Thursday, December 31, 2015

Well....SHI...P !

This Christmas, I shipped gifts (pastries, mostly) from a French pastry company (Pierre Hermé) to eight French friends and one Italian friend.  The Italian one was extremely expensive; I didn't notice at the time, and when I did, it was too late to cancel. (I have a hunch it had something to do with crossing the border; if I ship something to Canada, the price goes way up, too.)   The French ones cost about 32 Euros each.  I was tickled by the idea -- look how cosmopolitan I am, with all these French friends  -- and didn't do the math.  One shipment was about $35.  Eight shipments was....hum.

So I thought well, hell, I like to bake, home made is best (maybe....), why not bake stuff and mail it? Cut the shipment costs way down.  So I spent a little time looking at the Fed Ex, UPS, and USPS sites.

As a general statement, it appears that the minimum cost to ship a one pound box to France is about $6.00.... but thats just a guess.  The Post Office makes it hard to ask the question; their web site talks a lot about rules, guidelines, standards, and so forth; very little about what will one pound from here to there, cheapest rate, cost me?  The Fed Ex and UPS guys are clearer.... and cost about $40 a box.

Maybe next year I will just send a card...

EOY Comment

To all those who read this site, even if just occasionally:

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!  

May you have the happiest of all possible New Years, tomorrow and forever. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015


Having a piping bag blow off its coupler, thus spreading under-pressure dough everywhere, is dramatic but not actually as much fun as one might expect.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


One of the delights of having your child home for Christmas break is finding that our kitchen, and the foods we cook for dinner, are no match for the array of foods available at the college cafeteria. It's not reallly a fair fight -- her school has been recognized as having superior meals for the students - but, still, the comparison gripes me, a bit.

In keeping with the season, though, I restrain myself from pointing out that in six months, she will probably be living on her own, and able to cook whatever she wants.  Assuming she has the time.  Or eat out whenever she wants.  Assuming she has the money.

Ho, Ho, Ho !

Reaction - ary

I don't usually read the Physics website, because most of physics is beyond me, but this article was intriguing, and not just because I thought it was intuitively obvious.

Liberals' attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants became more like those of conservatives following the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, new research shows. Data from two nationally representative surveys of British citizens revealed that feelings of national loyalty increased and endorsement of equality decreased among political liberals following the terrorist attack.


Yup.  I believe that.
Liberals' attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants became more like those of conservatives following the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, new research shows. Data from two nationally representative surveys of British citizens revealed that feelings of national loyalty increased and endorsement of equality decreased among political liberals following the terrorist attack.

Read more at:
Liberals' attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants became more like those of conservatives following the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, new research shows. Data from two nationally representative surveys of British citizens revealed that feelings of national loyalty increased and endorsement of equality decreased among political liberals following the terrorist attack.

Read more at:

Thursday, December 17, 2015


A man was arrested about five miles from here for supporting ISIS.  He commented about how easy it was to buy weapons in Pennsylvania.

The far right sees his arrest as reason to buy more weapons.

I see it as a reason to restrict weapons sales.

We will never agree, will we?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I was told by a friend, about two weeks ago,  that she had discovered she had genital herpes.  I had assumed that this was the result of having sex, but apparently no, you can actually get it by the luck of the draw.  Which makes me want to requisition a case of those blue poly gloves that lab techs use. Or maybe just a full-body environment suit.

Anyway, she told me today of an irritating event that had occurred on a date, relative to her condition. During the conversation,  I discovered something.  I really don't know how to say I'm sorry that you were on a date with a guy which went south because he was poking around in your stuff when he shouldn't have,  found out that you have herpes, and he freaked out. Sometimes, words fail me. I want to be supportive, but I don't know how, in this case,  without sounding - I don't know, creepy.

So I just said the core message -- that I was sorry that this had happened to her.  Because I am.  But I wish that I could have done more.  She's a good person, and she deserved better.


I guess I do have a thing about France.  I just did a search on Google Images for Écoles Primaire Municipales, and was charmed by the pictures of all the little French kids.  I know, pictures of little kids are almost always charming, but these seemed somehow special.  Go figure.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Get the chopper!

Observation: the words "crystalized ginger" and "finely chopped" should not appear near each other in a recipe. That way lies madness. And gunked-up knives, choppers, and food processors.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

French Milk

Reading French Milk, a graphic novel by a woman detailing a month that she spent in Paris.  The title comes from her fondness for the French milk, which always tastes fresher to her.  A lot of the book is about her visits to museums, particularly graphic arts museums, but much is we found this cute little store that sold all these great pens, and we found this place that is stocked to the ceiling with all of this kitchen stuff, we bought an oyster-opener,  and we walked through the gardens, they were really nice even though it was freezing out.  And I think Why is it that when I go to Paris, I never find these cute little stores?  Part of it is because I'm not a shopping fiend, but still.... I once told a French friend that I never even saw a boulangerie in Paris, and he was amazed. Are you sure that you were in Paris? he asked.  Sometimes, I wonder.....

Watch Out!

They want you to grow up!


This is an example of why I really don't get people's fascination with Bill Murray.  Nice vest, though.

