New XR iPhone and iTunes

So, I’m all happy, have a new yellow XR iPhone and I set it up. Next step? Of course, sync up the iTunes so I can listen to my favorite songs while I work or drive.

The first weekend, iTunes just won’t recognize my new iPhone and I thought it was something I was doing wrong. Since, I still have my 5C phone, I just used it like an iPod for a week until I the next weekend when I would have more time to Google how to deal with it. During the week, my MacBook laptop received an auto update and I was all happy because obviously, Apple sent through a patch to fix the XR phone problem.

The next weekend arrives, I plugged in my iPhone and iTunes gives me the message that iTunes is currently updating. Wait…. updating fordays? I spent more than 1/2 of my precious Saturday googling how to get iTunes to finish updating and recognize my new iPhone. Answers ran the gamut from rebooting, uninstalling iTunes and reinstalling, to going into the depths of my MacBook through Safe Mode to rewrite and adjust some kind of hidden files. I started to do that and spent a long time writing down the instructions longhand because, you know, once you are in Safe Mode messing with hidden files, I don’ think you can access the Internet to reread those tediously long instructions. I started to go to Safe Mode, had trouble getting there, and chickened out. I decided to wait until thenextweekend, yet again.

The third weekend of no iTunes on my new XR iPhone rolls around and by this time I had Googled a million times how to fix this problem. I was seriously frustrated and irritated that Apple didn’t have a fix already installed on my laptop. And iTunes wasstill updating. I was worried about my 3500+ songs that were carefully sorted by language, country, and drama in the iTunes metadata, so I backed up my iTunes library to an external hard drive, hoping that the metadata would travel along with the songs. The last time the MacBook updated iTunes a couple of years ago, it wiped out my iTunes library (and it happened to a gazillon other people because Google new exactly what I was looking for when I searched for a solution and the forums were packed with complaints). If I hadn’t had it backed up to an external hard drive, I would have lost my songs. As it was, I did lose the iTunes playlists which sorted them into languages, dramas, and countries. After that, I used the description field to add metadata to sort and used that field to create the playlists. It took a long time to do this by hand and I dreaded having to do it again as I’m still not quite finished.

So, back to my XR iPhone. No one has the answer on the web. A YouTube person has a video suggesting the obvious solutions, but seriously, this is way beyond rebooting the laptop, as he suggested.

By the third Sunday, I was so frustrated, I decided to just download and reinstall the iTunes app, like I do with my other phone apps when they go nuts. The worst that could happen is that I lose my library which was backed up anyways. When downloading phone apps that you already have, they usually give you the option to overwrite, so I figured that would happen since I could NOT delete iTunes, which was one of the main solutions from the YouTube video person. “iTunes is essential to the operation of the MacBook operating system” is a message that kept popping up every time I tried to do that.

So, I went to the Apple website, and started the free download. No warnings came up, no options to overwrite, nothing. It’s a tiny file, and in a few minutes it was done.

I am happy to report that I opened up iTunes, my songs and playlists and metadata were all there, and it talked to my new XR iPhone just fine. I synced up my songs and Monday morning I was listening to songs as I drove to work. So, nothing fancy, no coding necessary, no money involved.

Solution: Download the iTune app again, straight from the Apple website and move on.


The Full Heart

I was browsing through one of my favorite stores, Pier 1, when I saw a small wall art that some customer had picked up and left abandoned on the wrong side of the store. It was a small 12″ x 12″ phrase on a greyish turquoise background:

It’s funny how when I was younger, I saw this as a sad saying. Back then, all I thought about was having to leave behind so many wonderful places and people. I regretted having invested so much time into people and places that disappeared from my life. I saw it as wasted efforts on fruitless pursuits that didn’t achieve a goal that I could point to.

The baby boomer generation had drilled into my head that “those who die with the most toys win,” yuppie prairie palaces that were the biggest in the neighborhood with the right address were of paramount importance, and titles with capital letters before and after your name were signals that you had reached worthwhile goals. But I was never interested in those things, and my life didn’t measure up to those goals. I didn’t have a prairie palace, just an apartment decorated the way I wanted. Although I didn’t have a title before my name, although I did manage to acquire some capital letters after it throughout the years because I’m a little nerdy in that area. I definitely could not point to a career, and I have no material toys to leave behind when I die.

Sigh… one would think that I had failed at this game called life.

Life is very much like Runescape in that respect. So many players only look at the combat status and the expensive gear that they can buy. How many times have I heard, “What’s your bank worth?” The same values that rule the material world also rule the virtual game world, because after all, there are humans that populate both and they are going to take their values with them. Virtual life really does reflect the material world.

The way I play Runescape totally reflects how I play the game of life. Curiosity leads me into uncharted landscapes and I meet people I would have missed if I had played it safe. I’m an opportunist by nature. “Hey, I’m going to the Dark Altar to level prayer, wanna come skill with me?” has the same pull as “Hey, I’m going to Morocco this weekend, you game?” Other players have shown me how to boss fight, how to level a skill more quickly, and a host of other game strategies I might never have learned on my own. People I meet on the street quickly become friends and I get introduced to new ways of thinking, or new environments that I never would have encountered on my own.

I’m a bit superstitious in this respect because I think when we meet people, it’s an opportunity to learn from them. Their suggestions or choices could be the next curve in the road for my life. I think maybe “The Celestine Prophecy” explained it best. I bounce from one interesting experience to the next in a synergistic way due to synchronicity. When I look back on the pattern and opportunities that I had in my life, it really is due to following my heart and totally investing in the experience as I lived it.

For example, college in Missouri, university in Spain, a weekend trip to Algiers and then Morocco, talking to a monk in Thailand, TESOL in Quito, several of my degrees, motorcycle riding, spring vacation trips taken on the spur of the moment to the Yucatan and Madrid, moving to various states, joining Americorps Vista after meeting someone randomly, etc etc etc. So many of my “adventures” can be traced back to meeting someone randomly, chatting with them about nothing, and then learning of a new opportunity that I’d never thought of before but that sounded more interesting than the direction I was headed at the time. Creating a flowchart of my life is like following a ping pong ball as it bounces randomly from one conversation to the next with unconnected people.

Now that I’m a bit older, having left my heart in so many places is not such a bad thing. I have a gazillion memories of cool things that I have done and wonderful people that I have met all over the world. Memories randomly surface throughout my day and bring a smile to my face. Were there bad memories? Of course! But there are also memories that broaden my inner space, and make me more empathetic to other people, cultures, and events. I can relate to so many different types of experiences due to having followed the opportunities presented by random people that crossed my path. Would I do it again? When I talk to people that are still living the same life after 20 years of wishing for something different, but who have more “toys” than I do, I can say “YES!!” which all my heart.

