Metrolingua

I want to use "can not" instead of "cannot"
I was proofreading something (because, according to my elevator speech that I should have, "I solve language problems"), and saw that the writer used "can not" instead of "cannot." I wanted to see what language pros say about it, because it seems to me that "can not" is acceptable, which Oxford and Grammar Girl (who's made a total success out of language nerdiness) say as well. 

Writer's Relief goes so far as to say "cannot" should be used, and I find a comment by Gideon Roos interesting: "It follows the grammar tendency set up with do not and should not etc."


Commenter James Gentry mentions a post by Languagehat (whose quote I kept in my blog's "masthead" even though he removed me from his blogroll) about it, in which he says, "The only context in which can not, two words, occurs is as an emphatic alternative: 'You can do it, or you can not do it'.? 


I seem to remember "back in the day" (whenever that was, and if it really should be considered that, which is worth another blog post) that the conventional construction was "can not." I think "cannot" slipped into acceptance to the point where it's a given. 


Even though I'm inclined to use "can not" and probably have, to Languagehat's and other people's dismay, the final word on the subject seems to be from the Associated Press, which issues language proclamations and rules all the time. When I did a search for "cannot" several articles came up. But when I did a search for "can not"...nada. 


So I'll go with the AP, since that's closest to my language world's order. And again, I'm proofing and editing and writing stuff all the time, so I should know better. And don't worry--I ended up correcting that "can not" to be "cannot," so all is well.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Enjoy this "tastiness"
As a lot of people already know, especially people who've lived in Japan, Japanese English can be odd. It's almost like they're using weird phrases as in inside joke, to see if people can tell that the words are dorky or don't make sense for the context. At this point, if Japanese companies want to have sensical English (or English that makes sense), they could easily find a lot of native speakers to help out with such a task. But maybe they're just having fun (like my use of the non-word "sensical"). Or maybe they're making an earnest effort to communicate an idea that would make sense in Japanese. Anyway, there are a lot of examples, and entire websites are devoted to such oddities, such as Engrish.com


So here's something I found in Mitsuwa, which has an excellent selection of Japanese drinks. They're not cheap, but they're good and entertaining. Like the tagline of ?????. I only bought it because it had a plum at the bottom *and* weird English, thus was worth the higher price. Basically, I've never seen anything like it in the US, and I like novelties.


The label says "Hanippu C" (transliteration of the name), and below the picture of the fruit it says "plum and apple." But then the weird English appears: 
Please enjoy this "tastiness."
So let's deconstruct this for a moment. It's not totally weird English because it makes sense, sort of. American companies wouldn't use the word "tastiness" to describe a drink, but rather "flavor," and they'd use animated adjectives to modify "flavor" to entice the consumer to purchase the delicious drink. Or they'd just simply say the drink is "tasty."

But this Japanese company, ??? (Plum), not only uses "tastiness," but puts quotation marks around it. Why? Are they implying that the suggestion is "tastiness" but the reality is different? Are they using the quotation marks to admit to falling short of flavor expectations? Is it a textual version of a wink and a nod?

Also what's not typical English is the request "Please enjoy..." as if they're trying to be polite yet firm. It would be harsher, of course, to simply say "Enjoy this tastiness," especially in apologetic, self-effacing Japanese culture. Realistically, products don't usually have any kind of request, but boldly proclaim how great they are and how they'll make you feel, which should convince you to buy them. But in this case, the sentence is literal but awkward, because of the combination of words, ending with the quotes. Overall, it comes off as stilted and sarcastic, which was most likely not the company's intention.

Below the English sentence it says "Please enjoy the blended flavor of plum and honey." On the bottom it says "contains honey" on the left and "refreshing drinking water" on the right, though I'm wondering why they say "water" when it tastes like juice. Next to that it says "less than 10% fruit juice." Okay, so it's not technically juice, but it hardly tastes like mere flavored water.

Thus the mysteries are numerous, but it doesn't deter me from purchasing other weirdly-worded products, whose "tastiness" I'm willing to explore. So I might have something else to post on such a topic in the future.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Nerdy site
The typical/average person would probably put me in the "nerdy/weird" category because I'm interested in ideas, language, thinking, reading, writing, observing, and basically doing things that aren't on a predictable track. But I was very surprised when a computer science student who's way smarter than I was at that age, or any age, asked me what a "differential equation" is. He said he had some downtime, and figured since I work on the same floor as extremely smart professors and grad students in an engineering department that I, too, understand science. I admitted my ignorance and he had no problem with that, but it made me curious just what it is.

What I found was an excellent site created by probably one of the smartest people in our generation, who hasn't merely jumped on the computer or data bandwagon, but was one of the early birds to that whole dominating phenomenon (or reality, since they're running the world at this point). 

The site is called My Physics Lab, and I assume anyone who studies that discipline knows it, because the computer student already knew about it when I told him that I found a decent explanation of differential equation there.

The creator of the site is Erik Neumann, who "was fortunate to get involved in the Macintosh software industry early on." He then describes an impressive resume of working in all kinds of computer stuff (my purposely non-technical word). Then, he "relearned calculus by doing all the problems in [his] old college text book and took further math classes at the University of Washington." He created the "website as a way to practice what [he] was learning," and he continues "to work on physics simulations, with several new ones in development." 

HUH? I'm still trying to figure out how to do basic things, like caulking a bathtub or avoiding bread. Meanwhile, Erik is creating *physics simulations* for the fun of it. Actually, you should check them out on the homepage...when you click on them they move/animate (for people like me, who just like sparkles and baubles). Or if you want the "explanations," you can look at the scientific/technical information. There's so much to describe, I took some screenshots because it's so incredible that this guy has done all this, in addition to his super-cerebral career/work, in addition to whatever else is going on in his life.

Billiards animation screenshot

Billiards explanation and other nerdy info
I'm so simple-minded that it didn't occur to me to try to create a gif to represent his creations, and I'm so tired from reading science that I don't even want to try at this point.

Anyway, way to go, Erik, and remember us commoners on the prairie out here.

Author : Margaret Larkin

I just learned about "meta"
I'm late to the party, but I just found out what "meta" means. I was at a writing group, and the other people kept saying "That's so meta," or described something as "meta." I had to ask them what they meant because I only knew "meta" as a prefix or adjective, or within the context of computer stuff, such as "metadata" or "meta tag," or "metaphysics," etc. 

They said, almost in chorus, that meta is "self-referential." I had to ask them again because it sounded so abstract, and was surprised that people would use such a concept in casual conversation. "It means 'self-referential'," they repeated with annoyance, as if it's no big deal that such a word exists, or they couldn't believe I didn't know the word.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept because people throw the word around without being precise or perhaps correct (like when a business "disrupts" an industry but not really, strictly speaking, which I'll discuss in a future post). 

