Saturday, July 31, 2010


No Go Gitmo?

A prisoner who was freed from Guantanamo Bay doesn't want to go home. It's not that he likes it there; it's that he thinks he'll be persecuted if he's sent home. Which, by the way, he was.

Want to bet nobody wants to talk about what the right thing to do in that case is? Come to think of it, what is the right thing?


I got a flier from the people from whom I'd bought my Santa Boots, offering products at a discount. So I looked. Came across this list of 'People who bought this also purchased' items...

Bull Whip? Okay, riding through the snow, whip-crack, I get it. But I thought it was one of those little bitty ones like Scarlett O'Hara used. Bull Whip?


I've joked about how the one phrase I can reliably say in French now is Le Petit Dejeuner, or Breakfast (literally, the little lunch). We found pretty quickly that our guest absolutely loved French Toast, along with hot chocolate. After she'd been here a while, she wouldn't even wait for us -- just dive right into it. Wolfed it down. I went through a ton of butter, eggs, and bread, making just that. We had some occasionally, too, but she was the big consumer. Oh, she'd eat sausage, perhaps some melon -- but french toast? Absolutely. Bring it on. We tried picking up croissants from the local store. No go. French Toast, Oui!

So it's probably not so odd that I'm sitting here, thinking I could go for some breakfast, and thinking that French Toast sounds good.... if someone else would make it.

Hubris? Or Just Dumb?

I'm not exactly sure which of the various methods of indicating yeah, you really pissed off the gods on this one are relevant in this article, which I found on The Daily WTF site. Clearly, one is. Probably several. The only thing missing is an observation about the big people make the mistakes; the small people clean up after them.

At the university where Diogo worked, the Computer Science program outgrew its status as an unloved child of the Mathematics department. It was to become its own department, and that meant it finally deserved its own building. Since the university in question had a very strong architecture program, the university searched for the biggest names to design the building.

Enter Laurent. He flew in to consult and prepare designs for the building; he was fresh off a project in Dubai and his next port-of-call was Tokyo. He was a name that could name names. The exterior renders he provided were stunning, full of glass and sweeping lines. The designs leapt up on a desk, stomped their feet and screamed, "I AM MODERN AND TECHNOLOGICLYISH!" To the casual spectator, they were fantastic. As Diogo discovered, when you actually had to live in the building, things got much worse.

"I assume," Diogo said during one conference with Laurent, "there will be some sort of freight elevator? The server room we're moving in involves a great deal of heavy equipment, after all."

"No, no!" Laurent smiled like he was revealing a fabulous Christmas gift. "There is no need. You see, there is an access door on the south wall, with a ramp into the basement. Your computers can go in through there."

"Well, yes," Diogo agreed, "but how are we going to move them up to the server room?"

"Up? There is no up! The server room is in the basement. Nothing heavy need go upstairs; we have no need for a freight elevator."

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Diogo said. He explained the unique geography of the region.

Laurent extolled the virtures of his choice. It would be easy to move equipment in and out of. The naturally cooler basement would be cheaper to keep cool, reducing the costs of running a large server farm. The lack of a freight elevator would reduce the initial construction costs. Diogo continued his protests, carrying his case before the dean and eventually the university president, but their response was simple: "Laurent is a world class architect. He knows what he's doing. What buildings have you designed?"

Laurent came with a stack of designs and left with a gigantic check for his efforts. The CS department moved into their new building while the president gave his ribbon cutting speech. For most of the summer session, things were sunny and bright, and the new building worked out spectacularly. Shortly before the fall semester kicked into full swing, it rained. It kept raining for a full week, at rates ranging from a drizzle to a torrent. By the third day, Diogo was looking into renting a gondola for his commute. By the fourth, the water table rose and filled basements across the entire county.

Diogo's home was well prepared for this sort of flooding, common to the region. The basement was unfinished, the furnace was on blocks, and an emergency drain shunted the flood waters into the storm sewers. The new CS building wasn't so fortunate. As Diogo waded through the waist deep muck and murk in the basement, Jacques Cousteau swam between his legs, searching for the mysterious creatures of the deep ocean. Anything in the server room that had been below shoulder height had at least some water damage; anything below waist height was a complete loss. In the darkened room, Diogo feared that at any moment an upsurge of water would dash him against the ceiling and drown his unconsious body.

"…which is exactly what I warned you about," Diogo told the dean. It was impolitic, but honest.

The flood dampened the president's enthusiasm for the new building. Diogo and the other stakeholders sat down to plan a solution that would minimize downtime and get servers running for the CS labs before the fall semester started. Diogo proposed moving the surviving equipment back into its old room in the Mathematics building, but the dean vetoed that. "We are, after all, an engineering school. We should be able to do better than that."

The next day, workers swarmed the CS building, armed with large diamond-tipped saws and laser measures. On the top floor, they cut a hole on the roof of the building and installed large double doors. Of course, they opened to a four story drop that ended in a sloped ledge on the third floor of the building. A few days later, a large crane trampled the delicate landscaping and hoisted the rack equipment and surviving servers through the doors. Workers moved it from the ledge into the new server room a few feet away. "There," the dean said, "that should solve your little flooding problem." His tone implied that the whole thing had been Diogo's fault for having servers in the first place.

Through most of the fall semester, things went swimmingly- or not, as the case may be. The basement flooded several more times, but the server room was safe on a higher floor, potected by altitude and fire doors on all the stairwells. Rumors spread about the door to nowhere, and the fact that it had no lock, which earned it the nickname "the Suicide Door".

