Learning Spanish From The Big Green Chair

When my nephew was a toddler, say about 2 years old, I had a surprise.  One weekend I came to visit and he sat down with a book and started reading.  I asked my sister and she told me that he memorized the book, and he still can’t read.

I’m rather a bit past that with Spanish now.

I don’t skip over the Spanish Stations on the radio when channel surfing.  I have noticed that “Love Songs” are becoming more clear to me and I can actually follow them along … somewhat.  I can watch kids TV and follow the discussion and actually get the jokes most of the times.

I mean, after all, we’re talking kid’s shows.  Plaza Sesamo and Franny and her demented feet.  At least in what I jokingly call “Native Spanish”.  Franny is a Canadian Production and the first time I heard it in English, they all had bad British accents.  It sounds better in Spanish to me.

I challenge myself with the animal documentaries because of the slower pace of the dialogue.  I have always enjoyed documentaries, even when I was a wee brat.  Watching a documentary on the forests of Madagascar in English is something I’d do normally, let alone En Espanol.

Sorry, I don’t have the “enya” key.  You know, English Speakers, the n with the funny squiggle over top.  Oh, and the accents En Espanol mean something.  I never figured them out in French, but in Spanish it is a “stress” mark.  You stress that syllable.  Very logical system of spelling, everything means something, and it has been rationalized and normalized to be predictable.  Unlike English where Ghoti could be pronounced as Fish.

I’ve heard people do this all the time.  When learning a language, they will seek out media of that language, and pay attention to it.  Many people have said that they watched Telenovelas to learn Spanish, Cartoons for English, and so on.  I’m doing nothing new here.  I am certainly not splitting the atom.

Although, when I’m sitting in bed listening to the shortwave radio at night, and I find myself listening to a broadcast, I’m not exactly expecting to be switching back and forth between Radio Marti and Radio Reloj.  That particular programming shift is about as broad a shift as you can get, other than perhaps switching back and forth between South Korean and North Korean broadcasting.

They are, however, very easy to find here in South Florida.

Specifically, Radio Marti is the US Government’s programming that is “designed” for Cuba.  I suspect it has an intended effect of being designed as a knock on effect for Venezuela.  Whether it is effective or not, I will let others decide.

Radio Reloj is literally “Clock Radio”.  It’s out of Havana, Cuba, and I can hear it here on the AM radio even if I don’t try too hard.  Being a Cuban National Broadcast, it’s probably as balanced as any Cuban broadcast, which is to say about as balanced as Fox News or Radio Marti.

I’m listening to things specifically to learn the language, not for “information”.  I will say both services are less “shouty” and “strident” than they had been in the Cold War.

For the most part, it’s better to stick to Plaza Sesamo, Franny and her weird feet, and the documentaries.  Political Intrigue and Propaganda are a bit much when your level of comprehension is about 1/2 the way there.

More importantly though, it does one interesting thing.  It opens up a whole new world. Actually a continent and about a half, but it does open it all up.

If my learning methods are up to the task, that is.  After all, if you can’t learn Spanish in South Florida, you can’t learn Spanish anywhere.

So turn on the TV, turn on the closed captioning, and put on some kid’s programming.  The Closed Captioning make it much easier to grasp since you are reading at the same time as hearing the words.  The simplified sentence structure and subject matter will help as well since there are fewer Big Words.

I’ll try to remember to leave the politics behind.  After all, I’m not quite ready for that, although a nice documentary about a lizard habitat would be rather enjoyable today.

But if you are considering learning another language, and are just starting out, try Duolingo.com and pick your language.  The simple lessons get gradually more complex, and you can set your goals as low or as complex as you like.

Learning Spanish With Franny’s Feet – A Little Girl Who Has A Weird Thing For Shoes

About 2 years ago, I signed up for Duolingo.

Like most people, I picked a language and promptly dropped it.

