Sunday, October 31, 2010


I found this chart several months ago on how to forecast the weather without use of instruments. It's amazingly comprehensive - so much so, I've yet to read the whole thing.


It's Sunday morning. In two days, two unfortunate things will occur.

First, and most personally, I will have to get up at 5AM, spend a tedious day at the polls, stay late to process the large number of absentee ballots, and then drive through the horrible construction out to the county elections office to drop off the results. And second, I'll tune in to the national results to see how badly the Democrats have been thumped. That they will lose control of the House is likely; that they will lose control of the Senate is possible. I find this to be very disheartening. I am not sophisticated, politically; I tend to think that Democrats have the right idea about how to run things, and to find that the majority of my countrymen think otherwise -- the results of dealing with two horrific problems bequeathed by the Republicans -- is, as I say, disheartening. The sole bright spot of late was the turnout for the Rally to Restore Sanity. Would that it is effective.

On the positive side, I think I have a grasp on a problem I've had in understanding a specific tense in French - the Passé Composé, a form of past tense. I am going to backtrack in Rosetta Stone today to see if that is the case. It will be tedious beyond imagining, but it is something that I need to do if I am ever to speak French adequately - something that, at times, I despair of ever accomplishing. That I absolutely get no feedback from our French guest of this past summer sometimes makes me wonder why I bother trying to learn the language, let alone, contemplate going to her home. It is entirely possible that if we do go, she will completely ignore us, or, at most, give a polite nod at meals. And that, only if we're invited to stay at her parents' home; that's not a given. I think it's just that I'm stubborn, and, when it comes to wanting certain people to like me, stupidly persistent.

I started reading a novel, Prospero Lost, by L. Jagi Lamplighter. It's a fantasy, but it's not bad. And I'm rereading 19, A Story, which I like tremendously for all of its dated style. I had a brief telephone conversation with the author, once, and had the chance to meet him, which never happened. I'm a little saddened by that.


From a site dedicated to The Most Interesting Man In The World:

At a bachelorette auction, he brought in over 13 million euros, under the table.
At the Running of the Bulls, he has ridden the lead bull.
Enemies list him as their emergency contact.
He has amassed an amazingly large DVD collection, and has never once alphabetised it.
He is the life of parties he has never attended.
He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.
He speaks fluent French. In Russian.
He’s a lover… Not a fighter. But he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.
His legend precedes him, as lightning precedes thunder.
His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.
If he were to mail a letter without postage, it would arrive with apologies from the post office.
If he were to punch you in the face, you’d have to fight off the urge to thank him.
People hang on his every word. Even the prepositions.
Police often question him, just because they find him interesting.
The pheromones he secretes affect people miles away… in a slight, but measurable way.
When he goes for a swim, dolphins compete for the privilege of swimming near him.
Years ago, he created a city out of blocks. Today over 600,000 people live and work there.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One Second Left

I'm not a basketball fan, but this, I believe, is awesome.


The newest release of Firefox disabled two add-ons that I like very much (ImageDownload and Platypus). The add-on developers didn't want to keep supporting their stuff (why should they?), so they stopped.

Thus we see the downside of open-source. Or something.


I find this sort of thing to be fascinating.

Japanese Robot Of The Year
Uploaded by DiagonalView. - Discover more science and tech videos.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Coffee Hands

But in a good way, as this intriguiging article from Cornell research into prosthetic gripping systems shows. You'll never look at ground coffee the same way again.


Interesting last couple of days.

I track what we spend, what we spent it on, how much we spend from month to month. Due to having most bills paid automatically from checking or our credit card, and a fairly stable list of 'whom we buy things from', I can use an Excel macro to put tags to everything. This much for groceries, that much for books, etc. Each month I add to a rolling twelve month history of what we're spending. The spreadsheet flags any numbers that are out of line with the average of the prior six months. And I keep a summary of what we projected to spend versus what we did. It helps me feel in control of our finances, and I like that.

Which is why these days were not so much fun.

Due to a miscommunication, exacerbated by simultaneous colds and lethargy, we transferred money from an external bank into one of our checking accounts to cover a very large check -- only to find in casual conversation the day after it was written that the check had been written on the other account. Oh, and the transfer was taking significantly longer than normal, so we couldn't just shift it over immediately. Much scrambling to move funds. If I take, 750 from here, and move 2500, wait, that account doesn't have that much... I think we have it squared away, but it wasn't a fun experience.

Events like this trigger my paranoia.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Awesome? Why, Yes

Therapeutic Spaces

I sometimes have grandiose ideas about what I'd like to do with our house. My current one, extending the bedroom into a new room over the garage, which room would also extend over a new room on the back of the garage, has lasted a while. Will we ever do it? Ah.... probably not.

