Thursday, January 31, 2013


My daughter insisted that she had to come home from college to attend the funeral. (I told her, she goes to grad school, it's either within 3 hours driving time, or too far away to drive).  But, okay.

Today we find out that the viewing is on Sunday, and the funeral won't be until Monday.  She wants to stay.  I said no, that'd be three days away from school.

Guess who's really popular today? I figured I didn't need to point out that we wanted to bring her up after school today, and she said no, no, she had to get home right away. Uh-huh.

Wild & Wonderful? No.

If you have the opportunity to drive through the construction on I-81 in West Virginia -- say, at night, with no moon, and during heavy rain -- consider checking into a hotel.

No lights, faded lane markings, abrupt changes in lane location, few lane reflectors -- oh, it's a real frickin' joy.  And the semis barreling through don't help. I found a relatively slow-moving one and just stayed on his tail the whole time. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


A week ago, the sister of one of my French conversation partners killed herself. Yesterday, I spent about three hours texting with her about the event, and about her sister, and about herself.  She said that talking in English seemed to help her.  I was glad to give whatever assistance I could.

In the meantime, yesterday, my daughter learned that a boy she had known in high school had died.  Today, I am going down to Virginia to bring her home for the funeral. The round trip will be about eleven hours.  I rescheduled my French class, and cancelled my meeting with my mento.

Odd how these things which happen to different people end up affecting my life, and ripple out from there.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Lotus Touch


This morning, I had a conversation with a French friend, about her sister, who had killed herself.  I think that the conversation helped her, just a little bit....  and I was honored to be able to do it.


What IS it about that theme that makes it so catchy?

O. M. G.

Monday, January 28, 2013


In the Grand Scheme of Things, I know this is small.  But:

Today I listened to a short - about 2 minute - recording in French.  And I understood about 90% of it.

Now, this was a special recording, done by my French instructor.  She was speaking slowly, carefully, clearly. 

Still.  90%.  I'm delighted.  There's hope.


I'm not into jewelry - I don't normally wear anything but my watch, not even my wedding ring.  But Caliber bracelets, which are made from destroyed guns - they intrigue me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I hadn't seen the prior videos by these folks, but I think I'm going to look for them.

Phone Stuff

Did some more fooling around with the phone today - went down into the rats nest that is where the two phone lines connect to the outside world (AT&T apparently never saw a wire they didn't like) and ran a short cable from the connection studs to a jack, then plugged in a phone.

Just dangling from the studs, the connection was clear.  No static whatsoever.  So it's got to be the wire.  The one that's up there in the attic, buried under blown-in insulation.

Right now I'm wondering:  phone lines are so 1950s.  Maybe we should just say the heck with this jack, pull it and patch the hole, and find an alternative.  I know Verizon has one that essentially ports our home number to their cellular network.....which of course you'd pay for.  What I want is a router that accepts the incoming landline, and then a wifi connection from that router to the phones.  Hmm....

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Miss Bill

The Movies

I occasionally see photos of people's efforts to create a 'home theater'.  Most of them are nicely done, but I really don't see the point.

This one, on the other hand.....

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Kick plate heaters for a chilly kitchen are awesome.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Wonder what Romney's Inaugural Message would have been?

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Tomorrow, our daughter returns to college.  We're a little sad, but we are also pleased to see her stepping up to things.  In a lot of ways, we still see - not our little girl, but certainly our teenager, the kid who went through high school, complained about things, performed in color guard, laughed when she received unexpected Christmas gifts.  But we also see a confident, intelligent young woman, one who asks good questions, has good insights. Thinks.  We like that.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Being in a car with a cat who is demonstrating that the laxative the vet just gave her works really well is not pleasant.  Just glad we had her in a carrier.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Apparently, the more words I learn, the worse I pronounce them, and, as an added benefit, I forget words I did know.  Freaking wonderful.

Monday, January 14, 2013


No, not the penal kind.  The French kind.

I am once again feeling stupid and incompetent about this language.  The proximate cause is a mostly-french text conversation i had this morning over skype, where I had to look up almost every sentence.  These were not particularly challenging sentences, either -- but I didn't know them.  The not-so-proximate cause is a task my French teacher gave me, to translate an article from Le Monde.  It's full of colloquialisms and whatnot.  I must have had to look up forty words so far, and thats just halfway through.  Plus none of this really helps me with my immediate goal of understanding the spoken language.  Yes, vocabulary helps, but if you don't realize that a spoken word is actually one that you know, where are you?

So at the moment -- again -- I'm frustrated.