There went those dreams of speaking Spanish.  Now, I have always said “If you can’t learn Spanish in South Florida, you aren’t trying hard enough”, so I eventually went back to it.

Duolingo will teach you the language you select in a game format.  You answer simple questions, get clues, and have a goal.  By the time you finished today, you have learned a little of your selected language, and can come back tomorrow to do it again.  I selected a low goal because I didn’t want to be playing games all day, even if it did help me get better at my goal of speaking Spanish.

According to Duolingo, I am currently 50% fluent in Spanish.  I’m finding that I’m picking up snippets of conversation in public, getting some of the words in songs, and even able to watch TV in Spanish with the Spanish Closed Captioning Turned on.

I guess I’m about a year and a half old again.  When I watch Sesame Street, make that Plaza Sesamo, I can follow it just about completely.  Simple Spanish sentences help me learn too, not just your toddlers and preschool kids.

I branched into watching some Spanish language TV when I realized that listening to the talk shows was quite a bit too advanced.  Plaza Sesamo was a good choice and it emboldened me to instead look into something geared to a slightly older audience.

Slightly.

I was channel surfing after taking Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) out for his romp around the yard one morning.  There is a small TV in the back room and I was looking at the over the air channels.  I stumbled onto a little girl with a high squeaky voice speaking to me in Spanish about some adventures she was on.

Mind you that wasn’t what my mind was translating.  I did say I was only 50% fluent in Spanish, right?

The show called Franny’s Feet was about a little girl named Franny.  She lived in a shoe repair shop with her grandfather.

Great!  Just up my alley!  She spoke slowly and clearly, so did abuelo or grandfather, and I could follow along.

But it got weird.

She would be chatting until the doorbell rang and in came a client.  They would invariably drop off some old shoes to be repaired.  I knew they were old because they always were discolored and had holes in the soles. 

Normal for a cobbler’s shop, but I did say it got weird.

Franny’s job was to put the shoes away in a box to be worked on later.  That’s pretty easy except next she’d get this weird shoe fetish thing going on.  She’d set the stranger’s ratty shoes on the ground and then …

Step inside the shoes.

That’s pretty gross to me, an adult who didn’t really completely understand the action.  It must have been pretty gross to her because at this point she’d start to hallucinate.

The screen would spin around and she’d fall through a wormhole and appear in a magical world.

I did say that it was a wormhole.  There must have been something truly strange in those shoes the client brought in. 

She would have adventures with cartoon animals that all talked and told a story.  There was a light plot, after all it was about teaching children how to speak in which ever language it was dubbed in – It originally was an English Language cartoon from Canada.

At the end, everything was wrapped up in a nice bow.  The goats were reunited with their mom, the flamingoes became friends with the peacock and peahen, and there’s one about a moose I’m looking forward to seeing simply because well, this is www.ramblingmoose.com after all!

I’m thinking what ever hallucinogen was in the shoes would then wear off and she’d fall back through the wormhole to the cobbler’s shop.  Looking back inside the trippy shoes, she’d find something that came back from the other realm.  A feather or an old sweat band from the shoes would be placed in her shoe box of treasures after she put the old shoes in the work box.

It really seemed that it is like one of those old cartoons that a kid would watch and be entertained, and an adult would sit there and wonder what on earth was going on?

None the less, I haven’t grown out of the show since I can actually follow along with the dialogue.   It’s a little more advanced than Plaza Sesamo, and it’s helping me learn.

Isn’t that the point?

When I described this I was told I was reading way too much into it and got an email back with a sentence in Spanish:

a veces un cigarro es sólo un cigarro
Sometimes a Cigar is only a Cigar.

A rather famous quote from Freud.  A very nice touch by a friend.

In other words, maybe I am reading too much into the little girl’s cartoon adventures, but I will say that this weird trippy view of the children’s show is helping me stay interested enough to practice my Spanish in a safe and non-confrontational way.

We all hate confrontation.

