Friday, August 30, 2013


There are times when I am really tired of studying French.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Uses of money

I'm surprised to find that as we approach retirement, we're edging into the comfortably well off range.  (I'll let you decide what is meant by that.)  I am surprised by this because neither of us has inherited money, and neither of us had a job that generated stockbroker-levels of income.  My parents both worked, as did my wife's parents; my family could be described as 'on the low end of the economic spectrum', while my wife's did a little better, but not amazingly so.  I attribute this edging that we're seeing to two things -- first, we're careful with money, and we've saved for a long time, and second, the stock market's done well over time.  (Ever notice that people such as stockbrokers never think it's a good time to sell?)

If we continue to be careful with money; if we don't get any nasty surprises of the medical type (well, any, really, but those are the big bugaboo); if the stock market doesn't plummet (which I think it will, actually, but I'm hoping not a lot) - we'll have enough so that we can  do some things we want to do -- fix up the house, travel, and, perhaps most importantly, transfer an appreciable amount of money to our child - without imperiling our future.

The house means things ranging from replace aging carpet to extend the deck and enclose the underdeck area to be storage - though things like build a new bedroom and install an elevator are possible, too.  The travel means , in my mind, France, though my wife would like to see Italy,  and there is a vague possibility of Australia (primarily driven by my brief visit there, years ago; lovely place.)   And the child part means give money to the child, to make her life a little easier, though when and how much is under review, you might say;  it varies depending on whether I'm feeling nervous about our future; sometimes it's enough to finish one full year at her college, and sometimes it's that, plus enough to buy a car.  On the one hand, we don't want to unnecessarily stiff her, so that she gets a pleasant surprise at our death, and almost immediately thinks they had this money and I still had to get a job in college?  On the other, we aren't of the assumption that we need to stiff ourselves, either; she can make her way, just as we did. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Articles like this one, found here, always make me a little happy.

How To Combat The Bullying A-Gender

| OR, USA | Bigotry, Bully, Health & Body, Students
(I am a male transitioning to female. I go to a high school where bullying is a huge problem, and the teachers do little about it. Due to my small size, I am often a target, and have to run for my own safety. I am physically male, but can be mistaken as a girl with my long hair and waifish body type.)
Bully Leader: “Get back here twerp!”
(I run down the hall between the locker rooms and the gym.)
Bully #2: “I got him!”
(Bully #2 jumps in front of me around a corner. I duck inside the girl’s locker room and find a corner away from the door to sit and stare at. I never once look towards the girls who are changing. The gym teacher heads to the door to head off the bullies.)
Gym Teacher: “What do you think you’re doing?!”
Bully Leader: “Out of the way!”
Gym Teacher: “Sorry, but no. This is a girl’s locker room.”
Bully Leader: “There’s a boy in there right now!”
Gym Teacher: “I saw no boy, just the girl that fled in here before you showed up. Now leave before I call the cops!”
Bully Leader: “This isn’t the end twerp!” *leaves*
Gym Teacher: *walks over* “You’re lucky. Most boys who come in here I send out immediately with suspension.”
Me: “And why didn’t you?”
Gym Teacher: “Because A: the girls aren’t shrinking in terror. B: you haven’t been taking a peek at them since you got in here; you’ve been staring at the wall. Even now you don’t dare risk looking at me while I talk to you because you don’t want to accidentally look. Am I right?”
Me: “That’s correct.”
Gym Teacher: “And C: I have been noticing you around being chased by those guys. I’ve been trying to get them expelled but the rest of the faculty sadly doesn’t care.”
Me: “Yeah, I’ve learned that well enough. And so have they. I’m sorry for barging in like that.”
Gym Teacher: “Well, I protect my girls. You can consider yourself as one of us.”
Me: “Are you sure you should be making that kind of decision?”
(One of the girls in the locker room chimes in.)
Girl: “Well, considering we’re not throwing things at you, yes. You’re one of us.”
Gym Teacher: “Then it’s decided. Any time you need to get away from those bullies, or just need a place to hide, my door is always open.”
(Since then, up until the point I dropped out because I couldn’t take that school anymore, I hid in the girl’s locker room. Now that I’m older and better transitioning as a girl, I am amazed I was able to do such a thing. So to the gym teacher who protected me, I hope you’re reading this. Thank you.)


