Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

Monday, August 26, 2013

Life after Facebook

I pulled out of Facebook a few years ago. Since then, I've never experienced any nasty withdrawal symptoms and my existence has remained very much the same as when I had an operational Facebook account. In that last phrase, the adjective "operational" is a slight exaggeration, because I never went to the trouble of building a so-called "wall", so nobody ever "liked" me, just as I refrained from ever "liking" any other addicts in the Facebook universe.

The celebrated French cartoonist Charb has kindly authorized me to reproduce one of his marvelous drawings:

— from an article by Patrick Pelloux in Charlie Hebdo (France)

So, life after Facebook is a reality. Maybe, since abandoning Facebook, I've been missing out on all kinds of communication pleasures. But, since I'm not aware of what I'm letting slip by, it doesn't seem to hurt me. Some people might say that my Antipodes blog is "worse" than a Facebook account, since I'm constantly exposing myself on all kinds of subjects, and I know that Google drops in regularly on my latest blog posts, to see what I've been talking about. The big difference is that I never set out to write stuff that will make me "liked". In fact, as you can see from certain comments, there are readers who hate my guts... but that's normal, and I don't get upset by run-of-the-mill criticism (which often says more about the individual writing the criticism than about me). In any case, I've nothing to hide, and I'm happy to be known publicly as the sort of fellow who might write a blog such as Antipodes. I'm not at all like Groucho Marx when he said: "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." Above all, I'm pleased to learn (through my Site Meter account) that dozens of my old blog posts get read every day... mainly by readers in the USA, the UK and Australia.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Paris tea business

These people certainly know how to market tea through the Internet.

Along with the four packets I ordered, they've sent me three samples of related products. The post-free delivery was rapid, and they included two attractive catalogues.

They have an excellent website. I notice that their orders are processed in a dull warehouse in a small street in the neighborhood where my daughter lives.

As for their headquarters, it's a typical wholesale boutique in the Marais neighborhood, not far from the place where I lived for some twenty years. So, the business is almost certainly run by a well-established Franco-Chinese family. In any case, they've got their act together perfectly.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Internet shopping

Towards the end of my blog post of 12 June 2011 entitled Basic beverages [display], I mentioned my discovery of a shop in Valence named Pivard that sells many varieties of high-quality coffee grains, roasted in their big factory on the southern outskirts of the city. Since then, I've often found myself driving all the way to Valence and back simply to purchase fresh coffee. Now, when I take into account the time it takes for such a trip, and its cost in terms of gasoline, I realize that this excursion to Valence is somewhat absurd. So, I decided to look into the possibility of purchasing high-quality coffee grains through the Internet. I soon discovered that this solution was perfectly feasible, and that the prices were similar to what I had been paying in the shop at Valence. Besides, since proximity (within France) was no longer an issue, I could choose the vendor who seemed to offer the most interesting range of products. I soon discovered that, in Strasbourg (Alsace), an ancient establishment named Reck proposes three varieties of Ethiopian Arabica for which I've acquired a taste: Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harrar.

Sure, it would be nicer if I were to drop in personally and buy my coffee grains at the old Reck shop in the Rue de la Mésange, five minutes away from the great cathedral of Strasbourg. But being able to purchase such products through the Internet is indeed a convenient luxury.

I've always been fascinated by the atmosphere and aromas of ancient shops that sell tea and coffee. Thanks to my KitchenAid burr grinder, I can reproduce at least the aroma of freshly-ground coffee in my kitchen at Gamone. And the true pleasure, of course, is in the drinking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Language example

Often, when I notice that such-and-such an old blog post in the archives of Antipodes seems to receive numerous visits, I'm tempted to explore the reasons for its apparent popularity. For example, over three years ago, I wrote a rambling article entitled Professional bias [display], and I now discover that it is accessed quite frequently. Here's why:

[Click to enlarge slightly]

Click here to visit the website in question. is an online encyclopedia, thesaurus and dictionary. Click here to visit a Wikipedia description of this service.

