Archive for February, 2005

Jesus H. Christ

In what could be the most offensive email I’ve gotten ever, my well meaning and apparently addled father forwarded me “God Protects His Own.” It is just a short inspirational message about Meulaboh, Indonesia where the nasty Muslims wouldn’t let the peaceable Christians celebrate the birth of their Savior. So the day after Noel they had to all leave town to a nearby mountain to open their presents and whatnot. While they were gone God showed those meanie Muslims what-for and drowned the whole lot of them with a tsunami. Praise Jesus!


Does this really make someone feel good? To believe that God is a viscious son of a bitch? How the hell do you hear about hundreds of thousands of people drowning and the subsequent destruction and think, “Go Jesus!” That’s just fucked up. I just wish people were better at keeping in mind the humanity of humanity. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget when the other party lives halfway around the world or when they’re stupid bigoted mother-fuckers.

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Role Model

As I mentioned in the previous entry I decided to head to the gym. It was an impromptu decision and so I didn’t have my clothes. I wasn’t planning on doing anything too strenuous, so I just took off the button-down shirt I had on and was doing some light lifting in my wife beater and khakis.

As I was sitting down to do the bench the gym’s trainer came up to me. Marc has told me that he’s come up to him before and told him that his form was bad or whatever. I figured that I was going to get a tip of some sort. I do drop my wrists back on bench if I’m not watching and I thought maybe he was going to tell me that.

It turns out that he wanted to tell me I wasn’t supposed to work out in khakis. He said that it was bad for the gym if I was wearing khakis. I was a bit confused by this. I can understand why it is a bad idea for me to dirty my nice pants on grubby gym equipment, but as to why the gym should care I couldn’t figure. Well, I hadn’t taken into account my weight as a trend setter. He told me that if I woke my pants to work out in pretty soon everyone would be.

I must admit, I like myself in a tank top and khakis. It is actually my club outfit sometimes. Perhaps I should be more cautious with my sexiness. ☺ At the very least, I, as an American, do carry a certain weight. Cool comes from America for Mauritania because that’s where the music and movies come from. I don’t really believe that anyone would start wearing khakis because of me, but it did convey a certain sense of efficacy to have someone caution me about leading others astray with my coolness.

Not that I didn’t argue with the guy. I have become quite obnoxious. Back in the States I was obnoxious, but I wasn’t confrontational. If someone said something to me I thought was dumb I’d do it and then sulk to my friends. Now, I just bicker with them. Unfortunately, my sarcastic and questioning tones are pretty much identical in French. So when I come out with “you think that if I wear pants everyone is going to do the same thing?” instead of the intended “what is your malfunction?” I convey “huh? I don’t understand the words coming out of your mouth.” It is probably better that way since I think people would be pissed if they realized how rude I am trying to be.

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Des Expériences de Pic

I am most frequently a computer geek, but unfortunately my geekery is not bounded there. Developmental psychology and analyzing the fuck out of things is also a habit of mine. I try and keep it contained, but sometimes after big events, like this last week, I just get me too worked up and it comes busting out.

I’m sorry. I try and be cool and disaffected. I’ve just got a thinking problem. I’m stepping up my already heavy regiment of intoxicants in hope of taking care of it. There’s still a few persnickety brain cells holding out, so until I finish them off, just ignore these lapses.

Read the rest of this entry »

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This last week has been one full of firsts. I’m in a bit of a rush and can’t really cover the WAIST right now, so I’ll do a quickie…

As best I can remember, I’ve never gotten burned for being too trusting. At least up until about a day ago. I came limping into town after an exhausting week and as I was getting off the taxi one of the guys who I rode in with told me he needed to call his brother and have him come pick him up. He asked if he could borrow my phone and I said “sure.” Then I turned around to put down my backpack and he ran off with my phone.


I’m not really that upset about it. It is just really irritating being cut off from everyone. I figure I learned to keep a closer eye on my phone in the future. I’m not beating myself up over it though. I like being trusting. It is sort of like everyone is my friend, I just don’t know them all that well yet. If I had to give that up to get my phone back; no deal.

So anyhow, lesson learned. This really is the first time I can think of that someone has taken advantage of me being trusting. Certainly people have tried, but I’m not a complete idiot. This is just the first time someone has asked for my help and when I gave it to them essentially betrayed it.

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Un Flou

Happy Late Valentine’s Day! Mine was pretty entertaining. The bits I remember at least. The day was pretty normal; I went to the uni and put together a presentation on basic computer repair. Then I came to the bureau and presented it to the new SED kids. It was pretty boring for all parties involved, but if you’re not a big geek it is hard to get really enthralled by someone discussing computer repair.

The evening really started with the hash run. They are always pretty entertaining, and this one especially so because we there are a lot of people in town for ETR. There was a cap of 20 volunteers allowed to run. Unfortunately some of our best partiers were unable to participate, but we had a good showing none the less.