My heart is fuller, not smaller, simply because I DID risk leaving it in so many places. I am richer through the experiences I shared with others. I believe that the heart grows in its capacity to love and befriend other people the more that you use it. It’s a muscle and I firmly believe that it has cellular memory (read “The Heart’s Code” by Paul Pearsall). As the memories surface and I smile at all the inane, pathetic, adventuresome, and cool stuff I did over the years, I am so glad that I was opportunistic and allowed my heart to follow the curving road. The memories, both good and bad, are totally worth it.


Failure vs Success

I was watching The Taoism Grandmaster (2018) Chinese drama and the 2nd male lead character, Kun Lun, made a comment about failure that seemed so at odds with American culture. I enjoy watching Asian dramas because bits and pieces of their eastern thinking permeate the dialog and give a brief glimpse into their way of thinking which can be so different from typical Western belief systems.

At some point, Kun Lun had failed in one of his attempts to obtain a coveted piece of the armor in the drama. His comrade was commiserating on his failure, but Kun Lun’s reply was so point on. He said, “Failure is a part of the process, not the end result.” And it’s so true.

I had a clan-mate who failed to defeat Jad in Runescape 17 times. What did he do after getting mad? He looked at the mistakes he had made in his strategy. Did he need a different kind of armor? Different food to restore energy? Different weapons? Perhaps he should try with mage instead of range. Or, did Jad just spawn in the most difficult spot? He took each failure, adjusted his plan of attack, and went back into battle. Did he eventually succeed? Yes, eventually he did. No one likes to fail, but it is a part of the process and can provide valuable information that can be worked into the strategy of succeeding the next time. Evaluating failures rationally can help us improve our future chances of success.

I’m a little more cautious. I studied how to defeat the boss, Nomad, and watched many Youtube videos before I dared to confront him. I looked up the best strategies, weapons, food, and followers. Then, before I even tried to do battle, I entered his cave with no gear over 20 times just to get used to seeing him and get over the paralyzing fear of confronting one of Runescape’s most challenging bosses. I am a chicken, and take dying personally. I like to increase my chance of success and minimize the risk of failure. I realize that failures are an inherent part of life. However, forewarned is forearmed. Preparing the strategy and evaluating the odds for battle, or the recital, or the test, play just as much a part in achieving one’s goal as looking back on one’s mistakes after a failure. One can learn vicariously from other people’s failures and accelerate one’s progress towards success in achieving one’s goals.

Although I like to succeed just as much as the next person, I don’t really fear failure all that much. It just isn’t possible to be great at everything, and there are learning curves involved that must be respected because we are human and learning all the time.

When I look at history and other people’s personal stories, it is evident that although one might be born with talent, absolutely everyone MUST DEVELOP that talent over time. Geniuses still have to study and apply their skills in order to increase their talent. Musicians still must learn pieces, study theory, and develop their expertise. Inventors have hundreds of failure before they invent something worthwhile. When we read about amazing people with incredible achievements, we often forget about the tens of thousands of hours of practice that stand behind those inventions, musical masterpieces, great novels, or outstanding paintings.

So, I have come to realize that success is largely due to sheer perseverance and bullheadedness. Failure is a natural byproduct of pursuing a goal of any kind. The worst scenario would be to lose out on the possibility of success by letting the fear of failure prevent the attempt in the first place.

“Don’t fear failure.

Rather, fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.”


To all new mommies out there: relax

I know you want to do the very best for your baby, but there is no one right way and there is no right and wrong in parenting.

True, it’s wrong to let a child starve or sleep outside in the cold without shelter, but I don’t see that as your problem. Your problem is that you are so concerned about doing the right thing that you are creating an artificial cocoon around the baby that may interfere with his development. And, it’s driving you nuts with unnecessary worry.

For example, as adults, it is important that we know how to adjust to the personalities of our supervisors, team leaders, coworkers, and top managers. Will they all be on the same page, all the time? Will they all have the same personality? Will they all be ethical like robots preprogrammed to only act in a certain way? Nope. They will each be individuals with all the idiosyncrasies that implies in the normal workplace.

Now, how does that come back to a 2 month old baby? Some books insist that the baby sleep in the same place every night: their bed and on their back. Daddy thinks that the baby loves sleeping on his arm all night, mommy is sure that the baby is safer in a crib like the books advise. So what’s up? The baby has learned at the young age of 2 months that granny who smells of jasmine puts him on his tummy on her lap and he feels safe and falls asleep. His daddy lays him on his arm in an awkward slant, but his heartbeat and shaving cologne are wonderful, and he sleeps just fine there. Mommy puts him on his back, but he is right beside her and can hear her heartbeat. But, the baby is sleeping in all those positions. In other words, the little fellow has already learned to adapt to different situations… just like he will have to adapt when he eventually leaves the house and enters the wild workforce with different personalities and expectations.

There is no wrong way to be a parent, if the baby is fed, feels safe, and has adequate shelter. Different cultures sleep in different beds: the floor, hammocks, slings on mommy’s back, expensive yuppy cribs, daddy’s chest, granny’s lap, and mommy’s arms.

What is wrong is that our culture makes a living writing books that proclaim there is a better way to do it and it is stressing out the mommies. Dr. Spock drove a generation insane with his theories on child rearing. Thank goodness the children survived him.

Even if the parents are not on the same page, it is an opportunity for the child to measure the pros and cons of the situation and think outside the box and find the advantageous spot for himself. Let the little fellow experience different situations and learn to roll with the flow. Let him/her learn that life has ups and downs and unexpected occurrences that he/she will have to think about and accommodate into his repertoire of reactions. He knows that you will always be there for him and that is what is most important.


Slightly Mad, Totally Eccentric

This is my favorite conversation from an online dating site that I have been on for two years. I never saw a picture of the other person, but I enjoyed his writing style. The following is a fun, silly conversation that I had when I answered the following profile “advertisement.”

To protect the privacy of my conversation partner, I will limit his name to BB.

Advertisement as follows:

1) Self-summary of BB:

Evil, mad genius seeks slinky assistant to help plot world domination.

I am evil, dominant, cynical, and nocturnal.

2) What Im doing with my life:

Being Evil in every way imaginable.

3) Im really good at:


4) The first things people usually notice about me:

A maniacal glint in my eye, followed by hideous bone-chilling laughter.

5) Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food:

Your so-called culture bores me.

6) Six things I could never do without:

I could do without anything! Anything, you understand? As long as the world someday is mine! All mine! Do you hear me?

7) I spend a lot of time thinking about:

What I will do someday, when the world is All Mine!

8) On a typical Friday night I am:

Bending weak individuals to my will.

9) Other:

Fair warning. I am here for playing games. Why are so many people against games? Games can be fun! That doesn’t mean I’m a gamer or obsessed with them, but I do like to play games.

Height is measured from the tips of my marching band boots to the top of the sousaphone. If you can’t accept me as I am, then I suggest you find another sousaphone partner.


