The Toilet, The New Private BYOD Office, and Learning Spanish

Reading as much as I do, I noticed something that tech guys have to be aware of.  Your own personal phone.

That and your tablets and all the other “stuff” you carry.  It’s called “BYOD” or Bring Your Own Device.

They’ve got to worry about what you’re surfing, whether you’re doing “nefarious” activities, and whether you are ever actually going to come out of that rest room.

All this was going through my mind the other day.  I realized I was doing that too. 

The particular school of thought was bemoaning that people are sitting at work, getting paid, and playing things like Angry Birds in their offices, restrooms, and other places.

I never installed Angry Birds.  Wasn’t my style.  I’m normally using a laptop or two at any given moment, virtual machines up and running, playing around with VMWare and pretending to Be Productive.

Yes, in Capital Letters.  Stay Motivated.  Be Productive. 

Blah.

So I tried playing games when I used the bathroom.  Really I did, but it just seemed, oh I don’t know, an annoyance. 

Annoyance as in “Damnit I missed that bubble!” annoyance.  Yelling in the bathroom with the door closed about a bubble?  That’s just too weird for me.

Life is annoying enough, and it just felt futile.  What was playing a game in the toilet going to give me anyway?

Don’t answer that question, I meant it in a G Rated way anyway.

So after years of saying that I had a language tutor called Duolingo parked on my phone, I finally, actually did something with it.

I created a profile and began doing the course on Spanish.

I had had Spanish back in Junior High School.  Having been exposed to French in Montreal as a brat on vacation and also when listening to CBC on Shortwave, I took the courses in that language instead.  In retrospect, Spanish is more “useful” in this day and age where I am.  Unless I am going down to Dania Beach for a soft serve ice cream, my French is limited to hearing an occasional snippet of Creole from a Haitian.  I can usually get the feeling of what they’re saying but it’s truly been too many years.

I set rules for myself.  Goals were set at the lowest possible setting.  I didn’t want it to Be A Thing that I HAD to do even if I did do it once or twice in the car.  Enjoy the experience.  Repeat each “chapter” until I got it completely correct.  Repeat the “mid-terms” until I got it completely correct.

The results are that progress is slow and steady.  It’s more important to get this down and not sound the fool when I eventually get enough Spanish under my belt to be able to speak it to someone else.

At this point, I’m limited.   I am learning how to say useful phrases like “Los Elefantes bebe La Leche” or “La Tortuga bebe La Leche”.

You never knew that drinking milk was so important to an Elephant or a Turtle, did you?

I’m also second guessing my sentences in Spanish there but at this stage I would.

I find myself arguing back at the program, Duolingo, when the thing tells me I am wrong for using correct English.  This gamification of learning has actually had me yelling at the phone saying “That doesn’t make sense in English!”.

*sigh* but it is the correct meaning.  Tap on the little bubble and it puts you into a browser that gives you the social discussion behind it.  Oh THAT’S what they mean by that!

*GRRRR!*

Oh well, take the bullet and do the same chapter tomorrow.

I’m three months into it.  I’m still watching Spiders drink Milk, Turtles eat Apples, The Women read Newspapers. 

I swear once it was a dog writing a letter.

So while it is strictly speaking, correct, it doesn’t make sense all the time.  A bit literal.

After I flush, and come back to what I was doing earlier, I check the headlines on two Spanish Language news sites and challenge myself to read what the front page is telling me.  The BBC Mundo page is helpful because BBC in English is my main source of news.  Something called EFE USA helps as well.  Both are in supposedly basic Spanish. 

I get it.  I’m purposely hobbling my progress, but that’s fine.  I want to be correct. 

I should probably start watching Plaza Sesame, er, Sesame Street in Spanish again.

There used to be a TV show produced on the Miami PBS Station called Que Pasa USA.  It featured a blended Hispanic and Anglo family.  Some spoke both English and Spanish, others only one language.   I’ll keep an eye out for that and maybe set a watch filter on the DVR.  After all, when did you hear anything on a Sit-Com that was really deep and complex?

Leave The Simpsons out of this.  They’re more subtle than you think, I think. 

Ok maybe not, but for now, I’m having fun challenging my mind, even if it is in the bathroom and therefore a bit weird.

Got any milk, Mr Turtle?

My Canadian Earwig Problem, Eh?

Have you ever had something stuck in your head?

I mean truly stuck there for hours or even days?

Welcome to the club.  I’m there.  It’s My Canadian Earwig.

No, I really don’t have a problem with anything Canadian.  I used to listen to a lot of Canadian Radio when I was a wee brat in my childhood and into my teens.  I’m told that people in the bordering areas of the US have a habit of doing that.  When I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan once, I saw a couple TV shows on TVO out of Windsor, Ontario that I rather liked and wished I could see here.

I listened to a few stations there that made it to my own home in the Philadelphia area as a matter of course.  CKLW in Windsor was one, a pop station that was legend in the 60s through the time that Clear Channel conquered and then killed US radio.  I used to get news from the Northern Quebec Service of the CBC as well as their regular English Language external service that morphed into CBC Radio One.  The French Language service on alternate half hours was a challenge but it helped with my own studies in High School French, sadly mostly forgotten.  The CBC Domestic Service on 740AM and 1540AM made it to the house clear as a bell at night.

No, it all started when someone said they were going to go for a trip.  “Take Off”.

You see, we all became Canadian for the summer of 1982.  There was a wacky one-off song called “Take Off” done by the SCTV crew back then.  Everyone was calling each other Hoser and saying Eh – which simply wasn’t done in Philadelphia before then or since.

Maybe Pittsburgh.  I heard that the border to the midwest was somewhere around where they start watching the Steelers and stop following our Eagles.

