Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I did thirty minutes on the elliptical, level 3, at about 4 MPH. This is pretty good, for me.


This dental stuff must be stressing me more than I realized -- last night, for the first time in years, I dreamt that I was back in high school and didn't have a clue about how to respond to a test. Which, granted, at the time happened fairly often!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I picked up a copy of David McCollough's biography of John Adams and listened to the first couple of chapters today while I was slogging through the elliptical. (Not one of my better days at that -- slower and less intensity. But I stuck out the thirty minutes.) It's an interesting sensation to be listening to a person describe the bombardment of Boston by the British fleet while hearing thumping rock music and seeing Faux News on the TV. Puts things in perspective, a little.


"....and he doesn't complain about the hand he is dealt."

Thanks, S.



I wonder what words in English cause French speakers to have the same kind of what the hell is THAT reaction that the trailing kur sound in propre and quatre does to me?

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Bigger Inside...

So how many cookies can this thing hold, anyway?

(Bonus points if you guessed what the link points to without looking!)


I never like going to the dentist, but if I have to go, I prefer going to the oral surgeon. He's fast and organized. He's focused on getting the job done.

Today, I got another example of that.

Last week, one of the screws holding things in for my implants fell out into my mouth. I got it, and the general dentist I see reinserted it. He also 'tightened' all of the others. Two minutes later, one of them fell out, to our mutual surprise. He put it back in. Two days later, I felt as if that spot was tender, just a bit. The next day, still a bit tender, I felt around but didn't feel anything odd. The next day, I counted the implant 'heads' -- and only felt three. Since that dentist is closed on Fridays, and when I'd called the last time said to just come in, I called today and said 'Another screw missing -- and this time, I don't have it.' He said he did not have replacements, and I should go to the oral surgeon.

In what has been a chain of whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, it turns out that the oral surgeon was fully booked for today because tomorrow he's leaving for a conference -- but they managed to slide me in anyway. I mentioned to him that I liked his speed and sense of lets just get it done, while the other dentist seems to lack a sense of urgency. Well, he's been practicing for a long time, he said. But ten minutes later, the screw reinserted, he was looking at his records, and was astounded. It's been a YEAR since I discharged you to him, and you still don't have the permanent bridge? I nodded. He looked at the xray he'd just taken. You're starting to lose bone around the implants. That temporary denture is torquing the hell out of the implants, rocking them like pulling on a fence post. If something doesn't happen soon, you're going to lose those implants. He looked at the xray again and shook his head. You want me to call him?

I would really, really appreciate it, I said.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This is why I didn't want my daughter's laptop to have a webcam. And yeah, it's NSFW. Question is, is it real? Because that's one awfully forgiving parent....

. -


I am fascinated by the words that our former summer guest uses on Facebook. If I ever thought that I could learn some of that language by seeing what she writes, I've been disabused of that notion.

For example, here is something she wrote in response to a post on her wall by another girl who said that she wanted a muffin:

mwa ossi jve un muffins tro bonne aprem passer avc toi

Say what? I decode it as follows:

Moi aussi! Je (something, possibly 'love') un muffin trop apres-midi passer avec toi!

which becomes, I think -

Me, also! I'd love to get a muffin with you this afternoon too!

Man, my head hurts. Why doesn't Rosetta Stone teach teen French?

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Just got back from the gym. Did about 2/3s of the normal time on the elliptical (20 minutes instead of 30), but at a higher level (3 instead of 2) and faster (about 4.3 mph instead of 4.0). So I think I worked harder -- certainly, my heart rate was about 8% higher -- and yet, paradoxically, it felt easier to do. Strange.....

Cool Elegance

Found at Cool Hunting, a bike rack that serves as an elegantly designed shelf, too.

Take Your Child To Work

Found at Fork Party.


Had an interesting conversation with my daughter this morning on the drive over to the school.

I was saying how I wonder sometimes what sorts of things she'll see in her lifetime that I am unable to imagine, like my grandparents and the internet. I said that people talk about things, like sunglasses that spot-darken to block out a very bright light while still keeping the rest clear; we don't see them yet, but perhaps they will suggest things to others. Necessity is, I said. She looked quizzically at me. Necessity is the mother of invention, I amplified. Like cell phones. Remember satellite phones? She did, vaguely. Those big brick like things, right? Right. At the time, they were the big thing. Oh, wow, you can talk to anywhere from anywhere. Then the spread of cell phone coverage pretty much wiped them out, except for really distant locations, like the middle of Africa. And maybe not even there -- I told her about the deal where some folks figured out a way to link one phone in Australia to another, so that if you're out of range to a cell tower, you can connect to a phone that is within range. Bet that was an Australian who did that, she observed, and I agreed: probably was. Necessity is. But you'll have things that I can't even imagine. Like what? Like, someday, you won't need a PC to connect to the net; you'll just be able to do it. She looked at me. We can do that now, Dad. It's called a telephone.

Um. Yeah. Not quite my point...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Then There Were Two

I have mentioned that a neighbor was arrested and is currently in jail for having sex with an underage girl. Now I find that the guy who built our kitchen addition, who had several kids working for him (students at the local vo-tech), was arrested and is currently in jail for 'abuse' of the kids -- though whether it was sexual or something else, we don't know.



This evening, I went to a birthday party for a woman with whom I used to work, and with whom my wife still works. I knew about a quarter of the people there. It was strange.

Part of it was simply listening to these people talk. Much of their conversation was about the working environment now, and how different it is from the halcyon days of the company, when they could with only a trace of over-reaching say that The future's so bright, we have to wear shades. That was when we built our own complex of five floors, filling and overfilling it, to the point where we had to lease space in other buildings nearby. Each of the groups had seven to ten people, and some had as many as twenty or thirty. One floor was entirely filled with technical systems people; another with applications people, and so on. Now, most of that is gone. Four of the five floors are being gutted and will be sold for use by other companies; the one remaining one will have the remaining staff crammed in like sardines in tiny cubicles that are chock-a-block, row after row. No sense of camaraderie or purpose; it's a digital sweatshop. No one would ever want to work there, or show their family where they spent their hours.