This afternoon, I was waiting for my wife while she did some quick shopping at a local store for a birthday card.  Cards are a funny thing -- we really do like getting them (especially when they have money inside, which happens too rarely).  Even though we know its part of the Great American Schlok Industry (proud sponsors of Valentines Day, Mother's Day, Fathers Day, Fourth Cousin Twice Removed Day...), we like it, and so still do it.  Or more accurately my wife does it.

But it was okay, because I had just been to the bookstore, where I bought a copy of The Rook (greater love hath no person for a book than that they got it from the library, months ago, read it, and so now know the plot and most of the surprises -  and still bought a copy when the opportunity presented itself.  I mean, this is an awesome book.)  Plus I'd picked up a copy of Ready Player One, which is slotted as Young Adult fiction, but I like it.  And I was drinking a Frappaccino, which is also good.  (I just found out how to make a decent Egg Cream with that Soda Stream we bought.  Happy about it. Not willing to buy an espresso maker, just so I can do the Frap thing, though. )

But what I found myself doing, though, in between spurts of reading, was watching people as they went into or out of the store.  Sometimes it was just gee, I wonder why that guy has a blue something wrapped around his arm, or yeah, you look at that kid and at the woman he's with, and you can see where most of his DNA came from. But every so often I'd find myself watching an attractive woman walking into the store, or one coming out, and I found myself wondering again why we find the physical characteristics attractive that we do.  Why are long legs considered attractive?  Are they graceful?  Does it suggest that in moment of starvation, the owner can reach more of the fruit in the tree?  Why is breast size a virtual guarantee of male attention? Why do some people love small breasts, while others fixate on large ones?  How come guys are attracted by swaying hips? Is there a relationship between this and childbirth potential, or do we just like the motion, the way that we're fascinated by cascading waves? Is there a neural rhythm being invoked here?  I've speculated on this kind of thing  before, and found that I'm apparently weird, either because I wonder about them, or because, having wondered, I have a theory about some of it. Which I won't go into again. And what are the male attractiveness characteristics?  No idea there, other than being pretty sure I never had any to speak of.  Which is okay with me, as things go.

After a while, I went back to Ready Player One.  Which, by the way, ten pages in, is not bad.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There are Receptions

....and then there are receptions, like the one we went to in France, which was mind-boggling.

Of course, this one is pretty damned good, too!

...And off

I recently became away of the Miley Cyrus thing.  Today, I found this image.  If Robin Thicke was with Cyrus on stage during her .... performance... then I totally support this concept.

 Found here


Monday, August 26, 2013


Ways to make me feel inadequate:  from the blog of someone who's teaching himself Chinese:

Here’s the game plan:
Learn to Read above at intermediate Level
90 minutes / Day
I’m basically illiterate right now. I have a passive ability to recognize many characters that I see on a regular basis. But as many will know, recognizing a character doesn’t mean you that can read a particular text. I think reading is important part of speaking a language well and as a result, it can’t be overlooked. But this will be tough. And since I’ve been depending on pinyin this entire time, I’ll basically be learning characters from scratch.
Listen and Parrot 200 podcasts
2 hours / Day
I’ve done a lot of listening already. But it’s mostly been casual. For example, I’ll listen to a podcast once or twice, pickup what I can and then move onto the next. To improve my ability to listen and speak , I plan on doing 200 intensive listening sessions in the next 60 days. This will entail me listening very closely and then spending as much time as it takes to parrot that particular dialogue. This will hopefully improve my listening skills because of how intensely I’ll be listening. In addition, my pronunciation and intonation should improve through shadowing / parroting. Hopefully :)
Speak, Speak, Speak,  Think, Think, Think
2 hours / day
Using the language before you master the language is still the most important aspect to learning. I’m going to continue speaking to language partners through Skype as much as possible. In addition I will try to record myself speaking about random topics (book reviews, current news, upcoming movies..) whenever I get a chance. Throughout the day, my goal will be to think in the language as much as possible. There’s no real way to measure this, but I still think it’s an important step.
Grammar and Vocabulary
90 minutes per day
Learning new words will always be a priority. 10-20 per day will be the official goal that I set for myself. Learning words isn’t always tricky, but creating mnemonics so I don’t forget them can require a little time.

Holy hell.....


