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Trying a New Word Processor: LyX [Oct. 19th, 2016|01:36 pm]
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For various reasons, I deliberately do not use any Microsoft products at home. This is no hardship for me (except for Excel).

Unfortunately, the open-source Linux word processors I've tried, Open Office and Libre Office, are both Word clones.

What I want is something that takes all the best ideas from previously developed word processors, which for some reason Microsoft refuses to do. [Though I will admit that I do like that Microsoft does use mouses (or touchpads or whatever) and also still has short-cut keys so you don't have to take your hands off the keyboard for quickly doing things you've done a million times before.]

Reveal codes

I miss reveal codes from WordPerfect 5.1, for example. You know how whenever you delete something wrong or copy and paste something from another source, your computer sometimes decides you want some wacky font instead of the one you're using for everything else? With reveal codes, you can find that wacky-font command and then delete it. Without it, you have to select everything, and maybe some extra just to make sure, and then try to change it all back to match, remembering your font, your font size, un-bolding it, or whatever.


I also miss the way Macs do equations. You can easily do wacky things like subscripts of subscripts (instead of just making them a smaller font than the main subscript and hoping that's good enough). Or fractions inside of fractions.


I also miss the easy way to make tildes and other modifications to letters on Macs. For a tilde, you just type Ctrl-n, then the letter you want the tilde on top of, usually an n. In some applications, no matter how much I scroll around through their options of weird characters, I can't find an x-bar. Grr.

Mostly I don't care. I'm no longer typing for zoology professors, so I don't have to do tricky things anymore. Unless I'm typing Spanish or other foreign languages, and I found typeit.org for that.

But finally I decided to try something new (to me). I've read good things about LaTeX, but it has a steep learning curve. And so I'm first trying LyX, which is a wysiwyg-ish version.


Under the help tab in the software is an introduction and a tutorial, both of which I've now read over the last three days.

Graphic design versus going with the flow

Okay, there are two ways to go about designing documents. One is to specify exactly how everything should look, down to individual pixels. This is what we try to do on paper and with typewriters and is important for things like brochures which, after you fold them, need to have certain things on each panel on both sides.

However, this does not work well on the Internet where you have no idea what size window people will have open let alone how big a screen they will have, etc. Some people resist this and try to make everything look just how they want and try to force everyone to have their windows big or it just won't work.

But the best practice is considered to be to use a design that can work in many situations. So, for example, instead of saying you want the title to be in 18 point boldfaced font, you just say you want it to be in "Title" font, which is big and bold. You can specify the defaults you want, but the viewer can change these.

So, when you're coding html, it's best to designate the function of everything as you go and then separately specify the style of those things. So everything is a title or a paragraph or an equation, and you make make up your own styles for other things.

LyX is more like html than like Word. First you decide what you're writing (such as a letter, a book, or an article). That determines what styles are available (such as signature, title, or bibliography).

So the advantage is that you're thinking in terms of function instead of in terms of typesetting. You don't have to remember what size you decided to make subtitles, you just remember that you're using subtitles.

Even if you like this idea, the bad part is that you are relying on someone else to figure out all the styles you need. For example, on letters, I still can't figure out how to include my title under my name in the signature block. Surely that's possible--I didn't check the documentation or google anything yet. But I don't actually know, and there's definitely an avenue for frustration here.

Still, there is no sudden changing of fonts that you don't understand--everything of the same function is the same style as each other.

Equations and characters

Equations and characters are a lot like on Macs. Woot!

And you have automatic numbering of things like footnotes and equations so you can stick one in the middle without having to find all the other ones. And you can make automatic tables of contents. And you can go directly to specific sections rather than having to scroll or find the right search terms.


You can't export it to Word, so if that's required for a job application or other sharing, this is no good. However, you can export it to PDF.


I'm going to try using LyX for NaNoWriMo.
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On Fine, Curly Hair [Oct. 18th, 2016|10:43 pm]

I've been noticing that my hair's been looking rattier lately.

I did some research and apparently if you have hard water, you should use detergent, not soap, to wash your hair. So I switched from Dr. Bronner's back to shampoo. There's been no obvious improvement, but this may be a gradual thing.

