Monday, December 31, 2012

Payup, PAL

Apparently, PayPal is not a limitless resource.  Once you've used it for $5,000 worth of transactions, over whatever period you've used it -- they require that you either sign up for their credit card or tell them a bank account number.  The reason is ostensibly for 'security', but in fact it's because the bank account number will become the default payment option.  It turns out that it costs PP less to process a bank transaction than a credit card transaction.

And here I thought it was a useful, low-impact service....

Black and White

Found at Bouletcorp, here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Up

How good was the Lincoln film?

We were in the first damn row, and I still enjoyed it.

Fiscal Cliff?

Bring it on.

Found here.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Just Thinking…

It’s just before seven PM on Saturday.  We had what I’d call the perfect snowfall today – about two inches; enough so that my daughter could go sledding with a friend (“Except for the parents with their kids”, she reported back, “we were the oldest ones there!”), but not so much that it was difficult to shovel the driveway.  I was texting with a friend who lives in Paris; when I mentioned the snow, she said send me a picture!  This is what I sent:

I’ve been thinking a lot about French, lately.  The occasion is that we’re probably going to France this summer – I was casually invited to attend the wedding of a friend (we were talking, and she said Have you ever been to a Jewish wedding?  You should totally come. And when I pointed out that I might be the only English speaker there, she scoffed. Your French is good enough to get by, she said, and anyway there are people who speak English, too. I told her that I want them to wear name badges.) – and as part of that we’re going to go down to Burgundy to visit with our friends.  These are the people who were supposed to come here last summer, and didn’t; as they have two children, and have recently rented an apartment to be closer to one child’s school and the husband’s job, we’re thinking that if we don’t go to see them, it might be a long time till we see them at all.  While we are there, we’re also going to go down to Lyon to see another language correspondent (though, as it happens, he is planning to come here in the spring, a birthday gift for his wife), as well as possibly down to Toulouse to meet two others, and possibly one more in Paris.

So, with all of that, I’m thinking that I really should get better at understanding French when it is spoken at a normal speed.  Not the speed that they use on the radio, or television – even the people I talk to say that those folks talk way too fast – but just routine conversation.  I don’t want to have to keep saying Excuse me? Could you say that again, slowly?  I mean, what’s the use of speaking the language if you have to do that?  The problem is, learning the language is primarily rote memorization, and I’ve done a fair amount of that.  Not tons, by any means, but enough so that I can talk about things, even if, sometimes, that’s literally what I’m talking about – I took the thing to the store.  But hearing and understanding the language at a rapid pace is more than just memorization.  It’s almost as if you have to just absorb it.  You can’t – or, at least, I can’t – listen for words and respond to them.  You have to just get it – and right now, for much of it, I don’t.

How I’m going to accomplish this feat of linguistic legerdemain, I’ve no idea.  But I'm thinking that exposure to the language - just hearing it spoken, over and over and over - is part of it.  I want to think that knowing what the words are -- not just knowing vocabulary, but actually knowing what the speaker is saying - is part of it, too,  but I'm beginning to suspect that it's not as big a part as I previously thought. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012


I'm not an 'architecture' guy.  I can't tell you what a given style is.  I don't know a Doric column from Dora the Explorer.  When the architect in a book I was reading once (I believe it was titled "House") says The house wants to be Greek Orthodox, I only vaguely understood what he was trying to say.

And yet, I've always enjoyed the concept of the Playboy Pad.  Not because of the gorgeous women who inevitably festooned the rooms; even as a teenager, I could not ever see myself as being with anyone like that - in fact, I wasn't entirely sure they were even alive.  But the rooms!  The elegant wall coverings (lets forget the fake, I'm sorry, faux leopard-skin), the hidden lighting, the remote controls for every gadget known to man (now, as an adult who still hasn't hooked up the DVD player downstairs, and as one who read with awe about the internal wiring at Skywalker ranch, I'm still amazed), the easy access to the pool -- even things like taking two row houses and gutting them so that they were solid and traditional outside, swinging and elegant inside -- all of it delighted and amazed me.  I was in awe of the people who could design things like that, and I still am.