Dear Mr. BB:

Sunday – 12:00pm

Hey, I’m not slinky (sigh) and I don’t need a job right now, but I was wondering what a sousaphone was, so that I could spot you in the crowd in the picture you posted? If the candy is chocolate, maybe I might be interested, and I finally figured out why you came up when I searched for “gamer,” lol. Sorry, but I created a nice little kingdom of my own already (I guess I snatched a part of your globe), and it’s cool. Besides that, I have a virtual kingdom– how about you?




Sunday – 2:18pm

Hello FD,

I have an undisclosed location, and I am in the process of stockpiling all kinds of necessities for the coming storm. While I am allergic to chocolate, I keep a supply because I’ve noticed that it is an effective, er, “bait” for a certain kind of slinky assistant. Slinkiness is an attitude as much as a way of life. I think it can be learned, though I would not be the best teacher.

What do you like to do, when you are not searching for sousaphone playing gamers?

Kind regards,



Sunday – 4:35pm


When not searching for the sousaphone playing gamers, I’m lording it over my clan/harem of hardcore Runescape fellows. I have a nice little kingdom there and totally have everyone enslaved. I don’t even share the glory with my general; he’s only 2nd in command. In addition to that, I round up other people that are also addicted to the languages and dramas that I’m interested in and use technology to keep everything humming. Once in a while I hop on this dating site to read interesting profiles and see if any gamers have strayed from their mouses and are looking online for fellow geeks/nerds/outliers. I am hoping to escape the storm by finding that inter-spatial dislocation of time/space and slip through to one of the other realities when the time comes. I found out that there are probably 1000’s of world out there from one of my dramas– just need to locate them and make the leap of faith.

I had fun reading your profile and you are just outrageous enough to be interesting.

Respectfully sometimes,



Sunday – 6:53pm

Dear FD,

Nice little queendom you have there. It would be a shame if *something* were to happen to it. Bwahahahaha! Would you like to step into my laboratory sometime? Rest reassured, I’m not threatening you. However, I do seem to have rather high turnover with laboratory assistants. The few who have survived never seem to want to talk to me again for some strange reason. The last one ended up nearly frozen solid in a cave in the Himalayas, but I was able to thaw her out before any digits needed to be amputated.

I have all kinds of gadgets and gizmos that pass for technology. I’ve been working on my flying boatcar for sometime, and think that it might be airworthy, but still not quite seaworthy. It sort of resembles a 1960s vintage Batmobile, but with wings and a rudder.

Outrageous, you say? I’ve never been more outraged in my life! Well, maybe once or twice.

Arrogantly always,



Monday – 9:20pm


It’s totally outrageous if you are using a vintage Batmobile as your prototype. I would opt more for the disc shape myself, but that is because I’m partial to UFO’s and separated Star Trek emergency vessels.

If you are still diddling around with cryptogenics instead of working with quantum space warps, no wonder you have a high turnover in lab assistants and rely on Batmobiles for inspiration. You have got to move along with the times and get busy with gravitational levitation and copper electromagnetic fields to generate the kind of energy you are going to need.

I can’t believe that your lab rats would let a small thing like being chilly get in the way of science. Did they not jump at the chance to explore the relics of the Himalayas? I hear there are some really old Tibetan monks who have lived a long time and specialize in different kinds of forgotten sciences. Might be the jumping off point for a new flight invention at least. Necessity has always been the mother of invention and the Himalayas are tall; a jump would necessitate some quick inventing, lol.

Are your gadgets and gismos just passing for technology or are they technology? or, are “they” just not admitting yet that they are technology? And don’t write off the power of the mind. After all, what can be imagined will eventually be invented, and what one quantum particle reacts to, its other 1/2 mirrors. So, it’s just a matter of time before someone harnesses cellular memory and brings it all together. Could just as easily be me as them, one never knows.

Metaphysically always, surreptitiously arrogant,



Yesterday – 11:52pm

To FD,

Yes, <ahem> well. Disc shapes have their advantages, but if you have ever donned one of those aluminum discs used for sledding in snow, I would propose that we meet somewhere in the middle and come up with a transformative design that confuses and strikes fear into the hearts of those poor denizens of any community we seek to terrorize. We could come in riding a giant drinky bird in one place; holding a ventriloquist’s dummy in the other. My latest intelligence informs me that if we dress as clowns, we are likely to prevail more than half the time. I want better odds than that. Or odder bets.

No matter. <sweeps cape aside> I would say that the binomial theorem is pass and that we are likely to see a new era of infinitesimal crash test dummies clogging our streets.

I’ve been working on a new blockchain algorithm made of different luncheon meats other than the ubiquitous SPAM. In addition to the obvious bologna and salami, I am trying to do some recursion with various vegetable proteins that are cleverly disguised as non-meat meat substitutes that meet in the middle as proof of work.

You would have to drag the Tibetans into this mess, wouldn’t you? I suppose the next thing you will say is, “When the Dalai Lama and I were having tea, and discussing the origins of infinity, we had in mind a way to bring the planet together peacefully, and get evil mad scientists to help us make prayer flags.”

Or maybe you were just thinking it. Or I was thinking you were thinking it. Well, to answer the question that I think you were trying to ask, I don’t think much of prayer flags. I have my gadgets and gizmos (I notice that your dialect / speech impediment requires you to say gismos, but I still understand what you are trying to say) and you may find them crude, but they are much better than prayer flags. Or prayer flags in harnesses.

Bring all the cellular memory and mirrors you can muster. Optics are destiny.

Suspiciously gone,




Dear BB:

For striking fear into the hearts of the plebeians, I would choose to make an epic entrance riding a Phoenix. Your intelligence is correct and clowns do inspire fear in the hearts of many, so this assistant would like to dress in something more inspiring. I prefer to the win allegiance of my subjects by charming them into submission. Fear can be overcome by courage, but loyalty born of awe and respect can last a lifetime. Something between a fairy Godmother and a Chinese Empress might suffice as a costume. Whatever it is should have lots of either tulle and glitter, or satin and embroidery.

If the subjects prove unruly, we could torch your ventriloquist dummy to awe them into submission, since I dont have any particular use for a dummy and they are almost as scary as clowns.

Everyone knows that the government has saucers and transformers, or Hollywood wouldnt get away with making conspiracy movies about them. So, I opt for the resurrected Phoenix because its different from the mundane flying dragons and much more useful if you need feather accessories for a gown. I believe that is a fair compromise to your plastic drinky bird which sounds a lot like those pink flamingos and are too common to inspire anything but apathy.

