Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It's a funny old B'sphere

I always used to think that Dooce was a bit of a blogsnob because there was no comments box on her site. Now I know why. Talk about opening the floodgates: she's had over a 1200 comments in about 24 hours and the number still seems to be climbing. It would take a full working day to read all of them but from a cursory glance, I'd say that they're pretty good quality comments too. There's none of that sycophantic "I love your blog. You're so funny" stuff you see on some other famous blogs. Although the whole concept of famous and A-list is obviously relative: I doubt anyone is playing in the same league as Dooce. And she IS funny and I do looooove her blog (but not the photos of the dog, and not really the photos of the small person if I'm honest). Obviously readers want to interact with their blogheros, but on that sort of scale, it's not a conversation it can't be anything other than an enormous, unmanageable, sequential cacophony however civilised and reflective.

I suspect that a lot of people, like Dooce, would like to live entirely off blogging (I'd quite like to make a living entirely from reading blogs, the hours are better). Jason Kottke tried it for a year but is giving up, citing lack of traffic, and inability to build a "cult of personality". Do, I detect a little pique in his post on the subject? Any tension there should make for good small talk in his opening "conversation" with Heather Armstrong at the big Blog thing in Austin, Texas. My advice Jason? Get yourself a baby, buy a dog.

If I was contemplating a writing life based on cult of personality I think I'd go for a newspaper career — same reader expectations, same deadlines, but you don't have to pose for the camera.

And finally, you can blame Boing Boing for this. I'm not 100% sure what smartfilter is but just had to have the picture.

Ooops, apologies, I've just gone back and corrected six typos in that post. Note to self: don't write posts in bed anymore.

Thank God, a meme

Can't think of anything worth writing about unless you'd like to hear about departmental (emphasis on the mental) politics, a very bad Indian meal, or mesotherapy. So I'm grabbing this meme encountered at Badbadbadger's and I'm running with it. You can all fall out now.

I had to change the original instructions because I still can't do scoring out with Mac and Blogger. So here's my own system:
  • green for the ones I've read,
  • an asterix if I have them on my bookshelf (or in a box in the loft),
  • red for the ones I won't read,
  • italics for the ones I might read and
  • brackets around those I've never heard of.
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown *(I started this anbd thought it was drivel)
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger* (read it when I was 12. Favourite line at the time: "He was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat".)
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams*
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald*
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
(His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling (Read the first H.P., do not feel impelled to read the others. Will my children want this one read to them?)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (Borrowed it from the library and never got round to reading it)
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell* (Read it a school)
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller* (Does anyone still read this?)
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien (What was i reading when everyone else was reading this?)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (Loved it)
Lord of the Flies - William Golding (another "required reading" school book)
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (did I really read this or do I just think I read it?)
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (was given this as a present when it first came out. Didn't finish it for another five or six years)
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
(The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini) Never heard of it, but I like the title
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (I felt that there was something dishonest at the heart of this book. In my experience, dead people are dead.)
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown (puleeze)
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

(Neuromancer - William Gibson)
(Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson)
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley*
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis (missed out on this. I think my primary school teacher was reading us Biggles when everyone else was in this fantasy world.)
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides (Borrowed this one from the library too and didn't read it. There's a librarian with very good taste in English books at our local library or médiathèque as they like to call it.)
(Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell)
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
(Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman)
Atonement - Ian McEwan *(Liked this one except for the ending. Loved "Saturday")
(The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (started, couldn't finish)
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (Picked this one up in the library last Tuesday and wondered if perhaps I shouldn't borrow it. Maybe I will)
Dune - Frank Herbert (Sat through this at the cinema. Despite Sting's good looks, that was quite enough)

Who chose these book titles and why I wonder? It's a strange mixture.

Friday, February 24, 2006

What big feet you have!

Here are my brand new beautiful brown suede cowboy boots. Whadyathink? And more importantly, how much do you think I paid for them?
It's a pity you can't stroke their chocolatey, soft loveliness.
(I cannot believe I've just spent twenty minutes taking those photos and making them into a photo cloud. I have work to do! Lots of work to do! I must legitimise this waste of time with some sort of pseudo-pedagogical application.)

