Sunday, March 28, 2010

The art of the run-on sentence

Sunday mornings seem to be the day and time that I feel the urge to put together the ideas for this blog. The ideas that run into my head like a "run-on sentence". I have a pile of post it notes that capture the idea or story and list of links to add into this space - all sitting in a file until I can catch up with them or . . . forget about them.

If you are a writer, you likely have a story or many of them running in your head too. You know, suddenly your thoughts aren't just random thoughts. They come on suddenly and develop unexpectedly in your mind like a flowing compostion that is interesting and beautiful and should be captured on paper or something digital.

The problem is, the story all flows in your head while your fingers are away from anything to capture it on. After the information surge, you can't recreate that interesting composition that just ran through your mind. You need to keep something handy with you all the time to capture these moments. Even stop your car while running errands and run into a library to borrow a piece of paper and a pen!

Your "brillant" ideas and thoughts may actually add up to something useful or interesting for others, or you may look at what you wrote again later and wonder, "What was I thinking?! It seemed so brilliant at the time!" At the very least, that composition in your head was an entertaining moment that only you got to enjoy! And you don't have any control over it either. It will come and go as it pleases, so enjoy the ride!

I think a blog is more interesting if the voice behind it talks to you at the moment you are reading it and gives you what you are looking for and really need at the moment that you found it. It does not talk at you.

My idea for today's post is to share a letter of thanks I wrote on my last day to the people I worked with at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (OCOL).

I didn't really share much about my personal self while working there, but on my last day, at the last moment I could write this letter, I did, and sent it to everyone via email. They had only five minutes to read it before the good bye gathering organized for me in the conference room that day. And it seemed, everyone, about 20 people, had all managed to read it. They really enjoyed it. Some wanted to frame it and put it on the office wall. I've never written a good bye letter anywhere I have worked. I liked the people. They inspired me. I wanted to leave something behind. I never know what will come next.

Below is the letter if you care to read it. It will also give you a snapshot of the voice behind this blog without having to read an autobiography! It is a perfect example of the run-on sentence! What was I thinking! Lol!

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Letter of Thanks

It was a wonderful experience working with OCOL/CoLO; as an organization it felt like a small and dynamic family with an amazing output. Friendliness is an obvious quality that is appreciated here. I still can't figure out how you get everything done with only 175 employees!? Audits, studies, report cards, annual reports, kiosks, media relations, speeches and events, court interventions, communications products, and responding to questions and complaints. Did I miss anything? Probably. Admin - that's a big job too.

I enjoyed learning more about official languages. That was a surprise for me. It is a more interesting and engaging topic than I thought it would be. It always helps to learn about Canadian history through different lenses and points of view. I've looked at it now as an American from California moving to Canada and marrying a fluently bilingual French Quebec Journalist at Radio Canada (CBC) who I met during the '84 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, learning French myself as an adult, and sending my kids to French schools and daycares in Quebec. I had both culture and weather shock and somehow survived.

I've looked at Canadian history through the story of the Canadian Horse and its evolution in Quebec and Canada; working with Canadian Horse breeders in both Ontario and Quebec who get along very well for the common cause of preserving this breed, trying to get funding from Canadian Heritage for a museum exhibit (or at least a virtual online exhibit) that would cross Canada, then find its home in a Quebec City museum. All to no avail.

I also looked at Canadian history from the period of Cornelius Krieghoff's time in Quebec City in the 1850's and his fascination with les habitants so clearly depicted in his paintings, meeting and interviewing the unilingual English retired school teacher from Toronto who bought and rescued his Quebec City home dans les plaines d'Abraham from demolition many years ago, and who was accepted by the Government of Quebec to purchase and restore this home, and received funding from them to do so, even though she did not speak a word of French, and as a student in Communications at Concordia University in Montreal where 50% or more of the students were French, and another large percentage were immigrants from other countries, and where I was the only American.

I now know what it feels like to be in the majority, and what it feels like to be a minority. Fair is fair.

And now again, I take another look at Canadian History, this time from the point of view of official languages and its beginnings, which ties nicely into some of my past university studies of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s.

