Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Poles know how to party

We had a nice dinner with friends last night sipping homemade beer and kielbasa, as Maciej and Karolina attempted to help me pronounce Polish lyrics to some of my favorite tunes. I'm including a short video of the evenings festivities:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Me talk Polish pretty one day thanks to Google Translate

What would we do without Google? When I was young, my father, aunts and uncles would sing these great Polish Christmas songs and some other catchy folk tunes. I know the melodies but the language confounds me with the combination of consonants and accent marks. How I wish they had taught me when my brain was young and nimble.

Lately we have been reminiscing about phrases we heard when we were children and I've been entering them into Google Translate, a wonderful tool that does a decent job of translating the word and also allowing you to hear what it sounds like. Since Polish has a number of characters with accent marks, I have been using the virtual keyboard that comes with the tool. Pressing the Alt+Ctrl key will display the addtional keys.

As an example, I chose the first line of the Christmas Carol "Christ is Born".

How to use Google Translate:

  • Left pointing arrow points to virtual keyboard (needed for special characters). You can also type inside the text window (for example try "smelly feet" in English to Polish.
  • Downward arrow will allow you to hear pronunciation
  • Upward arrow (Alt+Ctrl) will activated the alternate characters for the language
As a student exercise, I would like everyone to try this out with their language of choice.

As an aside, my post title is a play on a title of a book written by David Sedaris, a humorist and frequent contributor to the radio show This American Life

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Squirrel balancing act

The gray squirrels will prevail, but I refuse to give up the fight. They have even started drinking from my hummingbird feeders. I wonder if any of them will be become diabetic from all that sugar.

My latest deterrent method is a combination of a suspension wire, a baffle and a pivoting support. 

The suspension wire is no problem for the creatures, they are natural high wire acrobats. The baffle is a re-purposed brass cymbal which tips on it's support. Beneath is a balance beam with matched feeders.

The squirrels can easily negotiate the high wire and the tipping cymbal but the the balanced feeders tip with just enough velocity to drop them off. If they would coordinate their attack then two squirrels could defeat this arrangement by climbing onto the feeders in unison, but I haven't seen that yet.

I had a twirl-a-squirrel but while it was fun to watch, it tended to self activate on windy days. After I dropped it on a cement floor it shattered into a million cheap plastic parts. Still if you want to try: