The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘learning’

Du Spreche?

Recently I decided to take my German learning attempts to the next level. That is, LEVEL 0.2. My current level is doing Duolingo every day (or close to that), which has been going well.

I thought for next steps two things might make sense – a pen pal or reading children’s books in German. I’m anti-social enough that the pen pal idea lasted about one second.

panama 1For the children’s books I googled for German children’s books to learn German and what do you know – handy results came back. Great! I ordered three books:

Morgen, Findus, Wird’s Was Geben (Tomorrow, Fundus, Will Give What … That can’t be right, but I have no idea what it is)
Eine Woche Voller Samstage (A Week of Saturdays)
Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama (Oh, How Beautiful is Panama)

I looked forward to my three books with great anticipation. When they arrived I happily took the package home, opened it, and was immediately filled with … Whatever word means the emptying of ambition. These are no children’s books! These are more like elementary to middle school books! I wanted to be treated like a 3 year old having a book read to me! Dang it!stamstage

Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama is the one I will start with. It’s the easiest of the three. In this book a bear and a tiger (adorable) are on a journey to visit Panama (super adorable). I don’t know why, or if they succeed, my German isn’t that good. And, frankly, at this point I basically open a page, type word for word what I see into Google translate and then say ‘ohhhh, ok, I knew three of those words.’

Wish me luck on my likely fruitless endeavors.

Also, lesson learned, Germans do quotes differently. For example, in Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama they use these guys: << and >>.

<<Wer wusste?>> (Who knew?)

(I have no idea what’s happening in this book … but I’m excited to stumble through it 10 years from now.)

Attn: Ellen (2/15/17)



Back (apologies for my handwriting!)


The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

A month ago I learned Wien means Vienna in German. And yet, it wasn’t until I was ordering Wiener Schnitzel that it all clicked … Wiener means Viennese! Knowledge, huh? Now if I could just visit every city in the world I might be intelligent. Please sponsor my intelligence? I’ll send postcards!

OR @DumbFunnery

Why am I doing this?

Adventures in Colorado-ing

My wife and I are the proud new owners of fancy bicycles. This is a big step towards us being classic Coloradoans.

My new bike is fancy, and expensive (in my mind – to a true bicyclist, it’s on the lower end). But it is MUCH nicer than my last bike, which was one of Wal-Mart’s finer road bike offerings.

While at the bike shop the guy helping us/selling us on all things biking would occasionally throw out some bike lingo. We would nod before realizing what he just said was gibberish as far as we know.

“Yeah and it’s good to have a spare tube in case you run over some goat heads and get a flat.”

I laughed because this guy clearly has a delightfully weird sense of humor. But wait, no, he wasn’t joking. Are there a lot of goat head skeletons around here that are pointy and cause flats? That’s a thing? Why doesn’t someone clean them up? Better yet, why are there so many dead goats? Should I be concerned about the dead goat population?


After a bit I asked, “so … what are goat heads?” He laughed and said, “oh let me look it up,” then he began typing into Google and got a little afraid, “… I hope this returns pictures that aren’t …”

But no, it returned a picture of what my wife calls “sticker burrs” and what I call “those thorny things” or just “stickers.”

We took the bikes out for a nice 10 mile ride today and high-fived over the brilliance of bike shorts with pads for the tushes. Ah, comfort.

So, You Wanna Be a Brainiac?

SpaceX has tried again to have the first stage of its rocket, the Falcon 9, land autonomously.

That’s just plain cool. The rocket was trying to land on a drone ship (also cool) called “Just Read the Instructions.” I was following the rocket’s attempt on Twitter and SpaceX’s live streaming of the launch and I saw Elon Musk Tweet using the phrase “Just Read the Instructions.” Eh?, I thought, just read the instructions? That seems kinda mean. I thought that he was saying ‘hey folks, landing a rocket autonomously isn’t that tough, why can’t you get it right? Instead it turns out that “Just Read the Instructions” is the name of the drone ship – a name which is a tribute to the author Iain M. Banks, specifically the novel The Player of Games. And from there I went to two articles.

The articles (posts? what are they?) are about Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Two fellas who I believe most anybody could agree are intelligent. One of the articles, here, is about how good reading is for you and some books that Elon Musk has apparently referenced in speeches. The other is a blog post from Bill Gates himself about his favorite books that he read in 2014.

This post is lazy, it’s just me telling you what these two smart people have read and enjoyed … But hey, I had to click ALL TWO LINKS!

Elon Musk’s List (again, written about here and it’s a good read!)

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J. E. Gordon
Ignition: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark
Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
The Culture Series by Iian M. Banks
Dune by Frank Herbert
Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson


Bill Gates List (here, also a good read! He says why these books)

Business Adventures, by John Brooks
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell
The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil

A Brief Rodomontade

Recently I read Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. That’s one smart fella. While reading the book I ran into a number of words I did not know, so I made a note of them in my phone. Generally when I run into a word I don’t know I will look it up and usually I think, “huh, ok” but sometimes I think, “seriously, that’s a word?”


1. To walk through.
2. To inspect (an area) on foot.


1. To talk incoherently or aimlessly.
2. To move or act aimlessly or vaguely; wander.


1. The act or an instance of vituperating; abusive censure.
2. Sustained, harshly abusive language; invective.


1. Characteristic of or befitting a slattern.
2. Slovenly; untidy.



1. a past participle of clepe

2. having the name of; called




a. boastful words or behaviour; bragging
b. (as modifier): rodomontade behaviour.

2. (intr) to boast, bluster, or rant

The English language … What a weird thing.

(P.S. If you decide to read Of Human Bondage, go for it! But, having tried to describe the book to the lady who gave me my haircut and ended up making her think I was reading porn … Careful how you describe it. If you say something like, “it’s about relationships and the human spirit and how some people you end up just sort of BOUND to you know? Like … some people have such an impact on you and you can’t release yourself from them” you might think at the time you are being artistic and talking about the SOUL but the hair cutting person may think you are talking about actual physical bonds and think you are inviting her to your house with a basement. Just a warning, choose your words carefully.)

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