In a "meta" discussion on Reddit, someone quoted an article with a prediction that's come true 30 years later, which I also found quoted in a decade-plus-old column in the New York Times
In an article in The New Republic of Sept. 5, 1988, titled "Meta Musings," David Justice, then editor for pronunciation and etymology at Merriam-Webster, was quoted as saying, "Meta is currently the fashionable prefix." The writer, Noam Cohen, added: "He predicts that, like retro -- whose use solely as a prefix is so, well, retro -- meta could become independent from other words, as in, 'Wow, this sentence is so meta.' If so, you heard it from me first."
I used to often watch old Hollywood movies on TV, and I noticed that a number of them took place in Hollywood. The most obvious is Singin' in the Rain. So now that I've learned what "meta" means, I know I have one word to describe them, a better shorthand than saying, "So many old Hollywood movies were stories about Hollywood and the movie business." Now I can just say those movies are "meta."

My prediction is that the word will no longer just mean "self-referential" but become something else that initially relates to the original meaning (or what purists now see as "evolved" because the word has already changed), or eventually mean something more diluted, such as what's become of "awesome," or something totally unrelated, like what's happened to "nice."
Author : Margaret Larkin

Madrelingua or lingua madre? (Italian translation)
As I referenced in my last post, I found a linguistic blog, or what the the Corriere della Sera newspaper calls "forum," about the Italian language. I discovered it while I was trying to find out what the difference between "madrelingua" and "lingua madre" was. Here's my attempt at translating the explanation:
Madrelingua or lingua madre?
Last February 21, International Mother Language Day was celebrated throughout the world. It was established by Unesco in 1999 to commemorate a revolt that occurred in 1952 in Bangladesh, where many Bangladeshi students were killed in the capital, Dhaka, while protesting for their right to speak their native language, Bengali. 
Many newspapers confused madrelingua and lingua madre, using them as if they were synonyms, though they have two completely different meanings. Madrelingua is "a language that is learned first (Devoto Oli), "a language learned or spoken from parents or ancestors" (Treccani), "language of the native country, learned from birth" (Garzanti); not to be confused with lingua madre "parent of a language family" (Devoto-Oli), "what others are derived from, considered related to them" (Treccani), "a language that developed from another language" (Garzanti). Now here's a question: what is the madrelingua of those journalists?
All the best [many ways to translate this word] 
Ivana Palomba

Author : Margaret Larkin

International Mother Language Day
On the way to trying to figure out if "mother tongue/language" in Italian was "madrelingua" or "lingua madre," I found a post at the Scioglilingua forum/blog (which hasn't been updated for a while probably because linguist Giorgio De Rienza passed away) that said "Lo scorso 21 febbraio stata celebrata in tutto il mondo la giornata internazionale della madrelingua." [Last February 21 international mother language day was celebrated throughout the world.]

I had no idea such a day existed. The United Nations is the source of the day, and Wikipedia offers a thorough explanation
The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka, Jagannath College and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bengali as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were brutally shot dead by police (then under Pakistan government) near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh. 
Luckily, the Corriere della Sera newspaper hasn't deleted the blog/forum (I see it as a blog, but they categorize it as "forum"), so I'm going to go back to attempt to translate the post that explains the difference between those two words.


Author : Margaret Larkin

Go to Milwaukee
When people think about Milwaukee, they probably don't think of it as a pleasant vacation destination. The last time I was there was to see Rush at Summerfest, and before that, I think I went there on a day trip when I was a kid. I had no idea what a great place it is, and it really feels like a nice getaway from Chicago, which is a lot more crowded, dirty, and full of hassles that Milwaukee doesn't seem to have.

The customer service also seems superior to Chicago. I don't know if that's because people are nicer up there, if they're better trained, or what, but wherever I went, people were friendly and pleasant. I'm not saying Chicago is full of rude people, but customer service didn't seem like an effort for the people I encountered in Milwaukee.

There are many reasons why Milwaukee seems like a fantastic city. First of all, the lakefront is clean and beautiful, and it seems like the city (or state) put a lot of money into developing it. Chicago's lakefront is also great, but Milwaukee's lakefront offers a natural experience within a manageable urban environment. It's like a scaled-down version of Chicago's Lake Michigan, but with more space and opportunities to walk around in freedom.


The downtown architecture was another surprising feature. I didn't know that they preserved their older architecture. Before going there, I thought the downtown area would have rundown buildings and seem like it was de-developing. But the city seems to want to maintain its history, and luckily, I was there for Historic Milwaukee's first walking tour of the season.

Mackie Building

Mitchell Building

The Plankinton was a hotel in the 1900s. 
Wells Building
Images of the Milwaukee Art Museum are all over because of the famous "wings," which can also be seen from the Third Ward area (which is near Summerfest). In addition to the eclectic art collections, there's a really nice cafe and various areas to look at the lake from inside.

And luckily, we saw them installing public art along the street that stretches west from the museum (because the lake is east, just like in Chicago). This is the first piece that they unveiled.

We didn't have time to go to the Third Ward, which has become a dynamic area converted from old warehouses; that's for the next trip (because I'll definitely be going back), in addition to brewery tours and other historical areas. But we did go to the Pabst Mansion, which was incredibly luxurious, and ate delicious food around the city. They really know how to do meat, cheese, and baked goods up there.

Basically, if you're assuming Milwaukee is a throw-away place that can be easily overlooked, reconsider that assumption, because it really has a lot to offer. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think others who haven't made that trip will be too.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Adjunct professor or adjunct instructor?
Or adjunct faculty? A lot of people are caught up in titles. One title that gets thrown around the business world is "adjunct professor." A while ago, I did some work for a very talented person who has great advice about things (I want to be vague to not risk offending anyone). They were really an expert in their field. At one point, I had to help write a bio, and part of it said "adjunct professor" at a major university. I questioned someone else to see if that was truly the title, and since they didn't want to offend the expert, they didn't ask. So we went with that, since that's what they labeled themselves (excuse my misuse of pronouns, but I don't want to define the person as male or female).

Fine, if they wanted to call themselves that, it's their business, and their life to live. I'm more into accuracy than sounding impressive (though I have told people that I've written news for a top CBS Radio station, and they were impressed, which made me feel briefly important). I didn't really think about the "adjunct" label until I was looking at another successful businessperson's LinkedIn profile, where they called themselves an "adjunct professor." I did a search online including the person's name, "adjunct professor" title, and school. And guess what? I couldn't find it. I couldn't even find a syllabus or class listing, even though they're considered as prominent in the digital "space" (I use that term because it's a buzzword and I want to be pretentious). And at the school's website, they call such people overall "adjunct faculty" and label some individuals "adjunct instructor." No "professor" in that list!

I did some brief additional research on the term, which took like 5 minutes, and that's only because I texted a real academic who's a true professor at a prestigious university and is busy (I'm not naming them either because they didn't know that I was asking them for this blog post), and they didn't respond within seconds. Otherwise, without the wait time, the pure "research" time took possibly 30 seconds. I asked the person, who kindly took a few minutes out of their day at an academic conference at another prestigious university, what they thought of the "adjunct professor" label. They said (texted) that it's a real title, and to my follow-up question about people using the title who aren't academics but just teach at a university, Real Professor (RP) said they "don't attach much to the difference."

I was surprised, but then again, the RP isn't snobby and doesn't seem to feel like they're superior to anyone, whether they're educated or not. Even though they've achieved the impossible by securing a tenure-track position (purposeful fragment). It's like becoming a successful actor!