So enjoy your cigars safe in the fact that they’re just cigars, and that the Acid Trip that the little girl is taking is all in your head. 

Meanwhile, make sure you have good clean socks.  They’re Calcetines you know!

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?

I Can’t Be The Only One Who Gave Up On The 6 O’Clock News

If a bobblehead makes noise on the TV and it isn’t watched, does it still make a sound?

When I was asked about an accident that happened about a mile away, a car apparently ended up inside of a Miami Subs restaurant last night, I admitted I didn’t have a clue.

We heard sirens in the distance and I just didn’t realize what was going on.

I did look online about this particular story and couldn’t find it which was probably for the best.  

Thinking about it though, it did drive a point.  I stopped watching TV news years ago.  Fire, Murder, Corruption, Theft, Weather, Sports, and Chirpy Close all crammed into 22 minutes plus 8 minutes of Commercials and other “important” stuff all dumbed down to a Least Common Denominator level of intelligence to entertain, and not necessarily inform.

It got too easy to find news online, to skim the headings and read those things that mattered – to me.   With a little effort you could find a way to drop in your email box any story you want, targeted to what you are actually interested in.  Something called an RSS Feed from your favorite news website takes a lot of that targeting and makes it easy.  Frankly, the amount of information that you get from that “Rich Site Summary” is generally more than your favorite bobble head will give you on some of the longer ongoing stories.

I simply find the RSS Link and save that as a bookmark.  It reads in Firefox or other browser and allows me the option to read deeper or skip with minimal effort.  Not as shiny and flashy, but functional and fast.

I already do that, and while it could be too easy to miss something because you’ve pigeon holed yourself by reading only those stories that are interesting to you, it’s a lot more effective.   The serendipity of stumbling across a story that may be out of your normal scope is a wonderful thing, but a bit ineffective use of time.

TV has long become either the First or Second Screen in most people’s lives.  First World Problems aside, I’m lost without a laptop when I’m watching a show.  Easy enough to look up a reference.   Since I always watch TV on a digital recorder, I skip through commercials, pause at random points, and surf while doing other things. 

Broadcast news isn’t one of those habits I picked up again.  Easy enough to reduce a news program on TV to less than 15 minutes.   Sports is irrelevant to me as well as other specific stories.  For that matter, a DVR would be required for news so I could skip through the fluff pieces and thinly veiled commercials that pass for information.

I tried it after I moved here to South Florida.  I had accidentally recorded the hour of news broadcast and found myself watching one story.  It was forgettable, but before long they moved onto some detailed explanation of the opening of a business in another county and my thumb started hitting the skip button.  I also found myself screaming at the TV in frustration because it wasn’t really all that “Fair and Balanced” local news, it was pretty painfully tilted to their one closed way of thinking.

Independent news went out with the Fairness Doctrine and isn’t coming back soon since it isn’t profitable.

I did turn on RSS on this blog.  I know a few people do read it that way since the statistics I see show it.  I guess I’m “Eating My Own Dogfood” by following a philosophy that I tend to live by myself. 

Most major news organizations allow you to read their news that way. 

NPR has a large collection of RSS Feeds.
BBC does as well although you will have to use a separate feed for each topic.
NASA lets you get caught up on their field of Space Exploration in depth if you require.
MSNBC has them on their various pages as well.

And the local papers have them available.

It all makes it a lot easier to get the news you need and not be force-fed by someone else’s interests.

Low Vision and Choosing A Computer Monitor or Laptop

I have a couple clients and friends here with less than perfect vision.  It’s a common thing.  I even had a programmer who worked under me who was completely blind.  Fascinating character, but that’s another tangent.

I keep having this discussion of “I want a new laptop, what do you recommend”.  

First, decide what you’re going to do with it. Really, how much power do you need?  If you’re not making up videos or playing high end games, you can get by with a $500 machine and be happy.  Oh and save the difference for the next $500 machine in two years.  Just be careful since some of those $500 machines are excellent, others are crap.
 
