20 mai 06

Letter to the spammers:

I am not fundamentally opposed to receiving help inciting “her” to “worship” me. [Cf. your correspondence dated May 20, 19, 17, 15 (3x), 10 (4x), 9, 8, etc. pp. titled “Have Her Worship You [...]” Still, how do you know her? And who do you have in mind anyway?]

However, I vigorously object to your apparently immovable notion that such a goal could be achieved via a penis enlargement.


Dangereuse Trilingue


Comments [4]

30 mars 06

My weblog owns nearly half of me.

43.75 %

My weblog owns 43.75 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?


Comments [1]

23 mars 06

Knock, knock, knock, calling London.

My life is undergoing major upheaval at the moment : Britain, I’m coming !

I love France to bits and loathe the idea of leaving all my friends behind, but life in Paris has not been gentle with me these recent years—in particular the rather buttoned-up labour market and the dreadful housing situation. It’s not unlike a love affair: you may be deeply in love with half a dozen of your lover’s traits, but one or two things can destroy the relationship.

So now that I have to leave my flat (renovation work being done on the house) with little prospect of finding another even half-way decent place on short notice, I was already planning to go back to Germany.

But then an opportunity came up to stop over in London first: a bunch of people (read: a small start-up I’d been helping to get their site up) are paying my ticket and housing me for a short while starting from the second week of April, in exchange for more work and a bit of software training. And then the prospect of a short-term contract with a different London-based company came up, which, even though by no means a firm thing, raised my excitement about the trip substantially. To me it makes sense to make use of my stay and look for work in London—it’s time for me to move on with my life, and the UK (to be frank, Scotland more than London, but that’s but a small detail right now) has long been a place I wanted to spend some quality time at.

In the worst case, I guess I can always temp for a while. There certainly seems to be a demand for computer-literate, web-savvy people with fluent French and German (I’m throwing in decent writing skills and translation experience).

The scary part is that I’m doing this on a shoestring. So to end this with a call out to any and every reader in the UK, in particular the Greater London area, who could put me up for a few days while I’m flat- and job-hunting: I’d be eternally grateful for even a small corner of your couch! And if you just want to meet up, I’d love it, too, of course. Leave a comment or e-mail me—I’m sure to write back.

[Taught to the spell-checker: savvy.]


Comments [2]

24 février 06

A UK Trading Standards officer loses it.

Gervase Markham of the Mozilla Foundation relates a disconcerting exchange with the authorities who, it seems, just don’t get free software. From the Times :

“I can’t believe that your company would allow people to make money from something that you allow people to have free access to. Is this really the case?” [the Trading Standards officer] asked.
“If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted.”

The world standing on its head: those crazy geeks software authors better behave in a way that facilitates enforcing anti-piracy legislation. This doesn’t bode well for MPs getting the point when they enact new copyright legislation as it’s currently the case in France.

Via BoingBoing.



20 février 06

The browser, the geek and the garter belt.

So we’re having a honest-to-god sexism spat in the French geekosphere. It’s all about “Femfox”, an unofficial advertising campaign for the Firefox browser, launched by an amateur model, a photographer and an IT guy. All glamour shots, the kind people in France are used to seeing in underwear ads.

The real brouhaha started only when Tristan Nitot, the president of Mozilla Europe, posted an “oh wow” (personal) endorsement of the campaign while at the same time, rather passive-aggressively, trying to pre-empt criticism by ridiculing the feminists he knew would object. He also implied that criticising the use of pictures of a nude and sexy woman to promote Firefox would amount to endorsing the current madness over the Mahomet cartoons. (You will find links to the Femfox site & photographs inside Tristan’s post.)

Let’s be clear, Firefox is and remains my browser of choice, and Tristan and Mozilla Europe have done and are doing impressive work that benefits the public at large. Still, the can of worms titled “women and free software” has been opened, and personally I find this invigorating and salutary.

It might seem strange that this is happening now, when we all have just been through a united call to arms for the right of a blogger to post pictures of lightly clad men. Indeed, I don’t believe that the issue is about the pictures at all, or even the garter belt, stockings, lacy knickers and heels. I know what kind of physical attributes I’m attracted to—though the physical component is but a small part of attraction—and am able to recognise and appreciate eroticism. I like erotic pictures and have written erotic stories and poems myself1.

