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" (√Čtienne 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 G√©rard 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