed miserably at it (in terms of being disciplined and producing quality content, in addition to suffering through the isolation of the craft). However, it led to paid writing, so it worked out in a way. I've definitely been writing for work and promotional purposes (I finished an article that will be posted within a few weeks...stay tuned), but my "fun" exploratory writing was pushed to the side as I met deadlines and tried to not get headaches from proofreading and copy editing so much.
But a few weeks ago, after not being able to sleep and trying to push down any creative urges to write fiction because it's a kind of quagmire-black hole of never-ending revisions and dashed efforts, I started. And I'm doing it pretty consistently. I have no idea if it will lead to anything, but this time around, I'm just really enjoying the process and feel zero angst about it. Of course, I have a dream, but if it doesn't come to fruition, so be it. I just hope I don't stay in the writing cave, eventually leading to dissatisfaction as my only companion.
But that's not all...in addition to that writing, plus work-writing, plus writing here, I've been writing a fake blog. I have mentioned before that I had a secret blog, but since it was secret, I didn't say where it was or what it was about. I had to shut that blog down due to ownership of the site changing (servers actually), and I didn't trust the new overlords, so I went to an even more obscure blogging site that other people from the changed site have moved to as well. I totally scrapped the previous secret non-fictional content and started over with a totally new one...written by a person who is very different than me. Amazingly, even though I've told people offline that I have it, no one has found it.
And that's another thing that's changed about my writing pursuits: I am writing the fake blog because I want to, and I have no idea if random people online have found it, or if no one has, and I don't care. At times I'll leave it dormant for a while, then do a fresh post when I see something that can be absorbed in the blog or when I feel like real life is overwhelmingly ordinary and I need to write something about a life I have never lived and never will live. It's a kind of escape from mediocrity and responsibilities, and it's a way to expand my mind in ways that can't be exercised elsewhere. Author : Margaret Larkin
I saw Jay Leno I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Springfield, Illinois, taking an air-conditioning break from the oppressively hot, humid, sunny weather. Actually, the break wasn't organic because we (my husband and I...and that's the correct form btw, instead of people saying "and I" when they mean "and me") had gone to the Governor's Mansion with backpacks and were told that we had to leave them in the car. Problem was, we took the train to Springfield, so there was no car to go to.
So we walked back in the baking sun through downtown Springfield to the hotel where we were staying to drop off our backpacks, then sat in the lobby before braving the harsh weather (yes, oppressively sunny, muggy weather can feel harsh).
We looked out the window and saw a tall man walking towards the hotel. "That looks like Jay Leno," I said, but it couldn't be. The tall, gray-haired man was wearing worn jeans and a loose denim shirt. He looked like he'd been toiling outside in the heat, and was lumbering towards the hotel entrance. But the chin and eyes...it was him.
"Hello Mr. Leno," my husband said. "Hello, how are you?" Leno said. "Welcome to Illinois," I added (because saying "Welcome to Springfield" would've been presumptuous since I don't live there and am not a native).
He nodded in our direction and walked towards the front desk. After that, I didn't know what he did because I didn't follow him, and I didn't even look towards the front desk. I also didn't take a picture of him, because 1) he didn't hang out with us or even bother to pause, and 2) he wasn't in official performance mode. Taking a candid picture would've been disrespectful and creepy.
But what was he doing in Springfield, a small city in central Illinois? We looked it up, and found out that he was doing a stand-up gig that night. Wait a minute...he is super-rich and famous...does he *need* to do that? And why is he playing smaller venues (his next stop was Peoria)?
I'm still thinking about it because usually famous people go to major, big cities and stay in fancy hotels, and record their shows to make even more money. Or they move on from their early work to do movies and the like, and don't do piddly stuff again.
But Jay Leno is working as if he's still trying to break into the big time, playing smaller cities in the heartland of the USA.
This is noteworthy because he doesn't have to do it, yet chooses to. He also doesn't seem stuck-up or pretentious, like we hear other celebrities are. I've heard of actors getting angry when people don't recognize them when being waited on in stores. I've even dealt with people who were upset that I said "Ms." instead of "Dr." because they had a PhD in education or another non-medical field.