But when I see articles like this on the Home Rejuventation site about 'therapeutic spaces', I gloss right past the costs, both obvious and not, and think wouldn't it be nice to have an area like this to soothe the soul? Such as this one -

The owner of this San Francisco single-family structure wanted an oasis away from the city, and architect Lawson Willard did just that, designing "a transitional space to hear gentle water and see specific objects that would change your mindset.” The huge Thai Buddha statue standing at the center of the entry foyer immediately draws the eyes and calms the mind. A skylight lits this icon of cool, while a pond outlined in dark slate inlaid with brass gurgles gently at the Buddha's feet. Behind, the timber doors open to an outdoor area which is equally as relaxing.


I wonder how it feels to be a reasonable member of a political party whose strategy and style can be summarized as "Just Say No". The fanatics, I'm sure, like it, but the average person's not that dumb. Do they really believe that simple obdurate obstructionism helps, as their leadership does? Do they really think that the solutions to our problems are just that simple?


Tonight I learned not to give an eight year old boy free access to a large bag of candy.

At least he was the last one who showed up.


There are times when I wish that our summer guest hadn't been someone that I liked so much.


ILIVEHERE:SF is an interesting site about people who live in San Francisco.


Should you have a cookie?


Tonight is Trick or Treat for the local kids. It's also trash night. I suggested we give each kid a bag of candy and a bag of trash.

My wife didn't go for it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coming Out Of It

Well, two days later, and I'm starting to shake off this cold.

Next time, we get the damn flu shot!


I'm having a little trouble remember what each tense means, in French, for the verb Aller (not that I'm trying to learn all of them, but there are a couple that are significant). The one at the moment is the 'plus-que-parfait' tense, which translates to "pluperfect tense". And what is pluperfect?

"The pluperfect (from Latin plus quam perfectum more than perfect), also called past perfect in English, is a grammatical combination of past tense with the perfect, itself a combination of tense and aspect, that exists in most Indo-European languages. It is used to refer to an event that had continuing relevance to a past time. Comrie[1]:p.64 classifies the pluperfect as an absolute-relative tense because it absolutely (not by context) establishes a deixis (the past) and places the action relative to the deixis (before it)."

Thanks, Wiki. That's way clear. Once again, About French comes through:

"The French past perfect, or pluperfect, is used to indicate an action in the past that occurred before another action in the past. The latter can be either mentioned in the same sentence or implied."

Okay, that, I understand.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Listening to NPR about kids committing suicide because they're gay, or perceived as gay, I became more convinced:

When it comes to this topic, some conservatives are tight-assed people who desperately fear finding out, or having someone else find out, that their own sexuality isn't hetero. And they'll repress anyone, sacrifice anyone, in pursuit of defense for that tight-sphinctered view of the world. Anyone.

Yeah, I know that's harsh.

Monday, October 25, 2010


A lot of the homes in our area are having their roof replaced, the result of 'hail damage'. We did have quite the hailstorm here, a while back. Inch-sizes stones were seen. Each and every one says that it's being paid for by the homeowners insurance.

So, tomorrow, we'll have one of the companies look at our roof. I fully expect that they'll say oh, yeah, we found hail damage -- see the pictures? And we'll talk, and maybe we'll end up with a new roof.

Now, if I could just be sure that these roofs will be well done, so that they last twenty years ...... and that this is all legit. Because somehow, it doesn't quite feel it. And yet, new roof? Free? Well, if we need one.....

Do we? Hmm....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Obama: The Musical


Daughter's actively sick. I have a headache. Ah, yes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seems Reasonable

From the McClatchy site.


I have been studying French, as I believe I've mentioned no more than ten or twenty times per week. For those similarly inclined, I would like to point out some nice resources I've found on the web.

There are others, of course -- Google Translate and Round Trip Translation come to mind -- but these are the ones I've found most useful for studying the language.


Well, I'm wet. This is a good thing.

For the first time in a decade, barring only the oversized tub at a hotel in the Finger Lakes region, I just took a bath. The new tub is about three inches deeper, which means that about 85% of me was covered, rather than the prior tub's 60% or so.

Given my awkwardness, and barely submerged (heh) fear of falling, I was very glad to have that solid grab bar there!


This is the most... interesting... use of the William Tell Overture I've ever encountered.


Sometimes, I expect too much. I expect the level of service and foresight that, probably, only the wealthy, who can afford to indulge their foibles, get.

Take, for example, the shower doors that were just installed. They're pretty nice. But - there's something a little wierd about them. When they're closed in one direction, the handles line up and make a nice display. Closed in the other, they don't, and don't. Turns out that there are four rubber bumpers, two on either side of the track. They have one slit in each. When the doors are closed as you would when in the shower, the doors slide into those slits, and the handles line up. With the doors closed as you would when outside the shower, they don't, and don't. This vaguely bothers me -- why aren't there two slits?

We could, of course, just leave the doors in the first position. But then the grab-handle on the outside would be on the right, away from where you want it to be when you're about to get into the shower. Didn't the people who built this think about that?