Part was listening to the way these people talk. There's an underlying current of bitterness. Nobody said it, but I sensed that they all felt left behind, abandoned, treated as completely replaceable and identical units by a company that doesn't care about them at all. The original company valued them; the new one treats them like an expense they wish could be deleted. Training? Travel? Nothing of the sort. They feel as if each week could be their last -- and frequently, they're right.

A sad function.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I've been going to the gym pretty regularly over the last month and a half. Enough so that it's beginning to become a little boring. Not that it gets easier -- some days, yes, but most days, not really. I get on the elliptical and I know that when I get to about twenty-five minutes, I'm going to be glancing at the timer every thirty seconds or so. That's actually how I can tell if it's going to be particularly grim -- if I find myself doing that peek before twenty minutes, there's some doubt about getting up to thirty. I do have a tendency, which I'm trying to fight, to say well, then, just stop at twenty. Usually, I press on. Sometimes, I don't.

I do some work with weights, too, but not a lot. Some arm work with the free weights; some with what's called the 'pec fly', and with two machines that work your legs. Not a lot -- perhaps fifteen minutes, total. I probably ought to extend that a bit.

I'm doing this because I'd like to lose weight, and this is pretty much the only way I know of to do that. Get the metabolism running faster. Its worked in the past, and I've seen results this time around, too. It's gratifying to realize that the numbers on the scale are starting with the third digit less than they were a month ago.

Neverthelesss, this morning, when I weighed myself, I was astonished to find it starting with the second digit being less. Second? It seemed hardly possible. That'd mean that between yesterday and two I lost about seven pounds. There is no way, I thought. I got off the scale, let it reset, got back on. Same thing. What? I put it back, thought about it, took it out again. And just like that, it was back to where it was, yesterday.

It was nice for a while, though.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A joke from my daughter:

What's the last thing to go through a fly's mind when it hits a windshield?

Its butt.

I'm so proud of her!


Androids live among us.

How else to explain the woman whom I saw running for at least 50 minutes on the treadmill this morning, not even breathing hard?

Outdoor Sports

Found at PicDumpSite.


I wish to request that the basic design of USB drives, aka thumb drives, aka USB keys, be reconsidered.

For the last two weeks, I have been jacking in and pulling out the USB connector for my Rosetta Stone - supplied headset. It's not the most robustly constructed headset, but it's not bad. And I've noticed that over that time, the jack on the headset has begun to bend, as the laptop gets moved around. Eventually, I think, it's going to bend enough to snap the connector -- if not right off, then at least enough so that the connection isn't made.

Puff goes the headset.

Clearly, what's needed is a shock-absorbing torsion-tolerant plug. One that could break its connector without losing functionality - perhaps a replaceable snap on/off plug terminator?

At, of course, a reasonable price.

Take care of that, would you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Canadian Eggs

Don't get between Wolverine and his eggs. His Canadian eggs. Because he can tell the difference.

And getting between him and them can be .... unpleasant.

Just ask Faith Erin Hicks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Swarm Me

Sometimes, what can be technology can be exhilarating, even as, in the back of my mind, I think what could an evil person do with this?

Such is SMAVNET - Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network, developed by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Basically, it's a way to use robotically controlled drone aircraft to act in concert - talking both to each other and to a ground controller. If this makes you think of the Boids swarming software, only brought to reality -- yeah, me too.

I'm sure someone will find a use for it that is, to my mind, evil. But at the moment, I rather like it.


I came across an article this morning about 'the HP way'. The people who ran the place -- Hewlett and Packard -- started it because they wanted to create products that they could not get anywhere else - products that they felt the market wanted, and for which it would pay. In their case, the product was technical instrumentation, but it could have been anything. They strove to engage the people who worked there so that they saw their job as to help make the products that HP made be the best combination of effective and inexpensive. HP was their company -- at least, the part where they worked. When they did their job well, HP prospered; when they did not, HP did not. In return, HP took the attitude that these people were their responsibility -- both to challenge and to reward. They might, and did, ask them to work harder and longer than others would, but they recognized that with this came the responsibility to look out for them. To keep them around in lean times. They would not be a 'hire, use, and fire' company.

Things are different there, today.

Much of our sense of self worth, of who we are, comes from working. I know that this is not true everywhere. Part of the reason that I hope that we get to go to France next year is that I would like to see our exchange student again. But it's also true that I have this image of France, at least, the non-metropolitan parts of France, as having a different attitude toward work. I don't know exactly what to call it. Not more relaxed, not casual -- but something that says Here, work is subservient to life, not the other way around. I used to occasionally read a web comic whose plot I never entirely understood; it had something to do with sort of a combination Mission: Impossible and Tech Support thing. This strip was part of it. It resonated with me.A little more wine?


It's official. I have a screw loose.

I woke up at 5 this morning to feel something metallic in my mouth. It was: one of the 'healing cap' screws from an implant.

Fortunately, I didn't swallow convulsively.

As I say: everything that could go wrong with this implant process, has. I am really expecting that at some point they'll say Um, Bill, that implant, it's been in there so long, we need to put in a new one. At which point I'll say Screw it. Give me dentures.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Tomorrow, I get to help with the church's annual pancake breakfast.

My role?

I run the dishwasher.

Oh. Joy.

