Monday, August 27, 2007

Vista Sucks!

I had hoped to get some travel logs put together as I had a nice summer hopping a plane. (My sister is the Finance & Admin Manager in Paris, France for Continental Airlines and because she isn't married, she gets to designate a spouse for the travel benefits. This year, that's me.)

However Microsoft Vista did a crash and burn, so I spent much of the weekend figuring out how to recover stuff and set up the system to work again. It came down to a format and re-install. I will credit them with the foresight to make it easy to "chuck it in and start all over". Still, an operating system like XP that worked very well thanks to SP2, would be preferable. But I'm dealing with a company that seems to like the idea of "chuck it in and start all over".

Please don't tell me your Mac stories. Mac does not run the engineering applications that I need. I looked into running parallel operating systems and I really tried to buy a Mac - no dice.

I read an article saying that MIT has recommended to students to not upgrade yet. I had hoped to find and link to now that I learned how to do that but I can't find the article. But damn I know I read and I wish I had read it before I bought. (I think my purchase would have been the same as I was looking for something to last 2 yrs to finish school.)

The only thing that I lost was some music downloads from Cup of Coffey, at least that's all I can think of for now.

While it reloaded I did get my postcards done and a bit of tidying up around the house. Both needed to get done too.

I'm hoping that with the long weekend and I won't be going anywhere, I can get another post up.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Indy Jones wanna-be

There are a number of people checking my blog that I haven't met personally and so I thought I might share something for them (and for me this is one of my favorite stories). This is a reprint from an email I circulated when on a sabbatical 7 years ago, for 4 weeks I did nautical archaelogy in Israel then spent 2 weeks checking out the region. It's a fun story, says a bit about me and I hope you like it...

In the last week or so of the diving excavation, I was having lunch with team members sharing my plans for after the dive. They coincided with the plans of Pearl one of the dive crew and her father. So the three of us started our tour from Israel down to Petra, Jordan and over to Cairo.

My story starts a day before we left to go south. I was in church in Jerusalem; the congregation was small as Sunday is a standard work day. After the opening music the pastor steps up to deliver the sermon and out of the blue points at me and says, "You, you look like that Indiana Jones guy. What's his name? (pause) Harrison Ford." Naturally, I was surprised, still, I played along mentioning that I am told that fairly often (I personally don't see the resemblance). Also, I went on to say that I was actually in Israel for archeology. My sisters had bought me a hat in Australia some time ago that I wear often and friends tease by humming the theme music for Indiana Jones. Well, I told the congregation that I brought the hat from the Chicago to Paris to Israel and the next day was leaving to Petra, Jordan (where the final scene of the 3rd movie was shot) to see the sites and get a picture with me and my hat. On the way back to the hotel, I was entering the old city through Damascus gate when I saw a man selling whips. "How much I asked?" He quoted me 5 shekels or $1.25. "Sold."

The next day, with my whip and hat, Pearl, her father and I started south from Jerusalem. Stopping along the way at Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea and Massada. It was great fun. The following day we found ourselves touring Petra, Jordan! And I got my picture - sporting the hat and flailing the whip.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Simpsonize me!

I have been looking for a fun photo to put up as my pic. When cruising Cup of Coffey (or it might have been on The Girl with Moxie), she hooked me up to SimpsonizeMe. (I haven't quite got down the building in a link, so here it is, nothing clever: )

Monday, August 6, 2007

Is “basically” the new “like”?

Last year I enthusiastically attended a meeting to help promote an Engineers Without Borders project in hopes that our group might generate some fundraising. Our then-president took the microphone and began (paraphrased), “Basically, Engineers Without Borders is basically a club that basically does projects basically anywhere in the world, basically. So, basically, we are trying …”

And it’s everywhere and although I am a student I will not describe it as fingernails on a chalkboard, much too trite and not quite right. Rather, I heard once that the IRA will sometimes influence people by putting a 9 mm drill bit through the kneecap. A standard tool used for abject malevolence. That’s what “basically” is: momentary, piercing pain but it does leave a clean hole. Growing in popularity, I started to feel that it was ready to take over colloquial language when our petite president spoke from that podium. It was an onslaught of “basically” – a mad woman with a nail gun pinning me to my chair with the vicious repetition of the Automatic Kalishnikov 47 with all the cruelty of its inaccuracy.

