2 janvier 06

2005, stats.

I started this blog in July 2005, when the need arose to factor out the personal (and maybe the political) from the rest of my web presence. This was, and still is, a quick-and-dirty Textpattern install, minimally customised—yes, search, blogroll and a design that deserves the name will be added one day.

The name, I fear, is something I never explained in English. It goes back to the title Les bilingues sont dangereux of a post by Kozlika. The topic is an asinine draft report leaked from one of the most law-and-order-thumping French National Assembly committees. It purported to determine how a youth “strays from the straight path” [my gloss, but sic!] and turns to delinquency. The first step, according to the enlightened MPs? Not being brought up in a French-speaking household: for a three-year-old, being a bilingual is, apparently, a first warning sign. There was a lot wrong with the report (the mind-boggling number of spelling and grammatical errors, just for starters), but this bit in particular got the heaps of ridicule it deserved .

Now people who know me are aware that I juggle with three languages quite a bit, and so Kozlika nicknamed me … “dangereuse trilingue”. It’s a bit pretentious—many of the regulars in the café across the street from my place speak three languages—but when I needed a blog title, this was it.

This blog has always been supposed to be a personal place, where even bad writing will be allowed to stay. It’s not ambitious. In AWStat’s counting, it gets about 160 unique visitors a day. Many come from the other local bloggers, who have become dear to me.

Top search terms were femme, lesbienne, dangereuse trilingue, powermale and home remedies for menstrual cramps, which, after various write-ups of local get-togethers, is also the most popular post I’ve written. The two posts about the November riots in the French suburbs also got a bit of traffic. My own favourite is, I think, the dreamy little Apples fantasy and the report from our opera jaunt last week (in French). The rest contains a fair bit of agonizing, but then, no one’s forced to read it.

 

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31 décembre 05

Wintry thoughts.

It rarely snows in Paris. Some years, you have to pay attention in order to see any snowflakes at all, a sparse, lonesome, heavy lot that disintegrates and adds little splotches of water to the December and January puddles (it does rain, usually). Well, this was the view from my window on the 30th at 1 p.m.:

snow in Paris

We’ve had days of impressive snow before this winter. It was dark: I had to instruct my camera that, no, I didn’t want flash. (All right, I did use the flash in the end, to make the snowflakes more visible.)

The slushy stuff stayed on the pavement for a few hours, while the temperature hovered just above freezing. The sidewalks were slippery, quite dangerous actually. Then the weather stopped wavering and decided to warm a little, and the snow melted away again.

We’ve had quite a bit of strange weather over the last months. A week ago, the Parisian sidewalks were green, a fragrant mush of crushed leaves, ripped off the trees by gusts of wind and turned to pulp under the shoes of thousands of passers-by. Green trails led into the stores. Chlorophyll aroma replaced the more traditional Christmas smells of spiced wine and roasted almonds. I attribute it to the exceptionally cold month of November—my knowledge of tree physiology is non-existent, but November was freezing cold and not as stormy as usual, and the trees, at least in my neighbourhood, kept their leaves all the way through. December was generally mild in comparison, even warm-ish.

It’s the time of the year to look back in a reflective mood. I’m tempted to say that my 2005 has been an unqualified catastrophe. Financially and emotionally, I’m in serious trouble. Professionally, I haven’t recovered from a very bad blow that built up over a long time and finally struck in the second half of the previous year. My self-confidence is next to zero in many areas, worse for those skills and traits that I treasure most. I’ve been an inadequate friend, a less than inadequate daughter, sister and aunt.

I’m unsure, but I may have made a step towards letting go of my love. As far as I know, she’s alive but far from being well. She has no connections to this country, or to continental Europe, except for me, and the reverse is mostly true, as well. Her health is bad, even worryingly so. Her only support network—I am employing this term with care, because this is not about lovers or freely chosen life partners—comes with an iron-clad grasp on her communications, including phone calls, e-mail, even her web browsing, and a huge amount of jealousy. I can’t talk or write to her without jeopardizing what little stability and help she has. It is easy to talk about working through tough patches together, to take on whatever comes our way; it isn’t hard to go through life with some basic understanding and respect for the needs of others and a pragmatic attitude towards the problems of life; but when it came down to it, I couldn’t even do a fucking thing for the person I love with every fiber of my being. Obviously, I’m crying as I’m writing this. Out of the last two times we talked, she was confused and disoriented once, and on the other occasion requested in a whisper that I stop calling her because she couldn’t be caught talking to me; and told me she loved me. Online, I’ve never touched upon this particular path, which has led me, naked and alone, into an ocean of powerlessness—a place I detest, headstrong and argumentative person that I am. Offline, I’ve exhausted the understanding of those friends who knew what was going on and, later, my tears. I sometimes run my finger over the only keepsake I have of her: a photograph I took myself.

This strand of my life is one of the reasons the blog doesn’t have my name attached to it.

Still, the one thing I promised her, back when I would wake up in the safety of her arms, was that would never give up on living. I’m reasonably able-bodied and have kept learning, even this past year, and while the achievements look precarious and the skills are self-taught, lacking anyone’s rubber-stamp, it would be stupid not to build on them.