Gym Tunes

I prefer to listen to something with a relatively fast beat, when I'm in the gym. Problem is, most of our CDs are slow, quiet pieces. Not a lot of motivation to do the elliptical at all, let alone fast, when you're listening to a Mozart sonata. At least, when I am. So I'm down to about twenty tunes, including one, Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, from a Herb Alpert album, that's got these lines:

You bought me some flowers
But flowers, they die
You bought me some chocolate
It melted - Nice try!

For some reason, I really like that!
I did a search for 'music to exercise by'. Much, almost all, of it is hard rock and rap, neither of which pleases me. But I came across this, here:

(I)s there a perfect workout track, a song that transcends exercise forms and personal preferences? One comes up repeatedly: "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from "Rocky." In a forthcoming book on music and sport that he contributed to, Karageorghis writes that the song "evokes a state of optimism and excitement in the listener," and Goldberg said it helped her get through her first marathon. The band from Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn has set up along the New York City Marathon route and performed the "Rocky" theme for runners each race day for the last 30 years.

...and I think don't I have that somewhere? Oh, yeah...on a record. A vinyl record. Hmm....

Are You Kidding Me?

My daughter just realized that we're serious about the number of hours she has to practice to get her driver's license.

And we're serious about driving being a privilege, not a right.

And we're serious about not giving her one of our cars.

So that was her reaction. Including stepping on the gas instead of the brake while responding as she came up the driveway. Fortunately, she didn't hit anything. But you can imagine what it did to our resolve.


I just came back from the gym, in a pretty good mood. I hadn't wanted to go; I was thinking Well, I suppose I could go for a short time, and I actually not only the normal cardio workout -- which is thirty minutes on the elliptical, and twenty on the treadmill -- but I did it faster than normal. In spurts, faster than I did it about a week ago. So I was happy.

Then I was driving through my neighborhood, and I came up behind two black kids riding their bikes. This is unusual where I live. When we moved here, we were told that the local phrase was East Shore (the other side of the local river), White Shore (our side). I never really thought about it, but when I would, I had to agree. Not too many black people on our side. Over time, that's started to change. Fine.

The kids, though. One was hunched over the handlebars, weaving slowly back and forth; the other was riding in long, looping curves. I stopped, figuring I would wait until they cleared the intersection, because neither one looked aware that there was anyone else there. Good precaution; the looper turned into my street, and, as I started to turn behind him, abruptly did a 180, crossing right in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and sat, dead, until he passed me. I stared at him. He stared at me, muttering something.

I really hope it wasn't something like crazy old white guy. But I bet it was.

They brought back memories of the neighborhood where I grew up, which was mostly Irish and Italian, in New York. I lived in one of those high rise apartments -- it was a high rise at the time; not so much now, I guess. It was a nice enough place. Over time, the character changed, and the kids changed color, too. Mostly, it didn't matter. They were just like us -- lower income, going to the local schools, hanging out at the park. Some, though, had that casual insolence that this kid had. The kind that stared at you. It bothered me then. It bothers me now.

Crazy old white guy? Maybe.

Took the bloom right off my mood, I'll tell you that.


I'm not a foodie. I think that the perfect food is meatloaf, and a close second might be burgers with barbecue sauce. I don't rave about food.

Nevertheless, there is one food that I raved about so much that I actually asked my sister in law, who is a nice person but occasionally a Bit Intense, how she made it. That food was spaghetti sauce. I've tried making spaghetti sauce from scratch, but it never seemed quite right to me. Even when I put lots of spices, and lots of tomatoes, into it, the result was disappointing. Where was the punch, the umph that her sauce had. So, I asked. Which is when I found that the key ingredient in making her spaghetti sauce so impressive had nothing to do with tomatoes or spices. It was: meat. In her case, ground beef, sausage, and veal. I was startled. I don't even like veal, but for sauce that tasted like that -- well.

So I made a batch of it - and she was right. It tasted wonderful. Thick. Lots of 'mouth feel'. No bland drizzle-it-on-the-noodles sauce, this was good stuff. I always smiled when we would go to the freezer and get one of the packets we'd made. So much so that, finally, we ran out. Can't have that. Today, I'll be making more.

Here's the recipe, including my step-by-step (I'm not an extemporaneous cook) notes. You should make some. Really.

29 oz can Italian tomatoes.......3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb Italian sausage....... 3/4 lb ground veal
1/4 cup olive oil....... 10 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp fennel seeds....... 2 cubes beef boullion
2 cups boiling water....... 3 tbsp flour
28 oz can tomato puree....... 1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar ....... 1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder ....... 1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil....... 1 cup chopped parsley
8 oz tomato sauce

Open Italian tomatoes and blend on the food processor until smooth.
Prepare meats for use -
ground beef
ground Italian sausage (removed from casings)
ground veal
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in dutch oven on low heat.
Add 8-10 minced garlic cloves and 1 tsp fennel seeds
Cook, stirring, till they begin to turn color.
Immediately add meats to dutch oven.
Cook, stirring frequently.

While the meat is cooking, put two cubes of beef bouillon into a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup
Add 2 cups boiling water, stirring to dissolve the cubes.

When the meat loses its redness, stir in 3 tbsp flour and the bouillon.
Allow to thicken about a minute.
Add the processed tomatoes and stir.
Add the tomato puree and stir.
Add: 1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed chili pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil

Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower heat. Stire in tomato sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for at least four hours.

This recipe makes enough for 2 lbs of spaghetti and tastes best the second day. It freezes well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Got a note from the guy who was the coordinator for this summer's exchange student program. He said that she rode in his car on the way back to the airport, and 'had nothing but nice things to say' about us.

I'm thinking that probably means she was very quiet, and said one or two nice things about her stay when prompted. Since we really haven't heard anything from her since her departure, it was pleasant to learn that she had an okay time.

Small Pleasures

Sometimes, we take pleasure from the smallest things.

