Monday, October 27, 2014

When clouds touch down

Even Parisian natives tell me that the view from my apartment is picturesque.
This cloud came down to visit, and blocked my view of the two windmills uphill. It almost looks like the stereotyped rooftops with their chimney-clusters continue on forever.

This post's theme word is etiolate, "to make pale by preventing exposure to sunlight" or "to make weak by stunting the growth of" or "to become pale, weak, or stunted". The fog etiolated the ground-dwelling plants.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Acorn legs?

This window display looks like a strange, associative word puzzle.
Disembodied legs and acorns?  I don't get it. Ankle scales? Acorn knee? My brain keeps trying to
solve the puzzle, even though I know it's not a puzzle.

This post's theme word is lignify, "to convert into wood," or "to become wood or woody." The baby oak window display lignified my mind.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Honestly, Skyrim

I swear, I was on my way to see the jarl when I got distracted by these window-boxes of that one herb I'm collecting for a side-quest.
I keep trying to visit the wizard enchanter in his tower, but I can't figure out the right combination of riddle-answering, pick-pocketing keys, and outsneaking the guards, in order to gain access to the uppermost tower-chamber. 
In the meantime, I walk the flower-bridge and finish side-quests.

This post's theme word is cacique, "a local political boss." After claiming the eminently defensible river-centered tower as his headquarters, the cacique strengthened his political grip on the surrounding waterfront properties.

Mortal danger

Yep. This warning infographic is completely clear:
Possible interpretation: "do not use front crawl to race powered watercraft!" or maybe "boats hereabouts occasionally gain sentience and attack lone swimmers." Perhaps it means "there is a strong wind near the ground, which will push you into the spanking robot!"

In either case, the language barrier provides a completely clear and unimpeded avenue for comprehension. ("Lebensgefahr" means mortal danger. Clearly.)

This post's theme word is sitzfleisch, "the ability to sit through or tolerate something boring," or "the ability to endure or persist in a task." Strong selective forces ensure that all fully-matured, adult Swiss residents have super sitzfleisch and singular serenity.

Frame of reference

The framing suggests one direction of gravity; the framed, another.
Dark silhouettes in the foreground give no additional hints. Overhead dangling backpack-straps give light context. Distant lake suggests. The sound, if you could hear it, would give away the whole game: giant gears, grinding in track-inset teeth. We climb a mountain.
The view is well worth the auditory attack of the train experience. A clear sky, clouded only distantly and intermittently by sports more active than mountaintop viewing: paragliding, helicopter tours, gliding. (A glider buzzed our lookout point, profiting from the mountain's updraft.)
My instinct, looking out over such a well-curated landscape of diverse blue, light green, dark green, road, city, and house-tiles, is to figure out the ruleset and try to optimally manage my resources. Because this view, if nothing else, makes it clear that all of Switzerland is a giant (German-style) resource management game. Sheep for wood?
Frames of reference affect perception. The general approach adopted by tourists is this: seeing something is good, seeing more things is better; higher vantage points see more things; higher vantage points are better. The flow of tourists led here, to this sky-scrapingly high cablecar over a cliffside and down to the village below. Higher is better. But lower has cows, and those cows are wearing cowbells, and those bells are ringing. Audible from a distance (thought: "is that a cowbell?"), from an approaching street ("who's ringing those cowbells? is it a parade?"), and in the pasture itself ("oh, cows are ringing the bells.").

This post's theme word is fangast, fangast, "fit for marriage." Mostly gone are the days where fangast denominated a certain number of cows.

Skyrim or Switzerland?

Skyrim or Switzerland?
Ok, the child with glasses is a giveaway. Yes, that's right: Skyrim*! (*modded)

What you can't feel in this lens-flared photo ("this card is mostly blue") is this: the cold wind off the frigid lake, the warm sun pooling on your skin, the ferry schedule so well-implemented that we left with zero seconds of delay/advance, the multilingual chatter of tourists and locals filling the boat.

This post's theme word is incurvariid, "of or relating to a small family of minute moths." I need three incurvariid samples for my next potion; may I borrow your butteryfly net?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Visible Man

Habits change over time, let's start with that. It is unusual of me to bail on reading a physical book, but this is partly because of the inertia --- literally --- that the book possesses. Ebooks are different. For one, they are not physically present, so there is no cluttery pile accumulating at my bedside; discarded ebooks just get pushed to the bottom of the stack. And reading an ebook requires a physical device (in my case, the fantastic Kobo mini, sadly discontinued), which is easily loaded with thousands of other books, so it is easy to put down one book and switch to another.  Plus, ebooks are plentiful in my desired reading language no matter where I am physically located; the same is not true of physical books.

But finally. The New York Public Library has most strongly enabled me to be a book-quitter. There is a huge selection of books available, free, so many that my queue is hundreds of books long, and every single one in the queue looks really interesting.

So when I start reading a book (take, for instance, The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman) and it's a little weird, I can keep reading it, through distasteful scenes and flat writing and poor characterizations. And when the interesting plot is finally, irretrievably poisoned by the continued lack of choices or actions by the narrator, and becomes a boring chore of moving my eyes across the words, I can easily bail on the book, put it down, and clease my palate with some of my bookmarked favorites, chapters from Neal Stephenson and Stanislaw Lem and Jasper Fforde.

And I never need to look back.

I didn't (at least, the last 60% of it). Skimming some reviews on goodreads suggests that even Klosterman's fans prefer his non-fiction writing to his fiction. Maybe one day I'll have worked through my giant queue and be curious enough to try his writing again. It was intriguing and technical (the story-within-a-story framing raises a lot of questions), so maybe after acquainting myself with some non-fiction I'll revisit this one.

Or maybe not.

Summary: don't bother reading this one.

This post's theme word is desultory, "marked by absence of a plan; disconnected; jumping from one thing to another," or "digressing from the main subject; random." The desultory anecdotes did not advance the plot, although they constituted the entirety of the text.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cookie tree

It seems that cookies do grow on trees! At least, macarons do:
Yet another fantastic Parisian window-display. It seems a shame to waste so many sweets on (1) gluing them to a giant hemisphere, (2) letting them dry out while on display for weeks, and (3) ultimately discarding them as inedible lumps of colored sugar. I wonder about the logistics of taking down such a display: who does it? how long does it take? do the cookies all get composted?

This post's theme word is succuss, "to shake vigorously" (esp. a patient or homeopathic medicine). Do not succuss the macaron tree! --- the fruits will fall when they are ripe.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Further idylls

Quaint and picturesque, with vines growing over the trellised arch above the entrance. Yes, that's right:
It's the sapeuprs-pompiers!

Hip, hip, hooray! The shortest tiny little matching shorts live in this building.

This post's theme word is concupiscent, "lustful; libidinous." The defendent offered no explanation of earlier concupiscent remarks.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reasoning about information transmission

Every so often, I am struck with the realization that other people do not think the way I think. (This recurs, so perhaps it is a rerealization?) Of course this is obvious, but it is also too difficult to simulate everyone's unknown mental process all the time, and so I slouch into the lazy thinking of assuming everyone thinks the way I do. Everyone does this. (Don't they? I don't know, but I assume so... because I do...)

Here is a simple fact: probabilities are often unintuitive. Probably. Unless you are a technical person who thinks about them all the time.