What happened to winter?

A few short years ago, I spent many a winter's day shoveling snow. It might have been 2-4 inches, 6-8 inches or 12-14 inches. But often I'd be looking at two snowstorms a week. There was a constant and significant layer of snow on the ground from late December through late March. It was something that a lot of the plants in New Hampshire needed. The snow insulated the roots and kept them from waking up in the rare days that sprang into the 40s.

For the past couple of years, temperatures in the 40s aren't unusual, even in January and February. As we enter the final week of February, we're expecting a 60 degree day this week. That is just insane.

Don't get me wrong. I hate snow. I don't know why I live in New England. But it seems pretty evident that climate change is having a big effect on the weather here. Could it be a fluke? Of course. But I don't think it is. The government has even changed the category of this area's growing zone. We are officially warmer than we used to be.

The warmer weather is killing a lot of the native plants. As a landscaper, I don't even bother planting needle evergreens anymore. They're all dying.

I'm not saying anything that people who pay attention to science don't already know, but I am banging my head against the wall because there are so many people in this country, and indeed the world, who don't get it. As they say, there is no Planet B. I shudder to think what this world is going to be like in 15 years, let alone 60.

Brain care

For the past three months, I have cut back on news and social media, focusing on something much more positive, my own mental health. I chose to exchange that wasted energy for something positive: learning a new language.

For my entire adult life, I have wanted to study another language, feeling ignorant knowing only one, but I had had nine years of French in grammar school and into high school and three years of Spanish from high school through my first year of college. This created a split language dilemma that paralyzed me. Did I want to study French, which I had had three times as many years studying, or Spanish, which I surely learned more of, because it was taken when I was older and the French was basically the same lessons year after year. It stopped from from taking the first step.

The other half and I were discussing moving to Europe somewhere for retirement and France has become an increasingly enticing prospect. At the same time, the negativity from politics in America, and in the world in general, was dragging me down, putting me in a bad mood all the time.

Well, the discussions about trying out France finally cemented it. I would use my time for constructively and see what I could do with French.

I downloaded Duolingo and Rosetta Stone and quickly realized that in order to really get anything out of them, I had to pony up the dough and pay for them, The free versions just weren't worth a damn. It surprised me how much French I had retained and how much I had actually absorbed.

What have I learned about those apps? If you're looking to become fluent in another language, you're not going to do it with an app alone. Even with these two, tackling it from different perspectives, it wasn't enough to feel like I was really getting a good grasp of things.

At least in these early stages, Duolingo focuses on repetition and making sure you can match person, tense and whether things are masculine or feminine. It's also fun, set up like a game, which keeps it engaging. But a lot of it is about picking out preselected words, and that's not something you're going to have in the real world.

Rosetta Stone seems like it is more set up to teach you the language, and it is more challenging than Duolingo. But it isn't nearly as fun, so it feels a lot more like work. It's nearly entirely in the language you're trying to learn, but as such, I had to search for answers to questions elsewhere. I turned to looking up websites for more in depth explanations for verb conjugations and other matters that arose.

I went to YouTube, where instructors put out free lessons on real French dialogue, which differs substantially from learned, written French. They run down commonly used phrases, which don't translate straight into English, but French speakers would know the meaning of. Think about looking for a needle in a haystack. People around the globe have their own sayings and it's handy to have a grasp on them if you're so inclined.

I bought some reference books, a French/English dictionary, a verb dictionary, a book of common phrases, one of short stories. I also downloaded a free flash card app. What I've found is that it's best to learn in a number of different ways.

So here I am. Mid 50s and trying something completely (well somewhat) new. I still grind my gears over politics, but I had to try to save my own sanity at the same time.

Bonne chance à moi-même.


It has dawned on me that a lot of people are going to have to start looking for new jobs in the not-too-distant future. AI is going to be writing books that tick all the boxes for the reader and the book will be written in seconds. A significant number of readers won't care that there isn't a human on the other end. They'll just want books that they enjoy.

I can already tell Photoshop to add a cow or a cat to a picture and it gives me several variations to choose from that look realistic.

A few weeks ago, I predicted that within a decade, people will just be able to tell a computer to make an action-adventure movie about such and such a topic and within minutes, it will be done. No actors or directors, no writers, no camera operators or filming on location in some exotic land, no orchestras. Everything will be computer generated.

Well, this morning, I watched an AI generated trailer. Someone told AI to make a trailer for Heidi. You can see it here. It is freaky as hell to watch. The people and animals are fascinating and eerie, the score is a little bit catchy. It is obviously not going to win any awards for film making, but it's a first step.

Additionally, driverless vehicles are going to kill truck driving and taxi careers. Pilots may well be next. Amazon has technology that allows grocery shoppers to just fill up their carts and leave the store. No checkout. Good bye to the cashiers. Who knows how many jobs are going to be eradicated by technology and if there will be any new ones to fill the void?

I am both excited and scared about the future. What happens to society when too many people don't have jobs to do? I'd love to reach Star Trek level where people are just free to choose whatever career interests them and money is no longer viable. But there's going to be some serious in-between time where people are going to suffer.

Anyway, it was just a thought.

Heat and humidity

Holy cow, what a summer. It's either pouring rain or drenching heat and humidity. For a fellow who works outside, it's been god awful. But, as they say, it's going to be one of the coolest summers for the rest of my life.

Special Counsel

Well, here we go. A special counsel has been appointed for two of the myriad of criminal cases against Trump. This is basically it. If Trump doesn't get indicted, then there are no more questions about it. Some people are, indeed, above the law.

I have no doubts whatsoever that the man won't see the inside of a cell. They wouldn't be able to protect him and they're not going to let that happen. So that would leave something like house arrest, where he's confined to Mar-A-Lago, hardly a punishment since that what he chooses to do, anyway. Then, of course, let's see if anyone tries to stop him from going out and golfing and living his normal life. Doubtful, but an indictment and some sort of punishment is needed.

I believe enough of the Republican Party has moved on to the point that any uproar will be contained. I mean, it's not like they'll be arresting DeSantis or anything.
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