Friday, September 16, 2011

No problems

It's easy if you try.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Online clothes

For the first time ever, I've just purchased clothes on the Internet. It wasn't such a big deal: just a few quite ordinary T-shirts, some of them black, and the others white. And not particularly expensive.

It might be thought of as a small step for the blogger in front of his Macintosh, but it'll be a huge step for William parading through the village streets wearing sexy T-shirt gear purchased online through La Redoute. If ever I were to obtain any breathtaking visual scoops on this affair, I would of course let you know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I've just purchased a fabulous new TopStar swivel chair, made in Germany, for my computer desk. It's a genuine Porsche. I'll have to get used to wearing a crash helmet when I'm blogging.

[Click the image to download the TopStar video on office chairs.]

In a recent e-mail to my Australian expatriate friend Badger in Austria [blog], I informed him that the presence of this new chair in front of the sturdy walnut-and-steel-framed home-designed desk on which my Macintosh resides is likely to bring about spectacular increases in my personal creativity. I told him, too, that my creativity will be enhanced still further by my acquisition of powerful new computer-screen reading glasses of the celebrated Essilor brand, set into my lovely old gold rims.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In front of what?

Friends see that I follow current affairs on the web (including events in my native land). Then they hear me raving on about my blogging, my Internet-assisted genealogical research, my use of word processing for creative writing and, now, my intense involvement with the complex domain of Macintosh and iPad programming. Inevitably, they pop the obvious question: How many hours a day do you spend in front of your computer screen? This question annoys me, because I can see their brains ticking over and getting ready to subtract my answer from 24, obtaining X, enabling them to conclude: This poor guy only lives in the real world for X short hours a day!

Their question is indeed poorly worded. No doubt poorly conceived. A more significant question would be: How many hours a day do you spend in front of your brain, your reflexions, your intelligence, your background, your culture, your identity, your ambitions, your creative activities, your intellectual projects, your passions, your destiny, etc…? And my answer would be something in the vicinity of 17 to 18. In other words, I have little spare time to waste, to be bored.

Back in Paris, when I worked as a technical writer in the high-powered ILOG software company (now a part of IBM), my fellow-workers used to laugh about a cleaning lady who, before dusting down a computer screen, would always say to the user, politely: "Excuse me, give me half a minute to clean your telly." Her use of the term "telly" gave us the impression that she looked upon our group of ILOG software engineers (who often worked late into the evening) as a joyous throng of guys and gals who seemed to be paid to spend hours on end watching mysterious TV shows, in languages that they alone could comprehend. Well, she wasn't really wrong. Except that purists would have pointed out that our screens didn't capture and display the heavenly signals designated as TV, but something a little different, emanating from within our "tellies". We were watching and appreciating shows that we ourselves had just produced. But none of us had the courage (nor the desire, for that matter) to attempt to explain that situation to the cleaning lady.

In a similar sense, I wonder if there's any point in trying to explain to friends, today, that the vast time I seem to spend sitting in front of a computer screen is not simply "time spent sitting in front of a computer screen". It's much more than that. As I suggested earlier on, I'm seated, for much of the time, in front of… myself! Introspection, maybe, or even narcissism. I would speak rather of computer-assisted cogitations or meditation. Much more, in any case, than dumb screen-watching.

To my mind, in terms of wasting time, there are worse things than a computer screen to be seated in front of. For example, the steering wheel of an automobile. Or fellow passengers in public transport (trains, buses, trams, etc). Sitting in front of a TV screen in certain English-speaking societies (which I hardly need to name), or their media in general, can be a most effective way of plowing mindlessly through time. Personally, I would not willingly swap the least amount of computer screen-watching for, say, time spent waiting to be served in a dull restaurant offering poor-quality food. But the deal would be off, of course, if I happened to be dining on a warm evening, say, in Arles with a dear Provençal friend [display]. It's not so much a question of where you're sitting, but rather a matter of the quality of the entity in front of which you're seated!

I don't deny that spending hours in front of a computer screen might, in certain circumstances, be thought of as a waste of time. (But who am I to judge?) Maybe that's why I detest all kinds of games (including bridge evenings with suburban neighbors… who don't exist here, fortunately, at Choranche). On my Macintosh, there has never been anything that looks remotely like a video game. I hate all that fake stuff. On the other hand, it's fact that I can "waste" precious time gazing up at the Cournouze, or down into the eyes of my dogs. As I said, it's not so much where you decide to sit down, but rather what you want to watch. And I would be a liar if I were to suggest that I don't like spending a lot of time watching what gives on the screen of my faithful Macintosh. I hasten to add that I'm also very fond of my splendid TV screen, and vaguely concerned (when it's absolutely necessary, which is rare) by the relatively insipid screens of my iPad and iPhone.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First snow for Gamone newcomers

I've had an outage of the Internet and my house telephone for the last couple of days. Funnily, I don't think this breakdown had anything to do with the violent winter weather that hit us at the same time. It's more likely due to a mishap brought about by the armada of earth-moving engines that are working nonstop, down on the road below Gamone, installing a new sewage system for the entire district. These huge renovations (which will prevent us from driving through the main street of Pont-en-Royans for another month) don't concern me personally, because my house was renovated according to the new sanitation legislation in vigor in 1993, and I have an excellent ecological system of sewage disposal—inspected annually by the competent authorities— installed underground on the slopes below my house.

Meanwhile, Fitzroy has had his first in-depth contact with snow… and he loves it.

That's to say, he sees it as a marvelous soft support for his never-ending jousts with Sophia.

The little donkey Fanette has also experienced, for the first time, the slight discomfort brought about by the disappearance of the greenery (grass and weeds) under a 25cm-thick blanket of snow.

I prefer to speak of "slight discomfort" rather than of hunger, because the two donkeys are obscenely fat, after dining regularly on apples and walnuts over the last month or so.

As for the mésanges (wild birds, known in English as tits, which spend the winter months at Gamone), they've been happy to discover a big stock of sunflower seeds in the bird-house, and they swarm around it as a throng of a couple of dozen tiny black-and-gold creatures.

As of this morning, the sun is shining, the snow is melting, the road has been cleared by Frédéric Bourne in his tractor equipped with a giant steel blade… and my Internet is up and running. All is well at Gamone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Most boring day of the year

For the second year, the French web daily Rue89 has launched the concept of the Most Boring Day of the Year. It falls in the first fortnight of August, when many French people are on summer holidays, and the flow of interesting news events drops almost to zero. The exact date varies slightly each year, for technical reasons. This year, it happens to fall on August 11: today. And, since the early hours of the morning, observers have been astounded to discover that today is indeed an exceptionally boring day in France.

This morning, the media dullness got off to a good start with a perfectly boring video showing the French president Nicolas Sarkozy riding his bike down on the Rivera, and halting briefly to savor a dish of frittered courgettes (zucchini) at a roadside tavern… where a TV crew just happened to be ready to shoot the event.

The instigators of the Most Boring Day of the Year phenomenon were thrilled to find that their media colleagues on the other side of the English Channel apparently shared their enthusiasm for dull news by publishing a perfectly boring front-page story with a photo of the unshaven president and his wife.

For the moment, everything's going fine in France. All the news stories of the day (which I don't intend to summarize) have turned out to be incredibly boring. With a bit of chance, unless a major catastrophe occurs in the next few hours, the day will be a total success.