Hashers are described as “drinkers with a slight running problem.” For this reason the night is something of a blur. Highlights that I remember:

  • Me and the Brits smoking most everyone else running. We kept having to slow down and let the rest of the group catch up
  • Drinking shots of some strange shudder inducing German concoction consisting of peppermint schnapps and whipped cream
  • Seeing about eight people attempting to play Twister
  • The writhing mess that results from a bucket of ice being dumped on a crowded Twister board
  • Most everyone losing their shirts
  • Drinking lots and lots of beer
  • Getting whipped cream licked off my chest by some pretty girls
  • Getting whipped cream licked off me by a less pretty boy
  • Eating quite a bit of whipped cream
  • Lots and lots of political career ending pictures being taken of everyone
  • Dancing, dancing and more dancing
  • Trying to smoke a cigarette and still not being terribly entertained by it
  • Accidentally leaving my cigarette on Marc’s phone and melting a hole in it
  • Sending lascivious SMS messages in French to girls two thirds my age
  • Wandering out the Nouakchott’s own VIP
  • Drunken swing dancing to techno rave music
  • Being very very dizzy
  • Buying a 2000um Heineken that was the one beer too many
  • Collapsing with my head in a friend’s lap
  • Wandering home at around midnight (the drinking started at 7) “shithammered” as they say
  • Deciding I wanted a sandwich and going with Kari to find one
  • Falling asleep standing at the sandwich counter
  • Waking up with everyone in the shop looking at me since apparently they’d finished the sandwiches some time before and had to wait for me to come back around
  • Kari and I managing to have between us enough coordination to make it to my place
  • Trying to have a conversation with Molly and M, but mostly just shouting incomprehensible French
  • Passing out on the couch and eventually getting carried to bed
  • Waking up next to Kari and even though we’d not done anything finding it entertaining to wake up unexpectedly next to a pretty girl
  • Wandering out at 10ish the next morning and finding myself still drunk
  • Noticing that someone wrote cryptic French phrases all over my arms
  • Noticing that my shirt was covered in blue
  • Noticing that was because there were blue wings drawn on my back along with the phrase “Je suis un ange sauf ici” and a little devil tail poking out of my pants

An entertaining weekend and good preparation for WAIST. I’ve really got to work on my pacing though. I trashed myself at New Years and last night I was out by midnight. I’ve got to slow it down enough so I don’t fall in the apples, quoi.

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It is just bad programming to do this sort of thing. I’m kinda proud I got it to work though. ☺

    @echo '<stylesheet version="1.0" 
             <import href="volunteers-html.xslt"/> 
             <output method="text"/> 
             <template match="vol:volunteers"> 
               <for-each select="$$population[not(@status)]//cil:EmailAddress"> 
                 <call-template name="EmailAddress"> 
                   <with-param name="output" value="text"/> 
           </stylesheet>' | xsltproc --xinclude - volunteers.xml

This takes another stylesheet and calls into it to generate a list of all the email addresses.

In other news, if you are sitting on a box with a SMTP server, try this:


It’ll connect back to your box and try and relay through it. If you’d like to do it yourself, try this:

telnet localhost 25
helo localhost
mail from: <>
rcpt to: <>

Your relay is open if you get:

250 2.1.5 <>... Recipient ok

Relays are frequently open to connections from localhost, so it doesn’t really count unless you do it from somewhere else. You get the idea though…

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I had a good run over to the gym today. A car of teenagers pulled up next to me hollering shit at me. I managed to pick out a “suck my dick” out of the lot of it. Why is this good? Because I managed to get my response off before they were out of earshot.

As they were pulling off I flipped them off and managed to get out a collection of responses, “fuck you,” “va te faire foutre” (“go fuck yourself”) and “gasamarak” (“may God shorten your life”), before they got away. They pulled off the road a bit ahead of me. I kept running toward them and was gesturing for them to get out of their car and bring it. They rolled up their windows and pulled away when I got near them.

It sounds sort of serious, but it wasn’t really. For one, they were Bilani teenagers. I outweighed the biggest one of them by probably 30 kilos. The standard of attractiveness is really thin for the guys and really chubby for the girls. There are a couple Maures who work out at the gym, maybe 2 or 3. It is mostly Black Africans, a few Moroccans and Libyans, and some French and us Americans. If it had come down to it, I could have probably held my own against two or three of them. It never would though. Maybe at night, but not in the middle of the day. Physical violence just isn’t condoned. It would be like a fist fight breaking out in a fancy restaurant; it could happen, but it just won’t.

They drove away from me and then pulled back and rolled down their windows and asked if I was English. I said I spoke English (I am still jogging at the point and wasn’t going to get into semantics) and they said they were sorry. I thought that was interesting. Then they drove on. I headed on to the gym feeling proud for having remembered to curse back before the other party was too far away.

