Friday, December 27, 2013


I read Funny Times, which is a monthly newspaper that's a collection of humor - cartoons, articles, what have you.  I usually enjoy most of it, sometimes all of it, but I've never had the urge to write to an author before this month, when they carried an article by Roz Warren, a librarian and a humor writer, on the idea that men are from these books, while women are from those books. 

Warren says she has learned that it's possible to predict the gender of a reader from what they're checking out.  Bodice-rippers?  Almost certainly female.  War novels?  Other side of the aisle.  But why? she asks.  If each type of book is keyed to a given gender, why not read the books of the  'other side' just to see what they have to say to you?  You might learn something interesting.

Here's her original article, which she was kind enough to send to me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013



Elementary School | Smalltown, GA, USA

(I am an intelligent child, but easily get bored after getting my work done. One day, one of the student teachers decides she is tired of me talking to my friends after I am done. She tapes my mouth shut with duct tape. I went home and told my mother, who decided to take me to class the next day.)
Mom: “Are you [Teacher's Name]?”
Teacher: “Yes, ma’am. How can I help you?”
(My 5’1″ mother proceeds to grab the teacher’s shirt and pull her close.)
Mom: “If you EVER touch my son again, I will crush your windpipe so fast you won’t even REGISTER why you can’t breathe!”
(My mom lets go of the teacher, who drops to the floor. As my mom goes to leave, she sees the principal coming over.)
Mom: “You may wanna pick your teacher up off of the d*** floor.”
(That was the last day I ever saw that student teacher. She quit and started working at her family’s restaurant!)

I admit, it did strike me as funny, initially.  And then it didn't.


I received two amazing gifts today.

The first, from a friend in southern France,  amazed me -- a box with French cookies, French candy, and a bottle of French wine.  Unbelievable, I thought, and I still do.  Incredibly generous.

The second, from a Canadian friend,  stunned me -- a simple Christmas card saying that she really liked knowing me.  This floored me. I am always a little startled when people actually like me, and when it's someone that I've never even met.... wow.

If these had been all that I received this year, I would have had ample reason for gratitude.  My language partners are awesome people.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Feline Induced Guilt

In two days we are packing the cat off to a kennel for a week.  I am pretty sure she didn't like it there, last time.  Now I look at her and think sorry, cat......


I'm not sure if I've ever believed in religion -- at least, since I was able to think for myself.  It seems to me that it's always seemed onerous.  I've never seen the point of it.  This does not mean that I was a brave young thinker; quite the contrary, I went to Catholic religious services all the time when I was a kid, and even briefly fostered the classic Catholic thought of becoming a priest.  But once I was out of high school, that participation decreased markedly, except for when it served a secondary purpose, such as getting me away from the regimentation of Air Force basic training.

My mother was deeply religious; my wife is also religious, although less so.  I have asked her more than once what she gets out of it, and she tells me that she feels a sense of community, and that she has the feeling that she's not alone in having problems.  I know that some people mock this attitude, stating sternly that they are the captains of their life, but I have no problem with something that gives such relief.  It just never seems to work for me.

I'd like to say that my conclusions and feelings are the result of thoughtful observation and contemplation, but they're not.  They're more the feeling that it takes effort to participate in religion, and I don't see benefit flowing in the other direction.  Sure, I dislike things about religion generally and the Catholic church specifically -- all that money flowing in, no public accountability?  no one thinking that maybe having unmarried men in charge of children couldn't be a problem?  -- but thats not the reason I don't like to participate.  The reason is: I just don't get it.

I cringe when I read, in an article about the current pope, that parishioners at - I think - a Canadian parish speak brightly about their newfound sense of hope and participation, a newfound desire to participate, with this new pope.  I think shouldn't that come from the religion, not the person running it?

Still: maybe this pope is a first, faltering step toward reinfusion of the human values back into the Church, getting it away from worrying about things that it can't change or about which it should not care, thinking more about caring and less about dogma.  If so,  I wish him well. Certainly,  I like what I hear of him.  I'm sure he's still way more religious than me -- but I get the sense that he's a real person, not a fixture on a throne.  I think that's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Make it.....

Grinching It

I'm not saying that I'm the Grinch.  But this morning I learned that one friend's mother has cancelled their holiday party because she is divorcing her father; a second friend was unable to talk with me today because she is very sick; and a third has said on Facebook that it 'might be necessary for her to forget him' - the him, presumably, being her boyfriend. I may not be the Grinch, but perhaps I'm a carrier?

I was in a tearingly bad mood last night, the result of a bad experience in a hotel, and one or two other things, but these people have me beat, hands-down.  I wish I could do something for them.

Darth's Bike

I've no desire to ride a motorcycle, let alone to own one. I'd do serious damage to myself and to others.

But if I *did*...... this is the one I'd want.

Sandy's Place

It would be inaccurate to say that I need a place like this, near here..... but I certainly would LIKE one.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Most things labelled 'hilarious' are at most mildly amusing.


