Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear guy next to me in the library,

Look, I know my foreign electric plug converter thingy makes a buzzing noise. I promise you, I know. It's not a feature I particularly appreciate. But the battery on my laptop only lasts so long. If I'm going to be here the whole afternoon writing this goddamned essay, I need power. And I'm not going to kill my laptop battery all that much faster by running it down all the time when there's an outlet right there.

I know it makes a noise. But you know what? It's not that loud. In the entire ten weeks I've been here, one else has ever complained about it. If you don't think about it, you quit noticing it. And you know what else? There are dozens of tables in this library, and I can see at least eight empty seats right now that at tables that are not this one. So if you bothers you, guess what? I was here first. You can move. Kthxbai.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

adventures in Catalan

I want to save a webpage. My options under the "Fitxer" menu are the following:

Nova finestra
Nova pestanya
Obre una ubicació...
Obre un fitxer...
Tanca la finestra
Tanca la pestanya
Anomena i desa la pàgina...
Anomena i desa el marc...
Envia la pàgina
Configuració de la pàgina...
Exemple d'impressió
Treballa fora de línia


Monday, November 17, 2008

gendered nouns

I have never ever understood the existence of gendered nouns. Seriously. I'm thinking of Spanish here, but I'm pretty sure it happens in all the Romance languages, yes? I know Latin has 'em, so that would make sense. As for other languages, I have no idea. German doesn't have them, am I right? I took a German class in like, third grade, but all I remember from it is how to count to 29, and the word for spaceship (Raumschiff—I think that's how you spell it, anyway). But English is more or less based in German, and English doesn't have them, so it would make sense for German also not to have them, right? Whatever. I'm rambling.

At any rate, what gives? From what I can tell, it's a completely random distinction separating nouns into two separate and completely useless categories (three, if you have neuter nouns—damned Latin and its complicatedness) for no discernible reason whatsoever. Just so they can have more ways to say "the." And where did the "gender" terminology come from? Why can't they just be categories A and B (and C)? Why feminine and masculine (and neuter)? What, pray tell, makes the wall (la pared) more feminine than the floor (el suelo) or an ankle (un tobillo) more masculine than a wrist (una muñeca)?

The way we learned it in Latin class (assuming memory serves, which may be a steep assumption), there are declensions, and first declension nouns are feminine (e.g. silva—forest), second declension nouns are masculine (e.g. amicus—friend) and third declension nouns are neuter (e.g. caelum—sky). I think. But I don't remember if this is always the case, or if it's just generally like that and there are exceptions; I don't know if you can say "first declension" and that automatically means "feminine" and vice versa. I feel like that's not the case, because if it was, why would there be both terms? And now that I think about it, there are more than just three declensions, right? I mean, the "family" words have to go in there somewhere—mater, pater, soror, frater—and they don't go in those three. Yes, yes, I'm remembering now, there are at least five. Possibly more.*

Agh, my kingdom for a Latin book.

And whatever happened to the neuter nouns anyway? Latin's "caelum"—"sky"—is neuter, but it morphed into "el cielo" in Spanish, which is masculine. Why? And the other neuter nouns from Latin that carry over into Spanish, they're not all masculine, are they?** Assuming they're not, how was it decided which ones would be feminine and which ones would be masculine? And what of the nouns that were already masculine or feminine in Latin—did they all keep the same gender, or are there some trannie nouns running around in the modern Romance languages? Do any of the modern Romance languages still have neuter nouns?

And I suppose this depends on the answer to a previous question, but it's on my mind so I'll ask: are the genders consistent across the related modern languages? That is to say, if a noun in two different modern Romance languages has the same Latin root, do the two modern forms necessarily have the same gender? For example, I know the word for "window" in Spanish, "ventana," is feminine, and it is based on the Latin "fenestra," which is also feminine. And I know the word in French is based on the same root—is it "fenetre"? (Well, I know how to say it, even if I can't spell it. So sue me, I've never taken French.) So is that then also feminine? And if so, is that a rule, or only coincidence? And again, what of those poor neuter nouns? Are there nouns that used to be neuter in Latin, and now they're having an identity crisis because they're feminine in one language and masculine in another?

Anyway, I'm veering away from my original question, which remains, why the hell do these categories exist in the first place? Seriously. If anybody can answer me that, I'll bake them a pie. A lovely delicious pie, with a buttery, flaky homemade crust, and fruit filling of their choice (I have a completely unfounded but rather strong prejudice against cream pies).