I would've done more "research" on this topic because I work in a robust department at a major research university, where professors, adjuncts, and students have impressive degrees or are participating in serious, world-changing projects. But the semester is over, so I didn't see any professors to ask. Even a super-smart, accomplished, PhD-plus ?? is out of town participating in some important worldwide conference or something as an internationally recognized expert, so I couldn't ask them either. Also, I didn't want to email them (I'm using the weird pronoun again) with such an insignificant question. To me, it's important, but people like that have way bigger fish to fry.

So is it wrong or inaccurate to use "professor" after adjunct? People in academia don't throw that label around (in my opinion), as evidenced by this adjunct's sad essay about the harsh lifestyle. They call themselves (no name or gender was given, thus weird pronoun again) "instructor" and use the word "adjuncts." That's what people at schools or in academia tend to do. But businesspeople tend to want to dress it up to impress clients or whatever.

There's also an interesting discussion about such terms at Metafilter, where I never post but often lurk to not feel alone in my queries.
Author : Margaret Larkin

No hyphen in "up-" or "downregulate"
One of my jobs is reading lots of scientific papers, and I often have to look online to clarify spelling or accurate meanings of words (because I'm not a scientist), or to simply verify correct style.

A couple of words that often pop up (and their variants) are "upregulate" and "downregulate." Researchers often use a hyphen, and even Blogger is pointing out the errors, creating red squiggly lines below the words.

But according to Andrea Devlin, a professional science editor who was also schooled in science and seems super-serious and proficient in scientific writing, the hyphen should not be used: "Many scientists use up regulate or up-regulate; however, the correct form is upregulate. The same applies to downregulate, overexpress and underexpress, all of which should be written as a single word without a hyphen / dash or space."

I just saw those words today, with a hyphen, and I quickly corrected them. In the past, I'd have to look online to figure out the correct spelling. I think I'm pretty automatic at this point, but I still have to tackle other word-oriented issues.
Author : Margaret Larkin

It\'s still an introverted world
Dear world: you are still introverted, and I still have to learn to live in it.

A few years ago, I posted my feelings of struggle of being an extrovert in an introverted world, and since then, I still have a very hard time finding articles about extroverts who are suffering in such a reality. There are many articles, books, videos, etc. about introverts. What about people like me? It's still hard, and I've even come out of the closet as an extrovert, because I'd been pretending too long and felt like I'd explode.

Basically, I'm pretty much back where I started. When I started this blog, I was translating various languages, writing, and editing. Since I'm married to an introvert and met a lot of other people who are introverted (yes, they are out there, and I force them to admit it because I can spot the signs), I tried very hard to be the same way. I kept trying to convince myself that my isolating work situation could be tolerated, and I'd be able to survive. But I kept feeling crazy and frustrated. Yet I continued doing that kind of work for years and really thought there was something wrong with me because I felt blank and cut off.

Then I started teaching again (I'd quit for 5 years due to a horrendous experience), and I felt normal. I felt good. Not only did I have wonderful students (adult ESL), but my coworkers were friendly and loved to talk, too. It was like my gray, isolationist written word-oriented world got a major dose of color, and I was able to plug in to some active current that remains obscured in the introverted world.

But I continued to be in denial about my need to talk and express myself, and my enjoyment of interacting with outgoing people. The problem is that I love translating, writing, editing, and reading, but I am not the silent, anti-social type. I'm not energized by spending hours in front of a computer. I need to get up and find an interesting person to blab with before returning to the silent world of ideas. It's been a struggle, but I've accepted my limitations and am now telling people what I need. I even told a few people at a very introverted job I have (i.e., people around me are introverted and the work is silently solitary), and one of them took pity on me and occasionally has spirited conversations with me. Such charity is very important to people like me who must act a certain way to survive and thrive.

And research supports what I'm saying. Pretty much the only article I found online about the suffering of extroverts in an introverted world was The Cost of Faking Your Personality at Work, which quoted an academic who said "it seems like extroverts suffer when they pretend to be introverts at work, and more so than introverts who pretend to be extroverts. When naturally talkative and social people had to be quiet and solitary for long periods of time at their desks, they reported less job satisfaction and more stress than the extroverts whose jobs allowed them to act like themselves."

Thank you Sanna Balsari-Palsule, who discovered that, and thank you Melissa Dahl, who wrote the article! You are providing a service to us non-introverted nerds/geeks who do not fit with their introverted cohorts! There are other people like me who love to think, write, etc., but need a situation like late 19th-century Paris when artists would get together in cafes and hang out and laugh and talk and argue and drink and have a rowdy time!

Because of the introverted structure of society, such people are behind their computers (like me right now), posting to social media on their handhelds or whatever, avoiding human interaction, because technology has created walls that are only scalable via the digital divide!

I would like to mention a fellow extrovert who has admitted to the world that she, too, struggles with mandatory introverted work: I found Katie Lubarsky's blog post after an extensive search. She says "Basically, I prefer being around people. I like working in groups, interacting with others, and sharing thoughts and ideas. It energizes me, inspires me, and keeps me focused." She's a student (or was one when she wrote the post) who is "an extrovert who is trying to write a thesis. Which, by its very nature, is an activity that tends to isolate one from other humans. It?s a solitary pursuit- just me, myself, and my computer, day in and day out." She also says "I find my suppressed extroversion manifesting in all sorts of counterproductive ways" and admits "Even writing this blog, which I promise you is not exactly what I should be spending my time on right now, is an attempt to communicate with the outside world."

Bingo! That was why I started this blog. I love language and didn't have people to talk about it with and didn't have coworkers to chat with (a major drawback of doing solitary freelance work), so I reached out to the world to express myself and have at least a vague feeling that people were "listening" (based on the thousands of hits I used to get from all over the world). What I discovered was that I love blogging to the point that I ended up blogging for other people, including ghost-writing, and even started a secret blog (which I shut down and have relocated to another host to create yet another secret blog).

What sparked this most recent post about the subject (about which I'll probably post again) was that today I was "playing" tennis (quotes for actually just hitting a ball badly) with an extrovert (who had an extroverted career) and an introvert (who probably suffered in a semi-extroverted career). We extroverts kept talking and stopped hitting the ball, which annoyed the introvert. I honestly couldn't tell if the introvert was disgusted by the true personality I was revealing, or if he was just throwing some mild comments out there, but it made me feel self-conscious, causing me to reconsider my behavior. Perhaps that should be a case in which I suppress my true personality to survive yet another introverted situation. Thus this blog post. Because I love expressing myself, I had to write something, since the tennis excursion was the only extroverted opportunity I've literally had all day.

I'm not saying I'm going to quit my introverted work (more hours are spent silently writing and editing than teaching), but I will continue to find outlets to express myself to counteract the IPS (Introverted Power Structure). What will inevitably happen, as occurred today, will be that I will encounter people who are either introverts drained by people like me, or people high up on the hierarchy of personality who find it disgusting that I'm rising above my station to actually talk...because people who are low on the hierarchy don't have the right to talk unless spoken to (and even then, words have to be limited).