I always think it's funny when I go to add a new site to Feedly -- and it's already there!

Though at least this time it confirmed something that I'd heard, did believe, but didn't understand:  what's in mincement.

Now I just would like to know why it's called that.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Interesting article about stores who want to do what I'll call the CHEERS move = I enter, they know immediately that I'm there, they know what I like, they make me offers designed to appeal to me. Everybody knows my name.

Healey Cypher, the head of retail innovation at eBay, tells a story about a bookseller who was convinced that online commerce would kill his business: ‘‘I said to him: ‘How do you know when someone’s in your store? You don’t, unless they bought something, and then only after the purchase. What if you had a platform for the first time ever that said, ‘‘This person is in your store, they like these things, they bought these things on your web store, and here’s an offer you should give them based on their purchases’’? 

I find it seductive, but also scary.  I do want them to recognize me, but I don't want them coming up to me and saying here's a book that 83% of the people who bought that last one you bought, the one you got at the airport book kiosk in Bozeman, say they liked, too.  You should buy it.  I want anonmymity until it helps ME.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Burka Avenger

She's freaking awesome.

The Pakistani superhero—and star of the animated series Burka Avenger—won international acclaim this year for both her gender (she’s the first female Pakistani superhero) and her mission (she fights corrupt politicians, using books and pens and knowledge as weapons, in an effort to promote girls’ education). The Urdu-language series is now in talks to go global, and may soon be broadcast in 18 languages in 60 countries.

Found here.

Maybe We Should... this in those places where small-minded people have chopped music budgets.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I realized today that I have more French-speaking friends than English-speaking ones. They tell me things, and I'm getting, at least a little, involved with their lives.

This week, I ordered gifts from Amazon.Fr for the children of one conversation partner whom I visited last summer.  He was pleased, and  tells me that they want to call me to thank me.

A different French correspondant found two weeks ago that her sister had attempted suicide.  She has no idea why, and tells me that their family is shattered by the news -- as was the family of a second  correspondant who told me a few months ago of the suicide of her sister.

A new contact tells me that her boyfriend thinks things are okay between them, and wants to continue, but she's not sure if they should.  She wants to do right by him, doesn't want to let him down, but she's just not sure.  She's  so tense about it (and other things) that she grinds her teeth at night, to the point where she broke a tooth.

Another tells me that her parents are getting divorced -- and the mother has asked her if its okay with her.  She would rather not be involved at all. While a woman in the north of France tells me of the birth of her second daughter, and sends me pictures.   I'm arranging for flowers to be delivered to her home.  Do I do that with my own family?  Never even occurs to me.

I feel for all of these people.  For some reason that I can't explain, they're more real to me than people in my own life. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A French Story


Round Food

Our project last night.....

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Liberal Arts

In A World....


Every so often, if I am lucky, I read something that is so well written, I have to stop before the end, just to let the sheer pleasure of the words percolate through me, and so as to stretch out the period of enjoyment of the piece.

The Case of Death and Honey, by Neil Gaiman, in the collection A Study in Sherlock, is such a piece.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


How is this even possible?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Loops and Giggles

I know, that title doesn't make sense.  But I'm not in a particularly creative mood.

Two days ago, energetically demonstrating to my mento how I'd seen a teenage boy fling himself forward, I flung myself forward, and crashed to the ground, banging up my wrist and the little fingers on both hands.  Not entirely sure that I didn't break the finger on one hand, though, since it pretty much works even though it's still swollen, I'm guessing not.  I dislike getting reminded that I'm getting older.

My blood sugar readings are way high.  I'm telling myself that its connected with that prolonged swelling.  Wish there was a way I could just ask a medical person.  But then again, I've found that medical people are just as bad as others at making something up when they aren't sure - like the nurse practitioner who assured me that my bent toe was arthritis (I think it was a badly-fitting shoe, since the curve of the toe precisely matched the curve of the  shoe's inner sole).

I baked caramel, as I've done before, and decided to make a double batch.  Found you can't do that.  At least, I can't.  Overnight, it was still soupy.  I redid it,making a single batch, and it was fine.  Then I made a batch of chocolate caramel, and it failed -- because somehow I tried to use the last two steps of the first one's recipe to finish it.  Again, I redid it and it worked just fine.  But it irks me to think of all the eggs I wasted.  And then there's the filled cookies I made, that came out more like filled scones.  They're actually not bad, but not what I wanted to make.  Two tries on that one, too. Batch of flour and eggs wasted then, too.

Daughter's a bit unhappy because we're not going to get a christmas tree this year.  There isn't a good reason to have one  -- for the three weeks we could expect a tree to live, we'll all be gone ten days, and she'll be gone two days.  Didn't make sense.  Cuts no ice with her.  I think she sees us as shredding memories of her youth.

