Saturday, March 31, 2012
This is a globe showing Google Searches by language. I found it here. It’s nifty, and I like the concept. I've felt for some time that there should be much more use of color and graphics to illustrate results. There are situations where it makes more sense to show the results graphically rather than textually. People respond with the other side of the brain.
But I have to admit, right this minute, what I like most is the colors.
I still don't understand why portable phones -- except the iPhone, thank you -- don't have a here I am dammit -- turn on/ring loudly function. But then again, I don't understand why ATMs don't have a fake PIN that shows a robber I have only a little money. Though, of course, I do have only a little, the MegaMillions plan apparently having failed.
There is a neuron called the Jennifer Anniston neuron -- named for the specific neuron in one guy's brain which, when stimulated, brings her to mind; it turns out that several famous people have 'their own neurons'. Wonder what mine is/are?
I have to get back into studying French verbs. I've been slacking off. The other night, I was talking with my friend in Lyon -- he is actually becoming one, to my delight; so many other of the Conversation Exchange partners were one shot deals -- and he used several verbs I don't know, which paradoxically reminded me that I am not letter perfect in the 52 verbs/four tenses each that I am studying. And, of course, there's many more verbs than that! I mentioned to him that I am frequently surprised how a single French word can convey multiple meanings, sometimes just shades of meaning and sometimes completelly different, and he said that he prefers to use English when precision is needed, just for that reason.
Okay, thats it for now.
Monday, March 26, 2012
It was for the local boy who had killed himself. The small church was packed, with about fifty kids from the school, mostly standing togethe, and about one hundred fifty adults. The minister gave a very moving homily, saying that while it had to be admitted that the boy had made a mistake, not realizing how many people liked him and needed him, she still believed that he was now safe and secure in his Father's home, probably (the boy had been in the drumline in the school band) playing loudly in a room with very thick walls so he wouldn't disturb the other angels. And that no one should take today as a reason to grieve, even though she knew that they would, because they could know that, no matter what, no matter what, their Father loved and cherished them, and was saying that to this kid, right now.
I tell you what, it almost made me think going to masses is a good idea.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
When I was younger, I didn’t tend to think of that exclusion. I was not all that good at making friends then, either, but usually the organizations that I joined did that for me. The military, for example. The clubs that I joined, in high school. None of these particularly cared whether their participants were bright; all they cared about was whether you could do whatever you were there to do. Fix airplane radios, for one. Hit the right note in glee club, for another.
But without that structure, I found it difficult to establish a connection with other people. I would be friendly with them, and they with me, but there wasn’t a sense of Yeah, this was fun, we should get together again. It just didn’t jell. Different events would occur, but they didn’t establish a sense of continuity. Even now, that's true. As an example – from time to time, we invite some people we know locally – some friends – to come over to the house for dinner, and when they do, we enjoy it. But it never turns into a routine, something we do on a recurring basis. It’s always oh, it’s been a while since we had someone over, why don’t we do that?
As for the 'smart people' codicil, I'm not sure where that comes from. Certainly, I appreciate smart people; they have insights and thoughts that resonate with me. And it’s equally true that I don’t like dumb people (though I don’t think of them that way, it’s the classification that occurs to me). People who are fascinated by celebrities, for example. People who are avid fans of American Idol. People who think that Facebook is their life. It’s not that each of these is necessarily a bad thing, but if you think of each of those groups as a grouping in a Venn diagram, then where those groupings intersect, I see dumb people – and the more layers of intersections there are, the dumber they are. Not dumb as a box of rocks dumb, but I don’t have anything in common with those people dumb. So, taking the inverse, I think well, I must like smart people. Of course, even there, I manage not to connect. My brief tenure in Mensa, for example: I remember thinking These may be smart people, but they’re not saying smart things. Which is unfair, and I know it: I’m a smart person, and not only do I not go around saying smart things, but I can come out with some really stupid thoughts.
Perhaps my standard is askew. Perhaps I simply need to put myself into a situation where I can meet people who have a potential to be interesting to me, and the reverse, and see what happens. I read something, years ago, in an article whose subject I’ve long forgotten, that we think our neighbors dull, not knowing that they speak seven languages, like to skydive, collect Indian jade – because all we see is what we see, not what they are.