Sometimes, I think that I expect too much.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Sometimes, you learn from other people's kids.

I was astonished, and a bit dismayed, when our summer guest put on Facebook that she was 'in a relationship'. She's only fourteen, I thought. And no matter that in France things are a bit accelerated -- the age of consent there is fifteen -- that seemed unduly rapid to me. So when she changed it back to 'single' about three months later, I thought good.

Tonight, dropping my daughter off at a color guard event, she remarked on arriving "Why am I not surprised -- Taylor and Michael, off by themselves". Hanging out, I suggested. "Not what I'd have chosen", she replied. And then I thought Taylor? Sweet, young, always polite to me Taylor? Fourteen year old Taylor? Making out?


Da Shahr

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I have no idea who Scott Pilgrim is. I see him referred to on occasion, so I get the impression he's a character in some kind of series, probably animated, but that's about it.

And I'm fine with that.


This is another of my favorite wallpapers. The expression of the girl in white is terrific.

I found it here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


"Excusez-moi, quel chemin dois-je prendre pour aller a en banque?"

(Native speaker stares in astonishment. This American wants to do what with my chickens?)

Readers Digress

My mother used to subscribe to the Reader's Digest, and as the subscription has not run out, we get it. I leaf through it, mostly looking for the jokes; once in a very long while, they'll have an interesting article. Interspersed between all of the ads for macular degeneration magifiers and incontinence aids.

Today, I was looking at the current issue, and found an alarming -- as in, intentionally alarming -- article about serious things that can go wrong with your body, that have serious implications, which you need to take seriously. Like what, I thought. Well, how about a guy who lost his vision because he didn't take an eye condition seriously, didn't immediately call up an opthamologist and race over there, horn blaring, to get it checked out right away! My goodness, I thought. What is this seriously serious condition?

Floaters. Those little particles that everyone gets in their eye, from time to time. This guy didn't think anything of it, and three days later, he was virtually blind in one eye from a torn retina that COULD have been fixed that very same day .... had he only raced over. But he didn't.

To me, the scary part is that people read that magazine - elderly, easily frightened people - and take their nonsense seriously. That's not to say that they don't put in useful information. Floaters could lead to serious problems -- but how often, how many, in what condition? They don't say. They just scream BLIND!!!!!

The jokes are occasionally good. But that's about it.


Twenty-six years ago today, I was married.

Coincidentally, my wife was married on the very same day.

Dental Dementia

More fun with the dentist yesterday, taking another 'impression' for the new, improved way they're going to fit this thing. Some day, they'll just be able to scan the mouth, get a 3D image that calculates this and that....but not today. Not even this week. After he was done, he put the covers back on the four implants he'd used and leaves. The assistant gives me the denture I'd worn in...and it doesn't fit. Last time this happened, he'd put the caps on the wrong sockets (they're not all the same size). He switched them back. This time, he decided to drill out the denture so that it'd fit. Which it did....kinda.

When I got home, it still felt a little loose. I started feeling around....and panic struck. Four implants on either side. I could only feel three on that side. Oh, hell. Did another fall out? No wonder the damn thing rocked, and not in a good way. I go back to him and he looked. No, he says, its still there. Just seated differently. How something that screws into something that's grafted into the bone of my jaw could be 'seated differently', I didn't want to ask.

But now I get to use adhesive glue with this denture, so that it'll stay in place. The joy just keeps on coming.

On the bright side, I woke up thinking Elle prende le métro, and I knew what it meant.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nicholas Ivan Ladendorf

Nicholas Ladendorf has some interesting ideas.

And he's running for Congress.

Missouri, not here.

If it were here, I'd vote for him.

Gimme Shelter

I don't know if this is real, but I like it.


I've mentioned the tile on occasion. This is it.


I don't have a favorite among these. Well, I do, but they're (mostly) all pretty good. Damn, my liberalism is showing again.....


A quote:

"Here's a first look at NVIDIA's Android-powered tablet, which is powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2, the heart of which is a dual core ARM Cortex A9—a chip that's a generation ahead of the silicon the iPad's A4 is based on—meaning this thing will zooooom."

I barely understand that. Which is to say, I don't, right?


This seems entirely reasonable to me.


Things are moving slowly, around here, and sometimes in the wrong direction.

The bathroom is still almost done. The toilet was installed yesterday, and the tile work was done at the end of last week. They're supposed to finish up today -- put in the new ventilator, install the glass shower doors, put a cover on the access hole they cut in order to be able to attach the tub's plumbing. It does look very nice, but still: we just want it to be done. Towels on the towel bar, toiletries in the cabinet. Last night, my daughter complained that to use a bathroom, she had to actually go downstairs. It was funny (though she didn't mean it that way; she was honestly aggrieved), but I knew what she meant.

She didn't want to get up today. Sunday, she was up till ten thirty doing homework (yeah....just another hour or so, Dad!), so I pushed to get her into bed earlier last night, which she did. Nevertheless, it took a few prods before she finally staggered out this morning.

