Monthly Archives: October 2013

He and I versus Him and me

English teachers never have it easy. For most, indoctrinating untrained minds into the archaic forms of good grammar is a no-win scenario. Just when you think you’ve corrected one major issue, another rears its ugly head.

Take the correct usage of pronouns for instance.

Aside from the obvious issue of putting ourselves first in a sentence involving others, humanity seems to have a problem figuring out which combo of pronouns is appropriate and when.

Back in the Dark Ages when I attended school, the grammar police constantly corrected ignorant youth to use “I” instead of “me.” What they failed to explain is the usage of “I” to replace “me” only when used as a subject. Thus, “me and Sammy” went to the store, now becomes give the book to “Sammy and I.”

I cringe and wince and look around in vain for a member of the grammar police. Who are nowhere in sight. Ever.

Thus, in a nutshell: when referring to yourself as a subject ALWAYS use “I.”
If you use the pronouns he or she, you must also use “I”, not “me.” Subjects DO the action.
Sammy drives to town.
I drive to town.
Sammy and I drive to town.
He and I drive to town.

When you are not the subject, use “me.”

“Me” is used when you are receiving something: whether it be a service, item, commendation, etc. “Me” can’t DO anything; “Me” always GETS something.
My boss complimented me on a job well done.
My boss complimented my co-worker on a job well done.
My boss complimented my co-worker and me on a job well done.
My boss complimented him and me on a job well done.
If you use the pronouns him or her, you must use “me” not “I.”

So what’s the big deal beyond being grammatically correct in speech? In a global marketplace, the best communicator gets the job regardless of whether English is his first language or not.

Hieroglyphs…the universal language

Archaeology has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl collecting bits of broken china in the alleyway behind my home. If it’s not at least 4,000 years old, it doesn’t interest me. Mysteries, puzzles, fragments of history and culture left behind in rock and stone and half remembered tales from the dim mists of human knowledge left their mark on my formation.

Ancient cultures fascinate me. I love delving into the clues left behind by people whose descendants no longer walk this earth. Most archaeologists specialize in one people group, one culture, one area of expertise and while I understand the numerous reasons for this, one of the neat things about being an armchair archaeologist is connecting the dots across cultures. Daniel Jackson referred to it as “cross-pollination of cultures.”  And if you read enough, research enough, you’ll find there is some basis behind the idea.

Take hieroglyphs, for instance.  Did you ever wonder why the Egyptians had three different forms of writing? Oh, I know history tells us hieroglyphs were the first and the Egyptians moved on to “higher” forms of script, but there is nothing in the stone that indicates which came first or whether they weren’t contemporary.

Egypt was the center of everything in its heyday: cultural, economic, global, academic, scientific. With all the cultural hodgepodge pouring into the country, don’t you think they would have come up with a universal language? Something everyone could read and then display it prominently, publically for all the tourists? Hieroglyphs weren’t the beginning of language, hieroglyphs were the culmination of language.

Don’t believe me?  Just look on your laptop. Open a window in Word. Check out a Xerox machine. Oh, and those cute little squiggly black and white squares? Strangely reminiscent of Mesoamerican hieroglyphs. In a global culture where everyone speaks a different language, but share technology and products, some sort of universal language is necessary: the language of symbols. The language of hieroglyphs.

It’s just taken us 4,000 years to catch up with the Egyptians.

The Elephant in the Room

MacGyver once said, “Everyone is going to die, the trick is not to rush it.”  Pretty good advice from a guy who made his living avoiding assassins, blowing up bad guys, playing with deadly toxins and elements and generally dancing with danger on a daily basis.

While my life is pretty tame compared to Mac’s, I’ve stared death in the face a few times, too: falling into a lake as a kid; meeting a car on a narrow mountain road head on; cowering under a table in Manta, Ecuador during a bank robbery with bullets whizzing overhead.

Although those specific times makes one stop and think, the reality and busyness of life has a tendency to overlay the immediacy of death. We become complacent and move away from the realization that we are not guaranteed a long and happy life, that each day could be our last.

Death is what gives value to life. It strengthens our resolve to make the right choices, to squeeze the most out of each moment, ensure each day is breathtaking.  Death keeps us on our toes, makes us treasure the people around us.

The real problem is we believe to make life count it has to be grand, big, with moments or events that are noticeable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Living a life with no regrets is more about appreciating the little things, a walk down a country lane with the one you love just to pick up the mail from the mailbox. Holding hands while watching a movie. Being awed by the spangle of stars against a night sky. Tucking a baby close and smelling the powder on his skin. Stroking a cat and enjoying its companionship. Eating with family and friends and living in the moment.

Living in the moment is the key to living with death in the room. Do we appreciate each moment we’re given? Do we snapshot it and hold it close, appreciate it while we have it?

In a couple of short weeks, my husband will undergo chemotherapy and our lives will change radically. While life as we know it will be altered forever, it will not be over; it will only change directions. I can live with that. Moreover, I can appreciate the new direction, the new things we will experience together, the new sweetness of living in the moment; and death will become, not a piece of ugly unwanted furniture, but a part of the decor that heightens the beauty of the room.

21st Century Drug of Choice

There is an interesting world wide phenomena today. A global economy based on a legal drug of choice, and it is mostly predominantly found in America where the majority of the population buy, sell, indulge, research, and create this drug. No one is immune from it, except for certain rural communities in the far North.   

The drug? The Internet and its plethora of delivery systems for mood-altering, pleasure enhancing effects.

Deprive Americans of their access to the Internet for more than a minute and you can see the same symptoms common to druggies undergoing withdrawal.  Well, maybe not the hallucinations. But the irrational temper tantrums and panic attacks, certainly. No, I’m not belittling the terrible conditions of drug addicts, nor am I saying the Internet is dangerous and should be banned. I’m merely observing an interesting phenomena.

Last weekend, rainy weather killed our Internet connection. Suddenly, instead of being able to keep up with friends across the country, check in on the latest news and fashion, research material for my next novel, or even catch another episode of CSI:NewYork on Netflix, we found ourselves with nothing to do.

Oh, the horrors of it! Instead of being filled with busyness and nonstop activity, our day yawned with empty hours, isolated from human contact.  Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. We had plenty to keep us busy and entertained. Internet, or the lack thereof, did not deprive us of our Kindles, the tons of paper books we have on our bookshelves, a telephone call to our kids or friends, or the simple pleasure of watching the rain fall outside.

But it did point out something intriguing. When did we as a nation stop interacting with reality? When did our lives become defined by an invisible, omniscient force controlled by individuals whose main goal is the bottom line?  What does it say about the future of America should anything serious and permanent happen to the Internet?

Science fiction writers have explored that particular scenario in various ways and all of them are sobering. Sudden loss of the Internet creates world wide havoc, economic collapse, the end of business as we know it (even fast food restaurants can’t sell with out the Internet), and complete panic as our civilization grinds to a halt. People would die by the thousands.

I’m not proposing we eliminate the Internet. I’m as dependent on it as anyone else.  I do think, though, if we want to survive as a civilization we ought to take a page out of those simpler communities and learn how to do some things without being dependent on something we have no control over.

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