Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What happens when you make assumptions about your personal history.

Yesterday and the day before we visited my two older brothers and their female partners in Jamaica Plain. I decided to cap off the journey with a quick trip to the dump I lived with a variety of mysterious and bewildered souls in 1982-'83. Before we went east my brothers advised me that the neighborhood had vastly improved since my day.
Still I drove up to 84 Sheridan Street not at all sure that it would still be standing. It had been just such a sketchy rat-infested piece of crap.
I was shocked to see the bay windows,  the landscaping and the paint job. Someone had seen something in what one of my housemates called the Mickey Mouse House, put something into so it no longer qualifies for the Pantheon of Disgrace. I had such mixed feelings, mostly disbelief. Still, I don't begrudge the residents for having a nice place to live.
Below the house we have a picture of thr approximate spot I was jumped at about 10 p.m June 12, 1982. I slept with the lights on for three days after that.

My bedroom looked out the upper-right top-floor window. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm thinking about teaching myself to play this sucker. The piano in the original Monson Free Library building. I figure I can do it on my lunch hours here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Swingin' through Ludlow


A video I took driving through Ludlow, Mass. to the sound of the ever-swinging Joe Pass' album, ``Virtuoso.'' I was returning home the Monson Free Library, where I'm temping at the circulation desk through the end of next month.One way, it's a 24-mile drive that includes Monson, Palmer, Wilbraham, Ludlow and Granby

I have to say I'm really not liking the job so far. It's boring, and I'm not getting a lot of direction. There's not much patron traffic. In the morning we process the bunches of items from the returns box and the inter-library loan delivery from C/WMARS. After that, there's not a whole lot to do. 
 
But the money's not bad at all, so I'll hang in there.


Sunday, July 13, 2014


Less than an hour ago I took my first look at the Monson Free Library, where I will be temping 15 hours a week through the end of August. My first day is Tuesday.
It's a long commute by my standards -- 24 miles each way. I drove there today to avoid being anxious about finding the place on my first day.
It takes about 45 minutes. 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Desolation Row


The violation happened this morning. They chainsawed the bushes and yanked the flowers outside our place this morning, about a week after parking the heavy equipment and gravel mulch and replacement bushes in readiness.
At 4:30 I came home to this:
 
Below that is a photo I took of our place in June.
 
And below that a video of the work being done this morning.
 
When they're done, we're going to push aside gravel and put in plants of our own choosing.
 
You can get details in my original post about the re-landscaping of Granby Heights.


video

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Grace dances with Mr. D.

Yesterday Grace survived a chance of death that was small but probable enough so that her surgeon and my household could not ignore it.
One drowsy dog late last night

Here is a photo of grace at 10 last night, 12 hours or so after having a "mass" removed from the right side her of head. Before the removal of fur from the side of her head and the insertion of stitches, the vet at The Countryside Animal Hospital administered general  anesthesia. Since Grace is considered an old dog at 11, she stood the average elderly dog's chance of dying of the anesthetic.

But she's also a strong healthy mutt -- her recent senior-screen blood test came back normal,  and she behaves as though she doesn't know that she's old.

Grace had to have the mass removed because if left there it would repeatedly be lacerated and she would be infected. 

The vet tech I consulted with was very somber. After I turned the dog over to her I picked up four cans of Grace's prescription food. The woman at the desk said she would charge me for the food when we retrieved the dog. Although she did not say it, the meaning was, Why pay for something in the morning when you may have no use for it that evening?
 
I drove home more confused and scared than I have been in a long time. I wondered how I would cope with the pain of her loss. I wondered how we inform our six-year-old friend Ava of Grace's death. I imagined that Ava's mother and I may have agreed to have her mother tell her, or perhaps I would have to make a special pre-arranged to tell her. What would her questions be? How would I  answer them?

I fashioned the scarf that Grace, which she got a week ago after a bath at Kim's Dog & Cat
Grooming, into a bracelet, and wore it work. Before I went to work I had already been informed that she had survived, but I needed to express the fact I don't live only to answer stupid questions from customers and smile in the face of their ignorance of or thoughtless disregard for basic etiquette.

Earlier today the dog was sluggish, but she started to pick up steam in the afternoon. She is still enthusiast about eating, greeting the neighbors, cats and Pedro the chinchilla.
The stitches come out in 10 days to two weeks. The lumpy mass will be biopsied; the vet has said it's most likely benign.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

In which Dan gets all intellectual

Today I finished this essay for my Coursera class in Python. The task was to answer the question: ``Why is it so hard to learn programming?'' If you've got nothing better to do, or you're really ``into'' language, read it. If not, I wouldn't blame you if you skip it or even puke halfway through.
 
Note: This ``massive open on-line course'' -- the acronym is MOOC -- has 73,448 enrolled.