My exercise plan is faltering. I didn't go out yesterday because I expected people to come over to talk about our roof. They never did, though I answered the door to find people who wanted to talk about buying new windows for the house. I did do some exercise, using the exercise bike downstairs hard enough to get out of breath, but it's not what I've been doing. And, both my weight and my morning blood sugar are up, last couple of days. I don't understand why, and it bothers me seriously. I am thinking you have to do more, stay longer at the gym, work harder while you are there, and that thought is grim.

And my wife couldn't sleep last night, so she's still in bed.

At least the French is going okay, even though from time to time I feel like you're not ever really going to be able to SPEAK FRENCH, who are you kidding? Still, I keep plugging. Rosetta Stone. Grammar book. French vocabulary cards. Web sites for translation, dictionaries, language idioms. Even got a piece of paper in the bathroom with the hours, in French, so I can see it whenever I go in there. Quelle heure est-il? Still.... I think my current ennui about that is because last night I watched a bit of France 24, a French-language tv station, and was dismayed to find that except for the occasional merci, I couldn't recognize a single word. Hell, I couldn't even pick out words!

I think we all need some time off, is what I think.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Our cat may be sick. Or not.

She's been acting weird, last few days. Doesn't come out to sleep in the kitchen or one of the bedrooms. Doesn't eat cat treats. On the other hand, she's eating, input and output, normally, and still goes through the normal manic phases.

I really don't want to pay for another visit to the vet, so that she can lecture us about I don't like that collar, and You really should be giving her organic cat food, and I really do think I should do a baseline series of diagnostic tests. That gets old, pretty quick. And the frosting on the cake is that it always takes them about ten minutes to generate a bill at the end.


Sunday, October 17, 2010


It's not entirely a surprise, but: when your child is ill, and you need to take them to a doc-in-the-box to get a quick professional assessment, it's still scary, no matter that they're in their mid teens, and its been years since you thought of them as vulnerable.

In this case, she hit her head yesterday, and today she has a persistant headache.

Though I know she's almost certainly okay -- no dizziness, loss of consciousness, pupils equal and reactive -- still, I don't like the feeling.

Update: She's okay. The place she got hit was the top, where the bone is thickest. No indication of intracranial bleeds, no temporal artery problems. She just needs to take some more meds to help with that headache.


"Joe, wouldja go check the settings in them tanning booths?"


How can an exercise on one level be relatively easy one day, and the next day, doing it one level lower is almost impossible to do?


Some currency is intended to be easy to use if you're blind, or have failing vision. But what if it's just that the room is dark? What then?

These guys have an intriguing answer.


Look at this image and tell me why I immediately thought Oh, great.


Is it just me (please, tell me no) that cuts to the chase?

I see an article on a topic where I know immediately -- the author telegraphs it -- that I'll disagree with the main point. I think I ought to read this anyway, be well-informed, hey, they might be right. I read a couple of paragraphs, feel the eyes-glaze-over sensation, and cut to the last paragraph. Yadda yadda yadda so what's your point? The middle could have sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, not to mention the authoritative and accurate word on what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, Judge Crater, and Amelia Earhart, as well as who really shot at Kennedy, and I wouldn't know. I just cut to the summary.

Is it just me?


Has anyone else been getting an unusual number of connection errors to Blogger of late? (Yeah, like if so, Google will get right on fixing it.....)


I love those traits.


I don't like the concept of the Tea Party, whose members I regard as, for the most part, idiots.

However, this article has a few of them talking about why they like the movement, without bombast. Some of it, I can almost agree with.

  • They don't like the amount of public spending, or the level of public debt. They don't believe that you can spend your way out of a recession, and they think that the spending has been ineffective.
  • They would like to see different people in power. (I'm trying hard not to comment.) Some say a complete replacement, some say an expansion of the groups represented.
  • Some don't like what government officials do, as in 'activist judges'.
  • Some don't like the healthcare initiative, feeling that it forces them to do things that they don't want to do. They think that it will lead to healthcare rationing.
One fellow says that the TPers are all friendly and polite, not racist or belligerant, and they didn't leave any litter from a rally.

To me, their most telling statement is this one:
"If we do win many seats I think people will be surprised by the changes - from repeal of healthcare reform to cuts in social security."

These don't sound like stupid people, for the most part. I think they're honestly worried. Government hasn't made its case to them in terms they'd understand and support. Granted, for some, it will never be able to make the case. Cuts in social security as a desirable thing? But for the others, government hasn't explained and persuaded, effectively. It hasn't made its case.

And now we're about to pay the price.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Hey Kids, What Time Is It?