Iggles, Yo!

Of course I had to put my oar in that water.  I found a video on Youtube with the song on it.  Played it.  Then while laughing, I played it again.  Yes, musical OCD.  I’m waiting for Oscar to start saying “Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo” any second now.

Now, being a comedy bit, I know that it’s a parody.  I know it’s openly stereotypical.  I know their accent is thicker than some of that good Quebec Maple Syrup folks would bring down from Montreal in big tin cans for the French Toast after it was left in the freezer.

Having visited Canada, I will say they’re more like us than you might understand, and they’ll apologize for that.

Sorry, eh?

I mean, having listened to CBC for news I’ve got an ear for that accent.  Midwestern US is very similar but not exactly the same just like the Chicago accent is not the same as the accent you’ll hear even across the line in Michigan City, Indiana.  But Bob and Doug McKenzie’s was over the top.

Being one of those oddballs who picks up other people’s accent I didn’t realize I was programming myself.

I wanted something different for dinner.  I had some old Gingery Bread in the freezer that was great but it was getting freezer burned.  So I get up from the chair, hit the replay button on that Youtube window, Took Off to the Kitchen to make a beauty meal, eh?  Yep.  French Toast.  Quebec Maple Syrup.  Touch of cinnamon.

“Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo”

Rack joined me and crunched away on his food as I’m puttering with the plastic spatula on the teflon pan.

Man that was good, eh?  Beauty.

We finished the food and ran into someone.  I was whistling the riff from that song and started talking to them.

“What’s up?”

We were chatting and I realized just what was up.  Yes, fully programmed I had lost what was left of my fragile mind.  Telling him what was going on he got a laugh out of it and said that I really had it down.

Great, I’ve lost my mind and people find it amusing.

Day two.  525AM.  I’m walking South on Wilton Drive.  Sunrise isn’t for another 2 hours or so.

You guessed it, the revenge of the earwig.  “Coo Loo coo coo, coo coo coo coo”  I’m whistling that riff again.

Just give in and enjoy it.  When you have an earwig, the best way I can think to deal with it is just feed it.  Play it out.  Let it go.


You guessed it.  I’m letting my freak flag fly, direct from The Great White North.  I’m looping this track.  You really don’t want to play that song, you’ll be thrown back into the 80’s, and stuck with this in your head.  Don’t do it, you know you don’t!  No, don’t play that song…. Aww you went and done it, eh?

Beauty.

So, crack a Brador if you can find one, or a Molson’s Canadian, cause they’re great beers,eh?  Don’t forget to recycle so the True North Strong and Free can remain clean.

Beauty, eh?

Bye Bye BBC Bush House

What is that man banging on about again?

Growing up, I discovered Dad’s Radio.  I have it here.  It still works.  It is a grand thing, a Blaupunkt Hi Fi, built in October 1956.  Glowy things in the back called “Tubes” or “Valves”.  It would get warm and make music and entertain you in a way that the connected era doesn’t. 

Back when you had four TV channels, AM and a growing thing called FM that weirdos and Dentist’s Offices listened to, you would eventually get bored with what was on and do something today that may be radical – turn off the TV.  Or the radio, depends on what you are “consuming”.

Although being a precocious two year old (yes, I was 2 1/2 at the time) I discovered Dad’s Radio.   He showed me how to use it, although I would bet it was after my banging on the buttons that made things work and probably after some yelling on his part.   I got to listen to the usual stuff but being that kid I wanted more.

I found a world of more on Shortwave.

At that time in my life I enjoyed being told stories and other than PBS, you didn’t have real story tellers.  Of course you had cartoons but they got repetitive and daytime TV back then was soap operas.  Talk about dull.

Living on the prairie of South Jersey, we were close enough to be able to pick up certain international broadcasts.  There was a relay on Shortwave out of Sackville New Brunswick Canada that broadcasted the CBC, BBC, Radio Australia, and a few others.   I was hooked.  Learned some French by listening to CBC when they shifted at the hour from English to French on the Northern Quebec Service

Other times, there was the BBC World Service.   The World Service was a life long love affair that continues to this day.  I couldn’t explain to the neighbor kids what I was listening to, and they weren’t interested being more inclined to listen to local radio out of Philadelphia and the same thing that all the rest of the kids were listening to.

Silly Herd Minded People.   Probably grew up driving SUVs too…

While they were listening to pop music on AM radio, I was being told stories and game shows.  I also didn’t care for Pop Music at the time having been exposed to Classical on Shortwave.  I had a bizarre knowledge of what was going on in The Empire at the time and listened in as colony after colony gained independence from The Queen. 

All of this happened in a building called Bush House.  They moved the World Service there after the bombing in 1941 during the Blitz in the Second World War, and remained there to this day.   Today actually.   They will be moving the World Service to The Strand in Central London.  The final news bulletin was read at Noon in London, 7AM our time in Florida.

Of course the news will go on, the World Service broadcasts mainly News and Business News since the “light entertainment” was shifted over to BBC Radio 4 in the 1980s.  I tend to only check into the World Service for news broadcasts preferring the Radio 4 Programming since it is broader and they’re still doing those “stories” I grew up with.

I’m sure my sister could tell you stories about her weird brother listening to that big box in the rec room in Cherry Hill, NJ.  It’s just the boxes got smaller and now connected to the internet so you too can pick that out as well as the overwhelming chatter of billions of voices. 

In the middle of all of that, the comforting voice of Auntie saying “This is the World Service of the BBC” is still connected via a link on my smartphone and on my PCs.  It’s one of the links with the past that I’ve managed to maintain all these years.  It’s just moved on to new digs, just like the production studios.