Archive for November, 2011

The Importance of Social Networking for Writers

With the sudden influx of social networking sites has come a number of concerns from just about everyone, be it about privacy, productivity, even the ability to make meaningful relationships in the real world. These are all legitimate concerns, and ones that should be considered if one decides to join a social network (but let’s face it, most people today are part of one).

The good news is, it can actually be a healthy activity for aspiring writers. Frequently updating  a Facebook or Twitter status is much like writing down a stream of consciousness, which is an exercise that writers sometimes use to help with writers block. Many people go throughout the day thinking about how to post about something amazing or terrible that just happened, or ponder a specific topic they’d like to share with others later. By actively engaging the mind to deliberately write thoughts down, people are developing their writing skills, whether they know it or not.

An important element of being a writer is practice. Very rarely do I wake up in the morning and have my head filled with perfect stories, phrases, and vocabulary. More often, I sit at my workstation for long periods of time, hoping for inspiration and feeling like my brain is bleeding. Even when I have great ideas, it seems easier said than done to get them out on paper without spoiling them. One of my professors, Dr. Todd Petersen, suggests an exercise he uses to get the mind flowing. This consists of carrying note cards with you everywhere you go, and writing thoughts, observations, and ideas on them throughout the day to use later.

This is a great exercise, but in a world of electronics, carrying around note cards all day can be a little old fashioned and cumbersome. Beyond that, most people who do use social networks do this exercise already with status updates (this method is a lot more accessible and organized). This is perhaps an even better way to log thoughts and inspirations, for the writer is not trying so hard to come up with impressive ideas. Friends and family members can also add their own comments and give feedback, as well as share concepts that others can develop.

Having a wealth of ideas to choose from can be vital when it comes time to actually start a project. Annie Dillard, author of The Writing Life, demonstrates the importance of putting ideas into action when she said,

“Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

Whether one uses Facebook, Twitter, or some other exercise, it’s important to write every day even if it is just a few clever one liners. The internet is what you make of it, even as far as social networking goes. It is possible to spend a lot of time online and still be productive. The art of language is everywhere, and you just might find it in places you never thought you would.

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Parts of Speech

What we call the “Parts of Speech” can often be confusing and overlooked. I struggled as a child because I could not, for the life of me, remember them all and what they were for. For the most part, I just didn’t care. I mean really, the Parts of Speech are pretty boring. Kudos to whoever gets butterflies when they see a noun, but for the rest of us lesser mortals, here is a list with descriptions for each one:

Noun: describes a person, place, or thing.
EXAMPLES:  unicorn, inmate, bonzai, poison, ghoul, Barak Obama, Egpyt, hamburger, onion rings, submarine, Hell, serial killer, whale, volcano, spider, light bulb, key, raindrop.

Pronouns: words that replace nouns to make writing and speaking from sounding too ridiculous. For instance, you could say, “Johnny went to church, but johnny forgot johnny’s pants.” By adding pronouns, that sentence sounds a hundred times better. “Johnny went to church, but he forgot his pants.” The best way to remember pronouns is by noticing that it has the words “noun” in it. Now that you know it has something to do with nouns, it’s easy to recall that pronouns simply replace nouns.
EXAMPLES: I, me, he, she, it, they, you, them, his, hers, theirs, its, my, your, we, us.

Verbs: words that show action, or WHAT is being done in a sentence.
EXAMPLES: spitting, throwing, vomiting, catching, bombing, sneezing, itching, praying, ordering me a pizza (just kidding…. but really), sweating, blogging, mining, pms-ing, gaming, painting, smoking, mating.

Adverbs: describe HOW the action is being done. For example, one might say “Regan vomits violently on the exorcist.” In this case, “violently” acts as the adverb because it describes the manner in which she is vomiting. Adverbs usually end in “ly,” making them easy to recognize.
EXAMPLES: angrily, happily, maniacally, spontaneously, joyously, tastefully, colorfully, recently.

Adjectives: words that describe the actual noun.
EXAMPLES: smelly, blue, fluffy, piratey, orange, expensive, beautiful, intelligent, holy, tiny, scrawny, wood, metal, ghostly.

Prepositions: these words link other parts of the sentence together, often showing relationships. Some teachers describe it as “anything a rabbit can do to a box.”
EXAMPLES: through, for, against, without, around, out, by, in, with, after, from, to, on, behind, before, near, over, under.

Conjunctions: link two parts of a sentence, or clauses, together.
EXAMPLES: and, but, or, since, when, while, because, though, that, until, although, whether, yet, unless, neither, nor, now.