12 midnight 0000 ZERO HEURES 12 midnight
1:00 AM 0100 UNE HEURE 1:00 AM
2:00 AM 0200 DEUX HEURES 2:00 AM
3:00 AM 0300 TROIS HEURES 3:00 AM
4:00 AM 0400 QUATRE HEURES 4:00 AM
5:00 AM 0500 CINQ HEURES 5:00 AM
6:00 AM 0600 SIX HEURES 6:00 AM
7:00 AM 0700 SEPT HEURES 7:00 AM
8:00 AM 0800 HUIT HEURES 8:00 AM
9:00 AM 0900 NEUF HEURES 9:00 AM
10:00 AM 1000 DIX HEURES 10:00 AM
11:00 AM 1100 ONZE HEURES 11:00 AM
12 Noon 1200 DOUZE HEURES 12 Noon

1:00 PM 1300 TREIZE HEURES 1:00 PM
2:00 PM 1400 QUATORZE HEURES 2:00 PM
3:00 PM 1500 QUINZE HEURES 3:00 PM
4:00 PM 1600 SEIZE HEURES 4:00 PM
5:00 PM 1700 DIX-SEPT HEURES 5:00 PM
6:00 PM 1800 DIX-HUIT HEURES 6:00 PM
7:00 PM 1900 DIX-NEUF HEURES 7:00 PM
8:00 PM 2000 VINGT HEURES 8:00 PM
9:00 PM 2100 VINGT ET UN HEURES 9:00 PM
10:00 PM 2200 VINGT-DEUX HEURES 10:00 PM
11:00 PM 2300 VINGT-TROIS HEURES 11:00 PM

Quelle heure est-il ?

Il est midi 12 Noon
Il est minuit 12 Midnight

Il est treize heures 1:00 PM
Il est treize heures de l'après-midi * 1:00 PM
Il est treize heures cinq 1:05 PM
Il est treize heures et quart 1:15 PM
Il est treize heures et demi 1:30 PM
Il est treize heures trente six 1:36 PM
Il est quatorze heures moins dix 1:50 PM


(Tell me again why Blogger won't let you import a table?)

Gender Confusion

I'm fascinated by the difference between droit and droite.

My understanding, before all this French stuff started, was that droite was right and gauche was left. I was happy with that knowledge. Then I started studying French and encountered the concept of gender as applied to things, and to the adjectives that described those things. Okay, I can handle that. A few days ago, I started the Rosetta Stone sequence on directions. Turn to the right. Tournez à droite. Turn to the left. Tournez à gauche. Okay, I think, apparently these aren't gender sensitive. Go straight ahead. Allez à droit. What? What happened to the trailing e? Le jouet est à côté de son pied droit. C'est la main gauche. Okay, apparently they are gender sensitive, since Pied is masculine and droit has no trailing e, while Main is feminine and gauche does have the trailing e. But what about that droit-without-the-e?

So I look it up on the web. One person on Yahoo authoritatively says:

J'écris avec ma main droite.
I write with my right hand.
* droite means right (as in right or left)

Le magasin est du côté droit de la rue.
The store is on the right-hand side of the street.
*droit means right-hand (used in directions)

Explanation: if you say droit, you are typically speaking of something such as your hand or foot, where as droite is right-hand side. I know it is confusing, but I hope that this helps.

Source(s): I'm a native French speaker.

and I think what? On top you say droite for right hand, but below you say droit means talking about your hand or foot. (The person who asked notices this, too) . I keep looking. Finally, I get the bright idea to look them up in my little dictionary. Be damned. 'Right' can be droit or droite, depending on whether you're talking direction or 'side' (I won't even mention that it could be 'as in my right to do something'). The trailing e doesn't mean squat. Just for confirmation, I look up gauche. And yes: there is no 'gauch'. Just 'gauche'. No gender specifics at all.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The scary part is, most of this seems reasonable to me.

Click the image to enlarge
Home improvement upgrades for geeks
Source: Fixr cost guides

What I Did Today

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I'm not a comics freak, but this looks....interesting.



I've mentioned that when my daughter was younger, I had no problem lying to her. When I grow up, can we go to the moon? Yeah, sure, I don't see any reason why not. Now that she's older, I don't -- and not just because she's more capable of detecting inherently implausible statements. What, without any solid-lift earth to orbit capabilities in the near future? And what about sustained habitation on the lunar surface? Or even beneath it? Mostly, it's just because the level of what I think will work with her has changed as she's matured.

I had an experience of a sort with that yesterday.

An acquaintance of my daughter had gotten a new iPhone (actually, a year old) when her mother upgraded her own phone. That evening, at a school function, the girl said that she'd lost it. They spent a half hour or so looking for it, but it was not to be found. This morning, my wife said that the woman told her that it was her who'd taken the phone. She'd seen the kid's backpack just sitting open, and the phone was easily accessible. She took it to teach the kid a lesson. In a few days, she'll give it back.

My feeling is, by the time the kid gets to high school, it's a little late for lessons like that. By that point, the only way you're going to learn them is if you're permanently harmed by them. And possibly not even then.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I'm probably not the first person to notice this, but --

having a decent French accent (decent to my ear, anyway) seems to come about two seconds before I feel like my mouth is overly full of saliva.


