Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Today my mento actually typed up something for a class the day before it was due. I'm not going to say this is phenomenal, but it's pretty good.

Now let's hope he remembers to hand it in.

The Next Day

Well, it's still raining -- Il pleut, encore! -- but other than that, things have improved.

I spent an hour with the dentist yesterday, as he poked and patched. At the end, he said, cheerily, well, that'll probably hold, but if not, you may want to think about having a crown put on it; it's pretty big! Which I knew; probing the newly rounded out space with my tongue, it felt as if I could stash a couple of chairs and a barcalounger in there. Still, it got done, and it's okay for the moment, so I'm happy.

And I didn't have weird dreams last night. Unusual ones, yes -- I woke thinking about my mother, and how she dressed to go to a cardiologist's office one day and spent the next two weeks in a hospital before dying there. I do think that she was in a fragile state, and their attempts to improve her failing functions made the overall balance worse, tossing her into a seesaw of this is better, but now that's worse. I admit that the phrase they killed her did come to mind, at the time, but now I think probably not. She might have lived another couple of years, but who knows? Overall, it went well but ended badly. My wife tells me that roughly one out of three people going into a hospital die.

I didn't do the bike yesterday -- I did an amazing amount of sleeping, though; probably twelve hours, overall -- and yet my weight dropped another half pound, and my blood sugar was startlingly low. I told my wife that perhaps I shouldn't do the bike today, either, but she seems to feel that yesterday was just a freebie dropped off by Zeus, and I ought not to count on it again today. Probably right.

Got to make a grocery run today, and got to got to got to study French.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

..So Armor Up!

Ça va?

The last twenty four hours have been.... problematic.

I became aware of this when I was eating a dish of ice cream last night, and a filling came out. there supposed to be a bit of shiny metal in this Brownie Batter? When a filling comes out, you look at it for a while, trying to think of some plausible reason why you found this in your mouth - one that doesn't involve a filling. Then you oh-so-casually run a tongue over that area - dammit! There's a hole there! Which means, I have to go to the dentist and get it fixed. I have hated going to the dentist ever since it took two freaking years to get my dental plate done, and, along the way, the guy mentioned how my lower jaw had issues. I just know that some day, one of them's going to ask if I've considered having all of those teeth out, too.

That loss was, I think, the reason I had such a very weird dream last night. It involved living in the apartment I occupied as a kid, but this time with my wife and daughter, while my wife tried to get the bedroom painted, being told by the painter that it was impossible because the paint kept sliding off the walls, and I couldn't find my car keys, so I asked Fidel Castro, who was living with us, and he didn't know, but we got to talking about a speech he was going to give, and I tried to get him to focus on content and less on speaking for ten hours straight, only halfway through that, I noticed that the huge pool that wasn't there when I was a kid but seemed to be there now, in the park next door, had a ferry capsizing in it, with hundreds of people sinking beneath the suddenly turbulent water, and only a few coming back up, and I thought I really should call 911, only I was on the phone with a coworker about how I would be late getting into work because I couldn't find my keys....

I mean, it was a weird dream. And I think it was because I kept thinking about this damn filling thing.

Plus, today, I really need to study some French, which, to my surprise, is starting to back up on me. I thought hey, half an hour a week, how bad can it be, but when you say sure, give me lots of homework --she does, and unlike homework when you were a kid, she doesn't check it, she just assumes I did it unless I have questions. Which I do, at the moment, because I just cannot get the difference of the sounds AN and IN into my head. Yesterday I learned that I've been saying bain and main and sans entirely wrong. I do want to know this, but damn! That really sucks! Calls into question a lot of my pronunciations, about which I've been a little sensitive lately.

On the plus side, I'm still slowly losing weight, and my blood sugar is outstanding. (It was only thinking about those numbers that kept me from baking brownies last night.) So there's that. (But as a comedian said years ago, being pleased about something that involves not doing something is hard to sustain. Its like when you're on a diet, and you don't eat the hamburger bun. Where's the pleasure in that?) I did get mostly positive comments from a French friend about a recital I'd done, where I thought I was pretty poor, and he thought I was mostly OK. And I heard from a friend in Switzerland with whom I'd lost contact. That was rather a delight, too.

Still, I could use a little distraction, I think. Just a little.... Maybe I'll have some ice cream.

Wait, what's this metal thing in my mouth?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


This is an example of trains as they should be.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kiwis Are Nice

From the Not Always Right site:

(Call Center | New Zealand)

Me: “How can I help you today?”

Customer: “I’m looking for a parcel.”

Me: “May I have your tracking number, please?”

Customer: “My what?”

Me: “Your tracking number. All of our parcels have tracking numbers which the sender can give you if you do not have it.”

Customer: “Why don’t you have it?”

Me: “Because I didn’t send you the parcel.”

Customer: “So, who did then?”

Me: “Sir, do you not know who sent you the item?”

Customer: “No, but my neighbor just had something delivered and I want one too. So send me something now!”

(The caller then muffles the phone and I can hear what sounds like sobs.)

Me: “Sir, are you okay?”

Customer: “I’m so lonely and I just wanted to get a present!” *more sobbing*

Customer: “I’m so lonely!”

Me: *speechless*

Customer: “Never mind, I’ll go now…”

Me: “Sir…wait. We do have a parcel for you. I just need to confirm your address to send it to you. It will be there this afternoon!”

(After he gives me his address, I have a quick whip around the call center and we get a card signed by the team, put in a few chocolate bars with other happy bits and pieces, and send it to him. He calls the next day and thanks us all. Now, he rings once a week on average, and we are all happy to chat with him.)


My kind of stormtrooper...


Exoskeltons are one of the staples of science fiction. Jump into it, flip the switches, and now you're kicking alien butt, punching through steel, hurling massive concrete blocks.

The realities of real-world exoskeletons are considerably more modest. You make sure that your center of gravity stays where it ought to be. You move slowly, carefully. You keep focused. And, oh yeah.

