Friday, March 15, 2013

A Good Result from an Accident / Musings on the Loss of Objects

The other night, an accident had a good end result. Here's what happened.

While we were watching TV, sitting as usual on the smaller of our two couches, I accidentally spilled almost an entire large cup of black tea plus milk on the hardwood floor and rug. Furious at myself for my clumsiness, I started madly mopping up the mess with paper towels. It had made quite a large puddle, part of which was under the couch.

Thinking that some tea might still be under the couch after all my mopping, I asked David to help me pull the couch away from the wall. To my huge surprise, there under the couch was the portable cell phone charger I thought I had lost on campus months before. (It's the kind that looks like a thin cell phone.) How it got under the couch, I have no idea. It was not wet, and it seems to work fine.

Do any of the rest of you have stories of long-lost things you found? If so, I'd like to read them.

Finding the charger made me feel a lot better about spilling the tea, and the floor and rug seem to be okay. The floor has polyurethane on it.

However, I still can't find the camera I lost over a year ago, one with many irreplaceable photos on it that I had not yet downloaded to the computer. Some photos were of my sister Laura's dear little cat, Amelia, who died of old age not long after I took those photos.

Over the years, I have lost many other cherished items, and thinking of them still makes me sad. A few of them were stolen, some of them were lost through my own carelessness, and all of them were irreplaceable.

I once had an acquaintance more or less laugh at me and the idea of being sad about losing cherished items, stating that they were "just things." His opinion is that one should never become attached to inanimate objects.

I assume that his attitude is extremely unusual. Whether or not it's admirable and worthy of emulation, I can't really say. For my own part, I'd rather have my feelings of attachment, even if the result is sometimes sadness and a seemingly permanent sense of loss.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Working Together is Success

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford

On 5/5/11, I turned 65. My husband, David, is 67. We've been married for 43 years, since April 9, 1968. On May 1, I became eligible for Medicare + Medicare Advantage (via Secure Horizons). We have both already started taking Social Security, because two years ago, in May of 2009, David lost the best job he had ever had. Back then, he was working full time as a tech writer for Quark, Inc. Once that job ended, he never succeeded in finding another full time job. After a while, he stopped looking for one.

If all this makes us sound like a couple of late middle-aged folks who have more or less given up on working and who have decided to resign ourselves to stagnation, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we realized a while back that we have now entered what feels like the happiest time of our lives together. It's surely one of the most productive.

Over his working lifetime, David was employed as a math teacher, an aerospace engineer, a tech writer, and a computer programmer -- or developer, as they say these days. He is also the author of 20 books, mainly in the genres of science fiction and horror, including three Star Trek novels, as well as numerous essays and articles, most of which you can read on his website, www.dvorkin.com. Nowadays, he is mainly writing here at home, as well as accepting short tech writing or programming jobs that he can do via telecommuting.

I'm still working at all the things I have ever done for pay and have no plans to retire anytime soon, if ever. I tutor four languages (Spanish, German, English, and a little French), teach three weight training classes a week, translate (mainly from German to English), write books and articles, and do proofreading and editing for other authors. To my happy surprise, every aspect of my business has seen an upturn over the last year or two. Lately, I have been getting some very gratifying phone calls and e-mails from former students who want to get back in touch with me, either for lessons or just to say hello. I am as busy as I could ever want to be, and love every bit of my work.

And just what is making David and me so happy these days? Mainly, it's being here at home together almost all the time. We are almost uncannily alike in our living habits, our opinions, our likes, and our dislikes, so we very seldom have a conflict of any sort. And even though we are physically apart during much of the day, either while I teach or while we are seated at our separate computers in our separate studies on different floors of the house, we always have a wonderful sense of being here at home together, able to talk to each other at any time. Sometimes we e-mail each other. And for the first time in our lives, we have a joint writing project that we are working on.

