Sunday, January 31, 2016


Do you vote for the candidate whom you honestly like the best and think would be the best for the country, or for the candidate whom you honestly think has the best chance of winning in the general election?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Late Night

Lying in bed with the headsets on, listening again to the brief news article in French that's this week's homework.  Thinking There's no insanity in my family, I've got it all...

Pity That It's Only Digital

Speaking, Sure. Understanding? Ummm.....

For the last two weeks, I've been working with a French teacher to improve my ability to understand spoken French, particularly rapidly spoken French.  I can understand, if the other person speaks at a moderate pace, but if they speed up, or use vocabulary with which I'm unfamiliar, my comprehension goes way down.

Several people have told me that they learned to speak English simply by listening to English-language songs, repetitively.  I've found that hard to believe, and impossible to replicate.  I think that they probably do learn the rhythm of their new language,  and possibly some words,  but they don't know what they're saying.

KIRK: Spock, could the humpback's answer to this call be simulated?
SPOCK: The sounds, but not the language. We would be responding in gibberish.

- Star Trek IV

For example, a friend, in an email, used the phrase notre quatre, and though I knew those words ('our four'), it was only because I'd heard a similar phrase on a CD, played while a French friend was with me,  that I learned that notre quatre is a way of referring to all of the people in the speaker's family - in this case, four. Or, if you happen to listen to a song that's in French, and hear the word trois,  you'd reasonably assume that it is spelled as twah, or perhaps trwah, but you wouldn't have a clue that it means three.  You have no reference!

As part of this language work, I've been listening to very short -- perhaps forty seconds to a minute -- Youtube news articles, selected by my instructor, who listens to them and writes a very detailed script of what's been said.  For example, if the speaker hesitates while saying We need to address this problem, saying in fact We need, uh, to speak ab -- to address this problem, that's what my instructor writes.  As a result, I have a fighting shot of understanding when a given sound is just a hesitation or mispronunciation, and when it's actually part of a word. 

(Which reminds me of the joke about the actress who was going to try out for a role on Broadway where she'd be required to speak with a Swedish accent.  Not being happy with her ability to emulate that accent, she hit upon the idea of routinely going to a local cafe where the cook was Swedish.  She'd linger over coffee, just listening to him speak. When the time came for the audition, she performed flawlessly.  At the end, the director said That was really great, you really nailed that accent.  But, tell me -- why'd you do it with a lisp?)

Sometimes my ability to understand French is like that. I kind of get it -- and then I don't.

But I'm working on it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cooking Follies

As a rule of thumb, having your mixer's rubber gasket fall into the chopped chocolate and get blended in is a somewhat discouraging event.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I am never going to understand rapidly spoken French.  Ja-frickin-mais.  I should just accept it.

Being Blue

If you don't know the word 'blue', what color is her hair? 

Friday, January 15, 2016


Found here.

Disappearing Fathers

Sometime after I turned forty the fathers from my childhood
began disappearing; they had heart attacks
during business dinners or while digging their shovels
into a late April snow. Some fathers began forgetting things:
their phone numbers, which neighborhoods belonged
to them, which houses. They had a shortness of breath,
the world’s air suddenly too thin, as if it came
from some other altitude. They were gone:
the fathers I had seen dissecting cars
in garages, the fathers with suits
and briefcases, the fathers who slipped down
rivers on fishing boats and the ones
who drank television and beer. Most of my friends
still had mothers but the fathers
were endangered, then extinct.
I was surprised, though I had always known
the ladies lasted longer; the fathers fooled me
with their toughness; I had been duped
by their jogging and heavy lifting, misled
by their strength when they slapped
me on the back or shook my hand. I kept imagining
I would see them again: out walking their dogs
on the roads near my childhood house,
lighting cigars on their porches, waving to me
from their canoes while I waited on shore.


It's always nice when my daughter comes home, always a bit sad when she leaves.