Friday, December 04, 2015


How does one determine what's a decent response when someone thinks that their situation (their class, their gender, their country) is in dire straits, and begs/insists on/demands resolution/recompense, and you think that the situation is unfortunate, but not more? 

The response will be moderated by multiple factors - am I of that class, that gender, that country- and more, but it should start with compassion, a sense of fairness.  Probably won't, though. We can't relate. My stubbed toe is more important to me than your country's famine.  We exhaust the pool of compassion pretty quickly.


I think that my capacity to learn languages -- to improve my ability to understand spoken French, to speak, let alone understand, Italian -- and to use them is dropping.  I am not sure why, but it's a depressing thought.

It's just harder than it was, five years ago.  Words don't stick.  (Okay, some: I'll probably always remember C'est quoi, cette merde? But most, not).  Its not as much fun to learn new phrases.  Even the one that a correspondant told me the other day, saying I knew you would like this  -- which was, I think, Je te renverrai l'ascenseur, which means literally I'll send the elevator back for you, and effectively I'll pay you back for this appreciated action  -- doesn't quite stick.  I like the idea, but the actual phrase, I'm not sure I will remember in one month, two months.  Let alone be able to work into a conversation.

I hope I'm not getting stupider.

Thursday, December 03, 2015


Ah, Discord's Apple.  You were going so well, right up to the last few pages.  Great plot.  Intriguing characters. Inventive devices. Hey, when I finish this one, I should find more by this author.

And then, right at the end,  something amazing happened.  That plot that you spent the last hundred pages on, the one that kept me turning the pages?  Gone. Those characters?  Mostly gone.  Their world? Vanished.  Something magical happened.

I know it's tough to be an author, but has the concept of a satisfying conclusion evaded you?


After the San Bernadino shooting, when the people who did it were revealed to have stocks of guns, pipe bombs, and remote control bombs, for the first time I thought What kind of people just happen to have heavy weaponry, terrorist-type, available?  Maybe people like Trump are right.  Maybe we should round these people up and deport them. 

I don't want to believe that.  But I don't want to die, either.  

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

See Plus?

I got this from a French conversation partner who is working on his accreditation in the C++ language.  His question:  what's wrong with this?


int voyelle (char *ChLue, char *Voyelle, int *nbV);
int voyelle (char *ChLue, char *Voyelle, int *nbV)
        int i=0;
        return i;

int main(void)
    char ChLue[256],Voyelle[6]="AEIOUY";
    int nbV=0,nbcaractere=0;
    printf("saisir une chaine de caractere");
    nbcaractere=voyelle (ChLue,Voyelle,&nbV);
    return 0;


Sunday, November 29, 2015


How I know that this actually is my daughter:  When she said that she was looking for something to read, and we pointed out the box of books by her desk, she said No, that's the box of books I already read but I don't want to throw away.  And then she pivots and looks under the desk. Oh, here's the ones I haven't read yet!

Calling Captain Obvious....

Colorado Springs Shooting Suspect's Ramblings Suggest Animosity Toward Planned Parenthood, Sources Say

Friday, November 27, 2015

Can you keep a secret?

There are always people who can defend what seems to me to be indefensible; reject what seems to me to be obviously desirable. 

I read recently of a technique to convince people whose political philosophy is opposed to yours to nonetheless support positions which you support – even if those positions are inimical to their own.  Basically, you frame the question in such a way that it echoes things that they already believe in.  For example, to convince a gun freak that registration of gun owners is a good thing, you might say that this is a method of eliminating the argument of anti-gun forces that nobody knows who owns guns, so they should all be removed from the general population’s control.  You frame this position as a way of pre-emptively weakening the opposing side.  

The people who promote this don’t seem to care if you actually believe what you say or not.  The goal is to win the argument.

What brought this to mind was an article I read on the question of strong encryption.  Several politicians think that encryption methods should have back-doors so that law enforcement can get access to the encrypted communications of terrorists and criminals.   

This section got my attention:
“People who protect liberty have to take care not to imply, much less acknowledge, that the draconian anti-liberty measures advocated by the surveillance state crowd are justified, tactically or morally, no matter what the circumstances. Someday a terrorist will be known to have used strong encryption, and the right response will be: “Yes, they did, and we still have to protect strong encryption, because weakening it will make things worse.”

That “and the right response will be” gets me, because I don’t think that you can say that in advance.  I think there will be times when encryption should remain inviolate, and there will be times when we will want law enforcement to be able to break it.  The problem is that we don’t know in advance.  The cops don’t like the idea of having to ask for access each time.  I don’t like the idea of the cops having unfettered access to secrets, because I distrust their integrity.  

People who use phrases like and the right response will be are not primarily interested in the objective  truth.  They just want to win the argument. In this case, I think we want both -- security, but trustworthy security. We want to be able to trust the cops, but their actions lead us to think that we need protection from them, too. 

I believe that the 'authorities' know much more about the real world than I do.  But what do you do when you don't trust them?