As for the binomial theorem, Ill leave that for your incredible intellect to deal with. I didnt get to calculus or wherever they hid that theorem, so Ill just oo and aw like a proper lab assistant should when you work with it. We might be able to use the crash dummies as spare parts for some of your experiments seeing as how you have an abundance of gismos (verified alternative spelling and not a speech impediment btw) and gadgets lying about. But since Im not into corpses, living or otherwise that might resemble once loyal subjects, youll have to keep them in a designated workspace where my Phoenix wont see them and become perturbed.

You might want to consider using mealworms as a protein substitute, although it isnt quite thought of as a vegetable, Im sure its not considered to be a red meat, and the chickens probably do not consider them cousins, since they would happily chow them down. If you are clever enough, no one would know the difference between a mealworm substitute and that disgusting invention called SPAM. I hear they even eat that overseas and consider it to be edible. Im not sure you even need math or algorithms to crush the worms and mix them properly. Im quite sure that some Tibetans would take offense if served mealworms, because from what I hear they may be against eating anything that wiggles. However, there are different kinds of Tibetans because I saw some with animals, and they looked like they were destined for the dinner plate. Harsh climates tend to dictate ones diet and mealworms might finance your road to glory in Tibet.

I wouldnt dream of asking a scientist, mad or otherwise, to create prayer flags. After all, prayer flags demand a certain level of artistic talent and scientists are more inclined to algorithms and theorems than art. I much prefer the lantern and ghost festivals where they light up the sky with flying lanterns and sail little tea lights in the ponds and rivers. Prayer flags just dont seem to convey the same amount of effort involved in setting the sky alight with colored lanterns and floating lots of little biodegradable offerings on the water.

Of course, as a scepter, I would absolutely have to have a wand that trailed sparkles as I moved it. So, youll have to use those theorems to figure out how to achieve that awe inspiring marvel. And the sparkles should definitely match the plumage of my Phoenix. Now that I think of it, how does a mad scientist dress when not considering renting a clown outfit? I wouldnt rely too much on your information sources, they could be wrong and they may not understand the preferences of your demographic niche that you are trying to impress. You only have to impress the controlling elite and the masses will numbly follow.

Now, I know a fellow by the name of Evil Dave and he lives in the basement of his mothers home in Edgeville. He has complete control over his kingdom of hell-rats and is a force to be reckoned with until he climbs out of the basement. I often take my cats down there to train them in fierce combat and win the title of Hell Cat. I bring this up because there are levels and nuances associated with the word evil and I was wondering what your specialty was. Although basements are cozier, you sound like you have an affinity with cave systems seeing as how an assistant ended up in one said cave in the Himalayas. Do you also train hell-rats? Do you feed them the left over SPAM? Is that how they became hellish in the first place?

Were going have to negotiate the mode of transportation heavy metal just isnt my thing.



Wednesday October 3, 2017

To FD,

<cough cough>

Sorry, I had a lab explosion this weekend that prevented me from being able to do anything other than flail my arms wildly, shouting incoherent babble at dazed minions. Yes, I know that is only a short distance from typing incoherent babble in one of these machines, but the overall gestalt seems to be quite different.

One should not overestimate the amount of knowledge that Hollywood has of various conspiracies, nor should one underestimate the advanced stage of those conspiracies. Clowns, fairy godmothers, and Chinese empresses all sound like a mashup of the Wizard of Oz, the Last Emperor, and IT. Add a cameo by ET and maybe you could get Steven Spielberg to return your call. It is just a matter of time before someone does a Harry Potter / Dark Knight / Halloween / Freaky Friday mashup, where the Joker and Harry switch bodies. None dare call it conspiracy.

The image of flamingos and dragons circling high above the Himalayas sends me into a state of reverie that I cannot explain.

You ask how I dress. Since the explosion, I have spent most of my days in a soiled bathrobe and 20 year old slippers held together by duct tape. I hadn’t thought of donning a clown outfit for days until you reminded me. The controlling elite wereas you might expectless than impressed. However, I will someday show them, when the world is ALL MINE!! and they are reduced to being nothing more than my SLAVES!!!

This Evil Dave fellow. I think I met him at an Evil Conference a few years back. The hell-rats definitely ring a bell, but I thought of them more as hell-gerbils, and found nothing more hellacious about them than their odor. No, I don’t train hell-rats or feed them leftover SPAM. Note that I almost spelled it SPASM–Freudian slip. The ‘place’ was always hellish; the explanation is in the Matrix-like trope that most people choose to see things as they wish them to be, not as they actually are.

On the other hand, Hollywood has definitely imprinted Hell Cat in my deep, reptilian brain.

Caves, basements, abandoned warehouses, derelict hotels, salvaged shipwrecksthese are all milieus that I frequent. However, my favorite environment is the obscure forgotten academic building that is under dispute by feuding departments. If mysterious misfortunes happen, the Evil Mad Genius Hell-Bent On Global Domination is never the prime suspect. Instead, the Department Chairs each blame their colleagues and academic nemeses, saying that if they are able to get the facilities then such a tragedy could have been avoided. Meanwhile, I get to make mayhem across the campus, experimenting on unsuspecting undergraduates who are willing subjects for my innovative techniques of mind and body control.

So as Halloween approaches, may I suggest a Pumpkin drawn by a team of Hell-rats?



October 7th 2017

To BB,

Now I see why you need a lab assistant — someone to keep an eye on your gizmos and gadgets and prevent them from exploding while you are off looking for slinky assistants. I sympathize with your minions and unsuspecting undergraduates if they haven’t learned how to dodge your flailing arms and flying bits of experiments. I wouldn’t be able to type coherently either with all that leftover electricity released by the explosion, static or otherwise, vibrating through the torso and jerking my digits spasmodically.

My pixel kingdom has also been acting up or out, depending on how one looks at it. While I’ve been happily hammering away at poisoned darts and investigating the new island off to the north, my subjects have been noisily bickering amongst themselves over who has more power and status. Meanwhile, one with less humor than the others has packed up his trunks and taken off for unknown parts to look for smaller pools where he can be a larger fish. With that one gone, I now am left with an even happier lot that good-naturedly bickers over status and ranks and how fast they can level up their universe-conquering skills. I didn’t even have to flail my arms, as I was able to watch and read it all from afar in a comfy red plaid bathrobe and fluffy pink slippers. I think that has more fashion sense than your poor frayed bathrobe and duct-taped slippers. In my pixel kingdom, fashion-scape is of the utmost importance.