Interjections: these can be words or phrases that express emotion, but do not necessarily have grammatical relevancy to the sentence. For instance, if one was to say, “Brr! This nuclear winter is very cold!” the interjection would be “brr.”
EXAMPLES: dear God, oh Lord, brrr, yay, wow, yuck, aha, alas, oh dear, oh well, oops, ouch, shh, thanks, yikes, yo, gee whiz, golly, damn, jinkies.

You’re probably thinking, “well, this is interesting, but what do I do with it?” It sometimes feels like having a solid knowledge of the eight Parts of Speech has little use outside of an English classroom. In reality, it can be one of the most powerful tools in a writers toolbox. One can turn boring, unimportant sentences into beautiful works of literary art.

Top 10 Most Annoying Grammar and Speech Violations

1. Their, there, they’re: The incorrect usage of the word “there” is a common mistake, especially for those who read less than average. The same mistake goes for words like “two, to, and too,” as well as “then and than.”

“Their” is the possessive form of “they.”
Example: Making the Pizza was their responsibility.

“There” refers to where something is located.
Example: The library is over there.

“They’re” is a conjunction of the phrase “they are.”
Example: They’re leaving. 

2. Run-ons and fragments: People tend to write the way they think, whether it be in a thought pattern that just goes on and on or one that doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all. This results in run-ons and sentence fragments.

Run-on: There were only five mirrors but I bought them anyway because we have enough money even though we just paid rent because the landlord wanted it early. 

Fragment: The bird sang happily while.

3. Incomplete adverbs: Especially in Utah, many people tend to drop the “ly” when using adverbs. Adverbs are words that describe the manner in which something is done. Some examples are quickly, carefully, happily, and angrily.

-Correct: The movie was really good.
-Incorrect: The movie was real good.

4. Tense confusion: Tense confusion is most often displayed with the word “seen.” For instance, people say, “I seen that movie.” This seems to be an incomplete use of the English past perfect tense. The correct usage is listed below, as well as another tense option that would make the sentence correct:

Past Perfect: I had seen that movie.
Narrative Past: I saw that movie.

5. Texting shorthand in prose: Although shortening words and using clever abbreviations is highly useful when texting or chatting online, using them when writing academically is completely inappropriate. Some of the most common examples are:

– 2 (to)
– 4 (for)
– @ (at)
– ppl (people)
– lol
– U (you)

6. Wrong vocabulary: Like using the wrong “to,” people frequently throw in a lot of impressive words to make their writing or speech seem richer and more intelligent. This only works if that word is appropriate for the context of how it is being used. If you’re not sure if the word fits,  look up the dictionary definition and examples or ask a friend how it sounds. Using a lot of big words incorrectly just makes a person look stupid. One way to avoid this is by writing a simple, straightforward version first, then later exploring more interesting vocabulary.

7. “Like”: The word “like” is commonly used to introduce an example or fill the place of a sentence where a writer or speaker is unsure of what to say. Instead of using “like,” one can say “for example.” Rewording sentences and putting more thought behind them can prevent one from having to use “like” as a filler word.

8. Mispronunciation: Hearing someone mispronounce words can be very distracting and annoying. Here are some of the most common with examples of proper pronunciation:

– Feel (FEE-l)                                                 don’t say: fill
– Crayon (crAY-on)                                     don’t  say: cran, crown
– Pillow (PI-low)                                          don’t say: pellow
– Real (REE-ul)                                             don’t say: rill
– Nuclear (new-KLEE- ur)                       don’t say: nucular
– Often (off-TEN)                                         don’t say: offen
 Picture (PIC-chur)                                    don’t say: pitcher

9. Double negatives: The most commonly used double negative is “irregardless.” The correct form is simply “regardless,” which means “despite the prevailing circumstances.” By adding the prefix “ir,” one is ultimately saying the exact opposite of what he or she is trying to say.

10. Apostrophe errors: Apostrophes are used only to show ownership or to make conjunctions. If a word is plural or simply ends in an “s,” no apostrophe is needed. If a word ends in an “s” and shows ownership, the apostrophe goes at the end of the word.

Correct: The Jones’ family is visiting tomorrow.
Correct: The teacher graded Jessica’s term paper.
Incorrect: Her eye’s are beautiful.

Note: Although most of the world considers the apostrophe at the end of a possessive “s” word correct, Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition has changed the rules. Now, all you have to do is add “es” (I refuse to abide by this rule because it is ridiculous).

