Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Talking with the French

I have occasionally (okay, frequently) mentioned that I like to talk to French people.  If I give the impression that this is always a pleasure - well, no.  I have had prospective French conversation partners who were too dogmatic for me, or found it too hard to talk with on a recurring basis (one woman had the ability to always ping me when I was in a conversation with someone else, and I'm not sure she believed me when I said um, next time?)

I just had the latest of those.  I have a connection on Facebook with a young woman who is a friend of the girl who stayed with us, several years ago.  That young woman was trying to figure out a way to get her mother to New York, and 'our' girl said Well, we were just in New York with some friends of our family.... So the young woman contacted me to see what was possible.  Once she realized that I don't live in New York -- and in fact live several hours away -- she stopped talking with me, but because we are still connected on Facebook, I see status notes that she posts.

Today she posted a picture of some people looking glumly at a car that seemed to be stuck in snow, with the caption "Derniere connerie de l'annee'.  Now, I don't really know what connerie means, but as it happens it's part of a French phrase that appears in a novel that I like (one of the Aubrey/Maturin series), where the British naval captain semi-quotes a French friend as saying Quelle connerie.  At the time, I thought what? , and looked it up; today, I vaguely remembered the word as meaning stupidity,  or bullshit, something like that.  Gee, I thought, I wonder where the snow was, that triggered this response.  So I asked -- Oú est la neige?  Where is the snow - ie, Paris, Bordeaux, where?

Her response?  Sur le sol. On the ground.

So talking to French people is not always an unmitigated joy....

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


This picture of a B-52 Stratofortress, which I found here, made me smile.

....even if the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home,  which was used in Doctor Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, does keep running through my brain.

The only other plane that triggers that reaction is this one.   Surely you recognize it.   Just looking at the photo brings the deep thrum thrum thrum of those powerful C130 Hercules engines, and the faintly musty aroma inside the cargo bay,  back to me in an instant. Loved that plane. Even when my memory is tinged with the feeling of those uncomfortable web seats, or the heat - stepping down from the plane after a flight, expecting to be at least a little cooler outside, was usually a losing proposition -  even with that, it's a delight. Glad that bird and its descendants is still flying....

Sunday, December 28, 2014


She's been to his house, stayed overnight.  She likes his family, likes his sister.  They appear to like her.

This week, she's visiting a friend, but on the way home she's stopping at his house to stay overnight.  And when she comes home, she's bringing him, to stay here for a couple of days.


Saturday, December 27, 2014


I read the other day (in Quora) that successful people view the world as malleable, something that they can change.  I think that's true, but simplistic.  I suspect they find pieces that they can change, and do. I'm rarely successful at that, which I think is turning me into a bit of a curmedgeon.

Tomorrow my daughter goes away for four days to visit friends.  Some day she will come here for visits, and spend most of her days living elsewhere.  This happens to everyone, which doesn't make it any easier for me to accept.  Let alone the worry about her driving to DC on a holiday weekend, or holiday weekday. Got to happen sometime, I know.

A French person said to me you say market, for store - do you mean an actual market, or a supermarket? When I replied The latter, he said Too bad.  Small town markets are fun. I told him that in my time in small French towns, I'd never seen a market, and was disappointed.  He was astounded.  They're everywhere! Um, no.  Another said to me that I had to learn to recognize good ingredients, and was amazed when I said that I had no idea how to do that.

My local supermarket has ten billion different items.  But somehow the only  things I notice are when they stop carrying the things that I like. I rarely notice the additions, because they promote all of it, not just the stuff that actually is good, like Talenti gelato.And even then, they try to substitute a brand where they personally earn more from each sale.

That Statue

I wonder.

If the terrorists had flown a plane into the Statue of Liberty, would people have tried to 'improve' it upon reconstruction?  You know -- well, that quote on the book is nice, of course, but we're thinking something more current, more relevant... and the original face is so bland, so blank, why don't we give it some life, add some wrinkles, hint at some curves under that gown.... and anyway, do we really WANT that gown any more? 

And shouldn't it be bigger, taller, and wider?  With space for advertising on the base, and a McDonalds at the top?

And of course there would be people who would want it surrounded by defensive artillery (proudly paid for by the NRA) or perhaps a massive Star Wars laser defense battery...or two. And maybe a literal dome. Yeah, its hard to see, in there, but it sure is secure -- and isn't security what we WANT?

Just wondering

Thursday, December 25, 2014


I've always liked big houses.  Even as we occasionally think about expanding this house (I'd like to add a room over the garage and install an elevator into what is currently our bedroom), and I realize that the house, as it exists, is really a little too big for us already -- we have two spare bedrooms, and they're normally both empty - when I see a bigger house, I think wow this is nice .

I can recall four times when this happened.

