The Annual Running of the Santas

Well, here we are again.  The annual running of the Santas.  Pamplona has its annual running of the bulls and here in Boston, well, we get guys (and gals) in bathing suits running through our streets.  Personally, I think our tradition is a lot better.

Let’s have a look see at this year’s lovely contestants:



The Story of Our Life

When I was a kid, I’d ride public transportation a lot with my parents.  We lived in New York and we didn’t have a car.  In fact having a car was something so crazy that I never thought we’d have one, until we actually had one.

While I was riding the bus, I’d imagine little lives for the people I saw on the bus.  What were they up to, where were they going.  I also did this when I’d go by people’s houses and look into their windows.  I mean I’m not a peeping tom, but people’s apartments just always look so nice and I try to imagine what their lives are like too.

Yesterday I went to the new Eataly location in the Prudential Center.  That place is insane.  So much food.  I don’t even know how people choose anything to eat there.  I had some above average gelato, after waiting in a very above averagely long line.  Whatever.  They just opened.

And as usual, I went around observing people like a ninja and snapped their photos.  Here are the best ones:


Trump-ish, or Maybe Trump-an-ese? I’m Not Really Sure At This Point.

Usually this is a blog focused on photos and some words, but precious few. Sometimes its focused on the things that actually happen to me and rarely it is focused on words and few photos. I try to never take a stand on anything up here but I had to on Donald Trump. That entry didn’t go viral like I wanted. Unanswered prayers.

Anyway, in my real actual life I’m a language teacher and I also have a piece of paper at home that says I’m a linguist. Just like Howard Wolowitz has a piece of paper that says he has a masters in engineering from MIT, I have a piece of paper from not as prestigious of an institution as MIT that says I’m a linguist.

So its time to use that piece of paper. A lot of people have been analyzing Donald Trump in the recent days in from many different angles. I decided to analyze him from a different angle. I’m going to analyze his language from the point of view of a linguist. Now this is arm chair linguistics. Frankly I’m too lazy to bring out the heavy duty linguistics armor.

So for Donald Trump, I’m going to analyze his choice of language, tenses, turn taking frequency and general position in the conversation. For Melania, I will analyze the number of errors she makes in a short conversation and trace the source of those errors. I’ll stay firmly away from the political in both cases.

So here’s a picture of our new first couple. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Oops, broke a rule. Either way:


Yeah, I love the Snapchat. What’s it to you?  Not to mention, it means I took this photo.  Sorta.  Just so the Trump organization doesn’t immediately sue me, this is a picture I took of a photo on my computer screen that I used a Snapchat filter on.  Yeah.

First up we have Melania Trump, nee Knavs of the Jamaica Estate Trumps. Lest she be confused with some other Trumps.

Here’s a snippet of her conversation with a reporter that I transcribed:

Its amazing what’s going on. We’re having fun. I like to keep life as normal as possible for my son Barron. I’m a full time mom and I decided not to be in the campaign so much, but I support my husband 100 percent. I grew up in Slovenia. I went to school there and I studied design. Then I moved to Milan and Paris to live there. I had successful modeling career. I came to New York 1996.

How many languages do you speak?

I speak few languages.

Tell me about your mother.

She’s with a lot of fashion and style. She was in fashion industry for a long time.

My analysis:

Melania speaks in very long utterances. Her sentences are mostly clear, but she makes some mistakes that are common to second language speakers. Leaving the “s” off the third person singular is a common developmental error, but in other snippets of conversation that I decided not to focus on, Melania does not leave it off. She does, like all second language speakers have a little trouble with prepositions. She says that she decided not to be “in” the campaign so much, which is an understandable string of words, but not exactly correct. She makes several other errors with prepositions as she goes along. She says her most was “with” a lot fashion and style. Prepositions give all second language speakers a lot of trouble since they used differently in each language and have no fixed rules in English. Having trouble with prepositions is common with second language speakers, no matter how long a person has been speaking a language.

Melania also has a few missed articles here and there. Slovenian, her native language, like a lot of other Slavic languages, does not have articles. Every grammatical element that a target language does not have requires a lot more effort to master. In Melania’s case, her second language, English, has articles, but her first language that she uses as a base for her second language does not have them, making mastery of them particularly difficult.

For Melania, I recommend studying phrasal verbs and some review of articles.

And now for the Donald.  Oops, that’s an overgeneralization error!!!!!

