Thursday, March 29, 2012

Glimpses of my day

Well, Monday afternoon I didn't feel so great at work. My head felt congested (I told Jonathan when I got home that I felt perfectly fine below the ears) and I had a hard time paying attention to the Teacher's Guide I was editing. That evening I curled up in bed while Jonathan was teaching his last two classes of the day and tried to feel get well. Lying down was definitely better than sitting up. By Tuesday the head congestion was gone and in its place was a lovely runny nose. I'm pretty sure I disrupted the entire office all day with my nose-blowing. I'm not even sure if that's OK to do in public here (I know it's a definite no-no during meals), but if I had had to go into the washroom every time I had to blow my nose, I might as well have just stayed in there. Anyway, I hope I didn't gross out too many people. Today was better for sure, but since I have to bend over my desk to edit the pages, gravity again hampered the nose-clearing-up process. Both yesterday and today I noticed that whenever I was sitting up and looking at the computer screen, my nose behaved. But the minute I'd looked down at my desk, the waterworks started up again. I really hope that by tomorrow it will all be over, because I'd hate to make my coworkers endure a third day of the nose-blowing soundtrack...

Anyway, here are a couple pictures from my day for you to enjoy.

1. Yes, I'm a use-everything-until-it's-really-and-truly-finished type of girl. One man I worked with in my dad's cabinet shop years ago told me I must come from a German Mennonite background because I scrimped and saved every little piece of edgetape to use when we had to tape small pieces. He guessed exactly right. My ancestors were in fact frugal and thrifty German Mennonites.
The toothpaste was thrown out after this picture was taken. I had to get Jonathan to help me squeeze out the last drops of toothpaste. He told me I could cut it open to get more if I really wanted, but I decided it was about time to start a new tube. That soap piece, though, still has a lot of washing left in it!
2. Came across this picture while I was editing the WiseMaster Junior 9 textbook and Teacher's Guide this morning. So try to find the person I most identified with yesterday and today.
Yep, that's right, the one down at the bottom center. Minus the stuff coming out of her mouth (what is that?!)
and the sleeping, that was totally me for the past two days at the office.
Bonus: From yesterday, but just so cute I couldn't pass it up! (Not sure why it focused on the right side instead of the center...)
Who can spot the Korean snowman?!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Coming clean, digitally

I just read a Globe and Mail article so in tune with my viewpoints on our culture of constant communication that I just had to feature it here. Like the author, I don't current have a cell phone. In this part of the world, that's extremely uncommon. Jonathan and I might just be the only people in Seoul (or all of South Korea for that matter) over the age of five who don't own a cell phone. But it doesn't really bother me. I've never been a phone person.

Living at home I often let the phone ring over and over until another member of my family picked it up, even if I was the closest person to the phone. And when call display became mainstream I was in bliss. Imagine being able to see who was calling before deciding to answer?! I got my first cell phone while in university in my twenties, but it was rarely used (mostly to contact our parents or for driving across the U.S. twice a year) until my final year when I was the news editor for our school newspaper.

Last year when I was in Tanzania I went three months without a cell phone before I finally caved when my sister was visiting and I realized I couldn't really call a taxi or organize getting together with other volunteers if I was cell phoneless. So I borrowed someone's old cell phone that was sitting around not being used, bought a 500 Tshs SIM card, and 10,000 Tshs worth of minutes. I was so clueless about Tanzanian phone procedures that I had to have my friend Shae give me a lesson on how to load the minutes onto the phone, and how to dial Tanzanian and North American numbers from my cell phone. I didn't use the phone all the time, but it did definitely come in handy.

I almost thought I'd miss having a cell phone when I got back home in April. But I didn't really. I rather enjoyed the freedom. Of course, I was almost always at my house or in close proximity to someone who had a cell phone, and I was never in an emergency situation where I absolutely had to have a cell phone, so it all worked out well.

After getting married, Jonathan and I lived in Maine for a few months while getting all our paperwork in order to come over to South Korea. I was with Jonathan most of the time and could use his cell phone if I needed to (which was very rarely). And then we came to Korea. At our first institute we were nearly always either at the institute or at our apartment, both which had phones if we needed to use them. There were very few times we actually felt we needed a cell phone in those first two months. But we managed to get through those one or two situations with careful planning and did just fine.

Then we moved to Seoul. We thought we might get cell phones here, but kept delaying the actual going and buying part. Yes, our lives might be easier if we each had cell phones. But honestly, there's a phone in our apartment - one which has rarely rung with a real call for us (usually it's telemarketers who hang up as soon as we utter a word in English). And I spend most of my days in an office - with a phone on my desk that has rung maybe less than 10 times in two and a half months (and several of those times were people getting the wrong number and wanting to talk to someone else in my office or a fax machine that for some reason sometimes rings the phone). It's really rather liberating to be cell phone-less. I'm contemplating continuing the trend into next year, too, if Jonathan will let me get away with it. And even if I do get a cell phone, it will never again be one with a contract. Tanzania* gave me the insight on that atrocity. Why in the world people pay so much money every month just to be locked into a two or three year contract is beyond me. Pay-as-you-go is absolutely, positively the best plan, in my opinion (and for my cell phone needs).

