Thursday, February 13, 2014

Food, And Bottom-Feeders ...

EBK is Gecko!
"Threadworms!", you cry. Sadly, no.

An afterthought and post-scrotum to my previous moan: after much effort, I finally managed to get OpenOffice to create a table of contents (or, as we Frog-things would say, "une table de matières") to my taste. All well and good. And I edited my document, and added a few sections, and sent it off to my client ... who promptly engeueled me, because what I had added did not appear in the contents. Quite true, I had to admit. So tell me people, why the hell should I have to explicitly update that? I kind of thought, naively I admit, that the whole point of setting up a table of contents was to have it automatically updated as you added things. Apparently, I'm missing something here.

Which I suppose just goes to show why FOSS (and I'm including Linux in that) has been the "solution of the future" for the past twenty years or so. Scoff as you may, companies like Microsoft can afford to pay for usability labs and useless things like "testing" because we pay them for their products, and they're better for it. I'm sorry, I really am, but FOSS does not have those resources, or that mind-set, behind it.

"Hey, you can always download the source code, fix what you don't like and recompile!" Indeed I can, but do you know, I really can't be arsed. I'd rather pay someone else for something that works: I have other things to do, that pay me money; it's a more efficient use of resources. Sorry, people.

Whatever, purely in a spirit of enquiry, and also because our good friend Tom sent us a thank-you letter stuffed with freshly-minted banknotes that looked just like the real thing, we bravely headed off to Carcassonne the other night, to dine Chez Fred. Don't blame me, that's the name of the place, and of its eponymous chef.

I suppose the decor was trendy at some point: minimalist lime-green sign with white lettering outside a muddy courtyard, and inside some expensively low lighting around the room, with blocky gray tables and gray or deep burgundy chairs. And lime-green napkins. Industrial modernist I guess, as opposed to a modern industrialist. And sticking out into the centre a well-lit bar in wood and steel, and taking pride of place behind that an impressive Josper charcoal-fired oven.

They have apparently - and quite reasonably - decided to dispense with the expense of having a long wine list and the concomitantly huge cellar, and by the door there was a hi-tech dispenser with four or five bottles of local wine hooked up to a sort of drip-feed apparatus: after a bit of instruction I was judged certified in its use and at that point, we sat down and looked over the menu.

There are two dishes around these parts that are, if not inevitable, at least omnipresent: these are, of course, foie gras and cassoulet (maison). As if any restaurateur who hoped to stay in business would proudly announce on the menu that his cassoulet was bought in 50 gallon drums from an industrial producer who just happens to share the premises with a knacker's yard, and that his sole contribution to humanity was shoveling it into a bowl, sticking it into the microwave for a bit and then sprinkling parsley on top.

Seriously, that reminds me of a meal we had in Paris, back in '87, in Gare du Nord just before hopping on the night train to Brussels to renew our passports (we got woken up just after crossing the border by friendly cops out of The Sweeney with flash leather greatcoats and Glocks on their hips, if I remember correctly). The boeuf bourguignon, pommes vapeur looked pretty appetizing on the menu, but back in those days microwaves were pretty much rare birds - or maybe the guy behind the counter at the brasserie just couldn't be arsed doing it right - for what actually got plonked on the table was two plates, each with a pile of beef stew and some steamed potatoes: the northern end was still semi-frozen and the southern continent was hot enough that my fork started to wilt. I suppose, with hindsight, that we were lucky in that the "cook" had at least taken the trouble to remove the "food" from its plastic colostomy bag.

And that, in turn, brings to mind another meal we had in Paris that same year, at a little bourguignon restaurant - at least, it said on the menu that such was their spécialité - not far from Théatre Molière, in the second. There the food was indeed excellent, prepared and cooked on the premises and, unfortunately, just about inedible due to the cook's belief in salt as a food group. Had we been older and more self-assured we would probably have said something but both the cook and the waiter were cheerful and enthusiastic and obviously took great pride and pleasure in what they did: it would've been like kicking a puppy.

Also, they didn't exactly seem to be lacking for clients and quite frankly, even to this day many of the French tend, to my palette at least, to over-salt everything something dreadful. At the time, knowing France to be the birthplace and home of fine cooking (we knew this, for many French-things had assured us that it was true), I suppose we thought that we just didn't appreciate it and better to shut up.

But I digress. People around us got served their cassoulet as we were still scanning the menu and it smelled pretty bloody delicious but on the rare occasions that I do eat out for pleasure I am usually looking for something that I have not had before and/or do not do (or do poorly) myself so I made a principled stand and refused both that, and the foie gras as an entrée.

Mind you, the foie gras managed to get its nose under the door there anyway for whilst Margo took the crumble au chèvre et saumon fumé I decided to go for the galantine de blanc de poulet farci au foie gras, delivered with a healthy glop of sweet confit d'oignons. The crumble in particular was both original and excellent - fresh chèvre moussed up with cream, I'd say, piled into a large ramequin and topped with persillade and breadcrumbs fried in butter before being grilled at great heat and served with strips of smoked salmon on top. A real treat.

