Sunday, March 31, 2013


I have a recurring donation to a political organization.  Not much, but there. 

Today I got an email from them, saying that they've been so successful, they need to build a larger web site -- and could I donate to that effort?

Jeez, guys....

Friday, March 29, 2013

Yeah, But...

Watching the West Wing "Evidence of Things Not Seen" clip to deflect myself from studying French (which, after yesterday's conversation, with a man whom I'm going to visit in four months, I really need to do).  Hit the part where the Will Bailey character, in his did you know he did that?  I didn't know he did that! guise as an Air Force JAG officer, says that he is going to Cheyenne to investigate "two guys who refused to launch their rocket".

Forty years after I used to do it, such blatant errors in how an actual Air Force officer would refer to the incident still makes me cringe.  Probably doesn't help that the whole Will Bailey character makes me cringe, anyway, but this - this, I know.  They would not have said that.

If you're curious, they'd have said "two guys refused to launch", or "two guys refused to key-turn".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Got a text from the woman whose sister killed herself a few weeks ago.  She's still very torn up.  I wish I could help. All I can do is listen, and offer banal comments. Still, she does 'talk' with me, which is more than she did last week -- she told me that she left her phone off all week just so she could avoid talking to people. Not me -- we've never talked on the phone -- but people she knows in France. So I guess that's something...


Today I went over to the school, and I had a wierd experience.

I was waiting for the mento, and listening to two other mentors talking about their kids.  One said that she was concerned because the kid had a 45 in one course, and it was very hard to get up from there. Yeah, I know that feeling, I thought.  The other said my kid had Ds in five of six subjects.  We finally got him to the point where he only has two. At which point I thought again about what a lousy mentor I am, because I never push the kid to show me homework, anything like that.

Then, when he arrived, he said he had to go to a 'checkout' room where a teacher would confirm that he had his required work in his 'agenda book'.  Only, it turned out that not only did he not have it, he'd been erasing it so that his mother would not know that he had things due. He had his usual morass of papers, and had trouble finding stuff in there.  The teacher told him that he needed to work on that, and the teacher wrote his deliverables in ink so that they couldn't be erased. And I thought jeez, I never do that stuff.

Then we went to the library, where I mentioned how I found that very interesting and more than a little disturbing - whereupon he said that there was a math problem he didn't understand, so we looked at it.  I asked if he had an example of how to do it, and he showed me one he had written.  It was wrong.  It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to do it, and I didn't explain it very well.

So I think:  I suck at being a mentor.  I really do.


So how would you get it out?  I'm thinking the guard rail has to go, but what then? Crane, lift onto the road?

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Soooo... did that person mean to write Vous avez progresser en Francais,   or  Vous avez progressé en Francais?

Probs the first, but I choose the second.


I really don't understand why hyper-thick burgers are supposed to be desirable.

Found here.


Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought I can't possibly go to another country, one where they don't speak English, and expect that it'll be OK. 

And then I thought I've spent 2 1/2 years studying French.  I can make myself understood.  Not grammatically, not fluently, not gracefully, but I can do it.

And, French is certainly the language there, but the major transport media -- Air France and the TGV -- use English, too.  Perhaps not as often, but for the big stuff, yes.  This isn't going to be like going to Africa with Livingston. 

And, I'm going to meet people who DO speak English - one of them speaks it quite well, and the other - well, he can get by.  So if I ABSOLUTELY need to say something in English, there's a decent chance of being understood.  And there's always the dictionary.

Still nervous, but yeah, I think this might actually come off. 

Although I think I made my wife nervous when I mentioned that if this does work, I'll be more secure about speaking French on the next trip. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Zay Smith

News Headline: “Democrats shelve assault weapons ban.”
QT Abridged Too Far Dictionary of the English Language:shelve verb 1. to not take action on something until a later time. 2. if ever. 3. to shy away from. 4. to hide out from. 5. to show complete lack of spine concerning. 6. but hardly unexpected [see: streak, yellow; knees, weak; bananas, could carve better public servants out of. ]


I watched this way too many times.

I'm convinced that she's doing a Roadrunner impression.....


Strange dreams last night.  Dreamed about the gutless cowards of the US Congress, who can't even be moved by the deaths of children.  Wondered how'd they'd feel if an assassin with a high-capacity ammunition holder started slaughtering them. Won't happen - probably - because the defenders of liberty make damn sure to encircle themselves with armed guards.  I'd like to see Obama giving a speech tearing them a collective new anal aperture for their craven style, but that's not likely to happen, either.

I used to think that adults used reason and compassion to rule the country, but I don't think that anymore. Sometimes I despair about the parth of our country.  We seem to be on a downward spiral.  I know, thats traditional for people as they get older, to think that, but still: I do, I really do.

Dreamed about drones.  Those things - the small ones - are just made for assassinations.  Air Force One lands, President's on his way down the steps - a drone whips in from a mile away.  Are we doing anything to figure out how to defend against this?  Of course not.  We'll wait for a disaster...or past.

