Houston, TX: Washington, DC: Dublin, Ireland:

Friday, December 31, 2010

Obligatory Year-in-Review Post

As 2010 winds to a close assorted media outlets are doing their year-in-review thing, same as always, and the general theme seems to be that 2010 was a pretty crappy year and we're all delighted to get it over with and move on. I can understand this perspective. 2010 was a huge year for disasters, natural and otherwise. In lieu of a robust recovery the economy continued to limp along, moaning piteously. Hope and change proved somewhat lacking.

However, in Meredithland 2010 was actually a pretty great year. I finally landed my dream job - with a raise. I adopted the world's most adorable cat. I had a long and luxurious self-indulgent summer vacation, the best I've ever had. I had good times with good friends and made 94 new ones. I'm actually getting paid to learn a language! How cool is that? I'm happy and healthy and excited for the future.

Happy new year everyone! Best wishes for 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Les Devoirs

I love self-study! With FSI closed until after New Year's I am learning French chez moi in my PJs with a cup of tea. Love, love, love. The only downside to this arrangement is that Jabberwocky is under the impression that the reason I am home is to make it up to him for abandoning him for five whole days over Christmas (during which time he vented his wrath by slashing open the cat food, devouring all the cat treats, and destroying our Christmas tree). His atonement plan involves lots of crinkle ball tossing and kitty scritching and general adulation, which has not been good for productivity. It's difficult to properly summarize news articles and look up vocab and such with a feline plopped on your torso demanding pets and determined to give you a kitty-cat facial. Nevertheless, I shall persevere.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

My family is very practical about Christmas gifts. To ensure that everyone gets things they actually want we submit detailed wish lists, frequently filled with very practical gifts. As a result of my upcoming déménagement my Christmas list this year looked like a wedding registry, mainly consisting of requests for dishes and appliances and power converters and such. I got a lot of what I wanted, and I am practically pleased.

However, the best part of Christmas this year was giving a very unpractical gift. Baby sister Laura just graduated and has yet to find employment so her practical gift list asked for money. She got it, but Beth and I wanted to give her something special as well and we found the perfect thing for a photography nut: two antique cameras, one from the '20s and one from the '30s. Laura was so bowled over by the awesomeness of this gift she was actually speechless. We did good, and I feel all warm and fuzzy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Things I've Liked on the Internet Lately

Wikileaks releases alleged US Candid Assessment of Santa Claus, North Pole (safe for federal employees)
Hot or Not? Science explains it all.
How to make heroes
Pirates vs. lasers
An unsuccessful treatment for writer's block
The Princess Bride, now with more lightsabers!
Some good news, in a sweet animated graph!

EDIT: Stats geeks can explore this graph in detail here. While you're on the site, check out some of their other graphs and the tons of indicator data you can use to make your own.

A new offering from Nintendo?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Not For Cats

This is a phrase I have been uttering with greater than usual regularity recently. His Highness has tired of his fancy organic biologically-optimized low-carb kibble and has begun to take more of an interest in people food. But only the best people food, mind you. Gingerbread, too plebian; ginger custard sauce, acceptable. Bacon, beneath him; pancetta, worthy of interest. Cheddar, no thank you; camembert, yes please.

But nothing rocks his little kitty world like prosciutto. Jabberwocky will go through hell and high water for a nibble of delicious paper-thin dry-cured ham, even if it is domestic rather than Italian imported. You only have to open the bag for him to forget all attempts at sneakiness and propriety and jump up on the counter (an act for which he knows he will be punished) even when you're standing right there with the Squirt Bottle of Doom in hand. He just can't help himself. I had thought him immune to the allures of controlled substances when I saw his utter disdain for catnip, but it appears I may have discovered his vice of choice. And I can't say that I blame him.

And then there's the Christmas decorations:


Okay, Jabbers hasn't been *quite* that bad, but almost.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oof.

It has been a long and intensely Frenchful week, and I am delighted that it's finally over. For comic relief, it is my pleasure to present Eddie Izzard as he remarks on the joys and trials of learning la belle langue. The first clip comes conveniently equipped with subtitles in both English and French but unfortunately I could only find the second subtitled in what is rumored to be Swedish, so if you've ever wanted to learn Swedish from a French-speaking Brit, now's your chance.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today Is Tomorrow

Today I began my sixth week of language training. I feel, simultaneously, like I've only just started and like I've spent my entire life in French class. One of my A-100 classmates described it as Groundhog Day, which is really just about perfect. There's such a routine to it that every day seems much like the next and it's easy to lose track of time in the daily rounds of news articles and presentations and conjugations (which I really need to practice more). I have a progress evaluation scheduled for Friday, so we'll see then what these weeks have been good for. I'm pretty sure I've made some significant improvements, but a 3/3 also seems very far away.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's Over!

Nearly a month after Guinea's election the results are final - yesterday the Supreme Court confirmed Alpha Conde as Guinea's first democratically elected president ever, and his opponent Cellou Dalein Diallo has conceded, urging Guineans to accept their new president and refrain from further violence.

I am relieved and delighted. I had been having daymares of arriving in Guinea to find an embassy on lockdown with a civil war raging outside, or worse, not getting to go at all. An election will not solve Guinea's problems, of course, but it may be the beginning of a brighter new era for the country. I for one am at least cautiously optimistic.

Congratulations to Alpha Conde and the people of Guinea. Welcome to democracy. If you should discover that it's not all that you hoped it would be, I hope you at least find it preferable to the last 50 years of authoritarian rule.