mercredi, février 07, 2007

Ack! To Brussels!

Ack! I need to be up in 5 hours to escort the students to a field trip in Brussels. I'm really looking forward to the trip, but not at all to the 5am wake-up call. Must get to bed.

So, I will be non-posting from tomorrow until Sunday, and I probably won't blog very much about Brussels, since I'll be accompanied by a work colleague and I try to keep the details of work out of my blog. Nonetheless, I may post a few cute pictures. I will also eat a lot of chocolate, moules frites, and beer

Quick note about today: Nothing very exciting at work, but I hit the grands magasins today (Printemps and Galeries Lafayette in particular). It's the last days of the great post-Christmas sale season (which runs rather long here), so things were rather picked over. However, things were also marked down a lot deeper than the last time I was there. I finally bought this adorable rainbow-pastel cashmere scarf that was originally 165€, but now 60€. It's both more and less gay than you probably think it is. And it's really, really soft.

I also bought Breton salted butter caramels that I CAN'T STOP EATING!!

mardi, février 06, 2007

A quiet night of quietness

After a really, really long day at work (another take-apart-a-laptop day), I was thrilled to just go home, make some food, and sit still for a while. Of course, I finally re-stocked on garlic (which I was languishing without) and took advantage of it to make a huge batch of tzatziki. Ironically, I had a beautiful cucumber sitting in my fridge for well over a week, while I searched up and down paris for a big container of Greek yogurt. What I came to realize is that French folks don't sell yogurt in large containers. Literally all commercially available yogurt is in those tiny plastic cups. In the end, I just bought a whole case of "greek-style" yogurt cups and mixed them together, but next time I'm making my own damn yogurt (thanks for the recipe, Celia!).

Anyway, since I have very little of interest to relate for today, here's my tzatziki recipe instead:

Luis's Most Likely Inauthentic But Delicious Tzatziki


  • 1 cucumber (see step one for preparation)
  • 500-600 g of yogurt (or 1 quart), Greek or Balkan style is best (i.e. Thick)
  • Garlic to taste (have a whole head within reach, just in case). Don't use preserved garlic or garlic powder. You need the powerful bite of raw garlic.
  • Enough de-stemmed mint leaves to fill your hand completely
  • Olive oil to taste (usually 1-2 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice (optional)


  1. Crush garlic and put in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil and salt (to infuse the oil with the garlic). Start with about 1/4 of the head. If (like me) you don't have a garlic press or a microplane, I find you can chop garlic incredibly finely if you treat it like a very small onion. I'll post pics of my trick someday.
  2. You can peel the cucumber, although I think it's a waste of good fiber. Either way, cut the cuke in half and then take each half and quarter it lengthwise. De-seed with a spoon. I used to toss the gelatinous seed membranes into the tzatziki because I loved the taste of it, but it tends to make the final product water. So just eat them now. Go on. I'll wait.
  3. OK, so slice the de-seeded quarters lengthwise as thinly as possible, line them up in a bunch, and proceed to slice them crosswise, creating tiny, tiny cubes. Toss in with garlic and sprinkle a bit of salt to get the juices flowing.
  4. Take all the mint and chop it as finely as you can. Add to the bowl and mix, adding a bit of oil if necessary.
  5. Finally, add yogurt and mix. Add a bit of very good olive oil until the mixture gets a bit glossy and you can sort of taste the oil. Lemon juice as well if you like. Test for garlic levels. If it's not pungent enough, add more now.
  6. You can serve it immediately, but you'll get an uneven taste. It will be yogurt with flavourful bits of cucumber and spicy garlic, rather than a mix of all these flavours. Instead, I suggest storing overnight in the fridge and then serving.
  7. Finally a few warnings. Don't overthin the tzatziki! The chunks of cucumber will release a bit of fluid during the night (nocturnal emissions!), which will make things a bit more watery than you left them. Also, as the garlic flavour infuses the rest of the yogurt, the bite will be qualitatively stronger the next day. So be ready for a garlicky blast!

I have heard that you can prepare the cucumber by grating it, but I'm not fond of this method, since it requires you to then strain it, thus losing a lot of delicious cucumber water. If you are going to grate it, I suggest using thicker yogurt (and less of it) and not dumping the liquid.

lundi, février 05, 2007


Considering my usual rhythm of blog-posting, some of you may be puzzled by the recent pause in blogging, perhaps fearing me for dead. Fortunately (for me, at least) I'm still alive, although a bit busy. After a rather busy end of the week and weekend, Sunday (which was going to be my catch-up day) was interrupted by a persistent network outage at the residences, which put blogging out of the question. Anyway, I'll be catching up tonight and tomorrow, so keep checking back for new posts.

Thurs, Feb 1Done!
Fri, Feb 2Done!
Sat, Feb 3Done!
Sun, Feb 4Done!
Mon, Feb 5Done!

Know your Encapsulation!