Our refrigerator has two large drawer compartments at the bottom, and a smaller one above. Ever since we got it, and even with the older one, we've kept butter and coffee in one of the large compartments, and meats and cheeses in the shallow one. That's just where that stuff's supposed to be. A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how the shallow one is always crammed, and the big one, not so much.

So I switched their contents. Butter and coffee in the shallow one. Meats and cheeses in the bigger one.

And now, every time I pull out the shallow one, or the big one, and I see it nicely filled, not crammed, not barely used, I think Good Idea.

And I'm pleased.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Decades ago, I bought a Canon EOS camera. It was my pride and joy. Eventually, it was supplanted by an AE-1, which was even niftier. Now we use a Canon Powershot, but I still miss the heft of the older ones.

Thursday, my daughter starts a photography course at school. She needed 'an old manual camera'.

Apparently, EOS stands for Extremely Old System.


I have now officially entered the doddering stage.

For some time, I have had a pair of reading glasses on the dining room table. I read while I eat, you see.

But today, while I was trying to read a battery while I was out, I flat could not make out the small print. In bright light.

So now, I have a pair of reading glasses in the car, too.

Dodder Daddy, that's me.


My daugher, who's been able to drive for a while, takes her first school-sponsored driving class today.

Her mother said to drive safely.

I said to remember that if you do a wheelie, you have to yell YEE-HAH! or it doesn't count.


This morning, I read this on a nicely laid-out site:

The Agenda Project’s goal is to build a powerful, intelligent, well-connected political movement capable of identifying and advancing rational, effective ideas in the public debate and in so doing ensure our country’s enduring success.

...and I thought Are these guys for real, or is it code for fringe loonies who really mean 'shove the nation to their side'?

How can you tell? When did thoughful become suspect?


Last night I discovered that -

-- crickets can, in concert, chirp loudly enough to keep you hovering on either side of the edge of sleep

-- if you dream in French, but don't understand French, it can be disconcerting as hell.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I recently read a romance novel, which is not my normal sort of reading. The book's called Foreign Tongue, by Vanina Marsot. It's set mostly in Paris, with a lot of French phrases and colloquialisms. I don't know how that sort of novel usually is, but this one, I liked a lot.

Here's a nice review.


Not this. More along these lines.

I used to do system performance stuff for a large computer system, so I got used to the idea that key system indicators would vary, sometimes widely, but usually within a predictable range. I never got to the point of being able to mathematically predict what a normal variation was -- I suppose the phrase would be 'within one standard deviation', though I'm not sure about that -- but I could usually tell when a number was 'about where it ought to be' -- and if not right now, then in five minutes.

So, I know that my weight is going to fluctuate up and down. Nevertheless, it's a lot more fun to look at the scale when it's at the bottom of the fluctuation range than in the middle, as it is, at the moment. When I'm thinking Damn. I need to increase the amount of time on the elliptical, the treadmill, or both.

That variation occurs emotionally, too. As anyone who's read posts here that include the words [French, exchange, student] and [Facebook, IM, email] might be able to tell. What a wimp. Need to learn how to CTF down. Or harden my heart. Or both. As I say: wimp.


According to the Schumpeter column in The Economist, competence in your job isn't the way to get power at the company.

Start by picking the division most likely to contribute to corporate growth, either by what it creates or by the functionality it provides.

Then manage your managers -- get them to regard you as someone they value because you value them. Flattery works, big time.

As you do this, network like hell.

Finally, as you rise, keep in mind that power corrupts. Keep the power, of course; watch out for the corruption.

Now, how hard is that?

Seriously, though -- that's good, succinct advice. Granted, it speaks not at all to the classic 'what do YOU want to do', but in a world where many people don't know, it's not at all bad. I used to read articles where they advised 'look for the people who got promoted, figure out why, and emulate that', but I rarely could. Well, one or two: but the identifying characteristic was 'They are each a Corporate Man, willing to Walk the Line and Talk the Talk'. Always had a problem with that. This doesn't say to do that -- though, I'm sure, it doesn't hurt along the way.


There are picnic sets, and then there are picnic sets.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Le Tag

I'm not much of a tag player, but for Genderist, at Haiku of the Id, sure.

A. Tell me a story about a vivid memory you have when you were in the third grade.
I went to a small parochial school in the Bronx (the only one of New York City's boroughs to have a 'the' before its name). Our window overlooked the elevated rail tracks about a block away. One day, two elevated trains ran smack into each other, arching up like a lambda. We all wanted to whip over to the window to check it out, so our teacher had us immediately write a paragraph about What I Was Doing When The Trains Collided. To this day, I think that a lame assignment.

B. If you could go back in time and visit the you who was a senior in high school the night of your graduation, what would you tell them? Would you give them any advice?
The fellow who wrote Jonathon Livingston Seagull said once that given that assignment, he'd tell his younger self to be calm, and to be sure that things would work out. He said he noticed that that was what the angels always said. Which I guess is because for those where it doesn't work out, nobody bothers to come back. I'd tell that person to stretch a little more in college, and try the courses that sounded difficult, or boring. Course, if that happened, I'd have ended up in the Air Force with different people, and the chain that resulted in meeting my wife wouldn't have happened, so maybe not.

C. If you could go back in time and have a drink with any person in history, who would you visit and what would you drink? (If you choose a Biblical person that's fine, but you also have to answer with a nonBiblical person, too.)
I'm tempted to say Carrie Nation, but I suppose that would be rude. I'd visit Lewis and Clark, and taste some of the icy cold water from the mountains.

D. What children's book would you say best describes your personality? Why?
The Little Engine That Could. I'm not the brightest around, by far, but I'm persistant as all hell if something's important to me.