In early April, Diogo walked up the stairs towards the server room and opened the fire door, only to get doused with six inches of water that had pooled around the door. He waded to the server room, only to find that the puddle extended to the UPSes and destroyed several thousand dollars worth of equipment.

Yes, Exactly

From Calamaties of Nature.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Well, some things have changed of late.

For one, I found another book that I want to read -- one that we got from my mother in law. So now I'm up to - what, ten? I think so.

For another, it's actually cool out -- we're running the house fan right now, not the air conditioning.

For still another, we sort-of exchanged notes with our guest, the other night, via Facebook -- she was just about to go to bed (its six hours later there, making it around 2AM). Didn't say much. I ended up sending her a brief note, in GT-French, just to say hi. Surprised by how much I miss having her around.

I bought a battery for the laptop. Seems to be....okay. Knock wood. But now it looks like my daughter's PC might be about to give up the ghost.

And, finally, just watched a Doctor Who that was positively riveting. And the first two episodes of this season's Eureka, which left me wondering Are they going to keep these changes, or is it going to be a 'Then a miracle occurs' thing?

Is that enough change? I think so. For the nonce, anyway.


Double Oh Duty

So True

Thursday, July 29, 2010



Before our guest arrived, one person commented here that I should remember that this was not a FRENCH kid who was coming; it was a KID who happened to be French. She wouldn't be amazing or remarkable because she was French; if she had those qualities (and I think it's been pretty obvious what we thought of her), she would have had them because of what she was -- her nature, her character. The Frenchness of her was just one part of that character.

Well. For the last week, I've been on the beginner slopes -- perhaps, even still in the lodge, next to the crackling fire -- of the French language. Learning what it means to say Je Suis, or Je m'appell. Recognizing the phrase for "I'm from ....(wherever)" -- which I can't yet say in French, but when I see it, I recognize it. These are commonplace phrases, in this book -- a little stilted, perhaps, but light years more flexible than the Hola Pablo, Como Esta Ud. of my language lab days. As I read these French words and phrases, one ought-not-to-be-but-is surprising fact occurs to me.

French isn't a language that people slip into for comic effect, twirling their mustache as they speak. It isn't the language that people use to indicate sophistication or worldliness. It's a language that people use every day - to hail a cab or yell at the landlord or buy stamps. It's normal. In that environment, it's English that's unusual. Words, phrases in French? As well comment on the fact that the clouds are in the sky.

I don't know why that comes as a surprise, but it does. Somehow, knowing this, the language becomes less of a novelty, more of a I can do this.

It's a start.


Something's going wrong with my laptop's power, but I can't figure out what.

Fully charged, a battery will say it's got three hours of power. Forty minutes later, the laptop will shut down. Restarted, it says it has about thirty percent power. Right now, running on AC, it says that the battery is 75 percent charged. If I unplug, it says it has about nineteen minutes of power left. I thought maybe its the battery itself?, so I switched to an alternate. Same performance.

Yuck. It feels as if a new laptop may be in my future.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Well, I just realized that I don't have six books waiting to be read or
in process; I have eight. Nine, if you count the book on the French
language that I just picked up a few days ago from the library. So I
suppose I'd best get cracking -- starting with This Time Is Different
(the first book in a while that I've read with a highlighter). And maybe
that Donna Leon novel....


When our guest left, we gave her a TShirt from CafePress that said I'm Not Perfect, But I'm Close -- I'm French". I mentioned to my daughter that to wear one in Europe that said I'm Not Perfect, But I'm Close -- I'm American would strike me as arrogant. Why, she asked. I'm not sure. That's just how it feels.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Evening

A little down, at the moment. Nothing major. The cause is obvious.

Towards the end, we felt as if she was really becoming part of the family, for an odd reason -- she no longer dressed before coming up for breakfast, and she would spend a goodly amount of time engrossed in YouTube. Some French classic? Not exactly. Desperate Housewives, Season One.

I'm glad we did as we did, and we'd likely do it again. Particularly if we could get the same kid..... which is most unlikely.

Travel Day

Whenever we would travel somewhere, and the day arrived when we would be going home, I would always wake up early. It wouldn't usually be that I was eager to get out of there -- more like that I didn't want to let any of the day at the vacation spot disappear without my knowledge. It could have been that the day before, we'd done very little; perhaps that we'd gone to sleep the night before, exhausted. Whatever, that morning, I was wide awake. As I was this morning - awake at five thirty (I can't possibly get up this early!), and finally out of bed around six fifteen. I'm making a large breakfast -- sausage, hot chocolate, french toast, and even going to try crepes, which I've only made a couple of times -- both because the guest is going to be going a long time without food - driving down to Dulles, flight to Paris, then flight to her home town -- and because I want to commemorate the moment. I want to do something.

Last night she was in dismay at her inability to get all that she was bringing home into her bags. She tried several times. I asked my wife to give her a hand, and they finally got all of the bags crammed full, including the one she picked up at Footlocker in Times Square on Sunday. If all the kids are like that -- and I've no reason to suspect otherwise -- I hope that van that's taking them down to Dulles has lots of extra room. One thing that she's not taking is the teddy bear we bought for her as a welcome gift. She says she has lots of teddy bears. Ah, well.

Four hours till departure. Almost time to take Google Translate off my toolbar.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Tomorrow's her last day here. For breakfast, I'm making the usual.... and crepes.

I figure, if that doesn't make her happy to be leaving, nothing will.