I can answer the essay question speaking only for myself, certainly not 73,000 people. Therefore I can answer the question only very partially, especially because I've never studied any other programming language.
The problem I have had is realizing that some of the code -- aka representations of computer language -- I've seen so far has perplexed me with what are, to me, hidden and obscure meanings. Learning code became easier when I realized it contains those meanings.
By hidden meanings I refer to what's ``behind" functions such as try/except, type/int, max/min, etc. Just looking at them gives me no clue about their purpose. Purpose is therefore hidden. It's a lot like a encountering for the first time a human-language word of whose meaning I have absolutely has no idea. Just because I don't know the meaning, it still has a meaning and serves a purpose. To uncover the meaning of the word, and to use it effectively, I have to learn and memorize its definition or definitions.

One difference of course between human language and computer language is the nature of their origins. The meaning of human-language words are most often determined and changed over centuries through the loose consent of many thousands of people. Computer languages are invented over miniscule spans by either an individual or a team. So learning Python has been hard for me because it is a de jure  language; while human language is formed by a vast and democratic consensual process, in which I can have a part, making it a de facto language.

So for example when I encountered the Python term ``except'' it didn't make intuitive sense to me. As a speaker of a de facto language (English) I understand ``except'' when it's used as a preposition. "I read all the books in the series except that one.'' In try/except it's meant as a verb (I think...), as in to identify an exception such as a string of letters when the input numerals is called for. So now I have to memorize the use of ``except'' as a verb (which isn't hard) if I'm going to use Python effectively. Until I know what the term try/except does, it's purpose is hidden. If the meaning or purpose of a word is not obvious, or, in the case of human language, ambiguous, the word is obscure.

(The main reason I had a hard time comprehending  "except" in the Python sense is that I find the conversion of non-verbs into verb form distasteful. As examples: the use ``to partner,'' as in one person partnering with another, is awful. There is also our friend ``to access.'' I don't care what the rest of the English-speaking world says, I still prefer to ``get access'' to things.)

Also, I think that it would be easier for me to learn programming if I were still very young. It is well known that children have a much easier time learning language than adults.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014



It wouldn't surprise me if someone told me that this blog has been a bit weak lately. I mean, you have a dog, get over it. I have been focusing mostly on posting photos and videos of Grace in large part because I haven't been able to work on posts that are more time consuming, such as the essays, often written for classes but not always, and travel photos from travel, such as those from the Massachusetts North Shore. 
But these days I'm taking a Coursera class in Python and guitar lessons with Peter Blanchette. So needless to say I haven't had time to travel or even get out and about much locally.


Blogging for me is still worth doing, however. Right now this blog is reminding me of The Pinterested Parent by a former co-worker of mine. Kim Uliana writes a great deal about her toddler. My sense is that Kim is compelled by watching her daughter grow and change and do and say new things. For myself, I am fascinated by Gracie's behavior -- how she reacts to situations, and how she makes use of her limited understanding of language, not just words ancillaries to words -- posture, tone of voice, etc.

And why is she fascinated (and I suspect fond of) cats and at least one chinchilla (Pedro, pictured here) when other dogs would just as soon kill them?


In fact, when Grace first encountered Pedro about five years ago, she made a charge for the cage. Pedro was terrified. I had to pull Grace away and lock her out of the room. 

These days, when Grace is in the study, Pedro, who we are caring for while his owner is away, will move about in her cage to get the closest look he can of Grace. That makes Grace jumpy, as you can see!

The other day, it occurred to me that I'll have these posts to look at 25 years from now, assuming Blogger is still around. When I am 78 I'll have a resource that will let me know exactly where I was on certain days, and in some cases my observations and feelings. Imagine blogs made in the 1970s. Looking at them now could be a fascinating and perhaps nauseating experience (I mean really, the 70s, which started  as the ersatz '60s and then moldered and disintegrated from there). Still, I have to admit I would be interested in looking in a blog I created as a teenager, although maybe only for a short stretch at any one time. It just might be a little embarrassing.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Of an evening

Still so cool to be able to take halfway-decent photos and publish them right away. Just got in from Gracie's evening walk.
Grace with Emmett the cat, who by her behavior reminds me of a cat version of Grace, and then a shot of a few of our neighbors on their patio.

(Christ, but work sucked today;  some people can be cold, even when they don't want to be, including me.)

It's Emmett... Emmett the cat.
Dakota and Marty
more Marty.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Good taste

Taking a break from studying Python to decompress at the Taste of Amherst. Some pretty good fish and chips.
I've seen one band, the halfway-decent "Bunk." But I have to admit that I'm liking the pre-recorded mix better.  Tunes such as "Bus Stop," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Drive My Car," "Crimson and Clover," "Sounds of Silence," and ``When I'm Sixty-Four." Of course, what mix would be complete without ``I Think I Love You'' and "Sugar Sugar."
I figure whoever put together the mix must be aged 50-60, like me.
At any rate, it's refreshing to be part of a crowd scene that feels genuine.  That all comes crashing down in about 20 minutes,  when I go to Target for some shit that can't be put off until tomorrow.
as far as I can tell, no surprises here