The other day I mused about the fact that I was aware of the marital infidelity of a woman I'd never met, who was, at that moment, on the other side of the world.  I knew of this because the woman had inadvertantly told her son, who told his sister, who told me. The connections made by the internet can be fairly amazing, I thought.

Just a moment ago, my wallpaper changer flipped up a new picture - a girl paddling in on a surfboard.  It looks carefree and idyllic.  It is, in fact, the sister of a person I sometimes talk with.  A few months ago, the sister killed herself, and the person sent me that photo.  So now she is remembered by someone who never had the pleasure of meeting her.


First Week

Reading some comments on the Facebook page for parents of cadets at my daughter's school.  As expected, finding oh my child hates it and wants out but I know this is good for him, its the way the military is, pressure makes diamonds yadda yadda yadda.

I am being nice and not pointing out to these people that the Corps of Cadets is not the matter how much the parents want to think otherwise.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


My Teacher The Dragon Slayer

| Warsaw, IN, USA | Bizarre/Silly, Geeks Rule, Students
(I’m an elementary education major, observing in a kindergarten classroom. One little girl waves me over, looking very excited.)
Little Girl: “Miss [my name]? You know my dreams?”
(I nod, but can’t get words out before she continues.)
Little Girl: “You’re in ‘em. You’re always the one that fights the dragons!”
(I almost cry; it was the best compliment I’d ever received, hands down!)

(Found here.) 


French is only fun when I know how. Studying sucks.

I hate when I start to read something, think This is pretty good... then think two hours later Oh, its the Frankenstein thing, only with an AI. Wonder how an author gets the reader past that moment of discovery?

Friday, August 23, 2013


I'd like to go back to France. (Yeah, I know: what a surprise.)  But before I do that, I want to be able to understand quickly spoken French, and that means that I have to spend a great deal of time listening to dictees, where I can see the words as they are spoken, and I have to spend a great deal of time reading French articles, and kicking up my vocabulary a great deal.  Neither sounds like a great deal of fun.  I have to remind myself that three years ago right-about-now, I didn't speak French at all, and the first six months were incredibly tedious and boring. The end result is worth it, I know.

Tomorrow we take my daughter back to college.  She's going to be a sophomore.  We're a little sad about this, because we've liked having her around, despite the occasional disagreements about various things.  She's never played the but I'm an adult now card, and we've never played the as long as you're living in OUR house... card, either.  In fact, this afternoon, she mentioned to me the idea that someday she would be living on her own, someplace other than near here, and that saddened me a little.  I was looking at the Facebook page for parents of the cadets at her school, and there were several saying oh, my, I'm going to be crying when we're driving home.  Not us.  Sad, but not crying.  Because we know that this is a good thing for her, we know that she will learn things and have experiences which are good for her.
But come Monday morning, when my wife's gone off to work (first day of school), and my daughter's not around.... I'll be a little glum.

I am pleased that the mild amount of exercise I've been doing has had an effect.  I know, I know, that tomorrow I could awaken to find that I've somehow gained five pounds overnight -- a fluctuation which would not be unprecedented -- and if it happens more than two days in a row, I'm going to think well the hell with it, its not working any more. And it could even be that it's not the exercise at all -- after all, walking at a mildly brisk pace for 22 minutes over a fairly flat surface isn't what I'd call challenging (which is good: I hate challenging). So the bottom line is, I don't know if it will continue, and I don't know what I'll do if it stops.  Be morose, I'd suppose.

Speaking of moroseness, I'm a little sad that my friend from Paris is once again unavailable for easy - well, relatively easy - communication.  For two weeks, she was in Mauritius, a small island off the southeastern coast of Africa, and now for two weeks she is going to be in Portugal.  On the one hand, I think it is good for us to be separated, because we were having some fairly serious conversations about her relationship with an older guy; I think she really wanted me to say that if she worked at it, the relationship would work out, but I had to admit that, no, I didn't think that.  And truthfully, neither did she.  But its one thing for me to give her my honest opinion when she asks, and its another for me to be doing that every day.  I'm not her father, brother, uncle, or lover. So when she comes back, if she wants to broach the subject, fine.  Until and if, I'll just stay hands off.  Even though I do miss talking to her.