And would that be so bad?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My wife called it a whirlwind three days, and that's about right.

We went to the Statue of Liberty, where our guest delighted us by saying that her dream -- to come to the United States and stand there -- was now realized. Even the heat and rain could not dampen that.

We went to a barbecue in eastern Connecticut (elapsed travel time from the Statue: about eight hours) which was pretty amazing in its own right. Even our guest, speaking very little English, unfamiliar with the concept of a barbecue, and clueless as to why the guests were wearing Viking helmets and some carrying very sharp knives, had a good time.

We drove through midtown Manhattan, where our guest was able to stand surrounded by the noise and congestion (and, yes, the heat and humidity) of Times Square, and just look in awe at it all. (I got to try to call France on her behalf. My weak cellphone was not up to the challenge of background noise, not by far. No wonder people wear headsets.)

It was wearying as all hell, and amazing as all hell.

One more day, and she leaves. We turn back into pumpkins.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday she and I were having trouble communicating. We switched to Spanish. Hey, presto! And then we baked Chocolate Meringue Cookies. Outstanding. I'd give you the recipe but it's in French.

Up until way-late late night, trying to navigate the Statute of Liberty web site. Whomever designed it must have been paid by the word, and the number of pages they makes you go through to order tickets. And then we find that any tickets to get into the monument have been sold out for two months. (But if a politician showed up and wanted access, welll.....) So we are bringing them TO but not INTO the statue. I don't think they'll care. (And if they do, tough!) Then its a casual drive through downtown Manhattan so that she can say she's been there -- oh, Friday afternoon outbound traffic, yum -- and out to eastern Connectidotts. Where I crash into the nearest bed.

On the bright side, her family has invited us to visit them in France. Way cool.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


This is a terrific little article about turbulence, from an airline pilot. I learned some useful stuff.

Truer Than Not

TSA'd Off

Apparently, some of the worst habits of our TSA have migrated to Canada. Including the response, upon complaint, that 'these guys were doing their job correctly'.

Sorry, Canada.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


(Which I realize is not the most original title for a post about this topic. What can I say. Would "Le Twit" have been better?)

Anyway --

I just read an article about Hillary Clinton's recent acquisition of two aides to be her technology gurus -- her, specifically, and the State Department, generally. I admit, I didn't really get it. (I suppose the way to say that would be with emphasis -- Bill just didn't get it.) Why, exactly, was the State Department doing this? It sounded to me like some elderly (ahem!) person saying Oh yes, I'm hip, I'm with it, I really groove with these young folks. What's the State Department doing using twitter, for heaven's sake? Comments like this, from that article, didn't help - "They are the most visible of a small band of new-media evangelists who are trying to push a pinstriped bureaucracy into the digital age — some on leave from jobs in Silicon Valley, some from nonprofit organizations and some, like Mr. Cohen, barely out of graduate school." Oh, great. The kids are going to save us all.

And then I realized: this is a way for organizations, not just people, to communicate, to do so in ways that get outside of normal channels. Channels that can be controlled by folks who want to limit the messages that their people see. It brought to mind Blank Reg. And then, just a little bit, I thought: I get it.

Early? Well....

I suppose that a quarter to eight isn't particularly early, but it feels like it.

Last night, we went down to Gettysburg to have dinner out with my sister in law and her family. (Which word, so long as our guest has been here, I've been reading as famiLEE.) Initially, it was a bit rocky -- my permadaughter didn't want to go at all, was mightily aggrieved that she couldn't wear jeans (they were planning to eat at a local club that didn't allow them), and grumped about it. Then, when we got there, my niece and a friend, who were meeting us, came over, said hello, and immediately got into the club's pool. The far end of the pool. We waited. And waited. My sister in law is known for being late -- I think she honestly believes that when she's done at work, it's just a few minutes to home, even though experience has shown it's more like twenty minutes on a good day. Then we discover that the pool doesn't actually have takeout from the club restaurant (we weren't dressed well enough for the restaurant), and when we started thinking about just getting pizza, after she arrived, they started saying oh, we're pizza connoisseurs, we should go to-- oh, wait, they closed -- but there's this other place, its really -- oh, wait, it closes at 6, but there's -- well, I started wondering if I was going to get dinner at all.

We finally ended up in a strip mall pizza place (connoisseurs?). It wasn't all that bad. Nothing special. But then things started to improve. Because of the seating, we couldn't all sit at one table. I had been groaning, mentally, because I thought that my sister in law would start gushing over our guest (and, dammit, this is our guest; hands off!!!), but she was at the other table. Me and my daughters were at the other - we immediately called it the kids table - and even after my brother in law joined us (he's a nice guy, very quiet) -- it was still okay. We talked about computers, and the iPad, and things like that -- the guest couldn't really enter into it, but she seemed to be following.

As we were leaving, my fears started to be realized -- the sister in law began to talk to the guest, speaking loudly (Soda? Do you know the word Soda? Kes k'se Soda?) (For gods sake, the kids not stupid -- she just doesn't speak English - leave her alone!) but that didn't last too long. And then we left. Which is when what happened that really delighted me. Because all the way home, the two girls teased each other, doing the classic She's poking me No I'm not Oui! Non! Oui! Non! Oui! Non! With both girls muttering in French, and laughing. All the way home. It was great.

Damn, but I'm going to miss that kid.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I'd like to go to France. The motivation there is obvious to anyone who reads this blog routinely.

But, you know? I don't want to see Paris. Eventually, yes, that would be nice. But I think that what I'd like to do is see the French -- and, like here, there's more of them in the country than the cities -- certainly, in Le Grand Citee. (Is that French? I've no idea.)