Another glass of wine and we were ready for the plat principal: Margo opted for the fishburger but I succumbed to temptation and went for the coquilles St-Jacques, mousseuse de cèpes. Three huge scallops, seared to perfection and served in a bubbling sauce of cèpes bordelaises in cream. Miam, as they say.

The place is not without fault: I still think you need an engineering degree to divine the operation of the wine dispenser, and their servings are sufficiently copious that neither of us could face the prospect of dessert. (More their problem than ours, I admit.)

But did I mention that their bread is excellent? And the service friendly, and efficient? (All too-often, it's one or the other: getting both is a bonus.) Whatever, should you happen to find yourself in Carcassonne and in need of a decent meal, you could do worse (probably, a lot worse) than to go see Fred. And by a happy coincidence, his establishment is just across from the gare.

Anyway, I is a happy man as I write this, for the postie came past to be barked at by Shaun (not, I suspect, one of the highlights of her day) and delivered a huge parcel containing my digital candy thermometer, a casserole bain-marie and a 50cm silicon coated rolling pin! Also, two malabar mixed in with the packing paper, which I'm guessing were a present. The rolling pin works as advertised: I have not as yet had the occasion to make toffee or melt chocolate (yes, those Valrhona nibs are still waiting in the cupboard) so I cannot say as to the other two, but I will find out.

Now sometimes, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and 700 years of technological progress, I do wonder if Dante didn't miss a few tricks. To where exactly, in all the nine circles of hell, would you condemn crapware bundlers? The Eighth, I guess, and I kind of like the idea of them being sewn mouth to ass together, Human Centipede style only more Worm Ourobouros because the circle is closed, dining on their own shit ...

Case in point, a friend rang to say that a friend of hers had come around to use OpenOffice and now it wouldn't start ... any sane man would have asked first of all "have you rebooted your machine?" but obviously I am not one of those sane people because I suggested reinstalling it. Given that I set it up in the first place, I said "go look in your downloads folder, you'll find an OpenOffice installer, double-click on that and off it will go ..."

The first inkling that something was not quite kosher came when she said "Oh! There's a little guy with green hair and glasses in my icons" which is not, to my knowledge, something usually associated with any legit installer, and then up popped a flurry of windows offering to install MobieGenie or somesuch and any number of other things. At which point I did what I should have done in the first place, and logged on to her machine with TeamViewer.

(Incidentally, let me give that product a shameless plug. Like the Citrix offerings it lets you log onto a remote machine over the innertoobz, but unlike Citrix it is standalone and does not have to try to integrate with your browser: it is free for non-commercial use and if you happen to be technical support for friends and family it is invaluable. I will likely pay for a license one of these days, because it sees some commercial use around here, and rewarding people who make actual useful stuff is a Good Idea.)

I don't know where it came from, and do not care to ask, but in her downloads folder there was indeed a program called OpenOfficeInstall.exe: someone had taken the trouble to bundle an honest-to-god downloader with stuff that downloaded and installed a number of bits of useless crapware. To its credit it did ask if you wanted to install each piece of shit: on the downside, whatever the answer, it installed it anyway. It did indeed also download the latest version of OpenOffice: just didn't install it. Probably just as well, 'cos I'd have nuked that from orbit as well, just on general principles.

So anyway, having logged on I fired up the task manager and discovered that, probably, the reason OpenOffice wasn't starting was that there were already at least 40 copies running: you'd think it could at least degrade gracefully but apparently not, whatever, I killed them all. Without guilt. (Also, how in hell does anyone manage to start 40 instances of a program?) Then I went off to look and see what else was running that I didn't like the looks of.

Honestly, it's not so much the initial act of infection I mind so much, it's the cleaning-up afterwards. (Bit like genital herpes really, I suppose. Or the clap. Actually contracting it - unwittingly, of course - might well be rather fun, but it does tend to outstay its welcome.) In this particular case it wasn't actual malware as such (just low-grade, passive, soul-numbing badness rather than active evil) and took no pains to hide itself, so killing a few services that displeased me and uninstalling everything that had been installed that day did the job - then of course you have to go and put your browser settings back the way you want them, so that your search engine is no longer some shitty portal laced with ads, and the page that opens when you start up is not one selling discreet personal entertainment devices.

I simply could not be arsed doing a forensic analysis but judging from the directory contents MobieGenie is a bit of Chinese crap destined for mobile phones, doubtless designed to nick gaming passwords, and Context! is just another ad-laden search portal that links through to Google and harvests clicks: I twepped the fuckers.

But having to do all that is something that really, really pisses me off. I understand that human beings are rational economic actors and that if there's a chance of profit we will take it but still, this is like robbing grannies! It's low, it's slimy bottom-feeding behaviour worthy only of a politician, and on top of that, it wastes my time. I only wish I knew how to bill the bastards for that, I'd make it not worth their while.

Actually, given a choice, I'd do worse than that, but in these enlightened times singing loudly, and capering with a glass of whisky on the embers of what used to be the house of your foe, under which are buried he, his family, friends and dogs, is firmly discouraged by the plods. And rightly so, for the whisky may catch fire, and give you a nasty burn. (Health & Safety Hint #37! Only here, at The Shamblings!)

1 comment:

  1. For the record, Microsoft Orifice doesn't auto update contents either!