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Well, I went and watched it last night. It was nothing remarkable. Because we are five hours off Eastern Time it didn’t start until nearly midnight. To fill the intervening time we cooked and cooked and cooked. Then I ate and ate and ate. It was wondrous; chocolate chip cookies, salsa, tortilla chips, maffé, rice pudding, three different cakes, bissap wine… By the time the game actually started I could hardly keep my eyes open.

It didn’t matter all that much. I didn’t care about either of the yankee teams playing and because the game was playing on the Armed Forces Network all the commercials were replaced with little Army infomercials. I managed to stay awake through it and got my football fix for the next year. In watching it I’m sort of sad I didn’t see it the year the Titans played and I might have actually cared.

After the game, the pilot for American Dad came on. That was pretty entertaining. Nothing terribly original, but good for some laughs. When I finally made it home at around 6am, I slept till time to go to the gym at 6pm. Other than the guy who kept calling me to complaining that I ought to come teach his class since his teacher hadn’t shown up (which I disagree on), a very relaxing day.

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Fit Quoi

You might remember, long ago I wrote about Lenten disciplines. Well, Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday so Lent is going to start. I am really not looking forward to this. Last year at this time I was all full of piss and vinegar; ready to grab the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in my pocket. Now I’m older and wiser (or maybe just lazier). The idea of not talking for forty days depresses me.

For reference, I didn’t speak English during Lent last year. Since I don’t really speak any other languages other than English, I spent pretty much 40 days in silence. It was really good for my French though and I really think it would be a good idea to do again. In the last couple days I’ve been seeing how my vocabulary is getting reasonably good, but my accent is horrible. It is almost completely because I spend lots of time listening in French, but not much talking.

I’m going to temper it this year because I’ve been feeling kinda lonely and depressed in the last couple months. I think spending no time at all talking for the next two months would drive me crazy. So, I’ve modified my schedule a bit:

  • Sunday • This is Catholic Lent, I get Sundays off. I’m not Catholic, but I’m not Christian either, so no use splitting hairs
  • Monday – Thursday • No English. This leaves French as my second best option. That or hiding in my bed and not talking to anyone
  • Friday – Saturday • Conditional reprieve if I do a fast. I did a little fasting during Ramadan and liked how good food tasted when I waited a bit for it

So this way I can get out of the no English bit, but only by doing something reasonably hard. I like the idea. I also have a tendency to eat when I’m nervous or thinking on something and fasting helps me learn to be more aware of my eating. I think this sounds like an interesting exercise.

In other Lent news, I’ve finished my first exercise chart. This is a pretty sad experience really since I started the thing in October and there’s only about fifteen entries on it. I have seen a little bit of progress though. Most importantly, I can do 80kg on the nautilus bench press. Since I weigh about 79kg (which I’ve not weighed since high school), this means I get my dispensation. I can’t do but about 70kg on the free weights, but fuck it, I wanna have the weekend off.

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I just got back from a week long hiatus at Marc’s place. My arrangement with M is that when she’s got guests, I’ve got to vacate her guestroom. She had someone in for the last week, so I was temporarily deplaced.

It was really nice. It was like being at a ClubMed. Not in the accommodations so much; I was living out of a backpack and sleeping on the floor. In the atmosphere though. Marc is really laid back and the most bismillah person know here.

I suppose I should explain “bismillah.” Bismillah means literally in Arabic, “in the name of God.” You say it when you are starting anything, especially something you’d like God to watch over. It is always said before eating or setting out on a long car ride. It is also used, more so by Peace Corps volunteers than Mauritanians, as a form of invitation. For example you’ve cooked something and there are people sitting around, you might bring the pot in and say “bismillah.” That translated to “come, take, this is available for taking.”

The usage makes sense and Mauritanians use it as well, just not as much. Giving is just something you do here. I was walking around with a bag of crackers the other day and ran into one of the network admins. While we were standing there talking he took the bag out of my hands without asking and grabbed a handful for himself. He can do that by rights. If I didn’t want to share I wouldn’t have been walking around with them. We also have a pecking order pissing contest going on, or at least he does.

I’m pretty sure he has confused my insecurity speaking for unfriendliness. It is normal to greet for a couple minutes, especially someone I want to show respect to. I just can’t do it. I run out of French words in about twenty seconds and even though I know it is allowed, I feel like an imbecile saying the same thing over and over again. Most people have gotten used to it because they know I only to speak anything, but this fellow I don’t see often enough for it to sink in.

So, anyhow, Marc is bismillah in the “come and enjoy” sense. M has a really nice house, but I am always acutely aware of being a guest. I’d never flop out on her couch and take a nap like I did a couple times at Marc’s. I dunno what it is; maybe it is just how nice the place is. I don’t like being the messiest thing in the room. ☺

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