Hopefully, other extroverts will share their feelings online (unless they're too busy talking to live humans), so that the introverts who are constantly complaining will understand the power they have, and the rules they've set.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Temporary autonomous zone
I was at a very unconventional party recently (which happens every year), and I was talking to someone who's been going there for a while. She's now become part of the creation, providing visual effects to the increasingly elaborate production. We briefly talked above the dominating eclectic mix of DJ-d music, and I said that it's a place where people can relax and be goofy and have fun. She called it a "temporary autonomous zone."

I looked online to see if anyone else has used such an expression, and found it most prominently featured as a book. But I'm pretty sure she wasn't aware of that. What she meant was that the party and other such events are spaces where people can be themselves and express themselves as they want.

It's pretty plain that as we get older and have more responsibilities, or even want to stay well-employed, we don't encounter any autonomous zones outside of our own living spaces. Also, people's definitions of such a space differ. For instance, my idea of being free is just totally being myself, no matter where I am. Other people want a certain public place to participate in such freedom with others (such as Burning Man, where the concept has been expressed via Zone Trips that were created by the Cacophony Society). Maybe that's how she came up with the phrase, since she's been to Burning Man and its satellite events.

I suspect that the TAZ concept will become more mainstream because I've noticed that mainstream culture tends to take on concepts and phrases that originate on the periphery of society and in alternative subcultures. There are so many examples of such linguistic evolution that I'm sure someone wrote a book on it.

I did a quick search and already found a major media outlet use the term recently (though it's so overloaded it crashed my computer while I was writing this).

After rebooting my computer and trying to tame the source, I've decided to quote the section here because the LA Weekly site is still loading all its plug-ins and whatnot, and if I try to scroll through the article it slows down the whole loading experience (and eventually freezes), which you might encounter as well; in other words, I want you to avoid the annoying reading experience that I'm still having while writing this post. "What began as a combination art installation and chill-out area has grown into a sort of festival within the festival ? a temporary autonomous zone..."

Wow, what a frustrating way to confirm the use of the phrase. Thus sidenote: websites should quit overloading their content with lots of auxiliary/spy-type junk!
Author : Margaret Larkin

Lifelong or life-long?
I was proofreading something, and I had to figure out if "life-long" was incorrect, so I did a quick search online to see what others had to say.

I found a very good writing/editing blog by professional editor Rob Bignell connected to his business. He seems to be the real deal, though I've never met him nor anyone who's used his services.

Anyway, he offers a good explanation of the correct spelling and issues surrounding it: it should be one word, "lifelong," and he explains that "Confusion over the spelling arises because compound words, when used as an adjective, usually require a hyphen."

So if you're wondering, use "lifelong" and make anything with "long" at the end of it one word as well.
Author : Margaret Larkin

"Cost synergies" means "layoffs"
I saw this self-congratulatory article about the corporate merger between CBS and another company: Spinning Off Radio Is A Great Transaction For CBS, gleefully concluding that "the combined company is expected to generate meaningful cost synergies."

Suspecting it was corporate-speak for something more plain (or more sinister), I looked up what "cost synergy" means. Investopedia doesn't pull any punches: "The savings in operating costs usually come in the form of laying off employees. Often this term is used in press releases to add a politically correct spin to bad news."

So if you see such a phrase, it might mean you're losing your job, or your coworkers will.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Fun with Stephanie and crew
I had an excellent time hanging out and helping out a bit with Stephanie Graham's So This One Guy... video story project. Now I know why her project looks so professional: she films at DePaul University's lot at Cinespace, which also houses Hollywood-level shows.


When I arrived in the studio space, they had just recorded a segment and were taking a break.


Then I had my first-ever experience of being a stand-in while they adjusted the lighting and camera. That's super-pro cinematographer Pete Biagi, who's worked on major films and commercials.


At one point, Stephanie and the crew checked the setup in the monitor.


Here's Kaira sharing her story (I was the stand-in for that scene too).


I don't know why this area (pretty much North Lawndale) is considered the West Side, because if you look at a map, it seems south as well. Why isn't it called the Southwest Side, or at least Near Southwest Side? Well, from my perspective, it's west but also south, so I'm categorizing it accordingly, and saying, once again, that the South Side (and West Side) are under-appreciated. Just one of the many gems that people can discover if they choose to look beyond the grim headlines in those areas.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Mindy Kaling is at the top of the Hierarchy of Personality
A few years ago, I did a post about the Hierarchy of Personality, which described the structure that I observed in radio (though people said it exists in other industries). Basically, the idea is that a select few are allowed to express their true personalities and act how they want because they are at the top, while the rest of the scullery staff have to acquiesce and be quiet, lest they get in trouble for daring to try to rise above their station.

Now I've found someone who's a winner in the hierarchy: Mindy Kaling, who has her own show and was previously a writer and actress on The Office.

I decided to read her book Why Not Me? because her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?, was self-deprecating and funny. The second book is basically about how great her life is, how successful she is, how much money she has, how she's reaped the rewards of her hard work big-time (and oh, by the way, her mother died [brief mention] and she wants to be married). It doesn't have the same tone as her first book; instead, she sounds like she's celebrating herself while offering insights about the entertainment business along the way. But both books are well-written, so I can see why they're best-sellers.

What sort of struck me in her first book when she got The Office gig, and what really struck me here, was that she is at the top of the Hierarchy of Personality because she can express her intelligence, chattiness, and enthusiasm to people around her, in a variety of work and non-work contexts, and people like her for it. Usually in the Hierarchy, people can't be like her, unless the environment has given them permission. And if someone assumes they can break the rules, then they will be yelled at harshly (with swear words thrown in), ignored, or gossiped about while plans are made to send the person packing.

Her luck started early in her amazing career: when she was in LA having a kind of interview (or exploratory meeting; I don't know technically what you'd call it), she was sitting in an office of a powerful TV guy (the son of an even more powerful TV executive), who was in charge of The Office. He said, ?I gave her a lot of room to shine and open up.? So right away her high position was being established. And it continued, because she said that they often argued in the writers room, and the worst thing that happened was she that was told to leave. She wasn't fired, she wasn't belittled, and she wasn't criticized for her personality traits. She was able to return to the room and resume her work; no punishment beyond that.

She describes her attitude during those early Hollywood years, and she says "...if I had a writer on my staff now who behaved like I did, I would throw them out...Though I deserved it probably dozens of times, Paul [the showrunner] never actually fired me.? So once again, her position in the Hierarchy was safe because her behavior didn't get her in trouble, and her career continued to flourish (and her social life, since she often talks about her many friends who she gets to work with or rub shoulders with at industry events).

I have to wonder: how does she feel when her staff dare to show their exuberant personality, or express strong disagreement about her show? Does her staff feel like they're in the lower rungs of the Hierarchy, thus have to suppress who they are and want to be?

She describes herself as "very chatty" with "a very anxious, argumentative personality.? People who are lower on the Hierarchy probably would admit that to their confidantes, but wouldn't feel they could admit it in a public forum, or in an official blog (which is why we of the lower caste have secret ones). Plus, being argumentative is reserved for the privileged, because you'd be called a derogatory name if you dared to disagree, especially vociferously, if you were not one of the chosen.