That's not even The Plan. But it is The Thought. And if it looks like we're going to do it, ever, I promised myself: A working fluency in French. Not perfect (hah!), but able to do the basic things, understand the basic phrases. Even when uttered at machine-gun French speeds.

So, maybe.

(Oh, and, what I wrote translated to Cited The General(!) according to Google Translate, which says that what I wanted to say was La Ville du Grand.)


Okay, this is weird. I think my daughter's getting tired of having a sister.

Possibly because she's realized this isn't an amazing creature; it's a kid, like her, who happens not to speak much English.
Possibly because we've going many places we wouldn't go if it was just her. Why her, not me?
Possibly because she's just tired - of her, the heat, you name it.

Whatever the cause, the bloom is, I think, off the rose. Not to say it won't reflower when she is just about to leave -- my wife thinks the daughter will be sad. But she also thinks she'll be quietly relieved. Normality.

But right this minute....


Guys skateboard, given.

But like this?


I don't fish....but these do look like the sort of things that I'd do.

Outtakes From Bill The Fishing Guy - Watch more Funny Videos


Saw a video of Barack Obama and his family on a small cruise boat, waving for the camera. Every so often, the Park Ranger who was with them waved, too.

Wonder if he heard about that? Bob, they're NOT waving at YOU!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Found at Shortpacked. (Which I would dearly love to read in Greader if the darn thing would display the comics there, rather than making me go to the actual site. I know, problems of the idle rich.)


May I just say: the next time we go to DC, we might check first to ensure that it's cooler than today. Say, about five below. Not five degrees cooler. Five below zero.

That ought to be about right.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

That Student

We received a note this afternoon that one of the LEC students is being sent home early. He stole money from his host family. Being sent home is a major blow to his own family, as they have to buy a one-way ticket today for a flight on Saturday -- he doesn't get to use his original return flight ticket. Of course, it's even more a major blow because -- well, no one wants to think that their child could do such a thing. But this one did. I'm sure he'll be hearing about it for quite some time to come.

It reminded me yet again of how very fortunate we have been to get the girl that we did. I suppose it's been obvious that we really like her, and I will admit that I occasionally thought wouldn't it be nice if she could stay with us for a couple of years? Problems with that idea are obvious, but still. Given the chance....

Thinking about it, I was moved to send a note to her mother, thanking her once again for trusting her bright, funny, intelligent daughter to us. Kids like that are special, and, at the moment, even more than usual.


Found here.

Speaking the Language

I was mulling over our experiences thus far, thinking about how it could be better if (and likely when) we do it again.

I think it would be helpful if LEC (the organization that arranged all of this) could recommend some language training for next year's participants -- not the kids, but the host families, so as to be able to say several common phrases in French. (Though I do find it amazing how much communication can occur with Oui, Non, and the ever expressive Gallic shrug.) Not simple ones (Are you hungry? Do you need anything?) so much as If we go to the store, would you like to come, or would you prefer to stay at home? Do you need any toiletries - shampoo, soap, hairbrush? Why do you have the French Embassy on speed dial? I know, the idea is for the kids to improve their English, and not our French, but hey, it can't hurt, and it might ease communications. Not to mention help them feel a little less self-conscious about their difficulties with our language as they see us struggle with theirs.

I also think, most definitely, that Hershey Park needs to radically redo their signage, which is currently the equivalent of You want to go from New York to San Francisco? Okay, just go towards the mountains, and then stop when you reach the water. Simple, let alone elegant, graphics and icons are not in their lexicon. You want to ride on Fahrenheit? (Which, by the way, only do if you have a death wish) Why, just head past Music Box Square to Pioneer Square. You do know where that is, of course. Assuming you even know which of their locales you're in right the heck now. And say you're standing under a ride and want to get to its entry point? Good luck in finding it. One cop gave pretty clear directions -- go up that road, and keep taking rights. Too bad he forgot about the alley.

Signage, you....morons! It's how you talk to customers!

Non Seq

Found here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Joltin' Joe

This is about a month old. It shows one of the reasons that I like Joe Biden.

No Need?

From Knowledge At Wharton:

Says Peter Fader, a marketing professor at Wharton. ".... Book reading is just one slice of what they (tablets) do. It's similar to the same way smartphones are taking over regular mobile phones. There's no need for a phone that just does voice calls."

Unless, of course, you want to just pay for functionality that you actually need, not merely lust after.


I am sure that it will not last past, oh, two weeks from today, but at the moment I am amazed at how many multi-lingual vacation destinations do not present their material in French. C'est terrible!

Got to watch that transient familiarity with French, though. This afternoon, I asked her if she liked any songs that were in English; she said non. Just as well, I replied. To be honest, I can only think of one song popular here that was in French -- and then, only the first line. Which I then told her. (Of course, you know which one I mean!)

Whereupon I thought: You do know what you just said to a fifteen year old girl in her native language, right?

Ah, rats.

All My Daughters

This morning was not a good one for either of my daughters.

For the loaner, it meant getting up at 6:30 so that she could leave the house at 7:30 to meet her tour group. They're going down to York today to tour the Harley factory, as well as a candy factory and a shopping mall. She's never particularly chipper in the morning -- she told me that she normally sleeps until ten; the other day, when we made of point of letting her sleep, finally awakening her about 10:15, she was still groggy -- but this morning she was a zombie. I think the amusement park wiped her out. Any English she had is obviously stored in the higher order parts of her brain -- she communicated entirely with gestures, sounds, and the occasional Oui or Non. By the time we got over to the pickup point, she was a little better -- she was able to tell me that "It's raining" was "Il pleut" -- but not much. When the van finally arrived, she staggered to it, climbed inside, and collapsed.