For a slightly slinky lab assistant, you really should include “acquires new bathrobe and slippers periodically for the boss” in the job posting. It is up to the lab assistant to take care of the trivial matters of life in the cave. If ever visited by the controlling elite, at least you would be slightly more presentable and more on an even footing with them if your lab assistant kept your garb updated periodically. If you wish to remain unnoticed and blend into the background, you are simply going to have to dress more appropriately and approximate the casual loungewear of your undergraduates. Comfy pajamas that look similar to sweat suits or exercise attire with a bathrobe /trench coat might let you pass unnoticed amongst the dusty rooms of the forgotten academic building that you allege are under dispute by feuding departments. Personally, I think that some cranky old professor is just holding onto the key ring of the building and is refusing to let anyone else enter his domain because it is HIS. This is a devious plot to maintain control that is on a par with your world domination scheme. However, your scheme is much grander and more glorious and definitely will bring in more money than just a few dusty empty rooms. Your scheme focuses on acquiring, while his only focuses on maintaining what is already his. If you can locate the old curmudgeon, you might suggest that he acquire his own innovative lab assistant. But he may be happy with his key ring and may not dream of anything grander.

I finally Googled sousaphone. Much to my surprise, I was confusing it with a kazoo. No wonder I had trouble locating the correct instrument in the picture. Although horns are nice, I tend to lean towards the string instruments myself. I’ll have to see if there is a duet with a sousaphone on YouTube so that I can upgrade my knowledge base. Never know when I might need to pick one out in an orchestra.

For Halloween, I’ll probably have to content myself with stealing some feathers from my phoenix and gluing them to a pink flamingo to scare off the little door-ringers that bother everyone for a few hours that night. I have a perfectly good alternative plan for the evening other than venturing out into the streets filled with pint-sized horrors. I turn off all the lights in the house and enter into the nether regions of my walk-in closet. I watch Chinese fantasy dramas with my phoenix and toss my slinky (a vintage toy that you may not have heard of in the deep dark recesses of your cave) from one hand to the other. The sound slightly resembles a Feng Shui waterfall, although it’s rather metallic. It has a calming effect and might ward off the evil vibrations emanating from the chaos on the streets. The dramas create a visual similar to walking through a door into another world, much like in that magic wardrobe that the nephews uncle (who claimed to be a magician) had.

Learning to live with a pet snake in my room, one of life’s little adventures and adjustments….



October 8, 2017

To FD,

I never meant to imply that being a laboratory assistant was a soft easy life that involved lounging around in virtual reality garb and furry costumes, getting recreationally shocked by various electrical currents. So many prospective minions appear in entirely impractical garb. Why, just last month, one arrived wearing vinyl thigh-high six-inch stilettos, a blood-red corset, and a Green Bay Packers helmet. She had the slink thing down, and the helmet was useful, when she triggered the trap that released 200 bowling balls. She made it across the moat mere moments before the drawbridge lifted.

So a red plaid bathrobe and fluffy pink slippers might be a “step up” as it were, but sensible shoes are encouraged. When the ruling elite come over, I have two different suits. One is a key lime green polyester leisure suit. The other is a chartreuse and burgundy checkered Dacron sport coat worn with teal corduroy trousers. Both have various oil stains, but I refuse to have them dry cleaned because it is a well established fact that the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission both have agents working in every dry cleaning shop in the world. Once they have the oil stain removed, they will have it analyzed and from that will be able to trace my undisclosed location.

Kazoos have a tremendous potential to inflict great evil in the world. Perhaps we can have a trio with a bassoon.

At various times, I have posed as an insurance salesman, a real estate appraiser, and a Wal*Mart greeter. These occupations more than any other seem to lull prospective victims into a false sense of security, inducing boredom and banality that make them completely unsuspecting of how evil one can be.

However, a little known fact is that in a previous life, I pitched my screenplay of “Feng Shui Fighting” to an ungrateful Hollywood producer. When the world is ALL MINE!!! then Hollywood will come under special scrutiny for payback for all kinds of sleights and slights. A magic wardrobe will not save them. Not by any means.

Was the snake invited, or did he / she / it follow you home?



October 14, 2017

To BB,

I have to admit that visions of a woman with fabulous agility skills and vinyl thigh-high six-inch stilettos have been haunting my thoughts for the past week. The red corset wasnt such a big deal since Ive been eyeing a brilliant blue embroidered one for over a year myself, and can totally understand a penchant for cool accessories with lots of lacings. But try as I might, I find myself totally overwhelmed that such stupendous agility achievements, which include dodging flying bowling balls and leaping across moats failed to stimulate your sense of admiration. I would have hired her on the spot just on agility merits alone, but then I have a fondness for skilling and high skill levels as noted in my adventurers log. The highest boots that I have are red knee-high boots without any heels – comfortable, warm, but easier to run in than stilettos. I have to stay within my skill level range and I believe that the highest heel that I can run in is about 3 inches at this point. Sad, I know, but one must accept ones limitations.

My ruling elite seems pleased (or at least hasnt acquired any twitching eyelids or gasping sounds yet) by my attire. I blend in with the surrounding grunts and am totally relieved to say that I wont need to exit my cave for a while to acquire new costumes for the daily grind. Speaking of which, this new adventure is going rather well. Since they are slow in locating a pin number for me to get onto their computer system, I have been relegated to the mind-numbing and totally not anxiety producing job of faxing drawers full of documents to headquarters so that they become electronically stored (digitized is my preferred word, but one must use the local vernacular). I also get to help out in the mailroom on occasion and learn how to sort incoming mail with the other noob who is just 4 weeks ahead of me in noobdom. My greatest challenge is shadowing the customer service reps at the windows where they deal with the public and use the computers to answer questions and locate info. The computer format is still in black and green/white DOS looking codes with everything being acronymized (my first task, as I see it is to decipher this highly specific code language of acronyms so that I can make sense of the screens). It looks a lot like a cross between HTML, CSS, C script and governmentese thrown in. So, its do-able. I keep telling myself that, after all, I am superb with foreign languages, quite flexible with computers and their idiosyncrasies, and supposedly my GPAs from school say that I am highly intelligent. I hope this self-talk mantra crap helps to overcome the high anxiety levels that I have by the end of the week.

Since no one is interested in my location, I dont need to worry about someone examining the oil-stains on my clothing. I circumvented the interested spies long ago by using an assumed name on the web, paying in cash, and renting a room from unsuspecting nice people, which basically leaves few trails for the curious spies to follow. Plus, they arent going to find much beyond castle sets of Legos, too many Calvin Klein sunglasses, and more musical instruments than I have time to play at the moment.

I was going to say something about preferring stringed instruments to horns like bassoons, but, first I Googled YouTube to listen the bassoons. Wow, they have a really nice sound. Ive only seen/heard them as part of an orchestra, so getting to hear them on their own was a different experience. Could we dispense with the kazoo and just have a bassoon, and maybe someones viola instead? Im a sucker for alto range instruments.

I havent had as many different types of positions as you, since the educational and library fields seem so mundane in the first place that I felt quite safe and stable there. One would hardly look in them for an aspiring queen in the process of creating a kingdom. It seems to throw everyone off the scent and few realize that I am an outlier in disguise. I am pretty much a creature of habit although I cant tell if is laziness or a lack of flighty companions to follow into adventure at the moment. I do know that many of my adventures came from following others through the portals of U.S. customs and airport gateways.