*I took two years of Latin, and we used the same book both years, and still didn't manage to get through the whole thing. In fact, I'm fairly sure we skipped over the fourth declension entirely, now that I think about it. So besides all the things I've forgotten in the intervening six years, there were some basic things I never even learned. Not that I'm trying to make excuses; just explaining why I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about with some most of this stuff.

**The only other one I can remember off the top of my head is "bellum," which means "war," but in Spanish, "war" is "guerra," which doesn't seem to be obviously related, so I don't know if that's a valid example.

ETA: THIS. I'm not alone!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

brain wiltage

So, I just sent off a bunch of postcards. I'm horrible at postcards. It's not meaningful communication—what can you write in a two-inch square that means anything? Seriously. But the people demand postcards, and so they shall have them. And so, looking for things to write on said postcards, I ended up putting something about my classes on most of them, saying things like, "My classes are really interesting, and I'm learning a lot!"

This is a lie.

Honstly, I'm almost starting to hate my classes here. They're So. Fricking. Dull. There's virtually no student-teacher interaction, beyond the occasional "¿Me entienden?" ("Do you understand?") from the professor. (This is less true in my grammar class, in which the prof at least tries to put a "conversation" section into each class, but honestly, she usually ends up dominating the conversation herself. I don't know if this is more her fault or ours.) And sometimes when they ask if we understand a word, even if we all nod and say "yes," they still feel the need to go on and explain it anyway.* For example, in art history the other day, the prof used the word "efímero," which means "ephemeral." It's the same word, and it has the exact same meaning; he even said (in Spanish), "I think this word is the same in English, yes?" and we all said yes, it was, we knew it, we understood, but he went on to explain thoroughly anyway, using examples, and then returned to explain it twice more before the class was over. I mean sure, it's probably not something that we use in everyday conversation, but we are college students here—sometimes I think they forget that. Just because our level of language isn't so great, doesn't mean we're stupid. And we said we understood; I promise, we're not going to lie about not getting something—we want to understand.

And we have no homework. Now, if you know me at all, you'll know that usually this is something I would celebrate. But we don't have class work either. We don't do anything. (Grammar class is again the exception here; we've had a ton of workbook pages and a handful of mini-essays there.) I really want to know where our grades are coming from, since we're not expected to talk in class, and we've had exactly one assignment each in Spanish novel and contemporary Spain, and absolutely nothing in art history (not that I get a grade for art history, since it's an audit, but still, I'd be interested to know). When I get back to Knox, I think I'm going to fail all my classes because I will have forgotten how to put forth effort in anything that's class-related.

Well, I have to go to class now. Art history, as luck would have it. Guess what? I bet we don't do anything. In fact, we probably won't even talk about art. (We don't always. It's kind of ridiculous.) *sigh*

*The art history prof is by far the worst in this category, but the others do it too sometimes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yay Obama! Yay Indiana!(?)

So, first off, YAY OBAMA! I'm way happy, in case you've never heard of me and couldn't guess. I didn't sleep Tuesday night, because being in Spain, they didn't call it until about 5:30 AM local time, and I just couldn't go to bed before that, and then I had to watch the acceptance speech (definitely teared up a bit there), and then I decided to stay up and finish an essay instead of try and sleep the final two hours I had left, so Wednesday I drank four coffees and was a zombie most of the day. Then I slept fourteen hours last night and now I'm good.

But I'm also confused. See, when I finally turned off the computer Wednesday morning, Indiana was still too close to call. That being my home state, I was thrilled (never in my lifetime has there been a question of which way Indiana would go—it has been a "red state" since before the term existed—so a tie like that is amazing), and once Obama had it in the bag, I figured it wasn't a big deal, I could find out later which way Indiana ended up going. So this morning, I do a Google search for "Indiana election results" and the first thing to come up is the Indiana Secretary of State's page, which said (and currently says) McCain got more votes. Sadface. But a bit more searching tells me that all the networks finally called Indiana for Obama.

So who's right? The numbers of votes on the MSNBC page are bigger, which would make it seem like their info is more complete, but they (and the other networks) all say "99% of precincts reporting," so did they call it and then stop updating without complete info or something? And the Indiana Secretary of State's page says it was last updated Wednesday at 11:09 AM, and they ought to have the official information, no? I mean, it's the freaking government page. But then again, besides being a raging neocon, Todd Rokita (our sec. of state) is also a blithering idiot. And while I know it's not him personally updating the website, it is his office, so...who knows. I know it doesn't make any difference now, and just to have been that close is historic enough for me, but I'd really like to know who actually ended up getting Indiana's eleven electoral votes.