This took me a couple of minutes to figure out.

The Traveler

There is a mild flow of books within my family. My mother-in-law will read something, and give it to one of her daughters, who will pass it to another, or the reverse. Doesn't happen a lot, but its not rare, either. Usually, the books don't interest me. Either they're what my wife calls 'Oprah books', or they're pretty lightweight. One of the ones that she dropped off a few weeks ago, though, is quite different. It's The Traveler, by John Twelve Hawks.

I'm immediately put on guard when the author's name is 'twelve hawks'. I find myself believing that it's like that scene in 1941 where a girl says to the dance hall maestro "Sam....your name isn't really Sam, is it? " He nods, slowly, and she goes on "What is it, really? " He looks at her. "It's Raoul". She's ecstatic. "Raoul! I knew it couldn't be something ordinary! And your last name -- what is it? " He looks down. "Lipshitz." I just figure that this guy is really named Johnson, or Cunningham, but he wanted a memorable name. Twelve Hawks, yeah, that'll work. As it turns out, though, The Traveler doesn't need that hook. It's a pretty good book.

I sometimes have tendencies toward a dark suspicion regarding authority. I'm not going to hole up in a shack somewhere in Montana, living completely off the grid, and I don't believe in some of the great conspiracy theories, like the black helicopters or the grassy knoll or any of that. Its not that I don't think there are people who'd like those things to be true, or who would act so as to make them true; I just find it hard to believe that any movement can be simultaneously globally effective, sinister, and unknown. I do believe that there are things we take for granted as normal, though, that either are anything but normal, or that could very easily lend themselves to use by nefarious people in support of clandestine goals. When I read about the number of security cameras in Britain, for example, or the use of facial recognition software, I think yeah, that could be a leading indicator.

Twelve Hawks would say that there's nothing leading about it. In The Traveler, he posits that it's already here, and that many of the things that can make life a bit unnerving, like bland, dead-eyed politicians, legal use of GPS trackers to follow people who aren't charged with any crime, and corporations allowed to have the same communications rights -- but not responsibilities -- as actual people, not to mention the prevalence of mind-numbing daytime television and the success of Fox News, are all parts of a movement to control the globe and its inhabitants. Think Thrush, from the Man From U.N.C.L.E series, only vastly more effective, more intelligently run. They really are out to get you -- or at least control you.

The Traveler isn't a book for people who believe in conspiracies. But if you like dystopian novels, it's pretty good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rescue Dog

Bar Codes

The first digits of a bar code indicate where the item was made:

00 - 09 ... USA & CANADA
30 - 37 ... FRANCE
40 - 44 ... GERMANY
471 ... TAIWAN
49 ... JAPAN
50 ... UK
690-692 ... CHINA

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ah, Grover


I see where another stupid person posted something to friends, and it made its way to the Internet, and viral fame. We made sure that our daughter heard about the event. She expressed surprise at the stupidity, too.

What I really liked was the comment by the university's student president, who said that he wasn't sure if the woman who posted it, or the guys she described, were 'the real victims here'. Kid's got a future in politics.


My daughter said at 3PM that she had 'about an hour' worth of homework to finish. Do it, we said. You'll be busy tomorrow, won't have a lot of time. Do it now.

Its now six hours later, including a break for dinner. She thinks she has 'about an hour' left.

And, I just found that Rosetta Stone will show me the answers to things it's verbally asking me to type, before I type them. I won't cheat -- be silly -- but not I won't get bagged as often by the oh, dammit, I forgot the accent mark on the E again!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Cebu, Yahoo!


....and yes, there are now people spluttering this is SEXIST!!!!!

Fridays Fumbles

This morning, I woke up thinking about my dream, which was on the strange side, and about people.

The dream was, I was in a crowd of people in a futuristic office building. I glanced down at a shiny black glass wall and realized that someone was projecting a scrolling image on it -- one that would not be visible to the naked eye, but which, if you had the right intra-ocular device, could be seen. The image was numbers and charts. I realized almost immediately that it was a biochemical readout of me - height, weight, blood pressure, dozens of other values. This was very strange, because the devices to do such remote monitoring were pretty bulky, and no one in the area had one. Then it occurred to me that if someone near me had an intercept device, they could be intercepting the monitoring being done by a device further away, and simply displaying it. I looked up, and almost immediately saw the actual monitor embedded in a wall. But who was intercepting it? I looked to my left, and the person there immediately looked away. So that was who. But why?

And I realized that my sensation of disappointment that our summer student has been completely uninterested in talking with us on a recurring basis is reminiscent of my feeling of disappointment, years ago, when I figured out that my friend, the cardio doctor, wasn't interested in being a friend. Sort of like Here's these people, I want them to really like me, but they don't.

