Tag Archives: language

Week whatever of working from home: now with protests

Today’s Chomsky-esque translation exercise in Duolingo.

In other news, my neighborhood has been relatively quiet for the last week, given its proximity to staging for marches on Saturday and Monday. Lot of helicopters Monday. Woke at 3am this morning to a fire alarm: not my smoke detector but the piercing, building-wide wail that I’ve only heard during tests before. Unknown people set the recycling and trash on the curb on fire. Fire department was on scene before everyone was out of the building, and there’s no damage to the building, but it’s disturbing in retrospect. Went for a walk south this evening, after walking north and west the last couple of days. A bunch of small businesses have boarded up but have signs that they are open still. Not all have. I think most of the boarded businesses were damaged in 2015 and did it as a precaution this time around.

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Entertainment

Channel surfing this evening, I ran across two older movies:  Miss Congeniality and Star Trek (2009).  I had forgotten that a young Chris Hemsworth had his big movie debut (but not overall debut) in the ST reboot.  And I’m reminded that the Chris Pine version of Kirk is not an improvement or equal even to Shatner’s.  Ugh.   But Karl Urban’s Bones is terribly pretty.  Twenty years after the fact, I have mixed feelings about Miss Congeniality still, but still watch it when I run across it, like The Princess Bride and any/all of the Harry Potter movies.

I ordered a Portuguese-English dictionary and a conversational grammar book.  Duolingo is not cutting in.  At some point, I may sign up for lessons online.

Work remains a little less than ideal.  We have no idea when we may reopen.  Even if there is an official reopening, the lack of public transportation and lingering health/childcare issues will probably mean that a large chunk of time will still be spent teleworking.  (I do not want to drive into DC every day but also do not want to get onto a a bus or train.)  We are working at a pace >35% over last year but with fewer people.  It’s not sustainable.  Everyone is stressed out.  Our best (IMO) contractor gave notice: he’s moving to a different contract with better benefits.  I’m happy for him – he’s very thoughtful and methodical and diligent, and he is early in his career, so this is a good move for him.  But it kinda leaves us in the lurch – which was a known risk that everyone ignores – because he’s got a lot of expertise that no one else in the group has; I come closest but would be the first person to say that is NOT my area of expertise and I don’t have the bandwidth (or interest) to become an expert.

ETA:  While I was out for a walk on Sunday, I ran into the owner of a couple of small, local businesses.  He was prepping for the lunch carry out at one of them.  One has reopened and the other has not.  The reopened business does carry out only right now, and is focused on sandwiches, burgers, milkshakes, some alcohol.  He said that business is down but enough to scrape along.  The business that has not reopened for carry out offers cheese plates and some sandwiches, but relies more on the bar (seriously, their Pink Cadillac is my favorite).  So it is more dependent on foot traffic and people hanging out.  He mentioned that he might not reopen the other one, which is a reasonable business decisions.  But I’m totally bummed on a personal level since I kinda like that food better, but also because it means the bartenders will likely be out of work.  One was getting ready to limit her hours (school/professional reasons!) but a couple others depend on that job as primary income 😦

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March reading

March was kind of meh for reading in the early part of the month.

As mentioned, I was less than impressed by the portion of the Captive Prince trilogy that I read.

Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched came out early in the month as well.  I’ve given up on her Omega books set in the same world; as I mentioned when I read the last book, Anna’s dismissal of Charles’ desire to not have children Seriously Pissed Me Off and struck me as profoundly offensive in a way that would’ve had readers up in arms if their positions had been swapped.  Mercy…eh, I have mentioned before that her acquisition of a new power  or tool of power or conveniently powered/talented friend whenever one is needed seems lazy.  And it happens again here. Plus, Mercy’s internal monologing in which she knows better than Adam about how he feels about god/religion strikes me as profoundly patronizing in much the same way Anna “knowing best” about whether Charles should want to have kids did.    Yeah, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

I’m almost finished Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies (non-fiction), which I’m really enjoying.