Either way, yay Obama! It's been a really good couple of days.

*UPDATE* (11/6/08)
So they've updated the Indiana Secretary of State's webpage (it's now says "Last updated November 6, 2008 (11:28 AM)"), but it's still got McCain having more votes. In fact, it doesn't even look like the numbers have changed significantly (I can't be sure on this, because I didn't write them down earlier, but they look quite similar, and still far smaller than the numbers on MSNBC, which have not changed). But every source I can find has Indiana as having definitely gone for Obama, which makes me think there must be something wrong, or at least something I'm missing, on the Secretary of State's website. Todd Rokita = failplz.

But then again, we knew that already.

*UPDATE NUMBER 2* (still 11/6/08)
I've fired off an email to dear old Todd('s office). It reads as follows:
Your "Election Results" page for the just-past presidential election seems to be showing incomplete and/or misleading information. It currently shows McCain/Palin as having gotten 922513 votes and Obama/Biden as having gotten 839625 votes.

This information appears to be either a)incomplete, or b)not the information I'm looking for (a tally of how many actual votes in total each candidate received, and hence, who won the state).

In case of a), being two days out from the election now, it seems ludicrous that the complete information would not be available here, especially when the major commercial networks all seem to have it (e.g. MSNBC).

In case of b), it needs to be much more clear as to what information I'm looking at, because what it *appears* to be is what I said before, a tally of how many actual votes in total each candidate received. If this is not the case, that needs to be clearly stated, because that is seriously misleading.

I'm really disappointed that I haven't been able to find the information I needed here. I would expect a government website to be a reliable source of info, and I hope the situation will be rectified immediately.

I wonder if anything will happen.

*UPDATE NUMBER 3* (11/13/08)
So, I never heard anything back from dear old Todd, but I happened to think of it and went on over to check out Indiana's election results page again, and look! Information that appears to be accurate! And a big red headline that says "Note: These results are NOT yet official. A number of counties have yet to provide their data to the state." Could we actually be seeing honesty and competency from our Secretary of State's office?

Well, I don't know that I'd go that far. Not having the "official" results, two weeks after the election, seems like an awfully big stretch on the "competency" factor. I'm sure they know the "official" results; they're just too damn lazy to update the webpage. But their totals are at least larger than MSNBC's now, so I'm done messing with it. They can leave that "unofficial" notice up until 2012 for all I care (and I have no doubt they will).

But it's a step in the right direction anyway.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dear people who stole my wallet Saturday,

Just FYI, you kinda suck. I mean, I was sitting there in that cafe, not bothering anybody, just enjoying the free wifi and catching up on some Facebooking, and then bam! No wallet. And all because I tried to help some poor woman with her wireless. ("Oh, that's how you do it!"—right. Nobody's that stupid.) I had to call Fernando and interrupt whatever he was doing so he could get a taxi and take me home, because you left me with neither money nor metro card. I felt really dumb.

Now, I don't know you. I didn't see you do it, and I couldn't identify you if I had the opportunity. But I do know what you got, and y'know what? I think I got the better end of the deal, honestly. I mean you, what did you get? A credit card and a debit card that I cancelled before you could use (yeah, that cash advance? Nice try. Wells Fargo was too smart for you.), a couple weeks' free rides on the metro, maybe fifteen euro in cash, and a bunch of discounts and club cards for places you've probably never heard of. Smooth.

But what did I get? Well, first off, I got an excuse to buy a new wallet, which I've been looking for for ages. I got a chance to retake all my ID photos—four-eyed, high-looking driver's license photo? Gone. Excellent. I got a reason to call my mom. That was nice. And of course, I got a quick lesson in watching my stuff. That's one I'll remember. And all that for a mere fifteen euro and a metro card? Sounds like a deal to me.

So I won't say thank you, because really, you stole my frickin' wallet. You're a couple of jerks. But I'm lucky; I'm a student at a nice college with the opportunity to study abroad, while you are a couple of people who hang around cafes trying to scam tourists for their wallets. And you didn't get much out of mine. So, sucks to be you. Perhaps you should consider another line of work.