Okay, her rules were to make up four more questions. I suppose ''What's your bank, account number, ATM PIN, and mothers's maiden name" are out of the question, so how about these:

A. If you could speak any language fluently, what would it be, and what would you most like to say in it?
B. Is it better to be smart or satisfied? If you have a reason, what is it?
C. How far would you travel for a really good meal - one that you just can't get easily?
D. Should Han Solo have shot first?

And as to whom I'd dedicate these to -- how about Stag, Carolyn Ann, Lady Banana, and anyone with a quizzical streak?

Post Funk

After a day of being funked, I'm finally okay. I complained to my wife, and she understood why, and didn't laugh at me, though she certainly could have, since I once again demonstrated what a sentimental idiot I can be at times.

And I found to my surprise that the elliptical may have had an additional benefit: I'd swear I have just a tad more mobility in my injured shoulder now.


It's rainy and a bit chilly here. I suspect this is affecting my mood. I know affecting my mood is the brief conversation I had on Facebook this morning with our summer guest. I am likely reading too much into it, but at the moment: to hell with learning French, going to France, or any of the above.


I read a comic statement this morning on one of the Overheard.... series of blogs wherein a guy says "We're married, so I can share this. I occasionally think it would be good to wear a skirt. Not because of any question about my sexual identity, but because it'd help on a hot day to keep my nuts cool". I've occasionally wondered about that. When you're a kid, there are things that you wonder about, and adults tell you that you'll understand when you get older. Usually, they're right. The whole gender-specific clothing thing doesn't appear to be one of them. I like to say that a woman wearing guy's clothing is stylish, while a guy wearing women's clothing is considered strange. Unless he rides a motorcycle, of course. Why do we have that bias? Damned if I know. Doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm not planning on doing some shopping, though.

I need something to read. I picked up a book by Iain Banks, who, if you've never read, I highly recommend: yes, what he writes is science fiction, but much, much more; deeper and richer and more textured than just about anyone. And I read the first sentence, and thought Dammit. I READ this book already. Why don't these realizations occur to me while I'm still in the store?

I do have some other books, but science fiction was what I was in the mood for. Well, hell.

An entry on The Economist's blog asks whether prostitution is inherently wrong, and should therefore continue to be criminalized, or whether it is not, but is linked to criminal activities because it is criminalized. I've heard the same logic about drugs - that if marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (just to name a few) were legal, then the negative effect on society would drop dramatically. (And I know: some people consider the negative effect of marijuana to be overstated.) My hunch is that you could decriminalize prostitution, and you could decriminalize drugs, too. But prostitutes wouldn't become healthier or happier, and drug users wouldn't start working at major corporations. At least, not openly.

Why does it bother me to find a blog and think hey, this is pretty good, and then realize that the blog has a very large readership? Like, thousands? It shouldn't, but it does. I have the reaction of Well, heck, if you're not some quiet little backwater like, um, me, then the heck with you. Which is of course totally defensible.

I need someone to do something nice for me. Perhaps the cat will make me breakfast?

So True

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 2010

Today, we went out for pizza, and while we ate, we watched the flat-screen television show images of that other September 11.

We talked a little about the mosque they want to build in New York, near Ground Zero. I said that I wondered if anyone was planning to fly something into it, and my wife replied that it wasn't fair to Muslims that they should have to pay forever for the actions of fanatical maniacs. I had to admit that that was so. I thought of what I've heard about riots in Afghanistan because an idiot preacherman in the United States said he would burn a copy of the Koran, and how silly it was that they might regard it as the actions of all of us, not just one fool. (But they flew a goddamned airplane into our buildings, killed three thousand of our people!) And then I take a breath and think Not all of them. Not even most of them. A few, evil ones who deserve to burn in hell everlasting. Not that that would make it right. I thought about asymmetrical forces, and asymmetrical warfare, which, to my mind, has always had a form of cool elegance - hit them where they ain't; use your small firepower against their great weakness -- that now doesn't seem quite so mathematically elegant to me.

There's a commercial for gay marriage in Ireland; it shows a man going up to ten, hundreds of people, asking if he can marry this woman, and at the end they say Imagine if you had to get the permission of everyone you meet just to get married, and, today, I think Imagine if every Muslim had to apologise for what those few did. And in my heart, I think Would that be so bad, that they had to do that? I know that wouldn't be right, but still, I wouldn't mind. How long? How many years? I don't know. Till I forget, I suppose. Is that fair, is that right? No. Holding the whole responsible for the actions of the few? No.

Then who?

Sometimes I think that once you get past the basics, there isn't a right or wrong, anymore. Even what feels right can have a wrong component to it.

It's a pretty day. It was then, too.


I'm not a fan of blogs where the person says what a fabulous life they've had, doing amazing things, and all of that - - but something about The Science Cheerleader, I like.

Friday, September 10, 2010


About three months ago, I hired a woman with whom I used to work. She's kind of hard to classify. When I worked with her, she was an education person, responsible for setting up courses, maintaining records, etc. In the interim, she worked as a call center manager for a local branch of Williams Sonoma, did part-time work for other organizations. Now she's working as a physical therapist at a gym that's oriented toward people with disabilities, and, along the way, she's working with some private clients. I hired her as a trainer.

When I did that, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I had sort of hoped that merely the act of hiring her would be enough, but of course that wasn't the case. We met once or twice in June, knocked off until July first, then almost not at all during July, when our XG was here. (From whom I've essentially heard not at all since then, and yeah, that bothers me a little.) In August, reluctantly, I got back together with her, again sort-of hoping that merely meeting with her would be enough. Now, a month into it, I have seen some results, but I'm not exactly sure how she figures into it.

She has worked with me to show me weights to use, and she's done some stretches with me, things she's learned with her disabled patients, that are much more than I would ever do. I don't even do the easier stretches that she told me about. The others, I literally couldn't do by myself. I think that I've benefited from that. But she doesn't push me to go to the gym. She hasn't said you need to go three or four times a week. She doesn't praise me all that often when I do go, but occasionally she will. So, it's not feedback from her that's keeping me going.

