Look Forward

This has not been the best week for me. I’ve been sick all week, and also a bunch of annoying life issues have been pestering me.

My website is down. And some work stuff.

I did find myself annoyed, and working on what I would *like* to say to certain people. Or more realistically stuff I would like to think about saying to certain people. I knew that to actually say them would be not only not helpful but also likely harmful.

Still. It was a favorite obsession to rehearse how I’d been wronged.

During my time of rest, trying to recover from being sick, Chris has been watching and old documentary series produced by the U.K.: The World at War.

Britain invested 10 million dollars in today’s money to make a documentary series about what happened in World War 2. Such a huge historical event deserved serious examination.

I do not have the love of documentaries that my husband and daughter do. But these were interesting, and when I watch them with Chris I have the most amazing personal narrative track that adds even more.

He knows these events inside and out. We were watching how the French focused on the Maginot line, and how the Germans drove their tanks past it and took Paris. Once Paris was conquered Hitler came in to receive their surrender.

Now, the Second World War is recognized as anyone who has looked at it, as an extension of the conflict that was barely resolved in world war one. So when the war ended, the Germans had to sign an armistice to France. The Armistice of November 11, 1918. One hundred years ago.

It was signed by the Germans in Ferdinand Foch’s private railcar.

Another famous part of the treaty of Versailles, was for “Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage”

This War Guilt clause required Germany to give war reparation to the victors.

And it was deeply resented by the German people.

It was that resentment that fed Hitler’s rise to power. He fought in World War one, and he utilized the resentment to gain power.

Here’s the thing. I knew that, I’d read that. But it was like reading it from an encyclopedia.

When I was watching this documentary, I learned how he had the French surrender to him it because clear. Hitler didn’t tell them, but the French were required to go to a secret location that turned out to be

That was chilling. This was revenge and it was served very very cold. He had planned this out and played it for his population.

It really hit me hard how much this backwards looking resentment had the people by the throat. And this choking umbrage and bitterness had no good fruit.

It made me want to let go of the petty resentments in my life. Yeah, I’m sick and things are annoying. But it doesn’t do anyone any good to cherish those perceived wrongs.

The real life cartoon character of Hitler is a big warning lesson. Let it go.

I really do have better things to do with my thoughts.


I’ve been doing this weekly wonder since July 2010. That’s 8 years. When I started it, I wasn’t sure how often I would do it. But as you can see, dear reader, I have done it! Every week for 8 years now.

I have the blog that I started in 2002, which is what this feeds into. So, in order to not panic I told myself, in the even that I couldn’t think of something to write, I could always choose a blog entry and recycle a piece I was proud of.

But so far, I haven’t done that.

This week though, I was stumped. I had about 6 ideas that I was not at all proud of. I started writing three of them.

And I just couldn’t make it make sense.

What was wrong with me? How come I couldn’t come up with a piece?

I knew exactly why. Today, I have a bit of a cold. I woke up with a bit of a cold yesterday as well. Perhaps I will recover my full health tomorrow. I feel a little muzzy headed.

But that is not it.

Why couldn’t I come up with a piece that was worth writing?

And I almost couldn’t even come up with the wherewithal to choose a re-run, my cherished back up plan.

I had listened to some inspiring books, watched a few less inspiring movies. Played with my family. And I was


What was going on?

I finally remembered one of the reasons I started the weekly wonder email list in the first place.

I’ll use a vague-ism.


The fact was, at that time, I had gotten very stuck in changing tides o the internet and SUPER microscopic examination of my life and I was really sure that I was experiencing terrible adversity.

But, as often happens, I talked with a friend. I wasn’t’ even my best self, talking to this friend, and he listened to my moaning of being underappreciated and not getting internet traffic, and he told me about this idea of a mailing list.


So I started it and have been faithful every since.

Now back to this week. I was stuck and wondered if this would be my first creative fail.

This goes out tomorrow. I usually have something written and queued up by Sunday afternoon.

I hate the last minute. But as I blow my nose and clear my throat, I finally realized why I was stuck.


Or, as I know now how to call it, imagined adversity

I had spent the week and the weekend imagining how I was underappreciated and undervalued.

I didn’t WANT to think that, but I had decided to focus in on certain metrics and could barely think of anything else.

No wonder the creative juices were dried up.

And once I remembered that pattern and recognized it in my current experience, I could find something worth talking about.

It broadened my perspective to remember that I previously had experienced and overcome a crappy, claustrophobic mental pattern.

And by writing, my beloved writing, I could overcome the negative spiral. And I could write about it!

My commitment to my blog made me struggle enough to pull my head up and remember the bigger world. Thank you, weekly wonder. And thank you readers, for helping me remember the wonder of the world and get unstuck.

Language in Time and Space

I just found out that Audible has Great Courses from The Teaching Company. I love those! I used to get them from the library on Cassette and CD

That’s what Libraries had back when. Cassettes, and CDs.

