Sunday, February 1, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off ...

I tend to rather go on about it I know, but I really do wish that people would not rely on their high-school children or Google Translate to do an English version of the restaurant menu. All along the Mediterranean coast you can find the local version of bouillabaisse au rouille, vociferously claimed as their own by Nice and Marseilles: the rouille in question being a fiery concoction of hot red peppers mashed with olive oil in a pestle. Calling it "fish soup with rust" does not really do it justice.

Also, a côte de boeuf flambé au cognac should not, in my opinion, come out as "steak with outbreaks". Outbreaks of what exactly is unclear to me, possibly herpes but could be worse - whatever, it seems unlikely to incite the punters to try one.

In a dyspeptic aside (mood not helped by having a bad cold for the first time in a couple of years) some of you have asked what the mood is in France after the Paris killings. I have to admit that I've never really liked Charlie Hebdo: I can handle satire but theirs was resolutely stuck in the 18th century scatological mode. So no, I'm not going to go out and buy a copy of the latest issue: to turn that apocryphal quote on its head, "just because I defend to the death your right to say something doesn't mean I have to agree with it".

Yeah, the plan Vigipirate is at code infrared and I guess that in Paris there's a squad of soldiers in every Métro station: around here it's a little more laid back, although when the other day Margo got stopped at a police checkpoint (no she hadn't done anything, just random stops) one came up to check her papers and the other two stood back with submachine guns cocked and pointed ...

Possibly the worst bit is, as one of the French online satirical journals (, recommended) pointed out, "the enormous piles of hypocrisy confronting the Paris street cleaners all along the path of the march". Thousands march and millions buy a copy of Charlie Hebdo to support free speech: then the French arrest Dieudonné for cracking what could be considered an offensive joke and that upper class twit David Cameron wants to ensure that all communications are decryptable. What a laugh.

And of course the Turkish prime minister was there, marching to show support for free speech. And without even having a hernia or whatever it is that cognitive dissonance results in, back in Turkey he can say - with a straight face - "freedom of expression ... does not grant anybody the right to insult another’s beliefs ... In this country, we don’t allow insults to the Prophet".

I see his point, of course: free speech is a privilege that is not to be abused - by actually using it, for instance.

And another thing: when Linus Torvalds arose from the toilet one day many years ago, having locked himself in for four days whilst he wrote down the original source code for Linux (the dog later managed to play with the third toilet-roll, which may explain why the signal handling code is kinda crap and missing a few bits) he was doubtless a happy man.

I have no problem with that. Where I have a problem is when I wish to auto-instrument my code, so that ever - gods forbid - something like a divide-by-zero should occur, I can log this fact, and the address of the offending code.  This should be clean, and simple. Sadly, it is not. But after only two days on the toilet, reading kernel source and stack dumps, I have managed to do it. This should make me happy, but somehow there is festering resentment that I have to dig into non-documented holes in the code and then kludge the magic number 143 in to my routines.

Maybe I should try to become a more forgiving person, and perhaps drink more.

Don't know about you, but I keep having problems with Google Maps. "How can this be?" you cry, astounded. "Why, it is so simple that, unlike a VCR" (remember those?) "you do not even need a twelve-year old child to operate it!". True enough, but that is not my problem: it is just that it is either operating in some parallel universe (one of those squished butterfly wrong trouser-leg of Time things) or in some temporal zone which is not entirely contiguous with the one I happen to inhabit.

In a number of cases, having the occasion to head off to a garage or shop or whatever, the Great Google finds the place no problem, gives directions and off I head, only to find when I arrive in the middle of a deserted building site that the place I'm looking for was last seen in that vicinity some five years ago. In others, I get there to discover that it will be there, but not for another six months. It's the latter one that worries me some.

Recent excitement in our lives includes Margo vomiting, and Indra doing the same. Both our dogs are "normal", insofar as that word can be applied, and so the highlight of their daily walks is finding something repulsive under a toad - like a toad-stool (only actually poisonous if the toad's eaten something nasty) - and scarfing it down. Shaun, as befits his stolid, phlegmatic disposition, has a cast-iron constitution and bowels to match: sadly Indra, being a lady, is more delicate.

