27 July 2010

Bully for you......

Okay, grammar classes are over for a little while, and I can actually get a little bit of time to write. I'm working on a newer story that involves bullying. I got to wondering where the term 'bully' came from and how it evolved, so I went researching on the internet and discovered that nobody really knows. How strange. There is one main theory that the word bully actually started as a term of endearment! Here is how it is explained at The Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com)

Bully. noun. 1530s, originally "sweetheart," applied to either sex, from Dutch boel "lover, brother," probably dim. of M.H.G. buole "brother," of uncertain origin (cf. Ger. buhle "lover"). Meaning deteriorated 17c.

Oh, how bizarre. I'll definitely be working this naming concept into the story. Too good to pass up.

But if anyone knows how bullying got its name...I'd be mighty appreciative if you'd send along any references.

22 July 2010

One more grammar class....

Yippee! Just one more grammar class and then I am done for the summer. While I have been really enjoying my classes, I have to admit that my brain stopped taking in new information sometime on Tuesday. It just got filled up, and now I need to go back and revisit all the information I learned over the last 3 weeks. I won't lie about it...learning Croatian is difficult. It makes learning calculus look like a day at the beach. And having to take classes during a heatwave only adds to the drama. The temperature has been hovering around 36C for much of the past few weeks. I'm already tired and ready for a nap when I get into the classroom at 9:30 am!

Hopefully, things will go smoother...and a wee bit cooler in the upcoming Fall session. For now, me and my genetiv, lokativ, instrumental and akusativ cases will be getting to know each other up-close-and-personal over the next few weeks.

19 July 2010

Chewy brain

Have you ever chewed a big piece of bubble gum for sooooo very long (like 2 hours) that it eventually got really hard and almost unchewable? Sort of something like road tar, or elephant skin?

Well, that is exactly what my brain feels like today after my Croatian grammar class. And tired too. So tired that when I finally hobbled down to the Dolac market, I couldn't even remember my own name, or the names of things like meat, potatoes, hello, thank you. So I sort of pointed at things, nodded my head, and took home whatever the vendor put in the bag.

Me at the market:

Me: (pointing at veal)
Butcher: (points at beef intestines and a grinning sheep head) You want these?
Me: (nodding in agreement for some bizarre reason. Oh yeah, now I remember, I wanted to cry)
Butcher: Ok. 5 cow colons and I throw in sheep skull for free!
Me: the lamp is on the table
Butcher: Thank you. Bye Bye.
Me: I am, you are, he is, she is

Okay, I made all of that up. But that's what I was thinking in my head. I'm too tired to write anymore because I can actually feel individual neurons trying to pluck verbs from the language centre of my brain.

And it kind of stings a little. Ouch.

You have to admit though that cow colons is pretty funny, yes?

08 July 2010

Waiting for God to smile...

Back in my radio college days (yup, did you know they actually had college classes for radio broadcasting?), we had this great instructor who taught announcing. This was a class where you learned how to talk on the radio. You might think that talking on the radio is pretty easy and natural, but it is actually a skill that takes quite a while to get right. Trust me, in the beginning EVERYONE sounds dorky on the radio.

Anyway.... there is a particular skill called 'hitting the post' which refers to the act of talking over the beginning of a song, and then ending on a beat in the music (like the introduction of a new instrument or on a drumbeat), or ending right before the vocals start up. If you did it just right, it was called 'hitting the post.' If you got it wrong and ended your talking in the middle of nothing in particular or worse, if you talked ontop of the vocals, then this was called "stomping the post."

All of us newbies regularly stomped the post. It was awful. And though it sounded easy to do, it was really hard to accomplish. Our brilliant instructor told us this magical piece of advice which is the secret to 'hitting the post.' He told us that we would try and try and try, and still get it wrong. And then one day, out of the blue, God would smile on us, and we would get it right. Just like that! And believe it or not, the instructor was right. Suddenly, one by one, each of us students would just start getting it right. We would just walk into the classroom and declare: God smiled on me!

Why am I bothering with this long tale of my days of yore in radio-land? Well, because it actually relates to the learning of Croatian and I think also the the learning of any language. The beginning of learning Croatian is really wobbly for the student. I am currently having difficulty with the most basic of things, and feeling much like a newborn giraffe struggling to stand up on thin shaky legs. My pronunciation is rough. My grammar is backwards. My brain feels like it is made of lead. And no matter how much I practice, it just ain't happening.