Interview transcript:

Donald Trump

Its enormous. I’ve done a lot of big things, but it is so big. Its so enormous.


Hillary called you. Tell us about that phone call.

Donald Trump:

So Hillary called and it was a lovely call. She couldn’t have been nicer. She’s very strong and very smart. Bill called. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He said it was an amazing run. He was really very nice.

Responding to a question about how he treats women:

Trump: Women love me.

In the case of Donald Trump, the analysis is so much less straight forward. I just used snippets of his recent interviews. I could go into what he said during the campaign, but then I’d just end up throwing the computer out the window and what good would that do any of us?

Anyway, let’s get back to what we’re supposed to be talking about. In interviews, Donald seems very calm and collected and prepared with his responses. He does not try to take control of the interview, but clearly he has all the power. He’s leading the interview obviously.

In the first conversational snippet, he uses a lot of adjectives, but repeats those adjectives and they tend to be rather flowery about people he had had quite nasty things to say about just a few days earlier. It does show some anxiety on his part. His language may be a reflection of his own lack of confidence in his words or nervousness about having just stepped into such an important role.

With respect to his comments on the women, he uses language to distort reality. Here the interviewer was pointing out what he had said previously about women and how sexist and offensive he was. There he takes control of the situation and through language is able to distort reality to his advantage. Sure, many women have come forward and accused him of being sexist, [but] women love him. Except he doesn’t use “but.” He eliminates it entirely. Women love him. No questions asked.

Well, that’s it. If you read all the way down to here, you must love Donald Trump or language or both. I’m not exactly sure.

Stay tuned Donald Trump. Watch your utterances. I might get linguistic on you once again in the near future.

Many Novembers Past

You know how a song can take you right back to the place you were when you first heard it?  Maybe its just me, but I always have a flood of memories when I hear a song again that I associate with a particular period in my life.

Recently I went spelunking through Youtube, looking for the band stylings of a former friend of mine.  It also lead me go searching for other rock band stylings and listening to the music took me back in time.  Join me my blog audience while we travel back in time.

In November 2007, nearly to the day of today, I sat in my absolutely giant new apartment in Stockholm.  I think my current living room is the size of the kitchen in that place.  How had I gotten there?  I had gotten a job with an international organization whose name rhymes with Surpeon Funion and I had moved there.  I mean more precisely I had gone there with some suitcases with the hope that my stuff would eventually follow me over there.

And the job.  Oh my, the job.  The cast of characters were really interesting.  There was the novelist, the non-speaking microbiologist, the deca-lingual woman and the crazy haired, cardigan wearing drummer.  Heart stopping in his cardigans may I add.  Now those were the funny parts of it.

Then there were the less good, more bad part of it.  Unfortunately the more bad parts outnumbered the good, because as it turned out I did not get along with the person who was to be my supervisor.  Rather spectacularly we did not get along.

No job is perfect.  No situation is perfect, but in this job, I think I had only one good day on the job and that was a day when my supervisor was gone.  After work everyday I’d get home and listen to this band the crazy haired drummer had given me the CD of.  Yes, we’re talking that long ago.  The band was called Willowtree and the music just absolutely captured how I felt at that time.  The first song on their album includes the words, sung to a happy tune “everything is going down the drain.”

At that point, I thought, everything was really going down the drain.  There I had moved halfway around the word to work for that Funion and it had all gone spectacularly wrong.  The job was really too difficult for me and required someone with a lot more experience.  The Funion either ignored that or didn’t care when they got me over there, not to mention it was taking a long time to just get everything off the ground with everything.  Making a social life was really difficult.  Everything bothered me including the fact that during the Swedish winter, there was daylight for about 10 minutes.  I’m kidding.  It was at least 20 minutes.

Everything came to a sudden and dramatic end.  I’d like to say that I exited the job quietly and with style, but really I didn’t.  In the end though, it really didn’t matter.  I keep in touch with two former coworkers and they might actually read this but they know the story.  If someone I did work with does find this, I can tell them that I use that experience as an example of how your past doesn’t really matter, answered prayers are the ones that cause the most heartache and most of all, were it not for that spectacular failure, I wouldn’t have gotten on the path to the job I’m in now that I thoroughly enjoy.

Now nine years later, I listen to the Willowtree album on my phone while writing this entry, on a cold November night just like the one when I first heard it recalling all of what happened to me as a distant memory.  Thank god.

