Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

The benefits of a shaved head

June 28, 2010

Did you know that Richmond, Virginia has a large gay community? I didn’t even know it was legal to be gay in Virginia. It is, apparently, and the corner of 3rd and Broad, where my blond neighbor Justin and I found ourselves at 2am Saturday, is apparently the epicenter of that (very) (black) gay club scene.

I’d like to think that the $1000 or so I’ve saved on haircuts over the past nine years helped me “pass,” and maybe even helped save Justin’s butt. (Pun intended.)

The pizza there was good too. It’s the same the world around. What matters is how hungry you are, and how improvised your circumstances. I.e. pizza tastes better when you have no access to plates, napkins, or the other accoutrements of quotidian society.

Yaay for new cultural experiences.



May 27, 2010

This past Sunday, after a rushed but wonderful tour of the Maker Faire, I enjoyed an afternoon picnic in Golden Gate Park with a college buddy and his family, and some friends.  And their small children.  That last bit is important, because the sign nailed to the tree shading us read “No Adults Without Accompanying Children.”  Or, to put it more bluntly:  “The City of San Francisco Assumes All Single Men Are Pedophiles.”

That is a pretty sad reflection on the state of our society.

more American every day

January 24, 2010

Yesterday I learned that in the US, pineapples are not “tinned” – they are “canned.”  I feel more assimilated every day.

Unfortunately, canned pineapples have lost most of what’s healthy about them:  the compound bromelain.  On the bright side, frozen pineapples, such as those I use to sweeten my green smoothies, do retain their full complement of bromelain.

Come over, and I’ll make a green smoothie for you.  Pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, kiwi, mangos, chia, home-made-yogurt, a date, maybe,  and a whole lot of greens … mmm good (for you)!

January 11, 2010

I’m reading a book called What I Wish I Knew [sic] When I Was 20. Worse yet, I’m enjoying it – getting some good insights.

What is the point of grammar anyway?  Looking at my last post, and then this one, I realize I’m coming across as quite a fuddy duddy, like the nun who rapped you over the knuckles when you broke some rule of conduct.

Are there no standards any more?!  There, just broke one of my own standards – to avoid the verb “to be” in reference to a non-existent standard.  I suppose I should feel better.  Feel closer to the hoi polloi.

Programming, or mathematics, needs to be precise down to the last semi-colon or equal sign.  Well, unless you work for Microsoft.  I realize that natural language, and more generally, human interactions, are less precise.  And allow for more subtlety of expression.  But … is there no longer “right” and “wrong”?!  (My last writing instructor disliked my use of ellipses – said they were a lazy substitution for a thought that would better be expressed in words on the page.  Gotta be better about that.)

What’s in a name?

December 16, 2009

My chiropractor is a genius, or a miracle-worker.  His methods of diagnosis defy scientific explanation:  “lift [my] arm against pressure.  Now look up and left, and lift it again.”  Different result!  And that’s just a mild example – far from the most outrageous.

The guy can relieve severe back pain in a single visit – he’s done it for me, and for others I know.  It’s not just mumbo-jumbo – he understands something – more than the highly overpaid MDs I try to avoid seeing.

But you know why I have a hard time with the field of medicine we’re discussing?  Well, Dr. Moreno is a “chiropractor.”  So, does he practice “chiropraction”?  “Chiropathy”?  No!  They called it “chiropractic”!  ChiropractIC?!   That’s not a noun, that’s an adjective.  A discipline of medicine should be a noun!  Look it up, people!

I cringe every time I see that horrible word.  It’s worse than Jinky, or <censored>.  What a terrible shame.

Please, the next time you have a world-changing invention, give some thought to the branding.  Better yet, call me.

writing for myself

November 19, 2009

No more writing class.  The job search is heating up, and I have way too many interesting tasks on my to do list.  After a great first few sessions, the energy level in class dropped off – even the instructor seemed to lose interest in us. Fine, I’ll let him return to his poetry.

I prefer blogging, frankly – prefer an exploration of ideas that doesn’t need to devolve to the relentless self-flagellation of “memoir.”  And some day I’d like to write for The Onion, or Shouts and Murmurs, but I don’t believe that’s a style of writing Stanford would deign to teach.

In other good news, I’ve finally got around to starting my behavioral economics blog, and will link to it as soon as I have a respectable number of posts, as well as Google Analytics up and running.

Most of all, I think I like to write for myself.  To answer another criticism, yeah, I guess I am happy with “pretty.”


November 4, 2009

Thanks to some diligent sleuthing by a fan, my chief detractor has been thoroughly and conclusively debunked, and my faith in my writing is renewed.  Thanks, fan!

Now to do something with this blog, which not only means committing to write more regularly – when have we heard that before? – but may also mean splitting it up into two or more blogs.  Apparently, to attract readership beyond one’s immediate friends, one needs to write on a theme.  When I have my MBA hat on, the advice to focus is exactly what I most often give business owners, yet it is so difficult to apply to myself.  Like the others, I think I can do it all.

A blog, perhaps, devoted to running?  The marathon is coming up.  My feet are pink and tender after running 14 miles today, though a 21-miler on the same course last week caused no such problems.  Interesting.

One on behavioral economics and marketing, which will require some application of my left brain, and should be “employer-friendly.”

And the remainder, for my friends, and the free exploration of ideas.

constructive criticism

October 27, 2009

Just finished typing up feedback for three classmates who were brave enough to submit their writing for review.  Writing criticism has me walking on eggshells, because my repeated experience is that much as people may ask for feedback, they don’t want to hear it.  So anything that smacks of “criticism” has to be very gently offered, if it is offered at all.

More importantly, even in the minority of cases that the artist is open to receiving and learning from feedback, the relationship between the feedback giver and the recipient is invariably strained.  (And yeah, I do try to bookend my suggestions with genuine praise.)  So I can help someone, but no longer be their friend.  Not a good deal.

So, whence comes change, if not from the advice of others?  Maybe, as the hot dog vendor said, it must come from within.

If there’s a better solution, I’d like to hear it.

a work in progress

October 23, 2009

I’m taking a “Creative Non-fiction” writing class at Stanford.  The topic wasn’t my first choice – Johnson O’Connor had suggested I try fiction – but Thursday evening fits my schedule best.  The class has turned out to be great; I’m learning how to read, really read, and I’m learning for the first time how to take a structured approach to writing.  It’s exciting, invigorating, stuff.  Or at least, it was.


I met my 31-year old instructor for office hours at a cafe in the Mission.  Mission Pie has a bright, airy feel in upbeat contrast to the surrounding grunge.  But the sun outside didn’t particularly enliven our conversation.  My instructor, a former Stegner Fellow – that’s very prestigious, everyone assures me – hates what I’ve written so far.  He struggled to articulate all the ways in which my last piece was so very bad.  Finally he came up with this, apparently the ultimate putdown:  “your writing belongs in a blog.”

Writing … again

October 10, 2009

Writing class is wonderful.  And intimidating.  So much to think about, so many frameworks, so many perspectives to consider.

My experience thus far reminds me of the guy who walks in to a chess club with the challenge “I’ve never lost a game.  Show me to your best player!”  And then proceeds to have his prat handed to him.

Speaking of prat, with one burst of energy, my definitions have caught up to my unknown words, and I’ve uploaded the first set of 100 flashcards to FlashcardExchange, and thence to Mental Case on my iPhone.

So, the next time we meet for coffee, keep me waiting, why don’t you?  I’ll be studying, and getting smarter, and smarter …