Article

Aha

Tags: The best four days in history?

The annual wargame, roleplaying game, and dressing up like an elf convention GenCon (to which I have never been, by the way) bills itself as “the best four days in gaming.” Will the American Historical Association’s annual convention, which starts tomorrow in Atlanta, be the best four days in history? I’ll let you know–I’ll be there. If you’re going to be there too, let’s meet up: drop me a line using the AHA’s weirdly archaic message system, email me (electromail chez robmacdougall dot org, not com), or just look for the guy in the totally bitchin’ elf costume.

Article

Leaving Las Vegas

Tags: The UWO-GMU axis of digital evil, a virulent meme.

I was and still am hoping to blog about the SHOT conference in Las Vegas a week ago, but this week finds me a bit overmatched, so what happened in Vegas will have to stay in Vegas a little longer yet. I can tell you that I met Josh Greenberg, one of the clever elves at CHNM and a fellow plot point on the “UWO-GMU axis of digital evil,” along with many other excellent people who inexplicably do not have weblogs. I can also tell you that I was in Las Vegas for about 72 hours, and probably heard or made one “what happens in Vegas…” reference per hour. Apparently my wife actually went to college with the guy who originally came up with that “…stays in Vegas” ad campaign. I hope his boss let him take the rest of that afternoon off.

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Get Hip To This Timely Tip

Tags: Chicago; St. Looey; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City*; Amarillo; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona; Kingman; Barstow; San Bernardino.

The Old is the New New summer hiatus continues, but Route 96, my ten-year-old summer roadtrip blog, is kicking right along. We’re in the southwest now, and well into the good stuff. Highlights so far include Graceland, naturally, Enterprise Square, Oklahoma, a decaying theme park celebrating the free market system, and Miles Music Museum, probably the creepiest museum in Arkansas. Check it out if you still love our freedoms.

*Not actually all that pretty. Go figure.

Article

Get Your Kicks

Tags: How I spent my summer vacation.

Old is the New New is still on summer hiatus, but here’s the new old content I’ve been promising you: my new summer vacation blog, Route 96!

Ten years ago, in the summer of 1996, I and two friends drove across the USA and back. Actually, that makes the trip sound more linear than it was. Really, we drove around the country, in a big rambling loop. We avoided the interstates whenever possible, taking two-lane highways and seeking out all the roadside Americana we could find: Graceland and Las Vegas, sure, but also things like Carhenge, Roswell’s UFO Research Center, and the World’s Largest Talking Cow. We covered ten thousand miles and visited twenty-five states. It was one of the most excellent things I’ve ever done in my life.

After we returned, I wrote the whole trip up and published it as a zine. Because that was what one did in the days before weblogs. Ten years later, to commemorate the anniversary of that trip, to share the love with a new generation, and to imagine a time where I could seriously contemplate spending four freaking weeks tooling across the continent with my underemployed buddies, I’m going to blog the ten-year-old zine, entry by entry, on this snazzy new weblog. (I’m also using this as a way to play with WordPress, since I’m thinking of switching this blog over to that at some point.)

Come, get your kicks on Route 96.

Article

France part Dinkum: Professor, what’s another name for pirate treasure?

(Originally published on my old LiveJournal.)

Parlez-Moi, with Sol

“Professor, what’s another name for pirate treasure?”
“Well, I think it’s booty… booty… booty… That’s what it is!”

My Ontario high school French held up tolerably well in France. I was able to ask for directions, order in restaurants, and politely inform one stupid American woman in the airport that “19.08” was not the price of the sandwich she wanted to buy (“Nineteen DOLLARS for a SANDWICH? Is that REAL dollars or FRENCH dollars?”) but the day’s date. (The real price was clearly marked in LARGE BLOCK LETTERS.) Oh, and when Pitou ruined the picnic by stealing Mama’s poulet, I was all set.

I was thrown a curve, however, by our little Lonely Planet phrase book. Like any English to French phrase book, it listed words and phrases in English, in French, and then in a phonetic approximation of the French pronunciation. Simple enough, right? But any time we used the book we were met with uncomprehending stares.

It was bouteille, the French word for “bottle,” that finally tipped us off. I knew thought it was pronounced “boo-tye,” the second syllable sounding like “Thai” or “tie,” with a little bit of an “ayee” at the end if you’re feeling frisky. But Lonely Planet gave the pronunciation as “boo-tay.” I felt just a little funny calling for bootay in a fancy restaurant.

[Edit: Note schooling me on French pronunciation in comments below. Grumble grumble big shot Manitobans think they’re so great…]

What I’d forgotten when I bought the book was that Lonely Planet is an Australian company. The phonetics were written for Aussie accents. “Boo-tay,” rhymes with “g’day,” actually is a pretty good approximation of bouteille. Once we’d cracked that Rosetta Stone (and when I say “we”, I mean “Lisa”), we could see that the whole phrasebook was like that: ‘ay’ for ‘aye’ and ‘r’s on the end of everything except the few places they belonged: “ler” for le, “der” for de, “zher per” for je peux. So the book wasn’t worthless to us, but we did have to channel Crocodile Dundee while reading it, a tricky bit of cognitive processing that led me to walk into more than a few lamp posts and open manholes.