As I've gotten older, I've not been able to grow my hair as long. It's now getting to the point where gravity is no longer straightening my hair into mere waves. So I've done some research on how to treat curly hair.

My hair is also fine--a lot of advice for fine hair is intended to make it look bigger, but mine is already too Bozo-the-clown-ish for my tastes, so I'm trying to ignore that advice. There's still plenty of bizarre advice out there.

Never brush your hair.

Um, what? How could that possibly help?

Apparently that hundred-strokes-a-day thing only works for people with straight hair. The hair is all smooth, and the oils get brushed down the hair shaft, so you have nice, shiny hair. But curly hair is that way because the hairs are all lumpy, and so the oil doesn't go down the shaft, and you just have oily hair at the top and dry hair at the bottom no matter what you do. Plus fine hair is delicate like lace, so you should be super gentle with it.

So how do you get the rat's nests out?

Comb your hair only when it's wet.

Dripping wet. Preferably while still in the shower.

Okay, combs do not like to go through my hair. I could decorate my hair by sticking combs in it in random places, combing it from there to 1/2 - 2 inches that it will go, and just leaving it there. (I don't quite have Marge Simpson holding power, though.)

Brushes go through much more easily, at least the boar-bristle brushes that I use.

It's true that it does become possible to get a comb through my hair while it's wet, after conditioning it. But I've read that your hair is weaker when it's wet. So, I brush before I get in the shower, then brush it again after I get out, then comb it to get the last tangles out. I don't see changing this strategy.

Let your hair drip dry.

Basically, when your hair is wet, it can clump into ringlets. If you blow-dry it or brush it after it's dry, it goes all Roseanne Roseannadanna.

Interestingly, if I put my hair up in a ponytail after a morning shower, it can still be wet in the evening where the ponytail holder is. That can't be good.

Cut it off.

Curly, fine hair is just too fragile to grow long. So don't even try.

This is actually the strategy that R. and my mom use. My mom actually tells the stylist, "Cut my hair as short as you can without making me look weird." Occasionally, it comes out a little short for her taste and she wears big earrings and bright red lipstick for a while.

I have a tiny little head, plus I love long hair, so I will not be doing this either. Obviously, if my hair can only grow to be two inches long when I'm 85, then sure. But meanwhile, no thanks.

Sleep on silk.

I'm surprised they don't say to sleep standing up. Cotton pillow cases will damage your hair! So get silk pillowcases. Or silk hairnet thingies. Sexy!

I read somewhere earlier that putting your hair up in a ponytail while you sleep will damage it. So you should either leave it down (where the ceiling fan blows it all over my face making me itchy so I can't sleep) or put it in braids. Heh, braids. Those are another recipe for giganto-hair!

Do you have any advice for curly hair? Do you have any odd-sounding strategies for your hair care?
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Different can be good [Oct. 11th, 2016|07:52 pm]
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Instead of wondering to ourselves why someone can't be more like us in some way, I wish we would try harder to wonder how different someone can be and have it still be okay. Can we make it okay for people to be super different?

There's an old song (1965), "Johhny Half Breed," about how a town has made it clear that that "half-breeds ain't welcome." Until the mayor's daughter disappeared and they couldn't find her. As a last resort (after helicopters, even), they sent the man they called Johnny Half Breed after her and he found her.

"He was hero for a day.
They asked him to remain.
They said they learned their lesson:
All people are the same."

Um, no, all people are not the same. They called him because he was different and he succeeded because he was different. He had tracking skills that the townspeople lacked. And he had those skills because he lead a different lifestyle than they did. The lesson to learn is that people are different and that this can be good.

I'm also reminded of a seminar I took where all the participants were divided into four personality types: detail-oriented people, curiosity/logic-oriented people, people persons, and creatives/thrill seekers. Everyone agreed that without any single one of these groups of people, the world would be a worse place. They also agreed that they were really glad that they didn't have to do the yucky things that the people in the other groups enjoyed doing.

