Saturday, April 30, 2016


This is the first sentence of this excellent presentation.

"J’ai appris une nouvelle incroyable il y a peu de temps."

Took me 5 tries to be able to hear and understand that sentence.  Once again, the conclusion occurs to me: with French, I cannot try to hear and understand individual words. They have to exist just as suggestions as they flicker by. If they don't make sense immediately, move on. Quickly.

I am SO grateful that TED talks tend to have English transcripts and subtitles, because this  presentation is really worth hearing.

Friday, April 29, 2016


Tivo just got bought by a company called Rovi which, among other things, says that they can increase the value of your audience, and better position your advertising.

Look forward to non-skippable ads and possibly notices that Sorry, but your old Tivo won't work with this service any more.

At which point, I guess we'll look back at Netflix.  Or Hulu.  Or, you know, books.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Uncanny Valley

A depressing look at what its like to be in your 20s, surrounded by wealthy, successful people - and you're not.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


While jumping from site to site, I came across this headline on Alternet:

Gutless Democrats Fear Fights: Why Triangulating 

Neoliberal Clintonites Back Big Business Over People

when it suddenly occurred to me:  sites which use characterizations such as "Gutless Democrats" and "Neoliberal Clintonites" to describe people or groups deal in hieroglyphics - in images, not nuance.  It suggests that they've given up thinking; 'My mind is made up, and that's that'. 

There are treehouses, and then there are ....

Monday, April 25, 2016


Garmin has decent GPS maps but their download process feels like it was designed in the Soviet Union, circa 1950....


In the grand scheme of things, its not that big a deal when someone writes a book, you like it, and then they write a sequel which -- well, sucks, more or less.  Like Oh, crap, I have to write another one? Um, let's see, what did the first one have, lets do more of that, only like MORE, lots more.  And maybe no one will notice how thin the plot is.

Then again, perhaps it just happened.  Certainly, for the first, things went reasonably well for about 75% of the book, and then the lead character, who always had these semi-magical gifts, now had MORE of them, and was stronger, faster, smarter....  so maybe it was just hey, thats the trend.  And if I write a third book, the character will be able to fly, and to bend steel in her bare hands.

Whatever.  It's depressing.  Because I liked that first one.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I don't like that many people.  I don't dislike people, its just that there are not all that many people about whom I care, whom, if something goes wrong for them, I will want to help, on the high end of the scale, or at least be willing to help without misgivings, at the low end.

As it happens, most of the people about whom I feel that way are French.  One is Canadian.  And two are American.  You can probably guess who those two are.

I am surprised that the people I like tend to be people I've met through Conversation Exchange.  That's not meant to imply that all of the connections there are without fault; I've met people there with whom there's been no emotional connection, no I like these people feeling.  But for several of them, right now -- one living in Lille, three living in Paris, one living in Toulouse,  one in Aix-en-Provence, one in Nice, one in Villelaure , and one in Lyon, plus one in Montreal -- I really like them.

Which is unusual for me.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I'm male, and I'm retired, and I'm old enough to be getting Social Security payments, not to mention being alarmed when I see the occasional article about pension funds that are cutting payments because, you know, their math sucked, go figure.

In other words, I get it that I'm not young enough to get away with snarky comments about old guys.

But, hey?  When I went to the grocery store this morning, and the aisles were just filled with slow moving guys peering at shelves as if they'd never been in a store before, or stopping right at an intersection so as to have a leisurely conversation with a friend, or just moving really, really, slowly....  apparently, I'm still of an age when I can mutter God's sake, dude, get out of my way.  Softly, but intently.

I know, my time is coming.  Probably sooner than I think.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016


This evening I found out that when I have been saying that I have some difficulty in understanding French when spoken quickly, or in a noisy environmennt, or by multiple people simultaneously -- I was understating the level of difficulty.. 

Dramatically understating it.

So much so, the thought why even try has lodged itself in my head.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I posted this before, about 3 years ago, but I just came across it again, and I liked it.  What a surprise.  So....

No, Really

I love when people who write articles extolling a vacation spot include a phrase like this:

Although I enjoyed a media rate during my most recent visit to the [insert name of fabulous destination here], my opinions are my own.

Oh, really?

Friday, April 08, 2016

Thursday, April 07, 2016


People like to say they're "taking our country back". They never say from whom, or from where.  And they frequently seem angry.

People who support Bernie usually aren't angry.  And they aren't trying to take the country back.

They're trying to take the country forward.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


Thunderbird is an okay email application, but their method of saving and restoring profile data --- ie, emails, address book , settings -- stuff that you could not possibly want to save securely -- is the absolute pits.

And you can't automated, either.  Oh, I'm sure you could write a script to do it, or even buy one, but the product itself?  Heh. Suck it up. Their theory seems to be If it was hard to code the product, it should be hard to use the product. 

Not that they're alone in that opinion. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Looking for Slack

Here's the thing.  I think that most -- off the cuff, lets say 70% - of new technology is crap.  I'm talking about personal technology.  Who cares if the new iPhone is .00017 millimeters thinner?  Who cares if it can give GPS directions and offer short cuts based on an average of the last twenty-seven people who went down this particular road?

But some of it, I hear about, and I think Really?  Thats a ... a thing?

I heard the other day about an application (I'm sorry, I just hate the word app) called Slack, which apparently can be used in multiple marvelous ways, some of which are actually useful, like doing a job search.  According to the gasping-for-air-they're-so-excited article in Fast Company (which I like but don't normally read unless I'm over at the college in their library cafe, having a not - bad - and - decently- priced mocha coffee), Slack is a wonderful little communications tool that people use to know whats up in their field, and to link their own abilities and desires with the jobs that are available (and I gather available is a nebulous concept).   I must admit, I was impressed by what I read.

So I sent a note to four French early-twenties people I know, none of whom are tech wizards, asking if they use anything like that to become aware of jobs.  One said no, I wrote to the hotel and asked if I could work there, and I had an interview and they hired me.  One said I went to the offices of this company and asked what they had available and said I would do anything they needed, just to get my foot in the door.  One said I really don't know, I just kind of lucked into this job.  And the fourth didn't reply.

So what I think is:  things like Slack (and its equally clearly named brethren, all of which will be joyously proclaimed this year and derided as old, fat, and slow next year (or perhaps later this year) are useful.  But only for a subset of people.  And those people look remarkably like the character profile of the people who build such things.

Where's the Slack for the masses, to make their lives better?  People who don't want to be cutting edge, but do want solid, sustainable value in the software they buy?  The people who buy a car and keep it for seven, eight, nine years, or more?  Who buy shirts from Lands End, but keep them for years?  Where's their Slack?