Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


Bested by Science, the scientific method is the worst. By removing the factor Blog Writing from my life, I immediately saw changes. Day Two set and I’d read a whole novel. Week Two elapsed and I’d seen more movies than in the previous two months combined. Month One ended and the amount of time I’d spent socializing with people in the real world had exploded.

Using Science, I have concluded that the way my life is currently structured can not support daily blogging. Using my eyes, I have realized that my current sublet ends at the end of the month and that all my spare time needs to be focussed on finding a new, hopefully long-term, roof to put over my head. The only good news I can share is that my work contract got extended so I don’t also have to be looking for a job at the same time.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that I may be occasionally posting stuff, but not every weekday because I just can’t handle it. All month long, I was collecting ideas and storing away facts to share with you, so the content is in my brain, just not yet on a virtual page.

Please bear with the changes. It’s not my ideal scenario — which would involve not actually commuting anywhere and living in a cinema — but I do hope to get back to this soon as I really did get a lot of enjoyment out of interacting with you all.

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The end of posts as you know it

stand byIf you are seeing this page, this blog has run out of scheduled posts. Most likely, some kind of technical problem like my ISP’s apparent hatred of me is to blame and I’ll resume posting as usual as soon as I can get the damn router lights to all be green and stop their infernal blinking or not blinking, as the case may be.

In the meantime, click here for a random post and maybe read something you’ve not come across before. Alternately, just type a weird word into the search bar and something will probably come up since I like odd things. If you’re crazy lazy (no judgment, I’m wicked slothful), check out a Housekeeping post. They’re generally short, have lots of fun links and give you a good idea of other Internet time-suck-holes you can go down.

September 2014 — You’re seeing this message because I was right thinking that blogging was taking a lot of my time. I will be back as soon as I can figure out a way to cut other time-consuming nonsense.


Summer surprise!

holiday feet

My feet on holiday in 2005.

Soooooo, I’m taking August off from le blog.

I decided to do this out of respect for fellow bloggers and also to prevent my own implosion. For the past several months, I’ve been commuting to and from work for two hours, five days a week, so that’s 10 potential Internet hours gone. Add in all those extra showers I’m taking to cleanse myself of said commute and we’re talking 90 minutes a day gone. Consider that I really need 8 hours of sleep a night to function well (but that I prefer 9 if I can get them) and you start to realize that there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to dedicate to anything for pure amusement.

While I can’t do much to remedy any of the time-sucks in my life for now, I can at least dedicate some of the time I spend writing the blog on reading other people’s blogs and commenting and generally being a part of the virtual world again. I clearly miss you all as real people, interacted with in the real world, are horrible.

Plus, you know, it’s Europe in August as of tomorrow, so I’m embracing my inner-European. And I will actually be going away for a while, to a land where I couldn’t give directions if I tried and I hope to get lost somewhere where I don’t speak the language and can just be an ignorant jerk.

Speaking of jerks, watch this! It’s hilarious!

Thing I’ve been saving since April au cas où

“It failed in July,” said Michael Horodniceanu, the president of capital construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “What happens in August in Europe? They said, ‘O.K., we’ll see you after vacation.’ ”

(context is here)

See you in September! Keep posting ’cause I’ll have time to read again!


Word Mystery: swell / hinchar / gonfler

Wednesdays, I explore the linguistic origins of the same word in different languages.

Christmas in July was a bit of a joke on my part, but that week ended up being cold enough in Paris that I ran the heat for a couple hours when I got home every night. The following week, it was back to games of sweaty sardines on the Metro, sweaty shirts on the sidewalks and sweaty feet stuck in sweaty shoes. I had to take two showers every day because when I got home, I had to clean the grime off myself as well as cool my body temperature down.

This is a bad way to feel.

One of the most unpleasant side effects of being so overheated is that my feet and fingers swell up a ton. They looked like overstuffed-sausage — so much so that I wondered if I was going to split open like so many failed sausages do on cooking shows. I didn’t want that to happen so I did the only thing I could think of: put bags of frozen loose vegetables like peas and beans on all my body parts and hope like hell that they returned to their normal dimensions.

Now, the bloating’s gone down enough that I can type so everything’s back to being just plain swell.

EN → swell — become larger or rounder in size, typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid. ORIGIN Old English swellan related to German schwellen.

ES → hincharHacer que aumente de volumen algún objeto o cuerpo, llenándolo de aire u otra cosa. [Making the volumen of a thing or body enlarge, by filling with air or something else.] ORIGIN Latin inflāre [inflate].

FR → gonflerAugmenter le volume de quelque chose en le remplissant d’un gaz, d’un fluide. [Increasing the volume of a thing by filling it with air or a fluid.] ORIGIN From Latin conflare [increase through breath].

English note: is it the Yiddishloving American in me that always wants a schw- word to win? Maybe it’s just that I saw SPACEBALLS too many times.

Spanish note: words that begin with “h” always throw me since they don’t seem native to the language. Seeing the Latin root totally demystified this one. Way to take all the fun out of life, Latin.

French note: the origin said it was a “dialectical word” which doesn’t make much sense to me. I think it means “related to a dialect” which makes way more sense than “dialectical” but what do I know? (Answer: seriously little.)

Spanish and French note: both words are also used to mean “pump with air.”

Due to its specificity and its German roots, English is taking the prize home today.


What’s in a bodega?

An interesting international discussion cropped up around my shop Word Mystery post regarding what exactly a bodega is. For me, it falls into the category of words (I should come up with a name for them) that mean totally different things or are completely unconnected in my mind depending on what accent they’re pronounced in. Reading it in an English context, I immediately think of New York City corner stores. In a Spanish voice, I go to wine cellars or pantry-type rooms.

GIF by Nathan Pyle

GIF by Nathan Pyle

By a weird coincidence, The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC did a segment about bodega cats that I heard right around the time this conversation was happening. It’s more cute than informative but if you’ve been to an NYC bodega, you’ve met one of these cats.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, these are cats who live in convenience stores. Many NYC bodegas have them (the one near where my sister lives likes to sit on my nephew’s head) and they are, in fact, illegal. During the course of the conversation, it’s revealed that the fines for having a cat in a food shop are essentially equivalent to the ones for having rodents so it’s a wash.

If you have a few moments, you should scroll through the listener-submitted photos of their favorite bodega cats — it’s such a funny and weird collection and I somehow love the hashtag #bodegacat more than anything else right now.

Other amusing things for the day

Today’s GIF was part of a promotional campaign that Nathan Pyle did for his book about how to be in NYC. He has also designed some of my favorite things online, like another Schrodinger’s cat joke and a clever ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT joke. If you need a laugh, you should look through his stuff. Bonus: so many PRINCESS BRIDE jokes.