Naturally, I've been wondering whether this special day could be celebrated simultaneously, in the same exciting fashion, in the Antipodes. A rapid perusal of today's Australian press reassures me that it was a remarkably dull day Down Under. A splendid example was a story about a football player who got mixed up in drug abuse. A dull 30-second video trailer on this subject is said to be "sending shockwaves across the country". Another great front-page news item reveals that a white van hit a woman in Melbourne, injuring her seriously, but failed to stop. Then we were invited to enjoy another boring item of news: a fine specimen of Australian reporting about hugely wealthy individuals and their pricey possessions. We have here, on the front page of today's web edition of The Australian, a photo (accompanied by an article) of a flamboyant 10-bedroom house near Brisbane that can be purchased for just over 8 million dollars:

Now, the trouble with labeling a particular date "the most boring day of the year" is that the day in question immediately becomes interesting, precisely because it's claimed to be exceptionally boring. In the case of the lucky individual who saw that photo and immediately grabbed his checkbook to purchase that house, the 11 August 2010 will surely go down in his personal history as a tremendously significant date. And I would not be surprised if he were to get around to inviting all his friends along to the house for a poolside barbecue, every 11th August, to celebrate this most happy event.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New computing, new Internet

Clearly, the birth of the Apple iPad (which arrived recently in France) has shaken up considerably the world of personal computing. And I've been attempting arduously to pick up the threads (which explains incidentally why I've been spending less time contributing to Antipodes). In this context, I've decided to create a new website based upon the "promised land" of HTML5. For want of a more informative technical title, I call my website Gamone. You should be able to access it using modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Chrome (but not necessarily Internet Explorer):

I shall be happy to receive feedback concerning your reception of this website. Meanwhile, I promise you that, with time, it will become less skeletal, more meaty and hopefully more interesting.

POST SCRIPTUM: I knew, right from the start of this project, that I would run into problems when attempting to mix English and French (because of accented letters). For the moment, I'm aware of this obstacle, which mars my website, but I hope to overcome it rapidly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Enemies of the Internet

[Click the banner to access their website.]

The highly-reputed French association named Reporters Without Borders describes itself as follows:

Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches (in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland), its offices in New York, Tokyo and Washington, and the more than 120 correspondents it has in other countries. The organisation also works closely with local and regional press freedom groups that are members of the Reporters Without Borders Network, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma, Colombia, Democratic Congo, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Somalia, the United States and Tunisia.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations.

In 2005, the organisation won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Today, March 12, happens to be their World Day Against Cyber Censorship.

[Click the poster to access their description of this event.]

The association has just published a report entitled Enemies of the Internet. Here's a paragraph that mentions Australia:

Among the countries “under surveillance” are several democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting self-censorship.

Browsing through the complete report (available on their website), we're obliged to admit that Australia is not exactly in nice company: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

BREAKING NEWS: The story about so-called "enemies of the Internet" has been reproduced widely in the French press, accompanied by the following map:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Things to see in St-Marcellin

If ever you imagined that the only thing to be seen at St-Marcellin is their famous cheese, then the information I'm about to reveal will surely surprise you. First, there's an exotic intersection in the middle of the town.

There wasn't much light, and my photo is not very good. Besides, I was making an effort to avoid being run over by vehicles on the busy road where I was standing to take the photo. In the foreground, on a landscaped island at the center of the intersection, you can just make out the presence of a makeshift sun-shelter, erected with wooden poles, with a straw roof. Beneath it, there's an elegant wicker garden chair. If you didn't mind the busy traffic, you could sit there in the cool shade and contemplate the flowers and the shrub planted by council gardeners.

The façade behind the oasis is interesting. The owner of a flat on an upper floor has stuck her collection of toy animals out in the cool air, giving them an opportunity to gaze down upon the oasis and the road traffic. Here are closeup views:

The first time I discovered this balcony zoo, a month or so ago, there was a huge felt gorilla in the left-hand group, but he probably got blown away in a recent tempest and crushed by a truck.

The black and white cow in the right-hand window reminds me of a trivial anecdote yesterday at the local supermarket. A little girl, jumping around alongside her mother, was carrying a huge gray felt cow in her arms. At the place where you weigh your fruit and vegetables, the child had decided to place her animal upside-down on the scales, and she pressed randomly on a button that informed her immediately of the weight of her cow, and the animal's price if it had been a bag of tomatoes. Seeing me waiting for the scales, the child glanced up at me with a cheeky grin, as if to say: "Why shouldn't I weigh my cow?" I said to her, in a serious tone of voice: "Give me a carton of milk and a kilo of beef, please." The puzzled expression on the little girl's face suggested that she was analyzing my request. Her mother, on the other hand, must have thought it was a great joke, for she burst out laughing.