Much as I think I would enjoy having an identical twin sister around, and I do think I would, it's getting really old, not to mention tragic and horrifying, to hear so many stories about people who want everyone to be the same such as, just off the top of my head:
* religious people who want everyone to be the same religion as them
* those who want everyone to be the same political party as them
* straight people who want everyone else to be straight
* people who never wanted an abortion for themselves or loved ones who want to outlaw all abortions for everyone
* body shamers
* bullies
* misogynists, racists, and homophobes
* people who say immigrants should "just learn English" (like it's so easy and they're just being stubborn)
* evil/intolerant homeowner association members
* sorority sisters who fine you for going out of your room with "bed head"

Are there any exceptions? Yes. I admit to wanting to "fix" psychotics, anorexics, addicts, and other people who cause harm to themselves or others. And if it's not possible to fix them, I want there to be protections, even if that means, say, the death penalty for serial killers. So I am not immune to this kind of thinking.

But overall, I'd rather ask, "can we make it okay for a person to be different from me?" than "how can we make people be more like me?"

We can start with asking "why are they different and what are the advantages?" (yea for learning!). And it could also help to remember something my mom said that I really like: "Everyone is always doing the best they can."

What ways are you different from how other people would like? Here are some of mine:
* yankee imperialist pig
* materialist and global warmer
* omnivore
* living in sin (unmarried partner)
* godless (atheist-leaning agnostic)
* don't have kids
* don't even want kids
* don't even want pets
* buck teeth (won't get braces)
* female who likes to think and be financially independent
* different career than my parents'
* cold all the time
* don't want to take mind-altering substances
* early retiree
* think "too much," don't like meditation
* clothes are not in style, especially shoes!

Obviously I don't like some of those, at least in some ways, but most of them I really, really do like.
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Experimenting with produce: blueberries [Oct. 3rd, 2016|10:22 pm]
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There's a coupon at HEB right now. If you buy Thomas's English muffins you get free HEB brand pancake mix. There are several kinds but they are something I would never buy because they are all made from white flour. But the thought of a lot of free pancakes brought me to the pancake mix aisle to investigate.

They had two mixes that require adding just water: regular and buttermilk, so I got the buttermilk. I've read that just-add-water mixes don't taste any worse than the kinds where you add oil and eggs, but people feel too much like they're cheating or something. I am not one of those people. If the eggs and oil are included for the same price, why not get that? Plus, then you can make any amount of pancakes without having to figure out how to use fractions of eggs.

So, I tried a batch. As expected, it was not as good as my favorite pancake recipe, but it was okay and better than Bisquick pancakes.

I tried adding chocolate chips; they did not help. Then I thought that blueberries might really go well. (I know, finally we get to the blueberries!)

On my next batch, I tried adding dehydrated blueberries. Robin has recommended these as much better than regular blueberries for pancakes (the latter are too wet to work properly). However, I didn't like them. They were a little crunchy and also got lost in the batter.

Then I bought some frozen blueberries, let some sit out to thaw, and added them to my next batch. Yum. Yes, they turn the batter blue and there is a bit of a moisture problem, especially involving sticking to the pan a little, but they feel like success to me!

I have to say that it is quite nice to just mix up a small batch of blueberry pancakes instead of doing all the work it takes to make my double batch of banana chocolate chip pancakes. I have been feeling kind of gleeful doing it. And it doesn't wreck my diet, either, by which I mean that I don't automatically weigh more the next day every time I eat some.

But how much of a serving of blueberries am I eating? I like to make half a batch of pancakes, which means 1/2 cup of mix and 3/8 cup of water (I just fill the half-cup measuring cup about 3/4 of the way full). Then I added 3/8 cup of blueberries, and that seemed about right, and like a lot. But that turns out to be 1.5 servings of pancakes and 1/2 a serving of blueberries. So, this is not a nice, easy way to get a serving of fruit. So sad. However, it is a nice, easy way to get a half serving of fruit! Yum!

My next step is to try the smaller wild blueberries for sale at Trader Joe's. I also checked Trader Joe's for just-add-water pancake mix and they do have one but it's also made with white flour. (And coconut, interesting.)

