Monday, March 30, 2015

This Post Has No Title, This Post Is Anome*

April 8, 2014 and the earth moved for some of you: and of those, for a certain number, it was only because on that day Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. (Geekish persons have to take their thrills where they find them.)

So it's not quite a year later, and the SNCF have decided to finally migrate their huge installed base of XP systems to Windows 7 (yeah, no-one sensible that I've heard of is moving to Windows 8, personally I find that the damn thing gets more unstable every day and that really pisses me off) and discover that the Microsoft ERP package that they bought back in 2003 does not, in fact, work under Windows 7. Would you have thought it, and who you gonna call?

Sadly Bill Murray has retired, so in fact you call some poor overworked hack programmer who has unfortunately admitted to having some competence with a debugger. Of course it's a rush job: maybe I should just suggest that they set up WinXP in a virtual machine on each and every new system - can see that going down like a cup of tepid sick.

(As it happens, that is exactly what I wound up doing. Rather than trying to patch an executable to use other libraries with a different API, just run a VM. It will get kind of complicated because their sysadmins are not going to let any traffic from an XP system pollute their network, but fortunately there are solutions to that. Kludgy ones, I admit, but should work - and on the cheap, at that.)

Always fascinating to see what the CNRS is looking for. I was rather amused by this one, calling for offers for: "Supply and installation of 16 weighing stations  for monoliths, from 1.5 to 3 tonnes: region Languedoc/Roussillon." WTF? It's not as though monoliths are conspicuous by their presence around these parts, and even if they were - why weigh them? See if they're putting on weight?

As a Godless Atheist® (one or other of those two words may be redundant) I sometimes head over to Orac's place to get a dose of scepticism. I should really stop doing that perhaps, it may not be good for my blood pressure. It's not the articles nor - for the most part - the comments: oh no, it's the subject matter. The people. They do not seem to have grasped the point, which is that science, like gravity, works whether you believe in it or not. (See, incidentally, The Flying Sorcerers for a full explanation. And very bad puns. So Niven's an American, not his fault.)

Thought of the week: "When looking for a needle in a haystack, it's easier to just burn all the hay."

Anyway, I had occasion to head off to Carcassonne the other day: not the usual in-and-out for the market, for my sins I had to go off to the Hôtel des Impôts. Because, as the house is being renovated and changed, they wish to know just how much they can unreasonably charge us for the crime of owning too many bathrooms or whatever, and having received - for the third time in as many months - a form asking me to give the date of demolition of the place, failing which a swingeing fine and jail sentence await me, I decided that it was better to go in and throw myself on their mercy.

Exceptionally this turned out not to be a mistake, for when I finally got ushered into the plush-carpeted office the woman behind the impressive piece of nasty hand-hewn Formica furniture from somewhere rather cheaper than Ikea said something along the lines of (roughly) "why the fuck did they send you this?" and then went through form H-1(A) with me, explaining the trickier points of using a tape-measure so that I may, come July, correctly fill out case 37(1), total surface area of all cupboards less than 1 m² and my personal favourite, 52(3) average capacity of toilet cisterns. Of course, if they're under 1.58m high (the cupboards, not the toilets) they don't count: remember that.

The point is that I was in a part of Carcassonne where I've not been before: in the shadow of la Cité, on the eastern bank of the river. So having time to spare, I wandered off - as one will - for a quick shufti. Cobbled streets, gaunt old houses, a garage that last put the shutters down sometime in the 1930's and a boulangerie with an illegible, fading note duct-taped to the door and a few flies buzzing dispiritedly behind the windows - of course most of the places are now B&B's or restaurants these days.

And there are some to which I shall return - assuming they're still there in a few months: one which advertised very promising burgers (do you know how much I crave a decent burger after all these years? Not the same when you make them yourself) and another which proclaimed itself to be a wine & truffle bar, which has to be good. (Although even allowing for a 50% markup, I still find 2300€/kg for truffles to be kind of excessive. Given that they still smell of shit, no matter how much you pay for them.)