Fixing Your Heart

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mo Franch

I freaking despise how hard it is for me to learn to understand spoken french unless it is really slow.  This is just driving me up the damn wall.

...but who's counting?

Found at Virus Comix

Thursday, December 20, 2012


My wife's been working this week - she's helping with some ESL kids at the local school.  It's just for this week, which is good: when she isn't here, I don't go to the gym (it's more fun with her, as most things are).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012


The thing is, every single thing I think of as a way to limit the potential for gun violence has a yeah but associated with it. Absolutely no guns at all?  Yeah but cops and soldiers need guns, not to mention hunters, and people who need or want personal protection. Plus, thefts occur.  Licence the owners? Yeah but the people who use guns violently don't care about licenses. Limit private ownership to handguns in general, rifles for licensed hunters? Yeah but how do you know the self-proclaimed hunters actually are?  Limit the number of guns you can own, and capacity of the guns, so you can't fire as fast or as many? Yeah but what about the Second Amendment? Lock up the heavy artillery at a police station, where you have to sign it out to get it? Yeah, but what if they give YOUR gun to someone else? Or it gets stolen? Not to mention, Second Amendment again....

I know, I just know, the NRA and their stooges in Congress are going to weasel out of doing anything. I know it. Put the pictures of the kids - not to mention everyone else who's been killed, the last year - put those pictures where our 'congressional servants of the people' have to see them every goddamn day -- still won't help.

But I can hope. 

Busy Ness

Today, lots of things are happening.  All of them are good, though they might be a little chaotic.

The biggest single thing is that my wife is going back to work, kind of.  As a stopgap while she studies project management, she applied to the local school district to be a 'teachers aide', which to me meant the person who arranges the glue sticks.  Not entirely how I see her, as she is smart, personable, technical, and focused, but - okay.  Well, yesterday evening, the automated phone system called and said are you interested in working briefly? So this week, she's going to be a 'student aide', which means she'll spend the day escorting a kid who needs help - the exactly nature of the help is unclear; could be 'help them physically get from A to B', could be 'read the tests to them'.  How long, we're not sure. My guess is one to two weeks. But she's happy, so, good.

My daughter's home.  I got up at 2AM to get something to drink, saw the light on under her door. Remembered my wife telling me that the first weekend she was home from college, she came home at 2AM, which was when people tended to go to sleep at college.  She was politely but firmly informed by her mother that this was not acceptable.  Me, I think my daughter's an adult.  So long as she doesn't bring booze and guys in... Basically, treat her just like I did my parents, when they lived with us.

Going to do some baking today, get cookies off to another family in France, as well as have some to give to my mento tomorrow, along with a gift card to a local bookstore. I know, he's going to use it to see if he can get something relative to World of Warcraft and the like. At least we have bookstores - when we were in Ohio yesterday, we were in a small town 20 minutes from The Mall; the mall itself was actually pretty nice, but to my astonishment - no bookstore at all.  None. Zip. So yeah, a gift for him.  And some cookies. I mentioned to him that I would do that, and he seemed gratified but surprised.  I think he likes me.  Doesn't understand this fascination I have with getting him to read, but - hey, I'll take what I can get.

And I'll finally get a haircut.  Been putting that off, to the point where my hair looks like what my mother used to call 'a wild man'.  It feels odd, on my neck and ears.

So that's the day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Talk to Me

If anyone tells you that going down to Virginia, up to Pittsburgh, over to Ohio, back to Pittsburgh, and then back to Harrisburg, all in four days, is fun -- hit them.  It is not fun. There is much worse in life, but it isn't fun. Even if my daughter did survive her trip nicely.  And is already saying the next time I go.... And blithely mentioning  oh no, she drove the whole way there and back, I just sat and talked with her, yeah, um, I forgot to call you like I said I would....but anyway, NEXT time I go....