I guess he's known for being nice, and in the brief encounter I had with him, he seemed that way. Plus we were in Springfield, Illinois, which is surrounded by lots of trees and probably has 10 people on the street during the day and not much traffic. And he decided to work there, just because. Now I'm wondering how he did in Peoria (and thinking of the phrase "Will it play in Peoria?") because if he didn't succeed there, will he be able to succeed anywhere? Haha...obviously, it doesn't matter because he's already succeeded to the point that if he were to stop now, he'd be able to live well and still get invited to cool parties and events all over.
Actually, his story can be instructive because he's doing what he loves, and he's not worried about status or only hanging out with the big people. He's willing to go anywhere in the USA and work on his craft and entertain audiences of "regular folks," not just those who live on the coasts who arrive to the theater in fancy cars.
On the other hand, there are people like me who'd love to achieve even a sliver of success doing something creative and/or fun and/or fulfilling, or getting a break from someone higher up the ladder. For a lot of us, that is impossible, so we can just look at Jay Leno and say, "If he can pursue his passion, then those of us toiling in obscurity can as well." Author : Margaret Larkin
That vs which confusion I'm pretty clear about when to use "that" vs "which," but I often come across stuff (to be intentionally vague) that often has "which" when it should have "that." So I strike out the word and replace it, though sometimes I don't want to be a killjoy, so I leave it in, especially if the screed is several pages long and I want to vary the style. I'm not a style editor, though someone tried to make me operate in that manner, but I feel that if I keep correcting every misuse, it'll seem sort of crazy and monotone. So yes, I purposely am incorrect sometimes for the sake of keeping the peace and offering some diversity in a sea of hyper-functional sentences and concepts.
Anyway, there are a lot of resources online that explain the difference between "that" and "which." Basically, "which" is used with a clause, a subset that explains the main subject of the sentence. "Which" is a "nonrestrictive modifying clause...that adds extra or nonessential information to a sentence. The meaning of the sentence would not change if the clause were to be omitted." In fact, usually people use "which" with the sentence I just quoted from the University of Illinois; they would say "which adds extra..." instead of the correct "that." So here's an example of correct "which" usage:
The ramshackle house, which is down the block, is scheduled for demolition next week.
Essentially, the "which" section could be taken away and it wouldn't affect the integrity of the sentence. It's like an added comment to further describe the house, which is why the U of I calls it an "adjective clause."
Then there's the kind of sentence that I usually see, even by people who have lots of publishing experience with impressive titles that they display proudly on their business cards:
The house which is down the block is slated for demolition.
It should be:
The house that is down the block is slated for demolition.
In that case, "down the block" is an important piece of information, thus "that" is used, and the segment isn't set up to be separate, which is achieved with commas around a "which" clause. The U of I calls "that" a "restrictive modifying clause" because it's essential.
Actually, those definitions weren't invented by the U of I, but I like their explanation and the fact that their page isn't loaded down with ads that slow down my computer, which is common with popular grammar sites.
So, moving forward, I hope people use "that" and "which" correctly. It's not like the world is going to end, but still. Author : Margaret Larkin
Even highly paid people commit comma splices I have previously written about my disgust with comma splices. My first post, "I am tired of seeing 'however' with a comma," led to another post about comma splices: "Stop using comma splices." Since then, I've encountered numerous comma splices, even from supposedly educated management types where I teach, and instructors who have a master's and even a PhD. I will not post those examples because they're contained in emails, and I don't want to get fired or create enemies over mere punctuation, so I will use a more global example that I saw in the Washington Post. The writer of the article, Abha Bhattarai, is one of journalism's elite, so I assume she knows what a comma splice is and has avoided them in the numerous articles she's written for the world's leading publications. So this is not about her. At least I hope it's not.
It's who is quoted in the article. I had to read the sentence again to make sure that the presumingly highly paid professional actually used a comma splice, but here it is:
?We have hundreds of full-time roles available, however, some prefer part-time for the flexibility or other personal reasons.?