This is, effectively, a continuation of what may well become a running thread in this blog: Luis discovers crap about IT arcana that took him all day to figure out. The most recent discovery, entitled Know your MTU!, was that there were physical problems with France Telecom's lines that were creating a great deal of packet loss; the solution was to reduce Maximum Transmission Units (MTUs) to reduce packet fragmentation.

This time around, it was encapsulation. One of our network routers--and the one that is usually the most stable--suddenly dropped off the grid at some point during the weekend and steadfastly refused to reconnect. When I plugged the output from the ADSL modem into my laptop and tried to make the PPPoE (PPP over Ethernet) connection, it still wouldn't connect. When I used (our ISP)'s low-speed phone modem connection, it connected perfectly (although painfully slowly). Clearly there wasn't a system-wide problem, because our other two routers were working fine. I got into the range of another router and looked online to check the status of our accounts with our ISP. Everything was in order, so there was no reason to suspect that the account had been cancelled. Finally, I spent a bit of time reading through reams of postings to the user's support forums. After reading what seemed like a million threads entitled "I can't !@#$ing connect!!!!1!" I finally noticed that one (seemingly knowledgeable) person was advising another member to set up his ADSL connection using PPPoA (PPP over ATM). Essentially, PPPoA uses a different form of encapsulation (i.e., how it formats packets and how it receives them) that offers slightly less overhead, and thus slightly better transmission rates--but at the risk of being a bit less flexible and reliable viz. PPPoE.

Aaaaaanyway. Aside from the PPPoA, the setup this guy was describing was identical to mine, so I hacked into the ADSL modem and set it to PPPoA. Bing! Everything was right back online. Unfortunately, the wireless router isn't able to do PPPoA, so I couldn't leave the ADSL modem on bridge-mode and concentrate the ADSL and WiFi management into one router. Instead, I re-set the ADSL modem in PPPoA mode, running a DHCP server in the subnet, and then set up the wireless router to take an IP address from the ADSL modem and split that into another DHCP subnet as Alas, it's a bit inefficient, in that our packets now have to pass through two internal subnets (and thus there's a lot of port translation going on).

That was pretty much my day. I slept in a bit as I wasn't feeling very well, dedicated most of my day to fixing this mess, and then went grocery shopping. I used some of the Keema Masala that I had kicking around for a fantastic ground beef curry with spicy jasmine rice, and then I made a version of my friend Erika's vinegar-and-oil beets, which are in fact a version of the amazing beets served at Lula Café in Chicago. Delicious! I'll be peeing purple for days, I'm sure.

dimanche, février 04, 2007

Le Bowl de Super XLI

Well, most of my day was pretty uneventful. I got up, threw on some clothes, and started at the gigantic pile of laundry that had been accumulating for weeks in my closet. It was a Sunday afternoon, so I was competing with a bunch of other students for 3 washers and dryers. There were harsh words, lies, subterfuge, and still-damp dryer loads.

Things got more fun in the evening, when I met up with DJ to go see the SuperBowl. Admittedly, I'm not a big sports fan (soccer being the exception, and even then it's a pretty superficial fandom), but I was intrigued by the notion of watching the SuperBowl in a Parisian bar and I was looking forward to some excellent commercials.

The game was to start at approx. 1h00 Paris time, so we headed out around 23h00 to grab a seat at the bar. We were heading to The Moose (apparently now called the Moosehead), which is a "Canadian" bar near Odéon. Alas, we misjudged the crowds and arrived to a bar that was already PACKED with bodies. After shuffling around and finding absolutely no seating, we grabbed a spot against a wall and in good view of a television screen, ordered our beers (20€ admission, but with 3 pints included) and waited for the game to start.

The opening ceremonies And I say this as a cheerfully gay man. When I mean gay, I don't mean "style-conscious cosmopolitan" gay, but "puffy poet's blouse with garish patterns" gay. The performance included cirque du soleil tumblers on swings, people running around with brightly-coloured hangliders in the shape of butterflies, and male cheerleaders wearing board shorts. Overall, the colour palette looked like it was taken from the opening credits of Saved By The Bell. Toward the end, there was a "Look! We're in Miami! So here's some brown people dancing all spicy!!" moment.

As the game proceeded (brief: Bears began with an amazing opening touchdown, then fell apart a few minutes later, but the Colts weren't exactly on their game, either), DJ and I wrestled to maintain our spot on against the wall, occasionally elbowing people around and (un)intentionally stepping on their toes. By halftime, people were beginning to filter out (particularly the French ones), but it wasn't until the last few minutes of the game that we succeeded in scoring a spot at the bar.

An odd highlight of the game was Prince's halftime performance. At the time, the sound on the TVs was about 1-2 seconds ahead of the video feed, so it was hard to judge the musical performance. Nonetheless, there was something amusing about seeing the queer-but-hetero Prince do his thing for a stadium full of football fans. In what was most certainly a reference to the Janet Jackson "nipplegate" of a couple of years ago, Prince did something with his guitar that was not entirely wholesome. See the 9 minute mark in the video below for an illustration:

One last comment: The video feed was from a British channel, rather than an American one, so I totally missed out on the usually very amusing SuperBowl commercials. Boo!