## Friday, March 31, 2006

### What if....

Mathematics is not one of my strong points, so the following may have fatal flaws.

But consider this – what if I had captured all the rain that has fallen on my property this season, put it into bottles and sold it?

How much would I make, not counting the cost of building a giant funnel covering my entire house, garage and property, and the ensuing lawsuits and litigation from unhappy neighbors and people who discovered dead cats, turnips, pidgeons and old coffee cups in their drinking water?

Let's take look:

Rainfall so far this season: 52 inches

Approx size of property: 1/8 acre????

Then I used this fellow's calculator:

http://www.mss.cx/mss/raincalc

Based on that, I would have collected 176,488 gallons of water from my property so far this season.

So then I went to this site to see how much bottled water cost:

http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/housing/356-486/356-486.html#L6

It states:
"How Much Does Bottled Water Cost?

According to the National Sanitation Foundation, in 1998, the average retail price of one gallon of domestic drinking water ranges from \$.80 to \$1.20. A five gallon delivered bottle of drinking water is \$4.00 to \$6.00. A gallon of sparkling water is approximately \$1.85. Smaller bottles may be more expensive."

Based on that, I would have collected between \$141,190 and \$211,785 worth of water!!!!

And it's still raining...

### Swamped

I suppose if you ignore your own blog long enough, it will disappear. So that’s why I’m writing this update.

I’ve been swamped and haven’t had time to write anything.

## Thursday, March 16, 2006

### Justa buncha stuff (aka More Ramblings)

• It won’t stop raining. We’re now at 48.71 inches. Normal is 30.39.

I’m not a geologist, but I have a theory. If this rain continues, it’s only a matter of time before the entire town of McKinleyville turns into a Cream of Wheat-like substance and dissolves into the Pacific.

Well, maybe not. But sometimes it seems that way. Enough with the rain.

• I attended a meeting last night. There were a few notable things about it.

1.) Under the current zoning and building restraints, my town can accommodate 923 additional residential units. But the county would like my town to accommodate approx. 2,300 units. That means that the town plan, which was completed a couple years ago after a decade of deliberations, would need to be tossed out. Pastures and hillsides would be divided up into cookie-cutter subdivisions. The county could decide this, not the people who live in McKinleyville. Wow!
2.) If all the roads in Humboldt County were almost brand spanking new, the county would need about \$7 million per year to maintain them. But the roads aren’t new. They’re crumbling away and there’s an estimated \$100 million in deferred maintenance. There’s a budget of about \$1 million a year to maintain these roads.

• We’ve got big plans for the garden this year, which I’ll write about later. It’s just too early. Suffice it to say that we’re ready to rock when Mother Nature says it’s time. We won’t be purchasing much from the produce section this summer other than pineapples, blood oranges and red bananas. (After you’ve had a red banana, you can’t eat a regular banana.)

• I’m kind of tired of Natalie Portman’s publicity tour for her new movie. Wait... that’s not really a honest statement. I’m not tired of her at all. She’s welcome to appear on any show that I watch to shlock her movie.

• Speaking of TV, what’s not to like about the first episode of the Sopranos? Best series ever, hands down. How about the gangster that wanted to move to Florida? And Junior.....

• Learning Spanish is slow and tedious, but I’m actually making some progress.

It makes we wonder what, if anything, I did all those years in my high school Spanish classes. It seems as if I only learned a few words and phrases, which understandably disappeared after two decades. I take most of the blame, but I also question the teaching method.

Today I graduated from Learn In Your Car Spanish Disc 1 to Disc 2. Well, kind of. I’ll have to go back and listen to Disc 1 again and memorize a few more things, but I’ve got good portions of it programmed into my brain.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to get hung up on a single disc. Doing so could increase the boredom factor, which could result in turning off the CD player and flipping around the radio.

So I’m shooting for about 9O percent on each disc, with some of the words and phrases to be revisited at a later date. In short – listen to a disc, memorize most of it, move on to another disc, return to the old disk, go back to the second disc, and so on.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned on Disc 1:
1. The Spanish equivalent of basic words like I, you, they, good, yes, sir, etc.
2. The Spanish equivalent of basic phrases like “I want”, “Where is?” “How much?” “At what time?” etc.
3. The Spanish equivalent of transportation nouns like car, bus, boat, bus stop, airport, etc.
4. The Spanish equivalent of transportation phrases like “I want a taxi,” “Where’s the bus stop?” “Which number” “no smoking,” etc.
5. Money words
6. Hotel words
7. Important words like police station, drinking water, suitcases, etc.
8. Directions like “turn right” “straight ahead,” “the corner,” “the other side,” etc.
9. Restaurant words
10. Shopping words like bigger, small, more expensive, cheaper, etc.
11. Time of day
12. Questions, like who, why, when, where.