When I run out of this mix, I may try making my own with whole wheat pastry flour. But how easy is it to find powdered eggs and powdered buttermilk or whatever? I checked the ingredients list and noticed that there are no eggs at all in my mix. Weird.

I actually found two recipes online. They do have some weird ingredients.

* The one from Anastasia's Palace just has powdered milk.

* The one from My Food Storage Cookbook involves egg powder, butter powder, powdered buttermilk, powdered milk, and malted milk powder.
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NaNoWriMo event: authors discuss how to get started with a new book [Oct. 3rd, 2016|03:36 pm]
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NaNoWriMo got off to a bizarrely early start with an author panel on October 2. I already know that different authors use different strategies (except they all say that you must make time for writing if you want to write), so it's good that they had a panel of five authors. Plus a few more in the audience, not to mention the half of the audience that had already participated before.

Some of the authors even did talk about the subject of getting started on a new book.


To outline, or not to outline; that is the question. The general consensus is that new writers generally do not outline but just jump right in. The technical term for this style is "pantser" (aka "pantster") or one who goes by the seat of one's pants.


But outlines can be handy. They can speed up the writing. And one person said she tends to re-write the first third of her book whenever she doesn't start with an outline.

Outlines can also greatly reduce the editing process afterwards. In fact, several people agreed, you can pre-write more or re-write more. And most people think pre-writing is more fun. (I might not think that. I think it's also nice to see the writing get better as you fix it up.)

And outlines can help you work with co-authors.


However, sometimes outlines can take away the magic--if you've already written the outline, then sometimes adding in the details feels like drudgery instead of fun. One author recommends minimal outlining--just list some things that need to happen and some motivations the characters have.

And sometimes outlines can lead you astray--you can't be afraid to trash it if you later decide that's not where your story should go.

My take

I always assumed you'd need an outline or something if you were publishing episodes as you finished them. If you wait to figure out who the murderer is until you're halfway through the book, then it's too late to add the clues you'd want your readers to have.

For school assignments, whenever an outline was required, I always wrote the whole paper first and then created the outline from that. I never knew ahead of time what I would be writing because it all depended on what I found out from the books available to me. I did use note cards, and I suppose I could have written an outline from the note cards rather than writing a paper from the note cards and then an outline from the paper, but at the time, outlining just seemed like a waste of time.

I guess that for the "book" I did last time, I had a bare-bones plot, a couple of characters, and a scene or two that I really wanted. All that happened, but didn't use very many pages. To me it's just as hard to think of an outline as to be a pantser--you have to think up the ideas somehow. Once that's done, it's all fun.

Also I learned that if I couldn't write because I was, say, stuck at a bus stop with no bench, that pre-thinking was a big help. I was always afraid I'd forget my best ideas, though, and would end up repeating them over and over in my head so that I wouldn't.

For this year's non-fiction book, I have made an outline. It's not a full outline, but every time I get another idea I think I might like, I find a place for it in my outline.


Reading other people's writing can be good prep work for your writing.


One person likes to read poetry before each writing session. It's like running scales when you're playing an instrument. It gets her warmed up and in the right head space.

One person has several go-to books he re-reads a lot, and he has different ones he uses for different needs. For example, if the language needs to be sparse, he'll read Hemingway, preferably a hunting story. If it needs to be epic, he reads Tolstoy. If it needs to be visual, he likes Jack Finney's About Time: 12 Short Stories.

But another author prefers music for that. She'll listen to opera or something to put herself in the right emotional frame of mind.

When attempting a new genre, you can try reverse engineering. For example, one person writing her first romance wondered how many times it was appropriate to mention someone's scent. So she counted it in a book where the scent was an important plot point, and it had been mentioned 23 times. So when it's not an important plot point, you need to mention it much fewer times!


Some people feel they need to cleanse themselves of reading. When they read, that other book is hogging a lot of space in their head. That space should be full of their own book instead!

Some people get burned out reading other books in their own genre. (Tragic!)

My take

I know that when I write something while another book has really captured me, I find myself copying their style. Which is super fun (assuming I liked their style).


That's pretty much it for the topic at hand. They did talk about several other topics as well, though.