For the permanent one, it was much worse. She's highly aggrieved that my wife is making her do tasks around the house. Nothing particularly onerous -- clean the dining room table, straighten her room -- but this morning, she -- well, lets just say that she let her inner bitch out. And that's someone we almost never get to see. Forty minutes later, when I let her out of the van for color guard practice, she was still pissed. She's going to have a fun day.

So right this minute, I would be perfectly willing to send the permanent one to France, and keep the loaner -- but what has France ever done to me?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Following a 15 year old around an amusement park that is built on hills will wear you out. Doing so on a warm, humid day will seriously dehydrate you.

The grin on her face after her first water slide, though, was almost worth it. As was calling out to her across a crowd Do you want to take off your clothes first? Boy, that's a strange experience.

Also, riding on a ballistic ride - very fast- is no longer for me. Holy hell. I seriously thought I was going to fall out. I literally staggered off it.

Would I do it again? Probably. But cooler would sure be nice. Humidity sucks.


A blog which I used to read was titled "My Life Is This House", about the experience of having a house constructed.

Were I to rename this one, it would be My Life Is This Student, as every day we're doing something that revolves around our visitor. Yesterday, I took her to my daughter's color guard practice so that she could watch (but not participate; thank you, travel insurance). On the way home, she mentioned that her shoe was getting a hole -- which it really was; one entire side had come unglued -- so we swung over to a local shoe repair shop. They'll be ready tomorrow. It wasn't until later, thinking about it, when it occurred to me that this was a little strange -- you don't usually pay to have your visitors' shoes repaired. The thing is, we've been feeling for -- well, I suppose quite some time would be an overstatement, as she's only been here for a week, but it certainly feels that way -- that we really like her, to the point where we've begun to think of her as family. So, of course, when your 'daughter' has a problem, you help her fix it. Il est naturel.

Today we go out to Hershey Park. I'm not a big fan of HP, and the weather, including a possible thunderstorm, as well as the fact that we're bringing along another girl, a friend of my daughter's, who is nice enough but a bit of a chatterbox and an airhead -- all that makes for a somewhat wearying day, even in anticipation. But, hey, it's for family, y'know? So, sure.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


We spent today in Philadelphia, showing our guest the Liberty Bell and (from the outside) Independence Hall. Cool this morning, but it got hot. Later, we went to the Cleopatra exhibit, where they did have portable multi language guides and did not have portable multi language guides in French -- just English and German. W, as they say, TF? I did learn a couple of tidbits about her -- for one, she was not the one and only Cleo, but rather Cleo the Seventh -- but overall, I wasn't too impressed. The others were, though, so I guess that they knew what they were doing.

On the drive home, the daughteroid offered to drive -- on the Turnpike. We agreed, and for the most part, she did okay. A little drifting to the other lane once, enough to earn her a beep from a passing car, and she took a curve a little fast -- it was bumpy just on the curve, and she mildly lost control, but recovered. We'd have called it a success except that she didn't understand that when we said slow way down on the exit ramp, we meant it; thirty five isn't slow for a curved ramp. SLOW DOWN!!! And when we got home, she misjudged the angle of attack to get into the garage and damn near scraped the can door on the garage door rail. She just wanted to get in and be done, but our standards were a little higher than that. So, she's grumpy at the moment.

Two weeks, one day left for our visitor. Not enough.


A glorious day -- cool and bright. Got up early to take care of the neighbor's dog -- trying to put ear drops into a German Shepherd's ears is not my idea of fun, even if he is tame -- but the beautiful weather for the short walk over was worth it.

Yesterday, I brought our visitor over to where my daughter was practicing with color guard, and they all wanted to come and meet her. We want to see your Frenchie! I thought Good thing the kid doesn't understand English all that well. She is getting better, though. Last night, she actually laughed at our normal conversation -- we weren't making great efforts to make it understandable to her. That's cool.

Noticed on the calendar that we're already a third of the way through her stay. Dammit. Amazing how quickly she's grown on us.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I think that this is bittersweet.

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

We'd be delighted if all our exchange student brought was herself -- but she brought gifts for all of us -- wines, a CD for my daughter, a lovely book about her region of France, and a bag of nonnettes, which are small honey cakes. Oh, my goodness. I've never had nonnettes before, and now I fear I will never have any again -- they're a French/Swiss specialty, not easily available around here. Guess I'll have to learn to bake them...
I did a search for the recipe, and came across this page, which made my mouth water.


This morning, anyone coming into my kitchen would hear me muttering -

Avez vous boire du cafe? and Vous aimez les cereal?
(both courtesy, including pronunciation, of Google Translate)

This is fun. Kind of. No, really - it is. I find it interesting to think about how the way that we view words -- literally, 'see' them - affects how we pronounce them. I've known for decades the idea that 'if you want to make a (french)(spanish)(italian) word from an english one, just add a vowel to the end'. (Yeah, I know that's not right.) Now, yesterday, I wanted to ask if she lives near a farm, and that word completely escaped her. So we stopped, and hauled out her dictionary (about an inch thick), finding out that in French, that's ferme. Well, I tried to pronounce it as fer-may, and she shook her head. Fairm. Apparently, that trailing vowel doesn't get pronounced. When I thought about that 'just add a vowel' thing, years ago, I wondered if the reason that immigrants added that sound when speaking english -- I'ma going out -- was that in their native language, the trailing vowel was pronounced. Now I wonder if it's actually the reverse. As I say, fun.