Autumn is my favorite season because it is just begging for all kinds of changes in ones life – and generally, looking back over the years, it is when my most mind-boggling decisions have been made. Spring is when I get bored and opt to take up new hobbies or enroll in new classes – small changes that help me to navigate the status quo until autumn rolls around and something bizarre rears its charming head and beckons me into another adventure. I hear there is a Market downtown in Little Rock with a Pagoda style doorway. It could be a portal in disguise. For the first few weeks, I am concentrating on locating a decent Oriental Grocery store. I found an Asian market, but it was full of Indian foods and odd smells. It wasn’t at all the Asian that I was hoping for. Wrong portal, I guess.

The snake was a resident of the bedroom that I rented and had a prior claim to floor space. Due to its living quarters being 3ft by 4ft and taller than I am, it wasnt easily ousted due to sheer weight and volume. At least, it is quiet and doesnt interfere with my routine. Its owners tell me that it is depressed because its other snake friend died trying to escape their previous living quarters. I barely contained my urge to cheer and nodded sympathetically at the mention of the death of the second reptile. A depressed snake is much easier to have as a roommate since all it does is lay under its rock. If a snake tried to follow me home, I would have beheaded it in a nano-second with my hoe, as I have done countless times in the past. The hoe is my favorite farming/gardening tool and I probably would only have to take a few classes to reach black-belt status with it as my weapon of choice.

I haven’t submitted any scripts to Hollywood as I prefer to live out my adventures rather than write them down. In addition, that penchant for laziness that I mentioned means that I fail to plan my adventures in advance and am more apt to just wing it and take off when the opportunity presents itself. My daughter in Portland is currently winging it in Portland and if she will find a place for me to roll out a sleeping bag, I might visit her for a holiday. She and I darted off to Puerto Rico last spring for 8 glorious days to find out if Pia Coladas had milk products in them or not. We had to sample quite a few locations, because apparently not all are made the same way according to the advertisements on the walls of the establishments we visited. Hollywood might be interested in my adventures, but I’d need a ghostwriter to protect my identity and filter out the suspicious parts that added glamour to the adventure in the first place. I suppose I could just say I made it all up, and have a vivid imagination as an excuse.

Looking for dried squid and yellow pickled radish in Little Rock,



Wednesday October 18, 2017 – 12:58am

To FD,

<re-emerges from his undisclosed location, eyes red and squinting>


er, sorry. I didn’t know it was you.

Portland and Puerto Rico are not the same thing, and if one looks at a map and divides it in half, one could still not find my undisclosed location.

A confession. After celebrating European Conquest day with El Nio, Pia Coladas, and assorted Santa Margaritas, I am still terribly hung-over. That condition may last another decade or two.

I like hoes as well, but seldom mention it in polite company.

I’m going back to my undisclosed location.



October 20, 2017

To BB,

Well, my last two weeks haven’t been much better. Pixels from my kingdom are fluttering in a bunch of directions and I’m chasing them with my magic butterfly net and madly stuffing them into an imp jar until I have time to reassemble my errant pixels into some semblance of what my kingdom should look like.

I can now arrive at my destination without the aid of Siri’s Map when heading to and from my new job location. All other locations still need that snoot’s precise directions. My kingdom’s peasants/members are wondering where their leader has hidden and I can’t tell them that it’s easier to pull the goose down comforter over my head and sleep than prop myself up on the desk to click the mouse on the PC to mine gold and read subtitles about “The Bride of Haebak” on the Mac. Learning a new city, new roomies, and new job all at the same time might be the equivalent to blowing up your lab. I’m not sure where anything is, my routines are gone, and if it weren’t for snotty (oops, snooty) Siri, I’d never show up at work looking decent. I need to tell Siri to find some decent sushi this weekend. I wish I could have celebrated Conquest Day with you; it was probably gluten free, and much more fun than chasing pixels.

While in St Augustine with a friend, the pirate guide to the pubs told us that if you mix Lindemans Framboise Beer with a normal beer (like Heinekens or Corona, not that American crap – Coor or Buds) 50/50 you get a nice beverage called a “Dirty Hoe.” Of course, the pirate would never mention that in polite company either, but it was just us girls, lol.

Back to chasing fragmented pixels.



Monday October 23, 2017

To FD,

My latest plan is to flood the world with Johnny Cash impersonators. The Elvis impersonators were a bold stroke, and were able to achieve many early objectives, but some fool in a gold lam suit perhaps picked up one of your stray pixels and found himself planted face-down beneath a police cruiser.

I have no idea how I got here or how to escape. All I know is that if I do not fully succeed in my evil plan, I am dead. Well, all of us are dead someday, according to empirical evidence, so that is not exactly news to you, but it is not something I wish to contemplate or convey.

In the meantime, if I find fragmented pixels on my living room floor, should I sweep them up and mail them to you?

If it is any reassurance, my lab is back together and better than ever. If, on the other hand, you fear my lab, then please be assured that it is in complete shambles and I cannot find a damn thing because the construction crew completely ignored by exacting instructions. In other words, it is no threat to you or your beloved pixels.

I have yet to be persuaded you are both interested and qualified to be a part of our project, but am not at this point willing to write you off completely. At some point an in-person interview at an undisclosed location will be necessary, and I am not sure that you will have the fortitude or foolishness to withstand being blindfolded, bonded by ropes, and locked in the trunk of an American luxury car by someone you’ve never met.

Our laboratory hires only the best. Or worst. Nothing in between. Mediocrity is our sworn enemy.



October 28, 2017


You should definitely collect any stray pixels and safeguard them for me. A mason jar would be a perfect container as it is easily found and you can even watch them fluttering around.

Its nice to know that you have managed to rebuild your lab even though the crew didnt follow your precise instructions. Perhaps the rearrangement of things might provide added inspiration and new ideas. Im quite sure that I can handle your lab — organized or not – -seeing as how I have been coexisting with a depressed snake and three fat lazy cats, and two chain-smoking housemates (who do not “only” smoke on the outside balcony after all). I found that a can of WD-40 has made it easier to open and shut the window and regardless of whether that depressed snake freezes or not, I have access to fresh air. Door hinges that used to squeak when I wandered around at night no longer give away my nocturnal roaming habits when insomnia rears its restless head.