One useful idea did come out of it, though.  I've heard of gadgets that can be electronically linked (or possibly cabled) to a phone (any phone? dunno; guessing smart phone with data plan)  to provide laptops, etc with ad-hoc wifi connectivity.  For when, say, you're in the middle of the Pennsylvania turnpike, or some tiny road in Virginia - that kind of thing. We're going to look into that.  As is, what exactly is it, who offers it, what do you need to make it work, that sort of thing.  Because this being in a car for twenty hours without net access is the pits. Not for her. For us.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Two 18 year old girls want to drive from Toledo to Pittsburgh at 11PM on a Saturday night after a long day of physically demanding practice.

On the one hand, 18 year olds are resilient; girls tend to be safer drivers, and they promise to stop every hour, walk around, change drivers.

On the other, one of them is my daughter.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Tomorrow, I get to spend some quality time with the dental surgeon.  I'll be asleep for most of it, which is a good thing.  The part where I spend 3-6 months chewing on the other side,  and thinking good thoughts about the implant base, hoping the damn graft takes ....not so much. Ah, well. At least the scales in the gym and at home both agree:  I've lost weight.

Update: it is such a weird feelling to be talking to the anesthesiologist, then remark My mouth feels funny, thinking that its the anesthetic taking effect -- only to realize a few minutes later that it's actually  the cotton in my mouth....because they're done. Talk about out like a light....

Saturday, December 08, 2012


I'm not a fan of iPhones or the associated stuff that people buy to enhance the experience.  But I must say that Popslate -- if it ever comes to fruition - could be pretty damned cool.

Friday, December 07, 2012


Wonder if Amtrak will ever figure out that having a PDF of their schedule -- which by the way requires you to know the train number or region - doesn't hack it in this century?


How is it that if we are both retired, things now take longer?

I'm just baking the cookies I want to send out.

We've just checked the lights that are supposed to go outside.

We've just printed off the address labels for the cards (okay, Microsoft Word gets a shout-out there for taking a simple process and making it harder.)

But still......

Monday, December 03, 2012

It Just....Works

Found here.

That Election

I've been doing a little reading -- not gloating, just reading -- about the election - seeing a fair amount of the hatred and hostility.  I nodded when I saw the comment of a Republican from Orlando who said he was convinced that Obama is a communist -- typical redneck, I thought.  But these folks -- I think they were honestly saying what they thought.  They don't sound like idiots.  They sound like people you could talk with, and even though they probably wouldn't agree with you, they wouldn't try to shout you down, either.  The professional talking-head at the end, I didn't care for (though he said some interesting things, most was party line), but those folks?  They could be my neighbors.


Just heard from a person I know who said that her holiday vacation starts on the day when the Mayans say the world will end.  Not sure how to respond to that.  "You're kidding, right?" seems a little harsh.   The thing is, we always respond to things like that.  When that guy said the world would definitely end two years ago, lots of people took him seriously - even selling off their possessions and moving to be with him; when he announced that he'd been wrong about the date, but he knew the new date, people listened to that.  So I suppose its not all that unlikely  that people are taking this seriously, too.  I think it's crazy, but I have to admit, inside me a little voice is going are you sure?  And even though I think what does it matter if I'm sure or not?.... yeah, I wonder.

Maggie Estep

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bank Accounts

Several years ago, I read a comment to the effect that anyone who didn't believe guys can be sentimental should see how many dried-up ballpoint pens they refuse to throw away.

Well, today I found out that the checking account which I've had with the credit union for my former company is going to start instituting a monthly fee, starting in January.  As it happens, we'd already instituted a new joint checking account with a local bank, and we were planning on cancelling my wife's account this month, and mine sometime.  Guess that sometime is now.

But, you know?  I've had that account for 30 years.  Going to feel a little strange not to have it any more.