Back in the domain of sights to see at St-Marcellin, there's an affair that has amused me for ages. You can well imagine a businessman with a fleet of utility vehicles who decides to publicize his activities through an Internet website. Well, in St-Marcellin, there's a young entrepreneur who's handling his affairs the other way round. He has built an Internet site, designed to display small ads, and he uses his fleet of stationary vehicles to publicize his website.

When I say "fleet", I'm exaggerating a little, since he only seems to have a pair of little yellow vans, which are parked constantly at strategic spots in the town.

The fellow often turns up at the weekly market in St-Marcellin, where he has a small stand that publicizes his website... which is rather dull. [Click the photos to visit it.] He even has a scrapbook with photos of pages in his website.

Long ago, somebody asked me: "William, we want to sell our house through the Internet. Do they have a phone number, or maybe an office in the city? How much do they charge, roughly, for a house-for-sale ad?" Readers will have understood that, in this person's questions, her use of the word "they" represented the staff of the mythical company that owns and operates the Internet. At the time, I wasn't quite sure how to reply. Today, if she were to ask me the same questions, I would tell her that the ideal way of moving into the vast new Internet world is to go along to the St-Marcellin market on a Saturday morning and browse through the scrapbook of the fellow with the two yellow vans.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New dimension of news

Keenly-awaited revelations are being made at present (which means right now) by 82-year-old Charles Pasqua, former French minister of the Interior under both Jacques Chirac and François Mitterrand. A few days ago, Pasqua was condemned to a year's jail for his role in the sale of arms to Angola.

While writing, I'm tuned in to the website of the Le Monde newspaper which is providing me with a live textual transcription—minute by minute, almost sentence by sentence, accompanied by short comments from journalists—of Pasqua's press conference. The latest time indicated on the website clock is a mere minute less than the time displayed by my Macintosh, which means that I'm truly obtaining live information. And every time that the website is displaying a textual update, it warns me by producing a weird woodpecker noise. In other words, I'm obtaining a textual account of the Pasqua press conference in real time. It's certainly an impressive Internet achievement. This sort of technology would be fabulous if the entire planet were awaiting the words of a prophet or a savior... but it's surely a little too overkill in the case of the lukewarm revelations promised by Pasqua.

At the instant I'm writing (15 h 55), somebody has just asked Pasqua whether Sarkozy was aware of these illegal arms transactions. Good question. Alas, Pasqua's reply is hardly world-shaking.

As you can see from my words, I'm not yet totally convinced that naive observers such as myself can benefit greatly from this kind of super-live Internet display of press conferences. But I might very well end up changing my opinions on that question. So, be patient. After all, don't forget that you're listening to me live! I need time to reflect...

BREAKING NEWS: I'm amazed to realize that I've already published a blog article on Pasqua's press conference before it's even finished! It's 5 minutes past 4 o'clock, and a journalist has just described Pasqua's revelations as a damp firecracker. I won't be offended if anybody uses similar criticism for the present blog.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Obnoxious Jap

Back on 10 July 2009, I published an article entitled Winning or losing concerning Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France.

[Click the photo to display the blog article.]

For reasons I don't understand, this inoffensive article has been polluted by regular "comments" from an obnoxious Jap whose link leads back to a vulgar porn website. When I say "vulgar", I mean that the home page of this guy's website has even less erotic appeal than a crude manga image. Pure dull shit.

I was hoping naively that this pest would simply disappear... but he's still there. So, I've finally got around to indicating his presence to the Blogger forum, to see if somebody can tell me how to eliminate this obnoxious intruder. What I really need to find, I guess, is a link to an attractive website containing incitations to commit hara-kiri.