It is as painful and repugnant as the omnipresent “like”.

Best I can recall, “like” had a colorful birth. Born in the valley, it came on the public stage thanks to Moon Unit Zappa. Both funny (because I was a sophomore at the time) and annoying, it made its mark. However, as much as I might have hoped, it didn’t return home to the valley and fade for good. No, it grew and took hold of the language for generations in the way a vine envelops a home. It grew like a weed. “Like” made its move from fad to cultural fabric.

In my senior year, I got a reprieve. As an exchange student to France, I left for the gran banlieu of Paris to spend a lovely year in Chantilly. Rich in heritage and I could feel just as proud as the French when I walked by the chateau and museum (formerly the Duke Conde’s stables) because I called Chantilly my home. The French and I shared an affinity for language.

I returned to the US to the ever festering “like”. It was in the air, the only stench in the suburban utopia of Naperville. However, most of the people I interacted with for that year between high school and college were much older and had not caught the disease. Then I headed for St. Louis University. And to my good fortune everything happens a bit later in St. Louis. When I was there in 1986 tie-dye was on its way out and disco was the new thing. (I recently heard they are giving up pastel polos to explore grunge music.)

It wasn’t until I returned to France again in 1987 with the university’s program in Orleans, a well-reputed program with students from all over the US, I mixed and mingled again with the contemporary culture. The disease had taken a strong-hold. It seemed unavoidable. Fortunately, there were quite a few students from St. Louis and I could find a reprieve when I wanted to speak English (and discuss history in the present tense). Besides I was there to speak French – best done with French people. Although I spent most my time with the frogs, we did meet up as a group quite a bit, bonfires on campus to hang out and teach the locals how to drink for the sake of drinking. American students chatting about in French, translating word for word and guess what word came up three times in every breath? “Alors, c’est comme … comme … comme.” Affereux! Honteux.

I confess that I do find myself, on rare occasions, slipping out a “like”. I hope all of you that love the language like I do will forgive me. As such I do not judge; if that is your style, then express yourself. I will also confess, I gracefully avoid social interaction with the style just like I also prefer to choose a different path than through a mine field.

In 1990-1991, I lived in Glasgow, Scotland and “like” had not infected the language. On my subsequent trips to Great Britain, I observed it did begin its incubation in London, the sickness broke out and headed north. It doesn’t seem to have become the full blown epidemic as in the states, still it is pervasive. It is also not so poignant. With their accent, the drill bits and nails are traded in for rotting fruit. Not piercing, a different sort of pain – it is still foul. Add the cockney accent to the “like” and it’s like being pelted with frozen rotting fruit. The deep gutural and lazy-jowl speech adds that bludgeoning affect.

I'm assuming a news anchor should command the language; I think that's not too much to ask. And yet, I recently lost hope for our culture when in an interview with Katie Couric, she gasped and said, “I have days when I'm like, `Oh my God, what did I do?'” I was wondering what the producers were doing? One of them has to be old enough to have seen “My Fair Lady” or "Pygmalion"; it’s their job to find solutions to these problems.

And now, “basically” is the new arrival. But is it a rival? Will “basically” replace “like”? Would that be better or worse? Four syllables (oft said in only three) versus one? An adverb versus the various parts of speech for “like”? A debate of which is the lesser of evils seems futile when in the end you know you will be machine gunned down by its misuse and excessive use. In fact, I think it will be worse. Both will remain to terrorize our ears and shred our pride of the language. The future? Basically, it’s like a chancre to add to the herpes.