Sometimes I think that I am a bit of a snob because I prefer,  and am willing to pay for,  hotels which delight.  Hotels which deliver a quality product.  As in --

- rooms that have sufficient acoustic insulation so that all one hears from people passing in the hall is a quiet murmur.

- restaurants with actual food, linens, and utensils.  I like a bowl of Froot Loops as much as the next person, but watching underpaid workers have to hustle to feed the masses is distressing, as is watching said masses showing up in pajamas.

- check in staff who know that the word is 'you', not 'yuhz'.

Good thing I don't have money, or I really would be a snob.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thinking about Syria

I read an article this morning about Syria, and how it became a hotbed of terrorism (which apparently describes Belgium, too.  Belgium!) It made me wonder when it is okay for a nation to interfere in the internal affairs of another nation. Who gets to decide?

And then I think Man, thats so awfully liberal of you....

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Trying to get restarted, with Italian, with French, with making menus, doing shopping.  But the memory of my daughter's travail hangs on..... and the idea of international terrorism sucks the air out of the room. I just want to huddle in bed.

Hoping that there are people who are smarter and more compassionate than me, running things.  Smarter, probably. More compassionate... compassionate at all to those who aren't like them.... kind of doubt it.

I want simple answers, and answers at all are thin on the ground. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Its over

Her appeal was granted.  She gets to stay in the Corps.

She also gets every single punishment that the cadets who actually did something wrong got.  Every single one.  Because, you know, she lied.

It appears that what nailed her was her desire to tell the whole story, which lead her to write a second explanatory statement, which lead them to say that the first was therefore a lie.  Apparently, their standard for statements is not 'truthful and complete', but just 'truthful'.  Leave out whatever you want. She told the full truth, and got nailed for it.

But she got what she wanted.  She's still in the Corps.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Oh joy. I'm now getting spam calls on my cell phone.

Still Waiting

Its not fair to say that, really.  She just turned in her appeal last night.  It will be at least a day, and possibly a week, until she hears whether the emperor gave a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  But when have they been fair in all of this?

One decent thing has happened, though.  Three different people have written to the emperor -- sorry, the commandant -- to say that she's a decent person, she's the kind of person we need, she's always gone above and beyond.  Two comments in particular struck me -- one, from a fellow cadet, one of the senior cadet-commanders, saying You always tell us that this is a training environment where we can make mistakes without affecting our lives.  And one from an actual officer,  saying I know this person, she's good, energetic, works all the time for the betterment of the corps.  I stand by her. And We can't let rigid adherence to rules make this a place where we are afraid to fail.

Neither sentiment is black and white, and the question of whether she acted exactly in the desired manner is black and white.  So perhaps these responses won't count for much in the results of things.

But finding out that her leaders, her compatriots - they think well of her -- that counts for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


And now we wait - again; this time, for the appeal to be lodged and reviewed - to see how deeply the insanity goes, in the Corps of Cadets.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


The Corps of Cadets Honor Court at my daughter's school recommended that she be expelled from the Corps.

Her sin?  When she wrote a statement of what happened during her roommates contravention of the Corps rules, she skipped over that she helped her roommates make a bed on the floor for the guys who were staying there past legal hours.  The next day, realizing that she should have included that, she amended her report to indicate that she had done that.

The Corps calls that initial omission 'lying on an official document'.  Not tolerable for someone who's going to be an officer.  Except, she's not.  She's in the civilian track. Everyone I've talked to says yeah, she'll get punished, but nothing serious.


My disgust with the Corps knows no bounds. I imagine they're deeply concerned about that.

Friday, November 06, 2015


I really want to take the Republican candidates seriously, especially since there is a chance that one of them could win it all - even Trump.  I think oh surely NOT, then I look at Silvio Berlusconi and think oh crap. Amuse the masses, make them feel as if only they get you, you're their pal, their defense against the nameless terrors,  and they'll elect you. They'll give you the keys. It's been done. 

So I really want to take them seriously.  I don't want to just despise them reflexively, I want to honestly look at them, evaluate them.

But they're such idiots and liars!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


That stands for First World Problems, of which I am about to describe one.  Normally I would be secretive about this, but one of the advantages of having very few readers of this blog -- I don't look at stats, but I would be surprised if it was more than five people, routinely - is that I can admit to being a FWP holder.

Here's the problem components, in no specific order --

Neither I nor my wife like vacations that keep us away from home for more than about 15 days. 10 is better, but longer is okay if we don't have to change a lot. Because -

Neither of us like vacations of any length that require us to change lodging frequently, defined informally as two days out of three, three days out of five, that kind of thing. We go somewhere, we pretty much want to stay there.

I want to go to France to see people that I know in Lille, Paris, Burgundy, Toulouse, Villelaure, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice.  Thats seven locations. The first three are in the north and middle of France; the other four are in the south.

I want to go to Italy to see a person I know who lives in the north; also, to a town in the center which is the ancestral home of some of my wife's relatives; and to Rome.  Thats three locations. One in northern Italy (not too far from southern France), and two in central Italy.