Right now, my challenge is to be able to say Avez vous boire du cafe without looking at my cheat sheet. I won't even try to keep my daughter from laughing at, or correcting, me.

Friday, July 09, 2010

N'est Pas?

I was talking with my daughter yesterday about how her French skills have been improving as a result of the exercise in talking with our resident student. She finds herself making conversation two or three times a day as a concept completely eludes our visitor. For example, I told her that we were going to a market so that she could, possibly, buy some foods from home -- something familiar to her. She gave me a smile which meant I have no idea whatsoever you're talking about. My daughter cobbled together enough words that she got the idea. This morning, as we dropped her off for a group excursion with the people who'd set up the exchange, I said to her I know what you're thinking. She looked at me, puzzled, and I continued At last! People who speak French! and she started laughing. Yet I have to share what my daughter said to me -- she wished that she had enough French to have an actual conversation with the girl. I forbore from pointing out that this was why she was taking French, and had been for the last two years, and merely agreed. I also wished that I could actually talk with her -- I hadn't realized how limited her English was. I'm hoping that it gets better over time, just as my daughter's French is improving. After all, that's part of why she's here!

I wonder about something else. I recall reading reading, a few years ago, of a woman who went through Harvard Business School, where she met a fellow who had a thick Russian accent. For the first semester, she thought this guy was really smart. After that semester, once she was used to deciphering what he was saying, she realized that he was an idiot -- it was the mystery of the accent that made him sound smart. If I could really talk with this kid, so that I knew her as well as my daughter's friends, would I feel the same way? How much of her -- I hesitate to say charm, but something like that -- is based on the fact that we have to work so hard to understand what she says, we subconsciously feel as if she must be worth it? I'm guessing not -- that, whatever the language, she's a decent kid -- but I'm curious. Guess I'll never know.

I asked her if she got to visit other countries in Europe. Once she figured out what I was saying, she rattled them off. Germany. Italia. Belgium. England. The Netherlands. All this before she's 16. Not quite the small - town (the word is belange; no idea if that's how it's spelled) girl that I thought.

Still wouldn't mind having that French, though.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I am really enjoying talking to our guest. It's tough, because there's a lot of English that she doesn't understand, but still: I'm enjoying it. So much so that I find I resent it, just a little, when someone else talks with her.

On the other hand, I can now say breakfast in french like a bandit. Le Petit Dejeuneur!


Found at Daily Casual.

A Late Night Visit

Our French student wasn't our only visitor, last night. The police dropped by, too.

We had gone to the designated spot at the designated time. Nada. Nobody around but for people who were shopping at the supermarket. My wife drove back home to get the contact's phone number, while I and my daughter waited there. In case you're curious, a supermarket parking lot on a hot night, late at night, is not a fun place. We watched people come and go, including one white pickup truck that made a lot of noise as it moved. Fifteen minutes later, she was back -- the contact had said they'd left the airport two hours later than planned, and would not be back till midnight. We decided to go home. I noticed that the pickup was still there -- he'd moved around to the far side of the lot. That guy is following us, my daughter said. Nah, couldn't be.

Twenty minutes after we got home, the doorbell rang. My wife got it. I heard her talking to somebody, using words like 'parking lot' and 'with a young woman'. I came out. Turned out that it was a cop I knew from being a mentor. He was as surprised as I was. Turned out, also, that that white truck had called the police. Seemed there was this guy just hanging around the supermarket parking lot with a young woman.... looked odd.

Glad I knew the cop. Not that I think anything would have happened if I hadn't -- we could prove what was going on -- but still.

She's Here

...and we're delighted.

First impressions can be misleading when the person in question has traveled for about 12 hours to get here, finally arriving two hours after planned, so what she likely wanted most in the world was to sleep, but off the cuff, our first image is good. We like her. Okay, we're primed to like her; we want to like her. But still -- she seems nice. Very quiet -- apparently her English is pretty bad, but heck, that's part of why she's here.

We showed her to her bedroom, and we talked to her for about five minutes -- bathroom's here, kitchen's upstairs -- upon which we realized that she had no idea what we'd just said. A trace of panic in her eyes. So my wife insisted on showing her where the bathroom and kitchen were, and when she came back downstairs, I made sure she knew where the light controls were -- there are three lights, and each one has its own control, only one of which is obvious. And then I said good night, and pulled the door shut so that it clicked. Figured she might want to notice that there's a lock on it.

I was just thinking how are we going to ask her what she wants for breakfast? Well, we can show her some things -- cereal, English muffin, toast -- but what about pancakes? Waffles? (Do I even dare mention French toast?) So I though to ask Babelfish. Waffles are gaufres (GOO-fruhs); pancakes are - what a surprise - crepes. I'm sorry -- crêpes. And breakfast? Petit dejeuner. Or something like that. Petty day-joo-nay. Or something like that. I know -- she's here to learn English, not the reverse. I figure it can't hurt. Might make her laugh.

I'm looking forward to this. Hope she is, too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Watching the 'patriotic sing-along' on our recording of the Boston Pops Fourth of July event. It's fantastic. Tears to my eyes. Literally.


This is an extract from an entry in the blog of Peter Bregman (which is, itself, pretty good reading) about skill in being a good friend.

