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Posted By P & L Blog

Local nonprofit Conexión Américas and the Mayor's New Americans Advisory Council will welcome parents as they drop off their children at school this Thursday morning with live music, free coffee and a simple message in several languages: "Be counted! Mail your Census form today!"

Mayor Karl Dean will attend the event, and Metro Nashville Public Schools will be represented by Meredith Libbey, assistant to the director of schools. The event will  be broadcast live by two Spanish language radio stations, La Sabrosita and Activa.

Volunteers who speak Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, and English will be available to help parents fill out the Census form. Cole Elementary School, located at 5060 Colemont Dr. in Antioch, is a diverse community of almost 800 children, who represent primarily low-income families historically missed by Census counts.

For more information, contact Renata Soto, Executive Director of Conexión Américas:

Posted By P & L Blog


The Great Gatsby

In ""7 Tips for Leaders Working Overseas", Margarita Gokun Silver suggests that people moving abroad read fiction which takes place in and is written by an author native to the country where they are relocating.  The idea is that the reader will begin to understand the country's value system and the people who live there.  I think it's a great suggestion, and it got me thinking about what book(s) I would recommend to someone moving to the US.

I know a lot of people think "Huckleberry Finn" is the quintessential American novel, but I don't think it would be the best choice to understand 21st century, multicultural America.  I'm more tempted by "The Great Gatsby", which depicts the promise of rags-to-riches success as well as the perils of excess. 

I'm not sure it's the best book. Is "Gatsby" too dated? Is there a more recent work of fiction that would help someone "get" the US? What book would you recommend?



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Posted By P & L Blog

San Patricio cd

San Patricio, a new CD from Ry Cooder and the Chieftains, tells the story of the San Patricios, a group of Irish soldiers who deserted the US army in 1846 during the Mexican-American war. The majority of the soldiers were recent immigrants who left Ireland during the potato famine and were not yet American citizens.

There are several theories as to why they decided to fight with the Mexicans.  Some historians speculate that  as immigrants they had been treated badly by their superiors inn the American army, while others believe that they felt more of an affinity with their fellow Catholics.  After the US won the war, the Irish soldiers who were caught were treated as traitors and many were executed.

The San Patricios are considered heroes in Mexico.  In 2004 the Mexican government presented a statue commemorating their bravery to the Irish government. It can be found in Clifden, Galway, the birthplace of John Riley, the battalion's leader, and my maternal grandmother, Margaret Connolly.

San Patricio combines traditional Irish and Mexican folk music, and includes performances by Linda Ronstadt, Lila Downs, Chavela Vargas, and narration by Liam Neeson. It has been called "stunning, and not to be missed." You can listen to selections from the CD here.

Erin go bragh!

Posted By P & L Blog


There is no official body that governs how we use English, unlike some other languages.  There are "rules" that we learn in school, but how we speak and spell is based on arbitrary reasons which evolved over time. 

Before 1604 when the first English dictionary appeared, the spelling of even simple words wasn't standardized, and there were regional variations.  Today, Google's spelling correction provides suggestions based on what other users have entered; it doesn't match words to an actual dictionary. 

So what is the role of dictionaries 400 years later: do they exist to confirm how we use English, or to teach us proper usage? 


Posted By P & L Blog

Recently I've noticed that people are saying "utilize" in cases where "use" would do just fine.  It drives me crazy, but I must be in the minority: a Google search of "how to utilize" returned more than 59 million results.  I'm trying to figure out why this started while I practice selective deafness.  My guess is that the people who use "utilize"  think they sound more intelligent, but it has the opposite effect on me.

Is there is a particular word or phrase that bothers you? Check out "'Equation', 'Gingerly' and Other Linguistic Pet Peeves" on NPR and please share your peeves in the comments section below.




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