What were you doing when you were 40?

My story worth for this week. What were you doing when you were 40?

I thought it was the best of times, and it was the best of times up to then. The worst of times was just around the corner, but I didn’t know it at that time and that is another story.
It was the middle of my time as public affairs officer in Krakow. It was the best possible job I could have had at my rank and I knew it. Poland was emerging from the darkness of communism and it was an amazing privilege and joy to be there to watch it, have a small part in helping it along. You could see the improvements week-by-week. The air was getting cleaner. Shops were opening and electricity was becoming more reliable. It was like springtime after a long, dark and dreary winter. And my work was rewarding. Opportunities were so thick that my only problem was deciding among them. I got rock-star reception everywhere I went. I liked to think it was me, but I knew that they really loved the America I represented and that was okay too.

My Polish was not great, but it got me what I needed. Polish is hard for English speakers & Poles were glad to hear Americans speaking their language. They seemed to have no problem understanding, but I think my accent was amusing. My nearest guess is that I sound like Pepe Le Pew. I often talked on radio or TV, so it was not an impediment. My best teacher was my driver – Bogdan. My district included the whole south of Poland. Visiting all the places I needed to go kept me on the road. Bogdan and I spent many hours driving together, so much so that my more educated staff members joked that I should not talk so much to Bogdan. I was starting to sound like a peasant, they said. I think it was a joke.

Representing the USA in those days opened lots of doors and gave me lots of work. In retrospect, I think that I worked too much, more precisely that I did not adequately understand the nature of diplomatic work. I should have focused on fewer priorities and applied more leverage to everything else. Good diplomats work through others. I did too much myself and did not let others do as much as they could. I don’t beat myself up too much on this. This is common behavior of mid-level officers. Later when I was the big boss, mentoring younger officers, I tried to explain, but they more often did what I did, not what I said. Maybe it is a stage we need to go through on the way to better understanding. There is a time for energy, after all. It was my job to tell them and their job to do something else. And even looking back with my greater experience, I still judge my time in Krakow was a great success, despite my youth and inexperience.

A few anecdotes from those times.

Espen was a little boy and he learned Polish, at least at the little boy level, but he would never speak Polish with me. He claimed he could not. I heard him speaking to the cleaning woman in fluent Polish, so I asked him about it. “I thought you could not speak Polish,” I told him. He answered, “I don’t speak Polish. Those are just the words I have to use with her.” What an insight! That is one reason why kids can learn language so well. What is language, after all? You make a series of sounds and something happens.

My funniest Polish radio interview had to do with Christmas traditions. The interview was going well. I thought we were talking about Christmas trees. I talked about the tradition of decorating them and how each family had their own traditions. The interviewer nodded. I went on to explain that some people go to the forest to cut their own trees. Suddenly, the interviewer looked very confused. We talked a bit more. Turns out that I was using the wrong word. The Polish work for tree is “drzewo.” I was using “drzwi,” which means door. Funny, that it made sense. You could – and some do – decorate doors. Had I not talked about the cutting; nobody would have been any the wiser. This is a caution when you are speaking a foreign language and everybody seems to understand.

One of my scariest times was when Richard Holbrook came to visit us. Holbrook was one of the smartest men I have ever men and seemed to me one of the scariest. I met him at the train station and introduced myself. He dropped his luggage and walked off. We always joke that diplomats need to be ready to carry luggage, so I carried his. I must have done a good job, because I was placed at his table for a reception are Ariel Café in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow. It was a big table with lots of people well above my station. I laid low, not wanting to call attention to myself. Holbrook held forth on a variety of subjects. Seemed to know everything. I stayed quiet, speaking perfunctorily to the people near me, so as not to interfere with Holbrook, clearly the main event. The guy sitting next to me was the director of the Holocaust Museum. He was nice. We talked a little about the restaurant, which served traditional Jewish food and featured klezmer music. When we got up to leave, and made the usual goodbyes, the museum director was profuse in praise for the restaurant. I came to understand that he thought I was the owner of the café. I saw Holbrook at the other end of the table and I did not want to be explaining this when he might hear, so I just told the director that we try to please the customers.

On the dark side, Poland was a bloodland. Both world wars were fought over its territory and the Nazi occupation was very brutal. A casual walk in the woods will come across monuments to dozens of hundred of Polish civilians killed by Nazis. There were also remains of American pilots and aircraft. During the Warsaw uprising in 1944, the USA wanted to resupply the rebels. Stalin cynically wanted to let the Nazis wipe out the free Polish army.