People who put microfuses into strings of christmas lights -- the kind that require tweezers to get out - should have their fingers glued together.  Ttwo of the three strings of lights on our small artificial christmas tree - don't work.  If we hadn't spent so much money on gifts, I swear I'd pitch it and get another.  Might do it anyway.  Maybe we should just go artificial for the big one, too.  I do love the aroma of a real tree, but after a while -- I don't know, it just seems a bit strange to haul it home, stare at it, and then pitch it.  After all that effort...... 

Cat just walked across the keyboard, leaving little hairs as she went.  Glad I have this stupid little plastic sheath on it. I do not want to have to replace the keyboard again.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Jack Vale

I don't normally like the idea of 'pranking', but this guy is amazing.


This morning I discovered that if a recipe for caramel will bubble up to about 60 percent of the pot after you add milk and butter, doubling the recipe will result in creation of a moderately messy stovetop.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

hot water

Showers should let you preset a temperature and not start flowing until that temperature is deliverable....

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


My mother used to make lists.  Things to do, things to remember, how to do things.  Some of the lists were fairly lengthy.  Others were short -- reminder that the hot water turned to the left, while the cold water turned to the right, for example.

I've been working my way through our new Bose radio -- building a playlist in Windows Media, getting the Bose to stream it from the PC to its own speakers.  Generally, its easy to do, but, like the Apple It just works (but it doesn't), the way to get it to work isn't always obvious.  I'm sure, after a few days, it'll be 'intuitively obvious', but now, not so much.  (Why, for example, can I say 'play' for a Playlist, but in Bose, I have to pick a song to start with?)

So as I find things, I make a list.  For example, my current list:


The list helps.  But, of course, I'm not my mother.  I don't need the list.  It just helps.

So far.

Monday, December 02, 2013


Over the weekend, I finally made it to Kramerbooks in Washington, DC.  And now I know why people I speak so highly of it. I'll take it over any three story Barnes and Noble, anytime.

I now have about fifteen books waiting to be read.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yes, We're Listening

Apparently, a friend of a friend designed this for use on t-shirts, Facebook, etc. and was issued a cease and desist order by the NSA…

Here’s goes nothin’…

(Image and comment found here.)

This is not particularly funny, but...

I can read it! (Found here.)

(Okay, okay, I had to look up M'en fiche....)


First batch of cards are in the mail.  Thirteen to France, one to Australia, and one that's only going a couple of blocks away -- but it's a Hanukkah card.  Cool.

Roughly fifty to go. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013


I should have guessed that things were going too well.  Our printer just decided that it's not going to print BLACK any more.  Lots of ink in the cartridge, of course.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


So strange to get a package where the return address is People's Republic of China.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pa amb tomàquet

Good stuff, and very easy to make. 

French bread, toasted lightly.
Add crushed or diced tomato, rubbed garlic, olive oil.

(Want a written recipe?)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013


There are times when I suspect that I think differently than other people.  I don't know if I really do, or if its just that I expect and assume things that normal people don't expect and assume.

For example, we had a meeting about three months ago at our bank with the fellow who oversees the administration of the money we have with it.   After the meeting, which included a second guy who spoke at length about financial concepts that sounded deep to me but might have been lightweight to him, I said to the first guy that this was all fun, but all we really needed from him was a) how much money can we expect to have at this time next year, in five years, and in twenty, and b) is he seeing anything in our spending patterns, or in the external environment, that would make him drop those values.  I don't think that these are complex questions.  I do know that they require certain assumptions to be made, and that the assumptions have to be qualified by probability, because, hey, nobody knows.  Fair enough.  And I'll allow that grinding these numbers out takes time and effort, even if all we want to see is the absolute highest level summaries, because even if a large part of it is just rolling formulas forward in Excel, it takes effort.

But what I really don't get is why, when he delivered to us a bound report listing assets and projections, he studded it with terms such as capital risk value and Nominal Value, and included incredibly dense charts showing the progressions over years of income and expenses..  I really don't.  I think it should have been perfectly clear that we didn't want details, we wanted big picture.  Appropriately cautioned, Your Mileage May Vary, yes, but still: don't give me numbers unless they are needed to explain something that needs to be explained.  Or you need action from us, based on them. Is this hard to understand?

Maybe it is.  Or maybe my expectations are just strange.


Friday, November 15, 2013


Studying French is not fun, but when I went two days without doing it, I missed it.  I understand exercise can have that effect, too, although I've never experienced it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

...and not.

Well, the bright, shiny new Lenovo is back in the hands of Staples again.  I imagine that times like this, they regret having a 'return for any reason at all' policy.  In this case, we were getting used to Windows 8, when an upgrade to 8.1  made the PC's touch screen stop working.  And, oh yeah, you can't roll back to Win 8.  So we rolled back the whole thing.

Doing a GSearch, looking for buzzwords like "touchscreen not working" and 8.1, it appears that just about every brand has users whose touchscreen worked under 8.0 that fails under 8.1.  Some of these can get it to work again, some not.  Charming.  Hence our decision to back away quickly.