That sort of connection is why I joined Conversation Exchange - and I've met several people, including two who fit the criteria of bright and interesting. Unfortunately, the only other organizations that I can think of which might make such a connection are dating services -- and somehow, I think that my wife might object.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
The aforementioned 17 year old posted on twitter to someone else that when she saw that person active on Facebook, she expected to hear from them. Apparently agitated that she did not. Which was exactly what I did - saw her active, pinged her. Granted, multiple times in two days, but without response.... and she didn't like it.
I successfully resisted the urge to ask her how she liked it. That would not have been mature of me. I did, however, think it. And it helps me accept the idea that - regardless of what I might have thought, and certainly wanted to think - we weren't actually friends.
Books make me happy.
Now she is on her way to yet another color guard competition, and she will be gone overnight, returning around 8PM tomorrow night. We plan to delight ourselves by watching the rain fain, by finishing this year's taxes, and by looking at financial aid forms for the college where she still intends to go -- though she is, just slightly, beginning to think less of it. She was disappointed to not be accepted by two colleges, thinking that perhaps the reason she was accepted by the two that did was because they were military colleges. For one, there is that possibility, but the other is a public college with a good reputation, so I doubt it was just that. And I still hope she goes there, though it's unlikely.
Friday, March 23, 2012
I am slowly regaining my sense of humor from that incident yesterday. Slowly. I discussed it at some length with a French woman I know. We’re not friends (we are, to me, though as we have seen, my judgement as to what a ‘friend’ is can be suspect, but she says not), but we keep in touch. It’ll be a while before I can laugh about it, though.
It’s a pretty day – spring is coming! – so I’m going to take a little bit of a walk.
And then this weekend, we’ll finish doing taxes – local ones; not too bad. Plus we get to pay the first part of real-estate taxes. Always a joy.
You'd think I would remember, but I don't. I try to treat them like adults, and I go down in flames, every time.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I should just leave it at that, because that is totally accurate, but I'll continue so as to demonstrate.
After telling her that I felt like an idiot for caring about the emotional health and stability of the French girl I barely know, who, btw, got terminally pissed at me for unfriending her the second time, thereupon telling me that she absolutely didn't want to talk to me ever again -- my wife simply said "You want to help her. It bothers you that she has low self confidence. You couldn't know how she'd react."
Which is true. I just wanted to help, but I was very clumsy at it, to the point where doing something to further that goal became something of an obsession with me. My wife knows me very well.
Wow, huh? I am very fortunate.
As for the girl - well, yes, I'd still like to help her. But I'm hoping that, like an unscratched itch, the feelling will fade.
I’m glad that my daughter never succumbed to that kind of frenzy.
I can see how people who are the source of that frenzy might succumb easily to thinking they’re above the standards of society. Even the standards that govern the actions of those in the stratosphere.
And one semi-guilty thought, which I won’t mention.
I mentioned this thought to my wife, and she said that part of the reason she's like that is because we don't get particularly motivated by celebrities. I suppose that's something. I mean, I don't fault the kids who are rabid fans of Bieber's or others like him, but I'm stunned by how intense they can be. That's a lot of energy. Imagine if they directed it toward, say, success in school.
There I go, thinking like a parent again.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
So this means that Romney acknowledge's Bush did the first bailouts, right?
Yeah. I'll be waiting for that one.
I had problems with the computer this morning, for one. Antivirus choked, and it wouldn't restart. Then I couldn't get the damn PC to restart in Safe Mode so I could run the fix-it software. When your PC suddenly isn't relitable, it’s like striding purposefully into a room to do something and stubbing your toe – your worldview collapses down to that one aching point, and all you want it for it to stop hurting!!! Which it finally did, once I'd clawed through Avast's semi-written-in-English instructions.
PCs that make you hold down the Fn key to make function keys work, suck.
What I thought might be the beginning of a friendship with that French girl seems to have collapsed – please, no comments; I feel stupid enough already. I think she's making a mistake in her relationship, but it's her life; she didn’t ask me to care, and I suspect would resent it if she knew I did. Plus, I could be wrong. She knows the guy better than I do. Anyway, I got a blunt reminder that I am an American adult male and she is a French teen female. Worlds apart. I even managed to get her to snap at me (though not as fiercely as she did at her actual father, in a comment on Twitter). I still like her, still think she's an interesting person who's better than she thinks she is, but I suspect that we won't be rooming together next year.
And I got to go take a blood test this morning – few things are quite so fun as a sterile, cheerless medical office at 715 in the morning.
So, yeah – I could use a little niceness right about now. I'd bake something, but that'd speak to something else that's annoying me....