You walk by yourself for the first time in four years.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I've been doing the bike for two weeks now. Thirty two minutes a day at the start. Forty minutes a day now. It's not easy, but it's not terrible. I'm doing it because decades ago (literally) when my wife and I got the exercise bike, we both did it religiously, and almost nothing else. And one day we each realized that our clothes were looser.

A book I'm reading, about body-weight exercise, written by a guy who's a professional - ex-SEAL, trains high-performance people like Army Rangers and such -- says this is bushwah, that cardio exercise does nothing, it's gotta be strength training, that's what does it.

All I know is, I've lost three pounds. So I think I'll do this for a while. I know it can't be just this, that a decent plan should incorporate dietary awareness and strength training. But still -- gonna keep doing this till it stops giving me benefit.

Three pounds in two weeks? I'll take it.


I wanted to say something insightful about the economy and finances, but nothing insightful comes to mind.

I was thinking about it this evening. I discovered, to my surprise that I hadn't balanced our checkbooks for three months. I got out of the habit when I realized that Quicken would go out and retrieve new transactions automatically, both adding them and marking them as cleared in my checking account list. It wasn't until this evening that I wondered why so many entries had a c for Cleared rather than an R for Reconciled. Duh! So I did that, and, of course, I had at least one month where tiny things were wrong. I hate that. Finding out that two entries had the same check number -- Quicken is supposed to alert on that, and it was probably one of those what was that - oh, it went away things -- distressed me. Finding that one month had a thirty nine cent difference bothered me, too.

So when I was done cleaning that up, I thought you know, its been a while since I looked at our 401(k)s. I should do that. I figured they would be down, because of what I've heard about how the stock market's doing, but it was a shock to see that they're actually down about 11%. Works out to about a 6% drop in our total assets. It's not crippling, but still: it make me think holy hell. The first thought is we'd better not spend on any unnecessary things. And that's a funny thought, because I know that it's that sort of reaction that keeps a recession going. No one wants to be the first ones to spend money. That's where the government is supposed to step in (unless you're Ron Paul or one of his groupies), and they did, but for reasons that I don't understand, it didn't work. Oh, it did have a positive effect, but it didn't WORK work. I suspect that a lot of it was that people are scared of whats going to happen, so they have the same reaction. Better not spend on any unnecessary things. So I looked at where our money goes, and, oh, 90% of it is justifiable, things we wouldn't want to remove or even reduce. Things like books, donations to church, lunch money for the offspring. And things that you can't cut -- like tax payments. Could we trim our spending? Probably. Significantly? I tend to doubt it. Yet I'm thinking that we ought to. Even if it just means watching nickels and dimes.

I know that economics is an amazingly complex question whose results rely heavily on individual whim and whimsy. Sometimes, I think, having a successful economy is just a matter of lots of people clenching their eyes and chanting I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. That's not all of it, not by a long shot, but when it comes to making an economy work, a healthy dose of belief that you can do it is necessary. Right now, a lot of people and companies don't have that. (I was going to say 'have it to a limited degree', and I thought of Yoda. There is no try. There is only do, or not do.) Some of those people and companies, it doesn't matter whether they believe or not, because they don't have resources, or access to resources, of the most minor type. These, I think, tend to be hard core Democrats (those who vote; I think that many of them say what's the point?) who need governmental assistance just to survive. But there are those who could take steps to grow their personal economy, but are afraid to because in their minds the probability of success isn't high enough. Better sit tight, they think. Some of them, it's not so much that the probability of success isn't high enough as that they think something else might happen that'll require their funds; better sit tight. These people, I think, frequently vote Democratic, but not always.

All of the people in the foregoing section have limited economic muscle. They don't tend to make jobs that employ other people. Some of them work for themselves; most work for someone else. Collectively, they're the ones who show up in the glossy ads-- smiling and happy, though they're frequently not -- doing the jobs that run America. Pumping the gas, driving the trucks, shoveling the dirt, directing the traffic. These, I think, are the people who have to get enough resources and faith that they can start moving forward again.

I have no idea how to do that. Frequently, I think that the degree'd people who run various economic organizations don't, either. They have wonderful, insightful theories - but they don't know how to get the engine moving. They just know how to tune it, make it turn direction, speed up, slow down. But from a dead stop? (Much shuffling of feet.) So if they're Democrats, they say throw money at it! throw money at it! And sometimes that works. And if they're Republicans, they say Limit government, lower taxes! Limit government, lower taxes! And sometimes that works, too.

And sometimes it doesn't. Which is when a great deal of luck or some amazingly insightful plans are needed. Like now.

As for me, I'll be watching nickels and dimes.


I saw on another blog a comment about the writer's husband, who was leaving on another long trip. I know that trips, even pleasant ones, can be tedious and enervating, but still, I'd like to do more of it. (Okay, I admit it: I'd like to go back to a certain house in a certain small town in France, and just hang out.)

Not that I dislike how our life is going. My wife -- well, we're just happy that she's still employed. Her company is in the running for the worst board of directors in the country, so no one knows from week to week if they'll be employed. We're a long way from the days when we thought the 'quality' movement would give the company a golden future.We've got enough money that if she had to stop working, we'd be okay -- but, well, I'd miss her (since we'd only be able to fund that kind of trip for one of us....)


Last night, I yelled at my daughter. I never yell, but last night, I did.

A most unsettling feeling.


Somewhere there's got to be a conservative doing this kind of informative interview. Right? Yeah. Sure. Must be.

But seriously....where are they?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I am not sure if this is a sign of the Apocalypse, but I finally found an XKCD strip that I thought was unfunny and cruel. Not obscure, which they sometimes are, not arcane, which the best ones are, but unfunny and cruel.

Hey, Coop?

So there I am, just leafing through web sites, when suddenly a piece of my past appears.