Oh and here’s some photos from when I went to Canobie lake.  Because this is a picture blog so I should post some photos.  Yup.  No transition there:















A Microcosm of the World

Well, its finally done.  The Millennium Tower is finally finished in downtown Boston.  I know this is news you have eagerly been waiting for.  Why is this news up here?  Well, I’ll explain in the new few paragraphs.

For seven years, I went downtown everyday for work.  I recently and I mean in the past two weeks, changed my job.  Now I leisurely make my way down to Brookline everyday.  Before I worked on the mean streets of downtown Boston.  Well, not that mean.

But downtown was an amazingly interesting place.  Downtown Boston when I started working there was like Wall Street.  Teeming with people during the week and deserted on the weekends.  Just empty.  And why would it be full?  All it had was jewelry stores and a couple of other things but somehow it just never put itself together to be a city.

Slowly and gradually though while I was in downtown, it started to change drastically.  More businesses started to move in.  More people came.  But there was one big gapping hole.  I’m not being philosophical here.  There was an actual gapping hole in downtown.  Behind the Filene’s building there was a giant gapping home that was never filled.  It stood empty for years, but somehow I got the feeling that as downtown started to fill up more, something would happen with the hole.  And it did.

Round about 2013 and 2014, some construction started around the gapping hole.  It became the Millennium tower and with it more stores and more activity for downtown.  Very good for downtown in general.

Since I worked in downtown and generally carried my camera with me everywhere I went, I decided to start documenting the progress of the tower.  I kept the photos on a little file on my computer waiting for the day I would unleash them on the world.

Well, today is that day.  Here ladies and gentlemen is Millennium tower, from nothing to everything.  The photos present its growth in chronological order:
























This Is Real Now

Before I start my entry, I’d like to invite whoever is going to leave negative comments to go ahead and leave them.  We have freedom of speech in America (for the time being) so as I can post whatever I want up here, people can post whatever they want up here as well.

On the other hand, I do sincerely hope that this entry goes viral because I’m going to use this forum to express my own views.

Tuesday night was election night.  I rushed out of work to vote before the polls closed.  What an election campaign it was in this 2016.  Here’s a photo of me actually voting and my actual ballot:


Obviously, I’m voting for Hillary, but I’ll get to that later.

I started paying attention to elections in 1984, when I was still in elementary school.  The first election I remember really well was Reagan vs. Mondale that year.  I don’t remember the particulars, but the adults around me seemed to be very excited about what was going on. Four years later, I remember the race between my work neighbor Michael Dukakis and Bush the Elder and a little character who fate dealt an ugly hand to, Lee Atwater.  Even as a little kid, I knew that was an ugly campaign.

In 1992, along came a man from Hope, Arkansas named Bill Clinton.  I was a teenager by the time he ran for office and that is the man who changed everything.  Suddenly the president was my parents age and he played the sax on the Arsenio Hall show.  No presidential candidate had ever even dared to do such a thing.  Here was a guy who smoked pot and embraced let’s say a lot of 1960s type values.

The next election I paid attention to was when Obama ran for president in 2008.  This was the first election I voted in, as I had not yet become a U.S. citizen up until that point.  I was proud to cast my vote for this intelligent, classy individual.  Four years later, he ran again Mitt Romney and I against proudly cast my vote for Obama.

For those of you who have read down this far, you can tell I’m a Democrat.  I’m actually really liberal in my views, almost borderline Scandinavian in my views when it comes to government and the role it should play in our lives.

Either way though, the presidential campaigns I watched and voted in were hard fought and could get ugly at times, but nothing, NOTHING, prepared me for the ugliness that 2016 brought.  NOTHING.

Here we had a deep Republican field and a Democratic field that included a former first lady, senator and an affable hippie Jew from Vermont.  As soon as I found out Bernie Sanders was running for president, I immediately wanted to vote for him.  Here was an individual who was talking about all the things nobody was talking about.  Fair wages.  Lessening of student loan burdens.  It all made so much sense.  No way that guy was going to win.

I dutifully went to the polls and voted for him, just to see my state go for Hillary.  Well Bernie, you tried.  Keep tilting at those windmills my dear man!!!!!

So it seemed that the race was going to go for Hillary, but what for the Republicans?  The field was crowded, interesting, boring, whatever adjective you want to use but one candidate stuck out — Donald Trump.  The builder?  The businessman??  Yeah, that guy.