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
He gets points for listening to me fight my way through the French, saying things that I'm sure came out like Why him it do we know it not good again?, without saying Bill, Bill, speak in English, at least. I was surprised, myself, at how intense I got.
Monday, March 19, 2012
1 cup heavy cream .. ...... 4 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar......1/2 cup strong coffee or espresso, room temperature
2 tablespoons dark rum or brandy ......1 loaf pound cake, preferably marbled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup shaved semisweet chocolate...... Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream, cream cheese, and confectioners sugar until combined.
In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum.
In a 2-quart baking dish, lay half the cake slices in a single layer, trimming to fit.
Brush with half the coffee mixture.
Top with half the cream mixture and half the chocolate.
Dust top with cocoa powder.
Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
I've been exchanging occasional notes with a French girl who lives in the south of France. She seems nice. She mentioned to me that she doesn't date much, and as a result feels lonely a lot. My heart, I regret to say, went out to her. The thought of this kid without people to hang out with - it bothered me. Then she mentioned that this summer, her boyfriend was coming to France. Boyfriend? It turned out that she had met him online -- on Omegle, I know now - eight months ago, and they had struck up a relationship. And not just a relationship. She now lives for this guy. Really - like someone she'd known for years. I was astounded. Someone she met on line?
Holy hell. I thought I should do something, say something to at least suggest to this kid that she's overplaying this. Back off a bit, calm down, relax. You've got plenty of time. Then she said that she was devastated because their plans, for him to come to Paris and stay with her aunt (did I mention that he doesn't speak a lick of French), and she would come up from the south to meet him, were derailed. Her mother talked to the aunt and said no, they can't do this. She's thinking of just giving up. Her life is in pieces.
Wow, I thought, again. Someone needs to tell her that it isn't. And she seems to trust me. I should say something. Don't do something you'll regret, kid. Don't be like the kid we know who was also lonely, not dating, and ended up having sex with a married guy, and now she works at McDonalds, raising her son with the assistance of her parents. That could be you, kid. Be careful. And then came the clincher. I was reading an article about the use of Twitter, and wondered if she used it. So I looked for the user name that she has on Forvo, where we first encountered each other, and, hey presto -- she did. The posts weren't particularly insightful - though I was a bit surprised to see that she had met a 62 year old American guy on Skype, and that it might be useful for her English practice - until I hit the one where she asked another person if it would be a good idea for her to send half-nude photos to the guy.
Wow and holy hell. Especially since the response to the question 'did he ask you to' was 'no...but I did it. He really liked it'. So I looked for the user name that she said the guy has, and he had posted something about this French girl he knew, he was going to see her this summer, and man was she HOT! Which, to my surprise, bothered me. This was my friend he was talking about. How could he say this?
And then I had the epiphany.
She's not my responsibility. She's a nice kid (I still think), and I like her (though now I question her judgement, just a little, even though I can kind-of see how she got there), but she's 17, and someone else's responsibility. Pretty soon, when she turns 18, she'll be her own responsibility. Sometimes you have to make your own mistakes. Sometimes, they turn out not to be mistakes, but difficult learning experiences. And who knows, she could be right about this guy. But however it plays out, she's not my responsbility.
I need to back off.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
This evening, my wife was watching a recorded episode of Numbers, a series whose schtick is that crimes are solved through the use of some kind of mathematical analysis. There's a fair amount of Then a Miracle Occurs, but its not the linchpin of the show. Since we haven't been able to hang out together much, I went downstairs to watch with her. The show revolved around a police technique that I'd heard about a few years ago -- the idea being that someone who commits a series of crimes (by which I think they specifically mean physical, hands-on crimes, not Bernie Madoff or the banking-industry type crimes) has a tendency to commit the crimes in a broad area which, roughly speaking, has his home, or home base, at the center. Find the approximate center, and you find where the person is likely to reside, or at least likely to hang out frequently. Apparently, the technique was originally developed in star evaluation, when people were looking for things that, by their very nature, were not directly detectable at the time, such as black holes.
It ran a lot more smoothly on the show than it likely does in reality, but it was still pretty cool. Even if it wasn't the chick from NCIS.