(In case you're curious, it stands for 'Cooperative Launch')


The other night, I turned on the TiVo to find that my daughter had paused one of those high-school oriented shows. It had a girl talking to another, saying Why don't you want the spirit squad to wear shorts? The second girl replied something like Because I think the squad should have a classy air, and the shorts make us look like sluts. I remembered seeing recently where a school (not around here) said that girls couldn't wear their cheerleader gear to class because the skirts didn't meet the school's dress code. One girl complained that if it was good enough for the field, it ought to be good enough for the school. I guess she didn't follow the logic chain backwards on that.

I thought about that today when I was in a local store where there happened to be several girls from the high school's cheerleading squad, many of them wearing pretty short shorts with Wildcats or some logo on the butt. Its my impression that they wear it to be noticed, but only by people whom they want to notice them -- ie, cute guys. (I thought that if one of them saw me looking at it, they'd likely think Damn old guy, checking out my butt.) Most of the girls, no matter how they were dressed, looked like normal kids; two or three, though, were the type who, when you saw them, you think Cheerleader. Long blonde hair, for example, though that's not a given. It's more the air; the haughty attitude that seems to say I'm gorgeous; you can look, but you can't ever touch. I don't know that these are arrogant kids. That's just the impression I get. Sort of like the attitude portrayed by the Angelina Jolie character in The Tourist (which we rented last night; it was worth a buck to see her in those outfits, with change left over for the plot. It was, shall we say, on the thin side.)

I wondered how I'd feel if my daughter was a classic cheerleader type. And decided that I'm glad she's not.

FB, Again


I thought that this year, with the mento, I'd review his grades routinely. I wanted to do this myself, presenting him with the news like a deus ex machina, but the school wouldn't give me access. Which is I think stupid, but what are you going to do.

So when we met for the first time today, I had him sign in and look at his grades himself. He was astonished. He had Fs in three classes, one month into the term. He said that there were at least three things he could find and turn in to try to ameliorate them. I said we'd meet on Tuesday and talk about those where he had problems so that he try to finish them.

Now, I won't take this to the bank. This kid has a real out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. Even sitting there with a notecard in front of him, he almost didn't write down what he said he'd finish this weekend. I fully expect that when we meet, he won't have done any of them.

But now he knows, and he knows that I know. It's a start.

Friday, September 23, 2011


It's not a lot, but -- this is the eleventh consecutive day that I'd done the exercise bike for thirty minutes or more. A minor improvement in my weight, and a definite improvement in my blood sugar levels. This is goodness.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Democracy? Whazzat?

TSA, Canadian Style

Apparently, the people who run airport security in Canada can be just as stupid as ours -- including an inability to say yeah, we screwed up, we're sorry.

Place Your Bet!

HP has come to the conclusion that the expensive guy they hired to turn the company around was a big mistake. So now, they're looking at firing him.

I'm taking bets on how many millions of dollars they give him to go away (because, just as everyone knows you have to spend big to get the best, you have to spend big to keep them from suing you on their abrupt departure). I'm sure that they will in no way see a connection between that style of action and their dismal financial position. Though I do understand why some articles ask if HP might have the worst board of directors ever.

Side bets also being taken on whether HP gets bought. Starting to look possible.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I noticed this in one of the responses to an article about CVS asking for ID when buying a money order:

"CVS would not screw with their customers like this unless they had a really good reason. They are probably protecting themselves against government tyranny. If the CEO did this just to screw with CVS customers, then said CEO probably has a MBA from an Idiot League University (Probably Harvard) and needs to be thrown out the door."

How wonderful!


Okay, it's sappy, mawkish, and sentimental. I like it.


Things rebound.

My wife and I had to go out together this morning at 7AM. My daughter had to be at school by 7:30 for a club meeting. She didn't think that the school bus would get her there on time, and wanted to take the car. My wife doesn't want her to routinely take the car, because she doesn't want her to get the feeling that she can have it whenever she wants. I told her that I would have my phone, and if she missed the bus, I would come back to get her. Halfway through our meeting, she texted me. The son of a neighbor -- he takes the bus to her school and transfers to another school van -- who likes -- really likes --- to play with our cat would be coming over this afternoon to do that. Apparently, she met him at the bus stop, and he asked, and she said yes. No skin off her nose.

But the cat -- and I -- will be paying for it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


How is it, my wife asked, that it's considered an insult for you to tell someone "Bite me"? Aren't you the one getting hurt?

I told her it was a guy thing.

9-11 Pentagon

Some people say that they do not believe an airplane hit the Pentagon on 9-11. These pictures - particularly the ones marked Debris 1 and Debris 2 -- sure seem to say otherwise.

Conspiracy fanatics will likely say those are clearly Photoshopped....


I won't buy a Mac laptop just because there's a nifty way of finding it (maybe) if it's stolen -- but this is an interesting article about one guy's experience, nonetheless. And the RCMP comes off looking pretty slick, too.

BTW, looks like the free product works on Windows, too. Which makes me think - Hmm... So these guys become the default tracking all these laptops site, huh? Knows where they all are? How secure is their data?

But still, neat idea.

Go Deep

From Foxtrot.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Annie C

I like Annie Comtois. She's got a great voice.

Deja Vu

From a photo article about the Great Depression:

Many employers tried to get as much work as possible from their employees for the lowest possible wage.

Not in these enlightened times, of course.


More than a little NSFW.....


Except that I bundle up (for the psychological security) then stick one foot out (for the coolness), this is me.

Rick Perry's Texas

From The Frum Forum:

What might you do with a pile of free taxpayer money and a ton of political influence? Perhaps you could get your hands on patents developed by the University of Texas.

(A) Perry contributor cashed in his chits for a $1.5m investment from the Texas ETF. Charles Tate is a major Perry donor who had managed to get himself put in charge of a board that “vetted” candidates for the ETF. He recommended the ETF give money to Thrombovision, and then invested in the company himself.

He and his partners accepted that state grant in 2007. The company failed to submit annual reports and finally sought bankruptcy protection in 2010. Since the taxpayers under Perry’s program are doling out grants instead of loans and taking no equity interest in the companies to which they give money, the state gets nothing from the bankrupt entity, unlike the Solyndra case. The folks who got the state grant just walk away. And Perry doesn’t have to give back the campaign contributions.