Today, I go to the gym (what a surprise), and study French (le ditto). And maybe mow the front lawn. What fun!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Being Social

I'm not a social-media kind of guy (more an anti-social, actually), but I do like both the cartoons and the comments that Rob Cottingham (of Canada!) puts on his Noise to Signal site. He makes some funny, interesting points every time.

I should try doing that.....

Facebook Download

Worthwhile, I think.

Night Light

This is one of my favorite images.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

French Grammar Question

Does anyone know what the "-t-" in this sentence is supposed to indicate?

Depuis combien de temps chante-t-elle dans cette chorale?

It seems to me that it makes sense just as
Depuis combien de temps chante elle dans cette chorale?

but I assume the -t- adds something. Any idea?


Update: Apparently, it's just inserted to make the sentence sound better. I found this on the Word Reference forums.

"(T)he -t-il /-t-elle form (question or inverted ) is called a euphonic T , used as a kind of liaison (analogical liaison) because of the phonetical hiatus caused by two vowels....."

which I'd have with the trailing e of the verb (I'm thinking that's key, here) Chante and the starting e of the next word, Elle.

There's also a Wiki reference (of course!)


Baby Steps

We've taken the first step.

We agreed that once she's passed as qualified by her driving instructor, our daughter can drive routinely. In return, she agrees that she won't ask to drive by herself until she's accumulated forty hours of practice.

We also need to mention the 'no driving with outside-the-family passengers' period of exclusion, or 'when it snows, you're a student again until you demonstrate competence in handling skids' concept. She kind-of knows about them now.

It's a start.


The fix was simple (when you know how). The electrician took a square-U shaped metal frame that had hooks on its leading edge and pushed it into the drywall (the rough side, not the side facing into the room), embedding the hooks. The frame went around the cut-out opening in the drywall where the receptacle had been. Then he slid the receptacle back through the opening and into the metal frame, and then screwed the receptacle to it. Simple. When you know how.

And, we now have a) a reading light over what will be the tub, and b) a larger, quieter fan with its own 'night light' mode.

As my wife says, just by themselves, they're not quite worth all we're paying for this work, but they're close!


Days, weeks, years ago, my dentist said they were going to use a dental design that incorporated a bar. This was a good thing because it would mean that the stress of the plate and its use would be shared by all of the implants.

Today he said that they're not going to use a bar, but instead have each implant plug directly into the plate. This is a good thing because it means that stresses will be focused on the implants best able to handle them.



Years ago, I read an issue of Fine Homebuilding -- I still have it, tucked away like the teddy bear that a grown woman saves from her childhood -- wherein someone wrote about the building of Skywalker Ranch. Several points delighted me, none more than their observation that the construction plans included not only channels for existing power and communications lines, but channels left empty for technologies as yet uninvented. I liked the orderliness of that image. The planning, the foresight -- that made a lot of sense to me. Of course that's how houses, any houses, are wired. Of course.

As it turns out, our house does not demonstrate that foresight and planning integrity.

We've known for a while of one flaw in our kitchen. When it was rebuilt, we had sockets installed in the walls above the counters. One of the sockets, we discovered long after they were gone, was loose in the wall. You could actually pull it out, cable and all. We assumed that they'd just missed the stud. Since the wall was sealed, we couldn't fix it easily, so we juryrigged a piece of wood to sort-of hold it in place. It would still come out, but not far. Yesterday, when they took the wallboard off in the bathroom next door, it exposed the other side of that box. We looked at it.

The box is halfway between two studs. Not only did it not 'just miss' a stud, it missed it by about as much as you can and still be in the wall. The electrician who installed this obviously knew about it -- and he just walked away. Not a word was said to us.

Last night, we tried to fix it. Neither of us is a carpenter or an electrician, or particularly handy with tools. We tried. No good. But at least we knew enough to pop the breaker before we did anything around the socket. We plugged something in, and started flipping breakers. When the plugged-in thing stopped making noise, we noted which breaker it had been. I thought better check once more, and found to my surprise that the socket we'd checked was not on the same breaker as the socket next to it, on the same wall. So we found that breaker, and flipped it. As I say, our attempt to repair it was futile, and today we're going to ask the workers if they can fix it.

We also discovered that the phone, which is plugged into a completely different socket on a completely different wall, was dead.


Update: We have an electrician here today. He looked at it. Turns out this kind of box doesn't get nailed to a stud -- there's supposed to be a bracket nailed in place, and the box gets slotted -- somehow -- into the bracket. They never put in the bracket. And after he looked at it, he said the magic words:
Yeah, I can fix that.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Santa Who?

For about five or six years, I played Santa at a local hospital for their annual event. Each year, they told me that they really liked how I did it, and felt fortunate to have me.