I did spend some time in an impromptu conversation with a teenage girl who lives in southern France, but that didn't count as French practice because she prefers to talk in English. That was pleasant. We'd met on the Forvo language site -- she'd responded to my request for some pronunciations - and we've kept in occasional contact since then. We touched on several things, including her plan to have her just-barely-18 year old boyfriend fly to France to meet her for the very first time (they met online, 8 months ago). She asked if I thought it was impossible, and I told her, truthfully, that I didn't think so. Difficult, yes; impossible, no . I added that she needed to keep her head straight, and be willing to compromise on occasion. I'm a little apprehensive for her -- that's a big step to take -- but I am also impressed by her willingness to pursue something that she wants, and I told her so. In fact, after I complimented her at one point about something she'd said -- she's obviously smart - she amazed me by saying that she doesn't actually get compliments all that often. I guess the guys who know her are singularly unobservant. To me, from what I can see, she's a class act -- and I tried to let her know that. Without sounding creepy. Not sure I succeeded, there.
But that's where my time has gone. So, um, yeah. To the few readers I have: Sorry. (I could say it in French, if that'd help.)
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
A few years ago, there was a Mensa convention in San Francisco, and several members lunched at a local cafe. While dining, they discovered that their saltshaker contained pepper and their pepper shaker was full of salt. How could they swap the contents of the bottles without spilling, and using only the implements at hand? Clearly this was a job for Mensa! The group debated and presented ideas, and finally came up with a brilliant solution involving a napkin, a straw, and an empty saucer. They called the waitress over to dazzle her with their solution.
"Ma'am," they said, "we couldn't help but notice that the pepper shaker contains salt and the salt shaker..."
"Oh," the waitress interrupted. "Sorry about that." She unscrewed the caps of both bottles and switched them.
I'm not one to talk, because I know almost nothing about it, and I'm one of those people who really needs to exercise. But I think the people who push exercise should at least acknowledge that there are people who don't like doing it, who don't foresee themselves ever getting a runner's high, and who have essentially given up on touching their toes from a standing position. And then, having acknowledged it, come up with something that those people can do, and be pleased with. No matter if its no more effort than the fit use in lacing their shoes.
I've been looking. Not much out there.
Not to say it's impossible. (Pas dire c'est impossible? ) The other day, while I was talking with her, I wanted to say "not really", and what occured to me was "pas vraiment" (not truthfully). She said that was pretty good, and that I could also simply have said Jamais - never. Though apparantly Jamais can also mean sometimes, sometimes..... Sigh. I will get this, one of these....years. I did have a minor victory, the other day. I was talking via Skype to a guy in Lyon, and his wife came on. I told her (in English), that I'd been studying for 18 months, and was visibly startled. I choose to believe that that meant 'impressed' and not ' dismayed' !
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
After an hour and a half, I'd cleared -most- of what was on her table top. I took away from this two lessons:
First, if you need ballpoint pens with the names of New York funeral parlors, or hairdressers, or long-defunct banks, I'm your man. Ditto for half-used check registers, untouched notepads, and magnifying glasses. Also first or second generation calculators, a box camera, and some stainless-steel carving knives that aren't, quite.
Second, I should start pitching things myself.
Monday, March 05, 2012
But yesterday, for the first time, I spoke, via Skype, with a native -- a woman who's from a small town in Algeria, currently living in France while she pursues a master's degree. She'd contacted me for help in practicing her English. I asked her how she likes being in France, and she said, quite heatedly, that she hates France. When the French come to my country, she said, they like it a lot, they relax, we treat them well. When people from my country come to France, they're rude to us, they treat us like second class citizens. I was surprised by this, and told her that just the other day, I spoke with a young woman who lives in the south of France, and had asked her about the French attitude toward foreigners. A book I was reading, French or Foe, had informed me that the French were cold and arrogant for years, until they finally 'knew' you. The girl said, no, no, they were very friendly and open. This woman strongly disagreed. I can't wait to leave here, she said. I'm here for another three years, and then I'm moving to another country.
Somewhat of a dichotomy, hey?
Sunday, March 04, 2012
It's 36 hours later, and nothing. I know, I have buckets of free time, most people don't, chill.
Meanwhile, I just signed up for an ID on a site so that I could comment on it. They sent me a confirmation email. While I'm watching the 'downloading now', I find myself thinking hey, this could be that person.
Friday, March 02, 2012
Black Bean Brownies
1 19oz (540ml) can black beans, well rinsed and drained
3 large eggs
3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Oven to 350
Rinse and drain the black beans well.
Add all ingredients except for chocolate chips in blender.
Blend until very smooth
Pour into an 8 inch square baking pan
Sprinkle with chocolate chips
Bake at 350 for 30-32 minutes.
I'm hoping the former. Hey, je parle francais, mais pas tres bien, y'know?