That’s how you do business in Rick Perry’s Texas.

Mary D

Want someone to use their money to pay your bills?

Mary D. will. Honest.


After we'd been married about a year, my wife remarked to me that my idea of a great restaurant was one that had thick linen tableclothes and napkins, heavy silver utensils, quiet, deferential waiters, and perhaps chamber music. And served meatloaf. That's about right.

Still, when I read articles such as this one about the wonderful gastronomy available in France, I think - again - that it would be nice to be exposed to that, to raise my sights a bit from the level of 'that hamburger was excellent with salsa on it' and 'you know what's pretty good? Sausage patties on a biscuit'".

And then I read things like this:

(T)he amuse-bouches composed a delicious calling card for southwest France—delicate eggs of alosse (a meaty fish from the Gironde, the Garonne estuary) in an herb-and-piquillo-flecked vinaigrette; duck foie gras with a vinegary onion compote; and a miniature foie gras crème brûlée. The brouillade d'oeufs aux asperges blanches des Landes, eggs scrambled so precisely they had the texture of thick cream, was garnished with succulent chunks of lightly caramelized white asparagus from the nearby Landes region, and the roasted lamb from Paulliac—served with an excellent and very vieille France garnish of wilted lettuce, green asparagus and tiny first-of-season spring peas—was superb.

Tuna sandwich, anyone?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


My French instructor asked me to write a 100 word essay in French about my town. From scratch.

Painful. But, I know, it's how you learn.

UB Ooops

So UBS lost a metric hell load of money because of a 'rogue trader'.

Aren't they all? Heck, their chieftans are thieves and pirates..... and the guy running that part of the business intentionally steered them to more dangerous, more risk-taking endeavors. Because that's where the money is. And as others have pointed out, you're only a 'rogue trader' when you lose more than you earn. Otherwise, you're a well-paid hero.

Can we line them up and shoot them now?


I read a blog called The Simple Dollar. It's personal finance, and it's simple, as the title says. This entry really spoke to me.

Whenever we think about doing something different with our lives, a little resistance fighter starts preparing for battle inside of us.

He tells us why we can’t do it. He comes up with lots of plausible excuses. He talks about things that would be a lot more fun to do.

Often, he convinces us to do the wrong thing. We abandon that change we’ve been thinking about and go on with our lives as normal.

In short, he’s a real jerk.

We need to defeat him.

Once upon a time, that resistance fighter would convince me to be reckless with my money. As I began to turn my finances around, he would fight me every step of the way. He’d convince me to spend my money in ways that I knew I shouldn’t be spending it. He told me again and again that I shouldn’t take the leap into writing full time.

Each time, there was a series of battles against this resistance fighter. Sometimes, I lost. Eventually, though, I won the war and found great value in that victory.

Lately, the resistance fighter inside of me has been yelling at me to not get adequate exercise. He tries to tell me that I don’t have time or that I won’t really see any results from doing it.

He’s wrong.

Every day, we have a battle. Some days, he wins. That does not mean the war is over. It means that we’re going to battle again tomorrow.

More and more, though, I find myself winning the battles. I go on a walk and the resistance fighter retreats.

That resistance fighter is inside of all of us. He encourages us to keep doing the thing we’re doing that we know we should be changing. He resists change.

It is hard to battle him, particularly at first. Take it one battle at a time. Choose, just once, to do the right thing instead of the easy thing. Overcome the pleas of that resistance fighter.

What you’ll find is that the more you push yourself to overcome that resistance, the easier it becomes to win future battles. The resistance fighter gets quieter and quieter.

Before you know it, you have a new routine and a new life.

You’ve won the war.

Today is your first battle in this war. Are you up to the challenge?

Cry Uncle

The good news is, they're trying to make a new Man From UNCLE movie.

The bad news is.....(I bet you know).


When I go to the supermarket (I do most of our supermarket shopping), I bring a list. I do make impulse purchases, but not often, and when I do, I note the price. If I buy something, and there's a 'two for one' marker, I'll get two, but I check the receipt afterward to make sure that I did get the second one free. (If not, I go back and complain. At least once, when there was a line at the customer service desk, I simply went back and took another.)

So I think I'm a pretty good shopper. And then I read this, from a Fast Company article, and I think Wait a my store, the first thing I smell is coffee, and the first thing I see is flowers....

Let's pay a visit to Whole Foods' splendid Columbus Circle store in New York City. As you descend the escalator you enter the realm of freshly cut flowers. These are what advertisers call "symbolics"--unconscious suggestions. In this case, letting us know that what's before us is bursting with freshness.

Flowers, as everyone knows, are among the freshest, most perishable objects on earth. Which is why fresh flowers are placed right up front--to "prime" us to think of freshness the moment we enter the store. Consider the opposite--what if we entered the store and were greeted with stacks of canned tuna and plastic flowers? Having been primed at the outset, we continue to carry that association, albeit subconsciously, with us as we shop.


From a collection of SportsCenter commercials:

Saturday, September 17, 2011


A somewhat sullen, overcast, chilly day. I've been turning the heat on in various rooms.

This afternoon I mowed the side yard and most of the back. Every so often, I'd stop and just look at the house, thinking, for some reason, about the kid who stayed with us last year. Not sure why looking at the house made me think of her, but it did. I'm sad that we weren't able to strike up a friendship. I really thought we would. I'm not kidding when I say that we liked her so much, we'd have adopted her. We did strike up a friendship with her parents. At least, I think we did. The mother is very poor at responding to, or even looking at, email, and it doesn't take much to make me think maybe they're ignoring us. Maybe they've changed their mind about us. I know, thats's stupid. Still, I hope that they follow through with their stated plan of coming here next year. I'd really like that, and not just because it sort-of gives us a place to stay if we go back there. (Would we go if we didn't have it? Um...)

