Tuesday, August 31

Strengthen Your Vocabulary: WotD

I don't know how anyone measured it, but someone promoted the claim that William S. Burroughs had the largest working vocabulary of... well, I don't even know what the standard was. Of everyone? What a proud claim, and only the most undereducated of his most fanatic followers would suggest such a thing. Certainly, we could say he was among the most literate of his peers or of his contemporaries.

I don't bring this up to denigrate him, far from it: I think he's an icon of aspiration in this sense. It's a fun game to collect as many obscure words as possible, but it's also essential to remain abreast of far-flung vocabulary just to keep one's mind in prime shape. And who's to say which obscure word won't be on everyone's tongue tomorrow morning, or what once-handy term will next find itself camping out in the outskirts of popular culture?

Tuesday, August 24

When Things Will Pick Up

Namsan Tower, Seoul, South Korea
I hope my readers will pardon this increasing lull in activity here. Just tonight I don't feel hard-edged enough to plunge into picking off easy targets, i.e., grammar samples from my photo collection. Yes, I've been saving them up for just such a thing, but right now I'm not in the mood.

Please to enjoy this image of Seoul, South Korea. Why this picture? Soon, I'll be living there.

My wife and I both have entertained a dream of living abroad. I got to do that to some degree when I was stationed at Camp Carroll, Korea, in the Army. We had an agreement between ourselves: either we have children or we travel, because one makes the other very difficult. And given that there are already too many people on the planet, and considering the resources a child will use and squander between ages 0 and 18, and considering how grateful teenagers are for the parents' labors, and while our infrastructure will still support intercontinental travel and jet fuel is not prohibitively expensive, we decided to travel.

The easiest way to live overseas, we figured, would be to find jobs teaching English. For the past two months I've been instructing Hispanic and Somali students from basic to high-intermediate levels on everything from common nouns to modals and past continuous tense. My wife already has degrees in education but is also teaching students from many nations. In sixty days we take the next step: a 3.5-week intensive course in Bali, Indonesia, teaching English for our TESOL certification through Trinity College London.

That done, we will look for jobs in South Korea. We could easily teach anywhere for there's no question of demand, but I would actually like to find a work doing copy editing/proofing for a marketing or PR company anywhere in the nation. Doesn't have to be in Seoul: in fact, it might be better if not, just looking at it from a cost-of-living consideration. The best of all situations would see me at a video game company, maybe even one of those whose MMOs I play, helping to clean up the final edits on all outgoing literature and software. I'd even give English lessons over lunch break.

Once I'm overseas, I anticipate I'll have a brand-new realm of postal and maybe linguistic information to share. I'll try to post a couple things in the meanwhile, of course. I just feel bad about having attracted a few followers, buying a domain name, and then not doing anything with the blog. That will change, I assure you.

Thursday, August 19

The NYT Doesn't Realize They Should Be Hiring

I know, I know. Big-city paper gets all hurried and flustered, rushing out to make the scoop or whatever. Trusted journalist hacks out a quick tidbit about recent events, knocks it out in a few minutes, prints it out and rushes it off to print in the paper.

No one looks it over. No editor, no proofer involved in the process. Certainly, any spell-checker would not have caught this error in all likelihood.

Yet it stood out to me. I glossed over the article, idly perusing the New York Times while sitting at the table in my sister-in-law's house, and suddenly the running gait of my eyes tripped over a large obstacle. That's what spelling (even contextual spelling) errors do to me, usually. They stop me, they take me out of the reading process and a section of my brain lights up. It's the same section that believes in justice, I think, and maybe even seats the sense of a universal intelligence guiding us along, beyond the ken of mortal understanding. Because I believe in and work with these things, discrepancies and exceptions snag my attention as my conscious thought races past.

I dug out my Wacom tablet, selected an appropriately red color for my "ink," took electric pen in hand, and marked this up in nothing more or less ignominious than a recent version of MS Paint. Now that I know how to do that, and provided I always keep my camera on me, no homemade signage will be safe from my scrutiny.

Wednesday, August 18

Just a Small Complaint About the Old Way

This is just a little frustrating. I mean, I love the post office and I want to support it, but sometimes its failings are a little too glaring.

I've had cranky postal carriers before. One guy was very upset that I hung around while he was distributing the mail for my apartment building (we had a large bank of mailboxes that opened forward in one unit, into which he would drop our mail). I just wanted to walk past but he told me it was against the law for me to be in there with him while they were open. So I hung out nearby, patient as a tree, and he got flustered and told me to collect my mail and leave. Ever since then, about twice a week my mail would be returned to sender or mangled in its box. I had to buy a post office box to circumvent this prick.

I've also had a drunk postal carrier. One old guy who had a problem with written instructions: I left a note for him not to leave packages for me on the front step of my apartment (different building), and he kept leaving them out there and they kept getting stolen. I identified him one day, climbing into his mail truck, and saw two empty beer cans tumble out. He didn't bother to pick them up when he drove off.

But this... this is just a new carrier. He's not malicious, I don't think, he's just new. Has that new carrier scent to him, I like it. But he just doesn't pick up on certain things. The upper picture is of our mailboxes in this house, those of mine and my wife and of the landlord upstairs. Two mailboxes, two apartments, that's it. They're clearly labeled with our surnames and no other carrier has had a problem with this.

But where does this guy insist on cramming our mail deliveries?

There are two nonoperational slots on either side of the front door. They're brass plates that say MAIL on them, sure, but they're not labeled. They have no one's name on them, so how did ths mail carrier decide that one slot should get a certain person's mail? And why would be perform the delivery in a method as questionable as wadding it up and jamming it forcibly into a too-small space? Anyone might interpret that the wrong way or even question his competency.

But I love the post office. I don't want to rock the boat or anything.

Monday, August 9

The Erasable Sharpie

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I'm actually making plans to leave the country, and once I do my posts will either A) become very interesting or B) fizzle out entirely. I'm hoping for the former but you never know.

In the interim, here's an interesting new stationery development: the erasable Sharpie. As the video stresses, it writes like a pen and erases like a pencil. The package says it dries to permanence in 24 hours while the Sharpie corporate blog says three days--doubtless, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But before that time it seems to erase at least as cleanly as any pencil.

I would just want to feel it, how the tip drags across the paper, whether notebook or Clairfontaine, see where it's most useful. That's if I find I really want an erasable Sharpie, and generally I don't.