Archive for October, 2005


Just so that no one else need discover this on their own, ampoule eating four quarts worth of Gatorade powder will make your tongue bleed.

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Well, I finally got an XP CD to boot. Extracting the boot image was no problem, but the filesystems produced by mkisofs were no good. Well, they wouldn’t boot. The same boot image used by M$oft’s CDImage worked fine. Right now I’ve not got the time to figure out the problem.

In any case, I managed to slipstream the first service pack and also get the Arabic and French MUI included on the CD. I didn’t get the account creation automated yet, but I’ll get there. Petit á petit le nid est fait, n’est pas?

I tried slipstreaming the Office 2003 service pack in on the software CD, but the process involves extracting the sources and takes them from 350mb to 650mb. That doesn’t leave enough space for a lovely copy of Photoshop that happened into my hands recently. So, given the choice, they’ll just get the Office without updates.

Because generating ISOs, downloading updates and burning test CDs all take lots of time I’ve been here for the last twelve hours mostly just piddling around. I’ve been badly behaved and ate a disturbing quantity of gatorade powder I found in the giveaway pile.

Much to my shame, I’ve been spending the bulk of my time wandering through personal ads. There’s only so much porn a fellow can look at after all. I was recently surprised to find that the romantic (albeit inept romantic, but romantic quand même) that I was in coming to the RIM isn’t dead. He’s just got a new jaded and horny boisterous beer guzzling flatmate. I’m kinda happy to learn he’s still in there somewhere. Granted, I like his new friend as well. ☺

In any case, I spend hours wandering and looking at people. I didn’t really see anyone who piqued my interest, but as I am in Africa I don’t suppose that is a serious problem.

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Me: Ok Senna, say the next word please.

Senna: …

Me: The word after “month,” can you say it?

Senna: year

Me: What did you say? I did not understand. What is the word aftermonth?”

Senna: year

Me: Yes, that is right, “year.” Do you know what year is in French?

Senna: …

Me: It is no problem. I will tell you about a year. There are 365 days in a year.

[I write “365 days” on the board]

Me: Do you know year in French?

Senna: …

Me: There are 52 weeks in a year.

[I write “52 weeks” on the board]

Me: Do you know year in French?

[Senna smiles and looks down, embarrassed]

Me: No problem. There are also 12 months in a year.

[I write “12 months” on the board]

Senna: …

Me: This year is 2005.

[I write “2005” on the board]

Me: Do you know year in French?

Senna: 2005?

Me: Umm, no…

At that point I didn’t know what to do. How else could I describe a year? So I gave up and just asked another student who answered quickly and with a tone of relief at finally having ended this debacle. I’m getting them better trained at keeping quiet when other students are talking. It is definitely not in their nature.

In some ways though this also makes me feel good. I know that I gave more than adequate description of a year. Her not getting it was nothing that I could change. It means that all of the responsibility for my slow students doesn’t rest on my shoulders. It is sort of liberating.

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I was hanging out with Miriam last night discovering that she literally is incapable of smoking. She can draw into her mouth, but the inhaling she just can’t manage. She mentioned that it burned which, given that she has never done anything but puff before, sounds about right.

Anyhow, as we were chatting and discussing relationships I remembered an entertaining anecdote. It comes from a form of French slang called “verlan.” It is sort of like pig latin. You take the word and switch the order of the syllables. The word verlan itself comes from the French word for reverse: “l’envers.” That’s l’envers, switch those around and you’ve got versl’en or verslen = verslan.

So, I was talking French with a fellow and we were discussing girls. I called his girlfriend at the time his meuf. (“Meuf” is “femme” or “woman” in verlan.) “Oh no,” he said, “she’s not my meuf. She’s my copine.” When I asked him the distinction he said, “Ma copine, elle est pour l’amour. Ma meuf est pour baiser, c’est tout.

(I’ll leave that for y’all to translate if you don’t speak French. As a hint, I’ve got an article with a full page spread of Colin Farrell and the quote, “Je bois, je jure et je baise.Boire is to drink and jurer is to swear, baiser is the one you’ve got to figure out.)

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Sidi’s Rap

About a week ago I went to a concert for Malouma (from Mauritania) and Ragheb Allama (from Lebanon). The concert was pretty good. I didn’t understand a word of it, but I liked Allama a bit more than Malouma. The Arabic music is just a bit more melodic.

While I was there I chatted with a few different people. One of them was a Cameroonian who told me about how he converted to Christianity and his father disowned him and then he moved here and his father died while he was here. But, “ç’est ls vie,” he said. He then went on a little mini-tirade about the demon of Islam being poured down children’s throats when they are little and they can never be rid of it. It sounded pretty similar to stuff I’ve heard before in the States except I was hearing people bemoaning unexamined Christianity.

I sat for a while and talked music with a couple Mauritanians working security and they told me they didn’t like the Maure music. They liked rap. American rap was good, especially Busta Rhymes and Tupac. There are also some good local rappers though, both Hassaniya and Wolof. I’m going to head over to one of their houses tomorrow to listen to some stuff. I wanted to take a little present and have been putting together a rap CD out of my music collection for the last hour.

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Busy Bee

I taught two classes today. It sucked. I have a book of teaching exercises and we started out with parts of the body. Then I had them give me verbs and adjectives for different parts. My favorite was “big” and “little” for butt. “Aminetou has a big butt.” I managed to get rid of the guy who was answering all of my questions. He’s now a happy member of level two. I did that for two hours, took an hour break and then came back and did conversation class for an hour.

I really like the teaching and yet again I feel like this is something I would enjoy doing with my life. Not English, which I’m finding I have a tenuous grasp on, but just standing up from of the class makes me feel good. I get to notice who is understand and who is not. I coax the quiet ones to speak and chastise the noisy ones to let others respond. Having a smaller class (12ish people) makes it possible to really have a feel for the group and I enjoy it.

In the conversation class one guy corrected my pronunciation of eighty which I pronounced “eighdie” rather than “eightie.” He said I should be more correct in my pronunciation. I told him I was already altering my natural accent significantly and proceeded to drawl out a paragraph from our selection as an example. I told him to just talk like I was and people would understand him no problem. ☺

It felt good to be teaching, but it was a little too much like a real job for me. The place where I’m working charges the students to take class. I like that because students who show up without paying anything are generally pretty unmotivated. Money gets them coming regularly and paying attention. At the same time, I don’t feel like putting someone out of a paying position with my free labor. It is probably best though since there’s a Sierra Leonian guy there who I was talking to after class who hasn’t been paid in over a month (he is supposed to be paid weekly).

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More English teaching today. It was a bit of a mess. They asked if I’d do a beginners class and I agreed even though I didn’t have anything prepared. I figured I’d teach them the alphabet and how to count or something.

I get into the class and find ten people of markedly different levels. After figuring out I was in trouble I tried to tread water a bit by going around and asking everyone questions. One girl had a hard time with “where do you live?” whereas another properly fielded, “do you think that the recent exploitation of oil will be good for Mauritania’s economy?” Teaching a class for these people is just not possible.

So, I did a review of irregular past conjugations. I was, he slept, we ran, etc. I was telling them that this was the past participle. Then someone piped up and corrected me saying that for most verbs it was, like “looked,” but the past participle is what is used in the past continuous, not the simple past. Not “I was tired,” but “I have been tired.” Dammit.

They asked me if I’d do my old class and level one tomorrow. I said yes, but I’m going to back out of doing it regularly. Four hours of work in one day? That’s crazy talk. I think two is a nice round number. They’ll be happy either way, me being free labor and all.

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Gonna leave soon and am probably going to abandon my rapidly decaying laptop. What to use for storage?

Seagate Pocket Drive

SanDisk Cruzer Titanium

About $100 for each. The 5gb versus 1gb would be nice, medstore | but I love the idea of being able to throw the thing at the wall.

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My lying about on my ass has left me a bit bored. I’ve now listened to Tom Clancy’s War of Eagles as Dan Brown’s Deception Point and Angels and Demons on tape.

I discovered a stash of Witchblades in French and found that I can now pretty much read conversational French. I’ll not know a word here and there, but I get the gist without even having to work at it. Wanting to test my abilities I went out to a new bookstore and bought myself Men’s Health in French. It took me about twice my normal reading time to get through an article on one’s bad habits (défaults) and whether to reveal them (avouer ou cacher). (At first read, I took it to be asking swallow or spit (avaler oú cracher). I said I can read, not read well. ☺) An interesting verb I am waiting to put to use out of my reading is se cuiter which my dictionary defines as “to get smashed.”

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99 Problems

I’ve been laid up with a really bad earache for the last three days. Last night it proved an interesting backdrop to a little adventure that ended with the disappearance of a pound of butter and the death of a mouse. That though is a story for later…

Right now I’ve made it out of the house and have been fighting with projects for people here at the bureau. Project #1 is take a winamp playlist and burn it onto a CD. I had a couple to do for people who are leaving, so I wrote a little script:

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