Stalin would not resupply the Poles, nor cooperate with the USA to do it. American pilots and crews volunteered to drop supplies to the Polish Home Army. Since Stalin would not let them land in Soviet held territory, they had to try to make the round trip. Many did not make it. 1994 was the 50th anniversary of many of these events. I attended a quite a few memorials.

I was often assigned as site officer for Auschwitz. This is for official visits. The site officer makes sure everything is okay for an important visitor. I did some variation of these five times, including visits by Hilary Clinton and George W Bush. Each time I visited; it was worse. You notice more and more terrible details. My last visit was the worst. It was when George W Bush came to Poland. (This was a little outside the period in question. By then I was working in Warsaw, but they sent me south to help.) I went to the camp in the pre-dawn darkness and walked around the camp alone. Few people get to do this, and I do not recommend it. I will never, ever go back. The cruelty and inhumanity came stronger than ever, so powerfully that even as I write I am feeling physically sick. When people deny or minimize the Holocaust, well I wish I could infect them with this feeling. Well enough.

Story of English

Chrissy & I went down to Smithsonian to unlock the wordhoard in a day-long program by Professor Anne Curzan, a linguist from University of Michigan. The real title was English Words: Etymologies and Curiosities. I just liked “wordhoard”. It is the old English for vocabulary. “He dipped into his wordhoard and said …” Another interesting phrase was “ban hus” or bone house. That means body. Professor Curzon read from old English. It is clearly a foreign language, but if you listen very hard you can perceive it is your language down deep.
There never was a pure English (or any other language) but English has a birth year – AD 449. That is the tradition date when the Anglo-Saxons crossed over to what would become England. Of course, they brought with them their Germanic language and it did change immediately when they crossed the water, but the separation began.

The Romans abandoned the province of Britannia. They just could not hang on, as barbarians streamed across the imperial borders and when in 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome, the emperor decided to cut Britannia loose. The Britons were not very warlike after nearly 400 years of Roman protection. W/o the Roman legions they could not defend their borders against barbarians and pirates who raided the coasts. So, they made the unwise choice of inviting German mercenaries to do their fighting for them, these were the Angles, Saxons and Jutes from what is now northern Germany and Denmark. They did a decent job dispatching the local threats, but they decided that they liked Britannia so much they would keep it. They send word back to their cousins that the land was good and the inhabitants weak. So began England (land of the Angles) and the English language.
This was the start of a long process that is not finished. English is truly a promiscuous language. The first English mixed liberally with Norse, brought by the Vikings. The Vikings raided and burned, but then they settled in large numbers. At that time Norse and English were still somewhat mutually intelligible. Much of England became bilingual and a kind of blended language. Norse contributed lots of words to English and caused the grammar to become simpler

as the non-native speakers dispensed with some of the more arcane forms.

England after around 800 was more a part of Scandinavia, culturally and linguistically, than it was western Europe. This changed in 1066 with the Norman Conquest. The Normans (as the name implies) were themselves of Viking stock, but they were by that time French speaking. French became the prestige language in England for the next four centuries. There were never very many Normans in England, but the ran the place and their language ruled too.

The interesting illustration shows the subordination of English. In the field, where they peasants work, the big grazing animal is a cow (English). When it comes into the castle it becomes beef (French). In the pen, it is a pig. When it comes into the castle it becomes pork. Same goes for sheep and mutton. In fact, you can see it in lots of words. An English peasant might live in a house. The Norman rich guy lived in a mansion. When it got really classy, it became a domicile. Domicile shows the other influence – Latin.

Latin came into the language all through its history, as it was the language of the Church and of educated elites, but there was a big jump following the 15th Century. Writers and others wanted to “improve” English, so they coined new words. You can see this happening in Chaucer and Shakespeare later.

I have gone on a little too much with the history. She also talked about how we develop slang and how the language changes and continues to change. Word meanings change, sometimes even turning around. We all have our peeves about particular words, but it can be a losing fight.

I personally dislike it when people use the word utilize. There is almost no case where simple use is not a better choice, but people think the longer word is more sophisticated. Professor Curzan mentioned the differences between among and between and said that the difference between imply and infer is lost for the masses. Young people are starting to use because as a preposition. Language changes.