Suede boot 360 by picturecloud.com

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Week in the Basque Country

Just back from another trip to the Basque Country during our half-term break. We stayed in a big old farm house with lots an lots of friends. Apart from us and the florist and the landscape gardener and the neo-hoteliers and the dentist and the doctor and the teacher and the unionist and the school administrator, and the soon-to-be B&B landlady, the house was overun by a gaggle of excited children. During the day we hiked over hill and dale. Lunch was serrano ham and sheep's cheese. In the evening, magret was grilled in the massive hearth and much wine and hilarity flowed at a very long table.

For some reason most of my photographs seem to be of windows.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Talking the talk

I seem to remember seeing a TEFL-type job description somewhere — it may have been for lettori in Italy — that specified that all candidates must be fresh meat. Okay, that wasn't the actual expression that they used, it may have been something more like "linguistically and culturally fresh off the boat". Okay, it wasn't exactly that either, but you know what I mean, they didn't want anyone who'd been living abroad for any length of time and had gone more or less native. And I also seem to remember sucking air in through my teeth in exasperation. Poor people, did they really think that one could forget a language that quickly; become cut off from one's native culture that easily?
Well, no of course you can't, but you can very rapidly feel yourself slipping out of the loop of knowing what people at home are actually talking about (who is this Davina McCall?) and knowing what terms are actually acceptable. After all, when I first moved to France it was still perfectly all right to say someone was handicapped and coloured.
Even more importantly how can I tell which terms are cool.... or should that be hip? When my brother and I were teenagers, I remember my Mum asking us things like "So, is he going with her?" and we would dissolve in disdainful laughter. What a fool she was; didn't she know that you could only say "Is he going OUT with her"? For goodness sakes, wise up woman, we're in the late seventies, don't you know?
Well, I am that woman now. I'm middle-aged and I have the added disadvantage of living in a non-English -speaking country. I think I managed for a while to keep up but got stuck at the "I am so enjoying this..........not" stage which I no doubt picked up from a rerun of Friends.
There's only one consolation: my children probably won't know any better, just so long as I deprive them of any authentic English-language interaction with young native-speakers for the next ten years.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I seem to remember saying a while ago how great it would be if there was some way of centralising, collating and monitoring follow-up to the comments I had left littered across the blogosphere. coComment looks as if it might be that tool. It's an invitation-only beta at the moment but I ended up with two invites so if you'd like one, leave a comment.
(via pointblog.com)

UPDATE: It's gone

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Other things that went well this weekend

Via Lifehacker found an application called Senuti that copied all the music on my iPod onto my PowerBook. Something I'd been trying to do for ages.

Bought a wifi stick on Ebay which should (fingers crossed, fingers crossed) mean that the family Imac gets internet again without us forking out for an airport card.

Discovered that an older cousin who likes to play at being the teacher can keep young children amused for almost an entire weekend.

Got 7/10 playing this word game.

Made Wendy's Linguine and Leeks. Delicious.

Sold the crappiest Michel Sardou CD in the history of French musak and made enough euros to buy a bottle of Tariquet. Fair exchange.

Here we go, here we go, here we go...

Scotland 20 - France
I have suffered through countless painful France-Scotland matches in the past nine years, ever the good loser. Needless to say, I was out this afternoon and missed our moment of glory. Allez L'Ecosse!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The first hour

I’ve asked my class of student bloggers to post about a typical day in their lives and in a spirit of egalitarianism, I had intended to make my own contribution but it turned out to be excruciatingly boring. I’m going to inflict the first hour on you anyway.

The alarm invariably goes off at 7H10 and I invariably ignore it. I get up half an hour later and rush around making coffee and hot chocolate, showering, waking the children up, dragging them out of bed and into hastily selected clothes. I never know what to eat in the morning so I often leave the house with only a couple of cups of black coffee swilling around inside me. I stuff my PowerBook into my workbag.
We walk to nursery school. On a good day the children skip; on a bad day they demand to be carried, sometimes both of them at the same time. Today, Z told me he had had enough of working. I accompany them to their makeshift classrooms; the school is undergoing a prolonged facelift. Some of the other parents say “bonjour”, some don’t bother. I cheek kiss the few I know a bit better. The children slip into their daytime identities.
Then it’s off to the tram stop, unravelling my grubby i-Pod headphones as I go. I usually have time to listen to three or four tracks on the way in. Today, I only got one — an interminable Led Zep number. And this is where I get off.


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...