To be a good friend, you have to give of yourself, but not so much that you lose yourself. You need to know what you want and pursue it, while helping others achieve what they want. You need to have personality while making room for, and supporting, other people's personalities. You need to care about, and even love, people you might disagree with.... You need to be willing to give at least as much, if not more, than you take.

I've never been particularly good in caring about most other people -- a few, yeah, but not many. I admire people who can.


Popular Science? On the iPad? I guess I'd rather, oh, Technology Review, but - holy hell. This is Awesome.

Amy Mebberson

I came across this illustration by Amy Mebberson on the IO9 web site, and was intrigued. I highly recommend going to her DeviantArt site. She's obviously talented, and, based on her stamps, with more than a little snark. I like that.

Move Along

I came across this image here, and immediately thought Wouldn't that have been a pithier phrase without that first sentence?


I mentioned to my wife that I'd bet somewhere there's someone working on a system to explain soccer to Americans, complete with the razzle-dazzle of hockey and football -- instant replays, colored lines showing current goal direction, highlighted flanking movements by players, 'key players to watch', 'balls-eye view of the goal', etc. She said that she's surprised it didn't happen with the World Cup.

And if they can explain that, can cricket be far behind?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


It is so weird, how wired I am about this girl coming tomorrow night. Its like its my own daughter coming home -- and I've never even met her. Just getting an email from her -- complete with typos and mis-spellings of English words -- has made her 'real'.


Apparently, Blogger's not updating the comments on the posts. I do get the comment via email, but when I look at the post -- sometimes it's there, and sometimes not. Which makes responding a bit tricky.


I read various sites and blogs via Google Reader. For a while, I tended to accumulate food related sites, but I found that however good something sounded, I would get irritated when I had to delete the entry because I just didn't have the time to get to it. Since that awareness, I don't accumulate food sites any more.

But Taste and Tell... might just be an exception.

Arch Architecture

Why isn't the ARCH in architecture pronounced the way that ARCH alone is?

Last night, our daughter showed us the pictures that she'd taken in Paris. I was quite taken by them, but almost as much by the number of remarkable buildings as the quality of them. I truly believe that you could look at one -- just one -- and gaze at it for hours, looking at the elegant carvings, the sinuous design, the interplay of the elements, the stolid figurines, the leering gargoyles. You could do this for day after day, until the shape and content of the building became as familiar to you as the ceiling over your bed -- and then move to a different spot a tenth mile away and look at the same building, all over again, noting the different angle of the sunlight on the windows, the shading on the marble, the texture of the roof. You really could do that. Rather than a quick "Pretty", you could understand the building, its style and the effect that the architect worked to create.

But who does?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Perhaps I Should Be A Republican

Found here.

This Time

I just started seriously reading -- as distinct from skimming -- This Time It's Different. So far, it's fascinating. Not chock-full of good news, though. More like you think the pain is over? Think again.

I'm not sure if I will have the intellectual fortitude to read the whole thing (and this is the light consumer version!), but I'm going to try.

By the way: The Lancers of Peshawar? Excellent

Sunday, July 04, 2010



I mentioned to my daughter that I was looking at the Facebook photos of the girl who's coming here. She said that I shouldn't tell the girl that I did that. It's creepy. Why, I asked. She did friend me, after all. No, she replied, you asked her to friend you, and she said yes. I get friend requests all the time. I don't necessarily think they're going to be looking through my pictures.

Maybe you should, kiddo. Maybe you should.

I Know You, Al

It still comes as a bit of a surprise to me to find Al Franken being taken seriously as a Senator -- and more than that, having a substantive and serious effect on that body and its deliberations. Al Franken? The comedian and humor writer? Franken and Davis? Saturday Night Live?


On the other hand, I don't think he's always on mark. As in this, from the Kagan heaings:

"If Comcast and NBC merge, I worry that AT&T and Verizon are going to decide that they have to buy ABC or CBS to compete," resulting in "less independent programming, fewer voices, and a smaller marketplace of ideas. That's a First Amendment problem. It's also an antitrust problem."

Antitrust, yes. But I can't see it as a First Amendment problem. If I do not have a broadband medium with which to propagate my views, but I can still put them out in another medium, that's not a restriction of my First Amendment rights. If I don't have one at all -- and no one else does, either -- that's not a restriction. A constraint, yes - but one that exists any time a free medium isn't universally available. Not a problem.

I'd like very much to agree with him, but not, I think, in this case. Not entirely.

Add Guns To The List, Willya?

From Time.


This morning, I was waiting in the church parking lot for my daughter. She slept in, so we had gone to an early mass alone. While I waited, I read an article in the Times Magazine about Lindsey Graham, and thought that for a Republican, he sounded pretty amazing, with thoughts about a number of things. And, you know, he sounded honest -- more honest than I usually believe people at that level are.

It got me to thinking about Issues, and how I tend to expect so little from politicians. Of course, it doesn't really matter what I expect from a politician, because people at that level are driven by considerations far beyond worrying about what I think, what my thoughts are. Still, I thought, do I even have thoughts, however incoherent and contradictory, about the major issues of the day? What even are the major issues of the day?

So I pulled a notebook out of the van's console and jotted these down:
Nuclear Weapons
Health Care
Financial Reform

then I paused, thinking - surely there must be more? -- before adding

Iraq/Afghanistan/Wars in general

And there I stopped. Never did think to write the economy or even jobs. Or global warming. Or....

What else did I forget?


Today is a terrible day.