Dreamed about the trip to France.  One of the people I will meet has a husband who speaks no English at all; the other has a wife who speaks just a little bit.  Apprehensive about this.  Not to mention,  the TGV trips. Est-ce que c'est ma voiture? Just hope I don't get on the one for Croatia instead of Paris.

At least I didn't dream about the sequestration, aka the death of a thousand cuts.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Senate Democrats are dropping the ban on assault weapons.  Those spineless, gutless ... yeah, I deleted that last word.  But I'm still thinking it.....


It takes talent to write a decent science fiction novel, as John Scalzi did with Old Man's War.

It takes more talent to write sequels that not only don't suck, but are actually better, as he did with The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony.

But when you can take the whole plot of one of those books, and write it again, from the viewpoint of one of the secondary characters...and it doesn't entirely suck....  as he did with Zoe's Tale...well... I think I need a word that means talent....and then some.


Hillary might run?  Can I early vote right now?


People make a big deal about Girl Scout Cookies. They are OK, and I wolf down my fair share!  But you know what? You can have those evershrinking GS ones.  Give me some homemade chocolate chips, and some Ritz crackers - maybe some Saltines - and I'm happy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Love This Guy

Taxes and Census and Such

There was a line in one of the West Wing episodes where one character invites another to go out to a bar with him. "We'll speak as men do", he says.  That line stuck with me - it sounds like it was cribbed from Shakespeare.  I started wondering about it while I was lying in bed this morning.  Normally, I'd look it up on the laptop in the kitchen while the coffee was brewing - orange flavored coffee; heavenly scent - and the sausage was cooking -- sizzle, sizzle -- and maybe the waffles were baking or the French toast was frenching.  But this morning I'm not allowed to eat anything because I'm going to have a spot of dental surgery, and they said now remember, don't eat or drink anything after midnight.  The fact that other surgeries have been at 8AM, and this one is at 10:30 doesn't change their prescription.  Well, I thought, I'm going to stay up really late - by my standards - and I'll sleep until it's time to leave, and I won't have time to get hungry.

Which plan worked until I heard my wife get up at 7AM to check if the weather forecast -- rain and snow - was valid. (The roads are dry, but maybe later?)  Ahem.

So, knowing that going out to the kitchen right that moment was a bad idea, I fired up the small tablet (really, too small to write on; you go into email, and you can see one line of what you're writing, and sometimes not even that.  On the other hand, it does contribute to brevity in communications. And the size is dandy for watching videos and bouncing through sites with StumbleUpon) and did a search for that phrase.  Didn't find any Shakespearean references, but I did find a site called WestWingTranscripts.  Whereupon, like the WW junkie I am, I then scrolled through the whole script for that episode, smiling as I encountered phrases I remembered, scowling just a bit when the phrases weren't exactly as I remembered them.  But, overall, pleased. It's a dandy episode, with references to why a statistical polling method for the census is both better than headcount and unconstitutional.  Not to mention a succinct statement of the differences between Democrats and Republicans when faced by a budget surplus. Nice.

Then I went out, grabbed the laptop from its normal resting place on the kitchen table, and sprinted back into the bedroom.


A relative had a horrific fire, lost almost everything.  Someone set up a PayPal account, and people have been generous.  Good. Did bug me a little when I noticed that instead of thanking the people who've donated, she thanked 'God working through them', but I guess that's part of being religious.  The important thing is that they're getting help at a time when they desperately need it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Last night we went to the bookstore. We don't actually buy too many books locally; I learned a long time ago that if I buy a book everytime I see one that looks interesting, I will end up with a lot of books that I  never quite get around to reading. So when we go, the place that we truly go is to their cafe. While we sit and drink coffee, I browse through something from their cheap books section.

Which is how, to my surprise, I found myself reading and enjoying a book written by Newt Gingrich. The book is fiction, not politics. I haven't gone that far off the rails. But still - I'm surprised.

sic transit...

which is not a reference to the state of transportation policy in this country...even if it is embarrassing when I mention our lack of truly high speed rail to people in France.

No, in this case it's a reference to the recent announcement that Google Reader is going to go away. As things go, it's not the worst news in the world. I suspect that a lot of people have no idea what Google Reader is, let alone an RSS feed. I doubt that anyone is going to be storming the barricades any time soon over this one.

Still, for people like me, with a lot of spare time, and the desire to quickly see information from multiple web sites, it's disappointing, and maybe just a little bit disorienting. Its change, and sometimes it seems to me that the older I get, the less I like change, even small ones. (Small change is an entirely different story.  Send me your quarters, dimes, nickels....)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



I can almost see this as an episode of West Wing.


There's a video which I suspect is much beloved by liberals like me, showing a actor in a town-hall talk show saying something like America's the greatest?  The only thing we lead the world in is the number of our citizens in jail or executed.  In healthcare, freedom, education -- we're in the middle of the pack or less. 