Our daughter has a track record that in the beginning of a school year, or just before, she gets really nervous, and she manifests this in two ways: by being really irritable at small things, and picking up books and toys that she'd used when she was younger. This weekend, she looked for old coloring books and did a couple, and she's re-reading one of the Magic Treehouse series. (This is the kid who just read Beowulf, and loved it.) She'll get over it, but its always surprising to see. I wonder what I do when I get nervous, that I don't know I do?

Did the bike again this afternoon. Six days, 32 minutes a day. This time, I was really tired when I was done, and my shirt was soaked. So I got changed, and laid down for a nap. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. I noticed that the handset said CHECK BATTERY. Hmm. We just changed that battery. Crap. Are we going to have to get a new charger? I think from time to time that I'd like to expand the number of handsets, but this system's limited to three. And I haven't noticed where anyone seems to sell customizable ones, with as many handsets as you want. At least, not for less than hundreds of dollars.

Cat thought it'd be fun to knock over a plant, and while she was looking down at the damage, knocked over another one.

Last night, we had burgers for dinner. For some reason, I decided to have a bit of salsa on mine. It was really good. I plan to try something called French Burgers, which apparently originated with Julia Child, some time. They take a bit of effort. I hope they're worth it.

I've noticed a lot of web sites dedicated to women and exercise. Not so many for guys -- and those that there are seem to be mostly for guys in their twenties who want to, oh, get the perfect six-pack, longboard down Kilimanjaro, that sort of thing. The remainder seems to assume that you're of a certain age, so you really need to talk to your doctor before exercising, take it slow, be gentle with your joints. Well, maybe I am, and maybe I should - but I don't feel like it, and I hate getting treated that way. Even when it's justifiable.

I continue to study French. I'm not sure why, sometimes, particularly when I am having a hell of a time with the accent. I recorded myself doing a reading, and I sounded leaden and clumsy. I think I'll get better, but I'd like it to happen faster.

So that's Saturday.


From time to time, I think about getting an eReader. I am mildly intrigued. I know one person who is a total fanboy about his -- he even bought shirts with flat pockets big enough to hold his Kindle -- and his enthusiasm makes me think well, maybe. Even though I don't trust Amazon, after hearing a while back of how they 'electronically recalled' books that that been downloaded, I think well, maybe. Even though they look awfully clumsy to me.... still. Maybe.

And then last night, my wife tells me about the kid in my daughter's school who had what we presume was a library electronic copy of Oedipus Rex, with lots of notes that the kid had attached, and when the copy did the notes.

And I think, ah, maybe not.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Another excellent idea that won't happen in my lifetime. Barring the possibility that our alien overlords return and require it.


I seriously like Caller Id.


How do most people view the current crop of Republicans seeking the Oval Office?

Found here.

Standing Pat

I'm not an expat, and the odds are, my daydreams about our pleasant times in France notwithstanding, I never will be one. I've read enough to realize that what's an idyllic day in a small French town for me is just another damn day (or should I say, juste un autre jour fichu) for them. They've still got to get the trash out, pay the electrical bill, and find a doctor when they're sick, just as we do. I actually came to this realization decades ago when my brand-new-wife and I were walking along a street in San Francisco, and I realized that what was a glamorous, vibrant vacation day to me was to most of those people just another day handling the Bigglesworth account, riding in a crowded elevator, and trying to find a place to get a decent bagel. But it's in San Francisco! But it's in France! Well, yes, there is that.

Still, I like to muse about it, and as such I was delighted to find a site, run under the auspices of the British newspaper, The Telegraph, that is written by British expats. The writing is generally good, and the topics are things that I don't find elsewhere. These two, for example -- an article about a possible French private school strike, and what that might mean to the fortunes of the middle class, not to mention, M. Sarkozy, and an article about the effects of Irene on a small town in the Catskills region of New York.

Thursday, September 15, 2011




Star Trek

So, how did Nemo get the rest of the crew to go along with the idea that using their mining ship to go bouncing around, destroying planets, would be a good idea? How did he even get a ship that was so awesome, it could successfully take on a whole series of Starfleet's finest? Falling only to the indomitable spirit of James T. Kirk ...(Spock: "The likelihood of success is less than four percent..."... Kirk: " Spock, it'll work.") doing hand-to-hand inside their ship and Spock, driving the Eggbeater Express, doing damage from the outside? And why did the Romulans build it (Kirk:"One ship, one massive ship") so big, anyway? Interior looked like a subterranean cave that had evolved rather than something that'd been built - why was that? Why did people get around jumping from platform to platform -- stairs go out of style or something?

And what is 'red matter', anyway?

Just wondering....


Well, the day started with a bang. Apparently, the TShirt that my daughter wanted to wear had special handling instructions for washing, said instructions not being noted, with the result that it is now significantly shorter than it used to be. This is, of course, a tragedy, and the daughter is quite irate.

On the bright side, it's raining again. Oh, wait, that's not the bright side?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have recently discovered the Tumblr series of web sites. My daughter had told me that she 'looks at tumblr' occasionally, and I knew that it was a blogging platform that's more flexible than Blogger (which makes me wonder: when will Google decide this was fun but Sergey says cut it off cause we need the money to fund the next incursion into global privacy, so, BYE!), but that was about it. And I wondered about it. So, yesterday, I started looking for sites with that identifier ( (I did a GSearch with the clever title of "List of Tumblr Sites". And wondered: why tumblr? Tumble what? And why spelled that way?)

I was astonished at the number of sites I came across -- and I'm sure that I haven't seen but a fraction of them. It makes me wonder where these people get all of this spare time. (Which is what I frequently think when I look at web sites for people who cook. Leave the question of where do they get that talent? Where do they get that time? What are they, Martha Stewart?)