I havent applied to be a lab assistant. If you recall, I merely contacted you because your profile mentioned “gamer” and I was intrigued by the sousaphone and world domination plan. As one world leader to another, it has been interesting to compare our kingdom creation schemes and the qualities that we seek in our serfs/lab assistants. As I noted, I could never compete with the one applicant that could run in 6-inch stilettos, as I am limited to 3 inches. While you seem to lean more towards the dictator end of the bell curve, I require that my serfs mentor other serfs in order to rise in the ranks. I also encourage cross training in skills, although I am easy on them and only require 3-inch stiletto agility since I never ask more than I can deliver myself. It also occurred to me that while you are looking for a lab assistant, which implies a rank below yours, I was communicating as one kingdom leader to another — which unfortunately precludes being a mere assistant. Although, I wouldnt mind assisting in your particular reality as a co-conspirator, I would still retain leadership rights in my virtual reality – would that imply a conflict of interest?

I have never turned down a ride in a luxury car regardless of who the driver is. Luxury extends to the trunks and I imagine that they would have decent sound systems capable of providing nice music, lots of cushy pillows to absorb any bumps in the road, and be spacious enough and well ventilated enough to allow a comfortable secure environment for transportation. We are not talking about some cheap, third rate, get-away car here. As for being blindfolded and roped up, well, that is optional, I suppose. It would be just as effective to pick me up at a public location, let me clamber in with a bit of help and get comfortable and shut the lid. The lid would negate the need for ropes and blindfolds, and if you took away the cell phone, that would be more effective than anything since I would not be able to track our GPS locations. Seriously, you have to consider my command of the virtual world and how it sometimes preempts your efforts in the tangible reality of your limited world.

Now, as far as the quality that you are looking for in your applicants – mediocrity has its virtues since it has a larger pool of fish to choose from. If you only opt for the outliers of best and worst, you waste all the potential that sits inside of 95.46% of the 2 standard deviations. The range of agility and skill levels become narrow if you only look for outliers. Instead of mediocrity, I have always tried to strive for moderation with a touch of uniqueness. (“moderation” also starts with the letter m and makes me sound more normal and sane, which throws off those government agents looking for kingdom creators). Although, I believe my past life and adventures dont compare to the abysmally boring range of some of the moderate people living lives of mediocrity inside those 2 standard deviations, I dont want to peg myself as some weird outlier that has delusions of grandeur. I quietly live my grander life in the virtual realms of the pixels which passes unnoticed by a large percentage of the current world population and most of the government agents.

The last two Saturdays, I was allowed to work overtime as my command of the strange new language of acronyms has been slowly improving. Needless to say, it has whittled down my available time for living out a pixel life. 400 emails of stuff awaited my attention, most of which I was able to delete, and I finally changed the addresses for those interested 3rd parties that keep sending me mail about money and stuff here in my new home town. So, I guess Ive moved. Now to find new doctors for when the pixels fragment or the lab blows up. Moving is such a hassle, I envy the snake that only needs to crawl out to his water bowl once a day and eat a mouse once a week to stay alive. I have actually begun to talk to him out of sheer sympathy for his plight. OMG, no wonder he is depressed if that is what his dreary life consists of. I would hide under a rock too if I had three fat cats staring at me all the time wondering if I tasted better than dried cat food. (The cats came with the apartment along with the two roommates).

Signing off for now, but wondering how it is that you are the only person on this site that actually knows how to write more than two sentences back to back. Its amazing, Thinking of acquiring a partial face mask with ostrich plumes that I saw at Pier 1 Imports. I think it would make a more interesting picture for this site than the ubiquitous pair of sunglasses.



Sunday October 29, 2017

Today – 2:20am


<edging back towards the exit> I think this site *knows* what we are doing here. Within the next week, I will move to another undisclosed location that <no shit> will leave me without access to the internet until December. I’ve had fun playing, and am signing off for now.

Kind regards, BB


October 29, 2017

To BB,

Unfortunately, your profile “thinks” you reside in the northwest, and I definitely live in the midwest for the time being. Meeting up would be difficult, to say the least. Although it would probably be fun and interesting to discuss how you torture your undergraduates, I can’t figure out how to key your undisclosed coordinates into my GPS locator. Hopefully, one of your applicants for lab assistant will be perfect for the job.

My total sympathies for your future lack of Internet,

a fellow kingdom leader,



over and out…




Juggling Work and Photography

That title is an introduction to a rare problem that has entered my life in the last couple of years. Namely – Should I take a photograph in the morning or risk arriving a couple of minutes late to my volunteer job? Now, obviously, arriving on time is important, but I always, always, always! plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early no matter where I go. I am one of those freaks who would rather not show up than arrive a minute late. These last two years, I have had a volunteer job and it is not an issue if I arrive a tad late and stay a couple of minutes later to make it up, … or not. I was raised to arrive early and stay late, so my conscience has never adjusted. I commute 32 miles each way and leave the house at 7 a.m. which means that I usually get to see the sunrise. Over the last two years I have collected quite a few photos of gorgeous sunrises (one is my banner on this blog). I love the cool morning air, (except during the winter when it is freezing), and I adore watching the sun rise.

Thursday morning, the median and roadsides were lined with blue wildflowers and white Queen Anne’s Lace from Harrison to Alpena. The farmers were cutting and bailing the hay in the fields and I could smell the freshly cut hay and the dirt that was kicked up in the process. I made a mental note to take photos on the way home since I didn’t want to arrive late to work.

Between Green Forest and Berryville, the roadwork crew were using huge yellow caterpillar machines to break up the granite bluffs along the sides of the road. They are widening the roadway to four lanes. It has been interesting to watch the work progress and I made another mental note to snap a pic of the machine that was drilling the granite into bite-sized chunks so that I could show people how they did it. I had thought dynamite was used to blast through the rocky bluffs to allow roads to be built. It was a free class in Road Building 101 every morning during my commute.

So, on the way home, I got my iPhone ready to take pictures. What I hadn’t counted on were the hoards of drivers behind me, ready to drive up my tail pipe if I slowed down to pull off onto the side of the road. Usually, my commutes are not that busy, so I wasn’t expecting any problems in capturing the moment.

But, …the road crews had finished demolishing the bluffs and had packed up their gigantic drills and parked them elsewhere.

…The blue wildflowers must have been heat sensitive because there wasn’t a blue flower anywhere to be seen. I made a mental note to leave a little early on Monday and take photos then.

…The round hay bales were ready to be snapped, but the drivers behind me were just waiting to see what the inside of my tail pipe looked like if I slowed down a tad. I settled with snapping a few photos through the window of my truck as I barreled down the highway and edited them later.


Although it isn’t exactly what I wanted, it is better than nothing. Next, I want to take pictures of the cows peacefully grazing in the fields. It tells me that all is right with the world if the farmers and their cows are happy.


That left the Monday morning commute with an item on my “To Do” list.

Bright and early monday morning, I was all ready to take my pictures of the gorgeous blue wildflowers. But guess what? Over the weekend, the road crews had mowed the medians and sides of the road from Harrison to Berryville, the entire 32 miles. There wasn’t a flower to be seen. So, I had to dig out a photo of Queen Anne’s Lace that I had snapped a week prior.


