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Growing up, I was an avid reader and English was always one of my stronger subjects. But, I never expected that one result of going to Taiwan to teach english would be unintentionally becoming a grammar nazi! I suppose my grammar was relatively strong before I left, but teaching English to non-native speakers has greatly strengthened it.

I taught children. It was wonderful. They were, for the most part, cheerful, eager to please and fun. But they also had this annoying habit of asking “why?”

Why is it, “I haven’t swum this year,” instead of, “I haven’t swam?”

Why is it, “I like eating,” and not, “I like eat?”

“Why is it a big, brown dog and not a brown, big dog?

“Why, why, why…”

Being a student of foreign languages myself, I told them I’d always done better by focusing on how to express a given idea than why it had to be expressed that way. A lot of children were satisfied with that. A few children weren’t. Most of their parents weren’t. They really wanted to know why. And after my first year or two, so did I.

So I ended up learning about when to use past participles, the similarities between gerunds and infinitives, subjunctives and many, many other things about the wonderful complexities of my native tongue. It wasn’t half bad for my abilities to talk about grammar in Chinese, either!

Somewhere along the way, I started to forget what it was like not having an explicit knowledge of various grammatical points. Then I came back to the US and almost immediately started noticing everyone else’s grammatical errors. “There’s a lot of busses to the Embarcadero from here,” I’d hear someone say. And I’d be thinking, “There are a lot of busses because they are countable and plural!” in my head. “I’ve ran a lot of intervals this week,” I’d hear some guy say at a park. “NO!!! You’ve run them because it’s a completed action and therefore is a perfect tense and requires a past participle!” an evil voice would scream. Once in a while it was almost like being a character in The Oatmeal comic.

Now that it’s been two years, my inner grammar nazi is just now finally starting to subside and allowing me to let the distinctions between less and fewer slide. I still haven’t relaxed my stance on English “names” I can’t stand, though!

😀

This is a few links. Last week, Seth Godin put to words something I’ve felt for a few years:

Here’s a trick that’s as old as the web: Run a popularity contest with public voting. It could be anything from a listing of the top blogs to a creative contest for best tagline or ad.

The nominees run around like crazy, hoping to get their friends to vote. Which of course brings you more traffic.

My feeling is that most of the time the cause is too thin and the prize is too lame. If your blog gets picked as the most popular woodworking blog by some other blog, it’s really unlikely that you’ll find many benefits other than a nice smile for your ego.

Traffic Magnets

Coincidentally, I came across an older piece on Dreamhost about sites that “rank” the best web hosting services… entirely based upon how much money they can extort for their publicity. Like Seth’s piece, the topic is serious, but the writing is very amusing.

Now it’s all clear. Our $97 affliate payment is small potatoes but they’re eager to work with us! Let’s earn their trust by showing up on that Editor’s Pick page. $299 for a month? Whateva! We’ll pay you $349 to show you we’re serious.

May 1st rolled around and we set our sights a little higher. We asked what it would take to appear in the coveted front page Top 10 list.

Web Hosting’s Dirty Laundry

I love Dreamhost. I really do. Not only has the service been great, but the various update announcements they sent me look like they were written by a bunch of San Fransisco techno-hippies.

And finally, I came across this gem on Joel on Software, talking about the frustration on modern programming frameworks. Benji uses the task of building a kitchen spice rack to illuminate just how ridiculous some frameworks get.

So I go to the hardware store to buy the tools, and I ask the sales clerk where I can find a hammer.

“A hammer?” he asks. “Nobody really buys hammers anymore. They’re kind of old fashioned.”

Surprised at this development, I ask him why.

Why I Hate Frameworks

This last article continued so far past the point of absurdity that I laughed my head off.

This Chinese mother’s ability to block out her son is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Related Post: You Can’t Touch this English!