And I’ve got the first installment of Ms. Marvel to read next.  And the web comic Check Please.

~~~

Random:  I was reading an NPR piece on “Boston Chinese” food and ran across one of my language pet peeves, the use of cache for cachet.  They are spelled differently; pronounced differently; and have completely different meanings.  How freaking difficult is it to use the right word.  Boston Chinese does not have “a certain cache”; it has a certain cachet.  FFS.

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The continuing book purge and other things

Well, my reading has continued to be Not Good lately.

Apparently I auto-wishlisted Josh Lanyon’s The Hell You Say at paperbackswap.com back when I still used the site regularly, so a copy arrived in my mailbox last week.  It was okay?  I mean, I read the ebook years ago when I was glomming Lanyon’s work.  My perspective has shifted a little bit and I’m not sure why exactly.  But my patience with Adrien as narrator has thinned, both in terms of Adrien as amateur sleuth and also with what I perceive as his passive approach to the people in his life (no, I’m not talking about Jake specifically but how he interacts with everyone).  Eh.  I’m kind of curious to see what would happen if I went back and re-read the entire series but I’m a little afraid of spoiling a series that I have recall with fondness in general.

In an effort to kill the slump, I’m extending The Great Book Purge of 2013 into 2014.  Sooner or later one of the books I skim for the keep-or-discard test will grab me.  Or that’s my hope/theory.

So I’ve pulled these books from the shelves:

  • The Courageous Heart by Jane Marnay — a Harlequin Romance from 1957
  • The Twilight of Imperial Russia by Richard Charques — from 1958, dated but of interest in light of a lot of things going on in what some people might consider the new imperial Russia
  • Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz
  • Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Dana Stabenow’s A Grave Denied

Books already put on the discard pile are NR’s Whiskey Beach, The Wife of Martin Guerre, and Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber.  I thinned my collection of the backlists of Susan Napier and Robyn Donald’s Harlequin Presents before moving but may circle back.

I’m also reading the oh-so-fascinating (not really) The Law of Financial Institutions for a night class.  The lecture is pretty good, if kind of bouncing around at this point.

Cara Black’s Murder in Montmartre has been put on my nightstand, to keep Scahill’s Dirty Wars company (some day I’ll be finished with it, dammit, but I’m reading about 20 pages/week right now so it’ll be awhile).  I liked an earlier installment in Black’s mystery series set in Paris in the 1990s. 

Unrelated:  does anyone have recommendations for language acquisition software?  I would like to learn enough French to be able to understand airport/train/metro announcements, and to be able to ask people for directions to the closest metro/cab stand/bar/etc or for the check or to be able to order simple things at a restaurant or bar. 

 

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SBD: word selection

I think I’m turning into one of those crotchety older people who let little things get under their skin. I can’t remember being so easily put off by cover blurbs and word selection in the past. Or maybe I was but let the memory blur?

After running errands an doing chores today, I went to B&N with a 20% off coupon in hand. Ended up buying an urban fantasy novel after discarding a dozen possibles in genre romance proper. Why did I discard them? They used words or cliches I hate.

Spitfire. Feisty. Both are used to excuse TSTL heroines. The heroes were strong, silent, rugged, blah blah blah. Back on the shelf immediately.

Then there was the “heavy dram”. *sigh* A dram measures volume, not weight, and the mismatch was jarring and awkward.

Also, before an author starts to write dialogue in dialect, they should probably listen to an actual person speak in that dialect before scattering the generic “ye” through conversations.

ETA:  And the tag line “what to read after Fifty Shades” is an absolute guarantee that I won’t be buying or reading a book.  If I wanted to read fan fiction, I can find better stuff online that ripoffs of bad teen fiction with worse-written BDSM.

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A disjointed ramble about professionalism

What makes a professional?

In the sports world, an amateur is an athlete who does not get paid for his or her efforts.  Turning pro and getting paid forecloses certain other competitions for that athlete.  For example, Mallory Burdette, a tennis player at Stanford, made it to the third round of the US Open this year, but in order to retain her amateur status and the ability to return to school and play on her college team, she gave up the $65,000 check she would otherwise have earned.

In many areas, what makes a profession is strictly defined and policed by a governing body.  Lawyers don’t just decide one day that they’ll hang out a shingle; state bar associations (or other bodies – the name varies) determine who may practice law within their jurisdiction, what their minimum qualifications must be and what type of continuing professional development is required to maintain status and proclaim oneself a licensed lawyer.