Yes, I know it is considered an invasive weed now, but a ‘long time ago’ it had other uses. The taproot can be eaten as a substitute for carrots when it is young and the stem smells like a carrot. This helps to differentiate it from the look-alike poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) whose stem smells gross. In addition, the stem of the wild carrot is hairy while the stem of poison hemlock is smooth. Survivalists might want to key in on the difference here when they are out foraging for food.


Learn To Read Chinese With Chineasy


is a nice little book that I downloaded from after watching several of ShaoLan’s YouTube videos about her book.


I tend to think in pictures and her method of having pictures behind the Chinese characters works perfectly for me.


The book has a little more than 400 characters to learn with some basic sentences for practice. For comparison, a typical first year college course expects you to learn about 500 characters which includes radicals. Second year also expects you to learn another 500. The book includes pinyin, so you can link the pinyin and characters up in your head and begin typing into your iPhone right away if you preset your keyboard.

It doesn’t go into grammar or things like telling time, but hey, learning the characters seems to be more difficult to me than learning a few grammar rules. You can pick up grammar rules from other sources online and I will list what I have found later.


Black Smoke on the Horizon

Well, it happened again. As I entered my town, I could see smoke from a fire coming from the direction where my apartment buildings are located. Once more, I had to anxiously wait while I drove the last few miles to reach home in order to see if it was my building that had gone up in smoke. Thank goodness, it wasn’t. This is the third time in the last year that a fire has sent smoke billowing into the air near my place of residence. The last time, it was the muffler shop that went up in flames near my home.

After reading about the massive fires in Alberta, Canada, a couple of months ago, I was once again struck by the “Are You Ready?” bug. The first time the bug struck was right before Y2K. I had stockpiled some stuff to eat and extra toothpaste, but mostly I sat up to see if the lights in New Zealand went out at 12 midnight. When they didn’t, I went to bed.

The second time the bug struck was during my graduate classes in 2009-2010 when I was pursuing a Masters of Library and Information Science. I took three classes from the same professor who was very thorough in her research, which in turn made her downright scary. The classes revolved around what a librarian should do during emergency and pandemic scenarios and what information should be provided to public response agencies. Needless to say, the scenarios were reviting and included both real and imagined worse-case scenarios. It was the stuff of nightmares for months afterwards. The government actually has many websites dedicated to such information due to the increase in floods, hurricanes, and other disasters that the U.S. is experiencing in recent years. We had to evaluate all of them. I started stockpiling gallons of water and my kids thought I was nuts. But then, Fukushima happened and the Japanese who had two weeks worth of stockpiled food and water fared better.

So, what would you grab if you were given a thirty minutes evacuation order? That is all the time the Alberta people had and it started the vicious cycle of wondering if-I-could-fit-it-all in-my-truck thoughts. Of course, I was more worried about an apartment fire while I was away. (A co-worker of mine here in town shared her experience of coming home to a pile of ashes instead of an apartment building). So, my thoughts revolved around what I could cram into my fire-proof safes. One already held all my official unopened college transcripts from 8 schools (to be used for future schools and job applications). The other used to hold my Spanish telenovelas before I digitalized them, but now stood empty. I decided to save small stuff that held sentimental value–jewelry making tools, penny whistles, a crocheted square I made with my adopted Basque grandma, my embroidered Hobbitville — you know, the priceless stuff you can’t buy or replace with a Mastercard. I am almost done digitalizing my life, DVDs, CDs, dramas, photos, books, and home (except for foreign language books) and I carry the external hard drives with me, so they are safe unless my truck catches on fire with me in it.

BUT, apparently, not everything burns up in a fire as I thought. Diamonds, gold, and steel, etc., have higher melting points than a normal house fire. But, and here is the caveat that I read about, even if the fire doesn’t reach your stuff and it is only smoked out and slightly crispy around the edges, will it survive the 30k gallons of water used to quench the flames? Mmm, I hadn’t thought of water damage. So, following their advice (whichever survival guru I was reading on the web)– I went and bought ziplock baggies. Now, my documents are safe in ziplock baggies in a fireproof case. All my priceless trinkets are zip-locked and stuffed into the second safe. Too bad the violin and electric keyboard don’t fit. But, I can sleep at night now. Or should I?

I started wondering if the melting point of plastic isn’t rather low. Does that mean I will have gooey plastic melted all over my treasures and documents now? Maybe I should buy tins and stuff my treasures into tins BEFORE I zip them into plastic bags…



Meet the Swedish Guy Who Teaches Mandarin!

Unlike most of the herd, I actually think that there are a lot of positive reasons for learning a foreign language from a non-native speaker. First of all, not all native speakers speak their own language correctly (or should we say free of the street cant, permutations, and outright mistakes that infest the spoken language of many native speakers). If in doubt, consider the difference in scores that educated, academically inclined people can achieve on the verbal parts of the GRE and how those scores differ from those who only have a high school education. I studied Spanish for years and years (OK, decades) and even telenovelas highlight the common mistakes and street cant of the less educated masses as distinct from the more educated elite. The United States has made the mistake of naively believing that any native speaker is qualified to teach Spanish, regardless of their level of education. That being said, the essays and information presented at Hacking Chinese by the Swedish guy, Olle, are well written and easy to understand.

For instance, he explained his rational for the choice of radicals he included in his list of the 100 Most Common Radicals. He compiled his list from the 2000 most common characters which is different from other lists and makes more sense. This is the list that has been such a big help for me in learning parts of characters.

At the local Asian Market, I picked up a newspaper written in Chinese. My first game is going to be circling radicals that I recognize in red pen. Later, I will circle entire characters that I recognize in another color. It is like a massive treasure hunt. I don’t need to ‘read’ them to practice recognizing them and it is instant gratification and a total rush to see how many red circles I can have on the page of a newspaper. (Plus, the newspaper is free). Hey, two months ago, I could only recognize the radical for ‘heart‘ and the character for ‘love.’


I Got Side-Tracked by Chinese Calligraphy

I meant to come right back and post the same week–I really did. But I found this really cool website that shows you how to write Chinese characters with animation. Of course, I read the rules first and watch the tutorial that they have about correct stroke order. It’s pretty logical.

->Learn to Write Chinese Characters

At work, I have the website drawing Chinese letters in a corner of my computer screen. I like to guess which strokes will be written first and see if I am correct.

They have grouped the Chinese characters by frequency of use. When you click on the character, it takes you to a page for that character and shows you how to draw it.

->Learn to Read and Write Traditional Characters

I like how they give the meanings for the different tones, the pinyin writing, and both the traditional with the alternative simplified characters. Plus, they give you two character words with the option of looking at more examples for the brave or more advanced student.

All in all, so far this is my favorite site for learning the characters. I have to admit that I started learning the radicals first from a different site called HackingChinese.