Speaking of talking, on Tuesday I start with a new French conversation partner -- someone a little different; this guy is a singer (I assume semi-professional) so he has a great interest in how words sound, how you pronounce them.  Intellectually, sounds like fun.  As the person who has to make those sounds, in French....hmmm.   And there are at least three other people who haven't been seen on Skype in about three weeks.   Actually, about five or six friends.  We don't talk all the time, but we talk fairly often, and I miss it.

Of course, if I was to go back to France....



I once asked a librarian at the library in a nearby town why they tended to have more interesting books than my library did.  The answer was that they had a curator.

We need one.  Latest example that's somewhere else, not here:


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Found here.

....and by the way, that phone number?  Pizza Hut Customer Service.


I was just thinking about success.  I read an article -- actually, about half an article; it was pretty depressing -- about how people tend to not end up in life where they thought they would.  These are people with a Plan - go to college, get married, Good Job - all of that.  And then things happen, and they get derailed -- the woman gets pregnant and drops out, or the guy gets someone pregnant and drops out; the marriage doesn't work, or it's barely habitable (when I say that, I think of my niece, who dated a guy for two years, lived with him, and then got married; six months later, they were divorced; how does that even happen?)  And as for the Good Job -- they likely exist, still, but the chances of getting one of them sometimes feels like throwing a coin into a bottle from five kilometers in the air. You can do it, but you have to be awfully damned lucky.

You can see why I thought the article was depressing.  It was basically saying you can never count on being happy.  And the thing is, I agree with that.  I think that if you assume that of course things will go well, because, unlike the rest of the world, you have a Plan, and maybe even a Back-up Plan - then you're probably going to get a nasty surprise.  Not necessarily -- if you're born into wealth and privilege (I'm not; how about you?) then your reserves are deeper, your cushions more resilient, so those derailments might not have as much an effect on you as on others.  But if you're just an average sort -- smart, hard-working, but without a firm plan -- then these surprises can happen.

I've had a couple of surprises in life.  Nothing earth-shattering, just: things happened to me that I thought only happened to unlucky or stupid people. Although I suppose you could extrapolate and say that because they happened to me, I was unlucky or stupid, at least at the time.  But, whatever the reason, things happened.  (Which is not to say that good surprises didn't happen - they did.  But those aren't the ones you remember.)  So when they happen, how do you survive, let alone prosper?

People who are young and bright and Have All The Answers will say that you can survive and prosper in any environment.  They point to your tech millionaires and billionaires who bet large on something, lost it all, won most of it back.  I don't doubt that.  But I think that such actions are outside the pale for most people.  I think for most people, recovery takes time, and if it happens at all, it happens slowly. You make reasonable moves, you set reasonable goals that will be good if you make them, but won't devastate you if you don't -- and you keep going.  And one day, you look at where you are, and where you've been, and you think you know.....this isn't all that bad.  In fact  -- if you're lucky  -- this is pretty good.

And that's what I'd call success.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Sequels almost always suck.  At best, they barely suck, but sometimes - more often than not, it feels like - they really suck.

So when I saw this list of movies that really should have sequels, I thought yeah, right.

And then I read the list.  Five of them made my heart skip a beat.

The Incredibles 2: Return of the Supers

True Lies 2: False Truths

Ferris Bueller's Day Off 2: Early Retirement

Blade Runner 2: Replica

Master and Commander 2: Rising Tide


Oh, hell yeah!






I hate going to Wal-Mart.  I almost never do go, but this morning, my daughter wanted stuff for her return trek to school, and she likes it, so we went. One of the things she wanted was a Swiss Army knife, so off we went to their hunting section. 

Which is where I discovered that just because they have knives hanging there such that you can just take them off the rack, and knives that are impossible to get off without trying to tear the package.doesn't mean that it's a defective package.  They really did lock it, because people steal them. Apparently, not all of them, but enough so that they do that now.  As I learned from the self-important Department Manager.

I so like being treated like a thief. Two hours later, and it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  That, and the realization that I'm thinking Dammit, I'm not one of your scum customers!

Yeah.  I'm not proud of that realization.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I don't get football.  And I really don't get jamming oneself into a stadium with tens of thousands of other people to experience the - well, the experience.  At home, big screen, can pause, replay, fast forward,  go to the john, get food and not pay handsomely for it - sure.  At a stadium -- War Memorial Stadium, as Carlin put it, though, it turns out, there really are such places -- ah, no thanks.