Second consider how good your vision is.  Got 20/20 vision?  Over 35?  Expect that you’ll be needing reading glasses “soon”. 

You see, buying a computer is easy, buy less than the top end unless you’re really doing high end tasks – the middle end will be more than 90 percent of us will need.  The tough part is all those bits that you actually interact with.

Speakers, keyboard, mouse/trackball/trackpad – all of those tend to be hardwired into the machine and you won’t have too much to say about them if you’re buying a laptop.  Most buy laptops these days anyway.

The one part of the machine that will be the hardest thing for you to deal with if it is wrong for you is the monitor.   That panel on the laptop.  They come in a lot of different types and shapes and sizes.

Ok, the shape is always rectangular, but the size varies greatly and so do the amount of things you can put up on the monitor at one given time.

If you get a magnifying glass and get really close to the monitor, you will see that everything is made out of little rectangles.  The period at the end of that sentence is not exactly a circle or a dot but a collection of rectangles, sometimes at different amounts of black and white.

The little rectangles are called Pixels.  I’ll use that word since it is less typing.  There is a nice long discussion of what is and what isn’t a pixel at that link.  If you really want to go in depth on Pixels, click there and come on back when you’re through.

Now here’s the thing.  Pixels will be different sizes on different devices.  You can pack more pixels in an inch on a phone than on a laptop or a TV because of what they’re being used for.  Close up use like a phone, you want more pixels per inch.  For a Laptop there will be less, and for a TV it can be very much less.

A TV show broadcast in Full HDTV in the US is 1920×1080 pixels.  That means that you have 1920 dots across, 1080 down.  No matter what size, those amounts will not change unless it’s not a full HD broadcast.  TVs vary from 3 inches way up to 108 inches and are still growing.  For the most part, Full HD TVs will have 1920 by 1080 Pixels whether they are 30 inches, or 108 inches.   The pixels will change in size but not necessarily in the count – at this time.  Sure there are some exceptions but the main thing is that the size of the pixels will vary proportionally for the size of the TV. 

Got all that?  Want to know how to simply it?  How does it all apply to Computers and Laptops?  Hold on a second, I had to blather on for a bit for background so when I get emailed by someone with a stick up his butt I’ll be covered.

You Know Who You Are.

Remember the client I had?  The one who had problems with his vision?  He lives about 200 miles from me.  He is also a bit of a gadget freak and kind of impulsive.  That’s how I got this laptop – the monitor was too small for him to read.  The number of pixels in an inch on this machine is 135.  He is used to a larger monitor and one with fewer pixels so when he saw this he decided it wasn’t for him.   His old Mac Book at 115 pixels per inch was a lot easier for him to read and to this day I have not seen him using those Reading Glasses I got him.

Tsk Tsk.

So how do you find out all of that?

Easy.

First off, go to the store and look at the computers. 
Really take the time to see the machine and play around. 
When you find one that is comfortable you need to take down some information and go home.
What is the size of the computer?  12 inches?  14 inches?  17 inches?
What is the default resolution of the computer – don’t be afraid to ask for help with this one!  That’s what the sales staff is for.  You will get a number like 1920×1080 (Also called Full HD), 1280×800 (That’s mine) or 1440×900 (That’s my other machine). 

For comparison sake, you will probably want to find out the same thing for the machine you have now.
Find an open place on the desktop of your Windows 7 machine and right click.
Select “Screen Resolution” and it will show under the “Resolution” pull down what you are at now.
Windows XP and others will work similar, a Mac will be under the settings…

Now you know where you are, and where you will be going. 

To find the pixels per inch, there’s a wikipedia page that has a list of them.  It will take a little effort and some searching around to find numbers that are close enough to what you have written down. 

When you find your Pixels Per Inch in the tables, you will be able to make a comparison.