Interacting with her is probably pleasant, because she says that she's "a pretty fun person to talk to. I find almost everyone fascinating and I love to ask questions.? But only her employees know the truth, and I doubt they'd speak about the true experience beyond their closest confidantes. I wonder what they think when she talks about what she wants (one perk of being in her position), because she says "The single best thing about working in a writers? room is that you can disrupt the entire process to discuss and investigate your latest crush.?

What if The Help were to disrupt a work session to talk about their latest crush? What if a loved one was dying, and they wanted to break out of their role to talk about more personal matters? I've seen that opportunity being enjoyed by the free, but the more tied-down have had to either keep it out of the workplace that has a hierarchical structure or only talk to those they trust (some places generate lots of allies, but the more toxic ones barely have a couple).

In case I ever cross paths with the blessed Hollywood powerhouse, I want to honestly say that I have nothing against Mindy Kaling; I'm just describing a situation that has confirmed what I theorized when I was working more in the radio biz. Some people have abused their position and have been heavy-handed in their domination, and I doubt she's one of those types of people. What she's achieved, beyond her amazing career, seems to be a rare accomplishment: the ability to be who she is and actually prosper and thrive with it. The unlucky ones are shut down and shut out, or are hindered in their attempt to progress towards their dream.




Author : Margaret Larkin

Crumbs
I was chatting with a British-born American (i.e., he came to the US for school, got married, and decided to stay), and he said he was running in the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Then he said "Crumbs." I had never heard that expression before, and I thought it might have been a typo until I looked it up. It's a legitimate British expression that, according to the Cambridge English dictionary (which is a prestigious source since it's the epitome of British education), means "an expression of surprise or worry."
Not these crumbs

According to The Express, which seems to be on a different trajectory than Cambridge (I've formed that conclusion based on the Wikipedia description), "[Crumbs] is one of many [expressions] which originates from using the first few letters of a swear word and substituting a more socially acceptable ending. So Christ becomes crumbs or Christopher Columbus."

I reiterate: I've never heard this expression before, even though I've watched lots of British shows on PBS, and certainly have never heard an American say it. Maybe I should start using it. But then again, people will think I'm spotting some bread or cake crumbs on the floor :p


Author : Margaret Larkin

Interview with author Dave Berner
Dave Berner (I should actually say "David W. Berner") has written several books, is a professor at Columbia College, a news anchor on WBBM Newsradio, and is currently the Writer in Residence at the Ernest Hemingway Foundation.

I met him at my good writing gig (he gets off the air when I arrive to work, but I?ve written intros to his recorded news stories during my shift) and read his book Night Radio because I like radio and wanted to see what kind of fiction writer he is. In spite of me telling him my honest opinion about the book, which wasn?t totally effusive (though Part 2 makes it especially worthwhile), he still agreed to be interviewed (I'm joking; he had no problem being interviewed, whether I was crazy about the book or not). He seems to be a very friendly guy, and I feel like I should really get my act together now that I?ve found out more about his productive, creative life.

How long did it take you to write Night Radio?

From concept to publication? Probably eight years. I wasn't sure about the idea or the approach, so I batted around a number of forms and narrative structures, writing then stopping, then starting again. But once I was sold on a rough story arc, I started writing with the full manuscript in mind. From that point on, it took about a year. I'm a regular writer, meaning I try to write everyday. So, the first draft was done in about 8 months. Then more edits and changes and fixes.

How do you establish a story arc, and what is considered an effective arc?

Frankly, I don't think about this too hard. Not in the traditional sense, at least. But what I do pay attention to in either nonfiction or fiction is to be sure something is happening to those in the story. Focus on what is motivating the characters, and if it is memoir or creative nonfiction, that "character" is me or the narrator. It can be subtle, and many times that is best. Or it can be dramatic. Still, there must be some sort of action?physical, emotional, and/or spiritual?some movement in the story.

What makes a good story?

What touches us. I'm not of the belief that there must be conflict or action or a crossroads. I think these are good in a story and many times they are essential, but to me it's about the heart. What moves us.

For this book, what was your method? Did you have an outline?

This was my first book of fiction. I wasn't sure at first how to approach it. Generally I do not work with an outline, at least not a formal one. I might have notes and bullet points about major turns or drama in a story, but I tend to just write and see where the story leads me. Joan Didion said that she writes to find out what she's thinking. I like that. Plus, I really believe the story is already there inside me somewhere?I just have to write to get it out.

Is there anything that's based on your real-life radio experience?

It is impossible to write any fiction without parts of your life seeping in. People who are fiction writers who tell you otherwise are fibbing. But let me make this clear: Night Radio is fiction. It is not a memoir. It is not a nonfiction narrative of life in radio. Still, there are characters, scenes, and narrative turns that definitely are linked to real events. Are they word for word, piece by piece? No. But there are elements of things that did occur. I'll let the reader figure out what they think is based on some truth.

What do you want people to gain from reading Night Radio?

I have found that nearly everything I write has the theme of redemption intertwined in it. Someone has to come to grips with something or find peace. Maybe not discover some ultimate "answer," but some level of acceptance. I think I want that from Night Radio's readers, too?to see that all of us are flawed. But it's how we develop after those discoveries. I think the protagonist in Night Radio is not very likeable at first, but then begins a journey that changes him forever. That can happen for all of us.

How has the response been so far?

I've been fortunate to have had good reviews both from readers and critics. It's, to some extent, an unconventional story narrative. But as one critic said, "it works." I hope so. I'll permit the reader to decide. It may be MY story when I'm writing it, but it is THEIR story when they are reading it.

WRITING METHOD

When do you write every day? What's your favorite time and place?

I'm a coffee shop writer. I don't like total silence or what I call the tree house approach, to hide away somewhere. I like energy and people and the clinking of coffee cups and even the whir of an espresso machine. Most of all I like conversation around me. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be writing in the middle of chaos, but I do want life around me. Time for writing? Anytime. But I do like mornings, when I have that opportunity. But I have written at every hour. If I had to pick a time I do not do well writing, or don't like, it would be after dinner. I prefer mornings? even early, early mornings, just as the sun is rising?or afternoons. Two to three hours. Rarely more. Take a break, come back to it, but never 4 to 5 hours straight. And always quit for the day knowing where you are going with the story. That way you?ll come back with a place to start.

How are you able to write books in addition to teaching at Columbia and doing radio news?

I really do think it has something to do with my broadcast background. We write fast in radio; we write on very hard deadlines. Plus, as I mentioned before, I work hard at trying to make writing a priority. I think of it as working out?got to go to the gym and get the work done. I carve out time here and there?an hour here, two there, fifteen minutes on a train. Writing for me is at the top of my list of things to do; I always make time.

What's the difference between writing fiction and nonfiction?