BREAKING NEWS: For problem-solving, the Blogger forum is most efficient. A wizard-level contributor named nitecruzr has kindly told me how to react, by means of a sort of Hiroshima button (which I simply hadn't noticed up until he pointed out its presence to me). Normally, all the Japanese comments have disappeared forever, along with the evening rays of the imperial sun. But I wouldn't be surprised if the pest reappears in future unexpected kamikaze attacks on my Antipodes. At least I know now how to gun him down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Communications infrastructure

We often tend to imagine that a technology such as the Internet simply arrives magically in our homes like water in the kitchen sink, or electricity, or TV. In fact, in rural areas, the installation of a high-performance Internet infrastructure is a major task.

For the last few days, road traffic between Pont-en-Royans and the neighboring village of Saint-Jean-en-Royans has been interrupted at Sainte-Eulalie-en-Royans because of improvements to the local Internet system. This road sign announces proudly that regional authorities are building a network in the Ardèche and Drôme départements to handle data flows described as "high-volume and very high-volume". I love their "very" (which is like the Super in Superman). It sounds great, but I'm not sure what it actually means. It's a little like the true clocked speed of Speedy Gonzales.

The photo is amusing in that the building on the left has a barely-readable old sign on the outside wall indicating that it was once the local railway station, many decades ago, for a tiny steam train (often referred to as a tram) that ran between Pont-en-Royans and Romans (in the Drôme).

[Click the image for a larger photo.]

The telecom boutique of my ISP [Internet service provider], Orange, is located in the former terminal city of the little train. So, I like to think that the soul of the lovely little train [What? You didn't know that trains have souls?] has been reincarnated in my Internet connection. Meanwhile, instead of fixing up railway lines, workers are busy at Sainte-Eulalie installing cables for the Internet network.

Don't let this photo mislead you into thinking that all the trenches are being dug manually. If I understand correctly, they only call upon human diggers when the Internet cables are located in the vicinity of existing infrastructural elements such as power lines, water ducts or sewage pipes. The rest of the time, most of the digging and cable laying is done by the following remarkable beast, whose powerful teeth (like those of a mythical prehistoric rodent such as a giant rat) could convert your front garden into a cable network in less time than it takes to down a hamburger and consult your emails at MacDonald's.

The latest models of mini-shovels are acquiring the look and feel of sports cars. [My blog friend Paul might not agree with me on that question.] The guys drive them as if they were powerful toys.

All these land-moving operations are directed from a civil-engineering base camp at the foot of the mountains.

The place where I took these photos this morning is about a minute, by automobile, from Pont-en-Royans. The antiquated steam tram took a quarter of an hour to make the journey from the bridge over the Cholet (seen in the earlier photo) to the terminus at Pont-en-Royans. As for the Internet, these words and pictures will be reaching the Antipodes, after I publish them on my blog, within a few seconds.

This Internet-oriented blog article is dedicated to the soul of the dear departed old train between Pont-en-Royans and Romans, whose rusty remains repose today, anonymously, no doubt, in some kind of graveyard for mechanical puffing elephants. If only I knew its address, I would love to send it an email. But do dead trains read their email?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cheap website

These days, if leaders of political movements want to influence people, their Internet presence must be impeccable. Here's the web page of Ségolène Royal, which hit the world yesterday:

The thick black frame around the video is not particularly aesthetic, and the presentation of a dozen buttons is boring. Furthermore, this allegedly professional website is based visually upon a free Microsoft background image:

It's the sort of basic website that could have been assembled by an average schoolkid. A single adjective springs into the minds of connoisseurs: cheap. Is Ségolène Royal no longer in contact with talented photographers, web designers and media experts? Today, would-be leaders can no longer get away with cheap stuff like this. There are simply too many brights kids around. And they're going to vote for tomorrow's leaders.

BREAKING NEWS: The website's getting worse. Yesterday, we saw a typical specimen of amateur web creativity at a junior college level. Today, we're informed by a big banner that the creation of Ségolène's website will be a "participative" affair, with various Socialist Party committees throughout France taking turns in contributing various backgrounds. This morning, to start the ball rolling, they've moved down to an infants' school level.