So as a rough counting, its ten locations, which means that  if we changed locations every other day, that a total of 20 days.  But of course we would want to be in Paris and in Rome for more than one day each, and the same is true for a couple of other places.  Say, 4 or 5 days in Paris, and 3 or 4 days in Rome, and 2 or 3 in other places.  Thats about 28 days, which if you're keeping track is about twice as long as we like to be away from home. Plus, for half the trip, maybe a little more, its a series of show up/stay a day/leave.  Something like five places in a row.  Unpack/do the tourist thing/pack. Which in turn argues for a shorter trip.

We''re contemplating breaking it into two trips.  Keeps the length manageable.  Does nothing for the staccato stuff in the south of France, and adds a second round trip flight from the US.  Ugh.

We're contemplating renting an apartment in central France and staying in it for three weeks, with field trips, which kind of works -- but still, this is travel from the north of France to central Italy.  Short of having a Lear Jet at our disposal, there's a lot of travel time involved. We would spend as much time away from it as in it.  Plus, we'd still have to pay for hotels. AND the apartment.  Ugh.

I know, its a nice problem to have.  But it is a problem. A First World Problem.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


A handcart, which I will need so that I can move.  Because, arrived yesterday -

- six packages of Wolfermans Muffins
- two bottles of Wolfermans Ice Cream Sauce

and today:

- one box of Williams-Sonoma frozen almond croissants.

Plus, there's a recipe for New York Style pizza dough I've been wanting to try -- even bought some Double-Oh flour for it.  So there's that.

Oh, and a larger belt, I'll need that, too......

Printers, Redux

When young, we laugh at older people for their pathetically naive view of how technology works.  Grandma, you don't have to turn off the TV to use your new phone!

Then we look up How to get an offline-printer back on line, and the first suggestion is Turn it off and back on.  Which is what Grandma would do, even though clearly all you need to do is reboot the PC, apply some patches, change your sharing options, remove some other devices, update the drivers, and do the little dance.


Monday, October 26, 2015


Interesting day.  Where Interesting means okay can we start today again?

Cat has taken to puking on a routine basis. What they say is true:  the sound most likely to get you out of a comfortable bed quickly is that of a cat hurking on the carpet.

Rocket Italian is doing okay, but it does seem aimed at people who don't pick up things quickly.  Though in a couple of lessons, I might be saying slow down, slow down!  If I haven't ditched it, that is. 

Woke up in the middle of the night thinking about authority in student-led organizations.  I've never understood how things like that are supposed to work.  When I was my daughter's age, I was in a military training organization where the bulk of daily activities were run by three levels of student leadership - the 'green ropes', responsible for one flight of about 20 people; the 'yellow ropes', responsible for three or four flights, and the 'red rope', responsible for the organization overall.  It seemed to work reasonably well, but after whats going on with my daughter, where the thing she fears most -- the thing which is still not resolved, after more than a month -- is run by students,  I wonder: where does student authority come from?  Where do they get trained?  How do they get judged? All of this did not occur to me back then -- they just were -- but now, I wonder.  In training organizations where the average course was 8 months long before departure, how could any "student leader" get enough experience to be any good?

Of course, I would not be thinking about this if my daughter was not still waiting to find out if the Corps 'Honor Court" is going to kick her out of the corps (for something that I think is significant but hardly worthy of expulsion).  And seeing her academic performance dropping because she is so fixated on this.  In her last year of college, when she should be thinking about looking for jobs, filling out resumes, all of that. Though I try to reassure her, its an uphill climb.

Her college is a decent school, and the Corps of Cadets is a good organization.  My daughter adores both of them. But the Corps' sluggish performance in resolving this imbroglio hasn't found any fans in me. Waiting for them to get off the stick is tormenting my daughter, and I can do nothing about it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Getting Rocketed

Mildly bummed.  After looking at several sources for an Italian course, I finally settled on Rocket Languages Italian, as it has numerous high recommendations from people who've tried other places.  Of course, they always compare it to Rosetta Stone, which has apparently not improved its interface or its style for years, and to DuoLingo, which is good but incomplete.  I also tried people's personal efforts, being impressed with 30 Minute Italian -- only to find that while the content was good, the author had the tendency to say OMG during my last trip to the south of Italy it was just so gorgeous, you have to go. So, I took the plunge with RLI.

Well.  It's possible that I don't understand how to use their site.  But here's what I sent off to them after four hours, off and on, there --

I just started today, and I have a number of questions.  Most relate to Rocket Italian, very first lessons. Overall, this is a very rocky start!

1) The Rocket Italian first lesson seems to have a typo -- it asks for AND YOU in the informal tense (e tu), but E LEI and CIAO are also shown as acceptable.  Surely not! 
(note: E LEI does mean 'and you', but in the formal tense, while CIAO means 'hello' or 'goodbye')

2) Trying to left click or double click an icon (see it, hear it, write it, etc) does not work -- I have to right click OPEN LINK AS NEW WINDOW to get the options to work. Is that normal?

3) The Playback (to hear my own recording) button disappeared halfway through the second lesson -- (still there but grayed out and nonselectable) Is that intentional?

4) How many words do you have to do on each section?  I keep doing them until I get tired, but there is no indication of when a section is 'done'.