One site had to do with underwear. Now, of course, I figured this is going to be a cute way of saying "Here's a bunch of pictures of incredibly attractive women wearing almost nothing", and indeed, that's what it was. (I am convinced that these women are grown in vats. No one, when I was growing up, looked like that. Then again, I was so socially retarded, I didn't know more about girls than that they smelled good and always seemed a lot more composed than I ever was. They could have been offering sex, drugs, and rock n' roll - in retrospect, I think of one or two, and suspect that they actually were -- and I'd have been oblivious.... another reason that I'm glad my daughter goes to a co-educational school. Not because I want her to have that -- okay, sex whens she's thirty five, maybe -- but because I like the idea that the idea of the other sex won't be as strange to her as it was to me. Do people even still use the phrase 'co-ed'?) So yes, this site was, basically, soft-core porn.

There are sites that are dedicated to underwear? Really? So I looked. And yes, there were. Were there ever. One site said "The Underwear King - Fun underwear is something that belongs in every man's top drawer." Really? I never got that memo. I'm being daring when I stray from basic solid colors. I can just see me getting 'fun underwear', though. Yeah. Right. What does that mean, it has bells attached? A picture of Bozo? Please, tell me not "It has Home of the Whopper! printed on it!" And not just underwear, but -- I don't know, underwear as a vehicle for social expression? One site had this comment - "Looking at male underwear models. . . I feel a little homosexual but I'm artistically inspired." And I thought Why does the person - presumably a guy - feel it necessary to say that? But I thought it at the exact same momemt that I thought Looking at pictures of guys in their underwear -- shudder! So I guess in my Catholic upbringing there's a little compartment that says that's wrong! Dirty! One site said "We love girls in boys underwear! " But not the reverse, because that's evil, too, right? Yeah, I think so. (Same compartment telling me this, I suspect. Just thinking about "Why is this true" makes me a little edgy. The closest I get to thinking about that is something that occured to me years ago -- we think that women in men's clothing are fashionable, but men in women's clothes? Ah, no. Which I don't actually think is all that bad, but no one asked me....and if I had a son, I might feel differently. Thank you, Catholic upbringing.)

And I won't get into the question of 'feel a little homosexual'. I won't even touch the obvious pun.

So, tumblr is an ...interesting... series of sites.

Cajun Mike's

I rarely drink, so this sign isn't talking to me. And I know that if I did drink, it wouldn't be me ending up with the women from item five. I'd be the one puking in the filthy john -- which, curiously, isn't on their list.

But the image of this casual approach to life is beguiling.....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I don't ever intend to get a tattoo. But if I do, I'll consider this one.


I figured I was over it....but when a plane flew low overhead, this past Sunday, I glanced up.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gimme Blood

This is kind of interesting -- most cardiovascular problems occur in the morning. And that's when the body creates the most platelets.

"Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have demonstrated that the circadian system, the body's internal clock, regulates human platelet function and causes a peak in platelet activation corresponding to the known morning peak in adverse cardiovascular events.....In this study, the researchers demonstrated that the body clock regulates platelet function and causes a peak in platelet activation corresponding to the morning peak in adverse cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. A high level of platelet activation can lead to adverse cardiovascular events by influencing blood clotting. According to Scheer, this finding mimics the pattern of morning peaks in cardiovascular risk and tells us that platelet function is likely one of the factors that contributes to this morning peak in adverse cardiovascular events."

They're not saying it's the only reason, or even a primary one, but still: wow.

Found here.


You can fill out unsubscribe forms as many times as you want. LinkedIn will keep sending you emails.

Glad I've got a decent spam filter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I hope Perry doesn't win. But this article on the science of campaign organization,which he used to win his last elections and might be doing this time, is interesting nonetheless.


I bought the Sunday paper because I wanted to read the text of Obama's jobs speech. But along the way, I read other things, too.

I don't need Tom Brokaw to tell me what's important to remember. I really, really don't.

I don't need a newspaper columnist to tell me that Obama lied when he said a tax cut was the biggest in history, because it wasn't the one that returned the most money, but rather the one that affected the most people. I'd like it if newspapers would get back to reporting, period, and leave the snark to me.

I don't need cheap patriotism from comic strips. Thought I did like Zits.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The apple pie turned out well. So did the cream of corn soup. I think this is the first time that I've ever done that much to make a meal. Pretty cool.


Okay, I'm not the neatest baker around.

But I do like the results.

Hunting the Snark

I don't really understand why people comment on newspaper articles. On blog posts like mine, sure; there's rarely more than two or three, and what you say can be heard. But on a newspaper article, the odds are that no one will see what you wrote -- at most, perhaps one or two folks. And that's only if yours happens to be right at the top, or right next to the 'comment here' box. Otherwise, no.

Sometimes, I think it'd be interesting to see a summary of the comments, similar to what Amazon does with product evaluations. 79% of readers liked this comment. But that implies, of course, that people read them. So I think well, what MAKES a comment readable, or unreadable? I really don't know. But I just had a mildly interesting experience, in that regard.

I went to the web site for the fellow who wrote the Palin article that I liked. It said that in excess of 300 people had commented on the article. Immediately, I thought well, this won't be worthwhile. But I looked at the first one. I didn't even get all the way through the comment before I stopped reading. I almost didn't make it past the first sentence.

Interesting, took you how many days to digest what she said? Perhaps the folks at Harvard should watch the folks from Wasilla a bit closer? Common sense is worth a boat load of degees. Palin’s 5 point plan is like a diamond bullet of common sense to all that use logic and not emotion in making decisions. Nice to see an educated elitest finally catching up with the rest of the country! The rest are either on the take or afraid their invitation to a cocktail party in the Hamptons will not arrive mentioning Palin in a good light. Bravo for the big balls my friend!
  1. Comment by Sean — September 9, 2011 @ 9:52 am

O-KAY. Right off the bat, I thought what a snarky first sentence. Take a shot at the writer, why don't you. I left -- but then I came back. Next two sentences weren't bad. Then 'a diamond bullet of common sense'. Hmm, that's a strange metaphor, but -- okay, fine. Then Nice to see an educated elitist finally catching up with the rest of ....

and I stopped right there. Snarkiness will stop me, every time. I'm not entirely sure why, but it does.

So maybe what I need is a 79% of readers thought this was a snarky comment indicator?