Sunday, January 13, 2013


Drove for three hours, then sat in the car for about three hours, then drove (part of the way) home -- all so my wife could attend a baby shower for someone we really don't know that well.  And yet -- I really don't mind.  Gave me a chance to be with her.  Plus, the alone-time with no net access gave me the chance to do some French studying.  Hoo-boy, that was fun.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hot Water

About three years ago, we bought an electric hot water kettle.  It worked very well, and when it failed, we bought exactly the same model.  It also works very well.

About a week ago, I noticed that the paint on our Moen kitchen faucet was chipping.  Yeah, I thought Moen was a good brand, too.  My wife had mentioned on occasion that she'd like to replace the faucet, for some functional and some aesthetic reasons,  so I thought heck, let's just do that.

When we were thinking about it, I got it into my head to have an 'instant hot water' dispenser installed.  The reason was that it irritates me slightly to have to run water just to get hot water up to the sink.  While I don't think it wastes a lot of water, it unquestionably wastes some.  So when we had a plumber work up an estimate for the sink, we told him to add in the heater, too, which he did.

Now I'm looking at the cost of the estimate, and thinking But you already HAVE a hot water dispenser, for which you paid all of about thirty bucks...and you're thinking about THIS? And the damned thing is, I can't decide.  On the one hand, it's silly to have that done.  Even if the electric kettle breaks again, we can just get another.  Or microwave water.  Or boil it!  On the other -- well, it'd add to the resale value of the house, not that we're planning to sell in the next fifteen years.  And it would be useful to have when we need a blast of hot water.

My wife is willing to go along with it, either way. Hmm...


Found here


One of the people I talk with on Conversation Exchange lives in Paris. She is always cheerful, bordering on ebuillent.

Yesterday she put something on Facebook which resulted in several people giving their condolences.  I didn't know what it was -- sometimes she will post things that are actually quotes from poems or songs - so I asked.

Her little sister killed herself.

I only know this person as a conversation partner.  I've only spoken to her brother once, and I didn't even know she had a sister.  This really has nothing to do with me, and there's nothing I can do. I did offer to talk with her if she needs it, but I doubt she will - time, distance, language.

Yet I feel awful for her. And somehow shattered by the death of someone that I didn't even know.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I am surprised sometimes at how different conversations feel among the people I talk with, in France.  The woman I spoke to this morning is always interesting, always cheerful, and always ready to help me.  The guy I will be talking to this afternoon speaks slowly, but he is also interesting, though more serious.  The guy I spoke to last week for the first time, whom I will talk with Saturday morning, is thoughtful, while the two women I text with -- one, a pre-law student, one a semi-retired woman - are careful with their language (much more than me, sorry to say).  I cherish all of them.

Next Up?

I finished two books within the last two days.  Both were related to food, both were pleasant, and both left me feeling that it would be okay to skip the last chapter or two.

One was the book by the woman who I said was a good, solid baker.  I still think that.  Throughout it, she made interesting comments about the art of baking, though I don't think she ever used the words art or craft. She just talked about what she made, and why she liked it.  Sometimes it was just because it was fun to make; sometimes because it reminded her of her grandmother - things like that.

The other was by a fellow who had more or less fallen into being a chef; as he said fairly far into the book, he seemed to have been born with an intuitive feeling for what would work, in a kitchen; what might taste good, what went well together.  After a lifetime of doing this, though, he was burned out, and so he and several friends went to stay in a leased house in France, in a small town.  He swore not to cook a single thing while he was there.

The first book - well, even given how much I liked her style, I got a little tired of all the things she knew how to bake.  It just kept coming.  There's a picture of her in the back of the book, frosting an enormous cake; I thought of my difficulty in frosting a cupcake, and sighed.  I liked her - she hardly ever alluded to who her sister was, or her occasional and ongoing brushes with the glamorous life; when she did, it was with a light, mocking touch -- but I thought that even with the recipes she included, I'd never be able to replicate any of it.  So, at about 90% of the way through the book, I gave up on it.

The other one was much worse.  Basically, everything - everything - that this fellow saw in France, he liked, and much preferred to home. The trains.  The weather.  The people driving cows in the country lanes.  And, of course, the food - the glorious, amazing, like god just invented it, food.  Not cook?  He cooked every day, and everyone exulted in the result.  I really wanted to like the book, but by about, oh, 60% -- I think it was the chapter that started with Everyone agreed with my decision to make meatloaf.  I had it freshly ground by the.... Yeah. Got it. So, enough of that one, too.

I suppose I should be pleased - I've read about 1 1/2 books, and liked them. Hmm?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


I read a lot.  Not voraciously, though I'd like to think of myself that way, and not always -- sometimes, not even usually -- good stuff.  But every so often I find a piece of writing that makes me weak in the knees (only, you know, not literally) because it is so cool, so congruent with things I think but can't say eloquently.

