vendredi, octobre 06, 2006

"Disreputable Cantonese"

So, I get a spam email, and that is the subject header. What the !@#$?? It was one of those "buy this stock!" spam messages that use randomly-generated subject headers and body text to throw off spam filters. I just love the stuff those things produce at random, and today's was a real treat. What I like about it is that I now have to imagine what "disreputable cantonese" might be.

Friday started out with an attempt to get a third ADSL modem + WiFi router installed at the residences. The line was in a U of C student's room, and we had already put in the request for the dégroupage a couple of weeks ago. Dégroupage is what ISP companies to when they want to provide ADSL over a phone line. Although France Telecom (the erstwhile national monopoly for telecommunications) has ownership of all physical phone lines, other companies have the right to "degroup" specific phone at the request of a customer lines and splice in their own interface to allow for dual use of a phone line. In this case, France Telecom remains the phone provider, but the ADSL frequencies are maintained by another company (

So, we went to do the setup and the thing didn't work. At first we thought it was the ADSL connection. Then we had a bit of a scare when we wondered whether we had set up the wrong phone number for ADSL. Eventually, we realized that the phone line, although it had a dialtone, didn't connect to anything. Instead, it kept on giving a "line not active" error message when you tried to dial. After a long 3-way conversation with France Telecom, we eventually got them to send someone out to fix the line. They should be coming by Saturday at 1:30 (how's that for turnaround?).

After having lost most of my morning to that and getting little results from it, I decided that I deserved a break. It was my day off, after all. I did a bit of research on gear shopping (I want to upgrade the RAM on my laptop, get a USB audio interface, and buy a little mic for my iPod+iTalk), and then took a nap. I realize just how rare a gift it is that I can spend 10 months with frequent opportunities to take naps, so I intend to make up for an entire adolescence of poor sleep habits.

I was going over to a colleague's place for diner that night, so I offered to bring wine. I sent her an email asking her if she had a preference for wines (red or white), but I got impatient waiting for an answer, so I headed out wine-shopping on my own. I got a very nice Alsatian Riesling (Grand Cru, which is one of the better vintages) and an Alsatian Pinot Noir. Red wines are sort of rare from the Alsace region, and their red is very very light and soft. It's almost a natural rosé. When I got home, I found an email from my colleague, telling me that I should get a strong red wine, because she was making something "typically French." Well, my Alsatian red was in no way robust, so I headed out again to the nearest grocery store and managed (with a lot of searching) to find a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Dinner itself was delicious. We had a petit salé, which is essentially a two-in-one soup/stew of salted pork, vegetables, and sometimes lentils. The pork has usually been preserved in salt, so you soak it and change the water several times. Then you cook the whole thing on low in a large vat of water with some herbs and the veggies / lentils. At the end, you serve the boiling liquid as a boullion for the opening course, then you serve the meat and vegetables, drained, as a main course. Then we had a fantastic cheese course (a 3-year-old Franche Comté, a Saint-Nectaire, some goat cheese, and a Beaufort) and Tiramisu for dessert. I could barely walk home, I was so full!

Over dinner I was pleasantly reminded of the French ability to acknowledge differences of opinion without offense. While they were asking me about my doctoral work, the question finally came up:

"So, are you also a fan of techno?"

"Of course."

"Oh, I'm not very fond of it myself. It's very repetitive."

"In some ways, that's the idea."

"True, there's been a real rise in repetition as an aesthetic during the 20th, century, no?"

And thus we spent nearly 30 minutes discussing the various historical lines that made repetition an intensified practice in the 20th century. Rather than an uncomfortable change of subject or a "oh, that's special," there was a moment of recognition and a sincere effort to discuss the subject through and around these differences. If only I could transfer that sort of mentality to the classroom or journal or academic conference...

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