This year the frères Pourcel, chefs at Montpellier, decided to put together a salon: MAD or Mediterranée à Déguster. Celebrating the food from around the Mediterranean - olive oil, tomatoes, fish ... and they'd managed to get together a group of some sixty chefs. Not all from Montpellier either: from Greece, Italy, Croatia, Tunisia. Between the lot of them, they totalled 35 Michelin stars.

So off we went (I even forbore the Saturday market visit, I shall atone later and I guess I'll have to head off to Lézignan on Wednesday moaning, although I hate it due to the prevalence of energetic and malign elderly ladies) and shelled out an entirely reasonable 69€ for entrance and food and wine.

That got us each six bouchées, each made by a different chef, and feeling somewhat peckish I wolfed down the round of broccoli flowerets on a cloud of hummus, topped with a St-Jacques and citrus, then the filet de rouget with mousseline d'asperges, and the cube of marinated tuna skewered with ventrèche (which you'd call bacon, I guess, but it's a far cry from that) and grilled in a very hot oven, atop a purée of aubergines and tomatoes.

I have to admit that I passed on the smoked mussels on their bed of nasturtiums: a very pretty dish but the oyster and I are emphatically not friends, and so if I'm going to eat shellfish I like to be sure that there's an unoccupied toilet within easy sprinting distance.
Of course, since the runaway success of la cuisine moléculaire yore espuma has been flavour of the month for a few years now: the general rule seems to be that if you can possibly get it into a soda siphon, then you should. I am not entirely convinced of this, especially when it comes to steak, but I'm probably wrong.
Picked up some powdered tonka beans, and combava - now I shall have to work out what to do with them - and then we came across a stand selling artisanal beers and something they called "whisky au gout du sud-ouest de la France". Naturally enough this piqued my interest, so I went over to harangue the guy and find out what exactly was going on. 
He cheerfully gave me a shot and as a smallish crowd had gathered happily went on to explain: four passionate whisky fans took it into the collective head to import ten-year old cask whisky (that's about 70%), blend it and cut it with water from the Salvetat in the Montagne Noire, then age it in Armagnac casks and hock it off as Black Mountain Whisky, in a bottle with a tasteful picture of the mythical half-boar, half-wolf that is reputed to roam the area. No doubt looking for something decent to drink. You are doubtful, thinking of Breton white wine: so was I. Then I tasted it, and I bought a bottle.
I rather doubt that it'll last until Mal and Tony come over here: too bad, I shall have to head off up there to buy another one.
Quite serendipitously, there is a Chinese emporium just across the road from the (rather pretentiously named, if you ask me) Parks&Suites Arena where all this was going on, so we toddled across the street and went in. Sheer bliss, 500m² of spices and sauces and Chinese sausages and fresh spring roll wrappers and decent raw brown sugar and rice flour and foufou and ... oh, whatever. I shall go back later, and satisfy my baser urges.

I think that if it is at all possible, I detest grouting even more than I do tiling. It's tedious, picky work involving - unless you happen to be one of those lucky bastards with a grout gun - too much time on your knees with a small trowel and a rubber squeegee. And, as I have learnt through bitter experience, you need to clean up afterwards or you will regret it.

Not the tools so much, that's just a few minutes - no, you've smeared grouting all over your tiles so you need to wipe the excess off with a dry sponge, then twenty minutes later you need to go over the joints with a damp finger-tip (one of your own if absolutely necessary, but one out of a jar of formaldehyde works for me) so that they're nicely inset and then another half-hour after that you go over the whole lot with a damp sponge. Finally, two days later you get to spend a few hours of quality time back on your knees rubbing the entire floor with a dry cloth to get rid of the last traces of cement.

I have actually found better ways to pass my time.

*A blatant lie, as this post evidently has a title. Check out the relevant Whackywheedia articles on Lord Sir Elton John of the Admiralty, also on Paradoxes, especially those involving lying liars who lie all the time especially when they say that they are lying. They're just trying to do your head in.

Also, the articles on gnomes. More specifically, on being without a gnome.

1 comment:

  1. "Supply and installation of 16 weighing stations for monoliths, from 1.5 to 3 tonnes

    The Menhir Delivery trade is all regulated now.