I even managed to read the Commissioner's book, "Sorry I don't speak French," as I took the bus to and from work each day. (Actually, I cheated a bit and skimmed through many parts.) I think I enjoyed the introduction the most, and learning about the Commissioner's experiences at Fort Lennox on Ile-aux-Noix on the Richelieu River just south of Montreal where I journeyed too one day for a visit as a tourist with my kids when they were little. Thanks to Luc for lending me the book from the OCOL Library. (P.S. I returned it today.)

Well, I'm not one to really say good bye. Being from California I'm more likely to say, "See ya later" or "Hasta la vista (baby)!" (That's Spanish; we hear a lot of it in California with the large Mexican population there), but being that this is Canada I should really say, "A bientot mes amis! Merci pour toutes! Les chocolats aussi!"

You are a great bunch to work with!

(Note to blog readers: I haven't figured out how to insert the French accents on the French words using this keyboard! Sorry. I'll work on that for any future French words that pop into this blog.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ode to Useful Tools - The Toothbrush

This is the first in a series of "odes" to useful tools. This is how I amuse myself, (or kid myself ) when I am doing a task that I really hate or resent. I wonder, "How could I think of this differently so I can justify doing it?" It keeps my mind occupied in a writer's frame of mind until the task has moved on to the stage that I like, "It's done!" And I feel oddly satisfied.

What is an ode?

An ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode. (According to Wikipedia, so it must be so.)

I'm not a poet, and there won't be any lyrical verses in my writing, so you don't have to run just yet. I like to break rules whenever I can. Writers live by lots of rules (grammar, spelling, sentence structure, style guides, and the whims of other editors who may be your boss or colleagues that you have to get along with like it or not). If you are a poet, you may want to write your own ode to the toothbrush. I'd like to read it.

So here goes: Ode to the Toothbrush

Have you ever stopped to think about the life cycle of a toothbrush? Me neither. But when you spend as much time as I do with one in your hand, you need to think of something. What you do with a toothbrush is usually mundane and redundant, but necessary and useful.

The thing I do with a toothbrush that I hate the most is clean the shower. A chore I "abhor". (That's the only "lyrical" verse I promise.) A chore I wish was someone else's. A chore I resent each time I do it. "I should hire someone!" For some reason, each time I clean the shower, I usually wind up thinking, "What have I really accomplished? Where am I going? How did I get here on my hands and knees with this old toothbrush and all this mold!"

But today, I thought about the toothbrush and how it spends its life cycle. It begins its life in your mouth with every living thing in there that you want to get rid of. It is the only thing that puts up with your morning breath, the Lebanese food you ate for lunch, and what happens to your mouth after a night of waaaay too much drinking (not me, I outgrew that stuff years ago). And when you get a bad cold . . . lets not even go there!

After you've used and abused the poor thing, its next job is to live under your sink in wait for even nastier bacteria! What lives in the shower! Then off to the trash can. Whatever job or task I have is way better!

Did Andy Warhol ever create a tribute to the toothbrush like he did with the Campbell's soup cans?

Apparently I'm not so weird . . . after all. (I had to check just to make sure. I was having some doubts!) The Austin Museum of Modern Art put on Extra-Ordinary: The Everyday Object in American Art, featuring Brillo Pads, toothbrushes and other useful objects we usually take for granted. (It is perhaps "art" or that they simply couldn't afford to work in bronze or silver!) I'm not a fan of Brillo Pads, but now I'm wondering if they used new or used pads? Let's not go there either! A thought worse than shower mold.

Oddly enough, the toothbrush is becoming an object of art. Take a peek at some of the designer models coming out.

There are more and more companies selling toothbrushes and designers trying to out do each other. I would love to see an exhibit on celebrity toothbrushes! I wonder how much they pay for their designer models or if they use plain old Oral B's just like us. Myriah Carey, Madonna and oh! Celine Dion. The "diva" toothbrush. What would it look like?

The question is, would you use your work of art on your shower?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Web Site vs website

Let's just end the never-ending debate: It is "Web site" for Government of Canada Web sites, according to recommendations from the Translation Bureau, and "website" just about everywhere else!

You can go online and vote for your preference on many websites. Apparently, 65% of people prefer "website", even though it is not technically correct. (Notice, when I'm not at work I use website. I'd rather be popular than technically correct!)

The Web likes to break rules and create its own way of doing things. It favours content being published quickly and easily rather than content that should be published, yet you'll find lots of useful even incredible content on some sites.

The Internet is a lawless international society. Will they ever tame it?