I had a friend in a writing workshop one time ask me what I wrote. At the time it was all creative nonfiction, memoir. "Creative nonfiction," I said. "Oh," he said, "you write the hard stuff." He was a fiction writer. He truly believed writing what was real was tougher than making it up. For me, that seemed ridiculous. I come from a journalist background, and to make it up seemed very odd. But now that I have written fiction, along with memoir, I see what he meant. All my fiction has come from someplace real, but I can change and tweak the story to fit a narrative. Creative nonfiction or memoir is real, or at least the essence of truth, and that sometimes can be raw. I really like the raw stuff, the good and real emotions below the surface, but I have to say, I also like "making it up" more than I thought I initially would. The difference is permitting yourself to be free of restraints. You can be utterly free in fiction and only marginally free in memoir.

Do you write by hand?

Laptop. But I do take notes in a journal that I refer to sometimes. It's a Moleskine.

Why do you like writing so much?

I have always been a creator. Wrote songs, some bad poetry, but when I started writing more regularly, it became my go-to outlet. It's life-affirming. It gives me peace and energy at the same time. I am compelled to do it.

What other books have you written?

I have four books and a fifth coming out in 2017. Accidental Lessons was my first, a story of my time teaching in a public school system at a very tumultuous time in my personal life. Any Road Will Take You There is also a memoir, probably my most intimate book. It was named the 2012 Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association for non-traditional nonfiction. I was quite humbled. And There's a Hamster in the Dashboard, which is a collection of essays about living with pets. I was pleased to have the Chicago Book Review name it one of the Best Books of 2015. Night Radio is my first novel. And October Song, due out in April of 2017, is about holding on to dreams when we age, a road trip story about music and the passage of time.

Do you wish you could go back and rewrite any of them?

I'm laughing thinking about your question regarding rewriting a book. Here's all I have to say about that: I believe it was Leonardo da Vinci who said or wrote, "Art is never finish, only abandoned."

What have you learned over the years in writing your books?

If you are writing memoir, don't hold back. Be willing to open your heart and be brutally honest because the reader will sense, will know, when you are not giving it all up. And in fiction, never answer the question fully when you are asked, "Did any of this really happen?" But above all, I've learned, at least for me, don't write to a genre or a particular market; write what matters to you. Please yourself first. Your readers will come. Writing is zen-like, spiritual, personal. When you turn art into a business or exclusively into an act of commerce, it loses something very special.

AND FINALLY...

What authors do you like?

Oh, there are a lot. Creative nonfiction writers?Joan Didion, Philip Lopate, Dinty W. Moore, Abigail Thomas, Annie Dillard. Fiction?Jack Kerouac, Hemingway, Tobias Wolff, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon. I'm missing a ton. Poets, although I don't claim to know poetry, but I know what I like?Billy Collins, Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Whitman.

In 2014 you were Writer-in-Residence at The Kerouac House in Orlando, and now you are Writer in Residence at the Hemingway Birthplace home through next summer. How did you get those?


In both cases, I had to apply for the positions. They are vetted through writing samples and history of publication, and your vision of what you want to do with your time there.
Author : Margaret Larkin

Bridgeport
Continuing my "series" about the positive aspects of the South Side...is Bridgeport, an established neighborhood that's becoming an extension of Chinatown and possibly a future hub of hipster activity. There are traces of it so far on 31st street, where there's a popular bar called Maria's (that I was told Northsiders flock to)...



...and the more ubiquitous Bridgeport Coffee House, which feels like how coffee places used to be, and is the source of local coffee that's distributed throughout the city.


What I love about living in the city are the details, and this coffee shop is not short on aesthetics; it has one of those old ceilings that is a work of art in itself, and is filled with light fixtures and other decor that express its uniqueness.


The sign blends with a carved exterior from a long-gone architectural past....


...that also appears next door.


And as is typical around the city, elaborate stonework pops up in different parts of Bridgeport, including Holden Elementary School.


In other words, Bridgeport is worth the trip!

Author : Margaret Larkin

What\'s good about the South Side
I've been teaching on the South Side (more specifically, southwest side) of Chicago for almost a decade, and I have met great people down there. Before that, my interaction with wonderful South Side people was in the southwest suburb of Burr Ridge, where I worked at an excellent company (and made the huge mistake of leaving, which I regretted for years [that's worth a separate post]).

What bothers me is the bad reputation the South Side gets because of the shootings and other dysfunction that's reported in the local media, national media, and probably international media as well. The South Side is not all bad--it's a huge place with beautiful areas, friendly, straightforward people, and the best Mexican food in the city. I was going to start a separate blog about the Good of the South Side, but decided against it because I don't want my hobby blogging to feel like a job (I do blog for work sometimes); I love blogging and want to keep the feeling of fun alive.

I was at the good writing gig and was talking to coworker Dan Frank, who's yet another super-friendly Southsider, about the positive aspects of the South Side that do not get reported or really noticed, unless you work or live down there. He took a picture of this nice, large house on Longwood Drive, south of 103rd Street. This is the South Side that you don't see on the news.


It's in a stable neighborhood with more birds and trees than the concrete and guns you often hear about.

There will be more positive news coming from the South Side...stay tuned.
Author : Margaret Larkin

I don\'t want to type on glass
Just when I thought I'd found a great phone (I gave up my iPhone for a Blackberry Classic), the company is killing the Classic. This is horrible news for me and the other people around the world who totally enjoy the solidity, accurate typing (with a real keyboard), and reliability of this great phone. Sure, we don't have access to thousands of apps (which I still don't care about), but it's been so helpful for communication. I have seven email accounts on my phone (and sometimes have to add Outlook as well)*, have been able to successfully go online, talk to a human via voice, use the phone all day without charging (it's been on for over 12 hours so far today), input Japanese (lots of languages available), etc. I've also taken lots of notes on the phone because the keyboard is real. I don't want to go back to typing on glass or avoiding communication because the typing experience was a chore (I used to avoid emailing until I got to a regular computer). I got the phone in February, which was obviously too late because I'm the owner of a phone that is on its way to extinction, and it's barely entered my life :(

I will use the Classic until it doesn't function well anymore (as I've been using this MacBook Pro2,2 for this blog post...it's 10 years old at this point). I have to eventually decide if I'll go back to the iPhone or use Android (on which I can use the wonderful Filmic Pro app that obviously could not be used on the Classic).

I was afraid that I would regret giving up my iPhone, but I don't. I have totally enjoyed the Classic, and will miss it when it's gone :(


*I have 12 or 13 email accounts (hard to keep track), but I keep seven on the phone because the others aren't necessary to have access to all the time. Yes, I'm proud of the fact that I have so many email accounts, and look forward to getting more :p
Author : Margaret Larkin

Why I got a Blackberry
It's too bad I'm not a rich, powerful, or famous person because my endorsement of Blackberry would probably affect a lot of people, and the company would be happy. I'm just an average joe, living life and trying to find ways to effectively communicate with others.

It took me a while to get a smartphone (which will probably not be called "smart" or maybe not even a "phone" in the future because such devices will be commonplace and won't need such a descriptor; but that's another post). The only reason why I moved from a simple cell to a smarter version is because I literally missed out on freelance work; people emailed me, and since I wasn't at a computer, I didn't read the emails for a while, thus missing opportunities.

I got a Blackberry Bold, and I was just glad to have something that combined my multiple email addresses (I currently have six on my phone, and have an additional three at a few workplaces). I wasn't happy with the slow Internet and was even more upset about the lack of multilingual capabilities. So I switched to an iPhone 4s, which had lots of great features.