When she announces prior to departure that the Tivo remote control that she'd carried upstairs seems to be missing,  but she's positive that she didn't pack it with her stuff..... mixed feelings.

Why are the things you are prone to losing always black? Keys, wallet, remote control....

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Unless he makes an incredible faux pas between now and the presidential primary, I think I'm going to vote for Bernie. Its the flip side of my vote not really counting -- why not spend it on someone whom I really like? And I like his attitudes much better than Hillary's -- the more I hear of her past, the more I think that she is lying about significant items. ( Which appears to be a requirement for national political office held for more than, say, six months - you just naturally fall into lying, obfuscation, and *well, you really have to understand* oblique explanations.... I know that the world is not nearly as simple as I would like to think, and there are times when you really do have to take them on faith -- but lately, it seems to happen a LOT. I don't like that. ) 

I know that Bernie is very weak on foreign policy. Further, I know that his election would severely shock lots of businesses, who will take the economic equivilent of those people who stock up on guns, every time there is a shooting -- *well, Sanders MIGHT impose draconican taxes, so we'd better move our businesses to Bolivia NOW rather than in six months!* Still, I prefer his attitudes to those of people who are quite comfortable with private jets and secret handshakes. His first impulses seem to be along the lines of *what's best for the most people?* Businesses have legions of lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for politicians. Maybe we should have Bernie on our side, just to balance the scales.

Voting for a Republican isn't out of the question -- but it has to be an intelligent, insightful, thoughtful person. Yeah.  Good luck with that.

Monday, January 11, 2016


My life is complete -- I now know what a pithivier is.   Even if it is pronounced pee tee vee ay, it looks like it should be pronounced like something that Yosemite Sam would say!

Sunday, January 10, 2016


I was amazed by Paul Ryan's admission that he was wrong to refer to people as 'makers and takers', and that in fact while some people do prefer to live on the dole, most do not.  I still am not fond of him, but his comments raised my opinion of him.

I happened to see his comments shortly before coming across this phrase, here:
"I am not a supporter of the minimum wage. I believe it is better to start at a lower wage and get lots of raises for good performance rather than have everyone start at a higher wage. I do not support the minimum wage because it doesn't help with poverty and instead hurts people that it is supposed to help. I'd rather start at a job where my wage is a bit low but I know I can get raise through hard work and exceptional performance than one where my wage is essentially set in stone no matter how hard I work."

I think the speaker is honest; I also think he's wrong.  To hope for an increased wage based on performance is reasonable; to hope to get to a livable wage based on performance -- and not just performance but exceptional performance -- is wrong, because it means the employer is accepting that people are not being paid enough to live, and that they have to do exceptionally well to get a raise.  Most people don't do exceptionally well -- thats why we call it exceptional -- so most people won't be paid a livable wage.

But even if the 'exceptional' in that quote is just hyperbole, like the people who describe everything they like as outstanding and superb, it's still wrong, because a higher wage does help with poverty.  How can that hurt?  (If a way is found, I'd like to see some CEOs stop hurting themselves, and slash their own salaries.  I won't hold my breath.)


From a New York Times article about the election:

“The Republican Party has never done anything for the working man like me, even though we’ve voted Republican for years,” said Leo Martin, a 62-year-old machinist from Newport, N.H., who attended Mr. Trump’s Claremont rally. “This election is the first in my life where we can change what it means to be a Republican.”

Do something for the working man?  Perhaps it means that he should be a Democrat...

Thursday, January 07, 2016


Is it weird that I feel sorry for her?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Of course the GOP will challenge Obama's leadership (granted, mostly symbolic) in gun control.  They think unfettered gun ownership is more important than keeping your kids alive.

These are the same people who are violently against a government that can give aid in a disaster - until its their state that needs aid.  But they're not entirely hypocritical: they're still willing to vote against aid for other states.

GOP.  Genuinely Outrageous Politicians -- and proud of it.