No, to me, the problem is laid out along an entirely different axis. It’s about making a particular type of heterosexual male gaze directed towards conventionally attractive female attributes the norm, via using it, and the object of the attention, to incite people to do something entirely unrelated to eroticism and female bodies: use a particular web browser. The relationship between the viewer and the image loses its intimacy when the photographs (and the lecherous slogans that go with them) become a means to an end and play into the all too well-known stereotypes of the woman as seductress, sexual object or, at best, eye-candy.

And then there’s the body-image angle. Yves, as far as I can tell the only straight man on the anti-side, reports that his six year old daughter recently declared she’d give up butter on her bread “because it makes you fat”. Where might she and her playground comrades have picked up the idea? Here for example.

What’s I hope salutary about this spat is that it throws wide open the question of sexism in the largely male geek world. There has been a precedent—what to think of a young woman, one of far too few, auctioning off her T-shirt to the cheers of the male geek crowd for a fund-raiser during the recent Solutions Linux trade fair? Kozlika rightly grumbled then, under the title “If [we are supposed to promote free software] with the same weapons [mainstream marketing uses]—no, thanks”. Now, she tackles the thankless but salutary task of reformatting the talking points every feminist is familiar with for the consumption of the unenlightened male geek: no, feminists aren’t humourless, frigid, castrating crones; no, the model being more than consenting is absolutely immaterial (feminists aren’t supposed to disagree with women? huh, what an idiotic idea); and calling criticism of the ad campaign “the strait-jacket of all-crushing political correctness” is a ridiculously over-the-top attack, given what the power relations and dominant imagery really are.

I wonder if we should thank the Femfox team to have provided this opportunity for debate. Well, okay, rather not.


1 Though the photos in question aren’t what I’d call a particularly positive example of the genre. They are amateurish, run-of-the-mill shots focussing on decontextualised body parts. As for me, the face (and the smile) is a major part of connecting to the image.


Comments [1]

17 février 06

People at work.

I’ll just repeat after SuwAmazing pictures.



7 février 06

The problem with dieting.

There’s of course a lot wrong with dieting: my body image is down the dumps, and my nightmares frequently deal with family members (well, a particular family member, mostly) berating me for being clumsy and out of shape, or greeting me with “you’ve gained weight” after a month-long absence. But if you have never been slim in your life, are out of shape and have gained weight during months and months of reclusiveness, cutting out all pastry, cookies and most of the bread and living on cooked vegetables, sometimes mixed with rice, is a good idea.

But the practical problem is two-fold:

  1. When you really really want a snack, like at three a.m. when you can’t sleep, there’s nothing in the house.
  2. Severe chocolate withdrawal.

Number 1 shouldn’t have been a problem. I keep a stock of apples available for just these cases—they work well, in particular because I don’t actually like apples—but I had run out over the weekend.

The solution, discovered during yesterday’s grocery shopping : 50g Toblerone bars. First of all, because they work with childhood nostalgia. I don’t think I’ve had any Toblerone for years. Second, because given that they’re half-sized, I don’t run the risk of eating an entire 100g bar, once opened. Third, one of them has fewer calories than a pain au chocolate, fewer than three smallish biscuits. And finally, I haven’t even eaten the first one yet.

Okay, off to prepare cooked potatoes in their skins with cottage cheese.

[Taught to the spell-checker: reclusiveness.]


Comments [2]

4 février 06

Sense and sensuality.

Yesterday, I didn’t really want to blog about Garfieldd, again.

If there hadn’t been urgent news to report, I might have linked to Flying Spaghetti Monster erotica (via Pharyngula)—not really work safe, a bit disturbing, hopefully consensual, but if so, then rather funny, too. But still, is the FSM trying for a divine human descendant on earth or what? “The Passion of The Pastafarian” ... no, I don’t think so. That’s too much to, er, stomach.

Or I might have written about touristy things. As a resident of ten years, I haven’t seen Paris through a tourist’s eye for a long time. But once in a while some event brings back bits and pieces than should go into a manual of the French capital, written for the (foreign) visitor.

Like the how to avoid keeping your nose glued to the map (and thereby missing three quarters of the atmosphere): Just put it away. You can’t get lost in Paris if you know one single phrase in French, which is “Excusez-moi, le métro, s’il vous plaît ?” Wander around for a few hours, hop on a bus—as long as you’re inside the city limits, and you’d notice when you cross them, you’re always within a short walk of an underground station.

Or where to meet up—métro station exits are bad, because there might be several of them, at quite a distance from each other. Bridges are normally good, but in the winter (or, for that matter, when it’s rainy), you’ll be exposed to the elements. Surprising how much harsher the cold can be in the middle of even a short bridge over the Seine than at either end. If you’re five minutes early for your meet-up, it’ll bite your toes off.

This random thought is of course totally unrelated to the current weather. Which is rather on the cold side, as winters in Paris go. This Saturday looks like yet another chilly, grey, even slightly foggy day.

And I’ve been trying my best to stave off the onslaught of a head cold. With hot chocolate while out and lots of fruit and vegetables at home. Plus music, reading, watching videos.

screenshot Placebo with David Bowie

screenshot Placebo with David Bowie

I’ve been looking for relaxing pleasures while sorting through my desktop computer’s hard disks. Amazing finds, like my collection of music videos. The Placebo & David Bowie video of Without You I’m Nothing was a nice rediscovery. Brian Molko’s gender bending, the musicians’ interaction brimming with sensuality—including those between Bowie and the bassist Stefan Olsdal, if you look closely.

screenshot Placebo with David Bowie

screenshot Placebo with David Bowie

Oh, the title? That’s the German translation of the title of the 1995 film after Jane Austen’s novelSinn und Sinnlichkeit—translated back to English. Traditionally, Sense and Sensibility, the book title, is translated as Verstand und Gefühl, i.e. “reason and emotion”. Not an easy thing to translate. Those psycho-cognitive categories just don’t overlap. But at least they exist, for they are the essence of what makes us human.



1 février 06

Attention: construction!

You may have noticed that there’s work being done on the layout: this site is turing into a—gasp!—blog. There’s a sidebar on the frontpage now, with a search form (which doesn’t seem to work) and a blogroll (two random dozens).

It still looks quite ghastly, in particular the colour scheme. But I’m late for Paris Carnet, so I’ll have to leave it for a bit. Sorry …



27 janvier 06

This week.

We’re right in the middle of the winter sales at the moment. Les soldes are a bi-annual, month-long event the starting and end date of which are set down by the authorities every year. It’s the only time when stores are allowed to sell for a loss, and you can find astonishing bargains, in particular for clothes. Which, in an expensive city like Paris, counts for a lot.

I don’t deal that well with crowds, so I skipped the last few soldes. But this time around, my wardrobe having reached a worrying low, I took a deep breath and plunged in. I had to traipse across town anyway, for other reasons, every day of this week. And being severely underemployed has, at least, the advantage of making it possible to shop when most people can’t and thus avoid the Saturday rush. (Even outside les soldes, Saturdays in shopping areas can make you loose your mind.)

Tuesday and Wednesday were lovely sunny and cold winter days, so I even enjoyed it. Tuesday was shoe-buying day (Wednesday and today I took care of pants and tops). And one thing is clear, this year’s winter sales are great for buying shoes. I got two pairs for just over 25 € each:

my new shoes

I tried on about a dozen before deciding on these two—one other pair tugged on my heartstrings, but its size 36 was, as usual, just a little too small, and size 37 unavailable. It was only after I got home and unpacked them that I realized that I probably ended up with one model I had admired on my friend K’s feet some days earlier.

one of my new shoes

These came from a single store, but every place I looked at had fantastic shoes, very reasonably priced. I fell in love with a pair of ankle boots, black with flat soles and lots of purple stripes sewn on them. But they were still priced at 89 € ... and two new pairs are quite enough, right?

Oh, and I wore the brown ones Wednesday. Big mistake: never ever wear new shoes on a serious shopping expedition, however comfortable they may feel when you first try them on.


Comments [3]

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