This is not a slam against Apple because I've been using their computers since the early 80s, even when they fell out of favor. When people started noticing how great Apple computers were and bought various iProducts, I was proud of the fact that I'd been a loyal customer for so many years, not just a fair-weather friend. Of course, I liked the iPhone because it was a further example of the elegant technology that was characteristic of Apple.

But there were some things I missed about the Blackberry. The biggest feature was the keyboard. I could write long pieces of texts, and even typed out all my notes from a class on it. But I figured that ship had sailed, and we either had to choose an iPhone or Android.

One day, I'd had enough of the iPhone. It happened when they did an OS update, which made my phone almost inoperable. Until then, I'd managed to use it for videos (with an excellent Apogee MiC that I could plug in to it), photos, Google Voice (which has been discontinued for Blackberry), email, and other things. Even though the system seemed solid and the design was pleasant, it seemed that they didn't care about older phones; with every OS update, they made the phone less enjoyable, almost seeming to punish us for not upgrading to a 6. I didn't want a 6; my phone was enough for me, and the Apogee MiC's plug fit my phone, and I didn't want to get an adapter for the newer versions. I also liked the thickness and smaller size of the 4S; the 6 was bigger and thinner, which I didn't want (even though lots of people want such sizes, and it was Apple's response to the popularity of Samsung's bigger phones).

There was also the annoyance of the forced U2 album, which auto-played at random times, even when I was using the phone to make an actual phone call (I would hear some music starting, wondering if there was some kind of on-hold music somewhere, but it was a U2 song that I hadn't requested or downloaded or even knew existed). I eventually followed the directions to remove it from the iCloud (which continues to send messages that I have to log in, even though I didn't, and still don't, care about using it). That imposition was part of the larger iPhone issue: they're really into their identity to the point that I end up finding out about executives' personal lives and personalities, as if they're aspiring to dish out their own version of celebrity gossip; the company seems to be about its image and people, as well as the product. I don't care about the people; does the product work? It does? Good. I'll buy it.

I was way overdue for an upgrade, so out of curiosity, I checked to see if Blackberry was still around. I found the Blackberry Classic with very good reviews. They were so convincing, I went to a Verizon store to check it out. That was a mistake. I told the salesperson that I was interested in the Classic, and she did *not* want to accept my request. She tried to convince me to get an Android. I kept telling her I wanted the Classic, and she asked me why, not accepting my reasons. So I left the store and called Verizon for the upgrade. When I said that I wanted an upgrade, the person probably assumed it was in the iPhone family, because when I said "Blackberry Classic," there was a long pause. Silence. Disbelief. But he processed my request. (Dear Verizon: it's okay to want a Blackberry.)

The Classic is fantastic, but if you're into lots of apps, stick with Android or iPhone. People say there are plenty of apps, and you can find some in the Amazon App store. But in other places, when I see apps advertised, they give only iPhone or Android options. Also, some apps don't behave like they should, even though they can be loaded.

But I don't care about apps anyway, except for Filmic Pro, which was my go-to friend when I created iPhone videos. They don't have an app for the Blackberry (of course), so I have to use my husband's iPhone instead. And Google products are pretty useless on Blackberry as well (though I have a Chromebook and an Android OS on an SD card in my aging Nook, which is another topic for another post).


Bottom line: I don't regret returning to Blackberry! This is why:
1 - Excellent typing. I've resumed taking lots of notes and communicate with people a lot more because typing is so easy. Before I'd wait a while to respond (if it wasn't work-related) because I knew I'd have typos. And of course, I'd never write anything that was lengthy. Now it doesn't matter!
2 - It's now international! I easily loaded the Japanese alphabet on my phone, and can switch back and forth with no problem.
3 - Anything can be done on the touchscreen, but there are options, like the menu button. I can also select text by touching the screen, but I can also use the trackpad. Options!
4 - I like how the text looks when I'm reading an eBook (Amazon works very well on it), article, etc. I feel like it's solid and sleek.
5 - I can put files where I want! When I had an iPhone, I couldn't download files where I wanted; it forced files into "boxes" or apps that I didn't choose or create. But the Classic allows me to use it like a computer, with file folders and a directory that I can control. So if I download an mp3, it's a pure file; I can put it where I want. Same goes for a PDF, photo, or anything else. And mp3's just play when I hit them; I don't have to open iTunes or whatever to process them. I like the flexibility!
6 - They've improved the Internet speed and photo quality, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on better tech.

When people see my Blackberry, I get perplexed looks, with comments like, "They still make Blackberrys?" Or "The company is still around? I thought they went bankrupt." Or "God bless you for having a Blackberry." I'm a throwback, and apparently, I'm part of the one-percent, which seems to be the market share that Blackberry has. But I don't care. This is not a popularity contest, and I'm getting what I need out of my phone. Like I said earlier, I can't affect many people because I'm not rich, powerful, or famous, but at least I'm one person helping to stem the tide of the company's failure.
Author : Margaret Larkin

When "we" is really "I"
I recently went to an event at a professional organization to hear a specialist speak about a technical issue, and before I went, I looked at the speaker's website (I won't link to it here or mention the specifics because I'm not being complimentary and don't want the person to know I'm being critical). All over the website, it used the pronoun "we," as in "we provide," "we train," "we deliver," and even the title "Who we are" on the About page. So I assumed there were at least a few trainers/consultants working for the company. But when I asked the speaker how many employees he had, or if he used freelancers instead, he said, "I'm the only one who works there." I was surprised, but when I really thought about it, I realized he's not the only business person who puts "we" on his website. Earlier this year, I was looking at an acquaintance's website, and since "we" was all over it, I naturally asked how many people worked for the company. But I got the same answer: "I work by myself."

I think it is misleading and even untruthful to put "we" on a business website when there is really just one person working there. Are people seriously impressed (and do they believe it) when a business *appears* to be more than just a one-man show? It ends up being hype and can even affect the person's reputation because other people might find out that he/she is putting misinformation on the official site. It also seems like individual business people are trying to puff themselves up to attract attention. I know of an established company that hired someone who implied that they were larger than they actually were, and when they were given a large project, they couldn't handle it, because their "we" was really "I." So the large company had to find an alternative when the single person couldn't deliver on time (he was totally overwhelmed, though I don't know if he scrambled to find some freelance help). People don't always end up being exposed like that, but they're still taking a gamble when they claim to be something they're not.

Some people seemed talented and professional, but when their website ends up being hyperbole, it's not only insincere but not respectable. Plus, some people create a website with "we" all over it, and they haven't even bothered to create a proper business (ie, registering with the Secretary of State, paying the fees, creating an LLC or incorporating). It's better to be honest and say you're a freelancer rather than create a fancy website and pretending to be more than you actually are.

So I commend those people who are truthful in the representation of their business and services. One such person is language fan/pro Sarah Dillon. When she only had her translation/interpretation business, she was totally upfront on her website about working by herself (I've never met her, so I'm just summarizing her approach based on what I saw). Now she's become a consultant, but she still makes it clear that she's alone. There's nothing wrong with that, and she doesn't seem to be a wannabe. So I'm assuming the way she works is ethical, as well.