Today is July Fourth, which means that it's when pompous windbags feel it is their right to stand in front of us and tell us how damned lucky we are to be whom we are and where we are. That they're right, we are, doesn't take away from the pomposity. That there are people who live here but aren't fortunate, are about as far as you can be from fortunate, doesn't take away from the sentiment, either. This is a wonderful place, and we don't think about that enough. So maybe the pomposity is worth something, after all, if it gets us thinking about who we are.

There are times when I wonder if we even still have a core sentiment in this country, but if we do -- and I hope we do -- I hope that it includes reminders of what we value; what we say is important. Our core values. The kinds of things that we tend to talk about only after a 9/11.

I have no use for the 'tea party', but I'll say this for them: they get people involved. And that's a good thing. So long as that kind of thing continues to happen, the country's in pretty good shape, I think. At least, it's on the right track.

Happy Birthday, y'all.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Gracie's Heart

"Grace Allen Polaneczky is 11 years old and lives in Athens with her mom, dad and little brother."

And she writes a decent blog, too.



Been an interesting day, and its still young

Took care of the neighbor's dog. It's getting used to me. Not exactly friendly (it's a pretty quiet dog, and tame; good when its a German Shepherd, with big honkin teeth), but when it sees me, it bolts to the door to be let out in their huge back yard, and then, once back, dashes downstairs to be fed. I doubt I'll ever get a dog, particularly with the fascination vets have now about ramping up the level of care, but I must admit, I like taking care of it.

My laptop died while in use. This has been happening fairly often. What particularly bugs me is that a) the laptop won't restart (well, it will, but only for about two seconds, and then dead again), and b) when I plug it in, the battery indicates about a third full. So, why did it die? My guess is that its something in the laptop itself. Certainly, relative to laptop life, this one is getting old. I resent that thought. I think that machinery should work forever. I know that the pukka-wallahs of Cupertino, Silicon Valley, and Redmond feel differently. Not get a new laptop every year? But, why not? And you know, if a) data transfer and b) upgrades weren't such a pain (and they never make it easy, or obvious, at least to me), I could almost consider it... Almost. I hate spending large amounts of money -- and a new laptop/tablet/whatever is, no matter what any technogeek feels.

Daughters off 'competing' (more of a demo than a competition). She has to do it in order to qualify to move up to the next belt.

Going to do some baking today, I think. Not sure what. UPDATE: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes.

And Thursday, the Girl From France!

That Ring

From The Onion --

"Just yesterday, somebody asked me about my last temp job," Braxton said. "It ended in May, but I told them it ended in June. See, after it ended, I took about a month off and just kind of dicked around, traveling around Europe until my money ran out. I knew not to mention that to people who won't be able to do anything like that until they're 65."

Though Braxton said he sympathizes with his coworkers, he added that the decision to pursue a prestigious, high-paying career path was entirely their own.

"They wanted to go for the brass ring and really live the good life," Braxton said. "What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the ... plague."

Friday, July 02, 2010


I just looked through some old Doctor Who videos, and discovered something.

The current ones are way better. Way, way better. Even when they're absurd, they're believable. And so, even though it's not Christmas --

Stranger Danger

When our daughter was younger, we did the usual warnings of whom to trust, and whom not to; I even added, as she got older, the bit about 'if you're with someone you trust, but they make you feel funny, and it bothers you, tell someone else that you trust -even if the person who makes you feel odd is me, tell someone'. Which made me feel odd, I can tell you.

This afternoon, I brought a girl back to her house after she stayed overnight with my daughter. It was just me and her going back, but she got into the second row of the van. It brought to mind that another time, when I'd brought a different girl home by herself, she sat in the second row.

Wonder if someone's teaching that as a defensive technique?


I rarely say Oh, I Want One when I see something on the web.

I want this.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lake Placid?

You hear sometimes about Peyton Place activities behind the quiet facades of homes. I suppose that's possible here, too. We do have one family that's been visited by the police twice (that I know of), and another where the husband's in jail for being a sex offender. And this is just near our home. I can't rule out other, more nefarious activities, further away. Why, there might even be Republicans.

Yet, all things considered, we live in a quiet area. Cases in point: our neighbor -- the one with the husband in jail -- gave me the code to her house so that I can take care of her dog while she's away (at a Christian camp, with her son). She gave me the code awhile ago, when I was meeting her son at the bus for a while. It was one of those codes that can easily be changed, so I figured she would -- but she didn't. Same code now as then. And our next-door neighbor sent out a note saying that they'd be away, feel free to use the pool -- and since you all have keys to the house, feel free to come use the bathroom and take a soda from the fridge. Whoa. I don't think I could be that trusting. Even if they are from Kansas, with all of the wholesomeness that that implies, that's pushing it. Of course, we're somewhat the same way. Three neighbors have a key to our house - one being the one with the pool, another being the one with the detained husband.

Still.... makes you wonder, just a bit. Are we living dangerously?


Found at Calamities of Nature.

Three days till the fourth, and already we're hearing the wheeezPOP of fireworks in the neighborhood. Not as much as when I was growing in the The Bronx, of course; then (and likely now) the place sounded like a free-fire zone, with casual references to M80s and cherry bombs all over the place. This is much more placid. Still, I am sure that tonight, when the local racetrack gets going, and they do their end-of-races fireworks show, its going to be hard to hear yourself think.

I said, it's going to be
..... sorry. Hard to hear yourself think.


Many of these are of the why would you want to do that? genre, but several are quite intriguing.

Secret Stash from yiting cheng on Vimeo.