One, where we visited the parents of one of my daughter's college friends; the kitchen was huge, the 'TV room' was huge, the 'game room' was large; the dining room was huge plus, and the hallways could have been rooms by themselves.

One, where we visited a friend from work; the house itself wasn't amazingly big, but they'd integrated an in-law suite into the design; a lockable door on the second floor led to a private retreat for the parents, but the living room and kitchen were big enough to handle everyone. (I told my wife when we left home, I liked my house.  When I returned, I thought  Yeah, its okay, but its a little small.)

One, where I attended a party at the home of a guy who has two or three auto dealerships in the area; when the lights were not all on, it was difficult to see the far end of his living room. This was also the first house I'd seen with a projection television, as well as a Pac-Man arcade console.

And one where my wife's uncle lives; none of the rooms in the house are amazingly large, but the number of rooms is amazing, and they're on multiple floors.

And then there's the home of my sister in law, which we just visited; its got multiple rooms with twelve foot ceilings; nice architectural details throughout; carpet, tile, the whole bit.  The house sits at the top of a small mountain; when you step outside, you're almost literally playing King of the Mountain.  I've seen stand-alone houses that were smaller than their stand-alone three-car garage.

I wouldn't want to have to pay for one, but I do like large houses.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Actually, the title of this post was supposed to be Traveling.  I wrote Traving, then I corrected it, then I thought well, what the hell, why not? and changed it back.  I don't know, it feels right.

I'm here in the kitchen (I say here like you know what that means, when the truth is that as far as I know, no one who reads this blog has ever been to my home - at least, no one to whom I am not married), thinking, musing about Christmas.  I think its on my mind because I've been in touch with a friend who's more than a little concerned about her father.  I think, from her descriptions, that the father might be mentally ill, and whether he is or not, he's certainly depressed, because his wife left him, leaving for some other guy, and apparently he's disconsolate.  I don't know how long they were married, but given that the girl is about 22, I'm guessing for around that long.  She's really concerned that if she leaves him alone, he'll kill himself, so she and her brother trade off, trying to be sure that one of them is always in the house.

She told me today that she's really afraid for him.  There's always this low-level fear, of course, but at this time of year, she feels especially stressed, because its supposed to be this wonderful, magical time of the year, and in her case, its not even close.  And I know that this is not at all uncommon, especially for people who live alone, or who have drab survival-level lives. 

So I find myself wondering whats so great about Christmas?  And although I know the classic reason -- which, if you're anything but Christian, you might not share -- I wonder how people survive it who are not just not-Christian but not-happy, not-content.  How do they get through it?  How do they survive?


Guy from our bank stopped by to drop off a Christmas gift.  Last year, it was a selection of coffees which were pretty good, so I was looking forward to it again this year.  This year it was... a huge can of salted peanuts.  But, he said, since I know your sense of humor, you'll probably say say We give them all that money and all we get is  PEANUTS?so I stopped on the way here and picked up this. A bag of coffee.  Coincidentally, Dunkin' Donuts brand, which we'd just run out of.  We like flavored coffees, but we're surprised how much we like the double D....


I wonder - in how many other households would the phrase "Countdown to annihilation" be the punchline of a joke?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Why, when I buy new books, and have several waiting to be read, do I keep going back to Tour of the Merrimac and to Terry Pratchett's Snuff?

Bogus, and yet...

I don't care that it's bogus.  I love it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I'm 65, and I think I'm an interesting guy.  Not the most interesting, by any means, but not bad.  The French people whom I talk with all seem to enjoy our conversations.

So why is it that when I am looking at potential conversation partners, or get requests from someone, I almost always ignore the ones from people over about 40?  Why do I immediately assume that, based on their age,  they're going to be dull people?

Monday, December 08, 2014


After listening multiple times to a short French-language recording, I now think that when the French speak, they lunge in at the start of a sentence, talking as fast as they can, blending all of the words into one long mellifluous mumble,  and only stop when they either run out of breath or hit a period. If the first, they swallow and dive in again; if the second, they race up and then slam on the brakes, coming to a abrupt gasping halt, apparently astonished that someone seems to have planted a linguistic STOP sign right in their path.

And yet it sounds lovely.

Not Funny, Just True

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Cat Trax

Cat saw me move a cat toy, came racing into the kitchen and bolted through the doorway....right into a box.  Bounced off with this what the hell was THAT look....

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


When I was in the military, I had a friend who liked to smoke as he approached a no-smoking area.  He would take one last puff, stub it out and toss it, then put an unlit cigarette in his mouth and walk past the guard, letting that last puff of smoke come out as he did.  When the guard would chastise him for smoking, he'd say What?  This thing isn't even lit!

I still think that's funny. 

Monday, December 01, 2014


This article, about the syntax and content of online reviews, fascinated me.  But I think I'm glad that my blog doesn't get reviews.  After all, it’s good but not fall on the floor dance a jig good.