Last year when I tried this I got bogged down remembering numbers, my Achilles’ heel. So I came up with a new strategy this time – screw the numbers.

I can stumble my way from number one to 20. The other numbers I’ll put on the slow track and pick them up over time.

I’m also having a difficult time with the Spanish equivalent of words like here, over there, this one, that one and that one over there. It’s a mental thing. I can visualize and memorize “a table” or “the car,” but what do you do with “here”, “there” and “that one”??

Although progress is being made, the list above is pathetic when it comes to trying to communicate. The characters in my “Spanish Mangler” blog are nearly catatonic. They can barely communicate, and when they do they’re limited to phrases such “I would like water” or “A table for two, thank you.”

(Warning: Some of the phrases on the blog may even be incorrect. Consider it a second-grader’s worksheet.)

On Disc 2 I will learn a bunch of verbs, which are fairly easy to memorize with repetition.

More to come....

## Monday, March 13, 2006

### Rambo

I was flipping around the channels over the weekend and came across “The Beltway Boys” on FOX News. It's one of those "fair and balanced" programs on FOX, but there's a catch – the so-called liberal agrees with the conservative about 50 percent of the time, but the conservative hardly ever agrees with the liberal. And even when the liberal disagrees, he's not really expressing a liberal point of view. So it's not really balanced at all.

But that's beside the point. What I found interesting were the movie comments.

Conservative commentator Fred Barnes was ripping on Hollywood for making “anti-American” films. He cited “The Constant Gardener” and “Syriana,” films which he said portray the United States as evil. I haven’t seen those films yet and can’t comment on them.

Then things got weird. He cited two films as the type Hollywood should be making as an alternative to these “anti-American” movies – “Rambo I” and “Rambo II” (as he called them.)

If you may recall “Rambo: First Blood” is about a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD who shows up in a small town only to discover that his army buddy has died from Agent Orange-related complications. The Agent Orange exposure was courtesy the United States government. Then Rambo is harassed and tortured by local law enforcement and hunted like an animal by local Guardsmen. Of course, he’s a killing machine who was made that way by his government, something which the CIA agent sent in to retrieve him confirms. Rambo is a man who has been betrayed and nearly destroyed by his country. (I once heard the creator of Rambo give a talk. He said part of the point of his story was to show what would happen if U.S. special forces were unleashed on the American public. He also said at the end of his original version, the CIA agent comes in, talks to Rambo and then blows his head off.)

Is that what Barnes meant by "pro-American"? Or did he see a different movie? Or was he just talking out of his ass?

And then there’s “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” In it, Rambo is sent on a top-secret mission to Vietnam to photograph some U.S. prisoners of war who are still being held captive. But then Rambo discovers that the U.S. government has no intention of actually rescuing them. The government betrays Rambo and leaves him – and the prisoners – in the jungle to die. Rambo overcomes these obstacles.

Is that the pro-American type of film that Barnes wants Hollywood to make?

Of course, there's nothing necessarily anti-American about Rambo movies. They're just action-packed diversions. They're entertainment. I can't think of any occassions off hand where I would label a film as "pro-American" or anti-American." Those terms are too vague.

But if Barnes is going to use those terms, perhaps he should consider the content of the films he labels.

Barnes didn’t mention the last in the Rambo franchise – Rambo III. All I recall about that film is that Rambo works with the mujahedeen and almost single-handedly defeats the Soviets.

## Saturday, March 11, 2006

I was at the office on Friday talking to a friend when I looked outside and saw white stuff falling from the sky. Snow! That’s unusual for McKinleyville.

So I went out to my car to get my camera, but then realized I had left it at home. I drove home. I had to creep along real slow due to the small layer of snow on the roadway.

When I got home, it stopped snowing. I decided to quickly check my email before taking photos. But there were emails that required an immediate response, so I was stuck behind the computer for about 20 minutes.

The snow was melting and I had yet to take a single photo.

After I was done emailing, I jumped in the car. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, but I needed something interesting to photograph – maybe kids making a snowman or throwing snowballs.

My neighborhood was dead. Nobody was around.

I decided to drive to the park several blocks away. But when I got there, there was no snow. It didn’t snow everywhere, just in some neighborhoods.

I went further up the road until I was near a business that owed me money. So I went in and got it. And we talked about the snow. The owner told me that there was a lot of snow on a nearby hill.

I drove up the hill, but I didn’t see very much snow and there were no people.

I needed to get to a higher elevation – like the hill between McKinleyville and Fieldbrook. Up and up I went. There was little snow – nothing compared to what it was like earlier at my downtown office.

Halfway up the hill I looked down at my gas gauge and discovered that I was almost on empty and running on fumes, so I turned around, went back down the hill and bought some gas.

Still no photos.

I then returned to the area near my office, where there had been a lot of snow. Now it was melted. There was just a little here and there – nothing that would make an interesting photo.

So I went back to the house, where most of the snow had melted.

What should have been a simple mission was a total failure.

Thankfully a reader emailed me a photo this morning of his kids playing in the snow.

## Friday, March 10, 2006

### Snow!

It's snowing in McKinleyville! Pictures to come....

## Thursday, March 09, 2006

### Move over Seattle

Average yearly rainfall in Seattle: 36.2 inches

Total rainfall in Eureka this season as of yesterday: 46.31 inches

## Tuesday, March 07, 2006

### Learning Spanish

My Spanish was previously limited to handful of vocabulary words and some phrases like “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” and “¿Donde esta el bano?”

So last year I decided to change that. I purchased a set of CDs titled “Learn in You Car, Spanish.” I listened to the CDs religiously for several weeks, repeating all the words and phrases as directed while I drove around in my car doing my business.

My progress, in my opinion, was remarkable. At the rate I was going it seemed as if I might be fluent in a year’s time. As a bonus, I was learning while driving – time which would normally be wasted listening to misinformed conservative dingbats on the radio.

But then I got into learning numbers, and soon found myself counting from one to 200 – over and over again. These lessons need to be repeated to be effective. It was excruciating, like counting sheep. It made me sleepy and my enthusiasm for learning Spanish diminished. I stopped listening to the CDs.

Months went by and now and then I pondered why I was unable to motivate myself to learn Spanish. Then recently a friend wrote on his personal blog about how he planned to learn a foreign language. That, along with a conversation with a neighbor who teaches Spanish, reignited my interest in learning Spanish.

So it was back to the CDs – and back to the original problem. They’re boring and I’m unmotivated.

That’s when I got an idea. What if there was a reason for me to listen to the CDs? What if I created a sort of game where I could apply the Spanish I learn, be it from the CDs or any other source?

So I created a blog featuring two fictional characters – Rocky and Lucy. They’re two gringos who suddenly land in Mexico. It’s full Spanish immersion for this couple, with everyone around them only speaking Spanish. Rocky and Lucy can speak in English to each other, but if they want to get a taxi, a hotel room, order a meal or make a purchase, they have to speak Spanish – which means I need to learn enough Spanish to keep my characters moving.

I’m responsible for their well-being. If they’re going to have a fun, safe trip, I need to make it happen. If I don’t, then who knows what will happen to them? Maybe they’ll starve, be homeless, become glue-sniffing addicts or will be sold off into the Tijuana sex trade.

So I’ve got to keep them moving, at least a couple times a week.

The blog isn’t intended for public consumption, although it’s out there if someone wants to read it. I’m just not sure why they would. So far the story is unfolding a little slower than a “Dick and Jane” book, and with slightly simpler vocabulary and plot lines.

Why a blog? It’s just a user-friendly format. And there’s something about having a blog that makes you want to update it.

The “Rocky and Lucy” blog is not reading material – for me or anybody else. It’s learning material – a way to utilize Spanish, memorize Spanish, develop basic sentences and provide some motivation for listening to those boring CDs. Learning through audio is useful, especially when it comes to pronunciation. But the written word has a way of etching things into my brain.

It’s also an experiment. Is this a useful tool for learning Spanish? Will it work for me? I will I lose interest as I did with the CDs?

Time will tell.