Monday, May 22, 2017

Potty Training

Well, not exactly.  But doing it in another country can be intimidating, and requires some advance awareness.  This article, which is set in Italy, is mostly  applicable to France, too.  (Really?  No toilet paper??? Yeah. )

Saturday, May 20, 2017


One of the things that people yearn to do when they enter retirement is to travel.  Frequently, that means buying or renting an RV (I recall the glam vehicle one relative bought; privately, we referred to it as 'the superbus', and it was nothing in comparision to what's available now). We're going to do a little bit of that -- instead of going overseas (to France, natch), we're going to take a drive through the Northeast -- over to Pittsburg, up to Niagara Falls, down to the Finger Lakes wine area, and home again.  Should be fun.

Yet I have to admit, I still want to go to France, to the point where my wife has said "Then go".  She's perfectly okay with me taking a week or ten days and going to see some friends -- a close friend in Paris, as well as a new conversation partner in La Rochelle (which that partner refers to as 'the prettiest city in France')  I'm thinking about it, but am relucant, for two reasons, each of which, I have to admit, is a little strange.

One is the food.  I am, I suspect, the only person who has even gone to France and lost weight (going through security at Charles De Gaulle airport on the way home, I abruptly demonstrated what happens when they ask you to take off your belt, and you've lost about ten pounds).  I just don't like most French food.  I'm a very simple food person, and things that -- well, hell, let me just say 'don't look American' don't appeal to me.  This is particularly strange when you realize that much of the quotidian French food is really basic - for example, hachis parmentier, which has a name that immediately sets me on edge; turns out, it's essentially shepherd's pie.  Ditto Croque Monsieur, which many Francofreaks adore; its a ham and cheese sandwich. (Okay, I'm not a fan of ham-and-cheese even here, and French ham is usually too thickly cut for me, with hyper-gooey Gruyere -- but still: ham and cheese)  So I intellectually acknowledge that French food is not inherently awful, but still: I have this atavistic no-not-for-me reaction to it.  Last time, when I had the interesting experience at the airport, the only 'real food' I had was the night before departure, when a friend made a food run for me to McDo's -- and sat, amazed, as I wolfed it down.  Its me, not them, but....

The other thing thats keeping me from going is that I don't want to think of myself who says Oh, yeah (elaborate yawn), I went to France, but only for a week.  Visiting some friends, doncha know.  I know, no one is EVER going to confuse me with Jay Gatsby, but still: casuallly tossing two thousand dollars (round trip, Dulles to Paris, Air France Premium Economy), plus another five hundred or so for hotel in Paris (La Rochelle, I'd be staying with my friend) -- I don't know, it just seems profligate to me.  I despise the idea of 'we can afford it, so why not do it?'  (Whats particularly weird is that if my WIFE wanted to do something similar by herself, I wouldn't think twice before saying that Of COURSE she should do it.)

So, no France for me this summer.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Watch This

Liking this due to its size, but wishing for something that also had the day/date on it, I did a Google Image search for "Mens Watch Big Face".

So many little dials!  Big clunky bracelets! Must be the watch-owner equivilent of the SUV-owner compensating for something.....

Monday, May 08, 2017

Light Impressions

I freaking love this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Chain of Events

It turns out that if you leave the Venza in the street, so that the two people who need to get to their cars in the morning can do so in the warmth of the garage....

and if you leave the moonroof open on the Venza....

and it rains....

and water collects in the cup holder....

and you find your missing MP3 player and drop it into the cupholder so that you can see it when you get out of the car....

it will not be good news for the MP3 player.  Dammit.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Just got through looking through the Facebook comments of a guy with whom I used to work, and ancillary comments by others, some of whom I knew.  Hard to believe I never realized how conservative they are.  Whats particularly interesting is the guy himself, who apparently is both quite conservative and disgusted with Trump.  He commented quite a bit on my FB feed before the election (not necessarily in defense of Trump), but since then, radio silence.

In my continuing quest to improve my abysmal ability to understand quickly spoken French, I came across a web site called Linguo.TV, which offers free videos in French, with or without French subtitles, at full speed and reduced speed. It can be hard to understand, but somehow I find this site easier to use than others that offer the same thing.  Oddly, I think its because this one's narrator (at least, for the video on surfing, which is the only one I've seen thus far) has a thicker French accent.  Somehow it feels more genuine. 

Not going to Italy this year after all.  I'm mulling going to France for a week while my wife takes a drive in New York to see various things with her mother.  I probably won't.... but I might.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Readings and Stuff

I read a couple of interesting articles - one about a concept known as Deep Learning, which is the current Big Thing in artificial intelligence research (not that I am current in the least, but this, I do know); specifically, that people are a little concerned because while on the one hand it seems to have some unsuspected abilities -- such as accurately (though not completely) predicting predilection towards schizophrenia - they don't know how it does it (one of the delights of neural nets is that they teach themselves, and sometimes their pathways are convoluted, if not downright spooky).  This is not a problem per se - hey if it works, it works -- but when you get to the point where Deep Learning is driving, say, an autonomous car, you really want to be sure that the decisions it's making are ones that a reasonable person would have made.  People have written science fiction novels about what happens when that assumption turned out to be wrong, with dire consequences.

The other article was about how a number of online sites are removing their comments sections, because they are finding that using  comments as a way of getting feedback from readers isn't working -- they are being taken over by bots, by ideologues, or by conspiracy theorists.  Then the owner of the site has to spend time weeding out the bogus comments from the valuable ones, and what they're finding is that it just isn't worth the effort.  (Ironically, reading that, I wanted to send the author a comment!)

I baked cookies the other day, and I've been thinking for a week or so that I'd like to make some crêpes.  I had a running joke with one conversation partner who told me that she had gone to a crêperie; it took me three tries before I realized that what she was pronouncing as krep ree is what I pronounce as krep er ee.  You would think that a French person would be able to speak the language better!

The hedgehog seems to be doing okay.  After two enucleations, it's now in permanent night - but since it's a nocturnal animal, that may not be a bad thing.  My daughter is almost giddy with delight.  I am being guarded in my optimism, but I try not to let that be obvious.