Great living in Washington because there are so many programs like this.

My pictures are from Smithsonian. The last one is just me on the Mall. I know it looks like an old west stance. It is the hat that does it. Since I became “hair denied” I began to wear hats. Now I feel naked w/o one. The brimmed hat is great, keeps the sun out of your eyes and the rain off your face and neck. You can see why they invented them. But the risk is looking like an old west guy. I can stand that, but I will avoid standing like that in pictures.


I learned about the language at a lecture about thirty years ago. It is a dialect of English, but with lots of forms and words from various west African languages and languages like Portuguese or Spanish.

Gullah is still spoken along the coast from Florida to Southern Virginia. There are lots of variations among speakers. A native speaker of standard American English can understand Gullah, but not all of it. Some of the misunderstanding comes from colorful idioms and phrases, not the language itself.

The Gullah language has penetrated American English & culture in many ways. George Gershwin went to South Carolina to study Gullah to write “Porgy & Bess.” But Gullah developed generally separate from standard English and English dialects spoken by some African-Americans.

Traditional Gullah is dying out. All languages are dynamic, always becoming something else. I read that Virginia once had seven distinctive dialects. Now they are mixed and matched. You have to talk to old people to hear the old languages, or even listen to audio recordings.
We listened to a presentations on Gullah at Boone Hall plantation. I wish that it had been more about language itself, but Chrissy pointed out that it might bore most everybody except me.

The New Testament has been translated into Gullah. The woman talking about the Gullah language read the Lord’s Prayer in Gullah. You can see it below written phonetically.
We Fada wa dey een heaben, leh everybody honor your name. We pray that soon ya gwine rule over de world. Wasoneba ting ya wahn, leh um be so in dis world, same like dey in heaven. Give we the food what we need dis day, yah, an eb’ry(every)day. Forgive we for we sin, cause we da’ forgive dey what do bad to we. Let we don’t hard tests wen Satan try we. Keep we from evil.

For comparison, this is the same thing in Middle English, the kind of Chaucer would have heard, from which our standard English & Gullah evolved.

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to; be thi wille don, in erthe as in heuene. Yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce, and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris; and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

Notice it is NOT simply ungrammatical English. It is a dialect with its own rules and rich heritage.

When I worked at Smithsonian I came in contact with research by Lorenzo Dow Turner, a linguist who studied the Gullah language of the South Carolina lowlands. At that time, most people thought Gullah was just bad English. Turner demonstrated the connections between Gullah and West African languages in some grammar and many words. He then went to Brazil and found similar connections in the Brazilian Portuguese of the African diaspora in the Brazil, especially in Bahia and Pernambuco.

My first picture shows the woman speaking about Gullah. Next is the row of slave cabins. These were for the better off among them. Following is a reconstructed slave church. After that is the oak alley, with live oaks planted around 1840. This has been featured on many pictures and movies. Last is a view from the church window.

Learning languages

Freakonomics radio asks whether it is worth it to study a foreign language and answers yes for people learning English but no for Americans learning other languages. At the risk of being called an apostate, except in specific situations like my own I have to agree, but with different reasons.

My experience with foreign languages is mixed. When asked what languages I speak, I always say “only one, Portuguese.” I also SPOKE Polish, Norwegian & German and I read Latin & Greek, but those things are gone like the snows of last winter. I can bring them back, as I did Portuguese, but not easily.

It is sad. I love to speak Portuguese. It is a beautiful language, especially the Brazilian variety. It truly is a joy to speak. But I know that by this time next year, my once fluent Portuguese will be ragged and then end up like my 3+ Polish … gone for all practical purposes. I can promise myself, as I always do, that this time it will be different, but it won’t. Some people are multilingual; most are not and a significant number cannot really even learn one second language well. And almost nobody can maintain a language w/o more time and effort than most of us can afford.

Freakonomics figured the economic value of a second language and found a low marginal value. It varies by language. Something like Spanish, which is common among Americans, gives little economic value. Others do better. I bet Portuguese is a more valuable language for Americans, since it is not too hard or too common. But there are opportunity costs. Language learning takes time that you might use for other things.

I studied classical Greek and I am still glad I did (don’t ask me why). But the way I learned Greek is exactly the same way I learned math. Study, repeat, study, repeat … it takes time. If I spent that Greek study time and mental energy on math or engineering, might it not be better for me? I could have passed through differential equations in that time. Language is a kind of luxury. I indulged my habit because I could. You can well argue for the humanities and languages. I do. But I got TOO good at Greek. One year would have given me enough insights. And I forgot it all now anyway.

English is the exception (Of course, that doesn’t apply to us) because it is so useful. In all human history, no language has so dominated the globe as English does today. We Americans are lucky that we speak English, but it presents us with a dilemma in that we have less incentive to learn other languages. And if we do choose to learn another language, it is hard to choose which one. After English, there is no slam-dunk choice.

As a diplomat, I demand of myself and my colleagues that we used the language of the country, but that is not always so easy. I used to speak Norwegian reasonably well. But after a while, I couldn’t get better. Norwegians would indulge me and speak to me in Norwegian for a few minutes. Then they would just get sick of it and go to English. A good thing about Brazil is that this happens less frequently, but give it a few years. I recall when I first went to Poland. People did not speak English very much and I had to use Polish all the time. A few years later, that had changed. I ended up having my most intense conversations with my driver, Bogdan. The Poles “enjoyed” my “fluent” Polish, but sometimes told me that I used words like a peasant. Thanks, Bogdan.

If we are learning language as an academic exercise, which most Americans really are if we admit the truth, the language to learn, IMO, is Latin. Latin has the world’s richest and most diverse literature (although English is catching up) because – like English – it was a world language, albeit a smaller world. People from lots of different cultures and background wrote in Latin and they did so for more than 2000 years, so we have a real time perspective. It also makes Latin descended languages easier, if you need to learn one of them.

I think it is a good thing to learn languages for spiritual or humanities reasons (this coming from a guy who studied very relevant Latin & Greek) but as for it being necessary or even very useful … the world is learning our language faster than we can learn theirs.
PS – When I was studying Greek & Latin, the things I wanted most were books called Loeb Classics that featured the classical language on one page and English on the opposite. Now that I am better off and can afford them, I bought a couple from Amazon. I tried Greek – Polybius – that I used to know well. It was all Greek to me. I couldn’t make out two words. I gave up. I bought Latin – Lucretius. I could kind of guess at Latin, but mostly because of Portuguese. I gave up on that too. I still have the books and revere them as a kind of fetish. But they would be more useful w/o the Greek or Latin.

My Portuguese

This is what my Portuguese looks and sounds like when I am talking off the cuff. I think it is fluent enough but I cringe at some of the mistakes and pronouciations.  My excuse is that I was surprised and prepared what I was saying when I was saying it.  My English also suffers in interviews like this. It is from Curitiba, where it was a little chilly, as you can see by the sweater.

I invite my Portuguse teachers to comment.  BTW – I am aware that mais grande is not correct, but I was translating the phase, “the American nation is greater than the American govenment” and it seemed to me that maior made it sound “bigger” instead of “greater.” Suggestions welcome.  


Finishing Portuguese

I finished my Portuguese today.   

I have no feelings of accomplishment. I just feel uneasy. This always happens when I finish a big long-term task. For the last six months, I thought of little else but Portuguese. I never had to wonder what I should do. There was always something in Portuguese to read, watch or memorize. I carried my little book of Portuguese phrases to review whenever there was an extra minute. My thoughts were organized around Portuguese. People thought I was nuts, walking around & talking to myself, repeating phrases and strange words. I even did it while riding my bike. I  dreamed about Portuguese. Now the voices have all gone silent. It is lonely. The same thing happened when I finished Polish or Norwegian. This too will pass, after a period of withdrawal.  

Now I have to think of my own projects. Maybe I can finally read that biography of Hadrian that I bought a few months ago.

Blustery Day with Intellectual Challenges

I attended a lecture this evening on Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive movement. It was an interesting talk, but the whole thing made me feel a bit inadequate.  There were lots of smart people in the audience, such as Michael Barone and Ben Wattenberg.  They asked insightful questions, but it wasn’t just that that made me feel lower.  I have never been able to keep my experts straight. These guys can compare subtle differences between works of various people and between philosophies. I have a more mix & match mind.  It works well in many things, but I am outclassed by the big brains when it comes to straight intellectual debate.

FSI gave me a kind of an aptitude test recently. I didn’t pay much attention, but it did “reveal” that I don’t set clear boundaries, meaning my learning style is find similarities instead of differences. They spend a lot of time developing these tests, but they never really tell you what you can do about it, since they always say that all the styles are equally okay. IMO, the holistic approach works for lots of things, but it doesn’t work for the intellectual parsing I talked about above. I enjoyed the talk and I took notes.  I will use the information for something in the future, I suppose.  But I will be unable to keep it straight.

That Michael Barone is a genius. I have long read his books and watched him on TV. He seems to be able to remember the details of every political contest, down to the county level, since the founding of the Republic.  The interesting thing he brought up was the hypothetical about what would have happened if Roosevelt had not died in 1919.  He probably would have run for president in 1920 and almost assuredly would have won.  How different would history have been?  Would he have repeated the energetic presidency of his youth, or would the second act just have ruined his reputation and maybe hurt the country. Of course we will never know.

On the plus side, I had my informal first Portuguese test and I got – unofficially – 2+/3.  This means nothing to most of you reading this, but it is a decent score after six weeks of instruction for someone who has been away from a language for twenty-five years.   The assessments are on a five point scale.  Zero is when you cannot say a word in the language; five is educated native proficiency. Even many native speakers in a language cannot get a five, since it is an educated speech.  We have to get a minimum of 3 speaking and 3 reading, which is “minimum professional proficiency.” 

I would like to get to 4 both speaking and reading and I think I have a good chance, but it is hard, since the difficulty rises exponentially.  It is a lot easier to get from 1 to 2 than it is from 3 to 4 and – as I said – almost nobody gets to 5, even if you are born in the country.  Four is good.  Everybody knows what you are talking about and you don’t make any serious mistakes, but you retain a (no doubt) charming accent, think Ricardo Montalban. Language is such and important part of my job that I think it is worth the effort. I had a 3+/3+ in Polish, which served me fairly well, but I can do better than that in Portuguese. I already have some background; besides it is an easier language & State is giving me the time and instruction I need to get the job done.   Back in 1985, I went to Brazil with 3/3.  During my time there, my language improved, but I didn’t test when I came back, so I don’t know what I had.  I don’t think it was better than a 3+.  I was very fluent, but I lacked the polish that I hope to get this time around.

The pictures are from my walk around the Mall today. It was cold with a very strong wind, but I walked from State Department to the Gold’s Gym at Capitol after my Portuguese class and it was okay because the wind was from the west, i.e. at my back. I took the Metro up to the stop near AEI for the lecture this evening and so avoided the freezing wind most of the time. 

The top pictures are of the Grant Memorial near the Capitol.  In the second picture, notice the half moon above Grant’s head.  Below is the skating rink on the Mall and some portraits along the path.  I recognize Washington and Napoleon, but I don’t know the other two.

More photos are at this link

BTW – I am sorry that I am not writing more. Portuguese and Brazil is taking most of my intellectual energy, as I mentioned.  I watch the Brazilian news every day and read some books and magazines. After the homework is done, there is less time to write. language training is serious business, but rewarding.    

Learning Brazil

Language learning is really a total experience, at least for me. I have not been writing as much to the blog for that reason. This is the fourth time the FS has given me language training, although only the third language, since Portuguese is a repeat. Now I watch Brazilian news and read Brazilian papers and books every day.  I have only four hours of actual instruction, but I think that I am doing at least ten hours of Portuguese-Brazil related stuff every day. 

This even goes for my walking around IPOD.  I loaded on Brazilian music. The kind I like is “musica sertanja.” It is a lot like country or maybe more like Western music. It kind of reminds you a little of Marty Robbins. I have learned that it is very popular in Brazil, especially in the interior of the country. 

My favorites are Jad & Jefferson.  I bought one of their albums from I-Tunes. They do a great harmony.  One of my favorite songs is Não Aprendi Dizer Adeus, a song that seems to be an old standard. I bought a version by a duo called Leandro e Leonardo and also one by a guy with a famous name Julio Caesar. One of the singers who sound the most “country” is a guy called Sergio Reis.   But if you watch the Youtube, you see that he still has the Brazilian arrangements with the pretty girls backing him up.     Much of the music has to do with traveling the country roads and being on the sertão, which is much like our home on the range. A nice calming song is Deus e Eu no Sertão, by Victor & Leo. That means God & me on the open range and it is what you might expect, extolling the simple pleasures of being out on the range. The clip linked above shows what the range in Brazil looks like. I think that the pictures are mostly from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.  One of the singers popular with young women is Zezé di Camargo.  Watch him sing the Brazilian national anthem at this link and you will understand why.  They even made a movie about him and his brother Luciano.   It is the story of a couple poor guys from the state of Goiás who make good.  

I also bought a bunch of Brazilian movies. I mentioned “Tropa de Elite” in my earlier post, but I pretty much buy whatever I can find on Amazon that is still in Portuguese. I don’t have any particular desire to watch dubbed movies, although I am happy for the subtitles. They are sort of gritty sometimes. I will do the English titles.  One called “Man of the Year” could have been made by Quentin Tarantino. It has the feel of “Reservoir Dogs.”  A theme seems to be journey movies too, which is okay with me since I get to see Brazilian countryside. In this general theme, I have “Central Station,” “God is Brazilian” & “The Middle of the World.” Two more that I really cannot characterize, but are a bit depressing are “House of Sand” and “Behind the Sun.”

I notice some of the same actors in the movies in widely varied roles. An older woman called Fernanda Montenegro seems to have first opportunity to be in any movie made in Brazil. She also has a big part in a currently popular soap opera called Passione. I tried to watch it for a while, but I really cannot follow it. TV Globo provides only scenes, so you have to keep on clicking on them to keep the action going. Anyway, it seems like a good soap opera, but it is still a soap opera.

This has been my most holistic language learning experience. It is more fun, because I have been able to jump over a lot of the boring drills and get more into the substance of both the language and the society of the country.

Learning Portuguese

I started Portuguese again. Well, actually, I started filling out forms, attending orientation and taking those “learning styles” test.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to take the Meyer-Briggs test again. I am an INTP, which means something to people who know about such things. I have Brazil area studies tomorrow morning and finally tomorrow afternoon I get to study some Portuguese. Then I have to get out early to vote and get Chrissy a birthday cake.

Studying at FSI will be fun. One of the best things about the FS is being able to get this kind of training.  My goal is to speak Portuguese well enough that Portuguese speakers don’t feel the need to compliment me on my speaking.  I have noticed that the worse you speak a language, the faster people feel the need to tell you how well you are doing. When you really speak it well, nobody thinks much about it.

My strategy this time is to learn other things through Portuguese rather than the other way around.  What I mean is that I will read or listen to things in Portuguese that I want to learn anyway. This is especially true of information about tropical forests, energy and Brazil itself.  Of course this seems obvious, but it is not the way we usually do it. We usually choose texts and speeches specifically to teach language. These things are sometimes old or not topical. 

I have been watching Brazilians news and reading about the country in Portuguese.  I bought a history of Brazil in Portuguese, a nice Brazilian atlas & a compendium of Brazilian literature. It would be easier to learn  “substantive facts” in English, but I think it is useful to make the connections in Portuguese. I read “The Prince” by Machiavelli in Portuguese. I wanted to reread this for other reasons, so I figured that I may as well do it in Portuguese. Frankly, I don’t think I would have been able to understand it in Portuguese if I had not already been familiar with it in English, but with that qualification it worked out okay. I am also reading a novel, “Caravans” in Portuguese. This is an old book by James Michener, which I read in English more than twenty years ago. It is a bit of a chore to read it in Portuguese, but I think it is good practice, since it features dialogue, conversations and first person discourses.  The news tends not to have this and neither do most textbooks or non-fiction articles.  

It is hard to find books in Portuguese locally. But I got a web-based bookseller in Brazil called Livraria Cultura.  With the Internet and a credit card, you can get whatever you need. The only problem is that they send it registered mail.  Nobody is home during the day and/or Espen won’t answer the door, so I have to pick it up at the post office.

The pictures – On top is FSI. It is a nice place to be.  The other pictures are not much related, but I took them today after work. You see the Segway tour on the Mall. I dislike Segways. It is kind of a lazy man way to get around and they tend to come up quick behind.  Segways are supposed to be foolproof, but just before I took the picture, one of those guys fell off. The company owner of Segways recently died by driving one of those things off a cliff.  Doesn’t sound so safe or foolproof to me. The next picture shows American elms on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the White House. These trees are “Princeton elms”, supposedly resistant to the deadly Dutch elm disease. The picture below that is the White House.