Part of it might be just looking at her, thinking that there is this forty year old woman who's in great shape, running half-marathons and more, and wishing that I could be in that shape. Of course, I've wished things like that before. As the comic once said, I'd do anything to get in shape, except, you know, diet and exercise. So just knowing that she does those things ought not to be a motivator for me. I can't really say that it is.

I don't know what it is that is motivating me. Whatever it is, whether its this woman or the desire to be able to eat while in France (assuming we even go) or some vague sense of aging, I don't know. But I hope it continues. I still don't like exercising, and I doubt I ever will. But seeing results.... well. Makes it a little easier to accept, y'know?

Why French is Fun

I ran two sentences from an "Easy French Reader" through Google Translate:

"Je suis froid" ne veut pas dire la même chose que "j'ai froid". En anglais, "I am cold" peut vouloir dire "j'ai froid" ou "je suis froid".

"I'm cold" does not mean the same thing as "I'm cold." In English, "I am cold" can mean "I'm cold" or "I'm cold."

Well, sure, that's clear enough.


I've been going to the gym regularly for about a month now.

I just weighed myself, something I try not to do too often, because it's so depressing.

I've lost eight pounds.

But don't worry, I'll find them again!

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Had an amazing thing happen this morning. I went to the gym, and my time on the elliptical virtually flew by. Treadmill, too. And on each, I was able to go faster than I've done before. Noticeably faster. I've no idea why. I was really, really tired yesterday, and I slept a long time, so maybe that's it. We'll see tomorrow. Tell you what, though -- it was a great feeling, whatever the reason.

French is going reasonably well. Still quite early, of course, and I make lots of mistakes, which is more than a little exasperating. And my accent -- whew! More Pittsburgh than Paris, I'd say. But I'm trying. Giving it my best shot. Like the gym, every day.

I'm fascinated to read in The Economist that a case is being made to keep the Bush uber-wealthy tax cuts in place. The reason, not surprisingly, is politics. With their hold on the House and Senate suddenly in question, the Democrats are reluctant to be painted as 'raising taxes', even on the uber-rich. They also feel that taxing the rich might reduce the amount that they spend, at a time when reduced spending is exactly what we don't need. So, even though the rich got that way by not dumping their money into purchases, some folks feel that it's a risk they don't want to take. I'd like to see the Democrats man-up on this, but, hey: these are politicians. Everything is a political exercise, to them.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I've been using Rosetta Stone for about two days now.

On installation, and in some documentation, they say that they strive to eliminate the mental step of translation to/from English. For example, if they show the phrase La fille mange, with four pictures, one of which is a girl eating, you're supposed to click that picture. For me, that means that I think 'La fille mange', that means 'the girl eats', and then I look for a girl eating. If I can't quite get one of the words when they say it (as you progress, they move from showing you the phrase to saying it without display), I guess, based on what I do hear - in that example, if I got the 'mange' part, I'd look for a picture of someone eating. Initially, there would only be one, but as they progress, they would move to multiple people eating, or instead of La Fille they will use the 'L'enfant ' -- and you get to figure it out. So as I'm going through this, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking will I really be able to hear La fille mange and just look immediately for the girl eating, without doing the translation? I get a little bit of encouragement from the fact that every so often -- not often, but occasionally -- I do make that leap. I hear 'pommes', for example, and I look for apples. I don't think about it, I just do it. So I'm hoping.

I don't think that RS is perfect. My initial impressions are that it works hard to make things obvious. It usually, but not always, succeeds. Because it's entirely in French, sometimes they leave you to figure out what they're asking you to do. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not. You can always just skip the one you don't get, but, of course, that kind of blows the idea of what it was supposed to teach you. They do come back to material -- the picture of the smiling little boy, garçon, I must have seen fifty times today alone - so I do believe that they're tracking competency in areas. I don't know what happens if there's something that you just can't get. For example, I was listening to one of their say-and-repeats, and they used the phrase L'herbe est verte. I could not manage the glottal stop they have in the middle of herbe. Just could not. So perhaps that'll just be a word that I never use.

Overall, I'm pleased so far. Give me a month, and we'll see.

Laptop Searches

I'm not a big fan of the ACLU, as I think they assume they've got the right to say how the Constitution should be interpreted. Their interpretation of that 'right' is pretty liberal, and often stretches the limits of my credulity.

However, every so often, they get it right.

Mais Oui

I've been Le garçon boit and Les filles ecrivent - ing for the last half hour. Rosetta Stone may be the simplest, but it isn't necessarily easy.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Could this humorous luggage identification sticker be a possible "serious violation of the aeronautics act", as a spokeman for Canadian Transport Minister John Baird says?

I think not - but I have to admit, part of that is pure orneriness at the Security People. They never miss an opportunity to clamp down on anything that reeks of individuality, freedom, or humor.

Feline Observation

Cats walk across a table and around obstacles like a semi driver going around barricades.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Le Docteur Zero

I found a website called Doctor Zero. Catchy name. The doc's opinions are of the Sarah Palin variety. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to see if I could pick out the facts, as distinct from bluster and bombast, in what he says.

President Obama “unveiled” his new “stimulus” plan in Wisconsin today.

State governments are still sitting on hundreds of billions in unspent money from the first massive “stimulus” plan.

That's it. The rest is scorn, derogatory statements, and expressions of disbelief. No clear statements. No proof of better ideas. No thought, at all.

That's the Tea Party, in action. Excellence in Bombast. Lies, Distortions, and Obliviousness A Specialty.

And yet....people believe this idiocy. March in support of it. Give it money. They don't seem to care that there aren't any ideas, let alone any hope or optimism, at the core. They simply want .... well, I'm not sure what they want. But I think it looks like the 1950s. Limited government. Limited social services. Let the buyer beware. You get hurt? Tough. Social justice? No one's going to help you. Die, if you want.