...freakinlievable. Sarah Palin actually said some things that I agree with. From a New York Times article --

"She made three interlocking points. First, that the United States is now governed by a “permanent political class,” drawn from both parties, that is increasingly cut off from the concerns of regular people. Second, that these Republicans and Democrats have allied with big business to mutual advantage to create what she called “corporate crony capitalism.” Third, that the real political divide in the United States may no longer be between friends and foes of Big Government, but between friends and foes of vast, remote, unaccountable institutions (both public and private).

Sarah Palin?

This doesn't mean I'll start taking her seriously. But it does suggest that occasionally reading what she says, rather than simply summaries thereof, might be worthwhile.
Just to see if this was just a blip, or if she's got something that's worth hearing.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Rainbow Batman

....and Robin, and Batgirl, and.....Joker?

Found here.

Speed Monitored From...


Found here.


I love this image, one of many from the French strikes of a few months ago. The woman's expression speaks volumes.

The sign reads:
Old woman to girl: When I was your age, I was already working.
Girl to old woman: When I'm your age, I'll still be working!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Small Business

So There's That

Weird Thought

How could dishwashers be integrated into the 'wired household'?

For example: several colleges offer the service with their community washing machines that the device will page or text you when your wash is done. (Each college that mentioned this seemed to think they were unique in this regard.)

How could a dishwasher incorporate this kind of thought? Notification when done hardly matters when its your own washer -- heck, let the dishes sit in there for the next three days -- but is there something that could be done to improve the dishwashing experience?

Just wondering....


I like Monocle magazine. Which is odd, because they're really not marketing to me. It'd be as if I said that I really like Vanity Fair (is that even still published?), or Chemical Abstracts Quarterly (always good for a laugh), or Great Politicians (which I think actually went out of print about eighty years ago).

Monocle does two things that I like. First, they tackle big issues in an invigorating way, usually with an eye towards design or innovative thought. They'll talk about making cities more livable, and have interviews and expositions with bright young people who are doing striking things. Many times, these BYPs are actually interesting - people that you'd actually like to meet. Sometimes, not so much (someone who, say, is doing Amazing Things With Crushed Walnuts and Shredded Paper); even then, they're creative, just not in a way that I find particularly captivating. But usually, they're spot on. I love reading about ways to improve the subway rider experience (where I live, we don't have subways, unless you count the places that Jared loves) or urban parks (we have some, but most of our greenery comes from the farms) or improved passenger aircraft (I'll never be able to afford to even go to the terminal where these elegant birds reside, let alone ride on them, but I love the way they look). So there's that.

And the other thing is that they sell their own branded handicrafts, or handicrafts that might as well be theirs. These are almost uniformly expensive, but they really look well made and delightful. They're things like a really good fountain pen, or a notebook cover made of fine leather and cloth, suitable for an iPad and that fountain pen, or a piece of crystal with no purpose but to delight the eye. There's something about those items that charms me. I like knowing that they exist. I'd almost certainly never buy one -- a Bic pen works fine for me, or a plastic note book cover, or the glass Mickey Mouse paperweight that my wife gave me about fifteen years ago -- but I like that they're around. In some weird way, they distract me from the grubbiness of life. Not my life, which I like, but the life that includes professional politicians and debt crises - things like that.

Nice mag.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

To The Museum, Quick!

This article answers the question that I've occasionally had:

When you go to a museum, and you don't have much time, how do you figure out what the highlights are?

Answer's surprisingly easy, and not at all what I'd have guessed.

When Don't They?

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Experts clash over the true nature of the economic downturn

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Seattle East

If I'd ever contemplated moving to Seattle, this weather would have cured me of that thought. The sound of dripping water, the constant drizzle, the awareness that the weeds are doing just fine, thank you -- all would have convinced me that stopping at Tucson would have been the way to go.

Hundred percent chance of rain tomorrow, too.

Le Jour

A miserable, drizzly day here.

Two clerks working at the post office. One fairly efficient, the other "they pay me the same no matter how little I do".

Library wasn't open, and I had to detour around a round man who felt that standing right in front of the steps was the only place to be.

Picked up cleaning, which cost more than I thought it would.

And the ATM wouldn't dispense money. Yeah, it's probably the machine, the clerk said, blithely.

Good day for going back to bed, except that I have a French lesson to prep for in about two hours. Argh.

Monday, September 05, 2011


I'd need about a gallon of insulin before trying this. Though...hmm....

It's way too big to post here, and there's no easy link to the image, either. So -- have a look!

Starbucks: Update

I noticed that the writeup for Starbucks VIA mentioned that it works equally well in cold water, so I tried it. They say eight ounces of liquid; I did six of cold water, two of coffee creamer, as well as some crushed ice.

Not at all bad.


....unless you're a Tea Party fan, of course. That case, you're on your own -- the way you like it.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Saturday, September 03, 2011


For the last week, we've been using the HP Officejet 6500 E710 n. This thing is awesome.

Optional dual sided print. Wireless. Power saver. Color/Black and White. Simple paper loading. So quiet, my wife was in the room when I was printing and didn't even know it was operating. (Unlike that Lexmark, which groans and rattles whenever it runs!)

And, of course, it scans, copies, faxes. And accepts direct-to-print email. And (I think) accepts a USB input, too.

We are very glad that we got it.