Author : Margaret Larkin

Language nerd?
I was doing a search for the meaning and usage of the word "twee" because I like the sound and connotation. I've heard British people say it, and I like how they apply the word to a variety of situations. I don't really consider it a common American word, so I was surprised that a professional journalist wrote an entire column/article (whatever it's called) in the Tribune pretty much focused on it. Even out of the gate, he seems obsessed with it:
Twee is pervasive, genteel and hard to bear, pixie-haired, wide-eyed and precocious. Twee is also out of hand, and more complicated than it seems. See, though being twee is often regarded as a negative quality, tweeness is not necessarily insufferable.

Obviously, he's into language in a general sense because he's a professional writer and seems to be doing well (and lucky to be working in the shrinking newspaper biz), but he *really* seems to be into language because he shapes his piece around the word "twee" to the point that I wonder if his intention was to write about the word or about pop culture (which seems to be his beat). It's almost nerdy, which is refreshing to see in the simplifying media world. (I'm a proponent of clear, simple writing, so it's not a knock against what 21st century mass writing has become, just an observation.)

But back to the American vs British usage of the word. Because I pretty much never hear people say it in the USA but have heard Brits use it, I assume it's not at the top of people's minds here. So it's surprising that he shapes the essay around the word, as if people have heard it often and are nodding their heads in agreement. Are people sick of the word, or concept? I don't know if they hear it enough to get sick of it, or even know what it really means and how it can be applied.

I'm not saying what he's doing is wrong, it's just atypical because his post seems like it's meant to be a review of some TV shows, but it's also a review of American culture, yet also expresses a fascination with the word itself. His enthusiasm is obvious, and his writing seems to be really good (which is why he's living the dream).
Author : Margaret Larkin

Japanese transliteration mistake
I was walking down the street and saw this sign, which has some clear mistakes.


They transliterated ??? as "sushiito." The double-i means it's a long sound, but ??? doesn't have that: ?=su ?=shi ?=to. If they were truly transliterating it, the Japanese would be ????: ?=su ?=shi ?=i ?=to. It seems like they're trying to be clever because they've created a sushi burrito, so they've combined the two words, but they failed in the execution.

Also, I'm concerned about the spelling of "kimchi." According to my favorite Japanese language site, Popjisyo (which now has other Asian languages), when I pasted the Korean word ?? in, it translated it as "kimchi." Even an official kimchi museum in Korea spells it that way. But the sign has that spelling, plus "kimchii." Why couldn't they at least settle on one? (Thought I suspect the double-i would be wrong anyway.)

I'm surprised that a restaurant in a major part of the city (downtown Chicago) made such mistakes. They could've gotten some native speakers or knowledgeable non-natives to proofread the sign. Way to go! How's your food?
Author : Margaret Larkin

I think I figured out what a friend is
For what seems like a long time, I've been wondering what defines a friend. A lot of people have several "friends" on Fakebook and other social media, and someone might say they're going out with a friend after work, or going on a friend's boat or to a party with "friends." But are those people really friends? Does it matter?

I think it's easier to make friends while we're in school because a lot of people are around us every day, which makes social connections easy. Once we leave school, our environment isn't saturated with people. Some workplaces have a lot of people, but they're silently working at computers or are guarded because they have to maintain a public face in order to survive the politics and maneuvering. One wrong word and they could be out of favor with coworkers, or even out of a job. So as we get older, socializing becomes more superficial because there's more at stake, and lines have been drawn.

People also get busy and live on their own track. If you happen to be on the same track, such as at a job, in a neighborhood, or at your kids' activities, then they'll let you in, and you seem to become friends (or remain friends if you met at another stage of life). But once the track changes, individuals continue moving in their own direction, and crossover is rare or non-existent. Especially in the USA, Americans travel on their own path, and busyness just creates walls between people, or they don't even bother to notice who's around them. Even if people had lots of friends as they were growing up and in university, conditions change because their friends might not be motivated to keep in touch or make an effort to meet up offline as they take on more responsibilities and are worn out from their personal and professional lives. One big life change is having kids--the parents have so much to do every day that friendships become auxiliary, and free time is pretty much non-existent until the kids get to a certain age (as long as they're not high maintenance or the parents aren't the helicopter types).

Sometimes we go through life assuming that people really don't give us much thought, until someone dies. A person who seemed to not have many friends could end up with over 100 at their funeral, where people say positive things and remember the person fondly, as if they really were friends. Maybe it takes death to realize who our friends are, but let's hope not--by that time, it's too late.

Here's what I've realized: friends stay with you no matter where you work or who you are. For example, I worked with someone who I got along with very well. When they got a job somewhere else, the communication via email, text, and even in person continued. That is a friend. Here's who is not a friend: someone I work with who ceases to communicate with me when I leave the job, even when I make an effort. Essentially, the relationship is contextual. Friendships aren't contextual; acquaintances are. Some people will consider their coworkers their friends because they eat lunch together, talk about problems, recognize each other's birthdays, etc. But unless that person is a friend, it all crumbles when someone moves on.

Time also determines friendship. It's very hard to remain friends with someone as life continues and changes occur. I have a couple of friends who I've known for several years, and we really don't have a lot in common at this point, but we keep in touch, go out occasionally, talk on the phone, and generally make an effort to stay connected. It's history that has bonded us, not every similarity.

Which brings me to the next point: friends accept you even if you have different views or lifestyles. A key to enjoying a friend is hanging out with them and talking about whatever you want to, and feeling comfortable enough to express yourself and disagree with the other person without any condemnation. It's also the opportunity to relax and be yourself. I don't care how free American culture claims to be; not many people create an atmosphere for others to be themselves, and people are self-conscious, so they reign in their personalities if they want to feel like they belong.

Friends don't control others. There is the obvious way of controlling, which is sadistic and usually refers to abusive romantic relationships. But what I'm talking about is more subtle and is revealed over time. Some people were raised in chaos or simply have a need for their world to be ordered. That includes people. So they want their friends to behave in a certain way and to say certain things. If the person crosses some kind of perceived line, they're punished or ignored. There's a lack of freedom in conversations or behavior, and there's a kind of standard set which stifles the non-dysfunctional person. Controlling people aren't friends and won't be until they lighten up.

As life throws us curveballs, our definition of friendship changes. They're no longer just the folks we go out with and have fun. They're the ones who encourage us, are available, can talk about anything, and know how to take it easy. They also can give constructive criticism and don't have a problem with receiving it, either. Basically, when we meet someone we click with, it begins a journey and develops from there.

There are a lot of people I like who are interesting and nice, and I wish we could be friends. They are acquaintances or simply people I have met who I might not see again. Because they don't care about becoming friends, or they just don't make the time, the "acquaintance" status doesn't change. And then there are other people who I used to know, who I wish I could still be friends with, but geographical distance or disinterest caused communication to cease.

I know some people who I don't see often, but they call me a "friend." So what they recognize is the connection or history, but we don't carve out a space to hang out. I guess that's okay, because it could be the thought that counts in the end.
Author : Margaret Larkin