5) How does the score counter work?  Mine went past 900, then I scrolled backwards to see what the scroll did, realized it was showing me yesterday (I bought the package today), scrolled back, and suddenly it was about 347.  What?

6) how can you tell what your current lesson is? I would expect that there's a 'latest lesson you've done' indicator, but I don't see one. Does one exist?

I'm hoping they have reasonable and quick responses. Otherwise, I'll be seeing how well their guaranteed refund if not satisfied works.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Reading The heart and the fist : the education of a humanitarian, the making of a Navy SEAL.  Recommended by my daughter.   Intense.  Not at all what I expected. (The book, not my daughter.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Skydiving without having personally checked your chute first is nothing.  You want to demonstrate fearlessness, go ahead and delete your printer drivers as the HP software suggests, and then see whether the new drivers can even be installed, let alone actually work.

Friday, October 16, 2015


It appears that if you tell your daughter, who's driving 5 hours to get home, if you get tired, call us, and we will come and get you, she will take you up on it when a combination of a long day, construction, and heavy traffic means she is starting to get sleepy half way home.  When we arrived at her stopping point in a semi-isolated gas station, she hugged me, and she said -- three times -- on the drive home with her mother that she really appreciated our arrival.

It also appears that if her location is two hours away, that means you have to travel two hours to get there -- well, duh, of course -- as well as two more hours to get home.  Oh, yeah.

Which means that if you've left the house at 930 PM, you won't get home until about 130AM. 

Which is on the seriously late side for the one of you that still has to get up in the morning in order to get to work.


Sunday, October 11, 2015


I just found this in my repository of saved images.  I wonder what happened to her?  Stupidity shouldn't destroy your life....

Friday, October 09, 2015

Republicans, Techology, and My Daughter

You almost have to feel sorry for the Republicans.  But then you have to feel sorry for the rest of us, too.  Their lead guy said that he's quitting, and now their guaranteed shoo-in replacement says he has gotten so much pressure already from their radical don't care we we burn the building down wing, he doesn't want the job any more. He needs their votes to get the position, and felt that the position just was not worth the grief. Of course, the radicals don't care -- they are perfectly willing to shut down the goverment, just to get their way.  In fact, that would probably be desirable, to them.  The Wall Street Journal today said it's a battle between ideological purity and proving that you can govern.  They offered Newt Gingrich's Congress as proof that you can't have both - you need to be able to compromise. Otherwise, you fail. Of course, when the House (or Senate) fails, so does Congress.  The problem is that the radical conservatives absolutely despise the success that the liberals have had - eg, Obamacare, the Iran deal - and would give anything to undo it.  Well, except a plausible plan for governing.

I like the looks of the Microsoft Surface book.  Was fascinating to read a tech guru saying well of course you want an improved laptop, all that talk about Everyone will want a tablet was CLEARLY bushwah.  Um, yeah.  Clearly.  We're contemplating replacing our desktop -- which is still happily, if slowly, running Windows XP - and the idea of getting something with laptop ease of use and the ability to occasionally use it as a tablet is quite nice.  The initial comments have been uniformly positive.  Can't wait to see what people say about it after they have played with it for a while.  And you know that it will come loaded with Junkware.  I mean, tools to enhance your computing experience. 

This afternoon my daughter meets with the review board for the Corps of Cadets.  It turns out now that the Honor Court will also get involved, though it's vague exactly how -- on the one hand, a Corps staff officer will 'adjudicate all charges', which sounds like he will say Guilty or Not for each of them; on the other, if (their word) the Honor Court is involved, they will do a review and issue recommendations  So what I think will happen, and what actually will happen, are probably congruent but not identical.  We drove down to see my daughter yesterday, and had breakfast with her today.  She's cheerful but tense.  Four more hours....

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


Things with my daughter are guardedly better.

First off, she requested and got an immediate transfer to a new room.  Things were getting toxic with her roommate -- not hate-and-vitriol toxic, but 'getting snarky texts' toxic.  She actually wasn't sure she wanted to move, but when the roommate sent a text asking, snarkily, why didn't you tell me that you are moving to a different room - which hadn't been yet decided (though it was mentioned), she decided I have to get out of here.  Which happened that very night.  She is now in a room with the fourth roommate -- the one who informed on them.  They are both happy.  The change in my daughter's voice was amazing.

Second, I asked for opinions from the mother of one of the other cadets -- but not just any mother of any cadet;  this one had been the administrator of the Facebook page for parents of kids in the cadet group, and her son had been the highest-ranking cadet in the corps before he graduated.  I figured if anyone would understand, yet hold up the corps of cadets viewpoint, she would.  She told me that yes, it was serious, but she doubted any lasting damage would be done to my daughter -- which means, nothing that will keep her from graduating with the corps. (She told me that she knew of one cadet, last year, who decided to bring alcohol into the dorm, and was informed two days before graduation that he would not be graduating with the corps of cadets - with his class, yes, but with the corps, no - which meant he would not be getting a commission, which meant he would not be going into the military.  Enjoy your life, kid.  My daughter did not bring in or use alcohol, but the others involved in this fandango did.)

