Monday, March 5, 2007

05/03/07 Dyslexia lures ...

And welcome back for another exciting installment of "Life in Furrin Parts", soon to become a major motion picture.

Sorry about the title - still (after two months) getting used to my new keyboard, which I'm trying to use in the government-approved ergonomic carpal-tunnel-syndrome-friendly position, with wrists raised and all: perhaps I should abandon that and go back to the standard hovering hunt'n'peck. Whatever, that'll teach me to be more careful with my martinis.

I've just recently spent considerable time battling with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, trying to port a little program I did a few years back for data entry on handheld terminals, and I think I can say with some confidence that it is the biggest pile of shit that I've ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on. Unwieldy, inflexible, over-complicated, counter-intuitive and at the end of the day it doesn't even get things right. Which does rather make you wonder what the point of it all is. Luckily there are people out there who've suffered before me, so I wasted only three days in frustrated googling before finding out just what exactly was going wrong and how to fix it. It must have made me extremely poor company for the past week. (PS - still haven't finished, found yet more things that are broken. Makes me impatient to move to Vista.)

One of the things on Malyon's Christmas wish list was a digital camera, which turned out well as I'd started to get a bit frustrated with the limitations of the little Olympus C5050. So she now has a hand-me-down Olympus, and I have a brand new E500 dSLR with a couple of lenses. It's very nice, even if the viewfinder is a bit small. Been spending quite a bit of time playing about with the manual settings, sort of thing I would have done with the old film Nikon were it not that

  • you have to wait and shoot off a roll and get it developed before seeing the result
  • film cameras don't note the settings used for each photo, so that when you get them back from the lab you can't remember exactly what settings you used to get them so under/over exposed
  • a 1 Gb memory card is the equivalent of 5 rolls of film
Shall still have to beg the 5050 from Toerag should I want to do any macro photography, 'cos at €560 the macro lens for the E500 costs almost as much as the bare camera, but there you are.

Having watched the 2005/2006 seasons of Dr Who thanks to the miracle of Al Gore's internet-thingy, I went on to download and watch Torchwood, the spin-off. The general opinion around here, for what it's worth, was that it wasn't half bad, so take a look if you get a chance. I agree that it is a bit of a mish-mash and the sex seems sometimes thrown in to make it look as though Auntie Beeb is up with the play, but despite that Captain Jack is cool (so's their incredibly discreet SUV) and you have to love the pterodactyl.

Did our parental duty and once again headed down to Grenoble to see Malyon's play. I say "duty" but that's not really the case, we actually enjoy it. Admittedly we've only had three years to go by, but the plays are interesting and the acting is at least as good as what we used to manage in MUDS (anyone remember that?) so it actually makes for a very pleasant evening out. As usual we popped in to the tiny bar downstairs for a drink and a bit of socialising afterwards, only to discover that they'd run out of beer (it was the last night). So we were more or less forced to scull wine.

The theatre - St-Marie d'En-Bas - used to be the city morgue, many years ago. What's now the auditorium used to be the chapel. About 25 years ago, when it was basically abandoned, it got bought and turned into a theatre by an Algerian (I think) who's the epitome of an actor-manager. Amazing presence, an ego that's at least three times larger than life, a penchant for Pinter and a definite bent for Beckett, and sharp as nails. Malyon's not that keen on him - his idea is that theatre is a serious business and you're not there to have fun - but she does respect him and was quietly pleased when he actually said that he thought she had prospects as an actress.

Just by the by, Malyon's been accepted by Sussex and Glasgow, so far. Rejected by St Andrews, mind you, but them's the breaks. Edinborough still to come in, but Glasgow was at the top of her list anyway so she's pleased with that. In a couple of years she'll speak nowt but Scouse, and we'll need an interpreter to talk to her.

After a couple of years off (for good behaviour) we're slowly getting back into the decoration thing again. It's the turn of the entrance hall now, the paint was peeling on the ceiling and the "Venetian Nights" wallpaper still hadn't self-destructed, so we decided that it was about time to do something about it. The wallpaper came off easily enough but we started scraping at the paint on the ceiling, which was a mistake. Like an itch, you really shouldn't scratch it. Most of it just fell off as you looked at it, but some hard-core bits just would not go - until we tried putting a first coat of paint up. When some bits decided to bubble up and - you've guessed it - fall off. Waste of a good coat of paint, that was. Especially as, having learnt my lesson, I'd bought good-quality stuff to avoid having to do the job twice.

So we've just spent some time gluing up "toile de verre" - fibre-glass cloth - over the plaster, which hides a multitude of gins. One more coat of paint to go and that'll look good, then there's just the walls to be plastered and waxed (and a cupboard to go in) and it'll be done. Then we can start on the first floor, get the hallway and the landing done, and I might even get around to doing my office. Stranger things have happened, you know.

Those of you who are somewhat masochistically inclined might have decided to follow the lead-up to the French presidential elections, due some time soon in a Yurrupian country near you. So you'll know all about what I am now about to recount, and may skip this paragraph. Of course it's nail-bitingly exciting, with only months to go until people - and French-persons - get to vote for the next leader of the multi-polar world, and in common with many French-things I find it hard to restrain a yawn. But I must admit that last weekend I was shocked and awed to learn that the Socialists had decided to renew their campaign. Yes, in a bold move backwards, Ségolène Royal has invited last-time losers Jospin and Fabius to help out - presumably to coach her on how to lose this time. Some might call it suicidal, more generous souls would settle for "stupid", but the Socialists come over all fuzzy and talk about "inclusion" and "la gauche solidaire". To hell with the fact that it's a losing ticket, at least the dinosaurs are inside the tent pissing out ...

And some wonder why Nicolas Sarkozy looks smug. You'd look smug too, in his position. Although I gather that François Bayrou is coming up from behind, as it were (cue double-entendre), which may make Sarko's position less comfortable.

Whilst we're on the subject of Frog-things I'm reminded that Margo and I have to go up to the mairie sometime soon to sign, together and conjointly, what is charmingly called a "declaration sur l'honneur" (ignoring the possibility that perfidious Anglo-Saxons might not have any) to the effect that we are in fact still married. And this because, if you'll recall, Malyon is now French. At which point we decided that it'd be a Good Idea if she got her very own ID card, completely ignoring the fact that she is still a minor! Minor child, major mistake, not really a Good Idea at all, more like "Duh!". Because although being a minor is no obstacle to obtaining nationality (so long as we gave our permission); getting an ID card does not require our permission but does require proof of our marital status.

I'm not unimaginative but nonetheless I can think of no good reason why this should be the case; but it is - you can be conceived and become French without anyone wondering what relation - other than sexual - your parents were in at the time, but to get your ID card some little bureaucrat has to know. Pervert.

Under normal circumstances this would be no problem anyway, we'd just ponce off and show our livret de famille, in which our lives are duly recorded, Yea! unto the seventh generation, but we don't have one. Not being French, we wouldn't, would we? All things considered, we're getting off lightly: thay could have asked for the full set of birth, death and marriage certificates going back three generations, translated into French with apostilles. (At which point we'd have told Malyon that she could get her own damn ID card when she reached 18, and not to bother us any more.)

In any case, I'm now going to huddle under the blankets as the central-heating boiler had a hissy-fit on Friday and so we've been without heating or hot water for the weekend. Luckily it's been warm for the season, and M. Damiani turns up tomorrow morning anyway and will - with any luck - get it back up and running. Or so we hope.

Love (or PC equivalent)
Trevor, Margo, kids and animals (various)