If you have limited vision, and you’re used to a 13 inch Mac Book at 113 Pixels Per Inch, you may find that the iPad of your dreams will end up in my hands after you give up in frustration.   The iPads are currently 135 Pixels per inch.

The 42 inch Full HDTV sitting in the corner on the other hand is only 52 Pixels Per Inch.  That is why when I have clients over to look at web pages, I can get away with plugging in the HDMI cable from the laptop to the TV and we can see it everywhere in the room.  It’s bloody big.

My TV is really 46 inches, and the table on the page didn’t go that far up, but you get the idea.

Now that HDMI cable?  That’s a story for another day.

My Parrot Won’t Let Me Watch Holmes Inspection on HGTV

I guess the title says it all. 

I’ve had this parrot since 1986.  25 years or so.  He’s “opening” up since we moved here.  They are interesting creatures, and I don’t know what kind of treatment he got when I got him way back then but he was always very standoffish.  Now he’s bonding, and shows excitement when I walk into the house.  He also calls to me when he wants attention by saying hello as well as other behavioral quirks.

If you have ever had a parrot or for that matter any other bird, you know that they can be loud.  There are certain times of day when they have the “Call To Flock”, within an hour either side of sun up or sun down, when they’re louder than the rest of the day.  You get to understand that timing and realize that unless you want a Parrot Accompaniment with what ever you’re listening to in the house, you keep the volume down.

You see, my Parrot, Oscar is a Hearing Protector.  If it’s too loud he gets louder.

I learned a long time ago that if Oscar is “singing” along to the music, it’s time to turn the volume down.

Having just upgraded to a new HDTV, or having someone upgrade me, I’ve gotten used to where I can put the volume so it does not trip the Parrot Accompanyment on.  Years of practice has made me very aware of volume in the room.  There’s always something on, but if Oscar’s chattering, I turn it down until Oscar shuts up.

So lately I’ve gotten into the Holmes shows on HGTV.  There’s a lot of great information on construction on these programs, the content is excellent.  I’m a bit of a DIYer around the house, if I think I can fix something I’ll attempt it.  After all if it is broken and I break it, then it had to be fixed anyway right? Well more often than not, I am successful and it is the instruction that I have gotten from programs like Holmes on Homes and others that have made be get better at that sort of craft.

My cooking and baking articles here are at a level that is a direct result of watching the Food Channel and specifically Sunny Anderson and Giada DiLaurentiis and other programming and deciding that I want to try those recipes.  My favorite food shows are when Sunny Anderson brings her friends in to “help” or when Giada DiLaurentiis brings in her wonderfully “unhinged” Aunt Raffi.  That’s how it is, if you cook and have help in the kitchen it is almost always a more enjoyable situation as long as you don’t get “too much” help.

The thing is that these shows are all running up against that balancing act of how loud I can put the TV before Oscar decides to talk back at the screen.   Sunny Anderson and Giada DiLaurentiis are fine.  The volume is not too loud at a conversational tone and the background music seems to add an air to the programming that does not distract from the presentation.

Holmes on Homes, the older program was like this.  He would bring in his team, help a family out with some very heavy duty construction on a small problem created by a bad contractor and then fix it.  By fix it, I mean sometimes gutting the room down to the support beams and then rebuild the place.   If I had a contractor, I’d want this guy!  There’s a lot of information in his shows and it makes me wonder whether our Canadian Cousins have any decent construction contractors up in Toronto at all. 

Fast forward to the current show, Holmes Inspection.   Now he brings on his affable team including his family members and other contractors to do this same work.  He’s upgraded the show with some animations that show what is happening at this particular part of the house reconstruction.  The graphics are usually very useful and show in detail how this part of the structure is being changed.

Great, he’s back, he’s got a team, he’s showing the family who live there and how they’re being effected by the incompetent contractors and the job will be done and done right.

So what’s the problem?

