Sunday, October 14, 2012

User-Hostile ...

How pirates spend their spare time.
The page views are not going up as fast I'd like around here, so I guess it must be time to mention threadworms prominently again. So - THREADWORMS! THREADWORMS! THREADWORMS! If that doesn't work, I don't know what will. Perhaps I could get Beckham to put in a guest appearance, taking her clothes off in a good cause. (Although one of the googles that wound up here was for "good morning hunk sexy" which is rather more flattering, maybe I should play on that angle. Am not going to try to attract the "disturbed that shit" market segment, do not want to go there.)

When I left you last it was with an elegant brunch on an idyllic Saturday: sad to say, Sunday was a bit of a let-down, being grey, cool and drizzly. A good thing, then, that I'd got off my chuff late Saturday afternoon and took the camera for a bit of a wander around some of the back roads and farm tracks that crisscross the countryside all around Montmelian. Next time there's a fine week-end I might try following some of the tracks that parallel the railway between there and Saint-Pierre: from what I see on the train every day there look to be some rather nice spots just crying out for someone to have a picnic there. Only drawback, I suppose, would be hypothetical gawkers on the occasional passing train.

Still, the weather didn't stop me from making a salade bressane to go alongside my quiche: a decent vinaigrette thickened with sour cream, rougette, corn kernels and toss at the last minute with chunks of chicken liver that you've seared quickly all over in butter and then deglazed with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Add chives if you like, and maybe next time I'll stick some croutons in there too.

But now that the leaves have almost overnight started to change colour and the fire's been pressed back into service, it's time to start thinking about winter food, sort of thing I can cook slowly one evening and then reheat the next day for dinner. Stewed lamb shanks would be on my list, along with oxtails (maybe Italian-style, with lemony gremolada), and perhaps a glazed jambonneau, with the meat tender and falling off the bone. With dumplings, if I thought I could get away with those.

And now that Jeremy's not around to complain cassoulet and choucroute become viable options, although they do require us to organise some guests: fine meals though they are they do not, in my experience, freeze well (and the last time I did that anyway I wound up, by a combination of error compounded with stubbornness, with cassoulet pizza - not a great success) and eating them three times in a row gets rather repetitive.

There's also my favourite pork meatballs simmered in white wine with herbs and small chopped potatoes, and carbonnade (now if I could find someone to slip me some game that would be excessively nice), and all sorts of things to do with chicken or pintade: I shall have to spend an evening sometime Real Soon Now curled up with some of my cookbooks, hunting down ideas.

Oh, and I made lasagna, which gets me onto another of my rants, which is that I can see no earthly reason for the existence of Emmenthal cheese: which, logically, as it does (sadly) exist, should lead me to a belief in some sort of Creator with bad taste in either humour or cheese. It doesn't, although I suppose those Intelligent Design twerps would be more than happy to use it as evidence.

Anyway, maybe I should qualify my admittedly denigratory  remarks, and content myself with saying that the French Emmenthal which one can buy in France is bland, rubbery, and completely lacking in any culinary or gustatory interest. But it is a pretty shade of pale yellow, and I suppose could be used, at a pinch, to bait traps for taste-deprived terminally-depressive mice. Or, grated, mixed in with mashed turnip and sculpted, to form an amusing centrepiece for a festive dinner table.

Apart from that, and the fact that it is totally inoffensive and hardly ever toxic, being produced on a vast scale by agri-businesses that know damn well that sales would plummet if people started getting sick from the stuff, I can see no point to it. Its only virtue is that it's sold by weight, which at least means that you're not paying for the gaping bubbles in the stuff - once, back in the day, a by-product of the fermentation but now, I suspect, obtained by injecting air into the unsavoury mix of what were once dairy products as it's forced at high pressure into the mould - which, along with that rubbery texture, make it such a bitch to grate.

Perhaps I should go take something to calm me down. But it's a bit of a bitch when you get home to find that your one and only pair of glasses (yes, I know, having only one pair is totally my fault) have spontaneously fallen apart in their case, and that consequently you're facing two days of squinting at a computer screen like a wall-eyed baboon.

And that's after going to catch the 8:27 to Chambéry to discover, only ten minutes after it's scheduled departure, that it's 20 minutes late anyway, and then pull into Montmélian and sit there for another 15 minutes before being told that there's a train for Chambéry at quai 4 which will actually be going there at some time in the not too distant future, like 30 seconds, so if your travel plans include Chambéry you should get your arse over there right now. Oh, and this reassuring announcement comes over a Tannoy that sounds like a cat with a sutured arsehole farting out the remains of an over-ripe mouse.

Whatever, I wandered in to the Beer Tree the other day for lunch (roulé de poulet et gratin de courge that day, perhaps better-known to you as a chicken breast rolled up around some fried sliced poivrons and ham before being sliced, pan-fried, and served with a creamy sauce and a pumpkin gratin grilled with cheese and a decent amount of nutmeg) to observe yet another new cook in the kitchen.

