Friday, February 27, 2009

How to speak Andalú

Part of the joy/trials/tribulations of moving to Spain was having to learn Spanish all over again. I'd spoken it well when I was a kid in Costa Rica, but we left for southern California when I was seven or so, and that was the end of that. (Supposedly, one needs to be exposed to a language up until age ten to remember it.) Now, I still had the canto, the the song, so to speak, of the language, and I remembered some vocabulary, but I knew absolutely nothing of grammar other than what sounded right.

In many respects, this is one of the few times where I honestly say, "Thank God for television." The news, especially. Here were people who were trained to speak clearly using good grammar and pronunciation. Be that as it may, what I understood on TV, and what I understood on the street were two different matters entirely. Andaluz, the... accent? dialect? ...that they speak in Andalucía, where I was, is a lesson in great economy. I can't tell you how many times I've heard kids contract "Mamá" into "¡Maáa!" as they were yelling up to the second floor for someone to let them in. If written Hebrew gets rid of the vowels, spoken Andaluz gets rid of the consonants. I remember, very early on, one of the guys in the church youth group trying to teach me how to speak "Andalu" ("Instead of 'voy a la casa de Paco' say, "vocapáo'") ...I just stared in amazement.

So it was with a great deal of laughter that I watched this video, "Curso Dandalú." Yes, normally you'd say, "Curso de Andaluz," but we're going for authenticity...

Note: The video may not make much sense unless you speak Spanish.

Note: Even if you do, it may not make sense anyway.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Prairie Squid

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I've got a bizarre sense of humor. The more surreal you make it and still have a kernel of truth to it, the funnier it is. So it makes perfect sense that, when I followed an ad to and saw this as the shirt of the day... I had to have it.


The thing that really sold me, though, was the artist's description:

I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of America, far from the coasts or any cultural epicenter. This piece is partly a reminder to the big city folks that amazing things still exist out here, despite how bleak things may look from the interstate. It is also simultaneously metaphor for me lashing out at my hayseed roots in frustration, wanting bigger and better things.

Trust me, that resonated with me. Amazing things do happen out here, despite how it looks. A statement like that, along with an amazingly cool, funny drawing that's well done — how could I resist?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yeah, I've got ALL their albums

This little game has been going around Facebook, and I had enough fun on my turn that I'll post it here, too.

The essence of the game is thus:

  • Go to Wikipedia. Hit “random”
    or click
    The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

  • Go to Quotations Page and select "random quotations"
    or click
    The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

  • Go to Flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
    or click
    Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

  • Use Photoshop or similar to put it all together.

    (If you spend more than 5 minutes, you're doing it wrong.)

  • Now, admit it — if you've been in a record store lately, that's par for the course, maybe even a bit better. I'm thinking they probably sound a bit like They Might be Giants or Five Iron Frenzy. I'd buy it for the album artwork, but I probably wouldn't listen to it all that often.

    The full quote, by the way, is classic Dan Quayle: "I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy — but that could change."

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009


    Some time ago — probably a year or two — Fiona took an unexpectedly hard trip to the ground and banged one of her front teeth pretty hard. The tooth died. Normally, this isn't a problem; the adult teeth grow in, the old ones come out, life goes on. In this case, however, the tooth recently became infected, and the dentist said, out it goes.

    After trying unsuccessfully to schedule a pediatric dentist to do the job (our dentist didn't want Fiona to associate her with painful experiences; very shrewd of her) we wound up back with the original plan, which was to have our dentist pull the tooth.

    Fiona did great. She didn't flinch, didn't complain, just raising her hand when it hurt, like we told her to. I haven't heard any complaints out of her, either — mostly the giggly joy of a normal kid with a tooth out.

    What's the going rate for the Tooth Fairy these days?

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Sign here, and here, and here, and here...

    Yesterday morning, Deborah and I took turns going downtown to sign papers. Seems like we're finally the owners of a back yard. I'm not sure I believe it yet — ours? Really? Supposedly, we'll be getting the title to the property once all the paperwork goes through, which should prove interesting — I've never seen the actual title to a piece of property. Have you?

    It turns out that we did anticipate this day, though — I just heard from May this afternoon that she got us the hammock we wanted while she was in Peru, and should be shipping it to us shortly. Just in time for spring. Just in time for having a backyard in which to hang it.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Lia is HOME!

    Today, after nearly three months in the NICU, Lia is home. And I don't mean that in a euphemism for the end of pain and suffering — she's home home, with the rest of her lovely family.

    Thanks God, for this little life.

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Opuses 1 through 3

    Every weekend, I've been going out to the shed to try out this lathe, and these tools, and see if I can make them work together. So far, it has served to illustrate why I don't need to invest in any amazing, exotic wood yet. I have much to learn.

    Opus #1: Wooden Knife

    I started here, because it's one of the few lathe pieces I've seen made in person. The fellow just down the block at Whetstone Woodenware was doing a demonstration, popping out these wooden butter spreaders at the rate of one every few minutes, making it look oh-so-easy. It's not.

    The wood kept popping out of the lathe, and the offset weight of the blade made the piece vibrate so much that I couldn't really get a good cut, and at one point the friction from the dead-center actually caused the piece to catch fire. Once I oiled the dead-center and removed some wood from the blade, lightening it, things were easier, but by that time, things had gone so far away from what I intended, that I gave up. I blunted the edge, and gave it to the kids to play with.

    Opus #2: Candleholder

    I've been fascinated with "natural edge" turning, and tried to pull that off with this made-from-a-log candlestick. A lot of things went well... and a lot didn't. The green wood cut like butter, but dried like sandpaper. I got a curve perfect, and then I'd catch the edge of the chisel and create an ugly gouge. In the end, though, I ended up pleasing Deborah immensely when I came in to get some candles to measure the size of the hole, and all we had left were these smaller Christmas candles... which we've never burned because we've never had a holder for them. Now we do.

    Opus #3: Magic Wand

    Ah, success. This is the first piece I've done that actually looks like what I set out to make.

    Fortunately, I had to take off so much wood that I could make a lot of mistakes and figure out a number of things by the time I got things down to their intended size. Somewhere near the end, I realized that the whole lathe was vibrating, throwing off the cut. I stopped the lathe and added three 10-pound weightlifting plates to the top. Much smoother. Hmmm. I'll have to figure out a way to add more. I ended up taking off the last ⅛" with sandpaper, but the results were worth the time it took.

    * My apologies to James Spinti, former Latin teacher — I know the plural of opus is opera, but using that in the title would confuse people with a musical performance, or the browser software. I used the Anglicized version instead.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Truly All-Terrain

    Only the most talented drivers can maneuver their vehicles across the high mesas, in deep snow, next to perilous cliffs.... and make it look cute.

    Life This Side Up

    Risanna is still adjusting to the idea that life can be This Side Up, rather than what she considers normal — but she's keeping an open mind about it, and adapting to is with good grace, for the most part.

    You sure it works this way?


    Candy? What candy? I don't know anything about any candy...

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Those crazy things you do in college...

    ...sometimes stick around for a long, long time.

    Could be worse, really. In this instance, the recurring reference is my own creation, 2000 Uses for Peanut Butter. I found out in an email today that this page has gained sufficient cult status to be included as #409 in 505 Unbelievably Stupid Web Pages by Dan Crowley. I've been interviewed about the site before, won awards, and was even considered a credible threat by Smuckers at one point (who graciously offered to sue, just three days before Christmas, unless I change the background of the website) but this is the first time that I'm aware of that I've actually made it into print.

    So: What did you do in college, that people still remember?