Remember that parrot?  Oscar?   He’s the problem.  You see there’s background music on this show.  A constant drone of a guitar riff.   So far why the complaints?  Watch the show and you’ll see.  Most of the time, if you have music on a TV show, it will be in the background.  If you notice it, it is too loud and will detract from the message.

In the case of Holmes Inspection, the volume level of that snarling guitar riff is equal to or greater than the people speaking.  So the volume of the show has to be turned up to try to actually pick out what Damon and the rest are saying.  It’s a shame because here is an excellent show with a great crew and a lot of truly good information about contracting and home repair that is getting lost because you have a first year film student that cranked up the volume of a bad music track.

Once you notice that, then you start to look at the problems of a given show.  The “Warts and All” syndrome where if you don’t have a problem with something, you enjoy it “warts and all” but if you do, those problems become all that much more apparent.

I found myself yelling at the TV saying “Why Are You Showing Me This Filler!” more often than not.  They’ll show a person working on a particular piece of construction.  For example, you have a contractor explaining how badly a railing was installed in the house and why he’s about to replace the risers and how he goes about doing it.  Then they cut to him doing it.  Normally they’ll fade to the next aspect of the construction, but to make it even more edgy, they zoom the camera into the Drill Bit going into the wood and amp up the snarling guitar while they stop zooming in and slow the video down to slow motion.  I suspect they eat up another 2 or 3 minutes of content or more each episode by showing me a drill bit chewing up some wood or a jackhammer slowly breaking up concrete. 

At this point, Oscar’s yelling because I’m yelling at the TV.

So I have pretty much stopped watching Holmes Inspection as a result.  Too bad, because with a few minor tweaks it could be a great source of how to fix your house. 

I can’t watch it with the volume turned down, I even tried turning off the Subwoofer on the TV Sound Bar and the background ‘music’ is still too loud.   I guess I’ll just have to move on. 

It’s just way too intrusive. 

Tsunami in Japan, Worst on Weather Channel

You know, I had my opinions and my TV Viewing Habits proven to me to be true today.

This morning my neighbor let me know of the tragedy that hit Japan today.  She had told me that there was a large earthquake off the coast of Japan and that there as a massive Tsunami that made it there and was heading toward Hawaii.  After I got home, I turned on the news to view what there was on this event.

First I turned on the BBC World News.  Perfectly crisp, concise and factual coverage.  I have watched the BBC and listened to it all of my life.  If I am looking for news, it is the first place I go.  They showed what video footage they had and presented the information clearly…

After about a half hour it got repetitive unfortunately, so I started to channel surf.  First jumping to MSNBC which had on the Right Wing Revisionist Republican Propaganda Machine of Joe Scarborough railing about how terrible it was that Democrats exist and that they probably hate puppies and kittens and they are vile and the cause of all of the evil in the world. 

Can you tell I didn’t stay there long? 

I jumped to CNN for more right wing propaganda.  Pretty much the same, although done by nameless puppets and talking heads instead of “Someone You Might Have Heard Of”. 

I came to the conclusion quickly that finding alternate sources of factual information to the BBC was going to be very difficult in the right wing dominated morass that television “news” has become in the United States. 

I wasn’t going to put on Fox News –  My Television would have exploded.

Seeing that the weather here turned markedly cold I wanted to see what the forecast was going to be for the week.  Unseasonably cool, highs in the low 70s.  South Florida in March.

That meant that I was on The Weather Channel.

Ok, I have watched The Weather Channel for years, ever since I first got my first cable subscription.  They started out only doing weather.  But that doesn’t keep you watching for long, although there are some folks who are quite addicted to this.  Pretty radar maps, local forecasts, and reporters sent to Your Town can make for compelling video… For about a Half Hour.

It’s been said that if you see Jim Cantore in your city, head for higher ground.

Well… Tuning into TWC in the morning means that you are in for a treat.  You get to watch Ken and Barbie try to pronounce hard words and try to make sentences that are actually coherent. 