[Click the image to see what happens.
Maybe the website has been hacked, and this is a hoax.]

If this process continues, Ségolène will soon be demonstrating that even a year-old baby can participate in the creation of a website. Maybe, for background: a dirty diaper.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Smooth and rapid change

My recent change of ISP [Internet service provider] from Free to Orange has been an amazingly smooth and rapid operation.

In the context of France Telecom, I'm therefore surprised and saddened by front-page news stories about the high incidence of suicides, due to work stress, among their technical employees. Since February 2008, there have been 21 cases of suicide in France Telecom inside France... which is a truly huge figure. The latest case, a week ago, involved a 53-year-old technician at the research and development center in Lannion, Brittany.

I might be accused of disrespect if I were to say that there's an ISP whose technical employees are not likely to commit suicide through excessive work stress. This morning, 7 September, the postwoman brought me a letter from Free dated 21 August in an envelope with a postmark of 24 August, acknowledging the reception of my fax of 17 August in which I complained bitterly about the discontinuation of my phone and Internet since 3 August. This morning's obsolete letter asks me to be patient...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good timing for bad communications

August is an unusual month in France, because one has the impression that half the nation is on vacation. Paris, in particular, closes down to a large extent, or at least quietens down considerably (from a traffic viewpoint), and certain residents prefer to remain there in August to appreciate calmly various aspects of the capital. The rue Rambuteau, where we lived for ages, used to take on a village atmosphere in August. You could sit down at a sidewalk table at the corner café, without being swarmed by pedestrians, and read the newspaper. Obviously, what I've just said does not apply to touristic quarters of Paris such as the Champs-Elysées, the Eiffel Tower and the Latin Quarter.

So, you might say that my Internet connection chose the ideal time to break down... when most people are outside in the sunny weather, rather than seated in front of their computer screens. Incidentally, in McDonald places, I've got accustomed to choosing a table in a corner where the sunlight doesn't affect the readability of the MacBook screen. I've also realized that, to avoid dirtying my nice little machine, it's preferable to stick to stuff such as ice cream and Coke, rather than McDonald's greasy products. For health reasons, too, this was no doubt a wise decision.

It's not impossible that many of the technical employees at Free (my Internet service provider) were on vacation at the moment that my connection went down. In any case, over the last three weeks, no Free technician ever phoned me up (on my iPhone), let alone came here to see what might be broken. Fortunately, yesterday, Free accepted immediately my request to end my contract. In my letter, I didn't even have to get around to using nasty words to describe their faulty service. So, in a few days, I'll have a new telephone and Internet service, provided by the state-operated Orange company, along with a new email address (which I do not know yet). I'll even have a new phone number:

04 76 64 18 32 (inside France) or
33 4 76 64 18 32 (from another country)

As before, I'll be able to phone free to most countries in the world (including, of course, Australia).

[Click the above banner to mail me.]

Here's a photo of my recently-acquired set of McDonald Coke glasses, to which I'm still adding new specimens:

This precious collection will be a personal souvenir of the events of August 2009. Meanwhile, I'll wait until my new Internet connection is operational before describing in detail the genealogical jackpot that hit me, when I was least expecting it, on the eve of my Internet collapse. In a nutshell, I've just discovered precisely that my 27-times-great-grandfather from France, named William, invaded England in 1066... exactly nine centuries before the birth of my French daughter. The connection (I'm talking of genealogy, not the Internet) has nothing to do with ancestors named Skyvington, but exists through my paternal grandmother, Kathleen Pickering, who grew up on a bush property in Australia. Her brother was a World War I hero who, through his sporting and military prowess, was nicknamed King. My father, born at the time "King" Pickering returned from the Western Front, then received his heroic uncle's nickname (to my mind, a silly choice) as his own official given name. My dear father could not know that, among his distant ancestors, there were no less than four genuine kings of England, including the monarch who signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.