And the scary part is, they're getting it. Their organized political neanderthalism is gaining adherents. And you can't talk to them, because they have their own facts, and they simply won't accept anyone else's. Fingers-in-the-ears, that's how they listen.

I'm tired of trying to understand them. We have two months left to save our country from them (and oh how I'd like to save just those I agree with, as they would), and I'm tired of voting for moderate Democrats, too. Firebrands, once again, are looking appealing to me.

Don't retort - reload. Sound familiar?

Pep Talk

I just talked with my daughter about her school's tool to select future careers. As things go, it's a pretty good tool. It puts a lot of effort into matching what you like, what you're interested in, and what your skills are with the characteristics of jobs. She's not happy. All of the jobs that she matched on for all three areas are things that sound dull and tedious to her. She doesn't know what she wants to do, but she knows, or thinks she knows, what she doesn't want to do -- and a lot of it is on that list. I told her the old joke about the reason why adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and I told her stories -- one from a book called Don't Sleep on the Subway (about forty years old), one about how I got a job that I liked, purely by accident, one about the accountant who was looking for a new job after getting his job deleted, and another about getting slotted for standard jobs, and how I think she's cutting herself short if that's what she's willing to settle for. Which she isn't, but even so, she has a limited view of whats possible. An expanded view is that this tool is supposed to give her, but -- well, who really knows what a job will feel like, whether its a match or not?

At the end she said "Thanks. You should go into public speaking." True enough.

Du Sucre?

Barring several unlikely occurences, I'll never find myself working as an American intern in a Parisian newspaper office.

But I hope that if I do, I have the insight that this fellow did.

Good Closets


Just made one of our favorite dinners - a melange of hamburger, bacon, beans, and sauces. It cooks for about an hour.

Along the way, there were some unaccustomed bumps.

The large burner where the bacon was cooking was abnormally reluctant to heat. Switched it to another burner, let the first cool, banged on it to see if it just needed reseating, put the bacon back on it, turned it up, and damn near burned the bacon.
The container of mustard which appeared a quarter full, wasn't. Got out the spare.
The container of barbecue sauce which appeared a quarter full, wasn't. Got out the spare. Peeled off the protective plastic (don't we normally do that when we get it home from the store?) and then the inner protective plastic, which had a tab of, oh, about a sixteenth of an inch.
The cans of beans were reluctant to yield their contents, with some needing to be scooped out. No! You can't make me go!

When you cook something you like, and have made many times before, and it fights back -- it's a weird feeling.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


I've been routinely exercising for about two weeks now, and I'm looking for a reason to stop.

Every day for the last two weeks, I've done between 15 minutes (at the beginning) and 30 minutes (for the last week) on the elliptical machine; 20 minutes on the treadmill, and, on alternate days, some work with weights. I work up a sweat. Not like those folks you see there who are wearing T Shirts where the back is just dark with perspiration, but enough so that I feel it on my neck. I'm tired when I'm done. Moderately pleased to have done it One More Time, but not nearly so pleased that when another day rolls around, I feel glad for the chance to Do It Again. I don't want to exercise. I don't like it. I don't want to exercise; I want an excuse not to.

I've almost got one, in that today is Sunday; Day of Rest, right? And plus we just had brunch; can't go huffing through stuff having just eaten? And its a nice day out, so we might go see the Labor Day festivities down in the city - and wow, where did the day go? I'll exercise tomorrow.

It's not as if I don't think there's benefit to exercise. There is, I'm sure. I may actually have dropped one or two pounds in the last week, as a result. But it doesn't get easier. I don't step onto the elliptical and think Ah, this is nothing, I can do this on my head. If I look at the timer and it says less than 5 minutes have gone by -- it's going to be tough to get to 30. Hell, it's going to be tough to get to 20. Doing the weights isn't too bad, but still: Not Fun. Not getting any pleasure out of it. Want to just knock it off.

I tell my wife that if I miss a day, then it's much more likely that at another point, I'll miss two. And if I miss two, then at some point it'll be three, or four. And once that happens, I've effectively stopped exercising. Stopped getting (somewhat) better in shape. Stopped (somewhat) losing weight. So I know I should continue. I just don't want to. I'm not one of those folks who gets energised by it. Quite the contrary. I hate it.

I need an exercuse.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yeah, Frank....

Occupied, indeed.....


I don't just like this because it's set in one of my favorite cities.


Today is Saturday of Labor Day weekend. It's a long one -- my daughter's off from school Friday to Tuesday, and my wife took a day of vacation, and is off on Monday. I, of course, am just off.

Last night, I read a page on the SmartHome site, which is where we'd gotten our X10 system, about finding problems such as we're having. They said It's easy to find; I said yeah, right. But I did what they said. Standing in the den, which is the room that's between where we normally keep the remote and the garage where the switch receiver is, I tried the remote, and it did not work. I unplugged the water softener (at the back of the den) ; no effect. I turned off the power switch for the TV breaker bar, and then unplugged it; nothing. I unplugged the cordless phone; nothing. I turned off the room lights - and it worked. Several times, I turned the lights on and off; when they were on, it didn't work; when I turned them off, it did. Then, lights off, I plugged the TV bar back in -- and it didn't work.

So the good news is, it's sort of replicable. And they do sell filters to put on the power for offending devices. But for the lights? Hmmm......

This morning I was at our neighbor's house in my pajamas. She'd asked us to look after her dog while she and her son were away overnight. My pajamas look like baggy shorts, so I thought the heck with getting changed. Went over, let the dog out, and then just sat on their deck, enjoying the weather. My daughter complains a little that since we had the kitchen extension built, with its vestigial deck, we don't use the deck any more. I point out that we never really did; we get much more use out of the square footage now than we used to get. But, sitting there, I had to admit: she had a point.