To which can be added: credit cards which use a chip rather than, or in conjunction with, a magnetic stripe.  They're known as EMV cards, for Europay/Mastercard/Visa, and the advantage is that they're more fraud-resistant. A few US banks offer them, but with serious restrictions as to who can receive one - usually, it's related to your net worth, though if you're a member of an 'affiliate organization' (some of which I've heard of, some of which not, and many of which sound....fishy), you're in.  Any yahoo can walk into a bank in France, Australia, New Zealand and get an EMV card, but here? Don't hold your breath. It'll cost the US Credit Industry a lot to install, and it'll cost the people who take credit cards a lot, too.  No eagerness there.  But when you look at a map of EMV adoption, and note the one big area where it's not present....

Last trip, I bought EMV cards from an organization called Travelex, and they work fine;  now Travelex says they're phasing those out.  I even considered trying to open a bank account in France, just to get the card,  but that's way difficult to do (I think).  Plus there's the line on income tax forms about do you have any funds overseas?  My taxes are complicated enough, thanks.

But hey, we're number one!


I had to make a quick run to the supermarket this morning.  While I was there, I saw a hand-written poster with a picture of a girl of about 14. It had her name and the simple phrase MISSING SINCE 1/15/2013.

God, things like that tear me up.

Monday, March 11, 2013


(A young girl that is about 14 years old walks in. She gets some looks from our other patrons, as she has bright purple hair, multiple piercings, a leather jacket, and ripped jeans. It is freezing outside and she has a scowl on her face that makes me nervous.)
Me: “Hello, welcome to [coffee shop]. How may I help you?”
Young Girl: “I’ll take five of the largest black coffees you have, and ten of your ham and cheese sandwiches.”
Me: “Okay, will that be all?”
Young Girl: “Yeah.”
Me: “Your total is [price].”
(To my surprise, she pulls out a $100 bill. I am suspicious, and I check to make sure it’s real. It checks out, and I give her a bag with her sandwiches.)
Me: “Here is your change. Your coffee will be ready in a moment.”
(I keep an eye on her as she stands around glaring at anyone who looks at her. I see her looking at the tip jar. When I hand her the coffees, she asks me about it.)
Young Girl: “Your tip jar says that the money goes to you guys. Are any of you in college?”
Me: “Yes, I’m going to Rochester Institute of Technology. A few others are in college as well.”
Young Girl: “Good for you.”
(She pulls out the change I gave her and a few more $20 dollar bills. She crams then in the jar and salutes me jokingly before walking out. I am stunned, and chase after her. I find her on the street corner talking to some homeless people and handing out the sandwiches and coffee.)
Me: “Excuse me!”
Young Girl: “I’m sorry, did I forget something?”
Me: “No, but you just tipped us over $100 dollars. You’re also giving away a lot of food.”
Young Girl: “Yeah, my dad is crazy rich. I feel like I can do more if I actually interact with people instead of signing a check to a charity. Every Friday I gather anyone I see who needs a good meal, and buy it for them.” *she smiles brightly* “I may be young, but I can make a difference. I usually hand out flyers for homeless shelters or soup kitchens, too.”
(Without another word, she walks off silently. I didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the week. It goes to show you that appearances aren’t everything!)

Nope, Not My Church

I think that the obviously pained guy at the end should get extra points.


I think that people who require you to sign in to a commenting service before you can leave a comment on their site don't actually want your comments.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dental Pranks

I went to the same dentist for about 20 years.  Then he retired and sold the practice to a new guy.  I like the new guy, so, no problem.  Plus he started upgrading the practice, getting better equipment, remodeling it.  All good.

Yesterday we learned that after about 8 months of being solo, he's decided to go merge with an existing practice.  He'll close the existing office, taking some of the equipment, selling the rest. Kind of makes me wonder about his long term planning skills....


Saturday, March 09, 2013

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Writing? Moi?

There are times when I think you know, I should write something about that.  I'm not talking The Great American Novel, just a quick blog post about something that caught my interest or I've wondered about.  Such as when I watch the cat twist its head completely around - body facing that way, face aimed back this way -  and I wonder if humans will ever be modified to have that kind of flexibility.  Or when I read about the horror because someone let a bra strap show, and I wonder why we don't outgrow that kind of angst. (Well, most of us do, but apparently, not everyone.) Or - well, you get the idea.  Stray things.  I used to do that all the time, and now days will go by without writing something.

I never quite get around to writing down that transient thought, because lately I do two things.  I study French.  Or I agonize about my inability to speak casually in French.  Oh, I do other things -- read a little, cook a little, even occasionally bake -- but French has taken over my life.  The other day I said to a conversation partner that I would know I was fluent in French when I could use the word neurocognition in French.  They laughed, which is good, because even I know that's an unattainable goal, not to mention a completely unreasonable one. And yet I think wouldn't it be nice?

There are times when I think that I ought to say you know what?  Screw it.  Stop. 

Friday, March 01, 2013


Oddly enough, I never saw this one, at all.