The AMA and state medical boards do the same thing, more or less, for doctors and physicians generally and for those who declare themselves specialists.  Many other careers include similar licensure and professional development standards:  accountants, social workers, nurses, architects, etc.  In academia, the publish or perish atmosphere combined with tenure track competition gives impetus to continued professional development.

What makes a writer or author a professional?  There’s no apparent governing body for those desiring to make their livings selling fiction or writing the next Great American Novel.   No one to measure professional development or create a benchmark by which want-to-be authors may measure their progress.  Well, there’s the Authors’ Guild, but I’m not sure exactly what it does.  The ABA is interested in selling books, not the people who write them.  Same for publishers.  RWA is a niche organization that makes little distinction between published and unpublished writers, and is entirely voluntary.

An understanding of grammar, the mechanics of language, the proper use of punctuation and correct spelling – these are basic building blocks of a writer’s craft.  Yes, any and all of them may be discarded, but only by masters of the craft.  It doesn’t seem as if any of the writers’ organizations or other professional associations related to publishing pay significant attention to the foundation of the craft (the industry?).  Instead they are much more focused on the other end of the publishing process – the place where money is exchanged.  On one hand, that’s understandable:  money is where the squabbles arise, and there’s never enough of it to suit anyone.  On the other hand, the foundation or source of the money (work that readers are willing to pay for) is being ignored.

Does the mere fact of being paid for a book make an author a professional?  Can a writer who has not sold, either to a traditional publisher or via self-publishing still be considered a professional?

As a reader and in the absence of any single organized governing body that manages the “profession”, I fall back on money as being the line dividing amateurs and professionals when it comes to writing.  If an author is asking me to pay for his or her writing, the subtext of that contract of sale is that the work has been professionally produced.  It strikes me as being deceptive for a publisher (self or traditional) to fail to include one of the standard steps of creating a polished product, editing, because it is too hard or too expensive or takes too much time.

Let me back up.  Long ago and far away, I sold words.  By that I mean that I wrote various documents for clients.  And before I sent drafts of those documents out, I let them sit overnight whenever possible and then read them with fresh eyes.  And then two other people in my office read them.  And then the documents were sent to the client.  The client didn’t pay per word or per page and my work seldom ended up any sort of book or binder, but the clients were paying for me to be accurate and to communicate clearly.  Failure to do so could have significant consequences for the client, or it could be embarrassing and irritating for me, damaging the client relationship.  Either way, in exchange for the agreed upon fee, the client expected that the documents I drafted for him/her would be 1) correct and 2) my best efforts and 3) appropriate for the situation.  Not sloppy or without craft and care.

When a writer publishes a book, whether it is through a NY publisher or through Amazon’s self-publishing unit, the publication, letting that book loose on the public, sends a message that this book is complete in and of itself.  It is the best product the publisher could provide.  It is the final version, polished to the author’s best efforts, and is worth the money being paid by the reader.  (Final isn’t necessarily perfect, but it’s not a first draft either.)

I understand the pressure on writers of popular fiction is immense – write more, write faster, have a web presence, do your own marketing, on and on and on.

At the same time, readers have ever more choices for entertainment.  Ultimately, reading fiction is entertainment.  And if the books readers buy don’t live up to their standards, they’ll eventually stop buying those books, and instead spend their entertainment budget on other things:  music, movies, games, what have you.

I’ve lost the plot here:  I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say I don’t understand why authors & publishers think fiction should be exempt from readers’ expectations of professional quality work in exchange for their money.

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Subject vs. object pronouns

Okay, look, the proper usage of “Name and I” versus “me and Name” or “myself and Name” is not that difficult.  Every time I see an author, aspiring, self-published, or otherwise published, use “Name and I” inappropriately, I cross that writer off my list of potential authors-to-try.  Because if they can’t figure that out, what other grammar butchery will I encounter in their writing?

Yes, it sounds more formal and “correct” than “me and Name” but that’s not the point and sounding correct isn’t the same as being the correct usage.  That’s called hyper-correction, I believe.  They are different parts of speech, and the usage is not a function of being or sounding more formal.

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