At least I now know the origin of the expression "sick as a dog" (incidentally, and exceptionnellement, it is identique in Frog-speak - "malade comme un chien"), and I can also say, as one will under the circumstances, "if you're going to eat mummified cat-shit, live with the consequences." Sadly it was we that really had to live with the consequences, because quite honestly she could care more about living in a pool of yellow lumpy barf.

Off to the vet who said something along the lines of "Wow! That must have been really bad cat-shit!" and gave a prescription for no food or water for a bit: Indra is not happy with this. I thought I'd been clever putting the water bowl up on the table, out of reach: turns out that it is not inaccessible to a gracile dog with a long neck.

As for Margo, she woke up in agony and proceeded to vomit everywhere, which occasioned a quick trip to the quack and then off to A&E at the Narbonne clinique. I suspect that A&E is the same everywhere on the planet: if they had one in the middle of the jungle in Papua you'd still have to sit for an hour on a chair made of skulls and sharpened bamboo whilst they registered you in the system before trotting off to the other end of the jungle to see a specialist for a scan. He too has a room-full of impatients.

Once that's done you just grab a convenient liana vine and swing back across the crocodile-infested river to get back to the waiting room where, if you're lucky, only an hour or so more will pass before some professional-looking person picks up your folder and wanders off with it ... then an ambulance comes in with a cargo of people who are really unlucky, so you go back to reading Gala. Which is, for some strange reason, the only reading matter available. My brain is starting to go green and drippy at the edges.

Whatever, the MRI scan (why one of those? Guess if you have a machine that goes "ping!" you want to get as much out of it as you can) confirmed the quack's diagnosis, which was that a kidney stone was making its way down. So she finally got a morphine drip to help deal with the pain, they decided to keep her in overnight until the thing hit the porcelain, and being of no immediate use I headed back home to deal with the hairy retards.

Just saying, but as I was idly toying with ideas for dinner it came to my attention that the estimable Mr Lebovitz (whom god preserve) had published this. I am not saying that you have to go and make it, just that you should give the idea serious consideration. As luck would have it there was a tub of cream cheese in the fridge rapidly approaching its use-by date, Margo had left the dregs of a jar of confiture de lait in there, and I managed to scavenge enough speculoos biscuits to make a smaller version, which turned out to be just the right size for two.

And then, last weekend we headed off, found, and ordered some 20m² of hideously expensive Italian tiles to go on the floor of the landing/corridor up in our apartment, and in a couple of the bathrooms on the first floor. I asked Cédric if he wouldn't mind picking them up from Montredon, but was kind of surprised when he dinged the bell this afternoon with a small palette on the back of his shiny new truck.

Twenty square metres of tiles comes to 13 cartons, each of eight tiles: each tile weighs in at about 3.5kg (yeah, I weighed a couple, just to see) which means that I have just shifted 400kg up 10 metres. Also, each carton weighs about 30kg. I weigh (without boots) around 65kg so there are plenty of people around who weigh 30kg more than me, and they seem to have no trouble shifting all that weight around. Me, I don't know how they manage it.

Finally, Provence is showing its ugly side, the one they don't talk about in the tourist brochures. The one where the sky is low and leaden, the cold lazy wind goes straight through you rather than taking the trouble to go around, and spiteful rain stings your face. At least we've not had the snow that has fallen abundantly in the Pyrenées and the Alps, and the central heating is still working nicely, thanks very much. Enjoy your summer, and the barbecues. Be our turn soon enough.


  1. As for Margo, she woke up in agony and proceeded to vomit everywhere

    Wait, what, Margo's been eating old cat turds too?
    You should feed her better.

  2. I know he does his best but sometimes he gets a bit confused - I blame it on his age. He also decided to share his cold with me as well. Ahhh loving husband - what would I do without him