Thinking of my friends of five, ten or more years past gives me conflicting feelings: many have settled somewhere, taken advanced degrees, secured jobs that, though maybe not ultimately fulfilling, have provided them with security, a sense of purpose and, as often as not, a certain degree of prestige. I used to be just as smart as promising as they were and—this is hard to admit, impossible in a personal letter—I’m jealous of them. I’d love to renew the bonds, but what story can I tell?

Passion is another iffy topic. When I was at my strongest, my successes were built on my being passionate about the things I did. Or so I thought. I probably underestimated the importance of being rooted somewhere, of having a place in a larger system. Sucking the last drop of enjoyment of what is supposed to be a duty and a chore then provides that bit of an edge, the quality that tricked me, but also those around me, into believing myself to be strong, self-assured and on the track to getting what I want. Once that foothold is lost, however, the same eagerness, the same giving-oneself-totally-over attitude can turn a spiral of success into a vicious circle of failure. Yet, passion has served me well for ten years of my life. I don’t even know how to go about things without it.

2004 was the year where I most cruelly experienced how little I matter to those with power over me, how easily I’m discarded in a world of scarce resources where everyone fights everyone—neither for ideas, nor shared goals, but for being at the top of the pile. In 2005, however, when things were worse than they’d ever been, I found kindness: not from many, not often, but once in a while there were men and women who didn’t let me slip away, who looked beyond my erratic presence and held out a hand, gave comfort and warmth, or just accepted me the way I am, without pushing or prodding or condescension. This isn’t something I’m used to. I’ll always be grateful to them.

The weeks before Christmas were even harder than I’d anticipated. The unresolved relationship with my family is, from my side, conflicted and ridiculously over-charged with history and past attitudes, the strict hierarchy under which I grew up. This hit me hard and unexpectedly, and I was reduced to a bundle of quivering nerves for a while, literally jumping at every loud noise, overcome with exhausting waves of panic, and, on Christmas Eve, sobbing uncontrollably for hours. This week has been much better, even brought stretches of enjoyment. Little things, the company of good people, like yesterday’s trip to the opera or today’s international meetup around Fondue Bourguignonne. It’s as if there was a glimpse of hope there, still, or again, peeking through the curtain of uncertainty. How to get a handle on it all, I don’t know, but whichever path I’ll take, it will have to be one small step at a time.

 

Comments [3]

25 décembre 05

One Christmassy thing.

There’s one seasonally appropriate thing I’ve been doing this Christmas: listen to the Penguin Podcast version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This is effectively a free-as-in-beer audio book in five parts, a little present from Penguin Books.

I got myself a Samsung flash player (I don’t want to call it “mp3 player” because it even plays Ogg Vorbis files) for my birthday a bit earlier this month. So I’ve been trudging through the busy streets of Paris hearing about Ebenezer Scrooge getting visits by a string of ghosts and spirits. Not bad at all. I even got a bit emotional in some places.

If you want it, download it now: the files are only available until January 3.

 

Comments [4]

18 décembre 05

What state I'd be living in ...

... if I was living in the the United States.
You scored as WASHINGTON. WASHINGTON IS AWESOME FOR YOU!
WASHINGTON—67%
NEW YORK—50%
WYOMING—42%
FLORIDA—34%
California—33%
LOUISIANA—33%
NEVADA—17%
UTAH—8%
What state should you live in?
created with QuizFarm.com

Says the quiz.

 

Commentaires

7 décembre 05

Commented spam.

Not “comment spam”: garden-variety e-mail spam. See, I’m training a new Bayesian filter, so I get to see more of the, er, genre’s recent crop. Not just those e-mails signed by a certain Karen Thomson, who starts out insinuating that I might not be properly pleasing my woman—as far as I’m concerned, this is a legitimate if intimate question—but then continues with the suggestion that the insufficient size of my penis might be at fault. I beg your pardon?

So far so good. I’m used to occasional unintentional surrealism in my inbox. Still, today came I received one that I couldn’t help finding fascinating. The sender appears to be someone named Isabelle. The subject line: Did you have a sex yesterday? right

This caught my attention, because, in fact, I did have a sex yesterday. Indeed, I can’t recall a day on which I found myself sexless. My sex has been remarkably constant over the course of my life: female. Right, as Isabelle writes, let’s have a look at the content. It starts out thus (note the remarkable greeting):

Adieu.
Did you know [email protected] Americans and Russ1ans
[email protected] sex more often than @ny nat10n in the wor]d?
They d0 1t approximately 13O time$ a year soon.
With our S0ft [email protected] tabs y0u can do it 365 times a [email protected]
and 366 when it’s a leap [email protected]!
One pill of Powermale Soft Tabs for les$ [email protected] 1$ see.
Does your wife th1nk that [email protected] 1s harder than y0ur penis?
Powermale Soft Tabs will make her change her mind chance.