My New Project

As I get older, I find it harder and harder to find productive things to do with my time. As a child, it was so easy to use my imagination to entertain myself. Now that I am past that stage, it is difficult to find very many things that are affordable and consume enough time to keep me busy. I often find myself aimlessly surfing the web and reading posts on Facebook. As wonderful as the internet may be, I feel that using it takes up an unhealthy portion of my daily schedule.

In an effort to fill my life with more meaningful things, I have started a number of projects, including this blog. Most days, I set aside time to write a new post or do something else creative and intellectually stimulating. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort goes into each post, blogging just doesn’t take up more than an hour of each day. I’ve been searching for something else that is not only affordable, but can help me on my mission to be more well rounded.

Last night, I survived the Black Friday Sale at Walmart (even when that creepy old guy pinched my butt and ran away). Although I found some really great deals, it was nothing compared to the deal I found at Cedar Post Pawn this morning. It was the perfect object for a new productive endeavor: a guitar. I’ve been thinking about purchasing one and learning to play for a few months, but every time I found one I liked, I had a hard time justifying spending the money.

With such great deals, I began browsing through the many beautiful guitars that Cedar Post had to offer. My eyes was immediately caught by a beautiful red acoustic that seemed perfect and met my price range exactly. It was too good to pass up. I broke down and purchased the Kona K1TRD, complete with a shiny blue pick.

Kona K1TRD

I hope that with enough practice, I will learn to play as well as some of my friends and family. I am so excited to have a new outlet to express myself. I play the violin, but it is so much less practical and has a very different feel than guitar. Violin tends to be very formal, but guitar is extremely flexible, energetic, and has more room for fun. I hope that my violin experience, however different it is, can help me on my new musical journey.

People I Am Thankful For

I love the Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, because they remind me of all the things I have been blessed with. I tend to think of things I normally take for granted, such as imported goods that I have access to, hot water, the ability to read and be educated, a safe community, my health, and so much more. But even more than those things, I value the people in my life that have made me everything I am today. This is not a comprehensive list; there are hundreds of people that have done so much for me and I absolutely cannot thank them enough. But for the sake of time, I can only make a small list of some of the most important people in my life:

1. My Dad, who showed me what true sacrifice, love, and hard work really is. He is always there for me and supports me in everything I try to do. He is the most noble man I know, and I hope I can repay him someday.

2. My Mom, who has been such an example to me throughout the years of striving for excellence. She is the most motivated and intelligent person I know, and always keeps trying whether she succeeds or not.

3. My Brother, a true patriot. Handsome, caring and intelligent. As one of my very best friends, he is someone I can always count on to bail me out. He has an amazing sense of humor and style, and I wish the best for him in his career as a Marine.

4. Danielle, my sister regardless of blood relation. Always there through the ups, downs, and very cold trips up the canyon. My best friend, confidant, and partner-in-crime.

5. Desica, my other mom, the most talented stain remover I know. The logical thinker that can always tell me what I mean and what I am looking for. She gives the best advice and never lets me down.

6. Matthew and Addison, my step-siblings. Although they are some of the most caring and well behaved kids I know, there is never a dull moment with them around. Addison is so creative and intelligent, and Matthew is very loving and fun to be with. I admire their bravery and ability to love.

7. Teekay, one of my best friends. He is always there for me when I need it most, especially when I break electronics. He truly is a fun and inspiring person to be around, and I am a better person in every way with him a part of my life.

8. Janzen, my first love and still one of my best friends. Intelligent and witty, I was drawn to him even the first time I met him. No matter what happens, I hope that he will always be a part of my life, and I will always love him.

9. Tasha Seegmiller, my role model. A mother, a writer, a teacher, and an upstanding citizen. She has always pushed me to be the best I can be, corrected me when I was wrong, encouraged me when I was right, and helped me set goals to work toward.

10. Donald Newman, my crazy old science teacher. He taught me that the answer is always there, if only I look long and hard enough, as well as that anything can be wonderful if you have the right attitude about it.

11. Melanie Durfee, the one who gave me so many opportunities. She pushed me hard and taught me so many things I couldn’t have learned by myself. She paved the way for my college career, and everything I am working for would be impossible without her.

12. My cat, the best roommate ever. She is my companion and a comfort when I need her. She is such a positive part of my life, and I hope that she lives a long time. I enjoy her quirky personality and I care as much for her as she does for me.

I wish a happy holiday season to all the wonderful people in my life. I love you all so much! Thanks for being a part of my life 🙂

Healthier Holidays

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, millions of Americans are anticipating enjoying their holiday favorites, such as stuffing, pies, green-bean casserole, mashed potatoes, yams, and of course, turkey with cranberry sauce. But with so many delicious opportunities that lie ahead, nutritionists are cautioning people to celebrate the holiday season with discretion.