Now I’ve “known” Donald (we’re on a first name basis he and I) for a lot longer than the electorate at large.  I remember Reagan vs. Mondale/Ferraro from 1984, but round about that time as well, a man was making a big name for himself in the place where I grew up, Manhattan.  In the 1980s, even as a kid, you knew who Donald Trump was.  He was kind of the PT Barnum of real estate development.  A master showman.  Entertaining, telegenic, annoying, whatever you called him.  The man got people’s attention including this person, who was at the time of his ascent all of about eight or nine years old.

Fast forward to 2016.  Now this was a presidential campaign like no other.  Arguments went out the window.  It was just one ugly episode after another, one ugly word uttered to the other, one right after the other.  To steal words from the great Mike Barnicle, it was like Donald Trump needed a venom transplant every time he spoke.  It was the ugliest campaign I have ever seen and that included Dukakis vs. Bush the Elder in 1988.

But there was no way Trump was going to win.  The man spewed so many racist, homophobic diatribes that there was absolutely no way he could win.  The mass of people in America would not allow him to win.  I mean whenever anyone brought up the possibility of him winning, I thought of this meme I shared multiple times on my Facebook page and this page for that matter:

A Donald Trump victory.  Madness.  Were we actually going to wake up to this??:


That was too funny even to consider.  I mean were we going to be listening to our ape overlords after a Trump victory?  Even a Trump victory was too funny to even ponder.

On Tuesday night, I did what most Americans did.  I watched “The Crown” on Netflix, which BTW, an amazing piece of programming, while pressing re-load on the New York Times website.  At first the numbers slowly crept up in favor of Hillary, then Trump, the Hillary and then, then something strange happened.  The numbers crept up for Trump, but not Hillary.  Was this actually going to happen?  Was he going to win??  I fell asleep, secure in the knowledge that I was going to wake up to see headlines that said “Hillary Clinton wins Presidency.”

Now as an aside, I wasn’t really looking forward to voting for her either but something changed in my mind.  Whatever reservations I had, she had 40 years of public service and to my knowledge had never uttered as ugly of words as Trump uttered before and during the campaign.

Tuesday dawned and with it the election results.  I was in utter shock and horror when headlines like this greeted me:


“Locker room talk.”  Grabbing women by certain regions.  Lawsuits.  Tax returns.  This and much more had been exposed during the campaign and yet somehow Trump had won.  My Facebook page turned into a war zone.  The people I saw on the way to work were ashen.

Now the Republicans think people are angry because a Republican won, but that’s not it.  That just misses the point completely.  This isn’t about sour grapes about a man from the opposing party being elected.  This is about a man being elected who despite spewing racist, dangerous garbage talk about women, minorities, Muslims, blacks and immigrants was still elected to the highest office in this land.  Horrifying.

I work in a start up international school and I could immediately see Trump making the visa process difficult, if not impossible for incoming students.  And how would those students be treated?  Was it now OK to harass immigrants and non-natives based on the color of their skin and their accents?  I mean if the holder of the highest office in the land can do that, why can’t the mass populace??

I thought back to what people said about the rise of Adolf Hitler.  He was popularly elected, promising to make Germany great again.  And then a small right was taken away from a small part of the populace.  And then another small right was removed.  Pretty soon, society was divided.  Pretty soon certain people had to wear yellow stars to identify themselves.  Downfalls in society don’t begin with huge moves.  A right here is removed, a right there…..

I hope this is not the future we face.  I hope this isn’t going to become an ugly country, unwelcoming to foreigners.  Somehow in the face of the election of a person whose personal views in no way mirror the actual things that make America great, could American society persevere through this?

Wednesday, the world was treated to this picture:

No words need to be exchanged here.  The body language says it all.  But somehow seeing Obama made me think that if these two sworn mortal enemies could sit together, maybe the next four years won’t be that awful.  Or that at least there are still people in this country who believe in equal treatment for gays, minorities, immigrants and women.  Who believe that everyone deserves healthcare.  Those who believe that above all else, people should be treated with dignity.

In the words of another great philosopher, Jerry Garcia — we will get by.  We will survive.

boston donald trump doll .jpg

Yup.  Right from my kitchen.  A Trump doll I bought years ago.  I can’t believe I’m going to write President Donald Trump.

Strange days are these.

Line and Curves

No other questions: