Saturday, April 29, 2017

Watership Down ...

Not, sadly, The Shamblings™
And there came to be a great slaughtering and an evisceration of bunnies, yea! and even of chickens, and there was much wailing and lamentation, for it was Easter and those things made of chocolate were between a rock and a hard place ...

Not being a religious person, once I'd bitten the head off my little Lapindor and devoured it, branes and all, I took the camera out for a little walk, which turned out to be about 14km (I had not really planned on that): approaching the chateau la Baronne from the arse-end (where the imposing gates are inexplicably absent, there's just a few tractors and a pair of gumboots) I accidentally strolled through their gardens, admiring the pineapples, before coming to my senses and making a quick exit before someone decided to pull out the WW I artillery piece that serves as a shotgun. Shit happens, and I hereby extend my profuse apologies to the Lignère family (who just happen to own the place).

Still, I might have been let off with just a warning for a first offense, or even invited in for a drink, for our friend and neighbour Johann takes Widdling Emma out that way most days, and she is known in the vicinity. Especially to the elderly Dr. Lignère who apparently haunts the chateau, so I guess I'd probably get away with it. Anyway, it's not really trespassing so long as you don't nick any olives.

What proper blue sky looks like
And one more thing ... the Friday before Easter the shelves at Carrefour were laden with every conceivable variety of eggs, chocolate bunnies, chickens, you name it. The Tuesday after lundi de Paques - one little tray of sad-looking Lapindor, who seemed to realise that they were condemned to the slaughter but, being rabbits, were not going to do anything about it. I can only guess that Carrefour negociates extremely attractive - from their point of view - sale or return terms with their suppliers.

Sniff, sniff, waily waily and I has sads, for today is the last day of the proper asparagus season - after which there will be but dried-up stuff from Spain (which is usable, if you're not fussy) and maybe a few huge fat white things, which are inedible whatever might be their provenance.

So I bought a kilo from my trusted supplier at the Carcassonne market, and most shall be roasted with olive oil and a bit of sea salt on tomorrows barbecue and the rest will be stewed in butter as is only right and correct, and then it's on to other things until March 2018 rolls around.

The "other things" in question being strawberries, which will last long enough to overlap with the cherries, and there are already nèfles (which are, I admit, a bitch to eat), and the first of the melons, and the tomatoes are starting to smell like the real thing, and soon enough there will be peaches and nectarines and stuff. So don't start feeling too sorry for us just yet.

Whatever, you probably do not need to be incessantly reminded of the state of misery in which we live, so on to other things: the itinerant bar-café Chez Réné seems to be working rather well so far, five weeks into its admittedly brief existence. Helped, let it be said, by the fact that Friday nights have, up till now, been fine and warm - which makes it much more inviting to get together for a convivial evening with twenty other like-minded souls.

(Seems likely enough that it'll go on for a while yet: the bar, sadly, seems to be embroiled in litigation. So we've little choice, if we want to drink in company.)

Widdling Emma, hellhound
To add to the jollity, Chateau Mansenoble have apparently offered to host one of the next gatherings: probably quite an astute commercial move on their part. Organising a degustation in a caveau need not be rocket science, I'm sure they can spare a couple of dozen bottles of their (excellent) red, and I'm willing to bet that they'll get themselves some good word-of-mouth publicity; not to mention a bit of everyone's disposable income, for as everyone knows the English jump on good wine. (On bad wine too, if the price is right.)

I had planned on being a productive person last Wednesday, but that did not happen. Tuesday, as Margo was walking Indra and Jara, they decided to play silly buggers and bounced into the back of her knee, sending her to the ground with a loud "pop!" ...

She felt a few twinges but the next day it was pretty clear that she needed to see the doctor, plus she was in no state to drive and had an appointment at the hospital in Lézignan with the dermatologist and on top of that I'd discovered a large festering sore on Widdling Emma's neck, hidden beneath her very thick black fur, so it was off to the vet for her ... sometimes things just do not go as you could wish, I won't say that the day was wasted but it was spent otherwise than foreseen.

Anyway, Margo's hobbling around with a full knee brace on while her torn ligament heals, I have a few minor scratches from holding Emma down while the vet shaved her and stuck a large needle in, and she's on antibiotics for ten days and hates us because I'm also supposed to spray the scabby bits with cortisone moaning and night, which she loathes. Such is life.

But very soon it will be the merry month of May, notable in France for having a vast number of public holidays. In better years they fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday, thereby ensuring a four-day weekend because everyone takes le pont: sadly, not the case this year. Whatever, I'm self-employed, I could care more. But I'm still planning on doing nothing on Monday, Labour day - in a spirit of solidarity with the oppressed working classes.

Of which I am a card-carrying member, something of which Johann reminded me a while back when it came up that I was about the only person around here that actually works and am consequently paying everybody else's pensions: he shyly asked if I "would not mind working just a little bit harder, because I would like to take a holiday in Guadeloupe this year". Hey, no-one ever said that the German sense of humour was always subtle.

Also, it's tax time, which means that I shall have to dig out a whole swag of documents and send them off to the accountant so that he can prepare my declaration and I shall be whacked with paying an eye-watering sum to the state - some of which will, no doubt, be spent on holidays in tropical islands.

Whatever, I don't care, summer is on its way, life is good, and I have to go stick some chicken bits to marinate in tandoori spices and a bit of lemon juice. Mind how you go, now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

There Must Be Worse Ways To Die ...

... or so I guess, I'm not actually about to do that. No, I just say that because I'm reading a book on the Cathars at this moment and - being a French book - it is rather didactic and starts from the very beginning, on the grounds that to understand the Albigensians you must understand the very origins of heresy ... be that as it may, one of the chapters on early Christianity contains the following, absolutely unforgettable line: "Saint Augustine died in 430, in a Hippo besieged by Vandals".

As epitaphs go, that's pretty damn good, I think. Although you should probably know that "Hippo" was in fact the name of a city.

(Incidentally, the invaluable/infallible Whackyweedia informs me that a group of hippos may be referred to as a "bloat". I hope you wanted to know that.)

On the other hand, there are not really worse ways to die than trying to restore a Linux development system onto a new machine. Those who are better-funded and more trusting than I would just giggle and say "Hey! Why don't you just spin up a new VM instance on AWS? No problem!" and to them I say ... no, on second thought I'm not going to say that. For The Shamblings™ is - relatively - family-friendly (for a given value of "friendly" that does not include Hellfire missiles).

Be that as it may, I spent an extremely dull Sunday (good thing the weather wasn't bright enough to draw me out) disinterring an ancient tower system that was still running Windows 2000 on a 1.6GHz dual-core Pentium with all of 1GB of RAM, determining that it was fit for purpose (or at least, would probably, albeit grudgingly, do the job), installing the latest build of Fedora, restoring my backups, checking out exactly what extra packages I needed to install because somewhere between going from V17 to V25 the RedHat guys seem to have stripped out a lot of convenient stuff ...

That, and then redoing the networking around The Shamblings™ just because: the new CPL adapters (that's Ethernet over powerline, to you) and the spare switch turned up and of course I'd ordered six extra 1m Ethernet cables to go with them and - of course - each adapter arrived with its own 1m Ethernet cable ... What I should have done, when we got the place rewired, was have CAT-5 pulled from the utility cupboard on the first floor into every room in the house. Then I'd have stuck the Livebox in there too along with a 16-port switch, and we wouldn't have to live with CPL and crappy WiFi. Sometimes, just don't think clearly.

Getting back to Linux, must now get used to the latest version of the GUI and try to find out exactly where the firewall settings are right now, and how the hell do you get RDP to work, also I would like to change the size of the icons on the desktop from "grotesquely bloated" to "merely obese" and how do I do that ... you can see why I don't often change systems. (You can also see why I would never recommend Linux to an elderly aunt - nor, in fact, to anyone less stubborn than Death.)

But at least it suffices for my vile porpoises, which is to say that I can recompile the software and rebuild the kernel and rootfs without terrifying error messages, even if I do have time for a coffee while it's booting.

(Did I mention that it's so frikkin slow that when running Eclipse - the IDE of choice for the discerning developer, written in Java for reasons that escape me - you can actually see the letters scurrying onto the screen as you type? And I swear you can see a little trail of blurry pixels as they run in, shedding their legwarmers, stage right.)

In other computer-related news, I note (thanks to the indefatigable efforts of the quality journalists of El Reg) that some manufacturer of - um, intimate - devices saw fit not only to equip their dildo with a camera at the business end, but also turn it into a WiFi hotspot and connect it to the innatübz. Security in the marvelous world of Internet Of Shitty Things being what it is - that is to say non-existent - the admin password is empty and it is wide open to being taken, and you could find out that a live feed of your vaginal endoscopy is up on YouTube.

Don't know why they didn't think to stick a mic and speaker into the thing whilst they were about it, although I guess that might have made waterproofing a bit problematic.

Quite frankly, whoever thought of sticking Linux (not to mention a webcam) into a vibrator in the first place needs to be taken around the back of the shed and shot as a mercy killing, and then adding Internet connectivity (and injury to insult) seems to my poor addled brain to be an absolutely ridiculous idea. True, it does mean you can control the object with a smart-phone app, but I'd have thought it so much more convenient just to stick a hand down there. Especially as your hands are probably down there anyway. Or get a friend to help.

Just as an aside, the researchers who turned that one up also discovered that the smart-phone app in question - yes of course there's one - shared a whack of code with apps developed to pilot drones. Why not? Seems reasonable.

And while we're on the subject, this one turned up this very moaning. I must admit that the concept of a system that will happily tell you its password if you just ask it nicely enough is rather sweet, but I would have thought somewhat outdated. Maybe no-one's thought to tell the guys at Schneider just which century we're living in these days.

Just in case you'd forgotten, we celebrated thirty years of life in France last Friday. Gifts of appreciable sums of money are always welcome, just saying, and don't feel obliged to limit your largesse to special occasions such as that. It finally gave me the opportunity to open the cupboard reserved for such things and drag out a couple of the bottles of champagne that have been following us around like a bad smell for at least a decade, and get other people to drink the stuff.

Whatever, first barbecue of the year on Sunday. Bob! came past sometime around midday, I had the smaller of the two beasts fired up, and with potatoes en papillotte with vast quantities of olive oil, cremated rib of beef, a simple salad, good bread and some aged chevre and - of course - some chilled red wine, the whole afternoon just disappeared like that.

Of course we were under a generous sun and let's face it, it's a moral imperative for the French to refaire le monde, to set everything to rights. And even if Bob! is not exactly your typical Frog-person we all play the game and I must admit, there are much worse things to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, out on the terrace.

And a thing that is not worse than that might be, for example, heading off to La Perle Gruissanaise for an idle Monday seafood lunch, because why not? I've talked about the place before, you've seen the photos, I do not particularly wish to make you jealous ... eating prawns and bread and salad with a carafe of the la Clape white wine and the salt air in your nostrils is a very pleasant thing to do. Especially when you've turned off the phone.