This is one of those pieces.  If you love good writing, especially good writing about good writing, I urge you to read it.


It would take a lot to make me feel sorry for a pedophile, but this article from the New Yorker comes close.  It's centered around a man who was convicted of owning child pornography, and who did attempt to meet a young girl. He didn't suggest sexual contact -- but he's  legally held in jail past the end of his term because some people think that, given the opportunity, he might.  No proof, just suspicion.  That seems wrong to me.  We let murderers out of jail, but not people like this? 

And then I think And if he had contacted YOUR daughtet? Or the kids of our friends, our neighbors?

Oh, How I Wish....


I didn't care much for the Harry Potter series, and as for actors, most of them, and their antics, leave me cold. But this is worth a nod of appreciation....

Found here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Remember This

A beautiful article about a man who has retrograde amnesia.


As if I needed a reason to love my daughter even more......

Found here

Oh, Canada?

Just had a weird thought.  What if we took a short vacation in Montreal - would that help my anxiety about speaking and understanding French, or make it worse?


Monday, January 07, 2013

That good?

This is how good Confections of a Closet Master Baker is, ten pages into it.

This lady loves baking.  She's not flashy, not one of these pursed-lips oh this is so marvelous bakers.  She's a good, solid baker, and she talks about it with love and delight.  She describes a row of croissants, just finished rising overnight, with obvious pleasure.  She knows how to make a decent vanilla cake that can stand alone or be the core of something phenomenal.  She's my kind of baker.

I  realize, in the global scheme of things, that counts for little.  After all, she really is a master baker, while I'm doing well to churn out chocolate chip cookies.  We might have flour in common, but that's about it.  And I know, in the next two hundred pages or so, she might turn into one of those Alton Brown/Cake Boss types of bakers. I know this.

But right now, I really like her a lot. Gesine Bullock-Prado is awesome.

I found her website.  Apparently, she's quite famous.  Ah, well.  I still like the book. 


I don't have this guy's guts.  Found here.

Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

| Atlanta, GA, USA | Awesome Customers, Transportation
(I am taking the local subway home after work. Most of the subway customers/passengers are dressed as typical office workers except for one man across from me, who is very shabby looking—dirty patch-work clothes, hair dirty and scraggly, beard wild and unkempt—and has a large, filthy shopping bag full of what looks like all of his worldly possessions, including blankets, dirty yellow pillows and an old desk lamp. Everybody on the train is deliberately trying to look away from him, save one well-dressed man. As the train moves through the stations, the well-dressed man switches seats to be closer to the old man and strikes up a conversation.)
Well-Dressed Young Man: *amiably and loudly* “What a fine day it is today! How are you today, sir?”
Ragged-Looking Old Man: *just as amiably and loudly* “I’m doing great, just great. Hope you are, too! Got a lot to do, not enough hours in the day to get it done!”
Young Man: “That’s what I thought. You look like a respectable, busy kind of guy! Like the kind of guy who has some good business going on!”
Old Man: “Why, yeah I am! I’m a bid’ness man! Got some projects I’m takin’ care of! I’m sorry I ain’t at my best. I left my bud’ness suit at home, you see! But I’m still out here takin’ care of m’projects!”
Young Man: “Yes, like I said, I’ve got a keen eye for the entrepreneurial types, and you seem the kind of guy who has a lot of good business going on! And I think you’d make a wise investment!”
(By now, I’m openly watching these two talk like they’re a couple of old business partners. The rest of the train, though still trying not to be obvious, is stealing glances, and everybody’s stopped what they were doing so they can hear.)
Young Man: *still amiably* “I think I’d like to help fund one of your projects! Would $60 be enough to start?”
Old Man: *also still amiably* “Why, yeah sir, it would! I thin’ I can put the money to proper use in m’projects! Thank yah for your help!”
(The young man pulls out and hands $60 in cash to the old man.)
Young Man: “Pleasure doing business! By the way, it looks like you’ve misplaced your jacket.”
(It is winter, and the old man only has a shirt on.)
Old Man: “Yeah, like I said, it’s at home with my business suit.” *laughs* “Like I say, you caught me when I was just going out to look around and do some shopping.” *holds up bag*
Young Man: *chuckles* “Yeah, I’m going to do some shopping when I get home, myself. Well, I wouldn’t want the man who’s project I’m funding to get sick before he has a chance to make use of my investment! That’s bad business! Here, you can borrow my jacket until you can get home to get yours.”
(The young man takes off his suit jacket—easily worth $200—and hands it to the old man.)
Old Man: “Thank ya’ again, sir! And again, I’ll put that money to good use, don’t you worry!”
Young Man: “I’m sure you will, and I’m looking forward to the results! A pleasure doing business, and have a good day.”
(The old man gets off at the next stop. The young man’s stop and mine were the same, and as he rushed off to get out of the cold and home, I ran to catch up. As we walked, I told him that I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that before, and that he’s shown me the true path of generosity. I’ve not seen either of them since, but after that day, I’ve made sure that no matter how bad times get for me, I always reserve at least $50 and a few volunteer hours for charity a month, and a little bit of extra cash on hand for those I come across who need it most!)

