Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Foxy Lady ...

Some people seem to take malicious pleasure in pointing out - quite unnecessarily, I might add - that I've been furtling with computers for quite some time. Since before the appearance of the PC in fact: I started out on mainframes and fortunately, but quite accidentally, got a good grounding in operating systems principles and practice which means I get to have a really good giggle when the young and the enthusiastic come up and mention that latest Really Neat Thing in iOS or whatever and I recall reading about an implementation of that back in '82 ...

One thing has changed and that's the relentless drive to specialisation, maybe it's Darwinism at work or - my personal hypothesis - peoples' brains have shrunk and they just can't hold everything in there anymore, but whatever the reason I see it happening. Web developers (who aren't really programmers anyway, not that I have anything against graphics artists if they stay in their place at the bottom of the food chain) cannot seem to grasp the concept of non-deterministic procedures, application developers blithely assume that resources are infinite and that allocating 5Gb of memory to hold a 16x16 bitmap image just in case is a Good Idea (it does, I admit, simplify the error handling - usually to the point where none is done), and when finally you track down an intermittent bug and point out to the developer that perhaps doing floating-point arithmetic in a time-critical interrupt routine is not such a great idea, they will invariably ask "But why ever not? Do it all the time in BASIC."

(Whatever you do, don't get me onto the subject of structured exception handling, I tend to froth at the mouth and get spittle everywhere. It's all crap because almost invariably misunderstood and misused: more harmful than Djikstra's pet peeve if you ask me. And having trapped your error, just what the hell do you do with it? That's useful, I mean. Just popping up a dialog box to say "An error has occurred" does not count. Like back in the days of the original IBM PC, where a memory parity error lead swiftly and inevitably to a reboot, with no chance to save your work.)

Anyway, what I'm leading up to is that this same trend of specialisation applies more and more these days to the user experience - I suppose it's an example of that hoary old "long tail" idea. Case in point: in my spam today, an invitation to join, which bills itself as "The n° 1 dating site for horse-lovers". I'm going to be charitable here, and assume that it is somewhere for the horsey set to go find other, like-minded souls who get off on leather, sweat, and a touch of the whip, and definitely not a site for people to go hook up with an underage Shetland pony. For that would be - if not actually illegal as such - morally questionable at the very least.

Whatever, I'm headed off to Chambéry for a few days in a couple of hours, and of course I would pick a holiday cross-over weekend. One of those where the juilletists go home, and the aôutards head off. Luckily for me a) Sarah is, exceptionally, in working order so at least I'll have the a/c (and mangled music, but I shall just have to live with that) and b) the SmartBuffalo website assures me that traffic conditions should be "normal".

Do not, by the way, ask me why on earth the French government thought that bison-futé was a suitable name for a website giving you traffic information. It's not as though the beast is renowned for intelligence, and to the best of my knowledge they're not particularly good behind the wheel either. What with having hooves rather than opposable thumbs. And a blind spot straight ahead. (Mind you, at one time that used to be a pretty good description of most French drivers ...) Still, I suppose it's marginally better than www.canard-dé

I shall see what "normal" means today: probably no more than that traffic is actually moving - although slowly, and with thick lumps in it - and in the right direction. In the Rhône valley speeds will doubtless be limited to 110 kph so that the camper vans don't feel discriminated against, and as usual the Dutch and Belgians will all be sitting in the left lane, gallantly spurring on their three-tonne caravans, drawn by an arthritic 2CV, up a hill. At such times as these, zen can be a difficult state to maintain.

As it happens, I was too gloomy. The trip up was quite pleasant, the speed limits were normal, Sarah did not have an injector hissy-fit and when I arrived it was 25° and not raining. Which must be a first.

I'd organised to stay at the first-born son's place, so of course when I arrived he was off in Grenoble having fun. There's not much of that to be had in Chambéry on a Sunday evening - even the bars are closed - so I took the only reasonable option, and headed off to see Bryan, to see how many bottles he had open. (Bit like Pooh, but with less hunny.)