By this I mean Abrams and Bettes.   Have you had the pleasure of watching this team?  It turned an international tragedy into a sitcom.  They were not hired for their intelligence, I am sure … I think they were hired by how well they fill their clothes because their heads seemed about as empty as the stereotype can be.

I found myself laughing as these two clowns were making breathless predictions of dire and doom as the Tsunami was approaching.   Mind you, they weren’t the only ones that were so dreadful.  In Alaska, Cindi Preller of the Alaska Tsunami Center was speaking about the first waves hitting the outer Aleutian Islands.  She needs to do a little fact checking because she was told that 2 1/2 feet of water hit the islands and that means that it was… um… uh… about 5 feet. 

Ok, Basic Math here.   A Meter is 39.37 inches.  Three feet, Three Inches.  A good rule of thumb is to take the height in feet, multiply by 12, add another 10 percent.   You could even say that 3 feet equal a meter – most Americans wouldn’t have a clue and it would be closer.   Roughly a Meter is technically correct.

Am I being Pedantic?  I Don’t Think So since this is a person who works with this sort of information as a living… Hey Cindi – Back to school with you.

So back to the whole craziness in the studio…

It turns out that as bad of a Stuffed Suit that Mike Abrams is, Stephanie Bettes is even more of a bobble head than Barbie can even dream to be.

Like the first talking Barbies said “Math is Hard (giggle)”.

Thankfully most of the women I know are much more intelligent than that.

As we watched the web camera that was on Waikiki Beach, we were treated to Stephanie Bettes showing her intelligence again.  The Tsunami was predicted to arrive there at 8:07.  She insisted that that was EXACT.  She was watching the clock and once said “It’s just 45 seconds until it arrives”.  Ok, so you have a wave coming across the vast Pacific Ocean that was predicted to hit the Hawaiian Islands at 8:07am Eastern.  This means that it would BEGIN to effect the long Island Chain around then.  If you are on the South East side of the Island that you are on, it would have been later, North East would be sooner, and the further to the North East of the chain you’d get it faster.  This woman actually thought that it was going to happen as programmed.

A Mind is a Terrible thing to Lose.  By this time I was laughing at the TV.

Since it hadn’t hit, she noticed that there were three people standing on the beach and got very annoyed by saying “That just seems very unsafe to me at this time” and kept repeating it.  Yes, There’s a Tsunami coming, yes, it is unsafe, yes these people know about it but no you don’t have to keep repeating it.  Being dazzled by a police helicopter looking for people on the beach at that time, she asked the Tropical Weather Expert what that could be. 

Here’s a suggestion, Stephanie – You need a sedative.  Maybe it will help, now go play in the sand box or with your blocks.  We’ll send Mark over shortly.

She clearly did not know what actually caused the Tsunami because she was asking this same expert whether another one would happen.  Yes, in geological time, somewhere in the world another undersea earthquake would happen, there will be another.  Since there hasn’t been an earthquake in Japan since then, Thank God, there will not be another Tsunami following this one … TODAY.

After laughing at this, I went back to doing my own thing.  Having Ken and Barbie, I mean Abrams and Bettes on the TV was a bit too much so I muted the TV and worked on a few web pages.  When I finished, I unmuted the sound in time to hear Jen Carfagno at the “Expert Desk” pronounce the King Kamehameha Hotel as the “Kammey Ha Ha Ha Hotel”.  

You can learn for yourself how to pronounce that word and a bit about Hawaiian History at the above link…

I realize that these aren’t the best and brightest at NBC and the Weather Channel, but please have someone on there who aren’t able to turn a tragedy into a comedy event.

The reports of a Seven Foot Surge from the Tsunami in Hawaii was tragic enough, these folks should probably be asking questions more like “Do You Want Fries With That” or “Can I show You To Your Seat”.  Having these two present information about an international tragedy seems highly misplaced.