I'm assuming the company spokeswoman is culpable because that statement was probably sent to the EJ (elite journalist) in an email. However, what if she told the EJ that via phone or video chat? Then it was transcribed as a comma splice, so the EJ is guilty. But I doubt it because the EJ writes in the article that "she said in a statement." Usually when people say things in a statement, it's via email or press release. So I'm going to go with that: the highly paid professional communicator used a comma splice, doing what most people do with "however" by not using a semicolon.
So the sentence should be:
?We have hundreds of full-time roles available; however, some prefer part-time for the flexibility or other personal reasons.?
or, to be a bit more choppy:
?We have hundreds of full-time roles available. However, some prefer part-time for the flexibility or other personal reasons.?
I will investigate via Twitter. I will ask the EJ if the statement was sent to her in that form, or if she wrote it down that way. If she responds (which I doubt, but hey, no harm in trying), I will post the result here. Author : Margaret Larkin
It\'s hard to move beyond 8 Sidor Hehe...if you're not studying Swedish, don't know about it, or are not aware of the available resources, you probably are wondering what this post is about, because only Swedish-related people know what the 8 Sidor site is. I thought it would be a minor part of my Swedish journey (which is barely progressing, making me worried that I will never grasp it), but I'm having a hard time moving on from it.
I say this because 8 Sidor is for people who need to read simpler Swedish for various reasons, need to read larger letters, or have to listen to it instead of read it. But the main point is that the articles are short and way more simply written than other newspapers. I started reading it because I was studying Swedish and needed more exposure to the language. My goal was to progress to more difficult reading; even just a tabloid such as Expressen is too difficult for me, though I sometimes attempt to read the Editor-in-Chief's blog. I'm interested in media, but it's weird and challenging to read about it not only in another language, but one that I'm horrible at. The most recent blog post I slogged through was about the new Editor-in-Chief of Kvällsposten, which I think is Expressen's southern Swedish relative.
But I'm really stuck on 8 Sidor. It's so simple and straightforward, it makes me feel safe. If I venture into other sources, I get really worried, and even if I look up words, I don't understand the more complex sentence structure. For instance, I was able to read an article about the Italian bridge collapse without stressing or sweating. The sentences are choppy:
Minst 35 människor dog i olyckan. Men det kan vara fler som har dött. [At least 35 people died in the accident. But more may have died.]
It's simple, with no dependent clauses or wordplay, which is fine with me. Who needs New York Times-type of prose, when we can feel good about our accomplishment. I've been to 8 Sidor so often, it's become a literary (or literacy) friend. Thanks 8 Sidor! Author : Margaret Larkin
Merely being born on the South Side doesn\'t make you a Southsider Greetings from the South Side...more specifically, Hyde Park, which is a neighborhood that people mention instead of saying the "South Side." What I mean by that is this: certain kinds of people will say they're from the South Side, then specifically mention Hyde Park when asked (as I said in my previous post, which this is a continuation of). But then there are other kinds of people (whom I won't define to avoid stereotypes, so you just have to experience it for yourself) who will skip the "South Side" part and just say that they're from Hyde Park. Example:
Me: Where do you live? Person: Hyde Park. [Me skipping over any follow-up questions because everyone knows Hyde Park and don't/doesn't think it's that "other" South Side]
Then there's another kind of person who was probably born and raised in the area, before it became more upscale and relatively yuppified compared to other areas of the South Side (there are nice areas, but fewer yuppie-type places than the North Side):
Me: Where do you live? Person: the South Side. Me: Are you from there originally? Person: Oh yeah, I grew up in Hyde Park and still live there. Me: It's become a lot nicer. Person: Which is a good thing.
That is the kind of conversation I just had with a true South Sider. Not only was he born on the South Side, but he still lives here and is happy about it. Which is my point: he wasn't just *born* on the South Side, but he stayed, which makes him a South Sider.
This is in contrast with other people who say they're from the South Side but moved out right after they were born, or moved early enough to avoid going to the schools; i.e., their family moved to the suburbs or other areas of the city with access to better schools, better infrastructure, better services, etc., or their parents got a job far away. I know that there are some good schools on the South Side, but for several people it seemed like a no-brainer to move to a more low-maintenance place, where they didn't have to hope their kids would get into a magnet school, charter school, or pay lots of money for a private school. Many people move to the burbs to get decent schools for their taxes and less perceived headaches than urban life.
