It’s doesn’t take a genius to figure out that computers are inherently stupid. Computers are programmed by people, and they lack the basic thought process to go beyond their programming. So I don’t blame my computer when it runs Word, and Word underlines things that it “thinks” are grammatically incorrect. I blame the moron who wrote the program. I can understand, even empathize with my laptop, when I use quirky sentence structures that it doesn’t know how to parse. I can take its passive-to-active-voice suggestions with a grain of salt. However, when it persists to give me the green line for something as basic as reflexive verb use, then it’s time to give the Bronx cheer to the programmer. It is grammatically correct to say “X made herself some coffee”. Stop telling me to say “X made her some coffee”. That is also grammatically correct, but IT DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME THING!
I just read a scathing review of the latest Woody Allen movie and came across the most charming little Yiddish-derived word: nebbish. My dictionary program defines the word as a person, esp. a man, who is regarded as pitifully ineffectual, timid, or submissive. Now I must find a way to work this word into my writing.
Last night, Niko and I had the pleasure of listening to David Sedaris read some of his stories/essay- not sure which terms best applies to his work since the collections that I have read seem to draw on elements of both. Either way, I am a big fan of his style, his ability to find the fun in the most mundane.
So back to our lovely Monday evening excursion… Mr. Sedaris did his reading at this little music club Moods. (A great little place where I got to see both my cousin Adam Cruz play and his wife Marta Topfernova play) The doors opened at 7, while the reading started at 8. Niko and I got there around 7:15 and I was surprised to see how crowded it was. Fortunately, our friends Anna and Steve had arrived there before us and thought to save a bunch of seats. (Bravo Anna and Steve!) Dave appeared in the club around 7:30, and people started to line up to get their books signed. I waited in line with Anna to get her copy of “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”. I was impressed with the man. He chatted with each person and maintained a down-to-earth charm. I didn’t have the heart to tell the man that I always acquired his books from the library instead of amazon.com. Of course, as a “NY Times best-selling” author, I don’t think he needs my money.
He read three pieces on stage: a piece from the WYAREIF collection, an essay from the New Yorker, and an “unpublished” piece that did not make it onto This American Life. The crowd rocked with roaring laughter, the infectious kind that warmed you up like a mug of hot chocolate complete with floating marshmallows. He was incredibly funny in person, pointing out how some comic effects cannot be achieved on paper alone.
When I grow up, I want to be a humorist. Shucks, Mr. Sedaris, you inspire me.
Many people, when bored in class, have a tendency to daydream or zone out. Back when I was in high school, I got bored just like any other self-involved, short-sighted teenager, but I used to have meta-moments where I was just fascinated by the some of the most basic aspects of language, like how an English-speaker could map out the word “I” to the meaning first person singular subject without a conscious thought. (Yes, I was that nerdy.) Language fascinated me. Its flow, its structure, its infinite potential with a finite set of sounds, its constant flux. In high school, I never contemplated what it meant to be “metrosexual”(the term did not come of age until 2003) and I never sent any “SMS’s” since neither I nor any of my friends had cell phones.
New words are awesome, but what happens to those older ones that are no longer commonly used? The Collins English Dictionary (CED) plans to discard these words in order to make room for new ones. I have to admit that after perusing through the list, I never once had an encounter with any of the words. Still, that doesn’t mean they need to die in linguistic obscurity. I’m sure that with the rise in obesity that a word like fubsy (meaning “squat” or “short and stout”) could still have some mileage in it.
Here’s my poetic attempt to resurrect fubsy:
(sung to the tune of a familiar children’s song)
I’m a little teapot, nice and fubsy; I have boiling hot tea for your mug-sy.
With a little bit of sugar and milk, my yummy tea will be as smooth as silk.
Niko forwarded me a fun little post on Language Log about a visit to the Eagle and Child Pub. I walked by this pub, also known as the Bird and the Baby, many times when I was in Oxford. I even walked into the pub a few times hoping to acquire some of that Inkling spirit by osmosis. However, even with my laptop and the best of intentions, I could not get past the smell of spilled beer and other foul odors. Maybe syntax is better mixed with caffeine than alcohol.
… and they were absolutely right! I’ve reached the halfway point in my Oxford program, and only now have I found a free moment to jot down a few words. The whole Oxford college experience has been a real trip: meals in the Hall, the Fellow’s Garden, the gargoyles that adorn the buildings. In a word, Fabulous. Of course, the lack of rain helps. All this, and I have been writing too.
It’s not quite 5 o’clock, and we just cracked open the bottle of Ouzo. I must confess that it was all my idea. Spring has arrived in full force, complete with knock-out sucker-punch sunshine, and ouzo just goes down so smoothly on warm days. (My props to Mr. Mad Cow, who thought to bring back a bottle of the good stuff from the duty-free store at the Athens airport.)
What happens when you mix ouzo with writing? A couple days ago, I read a whiny article on Slate about vegetarianism, and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. So let’s see how easily the words flow after some anise. (If you are curious, here is the article.)
From the very beginning, I found the article to be very disappointed. The first paragraph should have been enough to warn me how bad the article would be. I have never had that experience that every vegetarian supposedly has: the looks of horror from other people when said vegetarian admits to the fact that he/she does not eat meat. (Or at least, I have never had it when speaking English. Now being a vegetarian in FRANCE could have made a far more interesting article… I wonder if Slate would take me up on that.) To the contrary, I find that in general, people in the US are pretty open to the idea that a person actively chooses to not eat flesh. Neither family nor friends have had problems with my dietary choices, nor do I have a problem with their choice to eat meat. (Okay, my brother does tease me about not eating meat, but this is the same guy who tries to hand me his belly button lint.)
In addition to his logically-flawed assumptions, the author also did not mention the reason why I chose to be a vegetarian: TASTE. True, there are lots of other side benefits to eating a plant-based diet, like better health for both your body and the environment, but I can honestly say that neither of those factors drove my decision to give up meat. Quite simply, I do not like the taste of meat (beef, pork, chicken, venison, etc.) and I never have. (Just ask my mother about the many fights that we had over food at the dinner table. I was never a child who refused to eat her vegetables.)
I do agree with the author on some points:
-yes, PETA can be detrimentally obnoxious
-yes, there is more to veggie cuisine than meat substitutes (That said, I would gladly order the veggie burger any day if that meant I could find something to eat in many restaurants in France.)
-yes, I do not like it when people, in earnest, try to tell me that it is bad for my health to not eat meat. (For the record, I do consume eggs and dairy products, as well as beans with rices, and thus, take care about my protein intake. For that matter, I am fairly confident that my everyday diet is more healthy than what most people consume.)
Yet, despite these common points, dude… this author needs to get over himself and pour himself an ouzo.
Like many afternoons (or mornings, depending on our schedule), Mr. Mad Cow and I went to our favorite cafe, Kafischnaps, to work today. Kafischnaps, or KS as we often refer to it, opened up in our neighborhood about a year and a half ago. Since then, we have become regular patrons, to the point where some of the wait staff actually know us. While they may not know our names, they know our orders. Our favorite waitress starts brewing my cafe creme before I even place my order. She’s really awesome. In the past, she has given me two coffees and an Apfelschorle (sparkling apple juice) on the house. She’s also given Mr. MC a free gipfeli, the Swiss word of a croissant. Thus, I try to tip her, which is not a common practice in Zurich.
Below is a picture of the KS’s interior. Our favorite place to sit is in the corner at the table next to the pipes. Though in the summer, KS has a popular outside section which is also nice, but the sun glare is not always laptop friendly.