On our Win7 PC side, I ordered the replacement keyboard.  Should be here in about 10 days. Until then, I'm using an external keyboard.  A bit awkward, but it's better than the keyboard that I destroyed.

Food Names

Found here at  22 Food Words You Might Be Pronouncing Wrong

(Not brooshetta? Really?)

Close to Ecstasy

It's been an interesting twenty four hours.

First, I found that the reason that the new laptop, which came with Windows 8 and which I upgraded to 8.1 because I wanted to get the Start button (maybe it doesn't come with 8.1; it certainly didn't come to me) - anyway, the reason that the scrollable touch screen doesn't scroll anymore is a known problem after an upgrade from 8 to 8.1 .  I don't know if its Win 8.1, or individual devices, or what, but I found several posts on a Lenovo site talking about The scrolling worked and I did a Win 8.1 upgrade and now it doesn't, WTF???  Along with a plethora of do this do that do this tap your foot and whistle suggestions, some of which worked for some people and not for others. Hum.  So I'll be calling Lenovo's tech support today, and if they can get it working, good, but if not, I'm scrubbing the files I transferred (OBTW: the good news is that unlike in the past, the easy file transfer utility really does work; twenty seconds after I started it on the Win 7 and the Win 8 PCs, they were talking to each other through my network -- but verrrrrrrry slowly.  As in, the time estimate for file transfer went from 3H45M to about 5H15M over the course of an hour.  What is this, a byte every other second?  There is a cable you can buy that allows a direct connection between the two, and its abut $20; the direct connection allows faster transfer, and I'm thinking sure, we can do that -- and then I notice that it says it can't be used for transfers from 64 bit systems.  Which my Win7 system is.  Why?  I have no idea.  I mean, I have a hunch, but it really doesn't matter, I can't use the cable).  So I kind of don't want this problem to be fixable, so that I have a morally pure reason for returning the PC.  But I'm going to at least try.

Second, I finally got the damaged keyboard out of the Win7 PC -- the first site that told me how to do it was completely wrong, so wrong that there must be another computer called an HP62; either that, or they just screwed up; the second, a video, clearly showed how to do everything but disconnect the cable from the keyboard to the motherboard; and a third site mentioned when you are ready to unplug the keyboard, lift the little brown tab, which will unlock the keyboard cable from the motherboard. I did that, and it came right off. So right this minute I am using an external keyboard, and it's working just fine. (As long as the damaged keyboard had still been connected, the external keyboard worked but not all the time).  And I just ordered a replacement keyboard from someplace in China, cross my fingers.

But still.  Considering that twenty four hours ago I was glumly thinking about possibly having to spend much time and effort to move files over to the Win 8 PC, to be followed by tossing the Win 7 one, which I really like, and now it looks like I can keep it after all -- I am not a person who can easily be ecstatic, but this morning, I'm close.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I assume that I am not the first to notice that the abbreviation for windows 8 would be....W8. Pronounced... Well, you can figure it out.

W8. Based on what we've had to do so far with this installation, it sounds like a Really Good Idea. 

But hey, at least it's not Healthcare. gov...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Monday, November 11, 2013

Bill Bailey an amazing guy.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Meatloaf with...

Made this tonight.  Quite good. Found here, and slightly modified.

Meatloaf with Sausage

3/4 pounds lean ground beef         1 pound ground pork sausage
9 saltine crackers, crushed            1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 onion, finely chopped             1 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 T Worcestershire sauce          1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided     1/2 cup ketchup

Heat oven to 350°.    Lightly grease 8x8 baking dish
Combine first 8 ingredients and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a medium bowl just until blended.
Place mixture in baking dish
Shape mixture into a loaf.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour.
Remove from oven, and drain.

Stir together ketchup and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar; pour over meatloaf.

Bake 15 more minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 160°.
Remove from oven; let stand 20 minutes.
Remove from baking dish before slicing.


Who are those guys?

Friday, November 08, 2013


Found here.

Stray Thoughts

Reading The International Bank of Bob, about the Kiva microlending system.  He's describing the virtually indescribable wealth of places like Dubai and the UAE -- hotels with archways almost as tall as the Arc du Triomphe, vending machines that dispense small bars of gold -- and how, after a while, such sheer extravagance sickened him.  Normally, I think oh, you don't really mean that, but his style rings true.  So far, it's a fascinating book.

Working through a page by page word by word translation of a French novel.  It's hugely tedious, but the delight that I feel when I actually understand a sentence -- not just got the gist of it but actually understand it -- is pretty awesome.

Saw a 'recipe', if I can call it that, which we'll probably try:

- take a can of frozen Grands biscuits
- slice each individual biscuit into quarters
- fry the quarters in hot oil
- roll in cinnamon sugar or regular sugar
- serve

Daughter's struggling with two courses at school, called us last night almost in tears. We got her calmed down, but it really rips you up to hear that.  You want so much to help her.