I'm too polite to comment, so I was stuffing my face when I heard the owner giving the orders through the hatch in broken English, for all the world as if the rôles of Manuel and Basil Fawlty had been reversed. But it piqued my interest: the new guy's an Ecuadorian. Maybe we'll see the birth of fusion Alsatian cuisine: the chili flammenkuche with sliced guinea-pig, perhaps.

While I'm in the mood for complaining, I might as well do it properly and moan and bitch like mad and for that there's one thing that never fails to get me going ie bloody Samsung software. Now this may come as a surprise but I actually text quite a lot and I never actually delete anything on the grounds that if I do I will regret it one day - the last time I did get rid of stuff was when I changed phones and that was only thanks to some tit at Samsung Orbiting HQ somewhere over Seoul having decided that no-one could conceivably wish to cart their life stories with them from phone to phone, and consequently making this impossible.

But I digress. I started to notice that little by little, for certain threads, the phone would start to take what seemed like a lifetime to dismiss the messaging app and return to the home screen, which is what I like to do because if I don't then the next time a message comes in and I swipe to open it the damn thing sniffily tells me that I can't do that because the messaging app is already open and I need to close it first. I mean that, in itself, is terminally dumb, because it then goes on to display the message anyway in the already-open app, so why whine to me about its problems? Anyone at Samsung hear me? I just do not want to know.

So I thought that maybe, just maybe, given that these threads might well have had a couple of thousand messages in them and that possibly that was causing problems for the piss-poor software as it tried to index them or something (and don't ask why, if indeed that is the reason, it didn't do that as a background task while I'm looking at the things: I wouldn't care to criticise poor software design which completely fails to take advantage of multi-threading), I would go and delete some of the older ones.

That was, as it turns out, unwise. I can delete an entire thread if I want, but I don't. So I open the thread, and it thoughtfully displays the last couple of messages. So far, so normal. So I thought I'd go back to the earliest messages ... do you know, there is no usable vertical scroll bar? (Which is definitely a retrograde step, because three or four software iterations ago there used to be one.) There's something like a progress gauge, so that you know where you are in this enormous thread, but how do you change where you are? Goodness me, by swiping your thumb up or down on the screen, and watching as ten messages or so fly by, and then repeating the experience ... this is, in my opinion, kind of brain-dead.

Doing it this way takes an unconscionable time to get to the head of a long list, but fortunately I was on a train at the time and had nothing better to do: I suppose I was lucky that no new message arrived because if one did it would surely have sent me back to the end of the list. So I finally got to the top of the list, and noticed that there, and there only, is an option to select all messages. Why should that be there? Why do I have to spend five minutes literally twiddling my thumb just to get to a useful option?

But it gets better. There is always a little icon present that allows one to select messages, which is what I want to do: press on that and a checkbox appears next to each message, and there's an option at the bottom of the screen to delete selected messages. Sadly, this also sends you back to the latest entries of the list, from whence you contemplate glumly the prospect of twiddling your way all the way back up. I'm a masochist, I did that, and after a lifetime started selecting messages.

I'd got about 200 selected when, as bad luck would have it, a new one came in: and that's when I found out that my most dismal forebodings were completely justified as I found myself abruptly booted out of selection mode and back to the bottom of the list, with "Hi! What do you put in your ratatouille?" displayed and the phone made a smug "twoot".

It was at this point that I decided that maybe, when the problem starts to annoy me sufficiently, I should just go change my phone. So that's settled then.

Changing the subject entirely, I went off to the medical centre to get a blood test done - do you know how many people seem to have the same brilliant idea at about 9am on Saturday? - and stood in line to get the little ticket that would allow me to sit in line until my turn came.

The guy ahead of me had a big carry-all bag and when he got to the head of the line he opened it and proudly pulled out a two litre plastic bottle full of piss, going by the colour. I could only assume that he just didn't know when or how to stop because let's face it, what conceivable medical test could require that much urine?

So I went and sat down to await my turn, and I had to revise my opinion because now little old ladies and strapping youths were wandering in, and many pulled out the same-sized jars and deposited them on the counter - must have taken weeks of effort for some of those wee ladies to get enough.

I've come up with a number of possibilities here: could be that a surprising percentage of the population is in fact incontinent. Or maybe, given the current economic situation, some people have already abandoned the euro and turned to an alternative currency. (I would not want to see the 'solid foundations' of this. Nor do I think could it be classed as a store of value.) More likely, I suspect, is that the centre has a secondary business as a urea plant.

Somewhat more icky, I couldn't help but notice that there's a dry-cleaner's shop just next door ...


  1. Beckham to put in a guest appearance, taking her clothes off in a good cause

    We are left to conclude that normally she takes her clothes off for *bad* causes.

  2. I do not wish to go there. Because I will, inevitably, be smitten. For something. Even if I am completely blameless, and never mentioned the urghh smargle GET IT OFF ME!

  3. no earthly reason for the existence of Emmenthal cheese

    If Emmenthal cheese did not exist, it would be necessary for American lager drinkers to invent it.