Sunday, January 06, 2013


I like this gutsy woman.

Found here.


Our nice Christian neighbor was over for our party, along with her son and some guy.  This is the one who's married to the guy who's in prison for having sex with a 15 year old.  This guy seems to be a really good friend.  Nothing blatant - but more like newlyweds.  Holding hands.  Sitting really close.  The occasional kiss....

That marriage may not be around, too much longer.  Gives me an odd feeling.


Found here.


Baking some cookies for our small holiday party today.

First batch came out oddly small and crumbly.  Oh, yeah....I forgot to put the sugar in.  Threw it away, mixed up a new batch.  While I was at it, I made it a double batch.  And shattered an egg in the mixer.  Spent ten minutes picking egg shell out of the batter.  Every time I think I've got it all, I find another.  Finally have enough sorted that I can put batter in for nine cookies. While they're baking, I start picking through the rest of the batter.

And find a bug in it.

We're thawing a frozen cheesecake now.  God's telling me no cookies today. At least not right now.

Post Secret

No, it's not me.  But it startled, scared, and saddened me.

Found here.

Saturday, January 05, 2013


I never went to this college, but I wish that I had.


Found here.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Strange Habits

Okay, perhaps not that strange, but --

I was just cleaning out a drawer -- something that we both thought we should do that after spending buckets of time cleaning out my mother's stuff, and still not coming to the end of it.  In this case, it was because I was looking for another watch -- the battery in mine had died.  I found it, and, of course, its battery was dead, too.  So I thought  well, I'll replace that one, too - and then thought why do that?  The only time I'll wear it is when this one's battery dies. There ought to be a way to switch the watch off, or even -- here's a radical thought - a watch that doesn't need a battery.  Something mechanical, say....

But the strange habit is this.  I found a small box buried in a night table drawer.  It contained two small polished stones.  No monetary value, but they're pretty, and fun to hold.  So, what's my impulse?  To hide them away in a box. To keep them safe,  doncha know....  That's stupid, I thought. Where's the value in that?   Keep them out where I can see them, play with them, touch them.  Yeah, but if I put them out, they could get lost, or damaged....  And I wanted so bad to put them back in the box.   To keep them safe.   I didn't, but I wanted to.  Why do we do that?

I also found a Walking Liberty coin that had belonged to my grandfather.  I showed it to my daughter, who remarked Holy schiznits, that's big!

The Game

Flicker from Peter Atencio on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Tour of the ISS


Found here.



Getting a call at 5:45 from the automated system, asking if my wife wants to work as a school district temp today, can seriously derange your morning.  Spending part of that morning,  after you've gone back to sleep, once your wife is gone,  listening again and again to a 2 minute news clip in French - and understanding almost none of it -- can make you think eh, maybe going back to bed wasn't such a bad idea.

Yeah, But What If

I'm not a teacher.  I'm not an educator of any kind.  And I'm certainly not a physicist.  So I have no idea whether the approach described here, which reminds me greatly of the one taken by the philosopher in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, could ever work. Frankly, I doubt it.  It just seems to reek of then a miracle occurred.

But what if it did?

Broken Glass

Last summer, my daughter traveled throughout much of the United States with a drum corps named Glassmen.  She loved it.  That phrase is overused – she LOVED the movie, he LOVED the pretzels – but she did.  It was hard work, and tiring, bordering on exhausting, but she came home delighted – not to mention, a few pounds lighter, and noticably more tan.  She was eagerly looking forward to going again next summer, keeping in touch through Skype with people she'd met through it.   She was even considering have a discreet Glassman symbol tattooed somewhere on her foot or calf.

About a month ago, we began to get hints that the organization was in financial trouble.  A drum corps isn’t simply a lets get a bunch of kids and an old bus and just GO; it’s a major logistical challenge, on the order of a traveling Broadway show – but entirely done with volunteers.  This morning, we received an email.  Glassmen is shutting down for this year. She suspected that this might happen.  Just the other day, she was talking about how another, more popular drum corps had just gotten an anonymous major gift " which is what happens when you are usually one of the winning corps; we usually aren't " – but still:  she’s going to be bitterly disappointed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Old News

...but it made me smile.... and not just for the obvious reason.