Writing linearly

Someone asked whether they write linearly or jump back and forth. The consensus seems to be that people write linearly unless they really get stuck. Then they might jump ahead to a scene they know has to happen, just so they can keep writing.

One person said that writing from beginning to end helps reduce inconsistencies. One said if emotional development was important, it's really hard to write out of order.

Some people write all the dialog first and then go back and write the other parts.

My take

Heh, my writing is full of inconsistencies even writing linearly. I don't know how that happens, but it does. Then I have to go root them out because I despise inconsistencies! I definitely did that thing where I wrote linearly until I got stuck and then I jumped ahead to the good parts that I had already thought up. But I ran out of those pretty quickly!


You can really get lost in research and never do any writing--it can become an excuse. So how do you know how much research to do? One person summarized the answer this way: If you're winging it and you know you're cheating, do research. If you're doing research and you know you're cheating, get back to writing.

Research usually won't get you out of a fix. And there's usually no need to stop your writing when you aren't sure of something. Like if you're wondering about clothing in during your era, because you need to know if he can un-do buttons or has to do something else, just leave a marker. One person likes brackets: "He tweaked her [buttons?]." Another always uses "XXX" to help find these spots later.

The consensus was that no matter how perfect your research is, experts will say that you're wrong. So, don't try to convince experts, just worry about convincing the lay reader. This advice sounds terrible to me, but one person was writing about an autistic person, based on her autistic son, and someone who knew another autistic person (who of course was different) said she'd gotten some details wrong.

Getting unstuck

I've heard before that if you get writer's block, just write anything. "And now [character] is having breakfast. It's scrambled eggs, toast..." Or as the moderator said, "I don't know what this character should do next. She's tough, but ..."

But there were some other ideas. One person said to get some people you can brainstorm with. Many people like having a novel-writing group where people read each other's chapters and give advice. I'm feeling a little like Daryl Zero in "The Zero Effect." "Talking? To people?" I never expected that book writing (without co-authors) would be such a social undertaking. It seems wrong!

Read how-to books.

Google "the snowflake method." So I did. It's a way to outline your story. First you start with a one-sentence description. Then make a one-paragraph description. Then make a one-sentence description for each character. Add more and more details until you have a lot. The term was apparently coined by Randy Ingermanson who explains it in The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel.


Do a creative writing exercise. Ask yourself, what is the goal, motivation, and conflict--for you as the writer? Why does this matter? If you don't write, what won't you get?

For the conflict, troubleshoot. Figure out in advance what's likely to come up and get in the way. For example, during NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving! Or you don't feel like it.

Many people recommended finding good spaces to write in, with few distractions. Write-in's at coffee shops are a common NaNoWriMo event. (People just come and sit (mostly) quietly typing away.) One guy moves into a hotel when he needs to do a lot of writing fast. One with no distractions, "not one of the nice ones with gyms."

Or withhold things that you like until you've done enough.

One person heard that Susan Brockman said that when you have a good writing session, pick something physical to do (like rubbing your knuckles) to train your body that doing that thing means you're ready to work.

The NaNoWriMo strategy

"Magic happens when you concentrate your writing." One guy wrote a novella in a weekend. Several of the authors felt that this was a good idea even for them, though one is not participating because with kids, etc., she can write only three times a week, and another is just "going to party, not trying to win."

Who knew that real authors would like this? Weird.

How long it takes to write a book

The survey of these authors on their first book yielded these results:
* two years, 17 drafts
* one year, 3-4 major drafts (first published book); five years (first book)
* eighteen years, 20 drafts (first book), 60 days (second book)
* five months (writing 20 pages each, 3 days per week)
* four months (first book, nonfiction), five months (first fiction)


Many of these people were co-authors and apparently a very common way to do that is to pass the story back and forth. You can be kind of mean to each other, too, such as by leaving your co-author with a situation you know they will have trouble with (but think they could use the practice with).

Two people said an outline was important for co-writing; one said only when working with new co-writers.