But I have faith. And patience (well, a little bit of patience). I will just keep on doing my best, and I expect that God will just smile on me one day, and it will all come together.

As I try to conjugate some reflexive verbs, and try to memorize hundreds of new words in both masculine, feminine and neutral form.....I gaze up at the heavens every once in a while, just to see if maybe that magical smile is heading my way.

07 July 2010

Save your eyeballs. Get kitchen safety glasses.

A couple of months ago, I decided to try out a new recipe I found on the internet for deep fried rice-flour dumplings. The recipe called for rice flour to be mixed with water into a wet paste. The wet paste then had to be made into little balls. Those balls had to be deep fried until golden and crispy. Sounded so easy. And gluten free!

Well, to make a long story short, the recipe didn't go exactly as described in the recipe. But I later learned that the problem I encountered is a nasty possibility and that each year hundreds of people are maimed and sometimes blinded by what I did next:

The rice balls were sticking to the bottom of my pot of hot boiling oil. The recipe said to be careful not to break up the balls because they would come apart in the oil. So I carefully leaned over my pot of oil, leaned my face right into the top of the pot and using a teaspoon, I gingerly tried to dislodge the rice balls from the bottom of the pan. What I didn't know, was that the rice flour had formed an incredibly thick crust around the dumpling...but that the inside was still wet and steamy. So when I moved the balls with my spoon, it caused the steam and/or moisture to escape the balls and make contact with the hot boiling oil. So BAM! Everything exploded. Big time. Like a firecracker of hot oil went off....directly into my face which was looking directly into the pot. So the oil burned my neck, my chin, my cheeks, my face, my eyebrows, my brow, my eyelashes. And my eyelids. And under my eyelids. And into my eyes. I was blinded.

I'll let that image sit with you for a bit.

I won't describe anything more because it still gives me the heebie-jeebies to even think about it. Fast forward a few weeks, and by a miracle that the doctors still can't believe, my eyesight is all okay. The burns all healed up more or less and I only have some very faint scars that are mostly hidden in my eyelid folds. I was lucky, lucky, lucky. Lots of people who experience what I experienced do not come out so lucky.

It got me thinking about safety eyeglasses for cooks. When you think about it, cooking is quite dangerous. Steam, hot oil, bacon grease, all spattering or boiling over at one point or another. Sure, there are oven mitts out there to protect your hands. But there's nothing out there to protect your eyes! I couldn't believe it. So I went looking for a good pair (or two or three) of cooking safety glasses. And I couldn't find any. Nothing specifically made for cooks. Nothing that I could find that is made for the home cook.

I wrote to a few cooking publications to find out if they could recommend any brands. I heard nothing back from them. I tried writing to the Martha Stewart folks to see if she had her own brand, but I couldn't figure out how to contact the appropriate person from their labyrinthine website. I even wrote to the folks at the Jamie Oliver website, who actually got back to me telling me that Jamie Oliver doesn't deep fry his food, and therefore they couldn't offer me any sort of assistance(???!)

With no guidance from the world of celebrity chefs, I grabbed a simple pair of safety glasses from the hardware store. Cost: about 4 euros. So cheap. I couldn't believe that I had never thought about wearing safety glasses while making all of my concoctions in the kitchen.

Well, I wear them now. All the time. If I'm cooking, then I'm wearing my glasses. And that's all I wanted to say on the subject.

Oh, and as for those rice dumplings: after literally scraping their remnants off the ceiling, I lost interest in ever making them again.

And one more thing: the shock from the accident gave me an instant white streak in my hair. Overnight. Just like that. Guess I'll have to update that picture of myself at some point ;-)

06 July 2010

Language miracle answered

A couple posts back, I was asking for a language miracle to occur so that I could start learning Croatian properly. Well, a language miracle happened along, and I'm now enrolled in one of those intensive language classes. The class isn't the miracle. The teacher is the miracle. She has tons of energy, is really animated when she is teaching, and is super friendly. Grammar is still hard, but the teacher is making it as painless as possible.

I'd like to write more about the classes, but I have an avalanche of homework to do.

One last thing though.....um, if the universe is listening...I am also in need of a great real estate/property miracle. And a great-health miracle too. Oh, and I'll just sneak in a request for a great publishing miracle. Hope I'm not being too greedy...