Yesterday my trainer came over to do some stretches with me. When I think of stretches, I think of the kind of thing you do when you get out of bed, and you're a little sleepy. Her stretches were things like Cross your left left over your right, keep your left foot flat on the ground, take your left elbow and put it over your left leg. For each one, she had to help -- and even then, I was just the vaguest replication of what she wanted. Still, not only is she an athlete and body builder, she's also a therapist, and she's worked with people in much worse shape than me. Disabled people, people who've lost functionality from strokes. She says she can get me back flexibility that I thought long gone, and I believe her.

But it isn't going to be painless!

Friday, September 03, 2010


We've got an X-10 controller, and I think that perhaps the X stands for Usually it'll work....sometimes, it won't.

The way the controller works is, it transmits to a plugged-in transceiver. You push a button to turn a device on or off (it can handle up to 20; we have 1); the signal goes to the transceiver, which recognizes which devices the signal's for, and sends a signal of its own through the house wiring to the receiver that's part of whatever you're controlling. In our case, it's the switch for our outside lights. The switch is down in the garage. The idea of the controller is, we can remotely activate or deactivate it without having to go down into the garage. Very handy, except when it doesn't work. Oh, it'll work if you go down there and press the switch. But remotely? Not always.

According to the forum for X-10, the likely cause of the receiver switch not working is 'interference on the house wiring'. Something is putting a signal on the house wiring, and that's interfering with the transceiver's signal. It never gets to the switch. The only thing that's seemed to work is to move the plugged-in transceiver to a different socket. Why? Why did it work before and suddenly not? No idea. If I was up to it, I could get an oscilloscope, look at the wires on the switch, see what the status of the wire normally is, and then move the transceiver to a spot where it doesn't work, and to where it does, try to see what the difference would be. And, assuming I saw a difference -- I can recognize a sawtooth pattern, and a Lissajous, but as to what they mean, man, that was a long time ago -- do something about it.

Or I could just curse, and try moving the transceiver. Oh, look -- I fixed it!

Just Press Print

I knew about this technology, but I'd never seen it. This video made my jaw drop.


It's official. Rosetta Stone levels 1-5, bought and paid for, be here on Tuesday. I am so looking forward to this!

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Well, that was interesting.

According to the local community college, I can't sign up for an online French course until I prove my academic credentials -- starting with proof that I've taken college-level English. My wife says I should do it, but - I don't know, that just sticks in my craw. I've never liked jumping through hoops.

I understand why they don't want just anyone to take up their classroom space; I understand why they want to have some assurance that the people who come have a decent chance of doing the work for the course, and passing it; I understand that to them it's not just a business, it's a sacred profession, and you have to maintain the integrity of the process. I do understand that.

But as I told the woman in Admissions, what she was effectively telling me was Take the Berlitz course -- they'll take your money and not worry about your qualifications. Oh, we'll take your money, she said, laughing. But we have to make sure that you're qualified first. Even though I'm not looking for college credit? I asked. Even though I've gone through college, have a partial masters, am over sixty? All of that? Still need it, she replied. It's the procedure. To me, it's a clear transfer: I give them money, they give me the opportunity to learn. To them, it's -- well, considerably more than that.

I told my wife that if I buy the Rosetta Stone software, I'm going to tell them to contact this college and thank them for the business.

Oh, and this showed up when I posted the above.

I just looked at the Rosetta Stone web site. I know that people don't post demos that show the user having a bad time. But when I looked at it, saw that it tracks your pronunciation and evaluates it, walks you through images and phrases, I thought I can do this.

Question now is, level 1, basic conversation, $200, level 5, advanced communications, $600, or somewhere in between? Or perhaps Tell Me More, which also looks pretty good? Hmm....

Romantical Me

I'm not a romance-novel-reading kind of guy. I think of romance novels as trashy stuff without any believability. I seem to recall, years ago, reading that the Harlequin series of romance novels had been restarted, made less overblown, less Oh Heathcliff! -- but I never considered reading one.

Nevertheless, I am currently reading one, and, to my surprise, I'm enjoying it. The novel is Foreign Tongue, by Vanina Marscot. I'm only into the first fifteen or so pages -- it's not a long book, either -- but so far, I'm finding that it lives up to the blurb on its author's website -- 'a brainy, sexy romantic comedy of letters'. I'm not a good judge of what one of those is supposed to be like, but this would be a good template. It's about a smart woman of dual US-French citizenship who bolts from Los Angeles to Paris to evade a failed love affair (I know: right? What the hell am I doing reading this when I could be perusing, oh, Revenge of the Teen Age Sex Vixens -- you know, the classics), and what happens to her while there. As I say, so far, it's not bad. I have no idea what Paris is actually like, but this makes it sound pretty appealing. And funny.

Oh, and as to why I'm reading it? They caught me with the cover blurb -- a portion of the book's dialogue is in French. And you know how I'm trying to absorb French from any possible direction. (Apparently, I'm not the only one: the library, both our small one and the larger one in the next borough over are just about tapped out on French language books.)

So that's why. It's not because I thought I might enjoy it. Perish the thought.

Although, as it happens, I am.


We're, as a rule, good doobies. (And if you don't recognize the reference: tough!) We do what you're supposed to do to be a Good Citizen. One of those is, we recently learned, to change out your smoke detectors every ten years so we did.

They work. Boy, do they ever. Twice now, cooking sausage has made one of them go off -- and since they're interlinked, they all go off.

Can you return something because it works?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


It seems that the local community college has an online French class. ORLY? Sign me up!

They won't do it until I prove I graduated from high school.

Forty three years ago.

I really don't handle stuff like that well......