Monday, June 21, 2010

Subjunctivitis and participle popsicles

Even though my copyediting class has taken up time that could I could theoretically have spent on research and paper writing, I think the class is well worth it. (For one thing, I probably wouldn't spend the extra time on research stuff anyhow.) I never felt like I learned English grammar and syntax very well. My teachers often praised my writing, but I wrote on intuition. "Hmm, that sounds about right." I didn't even learn what adjectives and adverbs were until I studied German in middle school.

The copyediting class is illuminating all those dark corners of English usage. Did you know that the word republican should be capitalized when referring to a member of the party but not when referring to a type of government? It's humbling to realize how many constructs I've avoided or desecrated. Some of the rules have historical or logical reasons and some are simply grandfathered into the language. All this examination of the details of English can't help but improve my writing, and I find that a rather stimulating prospect. (The construction of that last sentence is itself a point of contention. Follett's Modern American Usage does not approve of the phrase cannot help but, but Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage does.)

This week we read the chapter on grammar. It was the most difficult chapter (so far) for me to understand. Part of it talked about the subjunctive mood. What is that? It sounds like a crabby mood. And what's a participle? Is it soem sort of popsicle?

I'm sure I use these things. I feel like I should have learned at some point in my education what the are, but I have no clue. In order to learn how to use them correctly, I need to figure out what they are. Double-duty this week!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blogger updates

Blogger added new format options. What do you think?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Technology's toll on my time

Technology is often my lifeline. Especially recently (because I've been helping care for my dad through his cancer treatment), I have relied on it to keep up with friends, family, work, and the world at large. I also use it to read and listen to music, among other entertainment. Am I a technology addict?

A recent article in the New York Times, entitled "Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price", focuses on the technological habits of the Campbell family. I've noticed similar habits in myself. I have a hard time not answering my cell phone when it rings, and I compulsively check my numerous email accounts throughout the day. The Campbells do this to the extreme. Kord Campbell, the father of the family, sometimes sleeps with his laptop or iPhone on his chest. I may have slept next to my computer a few times when I was on a tight deadline for school, but I have never slept with my computer on top of me.

I admit that I spend a lot of time on my computer more days than not. But I have reasons. My job requires that I write and run computer programs, write papers, and communicate with colleagues across the country. Some of my best friends live several hundred miles from me and are very busy. I use email and occasionally instant messaging to keep up with them, and I don't receive a paper newspaper, so I read my news online. Of course, I also use my computer to write these posts. All those add up to a lot of screen time.

They are also excuses. A lot of my computer time does not work toward any of them. A certain amount of time for non-productive entertainment is permissible, if I can keep it under control and realize how much time I'm really devoting to it. When I catch myself spending several hours on my computer with nothing to show for it, not only do I feel apathetic from having my eyes adhered to the screen for so long, but I also feel terrible for wasting so much time. I usually can't name anything I enjoyed during that time. It was mindless. On the other hand, some of my best days are the ones devoid of technological gadgets. Are you seeing a trend?

That's not even when it started. Growing up, I waged a second-hand battle with the TV. My dad watched it a lot. When I tried to talk to him, he frequently shushed me because I was interrupting--that is, if he heard me at all. I missed going on bike rides and talking with him like we did when I was younger. I was angry with him for that, but I was also angry at the TV. I swore I would not do the same to my friends and family. I would not let TV rule that much of my life.

Now I barely watch TV, so it certainly is not ruling my life. It still drives me nuts when someone reflexively turns on the TV. I wonder, though: have I have simply supplanted one technology for another? One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning or get home is open my laptop to check the latest of everything online. Will I let my computer and cell phone distract me from my friend sitting next to me or my family sitting around the table? I ask myself these questions nearly every day.

I am certainly not claiming that technology is inherently evil. It provides many benefits. The way people interact with it is what causes a problem. I fervently hope that, by noticing and questioning my tech-related habits, they will not become a problem.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My fifth longest ride ever this year

(Note the lack of hyphen between the words fifth and longest in the title.)

I am happy to say that I lived through 75 miles of biking and 5.5-6 hours in the saddle. It went better than I expected. I now have more confidence that I'll reach my goal to ride a century this summer. I'm tired and a little delirious between the ride and not getting enough sleep this week, but a good night of sleep tonight should do worlds of good.

Before I incur the wrath of the weather gods for granting my wishes, I must credit them for giving me and my fellow riders a beautiful day. The rain held off until well after the ride was over, the temperature was perfect, and the sun was shining. The wind was a little bothersome at times, but nothing to incite crankiness. I've had much worse riding near Grad School Town.

Lastly, I giggled with excitement yesterday when I saw that the great goddess Dr. Isis kindly mentioned my little blog. Perhaps she spoke with her colleagues in godliness?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ride On!

Tomorrow is the infamous 30th annual Miller Lite Ride for the Arts. I'm crawling into bed early tonight since I have to get up by 5am to drive to the startline at the Summerfest grounds. My group, those riding the 75-mile route (which is actually 77.5 miles), depart at 7am.

This is a fundraising ride. All the proceeds help pay for fine arts programs in the Milwaukee area. I'm particularly interested in helping the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (aka MYSO). I played string bass for two years in the Philharmonia and two years in the Senior Symphony.

Despite my continual grumbling about practice, I loved being part of the group. Being the backbone of the symphony, anchoring the sounds of brass, woodwinds, percussion, and strings all in harmony, was intoxicating. Through all the trials of high school--a part-time job, no study halls in school, a few health problems, and conflicts with friends--music was always there for me. We made great music, too. My gramma overheard a passerby at one of our playathon concerts at a local mall say, "why, they're just kids!"

Unfortunately, I had to give up playing when I went to college because of time and money constraints. A string bass is amazingly expensive and difficult to transport. I keep telling myself that someday I will return to a symphony. Someday when I have $4000 to plunk down on a bass and a few hours free each week for practice and rehearsals.

Even before I was part of MYSO, I wanted to participate in this ride because I liked biking. All this time, I figured I'd try the 25-mile route on my mountain bike and see how that went before doing more. Nope. In typical NJS fashion, I'm diving head-first into the longest route available. I bought a road bike earlier this spring and I've been riding consistently since then to prepare for this ride. It is my first big step towards my ultimate road biking goal this summer: riding a full century (100 miles). I'm really excited!

May the weather gods smile upon me tomorrow.