Third, another cadet was talking to a member of the corps staff who happens to know my daughter fairly well.  The staff member made an offhand remark that there would be repercussions for my daughter, but he doubted that they would be serious.  The cadet happens to be friends with my daughter's boyfriend, so the word was passed pretty quickly.

Of course, it ain't over till it's over.... but things aren't quite as gloomy as they were two days ago.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Or Not

Just learned we're not getting the kid.  Probably because of her grades.

And that there is another kid in the area who needs to find a new host family, quickly.

15, like the other.  Female, like the other.

And from Thailand.



I still like him, really. And I know he's not out for a popularity contest.

But did he have to meet with that wacko Kentucky clerk?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


We're going through a period of difficulties.  Not world-ending ones, but still.

First, there is now a question about whether the French girl can actually come to our local school.  Apparently, her last French report card had three Cs on it, and the local school doesn't (usually) accept kids with Cs or below.  The organization which is trying to move her is trying to find out what her current grades (all of three weeks worth) are at the American school she's attending.  How they will find out without telling the kid that she might be moving is, fortunately, not my problem.  I have to admit, I don't really care.  I would like to have the kid here, because I think I'd like the experience, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.

Second, however, is more serious.

My daughter is a member of the Cadet Corps at a major college.  The Corps is mostly composed of kids who are going into the military after college, but there is a component of kids who are not, and she's in that.  Regardless, she has to adhere to the same rules as everyone else, and she's okay with that.

Last week, she and her boyfriend were in her room, along with her roommates, when some other members of the Corps showed up.  This was pretty crowded for a room that's normally crowded with just four people in it.  The roommates and the new people were talking about going 'downtown' (a small town next to the college), but when it became apparent that they were not going, my daughter's boyfriend suggested that they go back to his room and watch movies, which they did.

While they were gone, the people in the room started drinking.  Strictly forbidden.  Don't know if it was one person, several, roommates, not. Doesn't matter. In the Corps dorm, regardless of your age, drinking's forbidden.

When she returned, it was obvious that the visitors were impaired.  Rather than trying to get these guys back to their own rooms (one in that same building, two in a building a quarter mile away), she elected to give them blankets and pillows and let them sleep on the floor.  Which they did.

She didn't turn them in for drinking.  She should have.
She slept in the same room as males.  She should not have.

Nothing actually happened, but this was against the rules.  They got caught -- as it turns out, turned in by one of her roommates.

The two roommates who were drinking are in serious trouble.  Possibly as much as kick them out of the Corps trouble.  That would scotch their plans to go into the military. Horrible. I know one of them, and she's a good kid.

My daughter was told that she could be charged with failing to report them, and for 'visitation violation'.  She wouldn't (probably) get kicked out, but she could well get busted in cadet rank, have to stop doing Corps activities she enjoys, etc.

She's been talking to people who've been disciplined. (This fascinates me in a horrible way.  She can't ask the 'adult leadership' for advice, because its that adult leadership who will be ruling on the punishment for drinking, and might be advising on the punishment for my daughter.  So she has to rely on people she knows, getting their opinions.  Might be more honest, but more informed?  Maybe, maybe not.  Nice going, Corps leadership.)  They gave her advice about her rights (something else the Corps didn't spend a lot of time on), and what she could and could not, should and should not, do.  The one thing she was told repeatedly was Don't Lie. (Another ringing endorsement for an organization where not lying is supposed to be how they live their life.)  To which I added But don't volunteer answers, either.  Be honest, but be succinct. Don't suggest questions to them. These inquisitors are your friends and mentors, but today, they're none of that. Don't lie, but answer only what's asked.

I reminded her of that great political quote - It isn't the crime that gets you, it's the cover-up. If asked, don't lie.  If not asked, don't volunteer.

I have never been a big fan of the Corps, which strikes me as a silly organization (I told my daughter repeatedly, when she first started, and was having problems, that the Corps was totally NOT the real military; it was rather people playing at being military).  Today I reminded her of a slogan I'd heard years ago - Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music.  I want her to survive the music, and I want her to be prepared for organizational stupidity and rigidity.

So I showed her this video clip.

One other thing.  The two drinking roommates, aware that it was the third who turned them in, want to 'make her life hell', as my daughter put it.  She told me that she's going to do whatever she can to keep that from happening.  When I told her I was pleased by that, she shrugged and said it was no big deal.  I think it is. 

Friday, September 25, 2015


Four days ago I received a mass-mailing -- an appeal from a woman who runs the organization that brought in the two French girls who stayed with us.  It was a forwarded request from a different, but similar, organization, trying to find a place for another French teen.  The catch:  the teen is already here and living in Virginia -- but not getting along with the host family.  They would like to get her out of their house.

I asked the sender why they were not getting along, and the response was After she had her introductory photographs taken,  the girl dyed her hair blond, and the family doesn't like it. Seemed like a lame reason to want the kid gone.  Then I learned and she got one of those gauge piercings in her earlobe, which didn't square with the host family. They're fairly conservative.

Hmmm.  Tell me about her.

