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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

`Why is it so hard to learn programming?'

Today I finished this essay for my Coursera class in Python.  If you've got absolutely nothing better to do, or if you're really ``into'' language, or both, then go ahead and read it.

The problem I have had is realizing that some of the code -- 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 mean 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.

But 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 minuscule 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 is called for. (Get it?.) 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.

(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 still prefer to ``gain access to'' things.)

Also, I think that it would be easier for me to learn programming if I were still 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.


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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An outrage

This is a local price of political apathy.  The powers that be, aka the Granby Heights board of directors, has decreed that each and every flower and bush in front of all 76 units shall be removed to the rear of a dump truck.
This is what the crew had managed to accomplish after about four hours today.
In the photo beneath that one, we see the adjacent plants, which are mighty close to getting theirs.(Note: they were excavated June 18.)
Directors are elected by condo owners. The elections aren't vigorously contested, so we've been stuck with a board that does what it wants. Meetings are public, so this is perfectly legal, but there has been few chances for us to insist on decency.
In other words, since they run unopposed, they can do whatever the fuck they want.
In a memo, the directors ask residents to keep cars away from the work being done. "Allowing a clear work area will hopefully speed up this work," the syntactically challenged board says. Yeah, hopefully.
The board also notes the work will include "the relocation of the downspouts into the parking area.
"This is being done to improve our drainage and appearance."
Ah yes, I can see it now...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Around here, we try not to step on anyone's toes

Taken in a certain retail establishment that would go unnamed  if it hadn't been named already.

Friday, June 6, 2014

``We're not rugrats. We're people. Ordinary people.''

                                                       -- Una Darling, in Bainbridge, N.Y., the night of the rehearsal of the wedding of my brother Mark and Una's grandmother, Elizabeth Macduffie.

I took these on June 1, the day of the wedding. Una was one of the two flower girls. The other girl, her cousin Ramona MacDuffie, was too late for the rehearsal. So during the dinner -- by then Ramona had arrived with her parents -- Una walked up to me and informed me that we needed to rehearse Ramona. I told Una that Ramona would be OK, that during procession Una should just tell Ramona to do what she is doing.Very considerate of Una.

I didn't have a chance to talk to Ramona. She was rather shy.

I spent a lot of time wondering why Una picked me of all the people to consult. I had never seen her before. At one point I speculated that it was because I was the only guy wearing a tie. But that doesn't explain why she did not approach a woman instead.
Una

Ramona in her flower girl dress


More Una

Monday, June 2, 2014

The scene at the Yaleville Inn in Bainbridge, the night of the rehearsal of the wedding of my brother Mark Alan Miller to Elizabeth Jane MacDuffie.
Upstate New York resembles the landscape of Richmond, Vermont,  where my father's parents last lived. Tonight my dad confirmed that impression.
In other news,  we're staying at the Algonkin Motel located on State Highway 7 in Bainbridge. Kinda rednecky. Earlier we stopped at Duane's diner in Duanesburg, I think the town was called.  The place was not at all busy. They told us to sit anywhere and then ignored us, so went to a nearby Dunkin' Donuts. Talk about keeping the money local.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I grabbed this one of me and Sebastian before Mark and Elizabeth's wedding this evening. I figure this will be the last time we'll be dressed in the exact same getup. Too bad this photo doesn't show more of our tuxedos.
No great loss since I couldn't get the straps on my pants and vest to hold. Just before the cake I had to drive back to the motel and put on my chinos and belt. The next time, give me suspenders!