I love David, support him wholeheartedly in his writing endeavors, do my just share of the housework, and help to earn our shared money. Other than that, I'm not sure how much of a help I am to him, but I know that I could not do a great deal of my own work without his amazingly patient help. I am a very un-technical person, and I could never have learned what little I know about the use of a computer without David's instruction. The fact that we both have websites is entirely due to his technical skill, and ditto for the publication of so many of our books in e-book format via Smashwords and Amazon.

In addition to all that, David has always done at least 50% of the housework. (He was also always a wonderfully loving and attentive father to our only son, Daniel, now 42.) On a regular basis, David does all the grocery shopping, runs most errands, takes out the trash, waters the lawn in summer, shovels snow in the winter, prepares our breakfasts and lunches, pays all the bills, helps with the preparation and clean-up for the monthly Spanish group meetings that I host, irons any clothes that require that, and frequently washes the dishes. (We do not have a dishwasher.) He also packs suitcases better than I do and does all the driving when we take road trips.

David is also in amazing shape for a man of 67, and in fact is in much better shape than the average American man of any age. That's due mainly to his over four decades of regular weight training plus walking. We have a new Schwinn exercise bike that we love. I also lift weights, walk, and use the exercise bike, and I like our home treadmill, too. Weight training remains the favorite form of exercise for both of us. David was the one who got me started on all that, way back before we were married, about 45 years ago, long before weight training was common in America for either men or women. His robust good health at this relatively late stage of his life is tremendously reassuring to me. Given that his father is still alive at 102, we have every hope that David will live to a very old age indeed.

After some serious health problems in years past, including breast cancer (see my book Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's Journey), I am now feeling healthier and more vigorous than I have in a very long time.
I teach three weight training classes a week in our basement and exercise about eight or nine hours per week in all. I could still stand to lose some weight, but I have plenty of energy for my work. My most recent round of medical exams revealed improvements in many areas, which is tremendously encouraging.

Are our lives perfect? No. Whose life is? But to our pleased amazement, we both find that now, in our mid- to late 60s, we are happier and more optimistic than we ever were before. Two years ago, when David lost his job at Quark and we were plunged into an initial period of deep worry, we could never have imagined that we would one day look back at that lay-off and deem it one of the best things that had ever happened to David -- and to us as a couple.

We know that we are much more fortunate than many others in our age group. Our health is more than good. Our house and cars were all paid off several years ago. We have no children or elderly parents whom we need to support. We have Social Security and Medicare as well as continuing incomes.

At the same time, we are working very hard, together and separately, to keep on improving ourselves and our circumstances and to help others as much as we can. I find that I love editing, as well as teaching, and David and I are now helping other authors get published in both e-book and print formats.

Thus we are doing far more than just "keeping on." We are keeping on moving outward and upward -- together, always together.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Very Odd Stance Indeed

Looking around a bit on the Web, I see that I am not the only person bothered by the weird current tendency to have women stand pigeon-toed (with their toes turned in toward each other) in ads. In my opinion, it makes the women look not "cute," but submissive and silly, even rather stupid, and most certainly child-like.

The most recent such depiction I saw was an ad from the Colorado Symphony for a performance by a group called The Airborne Toxic Event. There are five members of the group, one woman and four men. The woman is posed wearing tight black pants and what appear to be black high heels. But she is spoiling any attempt at looking sexy by standing with her toes turned in toward each other. What is even odder is that she is holding a pale green umbrella open over her head. Huh? What the heck is she shielding herself from?

The men, by contrast, are standing in much more self-confident poses. Their feet are
1) rather wide apart (a bit too self-consciously macho for my taste),
2) one leg crossed over the other (maybe a little unstable looking),
3) toes straight ahead, feet a moderate distance apart (okay), and
4) feet a bit closer together, toes turned out (okay).

So what gives with the woman's pose? I actually dislike this silly, degrading look so much that this ad prejudices me against the group as a whole, even though I have never heard of them before.

So good grief, ladies! Straighten out those feet and legs. Stand tall and strong. Look like a woman, not a wimp.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A phrase that really bugs me

This is something of a rant -- my first, but surely not my last -- on this blog.

