I don’t want to brag or anything, but my Russian studies, as haphazard as they are, are making progress. It’s a scary language, but there’s a logic to it, and it has a puzzle-like structure that is slowly revealing itself. I can read and write fairly well, but speaking, as usual, fails me. Reading and writing require puzzle-solving at whatever speed you’re most comfortable with. Speaking is a speed date with a Rubik’s cube.
A while ago, I was walking with a friend through a downtown festival. One of the musical acts was speaking from the stage in Spanish. Spanish-from-Spain Spanish, as opposed to the Mexican/South American variety, which is more often heard around these parts. My friend is Brazilian, and commented on how beautiful Iberian Spanish is to the ear. I replied that of all the tongues I’ve heard, it is the one that most sounds like blablablablablabla to me. I can pick out a word here and there, if they speak slowly. Penelope Cruz’ Oscar speech? I hear “todos” and “España.” That’s it.
My bilingual friends say Mexican Spanish was invented so that native English speakers can have a hope of finding a doctor in Madrid someday. It’s a slow-moving bus, the equivalent of English in the Deep South: Waaaahll, I reckon… Etc.
But even Spanish is a walk in the Latinate park compared to Arabic, or so I’m told. I read an analogy once not long after 9/11: Hebrew is the Mediterranean, Arabic is the Pacific. You can spend your whole life exploring that one, and not find every cove and harbor.
Kate’s Spanish studies begin in earnest next year. I’m not expecting another 4.0. But I hope someday she can have a chat with Penelope Cruz.
All of which is my way of saying that if you’ve managed to learn a second language — learn as an adult, that is,
before after the magic window of childhood brain malleability has closed — my shlyapa is off to you. And I hope that if Russian spies ever move in next door, and you ask where they’re from, and they reply, “Belgium,” you will know they’re lying. (Good lord, people, Russian accents have been lampooned in this country since before Boris met Natasha. Get a clue.)
I’m working long hours this week at my other job, covering for vacations, so I’m looking to minimize my keyboard time today. So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
Michael Moore’s copyright theft finally gets the attention of someone besides me. Because it happened in Knoxville, hometown of the Ol’ Perfesser, it got a lot more attention than when I wrote about it. But you heard it here first.
By far the weirdest story I read on the health-care news farm last night was this:
In 2008, Dr. (Alexander) Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.
Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.
Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.
It sort of gives new meaning to the phrase “taking shit from you,” ain’a?
If you missed it, the NYT also caught up to the trailers-for-books trend.
Me, I’m off. As our own mild-mannered Jeff just said on Facebook, I have 10 pounds of Tuesday to fit in a five-pound bag.