On re-write requests from publishers

One gal says that whenever she gets a re-write request, she gets bratty for a while. Then she deconstructs their request and re-writes the request herself. She finds that publishers are good at noticing real problems, but their solutions are often terrible.

Other authors said that the good publishers just point out the problems and don't try to tell you how to fix them.
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On Compound Words in Spanish [Sep. 20th, 2016|01:36 am]
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I think compound verbs are fun. Why, yes, I did enjoy studying German (where the word for glove is handschuh = hand-shoe), except when trying to read sociology articles (yikes, those were some very long words).

Spanish has some compound words, too. Many follow the pattern of combining the third-person singular of a verb with the plural of a noun. For example, cortalápices, the word for pencil sharpener, literally means "it sharpens pencils."

These words are generally masculine, even if the nouns they include are feminine (which I learned from About.com's Colorful Combinations, which also has a list of common and interesting compound words that follow this pattern). And the singular and plural forms are the same.

Here are some words from our book that follow this pattern:
* el cumpleaños = the birthday (lit. it fulfills years)
* el lavaplatos = the dishwasher (it washes dishes)
* el parabrisas = the windshield (it stops breezes; I always thought this was from "para" = for, not from "parar" = to stop)
* el paraguas = the umbrella (it stops water--it lost an "a" in there)
* el tocadiscos = the record player (it plays records)

Other useful ones:
* el abrelatas = the can opener
* el cascanueces = the nutcracker
* el cortacuitos = the circuit breaker
* el cuentakilómetros = the speedometer, odometer (it counts kilometers)
* el cuentapasos = the pedometer (it counts steps)
* el cuidaniños = the babysitter (he/she cares for children)
* el escurreplatos = the dish rack (it drains dishes)
* el guardarropas = the clothes closet (it keeps clothing; extra r for extra fun)
* el limpiaparabrisas = the windshield wiper (it cleans windshields; it cleans that which stops breezes)
* el matafuegos = the fire extinguisher (it kills fires)
* el matamoscas = the fly swatter (it kills flies)
* el matarratas = the rat poison (it kills rats)
* el matasellos = the postmark (it kills stamps, though we learned stamp as la estampilla)
* el pagaimpuestos = the taxpayer
* el parachoques = the bumper (it stops crashes)

Other fun ones from that list that I really like:
* el calientalibros = the bookworm (he/she warms books) (though SpanishDict says it's el ratón de biblioteca)
* el paracaídas = the parachute (it stops falls)
* el rompecabezas = the puzzle (it breaks heads)

This DuoLingo comment lists many kinds of compound words. Here are more from our book (and my guess at what the component words are):
* anteayer = the day before yesterday (ante = before, ayer = yesterday)
* la autopista = the highway (el auto = the car, la pista = the path)
* el baloncesto = the basketball (el balón = ball--though we learned la pelota, el cesto = basket)
* bienestar = well-being (bien = well, estar = to be)
* bienvenido = welcome (venido = come)
* el crucigrama = the crossword puzzle (cruzar = to cross, I don't understand the other half)
* la entrevista = the interview (entre = between, la vista = the view--that makes about as much sense as the English version)
* el girasol = the sunflower (girar = to turn, sol = sun; I thought all plants turned toward the sun, but English is similar)
* la medianoche = the midnight (I don't find that medio/a means mid, but it can mean median, noche = night)
* el mediodía = the noon (I always assumed this meant midday)
* la motocicleta = the motorcycle, motorbike (el motor = the motor, el ciclo = the cycle)
* nosotros, nosotras = we (nos = us, otros/otras = others)
* el pasaporte = the passport (pasar = to pass; I don't understand the other part)
* el pasatiempo = the hobby (pasar = to pass, tiempo = time)
* pelirrojo/a = red-haired (pelo = hair, rojo/a = red; wow, what happened to the spelling?)
* el terremoto = the earthquake (la tierra = land, earth; motor = motor; this looks like a pretty big spelling change, too)
* vosotros, vosotras = y'all (vos = you, thou; otros/as = others)

Spanish with Judith also has a nice list of Compound Words.
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On Mindless Eating [Aug. 2nd, 2016|05:05 pm]
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Bad Idea

Everyone knows that mindless eating is a bad idea because you eat way too much without noticing, plus, since you're not paying attention, you don't even enjoy it as much.