Something about listening to a lecturer who is not going to give me a test or homework is so pleasant.

YES, I want to know all that obscure knowledge. I will remember it, but I don’t’ want to HAVE to write a bibliography in Chicago or MLA style.

The course I just bought and finished is called The History of Language.

John McWhorter teaches it. I have a new teacher crush.

Towards the end of the lecture series, he calls the people who love this topic language heads.

Yes, I am a language head. I first encountered linguistics in my senior year at San Jose State University. It was so fascinating, I considered if I might pursue it. I went to the teacher

“What do people do with linguistics degrees?”

“Oh! They are so useful! If you have a linguistics degree and know a computer language, you can write your own ticket.”

Professors can say dumb things sometimes. I knew enough to know that if you know a computer language, you can write you own tickets. College degrees are entirely optional.

But here comes Professor McWhorter waltzing through my earphones.

He is the first one who made me realize how very different spoken word is from written word.

Written word is something I love so dearly. It probably colors my speech quite a bit, as I try to say things with my mouth as I would if I were writing on the page.

Even so, spoken word relies so much on context and intonation.

If you can point to something, a lot of grammar becomes redundant. One thing I have heard professionally, only 60% of the meaning of speech are the words spoken.

Emotions and context are impossible to separate from spoken word.

I remember when I was learning Russian, and I knew almost nothing. If I pointed to something I wanted, and handed them a notebook, they would write down how much it cost, and I could start to learn how to buy things. “How much is it?” “Skolka Stoeet?” came later. And the numbers came after that too.

So I could get by with not much more than a pointed finger and a raised eyebrow.

Same place same time, I could communicate.

Written words make it possible for different place different time communication.

And because of that naked context, the written word have to have much more careful conveyance of meaning, with specific grammar and word choice.

Good writing also is supposed to paint a picture of senses and emotion. Metaphor, colors, descriptions of sights and sounds in a way that same time same place communication does not need.

I love to write and I try my best to make my written words live.

But I have a life outside of this virtual page. My career has been spent on telecommunications. Etymologically, that means far communications.

Telecommunications is same time, but not same place. It’s also technologically compressed and lacks the full sound range that my voice next to your ear would carry.

I’ve often advised people on how to use telecom technologies to build relationships. Yes, start by meeting people face to face. But to continue the relationship, try to meet using video communication regularly. This is even more important in cross-cultural teams.

But there is another interesting recent language communications phenomenon.

Same time, different place in WRITING. This has to do with social media comments and texting. Or even rapid emails back and forth.

We all know that the occasional emoji can add to the tone and allow for better communication.

How is this changing our language?

As McWhorter likes to say, if human history were a day, written language appeared at 11 PM

So this moment of same time, different place written communication has been less than a second.

I would love to find out how it develops.

The Meaning of life, the Universe and Everything

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the people come up with a big question, “What’s the answer to life the universe and everything?”

You may not know the book, but you’ve probably heard the answer:


There is a dark irony and utter absurdity in this book. Written in 1979, there was a apocalyptic luxury in the western world. Yes, we had plenty of everything we needed.

Except a sense of safety. Have you heard of nuclear proliferation?

By the 1980’s we had been eating well and accumulating stuff with reliable regularity. And yet we didn’t have a sense of safety.

To dial the lens back for a broader view, prior to the dark nerd humor of the hitchhiker’s guide, history had provided the darkest events ever.

So much  had been learned from the factories and efficiencies of the industrial revolution. Nazis turned these tools for their social engineering plans. This moment brought human slaughter and suffering of nearly unimaginable proportion.

I have recently read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl is a famous psychologist, and equally famously, a Holocaust survivor.

He describes the experience of living in the camp, and working in horrendous conditions. They were underfed to the point where their bodies began to visibly consume their muscle mass to sustain life. They were sadistically beaten and abused.

All this is ugly, and hard to look at.

When I read Frankl’s book, he brought something new. His fascination with psychology had begun before he entered the camps, and in the camps a wide scope for exploration.

Did he really find the meaning of life in the concentration camps?

He declares: “Life is unconditionally meaningful.”

Take that, Hitchhikers Guide.

We do have meaning, every single one of us. Without having to prove it by anything.

Unconditionally meaningful

It’s not that we have to prove ourselves worthy of the air we breathe. He says that life does not owe us, we owe life. Our best efforts, our best selves.

Do we suffer? Let’s not suffer if we can possibly avoid it, and yet there is a lot of unavoidable suffering in this life.

He ought to know. His experience gives him the right to say this.

So if we are experiencing unavoidable suffering, we can bring our life and ourselves to that suffering ennobles us and we ennoble it.


I wasn’t aware that was an option.

There is an enormous truth to the idea that life is unconditionally meaningful. If we know that the meaning is there, no matter what, that changes the search.

If I I know that I will find a thing, I will not give up searching. And like Douglas Adams said I might need to check my assumptions:

“I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.” (28.2-6)

I’ll keep looking. I know I’ll find it.