She's a 15 year old from Provence, she's friendly and energetic, she likes school, and she wants to speak American (not English).  She's fluent in French, pretty close in English, and knows a little Spanish and a little German.  Oh, and she doesn't know that we're looking to move her.


The best thing for her would be something where she gets to stay in her current school but moves to a different host family in that area -- but none have popped up, hence the friend of a friend mailing. Our local school isn't thrilled about bringing in a foreign student three weeks into the school session, but after mulling it over, said Well, get her records sent to us, we'll let you know next week. 

My daughter likes the idea but at the same time thinks Wait, you mean when I am at home for Break, she'll BE there?  Yeah, maybe..... And my wife says Sure, we can do that....we don't have to bring her to tourist places, like we did during the summer with the others, do we? Um, I don't think so. And I myself have thought what the heck am I getting into here? A new person, for almost a year?

So I'm half hoping it works, because I've wanted to do this  - a foreign student living long-term with us - for a while.   And I'm half hoping the local school says Nope, sorry, no can do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Listening to the Pope, I wonder:  Could THIS be the adult that I've been thinking the world's leaders have needed, all these years? Someone who can be kind yet stern, mild yet forceful?

Jeez, that would be nice.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Daughter just called, in tears.  Apparently - for reasons that are not clear -- she had told her PC to upgrade to Windows 10 a while ago, and it was working.  Last night, it abruptly returned itself to Windows 7 -- and threw away all of her documents, including a paper she was working on. Which is due to day.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Every so often one comes across a book that is so well written, you have to read it slowly.  Eifelheim, by Michael F. Flynn, appears to be such a book.  I am not certain, since I'm only on page ten -- but his grasp of imagery and characterization thus far is an absolute delight.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I have a friend whose family is, to put it mildly, dysfunctional.  She wants to move out but she's a full-time doctoral student and part-time museum guide -- which doesn't nearly generate enough money to be even someone's roommate. Except that now her father has told her that she's 'just like her mother' - whom she despises - and that HE wants her out of the house.

I have a daughter who had a close friend at college last year, but that friend hyper-bonded with her roommate, freezing out my daughter -- and this year she is in the same room as them, getting frozen out all over again. Oh, and its four girls in a room sized for two -- the college wasn't able to get a new dorm on-line in time for this semeter -- so, no privacy, either.

I have to remind myself that I really can't fix these things.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I have almost no interest in zeppelins or in the Graf Hindenburg, but I found this description of the Hindenburg's interior to be fascinating.  Before this, all I knew of the interior of a zepplin was this scene from that Indiana Jones movie!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I really hope that Ted Cruz does not come out in favor of ice cream.  Because right now I can pretty safely say that anything he likes, I'd despise....and I really don't want to give up Turkey Hill Orange Swirl ice cream!

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Sounds good, doesn't it?  Charming, even quaint.   Except, perhaps, at West Point.This year, the pillows were weaponized.

Everyone had helmets, but some of them were hidden inside the pillowcases.  Some of the cadets were wearing body armor.  Blood flowed freely. Medevacs were done, and wide-ranging checks for concussions occurred afterwards.

From the New York Times:

"West Point cadets had mixed reactions to the injuries this year. Some saw them as a rite of passage in a school known for being tough; others saw a lack of judgment and restraint.

“At first the body count, people were joking about it,” a female first-year cadet said. “My friends were really excited. And right after, when we learned how many people had gotten hurt, everyone felt totally hard-core. I know it looks weird from the outside, but it really bonds us.”

But when she saw a male cadet being loaded into an ambulance outside her dorm room, she began to have second thoughts.

“If you are an officer, you are supposed to make good decisions and follow the rules. You are supposed to mediate when everyone wants to go out and kill everyone,” she said. “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”"

Hear That?

I like good burger places.  I'm fairly picky about what good burger place means -- it most emphatically does not mean places where you need to jack your mouth open like the Coneheads to get the burger in there, nor does it mean great slabs o'meat, or a thousand other things between the meat and the bun. 

One place that makes a decent -- not outstanding, but decent -- burger is Five Guys.  A lot of people say that.  In fact, what they say is that it's wonderful, magnificent, awesome....all of which suggests to me that they've been eating in McDonalds way too much.  Still, its not bad, except for one thing.

The noise.

They have a hard floor, hard tables, hard ceiling.  Noises echo and linger.  If you've got something to distract you -- say, you think that guy teetering on the high chair by the window is going to fall? -- it's not too bad.  But if can be painful.

I admit, part of this is my age.  I've never liked particularly noisy venues, and now I actively dislike them.  They ruin the experience, and they make me not want to come back.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who's thinking about this, and unlike me, other people can actually do something about it, as this New York Times article lists. Most of the solutions are traditional, including softer surfaces and angled ceiling tiles.  Some are obvious but usually overlooked, like teaching the busboys to lock down the utensils so they don't drop onto a hard surface.  Some are high tech, like 'sonic foam' and the ability to 'dial in' the sound level that's acceptable. 