Eventually Jeremy turned up, and we were both a bit peckish, so we headed off in search of Sustaining Nourishment. Montmelian is even more dead than Chambéry of a Sunday, if such a thing is possible, and so we wound up at the mini-golf at Challes, of which I had not-unfavourable memories. Seems they've changed chefs since last I was there, and our son turns out to be a picky eater ...

First he scanned the menu just to check that the prices weren't too outrageous for what was actually on offer, and then we both ordered the duck breast. (No way am I going to go for an entrée, 300gm of meat followed by a dessert. And they ask why there is a growing obesity problem in France.)

"It's not that it's badly cooked", he said, "mais ce n'est pas du magret du sud-ouest". And the red was tannique - fair enough, he doesn't actually like wine that much and it could have done with breathing for a bit. The he picked up a bit of bread, and sneered at it. "From mid-day, kept under a damp cloth" ... I must admit that I'm not a fan of rubbery bread either. We finished up, I paid, and we headed back to his hovel: he was quite happy in the knowledge that there was no way they were doing anything as well as he can.

Me, I don't think I'll be going back, unless I have no other option. Rather go to l'Arbre à Bières, where I found myself Monday night, where your choices may be limited to bretzels, flammenkuches and whatever they decide on for the plat du jour, but at least it's made there and then with fresh ingredients. And on top of it I ate for free: I bowled up, parked my arse at a table and ordered a glass of red and as I was slowly sipping a santorin turned up on the table in front of me. Seems they felt that they owed me for the case of rosé I brought up a while ago, maybe I should bring up some blanc next time.

I said that when I turned up it wasn't actually raining - not as such - an omission rapidly rectified. When I got up and went off to Miqro on Monday moaning it was about 25° and sunny: when I made it out of le Modesto around 14:00, with a gratin de ravioles au foie gras under my belt, it was 18° and pissing down.

And it didn't get any better. When I left Tuesday morning it was all of 15° and raining sullenly, and I was kind of regretting not having brought any clothes more substantial than a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Luckily, a/c works both ways, and in any case by the time I made it south of Valence the sky was starting to clear and I had to pull out the sunglasses, and I knew I was getting close to home when I found myself under the baking sun in a mile-long traffic jam at the Montpellier péage.

Luckily for me, not many people have worked out that the best thing to do in such circumstances is to follow the heavy lorries and the semis, who barrel down the right-hand lane mowing down cars that get in their way ... five articulated trucks in a row looks like an awfully long line, but they take no longer to get through than five cars (assuming the driver is not a Pole with an expired Russian credit card) and as the cars were about forty-deep it was pretty much a no-brainer ... it was good to get back.

In other news, not content with STD we have acquired another dog. I blame it on eating out: had we not headed off to Lou Griffou in Lézignan just because I couldn't be arsed cooking (and I would go back, with pleasure) we would not have felt the necessity of walking off a few superfluous calories before going home, and so would not have walked past the offices of the SPA and perhaps not seen the photo in the window ...

Her name is Indra, god alone knows why they named her after the Hindu god of thunder but perhaps we'll find out some time, she's mostly either a Spanish podenca or a Portuguese podengo, take your pick. Either way, the word means "hound". Poor Shaun is feeling rather oppressed, but I think he'll survive.

Whatever, I have some vitelotte, haricots beurre and fresh sweetcorn that I suspect are not going to cook themselves just like that, nor are the lamb chops going to jump into the poele for a quick kiss of butter. So I'd better go get that lot ready, before returning to do yet another bloody implementation of Modbus TCP/IP. It's not really what they promised me when I signed up to do Comp. Sci. all those years ago - a far cry from the blondes and the boozing.


  1. Say hello to the new doggy for me :)

  2. That is a photograph of your dog? You are sure it is not Basil Brush, who has had to assume a new identity after testifying against Rolf Harris?

  3. Not unless the new identity involved a sex change ...