Tonight on the news I heard the phrase "people who serve their country," and I realized that it annoys me greatly that those words virtually always refer to people who are in the military. But why? To me, that exclusive association is nonsensical.

To my mind, all those who are doing work of any kind well are serving their country, helping to make it better, helping to make the lives of those around them better.

I'm a language tutor, a translator, a writer, an editor, and a weight training instructor. My husband is a tech writer, a programmer, and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. As an aerospace engineer, he helped put men on the moon in the 1960s and the Viking lander on Mars in the 1970s. Our son was in the Air Force as a medic, and he served well and honorably. But now he is studying for a PhD in Bioinformatics, aiming toward a career in biological research.

To my mind, we have all helped and are helping many people around us. We are good, hardworking, productive citizens. The taxes we pay help sustain the city of Denver, the state of Colorado, and the country. So how are we not serving our country?

My opinion: If we want to talk about people "serving their country" and we are referring to those in the military, then we should say so. "He is serving his country as a member of the Army." "She is serving her country as a member of the Air Force." Etc. But let's not fail to recognize the valuable contribution to the good of this nation that is made by any law-abiding, hardworking citizen. We are all in this together.

New information about our books

It's been a long time since I looked at my own blog, and now I see that there is some information that needs updating.

1) My new, separate website: www.leonoredvorkin.com
David is retaining the old one: www.dvorkin.com

2) My new email address: leonore@leonoredvorkin.com

3) All of our many e-books on Smashwords, Amazon, etc. (my two books and David's many more) are now just $2.99 each. David and I have become enthusiastic proponents of the e-book revolution. Here is the link to David's blog post called "The Liberated Writer": http://eyeblister.blogspot.com/2010/10/liberated-writer.html

4) I have a 4,000-word essay in a new, FREE e-book edited by Beverly Vote, editor of Breast Cancer Wellness magazine. The book is How We Became Breast Cancer Thrivers. It's a collection of 44 essays by breast cancer survivors, women (and one man) who now see the breast cancer experience as a net good.
Here's the link to the book: http://www.leonoredvorkin.com/brcan/thrivers.php

5) We have set the same low price for the three fabulous children's books by our friend Brian K. Nash. We have a page for him on our website: http://www.dvorkin.com/brianknash/index.html
We are in the process of publishing the same three books in print format via CafePress.
I edited the texts and David designed the covers.

6) Over the past couple of years, I've been doing a lot of editing for other authors. So far, I've edited six books for others and have two more books in the pipeline. David and I are so much enjoying publishing our own e-books and Brian's that we are now making ourselves available to help other authors self-publish their books in e-book format.
Details are at: http://www.dvorkin.com/ebookpubhelp.html

Sunday, April 25, 2010

e-book version of my novel

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted here. This is entirely unrelated to Spanish, but it's very exciting for me.

As some of you know, the newly revised print version of my novel, APART FROM YOU, was published by CreateSpace earlier this year. They do a beautiful job of production. The 344-page book is currently available from Amazon for just $9.32. I took the cover photo near our house.

Now here is a link to the E-BOOK version of my novel, available from Smashwords for only $4.99. It was published today, April 25, 2010.
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/13715

The e-book version is downloadable to computers and all e-readers. You can even download 50% of the book for FREE.

The novel is a very serious story set in the late 1960s. It has to do primarily with infidelity, dishonesty, social change, and sibling rivalry. If you would like to read a summary of the plot and themes, plus read Ch. 1 and Ch. 14, which deal with the novel's two main characters, go to http://www.dvorkin.com/afy/index.htm

David and I are thrilled to have discovered Smashwords. He is already planning to re-issue most of his many out-of-print novels through them.

I hope you will take a look at my novel, and also that you will let other authors know about Smashwords.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

THE SPANISH ALPHABET, SPELLING, and PRONUNCIATION -- Part 1

C 2009 by Leonore H. Dvorkin

Introduction

For background information, please see About this blog.