Good Idea

However, I have found an excellent use for mindless eating: cantaloup that turned out not to be very good. In fact, I'd say it's a good idea for any food that's healthy but not very tasty (though not horrible) and that is easy/neat to eat mindlessly while doing something else.
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On Spanish Names [Jun. 4th, 2016|01:42 pm]
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We had a section in our text about Spanish names, but it's described very well and somewhat amusingly in a few paragraphs in James Michener's Iberia so I'll give you that quote below. (I'm adding more paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.)

A word about Spanish names. To explain the tradition fully would require many pages, for it is unbelievably complicated, but ideally every Spaniard, male or female, has two surnames [last names], the first and more important being the father's and the second the mother's. Thus Pedro Pérez Montilla can properly be referred to as Señor Pérez Montilla or simply as Señor Pérez, but to refer to him as Señor Montilla would be a real gaffe.

Spanish also has the handy little words Don and Doña, which have no equivalent in English and cannot be translated; they are used only preceding a given name [first name], allowing one to refer to a man or woman by the given name with no presumption of intimacy. Thus our friend can be called Don Pedro or Señor Don Pedro Pérez Montilla.

When he [our friend] married, let us say to Leocadia Blanco Alvarez, his wife did not surrender her surnames but merely added his, preceded by the preposition de (of), so that her name became Señora Leocadia Blanco Alvarez de Pérez Montilla, and she may properly be addressed as Doña Leocadia, or as Señora Blanco, or as Señora Blanco Alvarez, or as Señora Blanco Alvarez de Pérez Montilla, or as Señora de Pérez Montilla.

Frequently the paternal and maternal surnames are joined by either a hyphen or an y (and), which means that Don Pedro’s son could be named Antonio Pérez Blanco, or Antonio Pérez-Blanco, or Antonio Pérez y Blanco, although in recent years the last has become less frequent.

Many Spaniards today, in common usage, simply omit the maternal surname entirely or abbreviate it to a single letter. On the other hand, if Don Pedro and Doña Leocadia belong to the nobility or the aristocracy (or if they want to put on airs) the son will adopt the name Señor Don Antonio Pérez Montilla y Blanco Alvarez.

The problem is further complicated when a man has a family name which is unusually common and a maternal name which is less so, for then he becomes known by the more distinctive of his two names, which is only sensible. The five most common Spanish surnames, in order of frequency, are García, Fernández, López, González and Rodríguez, and just as the Englishman named Smith or Jones is accustomed to adding a hyphenated second name, such as Smith-Robertson, so the Spaniard becomes García Montilla, sometimes with the hyphen.

It is in conformity with this custom that the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca is so often referred to simply by his maternal name. Anglo-Saxon readers encounter difficulties with the names of such historical figures as Spain’s two cardinals who exercised political leadership, Mendoza and Cisneros; in history books you will find many pages about them, and they were at least as famous as Richelieu in France and Wolsey in England, yet if you try to look them up in a Spanish encyclopedia you will find nothing unless you happen to know that the former was born Pedro González de Mendoza and the latter Gonzalo Jiménez de Cisneros. In each of these instances, however, the distinctive name is not maternal but merely a place name added in hopes of making a common name distinctive.

So far I have discussed only the simple cases; the complicated ones I had better skip.

In a small Spanish city to which a friend had sent me a postal money order I had a rueful introduction to this problem of names. My friend had assured me by phone that the money had been sent, and the post office had advised me that it had arrived and that upon presentation of my passport it would be paid. Accordingly, I went to the post office, but before telling the clerk my name, handed him my passport. He studied it, consulted his file of incoming money orders and said, ’Nothing here.’ I explained that I knew it was in hand, so with much politeness he searched his papers again and said, ’Nothing here.’ This time I noticed that he was looking at the A file, so I suggested, ’Perhaps if you look in the ...’

'Please, Señor Albert,’ he said. ’I know my business.’

In my passport he had seen that my name was James Albert Michener and he was smart enough to know from that who I was, and he had no cash for any Señor Albert. When I tried to explain what my name really was he became angry, and I was not able to get my money until Spanish friends came from the hotel to the post office and explained who I was. When the money was paid, the clerk took my passport again, studied my name and shook his head. When he handed back my papers he said, ’I am sorry for your inconvenience, Señor Albert.’

--Michener, James A. Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections. (1968) Random House: New York, pp. 41-42.

Our text describes many countries rather than just Spain and was published in 2012. It says the the double-surname tradition is practiced in many, but not all, Latin-American countries. The way this is described does not perfectly match what Michener wrote.

For example, "When a woman marries in a country where two last names are used, legally she retains her two maiden surnames. However, socially she may take her husband's paternal surname in place of her inherited maternal surname. For example, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, wife of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, might use the names Mercedes Barcha García or Mercedes Barcha de García in social situations. ... Adopting a husband's last name for social purposes, though widespread, is only legally recognized in Ecuador and Peru." - Blanco, José A. and Philip Redwine Donley, Late. Vistas: Introducción a la Lengua Española (4th ed.) (2012) Vistas higher Learning: p. 86.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_naming_customs, 6/4/16) says that in Spain, "gender equality law has allowed surname transposition since 1999, subject to the condition that every sibling must bear the same surname order recorded in the Registro Civil (civil registry), but there have been legal exceptions." And then "In an English-speaking environment, Spanish-named people sometimes hyphenate their surnames to avoid Anglophone confusion or to fill in forms with only one space provided for last name."

The article also says they might have a first and middle name like we do (and go by either informally), though that would be called having a composite (vs. simple) forename rather than two names. "Legislation in Spain under Franco legally limited cultural naming customs to only Christian (Jesus, Mary, saints) and typical Spanish names (Álvaro, Jimena, et al.)." But now "the only naming limitation is the dignity of the child, who cannot be given an insulting name. Similar limitations applied against diminutive, familiar, and colloquial variants not recognized as names proper, and 'those that lead to confusion regarding sex." Wow. But "[a]lthough the first part of a composite forename generally reflects the gender of the child, the second personal name need not (e.g. José María Aznar)" and they can go by either name, so maybe their second name can be gender neutral.

Another interesting thing in the article is that -ez endings can mean "son of" (Hernández = son of Hernando, Sánchez = son of Sancho), implying things were done differently in the past.
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Affordable Housing Strategy [May. 30th, 2016|12:15 am]
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Today at a party I ended up asking someone if he had a plan for if his property taxes got too expensive. He had a very interesting idea on how to find a new place.

He said he'd read that our city is becoming too expensive for musicians to be able to afford to live here. So a lot of them are moving to Lockhart. New cafes and other places are being built there, so it's becoming a nice place to live, but you can still get back here for gigs.

Interesting philosophy: pay attention to where the musicians are living.
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Doctor List [May. 28th, 2016|01:46 pm]
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Although I've been quite lucky in my good health throughout my life, I've now decided it would be a good idea to start keeping track of all my many doctors. I have eleven I can think of right now:
* general practitioner
* eye doctor
* dentist
* oral surgeon - because I eat sugar and my wisdom teeth don't fit properly
* endocrinologist - for past thyroid issues
* the surgeon who did my half thyroidectomy
* radiologist - for mammograms
* gastroenterologist - for colonoscopies
* physical therapist - for past ankle and shoulder problems
* dermatologist
* Mohs surgeon - for the new basal cell carcinomas on my nose (this is the non-scary kind of skin cancer)

That's not to mention my insurance companies (health and dental), my pharmacy (and mail pharmacy), and the people who deal with blood work.

Just keeping track of their names is good so I can find them again if needed, though I'm also including contact information. Adding notes about them like who to talk to about various issues (like the insurance expert at my dentist's office) and whether and why I like them is also good.

Many of y'all probably have me beat on the number of doctors and other health workers you see and you have my condolences. The human body is amazing, but it can often use some help. I'm glad we have so many experts available to counsel on and provide this help, especially when they actually understand our problems and know how to fix them or at least relieve them.
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