Rumor has it that people typically gain 5-10 pounds from the fall season to the new year. Recent research has debunked this claim. Nutirtionist Monica Reinagel clarifies that people typically gain only one pound or less of body weight over the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Although people don’t gain as much as they think they do, overeating can still be a real danger to people’s health. That one pound can stick around for the rest of the year and be added to each season. In addition, overeating stretches the stomach, making people more prone to overeat later. In fact, historical examples confirm that it is possible to eat one’s self to death:

1751: Julien Offray de La Mettrie, a major materialist and sensualist philosopher and author of L’Homme machine, died of overeating at a feast given in his honor.

1771: Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, died of digestion problems on 12 February 1771 after having consumed a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, topped off with 14 servings of his favourite dessert: hetvägg served in a bowl of hot milk. He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as “the king who ate himself to death.”

1974: Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, drank himself to death with carrot juice.

2007: Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old woman from Sacramento, California, died of water intoxication while trying to win a Nintendo Wii console in a KDND 107.9 “The End” radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest, which involved drinking large quantities of water without urinating.

SourceWikipedia, “List of Unusual Deaths”

Walking into the dining room finding relatives dead from eating too much could really put a damper on the holiday season. As you can see, there is more to worry about than simply gaining a pound or two. If weight gain is still a big concern, there are a lot of simple things one can do, such as supplementing smaller portions with items from the veggie tray. For more tips and information, you can visit:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/avoid-holiday-weight-gain-season-dr-ozs-tips/story?id=12379067#.TswkgWPNlQR
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/holidayeating12_01.aspx
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/holiday-weight-gain/MY01117

War on Privacy

Although the speaker in this video has a very annoying voice, it has an important message.

Technology is perhaps the most rapidly developing industry today, and with it comes an abundance of unexpected changes that add both excitement and risk to people’s lives. Recently, some very controversial technologies have been put into place, ones that many popular sci-fi and dystopian novelists would find absolutely chilling.

Google, for instance, could be argued to be the most powerful web presence. The company has power over more than a hundred other web applications, technologies, and web sites such as Android, YouTube, Picasa, and Blogger. Because of its astronomical development and its ability to seep into many facets of the internet, many people have become concerned with internet privacy, especially with the introduction of it’s new social network, Google+.

Social networks are currently one of the most powerful resources for advertisers, especially since most people in America have one. Facebook, one of the most popular social networking sites, operates on a system called an Open Graph, which collects information such as “likes” of each user and his/her demographics. The system can even pick out keywords in status updates and use them to tailor ads to fit a user’s wants and needs. This is a huge advantage for advertisers and can even aid consumers. But how far is too far? Many people say sites like Google have crossed the line.

The many faces of Google work together; for example, if you are logged in to your Gmail account and then make a Google search in a new tab, the company can link your email address to every search you make, as well as the location from which the searches are made. Accounts such as YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa are most generally linked to the users Gmail account if they use that account to sign up. The new Google+, like Facebook, stores user information in addition to all of the 0ther Google fronts to use at its disposal. Basically, whether you know it or not, the internet has compiled a profile on each and every one of us.

But that’s only the beginning.

One of the biggest threats to internet users today is the collection of their biometric data. That’s right, Facebook doesn’t just have pictures of you, it knows what you look like. Facebook frequently makes changes to their site, but only the changes that most directly affect user experience are brought to a users attention. Other changes regarding privacy or account matters are generally up to the individual to be aware of. One of these recent changes is a feature called “Tag Suggestions,” where Facebook stores your facial comparison data and recognizes you in photos, making it possible to add tags for friends and family instantly. This feature is automatically activated and is in use unless a user manually disables it in his/her privacy settings.

The same technology is being applied outside of the internet, such as on “smart” billboards in metropolitan areas. These signs can detect the age, sex, and attention spans of passersby. A smartphone app has now been developed to interpret the best party locations according to number of people and male to female ratio for participating businesses. Even interactive surveillance equipment has been put into place in certain parts of the UK and Europe (security cameras that tell you what to do).

As exciting and useful as these kind of technologies may be, we must also be wary of their progress and power. Countless examples, such as the film Minority Report, caution us against technology becoming an electronic “Big Brother.” But in reality, whether we want it to or not, it’s happening.

For more information on the information discussed above, you can visit:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1711972,00.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/business/face-recognition-moves-from-sci-fi-to-social-media.html?_r=3&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha26
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google