Probably, if --

1. : You’re irate over the president taking so many vacation days on the taxpayer’s dime (61 thus far), but you thought George W. Bush earned every minute of his leisure time (196 days at the same point in his presidency).
2: You’re happy with your 40 hour work week, paid vacations and company-provided healthcare, but you’re strongly anti-union, because those commies haven’t done anything for you lately.
3: You strongly support the First Amendment and it’s guarantee of religious freedom to all, but you don’t think Muslims have a right to build an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan.
4: You believe Ronald Reagan was a devout Christian, even though he hated going to church, but any president who spends twenty years going to the same church in Chicago must be a Muslim.
5: You believe when a Republican governor creates a healthcare package with an individual mandate for everyone in his state, that’s a good idea. But when a Democratic president does it, it’s unconstitutional.
6: You’re so enthused about demonstrating your Second Amendment rights, you can think of no finer place to brandish your pistol in public than at a presidential rally.
7: You believe Bill Clinton was responsible for Osama bin Laden’s escape ten years ago, but thankfully George W. Bush caught up with him and killed him in Pakistan.
8: You believe in putting American jobs first, except when president Obama rescued 1.5 million GM and Chrysler autoworkers, because that was socialism.
9: It angers you that the Mexican busboy at your local Olive Garden speaks Spanish, but when you took a vacation to San Francisco’s Chinatown, you thought it’s quaint that so many Chinese-Americans speak only their traditional language. That's different.
10: You deny that the person who tried to murder Gaby Giffords was a conservative, even though he targeted a Jewish, pro-choice, pro gay rights, Democratic Congresswoman. Just a conincidence.
11: You thought it was perfectly normal that every president in history had a right to raise the debt ceiling when warranted, but when Obama asked the GOP held congress to do it, you thought it only natural that it be tied to cutting Social Security and Medicare.
12: When the new 112th Congress was sworn in, you swooned as they promised to focus on “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” But when they pivoted, and went after NPR, Planned Parenthood and gay rights, and ignored jobs, you cheered.
13: You accuse president Obama of raising your taxes to the highest point ever, even though they’re lower today than at any time since 1950.
14: You believe the wealthiest Americans are “job creators,” and they are — but it doesn’t bother you that all the workers in those positions are in India, China and Malaysia, and they’re doing the jobs that our fathers once did.
15: You believe gays are anti-American, because their lifestyle is a threat to the children. Despite the fact that most child abusers are heterosexual.
16: You strongly defend individual freedom, but that freedom doesn’t include a woman’s right to decide her own healthcare needs.
17: You believe corporations are people too, and are deserving of the same rights as the rest of us. Just not the same obligations to pay personal income tax, or penalties for criminal behavior and tax evasion. In these matters, corporations are deserving of special rights.
18: Corporations are still immune from the right of the People to try, convict and sentence to death any corporation that conspires to commit a felony… because at that point, they’re suddenly not people again
19: You believe Climate Change is a myth, and the recent record highs, lows, floods and droughts around the world coinciding with climate scientist’s predictions are all an amazing coincidence. Oh, and Al Gore is FAT, because, hey, that's relevant!
20: You believe when George W. Bush took the national debt from $5 trillion to $11 trillion, it was necessary for him to do so to keep America safe. But when Barack Obama added to it by trying to rescue the country from a second Great Depression, he was deliberately trying to destroy America!
21: You believe America is a God fearing country, and that the Almighty protects those who believe just as you do. And only them. That the majority of tornados, hurricanes and floods all occur in the Bible Belt, heartland of those beliefs, doesn't bother you.
22: You believe that no matter who’s in the White House, the office, if not the occupant, is deserving of your respect. The only exceptions to this rule, are if his middle name sounds Muslim, and if he’s not at least as white as that black guy who works down in the mailroom at the office.

Found, and slightly modified from, here.

Bag It

Not sure about the logic, but they make an interesting argument....

Bag of Weed Family Guy from Marlene Smith on Vimeo.

This is why..

I tend not to read tech articles which are written by tech fanboys.

"You're looking at a Gingerbread-running LTE and HSPA+ handset with a 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED display, dual 8MP and 2MP cameras, a removable 2,500mAh battery and the same Samsung-made dual-core 1.4GHz processor you'll find in the just-announced Galaxy Tab 7.7. "

Despite all of that breathlessness, the device actually does sound interesting. Though, here in the wilds of rural Pennsylvania, I doubt most of it's functionality will be put to use. I mean, we still use charcoal and fenceposts for note-taking....

Le Cafe

I am not a coffee freak, but when I heard that Starbucks was selling an instant coffee called Via, I thought how good can this possibly be? I mean, it's instant coffee!

So the other day, at the grocery store, I picked up a box of the packets. Mocha.

You know? It's not bad at all.


One of the things that I've noticed about Google Reader (and this is probably true about other RSS feed readers, too) is that if you post something and then delete it, there's a decent chance that the reader will get it anyway. There's one blog that I read where the person will occasionally do that, so that when I go to comment on the post -- because those tend to be the most intriguing ones -- Blogger says sorry, no gots. If this is true about how you read this blog, you may have seen a post I did yesterday wherein I bemoaned my fate, anguished because I haven't heard from the people with whom we spent part of the summer, in France.

It really does distress me, not to have heard from them, but it's not quite as bad as I made it sound. I just get a little wound up with this stuff, sometimes. I tend to expect very little from people, and when I get more -- let alone, a lot more, as we did then -- well, I go overboard. Perhaps we'll visit each other every other year! Maybe every year! We'll come to know France as they know it! One big family! When this happens, I try to keep my minimal knowledge of What Humans Are Like in mind. (To that end, I actually had a card posted on my wall once, that said something like Guys want solutions, and possibly sympathy; Girls want sympathy, and possibly solutions. I would look at it occasionally, and it usually helped me in dealing with people).

Sometimes, though -- as in this case -- my 'index card notes' level of knowledge about other people doesn't help when I wonder what someone's motivations and intentions truly are. Did they REALLY mean those profestations of friendship? Are they REALLY going to come visit us, as we hope they will? Or were they just 'being nice'? One month out from being with them, I was already questioning it. I'm just never sure.

So, if you saw that post, which has since been redacted, and wondered what the hell was THAT all about? -- that's what.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Mixing Desk

But not just any desk....

Doctor Who

Last night, I watched the "best of the companions" Doctor Who special. I really liked it (well, most of it. One fellow was an idiot.) But what really surprised me was that I enjoyed the comments made by Natalie Morales, about whom I'd never heard before. Bright, funny, and pretty. Is that fair?

Feed the....

(From Calm Blue Oceans)

Wilde Shore

(found here)