I just learned that they don't want me to do it this year. Seems there is an employee who wants to do it, so they're having him do it. No apology, no thanks for what you did. They did say that they really liked when I did it, got lots of good responses from the parents, but, you know, our employee wanted to do it, so we thought this was the right thing to do. And it probably, objectively, was. After all, they don't owe me anything. And its not as if the kids are going to even remember that last year's Santa was better. Santas are fungible.

This is why I tell my daughter not to work for corporations. Or any organization without much of a soul. Including, apparently, a certain hospital. Which, prior to this, I thought was a decent place, and now -- like the SAS 'tray table cleanliness' story -- I think maybe they're not so great.


This would be a pleasant vehicle in which to take a ride.

Or perhaps just sit in your driveway!

Sunday, October 03, 2010


My wife tells me that it's unreasonable for me to want to be able to speak French, after three weeks of practice, at the same level of fluency as I have in Spanish after three years.

Nevertheless, I do.


Well, darn.

All of the adult-size Superman hoodies appear to be either a) distressed or b) without a zipper.

Life is so unfair!


This morning, the Hershey Half, or half-marathon (I suppose that calling it a 'mara', or a 'thon', didn't have the same ring) was held. My trainer was planing to run in it; all thirteen or so miles. I was going to go out there to wish her well, but it turns out that they were expecting two thousand five hundred entrants, so the chances of actually seeing her were pretty minimal. She wasn't expecting to do outstandingly well, but to be in the top third or perhaps quarter. Last weekend she ran/biked/swam a different type of marathon, locally, up and down hills, through briar patches and wooded areas, the whole bit. The woman's insane, and I wish her well.

I'm baking cookies, myself. Chocolate/white chocolate chippers.

And we're having a bit of a memorial. My wife showed me some cassette tapes that had been in what was my mother's living room. One is a collection of sentimental music -- Love is Blue, for example -- done in a lush style by the Billy Vaughn orchestra. We're playing the tape now. She died just about one year ago, and we still miss her.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


From those great folks at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. I think this is the second thing I've found of interest from them.

"This project intends to design and control modular robots, called Roombots, to be used as building blocks for furniture that moves, self-assembles, self-reconfigures, and self-repairs."

How cool is that? I may have to start looking at their site routinely.

Give Me A Putsch

Hipster Hitler. A strange but oddly captivating strip.

Le Petit Dejeuner

I usually enjoy making breakfast. We don't put a lot of effort into it, but even simple ones, like French Toast and Sausage, I enjoy. When we do put effort into it, like when we make a frittatta (did I spell that right?) or a breakfast burrito (which is way too much effort to do routinely, much as I'd enjoy having one frequently), it can be almost magical. Waffles, bacon, juice, coffee, maybe even some kind of pastry -- yeah, that can be goodness.

But when it's just me, and it takes five minutes to set up to make French Toast - put out the egg, milk, butter, bread, heat the pan, cook it - and then two minutes to plate it, put out utensils, pour the syrup, pour the creamer, scoop the sweetener, then three minutes to eat, and five minutes to clean up afterward --- well, somehow, it's not quite as magical. It's more like all that effort for two slices of bread? Maybe I'll just have cereal.

Friday, October 01, 2010


This is an extract from Monstrepencies, which I highly recommend viewing.


I did not exercise hard today. I don't exercise hard. I'm not one of those folks whom my wife and I used to refer to as 'grunt buddies' -- egging each other on, getting each other to lift more, man! Just ten more reps! I'm a moderate exerciser. (That I can refer to myself with a straight face as an exerciser at all still bemuses me.) I go to the gym every day (or as near as; I've gone all but one day in the last two months), I do thirty minutes on the elliptical, and then either a) twenty minutes on the treadmill, b)fifteen minutes on the free weights/Cybex equipment), or c) none of the above. And then, a fine prickling of sweat on the back of my neck, I go home, where I frequently collapse into a nap for an hour. That's it.

Okay, today was a bit unusual, in that I went in the morning to do the elliptical, and then in the afternoon met with my trainer, and did exercises with her, too. But they weren't strenuous. One was, simply, sitting down on a bench and getting up quickly, multiple times. One was standing in front of a mirror and doing lunges. (I almost wrote doing lunch, which would have been interesting.) We did 'hip abductors' and 'hip adductors', which basically meant sitting either with a pivoting set of pads between my legs or on the outside of my legs, pushing out or squeezing together to lift a weight. One set of essentially lying on the floor pushing up on a weight with my legs. And finally stepping up and down on a one step arrangement, multiple times. At no time did I get very tired (okay, the up/downs on the bench got wearing, but the effect didn't continue for long). I felt fine when I left.

And then I came ...home....and my thighs said Um, don't expect much of us for awhile, 'kay? Kay. And I sleep for an hour, wake up exhausted, take a steaming hot shower, come out wet, hot, and semi-awake. And only now, an hour later, as I sit here sipping some licorice-spice tea, do I feel like maybe I'm waking up. Almost in time to go to sleep.

So maybe I did exercise hard? Just a bit? Yeah, maybe.