This is a slightly altered and condensed version of the first part of the first handout that I wrote in the summer of 2008 for elementary Spanish classes I was teaching. To receive the complete Alphabet, Spelling, and Pronunciation Handout via email, 8 pages when printed out, send me $2.00 via PayPal: leonore@csd.net

In the book Spanish the Easy Way, see pp. xiii-xiv for examples of words and tips on pronunciation. In Spanish Now, those are on pp. xi and xii. 
The dictionary I recommend most highly, Harper Collins Spanish Concise Dictionary, Third Edition, HarperCollins Publishers 2004, $15.00 pbk., gives pronunciation guidelines on pp. x-xi.

The verb book I recommend is 501 Spanish Verbs, 6th Edition, published by Barron’s 2007, $16.99 pbk.

_________

General remarks on the Spanish alphabet, spelling, and pronunciation

To hear Spanish from native speakers, rent Spanish movies, tune in to Spanish language radio or TV stations, or buy or rent instructional tapes or CDs.  I like the inexpensive Learn in Your Car series (CDs plus booklets), as well as the various sets from HUGO and Berlitz, such as the Berlitz set Spanish in 30 Days. I have heard good things about Behind the Wheel Spanish and the interactive Rosetta Stone series, but Rosetta Stone is expensive. There are dozens of choices in any large bookstore, such as Barnes and Noble. Start with something simple and inexpensive, or rent instructional materials from libraries.

1) Spanish is a phonetic language. That is, every letter (except H) is sounded. The various letters and combinations of letters have highly predictable sounds. Once you learn the basic sounds of the various vowels, consonants, and combined vowels, it is relatively easy to sound out any new word that you read.

2) The vowels (A, E, I, O, U) have relatively pure sounds in Spanish, with almost no variation. This makes both spelling and pronunciation easier than in English.  In Spanish, A, E, I, O, U sound more or less like “ah, eh, ee, oh, oo.”  Y by itself also sounds like “ee.”    y = and

3) The only silent letter is H.   CH sounds like English CH, as in chocolate.

4) The LL combination usually has a Y sound, as in llamar (“yah-MAR”), to call. 
However, there are a lot of regional variations in the pronunciation of LL.

5) The RR combination is strongly trilled. 
Examples: perro (dog), ferrocarril (railroad)

6) The letter R is also strongly trilled when it starts a word.
Examples: radio (radio), reciente (recent), Roma (Rome), ruso (Russian)

7) Inside a word or at the end of a word, a single R is sounded with a single soft tap of the tongue. It can sound almost like a soft D.
Examples:  pero (but), tomar (to take or drink), torpe (clumsy), un traje (a suit)

8) The letter Ñ  (N with a tilde) sounds like “EN-yay.”
Inside a word, it sounds like the NI in “onion.”
Examples: mañana (tomorrow) = “mahn-YA-nah”  /  año (year) = “AHN-yo”

9) Unlike English, Spanish has very few double consonants.
The only ones are CC, LL, RR and (much more rarely) NN.
Examples: acción (action), una parrilla (a grill), perro (dog), innato (innate)

10) B and V usually sound the same when they start words. 
Examples: boca (mouth), vaca (cow)

11) In most of the Spanish-speaking world, the letter C before E or I, the letter S, and the letter Z tend to sound much alike, like the English S in Sam.
Examples: cero (zero), cinco (five), sopa (soup), zapato (shoe)

12) Spanish syllables tend to be rather short in sound and even in length, vs. drawn out, like some English syllables. 

13) Spanish has a fixed system of voiced stress on certain syllables, which will be discussed in more detail later. One thing you can be sure of:  If you see a written accent mark over a vowel, that syllable is stressed.

14) In Spanish, unlike in English, days of the week, months of the year, names of languages, and adjectives of nationality are not capitalized. Examples:
lunes (Monday), marzo (March), chino (Chinese), un coche alemán (a German car)

 

My next post will give examples of common words starting with each letter of the alphabet.