Had the cat in a kennel for two days while a bedroom was painted.  She hated it -- when I physically picked her up on my return, she didn't just rest in my arms, she sank her claws into my jacket.  The 'cat kennel' part was just a small room with some cat toys.  I doubt I'd have liked it much myself.  And then I think yeah, and we're planning to put her there over the holidays for a week while we travel, and I feel guilty.

I told a French friend that I might (probably won't, but might) be coming to France next year to spend a month in a small apartment.  The goal is a 'total immersion' experience.  She said then you have to come to see me.  And the cool part was, she meant it.  Probably won't happen, even if I do come -- the apartment is in south-eastern France, near Marseilles, and she lives next Paris, about 5 hours away -- but still, it's a pleasant thought.

We're replacing a Corian countertop which cracked, probably because it wasn't mounted properly.  The cost made my jaw drop.  Were it just me, I probably would have lived with the crack until it shattered -- granted, not the brightest plan. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

This Week

It's been an interesting week.  Most of it was good, some, not really.

In the not-really category, it turned out that despite essentially being given a blank check for the marking period in one subject where he's failing, the mento still did not turn in materials.  I was flabbergated.  We had words afterward, the next time we met.  From now on, I'm scaling my efforts down to what I can physically see.  This means that each and every time we meet, I'm going to ask him to dump out his bookbag, and we are going to sort stray materials. Every time.  I don't think it will change him, but it's what I can do, so I'm going to do it.

In the good but hard to believe category, I mentioned to a French conversation partner that I was musing about coming to France for a month, just to immerse myself in the language.  She told me, a week later, that she'd talked to her grandfather, who happens to have a furnished apartment next to his house, and he'd said that I could stay there, free, for a month if I wanted.

I've therefore become newly interested in upgrading my French skills, to the point where I've picked up two new partners -- one, a French woman living in Spain, and the other, a Canadian woman living in Quebec.  I was a little afraid that there would be a problem with the Canadian accent -- I told this to a French partner, who sniffed and said Canadian French is nothing like REAL French  -- but as it happens, the Canadian woman doesn't have Skype, so we are communicating via email.  She's a pretty interesting person. I also picked up as a partner a woman in Morocco (though I don't know how often we'll talk), and I apparently lost a person in southern France, who hasn't responded to a couple of notes over the last two weeks. Ah, well.  It's still good.

I also started listening to a French language film -- I understand about a quarter of it, unless they're muttering, which they do from time to time. And yes, it has subtitles.  I'm also working my way through a French-language novel, bumping up my vocabulary skills. I read one page today!  This is all good. 

Also today, the painters arrived to start work on the bedroom that we're redoing in expectation of visitors this summer -  our friends from France.  They're actually going to stay in the other bedroom, which has a larger bed, but now we'll have two rooms - one newly painted with a rather nice shade of pale green - just in case they bring a friend.

So, things are good.  Generally.

Friday, November 01, 2013


I thought it was March that arrives like a lion.  Last night, November arrived with high winds, and during the night we were pelted by more winds accompanied by heavy rain.  Now it's about ten to eight, and the sky is just barely light.  I guess it's good that we're switching the clocks back in a couple of days. Still, it's a depressing day.

Now I hear that despite the load on the system, very few people actually signed up for OCare so far.  People like me desperately want to believe that they wanted to, they just couldn't get in to do it. Though finding out that there are in fact people who are losing their insurance, because their insurance company is dropping their policies that don't match OCare standards -- that's pretty depressing.  I know, I know -- its a big deal, it takes a while for these things to get working, Medicare probably had the same initial problems.  Still.  It's depressing as all heck.

And last night only two kids showed up for trick or treat.  Granted, one of them had a fabulous costume -- I think her mother loves to play dress-up with her daughter, because she was wearing a costume, too -- but still.  Two. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

But Its a RALLY!

Just learned that the mento won't be available on Wednesday because, you know, they're having a rally...or something.  Forget the idea that this kid is flunking three of five courses.  Forget that we're meeting today to check that he's working on the homework that he should have been doing all along, that his teacher (last week) said he could do now, and turn in on Thursday.  Forget that Wednesday is the last day to motivate before that day.  Forget all that.

Because, you's a rally!

Ah, who am I kidding..... I can't figure out how to motivate this kid anyway.  I should just leave him to the appointed authorities.....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Just About Right

Found here.


Found here.

Studies indicate that waiters can boost their tips by: • lightly touching the customer • crouching next to the table • introducing themselves by name • and—believe it or not—drawing a smiley face on the check —Source: Cornell University tipping expert Michael Lynn

I've always wondered why they do the face thing.....


Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn't.

I got a conversation request from a man of my age who lives in France.  I wasn't really looking for a new conversation partner -- I talk enough now that I really don't have time (because of the time difference, it's most convenient for me to talk in the morning, and there are only so many in a week) - but the idea of talking to someone who's my age was intriguing.  So I said that, and he replied that if I wasn't looking for partners, he wasn't interested in talking.  What?

And I talked to a new person two weeks ago, which went pretty well - her written English is good, spoken, not so much - but I think it's confidence, not knowledge.  Our second talk was horrible -- Skype, may its name ever be cursed, would not let me hear her, though she could hear me fine -- we ended up where I would talk, and she would write a response.  Not particularly fun, though it was good to hear from her.  So I dropped her a line, asking if she was free to talk next week, and so far I've heard nothing.  So now I'm convinced I'll never hear again from her, and that's got me feeling glum.

I like talking to these people. Whether it's by Skype or email or chat, they're always interesting and fun.  There are times when I think that the French people on Conversation Exchange self-select for intelligence and for being easy to talk with.  I know that's not really true - I've had a couple of unpleasant experiences - but still, that's how it feels. They're nice people, and for someone like me, who doesn't really make friends all that easily, it's been terrific. Which is also why it makes me feel really bad when something goes wrong. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book sales

No matter how many books I have waiting to read, if I go into a used book sale, I can always find one book I want.   Or two......

Republican Economic Theory

Friday, October 25, 2013


I made this for the first time this evening.  It was surprisingly good, though it does feel a little more like a dessert pizza than an actual meal.  The original recipe was found here, and I made the crust from a recipe I already had.  I modified the recipe slightly.

Walnut & Honey Pizza
-Pizza crust                                  -Handful of chopped walnuts
-1/3 c.(more or less) goat cheese  -Honey
-*Balsamic reduction                    -Olive Oil
-Salt and Pepper

*To make a balsamic reduction, pour 1 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar in sauce pan and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook until enough liquid evaporates and the vinegar has the consistency of thin syrup. This will take at least 30 minutes, and probably more. It will continue to reduce after being taken off the heat. When done, set aside.

Heat oven to normal pizza baking temperature.
Brush crust with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle crust with cheese and walnuts.
Bake until crust is done and cheese is bubbly.
Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic reduction and honey (be generous with the honey)
Sprinkle once more with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I do admire this, but I also think it falls into the category of people with too much spare time.....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Facing It

I didn't sleep well last night.

This afternoon, I'll be meeting with the mento and the teacher of one of the three classes that he is failing.  We are going to discuss the several papers that he has failed to complete.  The teacher is going to go over them with him, to some degree, and he's going to tell me about how long they should take to complete.  I'm going to tell the mento that he has to start working on them, and that each time we meet I'm going to ask him about them. 

I do not expect that he is going to actually do them, as a rule.  One or two, perhaps.  Not all of them. 

I've told his mother, but apparently the teacher's already done that.  She talks the talk but she doesn't walk the walk.  Which means that for the next however long, its going to be just me, pushing him. Every week.

How do I get myself into these things?


Dear American Express,
Thank you for sending me my monthly statement in which you ask me to pay for the charges that I incurred.
In response to my conversation with Ashley from customer care:
Yes, it is true that I used my credit card to buy dinner at the Sushi Buffet-All-Day in Marysville. And, yes, we did take our annual Goplin family trip to Old Testament Town. But that’s not the point! If we pay this month’s American Express bill, what will happen next month? Next year? What will happen to future generations of Goplins with American Express cards?
That’s why I’m declaring that now is the time for the Goplin family to stop spending! And to stop us from spending—including on that that amazing six-foot 3-D smart TV that I just saw at Big Sal’s Appliance City of Marysville—we must draw a line. We are drawing it at the October statement of charges. Do not expect my payment.
* * *
Dear American Express,
I have just spoken with Brian from customer care, and here is my response:
You just don’t get it.
Telling us that it’s our obligation to pay the bills we racked up is tired old rhetoric that this American Express-cardholder family rejects. We’ve been hearing this excuse since 1981 (according to the front of my card). It wasn’t our fault we bought that Sony PlayStation. And when the central air-conditioning went on the fritz, what were we supposed to do? Sweat it out? So you may be right that we spent. But, faced with a crippling thirty-two thousand dollars in “previous charges,” we can no longer afford such reckless spending. Enough is enough, American Express.
* * *
Dear American Express,
All I can say to your collection agent Ms. Tiffany is this:
You say that not paying the bills for charges that I racked up will affect my credit rating.
I cannot institute meaningful change and necessary reforms to my spending if I don’t address my out-of-control spending. Under your leadership, Amex, my family has seen record “new charges” and thousands of dollars added to my “new balance” every month. So, you see, default ain’t my fault.
* * *
Dear American Express,
Today, when I took my colleagues for lunch at the Maryville Lobster Trap and used my credit card, I was declined! Our waitress, Beth, insisted that someone had to pay for my Surf & Turf He-Man Platter. I told them that the problem was waste, fraud, and abuse at American Express! This did not satisfy her.
Anyway, I am willing to compromise and find common ground on reducing my American Express current balance. I have some demands, though. I agree to find a measured approach that reduces our debt and cuts our spending, but that approach should include our next visit to Old Testament Town. And also that fantastic six-foot 3-D smart TV at Big Sal’s Appliance City of Marysville.
* * *
Dear American Express,
This morning, my household held a Goplin-family caucus. We have decided to pay our Amex bill, but only with the following conditions:
1. We want a repeal of Maryville’s recent zoning ordinance requiring back-yard sheds to be set back fifteen feet from the neighbors’ property line.
2. We would like a new sewer line installed on Mountain View Drive to replace our cesspools.
3. We don’t want the new mall built downtown, unless it includes a Gun-a-Rama where you don’t need background checks.
I have polled my family and believe that if you accept our terms, we will agree not to default by a vote of 3–2, with one abstention (that would be Isaac, who is seven).
* * *
Dear American Express,
Deadbeat? Is that what “Mr. Andrew” of AAA Credit Collection called us? Well, guess what? We will never use your card again. Not the green one, the blue one, the cobalt one, or the new translucent one! We will get credit elsewhere!
* * *
Dear First Bank of Marysville,
I’m very disappointed that you declined our application for a Visa card based on our credit history.
John Goplin
Speaker of My House

Steve Israel (the author)  represents the third district of New York in the House of Representatives and is the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Found here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Advertising oneself as One of the Top 10 Restaurants In Harrisburg Pennsylvania probably doesn't mean much.

On the other hand, I like Papa Johns as a staple of my nutitional regimen....


This makes me ashamed of my country.


From the New Yorker. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Saw a news article the other day about two porn actors who discovered that they'd contracted AIDS. Apparently, the place where they'd been working was not even minimally diligent about the use of condoms, and these people had decided that it was more important to earn money.  They decided to take the chance.

The man seemed stunned.  The woman was crying.

You never think of people who do that for a living as people..... and then you see that.

AIDS may be treatable now, but it's still a horrible thing to have happen -- to anyone.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Initiates

I just finished "The Initiates" (Étienne Davodeau), and I must say:  I liked it.  A lot.

The premise of the book is that Davodeau, a cartoonist, comes to Richard Leroy, a vintner and proposes a deal.  He will work for the vintner for one year, helping him to plant, prune, harvest, bottle, market - the whole cycle of commercial winemaking (and I suppose, except for the last step, of home winemaking too).  As he does it, he will sketch out all of the steps, all of the events, all of the people.  In return, he will teach the vintner about cartooning -- what it's really like (yes, it's drawing guys in tights flying through the air, but it's much more than that, with the whole human condition reflected in its various styles).  He'll bring the vintner to meetings with his publisher, bring him to the factory where the book is physically created, to the conventions where cartoonists meet - just as they went to conventions where vintners meet.

I thought this would be a kids book, because I read about it on a web site that recommends books for children and adolescents.  I suppose, in a way, it is a kids book, but it is so much more than that.  In a gentle, friendly way, it talks about these two disparate cultures, about what the serious practitioners in the field are trying to accomplish.  I was intrigued but not captivated by the cartoonist's story -- I knew of some of the cartoonist novels he mentions, such as Maus and The Watchmen -- but the vintner overwhelmed me.  The reason is that I have never understood wine.  I know that many people are captured by the wine culture, but as far as I was concerned, these people were kidding themselves - nodding wisely that one wine was better than another, but capable of switching their opinions on the flimsiest of evidence - such as discovering that the wine they disliked in a blind taste test was in fact a highly renowned wine.  I was sure that some wines were good, but great?  I found that hard to believe.

I won't say that this book changed my mind about wine, but I was grasped by the deep seriousness of the people who work in the field (some of them, literally!) - what they thought about, what they felt was important, their discussions and arguments about whether the use of sulphur is acceptable (and if so, how much), what the difference is between organic wine and biodynamic wine (I knew a tiny bit about this, having seen a video on a vineyard owned by Gérard Depardieu, but just a bit), why you prune vines, and how much.  These people are not fools.  They love what they do, but they're not blind, or robots, or fashionistas.  They think.  Which is much more intensity and conviction than I ever thought possible in winemaking.

How much did I like this book?  My copy is from the library.  I'm going to buy one of my own - maybe, the French-language one.   Its awesome.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Bizarre morning.  Conversation with a friend in Lille, could not get the pc to connect with a video session, found out it was because her status was set to Offline, and apparently Skype says well then clearly you don't want to connect to them!  So we just talked, verbally, for a while.   Then I got an urgent Skype call from my daughter, who wanted to know if she should trust the guy who looked at her foot after she broke it, because he said I see your xray from today and honestly I don't see any difference from a month ago.  So we discussed how to find a different ortho surgeon for a second opinion....and halfway through Skype just shut down, so I called her, and discussed the surgeon, who is in town, not at the school -- but dad I don't have a car how would I get there? Take a taxi. How do I do that??? So after that call I figured I'd better restart the PC before my next conversation, only Windows said oh, good, I have 27 updates to install, here we go! So the other conversation was via my small tablet, giving a kind of strange image to the other person because the camera is off-center....

And then this afternoon I have to go and try to motivate the mento.  Hoo, boy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


A friend's been posting pictures of her new baby brother.  Got to say, they're delightful.... and seeing them calms me down from my impotent rage about the ineffecual US Congress.  So, thanks, Ylan!

Monday, October 07, 2013


Monday Blah

Kind of a grey day here, and not even 50 shades, either.  Went for a walk, got some gas, listened to a little bit of french, read a little.  I think I'm dreading seeing the mento this afternoon. Well, not so much seeing him as seeing that, once again, he's failed to do homework, projects, all of that.

Maybe I'll bake something.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Illiberal Thoughts

I like libraries.  I like when people bring their kids to libraries.

I don't like, though, when they bring their kids to the library and let them munch on McDonald's food at a table watching little video players playing cartoon videos loud enough to be heard thirty feet away. Surrounded by books, watching a cartoon video.

I have to admit, at least part of my ire is that both of these women looked - well, they made me think that they eat at McDonalds a lot.  I don't honestly know which irked me more - their size or the McD's/video players. Either, I guess, would have been okay.  Together.... not so much.

I do know that its the first time in a while that I left a library quickly. Illliberal, I know.


Saw this ad on the GMail site:

Learn to Jump Into Another Universe Where You Have Money

Hmmm...sounds legit, right?

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


After realizing just how much the mento doesn't understand, I find myself wondering if I'm just wasting my time with him.  I think he likes that I'm there, but it doesn't seem to translate to academic success.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Kilts Me


I just had an oh my god moment with French.

For weeks I have been working on understanding the use of the word EN in French.  Basically, it has two uses; one, as a preposition, used like the word in, and two as a pronoun.  This word gets used all over the place, and easily half the time, I don't understand what it brings to the sentence. Sometimes, I see it like this -- m'en -- and that, I really don't get. For example, I read once that Je m'en vais  means I'm going away. I knew that Je vais means I go, but the m'en -- that eluded me. I figured that the M came as a contraction of ME (yeah, but why is that even there?).  And as for the EN -- forget it.  No idea.

And then I discovered this page.  And I found this example on it:

and it CLICKED.  In French, some verbs have a SE in front of the verb, making it a 'reflexive verb'.  It means that the thing that's being done is being done to (or by) ME.  For example, if I laver something, I wash it.  If I se laver something, I'm washing myself. I actually say ME LAVER, which is the first person singular form of SE LAVER.

So okay.  That infinitive verb isn't just débarrasser, it's se débarrasser.   The SE is making the verb reflexive.  Debarrasser means 'to throw something out'.  SE Debarrasseer means that I'm the one who's going to do it. I'm throwing the something out. The reason that the M' is there is because it's a contraction of ME, which is the first-person-singular form of SE, which is part of the verb.

Yeah, okay, fine -- but what about that EN?  Why is that there?

Turns out that they're sticking an EN in there as a pronoun -- it's a reference to the thing that's getting thrown out. Instead of saying I'm going to throw out the old shoes,  they're saying I'm going to throw them out.   In the English word order, that would be I'm going to throw them out-- but in the French word order, its I'm going to them throw out. Just happens that they're sticking that EN right in the middle of the two-word verb... then adding a tense (changing SE to ME) and then contracting it (changing ME to M'') - all of which made me blind to what was actually happening in that sentence.

I would like to believe that they did not do this solely to confuse me. Still... Oh.  Oh, Mon, Dieu.  It freaking makes sense.

David Ash, of Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom, Head of Modern Languages at King Edward's School, creator of this slide --  I thank you.


Saw Agents of SHIELD tonight.  It should be called Agent Coulson, formerly dead,  hangs out with pretty people, some with accents, who like to look determined and talk techno-geek.  They have like totally amazing technology, really fit, buff people, they have the geeks' geek, and, to offset him, a chick geek.  The geeks' geek can't decide if his accent is Scottish or Australian.  They have the spunky outsider, and the macho insider.  The techology usually out-acts them.

But it's cool, because they have Agent Coulson. He makes the show worthwhile; the others... could be dropped off a heli-carrier.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I wish that blogger had a feature whereby I could have a post show up every X number of weeks saying man, I hate studying French.

Of course, once this mechanism became apparent, I'd have even fewer readers and responders than I do now!

Monday, September 23, 2013


A doctor finds out what it's like to be a scared parent, and is surprised.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Two substantially different pictures, depending on cropping.  The original was found on Barefoot In Paris,  here.


This article isn't about the United States....but it sure could be!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Non Pas Que

I was looking up a translation of the phrase non pas que, which means 'not that' (as in, not that I could do anything about it), and was intrigued to notice this ad on the page.  I didn't know that Target sold French phrases.