The spelling is rather idiosyncratic, but I gather that this is precisely to ensure that my evil spam-filter won’t catch on to the missive. Apparently, the Cold War is still alive and well. Americans and Russians, huh? 130 times a year soon? Again the strange reference to my putative penis, this time compared to a banana. Sortof. (I am, by the way, biting into one as I type this. A banana, that is.)

Now that it’s clear that the message’s goal is to get me to buy “Powermale Soft Tabs” (great brand name), it could stop. But no: the next passage is a remarkable mixture of the philosophical and the confusingly honest:

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Adam, the first great benefactor of the human race: he brought death into the world.
AND ALSO
POWERMALE formula is effective for 95% of the patients not. If this treatment is not effective for you,
we will refund you for every unopened pack soon. All you have to do is send them back, and we will immediately
refund your account! list

Am I to understand that “Powermale Soft Tabs” don’t work for 95% of the population? The male population? Their customers? Who can expect a refund in the foggy lapse between “soon” (again) and “immediately”?

So many questions! To soothe my muddled mind, another paragraph in a philosophical tone closes the missive:

How awful to reflect that what people say of us is true!
You brain shall be your servant instead of your master, You will rule it instead of allowing it to rule you. If someone takes your coat, give him your cloak as well if he makes you go a mile with him, go with him two. [Mathew] ‘’What is your fortune, my pretty maid?’’ ‘’My face is my fortune, Sir,’’ she said.

In case this advertisement has convinced you to try “Powermale Soft Tabs”, I will pass on the URL, which I have cruelly omitted, upon request.

 

Comments

30 novembre 05

Backups.

The Achilles’ heel of most home users’ backup strategy is that they don’t have one.

How true. Like so many users, I learnt it the hard way, via a highly educational hard disk failure. Luckily, Linux provides a whole lot of data rescue utilities, and I ended up getting all my data back (but I won’t use the Reiser file system again—not that it’s bad, but it makes data recovery a bit harder than others.)

I just installed the Simple Backup Suite described in the article the quote is from . It looks complete and easy, and helps me structure the backup process. Much better than doing things by hand and immediately forgetting about how you did it.

Oh, and do take Ubuntu Linux (site en français) for a spin.

 

Comments

27 novembre 05

Today.

Urgent tasks I tackled today:

  • polished three pairs of shoes (until the shoe polish ran out)
  • put new laces on one
  • sewed on a button
  • some superficial vacuuming

Urgent things I didn’t do:

  • laundry
  • dishes
  • lots and lots of worse-than-tedious paperwork

A partial achievement at best, but I’m feeling down and exhausted and have been crying a lot, so better look at the bright side, if there is one.

 

Comments [1]

22 novembre 05

Teeth.

Nightmares evolving around my teeth are a familiar sort, unlike others I’ve written about before. People say that dreams about one’s teeth falling out are a sign of fear of ageing. This might be the case for me, though the in the nightmares, my teeth usually don’t just fall out but crumble away. So I’m linking them more to an anxiety of everything about me going to the dogs—my body, my life, my options, hopes and desires.

A little earlier today, I happened to consciously touch the inside of my incisors with my tongue and to register that they were all in place and accounted for. And this triggered a feeling of surprise.

Why should it have? After all, I knew that I wasn’t missing my upper right front tooth, the one my tongue was expecting to be replaced by a gaping hole. It is dead alright, and slightly discoloured—I blame a bicycle crash that happened when I was 14 or so and landed me on my face; but it’s still there.

I could even recall my face sporting the gap that never was, and my heart contracting in distress at the possibility of losing a tooth in such an inexplicable and visible way, and my apprehension about the possibility of getting an artificial replacement. And this recollection felt all like a recent memory.

The only explanation: I must have dreamt it last night.

 

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21 novembre 05

In the throes of UK yearning.

I’m currently going through a phase that feels like UK nostalgia. And this is strange, because the time I’ve spent in any English-speaking country is best measured in days—or weeks, if you are generous. “Any English-speaking country” is a euphemism, too: I’ve only been to England, three times.

Be that as it may, I seem to be suffering from an acute case of wanderlust1.

To alleviate the fixation, I visited a store in my neighbourhood called Le comptoir irlandais. It sells imported foodstuffs from the British Isles (most doesn’t come from Ireland), all sorts of knock-knack, and attractive but expensive knitwear. When I got out, I had acquired a packet of Ginger Nuts (surprisingly spicy), two types of loose tea in pretty tin canisters, some Marmite (never tried that), shortbread, lemon curd, and an earthenware mug that’s yellow inside and decorated with vaguely rainbow-ish stripes. They also have very cute and soft sheep that can be hung from the door handle and say “open” on one side and “closed” on the other. Might be a good birthday present for my niece, who has just started elementary school. (Plus, she’d learn two words of English.)

1 I had to consult Leo on that: We actually say Fernweh in German, a word which connotes painful yearning. The dictionary also suggests itchy feet, but this reminds me too much of athlete’s foot.

 

Comments [1]

18 novembre 05

Frog blogging.

Pleasant Friday night pub blogging with Mark Cabiling. Here’s the proof:

Mark and I
Flou artistique.

Mark and I
Aren’t I looking serious?

 

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