And I'm not talking about people who got older, past school age, then moved out. Those people have their own lives to lead, and maybe they don't want to stay on the South Side or circumstances changed and they can't live there anymore. I'm talking about people whose lives were barely a blip on the South Side radar before their families yanked them out. It's not like they left the South Side as children or babies, then kept going back. These people left and didn't look back. They were gone. Yet they'll say they're from the South Side. Nope.
A mildly related example is from an interview with WFMT host Carl Grapentine (who is one of the few people on the planet who has lived the dream and has gotten paid for what he loves, has met lots of cool people, used his talents, etc; yes, I'm envious and wishful). At one point the interviewer calls him a "Chicago native." Grapentine is from Evergreen Park, which is not Chicago. But who cares--the interviewer meant the area, so that's okay. But even Grapentine seems to dispute the "native" label because he and his family moved to Michigan when he was six. Thus he barely lived here as a boy. And in the interview, it's obvious he is really into Michigan; he grew up there, went to college there, continued to work there even while he was working in Chicago, and is retiring there. He might have spent a good chunk of his life in Chicago, but he's not a native.
Even though it doesn't totally exemplify my theory, it demonstrates how the "native" label is thrown around. And back to the South Side "native" claim that people make: being born in a neighborhood does not equal citizenship. I have a student from Mexico, but he was born in the U.S. He is an American citizen, even though he grew up in Mexico. It's not the same as merely being born on the South Side; you are not a citizen of the South Side just because you were born in Gresham or wherever.
Interview with Grapentine below, who is one of the luckiest people on earth...I would trade any "native" label for such an awesome life he's had.
Author : Margaret Larkin
If you\'re from the burbs, you\'re not from the South Side Sometimes I talk to people about where they're from, and some will say "the South Side." So of course I assume they're from the South Side--literally. People don't refer to neighborhoods on the South Side like they do the North Side (a trend that evolved as real estate took off and more yuppies, hipsters, bros, trixies, etc. moved in and marketing certain areas became more important). So this is how a typical conversation will go with a so-called "South Sider":
Me: Are you from Chicago originally? SSS (supposed south sider): Yeah. Me: Where? SSS: The South Side. Me (thinking about streets in the 50s, 80s, even 110s): Oh, where? I've been teaching down there for a while. SSS: Oak Lawn/Evergreen Park/Burbank/Palos/Tinley/etc. Me: Oh, you mean the southern suburbs. SSS: Well, I guess so.
Um, no, there's no guessing...they really *are* suburbs; they have their own territory, schools, police, fire, parks, etc. The South Side is very different from the suburbs, even if the burbs border it. When you cross the city line, you can already feel the relative stability and the different system. There's usually not as much chaos nor as much lurking below. This is not to knock the South Side, and there are some suburbs that are quite gritty, but they're not urban gritty. There's more space in the suburbs and birds and stars at night. Those are hard to spot in the city.
I grew up in a burb (technically a city) just north of Chicago's northern border, and I *never* said I was from the "North Side." I said where I was actually from...no big deal. And since the South Side doesn't have the best reputation, I'm surprised that people claim they're from there. Is it because it shows that they're tough in some way, not soft dough that's kneaded in comfort and trees? Have they ever been to the South Side? Maybe they ventured to Beverly or Hyde Park or Bridgeport, some of the few South Side areas that have neighborhood names, as opposed to most of the South Side where people just give coordinates, such as "I stay at 67th and Kostner," which really is the southwest side (because there's the general South Side, which is then divided up into near, southeast, southwest, and other areas that people deny are the South Side but really are).
Actually, I should've done some more research to find out why people claim they're from the South Side but really aren't. One person explained that their burb had a similar zip code as Chicago, thus the intended misleading statement. But really, it sounds wannabe to me. Meanwhile, there are lots of northern, northwest suburban folks who would never say they're from the North Side. But they do say they're from "Chicago," which is hardly the case, unless that's a way to explain to people in other states or countries where they're generally from. But drill down and you'll discover they barely know the city anyway. Author : Margaret Larkin