But now it's time to be completely honest and admit that, despite my record low levels for time spent on the phone, I spent much too much time online. I used to spend hours each day reading books. That time diminished in university where assignments and studying took over, although I still read my way through a large number of books during those years. I think the real reason my online life jumped into first spot was my relationship with Jonathan. I mean really, who wants to read a book when you could be talking to your boyfriend? (Well, OK, me, but I decided communication should take the front seat). Christmas breaks, when I was in BC and he was across the continent in Maine, were a tough two weeks apart. And last year, when I was an ocean and continent away from him (with frequent power outages and internet disconnections) was even rougher. And then for a portion of this past summer I was again in BC while he was in Maine and we had to chat online or Skype to finalize plans for our wedding. But then, suddenly we were married and living together, and life and communication became much more simple. But there is still one problem. I still spend almost as much time online as I did before we were married. And I make up multiple excuses for my behaviour. Excuse #1: I'm again halfway across the world and this time I spend time online communicating with my family and friends living all around the world. Excuse #2: I have a very limited supply of English books to read. I've pretty much finished all the books we brought with us (as well as the two Jonathan gave me for Valentine's Day). Books, especially English ones, are pretty expensive here, and we haven't yet found a good English library yet (although we've heard of a couple and should get off our butts and find them). Excuse #3: I have some organizational projects to work on online. There's always things I could be working on online or on my computer.

None of those are bad excuses and all are true. But that doesn't mean I don't have room to improve in this area. So from now on I'm going to try to wean myself off of too much time spent online. In the article, the author said our society's compulsive communication disorder reveals, "...a pathological incapacity to be alone with our thoughts for more than a few minutes." And I sheepishly agree. Where I used to spend hours of my childhood roaming around my back yard inventing games or stories, I now spend ingesting other people's thoughts. And most of those are not good, creative thoughts, such as I'd find in books, but mundane comments about house cleaning or the new Starbucks drink or politics (sorry to those who enjoy politics and don't find it mundane, but for me it's a brain drain). So here's to less time spent online and a boost to my creativity. We'll see how it works.

*Many Tanzanians, poor as they may be compared to the ordinary North American, have at least two cell phones and some even have three. By having SIM cards for the two or three major cell companies, they can call people who have Zain with their Zain phones, people who have Tigo with their Tigo phones, and people who have Vodocom with their Vodocom phones. Even with three phones, three 500 Tshs SIM cards, and minutes for each phone, I would guess they do not pay anywhere near what the average North American pays for phone bills each month.

Another interesting link on the subject, from Psychology Today.
And a TED talk on it as well.

Monday, March 19, 2012

moon or Moon?

Today someone from the Junior Textbook Office section of our new Department for Research and Development asked me to edit a test section from a textbook she's working on. While editing, I ran across a sentence that had the word 'moon' capitalized twice. I changed them both to lowercase. But then I stopped myself and wondered, "Is moon capitalized or lowercase?" I really didn't know so I turned to the trusty Google to help me out. The first article Google recommended for my search term 'moon capitalized or lowercase' was from the Air and Space Smithsonian.

Wow, if I was unsure before, I was even more confused after reading the article. To learn that my beloved AP Stylebook could be wrong in this matter was quite shocking. I decided to check it for myself (so happy I found a copy of the Stylebook while packing up our old office). These entries are taken word for word from the 2008 edition (although I left out any example sentences).

   moon Lowercase. See
heavenly bodies.

   sun Lowercase. See
heavenly bodies.

   heavenly bodies Capitalize
the proper names of planets,
stars, constellations, etc.: Mars,
Arcturus, the Big Dipper, Aries.
See earth.
   For comets, capitalize only the
proper noun element of the name:
Halley's comet.
   Lowercase sun and moon, but
capitalize them if their Greek or
Latin names are used: Helios, Luna.
   Capitalize nouns and adjectives
derived from the proper names of
planets: Martian, Venusian, but
lowercase adjectives derived from
other heavenly bodies: solar, lunar.

   earth Generally lowercase;
capitalize when used as the
proper name of the planet.
See planets.

   planets Capitalize the proper
names of the planets: Jupiter, Mars,
Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus,
Venus. (Pluto was redefined as a
dwarf planet by the International
Astronomical Union in 2006.)
   Capitalize Earth when used as
the proper name of our planet.
   Capitalize nouns and adjectives
derived from the proper names
of planets and other heavenly
bodies: Martian, Venusian. But
lowercase adjectives derived from
other heavenly bodies: solar, lunar.
   See earth and heavenly bodies.

Then I checked out one more online source, Daily Writing Tips' article "How to Treat Geological and Astronomical Terms." I appreciated their approach. It sounded pretty logical and made sense.

So, what do you think? Should we refer to the words 'sun' and 'moon' as proper nouns and capitalize them accordingly? Or should we leave things as they are and continue to refer to them as common nouns? I haven't completed made up my mind about the issue yet, but I'm leaning more toward the capitalization side. As the article says, don't the Germanic names deserve the same respect the Latin names enjoy?

PS - And on a slightly different vein, I LOVE the story in the Air and Space Smithsonian article about Winston Churchill being criticized for ending sentences with prepositions. Ugh, that's probably one of my least-favourite English rules. I see no problem ending sentences with prepositions and knowingly do it quite regularly. Sorry English majors...but really, I'm not really that sorry.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Where do you get your energy?

I love books. And I'm an introvert. So watch this TED video and then imagine how much I love and agree with it. Extroverts are great. We need them in this world. But introverts are just as great and just as needed. Isn't it time we start recognizing that fact and encourage it instead of condemning it?