Music to my ears.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


I was thinking about that woman who refuses to issue marriage licences because her view of religion says that she cannot do it.  Apparently, she is an elected official, and cannot be removed from office unless she is impeached or resigns.  Of course, we know how easy it is to impeach someone!  It made me wonder -- how many other people of similar views are hidden in our infrastructure?  It would be absurd to say that we have to ferret such people out -- though the witchhunt would be fun to watch -- but I wonder if we will see laws that say if you are working for the governmenet, and  refuse to do your job, you'll be fired?  Of course, I doubt such a law would be passed, for the simple reason that legislators, tied up in partisan gridlock, refuse to do their job all the time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


I am considering being a mentor again -- probably won't, but I might. So I am looking at their many, many requirements, all of which would not have stopped or guaranteed what they want to stop or guarantee. The requirements are in two places, they apparently having never learned the thing about 'you state information once; all other places refer to it'.

I was particularly taken by this gem of organizational thinking:

If you discover a person who is not breathing, has no pulse, or is choking, call the office. Say that it is a “Code Blue,” name the medical emergency, and give your exact location. Remain with the victim.

'Code Blue' seems a little redundant to me. 

I also found this, in a section talking about getting the kids to a safe place in case of a storm:

Students and staff should avoid doors, and windows while relocating.

How are they going to get to the safe area -- teleport?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reading and Writing

I just finished a three-volume series of science fiction that I really enjoyed -- except that I didn't like the way the last book ended.  It didn't live up to what I wanted the characters to do, where I wanted them to go.

So, I wrote a paragraph to end the book as I wanted it to end, and I tucked it in, next to the last page. Never did that before, but it felt right!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


By now, a lot of people have heard about the Ashley Madison hack, and have expressed satisfaction, outrage, unbridled glee, or some combination thereof.  So here's my take.  I think that cheating on your spouse is wrong -- but it doesn't deserve getting publicly outed.  I think that its not the business of anyone but the people involved.  Even if the hackers did it with pure intentions -- which I strongly doubt -- its none of their business.


I learned the other day that the son of my cousin had died.  He was in a horrific car accident, survived on life support for about a week, and then died.

I was his godfather, a relationship that had little meaning to me.  I saw him on the day of his christening, and perhaps two or three more times over the course of twenty years.  One time, I asked someone who that Asian-looking kid was, and they said Why, that's your godson!  Oh.

Feels weird.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


I was about to send a note to Eloisa James, author of a remaindered book that I liked (Paris in Love; but, its not actually about that), when I found that a) Eloise James is the pen name of Mary Bly, who teaches at Fordham University, and who has degrees from Oxford, Harvard, and Yale, and b) Mary Bly is a very well known author, both under her pen name for her exceedingly popular historical romances, as well as under her own name for historical research.  Which led me to the conclusion that she certainly does not need my "hey, I liked your book" note.  Might not even notice it.

And for some reason, that irritates me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Say What?

I have no idea if any of this is real == I am guessing not == but I like it.

Google Translate

Using Google Translate reminds me of the old saw about democracy: it's the worst form of government except for all of the others.  GT is an awful translation tool, and its better than all of the others. It can be really useful, until it blips and suddenly you find a word in your sentence that flat-out does not work.  When I first used it to write letters in French, I didn't realize that when I would 'sign' the letter with my name, Bill, it would insert the French word for a bill such as a law -- loiTon ami, Loi. LOI????  LOL!!!!!


It is much easier to say at 10PM that I am going to spend two hours studying French than it is to actually sit down and do it the next day.  Particularly when the studying consists of listening, ten or twenty times, to the same three minute audio, trying to understand, for example, that vohtrahrzhant is in fact votre argent.  And that L'IMF is pronounced lye em eff, not luh eye em eff.  I've emptied the dishwasher.  I've printed a recipe.  And now I've written a blog entry.  But that audio is still waiting....

Monday, August 17, 2015


I was bitching to my wife this morning about how incredibly difficult I'm finding it to improve my ability to understand rapidly spoken French, and how I wish I could stop, when she replied Well, you can, you know.  It's just you, making you do it. 

Oh.  Yeah.  Dammit. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why not....

ISIS is raping and keeping women as sexual slaves.  Koran, you know.  At least, their Koran.

STARKVILLE, Miss. — She was a cheerleader, an honor student, the daughter of a police officer and a member of the high school homecoming court who wanted to be a doctor.
He was a quiet but easygoing psychology student. His father is a well-known Muslim patriarch here, whose personable air and habit of sharing food with friends and strangers made him seem like a walking advertisement for Islam as a religion of tolerance and peace.
Today, the young woman, Jaelyn Young, 19, and the young man, her fiancé, Muhammad Dakhlalla, 22, are in federal custody, arrested on suspicion of trying to travel from Mississippi to Syria to join the Islamic State.

So what if we just let all these people who want to go to ISIS just - go? Just put them on a plane, let them take their chances. Get raped, get killed?  And keep the aid workers here. Let the whole damn place implode.

It's a delightful image.

But then we wouldn't be the country we say we are, would we?  

Sunday, August 09, 2015


Thinking about getting the Fluenz language learning material, but I noticed that a whole bunch of the questions on their blog aren't answered.  This does not give me a warm and cozy feeling!