So I was on the rue Saint Paul in the Marais yesterday, a trip to Thanksgiving to get French’s mustard and PopTarts (les PopTarts de Proust, OK??). Also came home with Vlasic Kosher Dills (cornichons don’t cut it; no dill) and a can of vegetarian refried beans…

Dragged Claire along with me, and she was urging me to get something “truly atrocious.” There’s atrocious aplenty at the American grocery stores here; that semi-liquid marshmallow stuff in a jar, for example, and StoveTop stuffing (which I’ve bought twice in 5+ years, that’s right, deal with it). I assured her PopTarts were quite atrocious enough and sent her home with two of them. I await her assessment.

(Aside: They have Celestial Seasonings tea there, including Red Zinger in boxes of 10 teabags for 3.75€. You can get the same thing online for 1.99€/box direct from, run by Harold, who is a great guy. Please support him so I can keep getting mass quantities of Red Zinger, without which I cannot survive winter in Paris.)

So we leave Thanksgiving in search of a café with a heated terrace, but just a couple doors down we stop short, drawn like magpies to a shop window bursting with bright cheery girliness in the form of funky, colorful leather clogs, bags and other goodies. I’m so starved for color in Paris, displays like this one make my dopamine or endorphins or serotonin or all of the above spike big time.

So of course we go in. Parisians tend to turn up their noses at clogs, BTW. Their loss. But Claire is not one of those Parisians. I’ve never stopped wearing clogs since the 70s, and Claire and I are from the same generation, so we enjoyed sharing the blast-from-the-past moment. She likes dainty florals à la Liberty of London, while I like loud 70s kitsch and the retro-collagey thing, all of which, as you see, they do:

The objects themselves were delightful, but the story gets even better. You see, they’re handmade by real, live French craftsmen! The shop, which only opened in Paris three months ago, is run by the soft-spoken young Benjamin Renoux (picture below), who is learning the leather/cobbler trade from his father. They have two other shops, in Honfleur and Saint-Malo (both big tourist destinations). Lucky for you, Cuir du Voyageur also sells its delicious products through its website.

True artisans are getting harder and harder to find in France because, of course, they have a tough time competing with the cheap, mass-produced crap imported from other countries (no need to name names).

So this shop is a true gem. Support them if you can!

I’m going to get some clogs (only 79€ for handmade leather shoes, folks, I mean come on…). Probably the ones at the top of the page. Or maybe a pair with the pattern on the bag (red, white, black, pinup, etc.). Or maybe I’ll just get the bag… Or the darker floral clogs in the bottom right corner of the picture just above. Or the red, red rose clogs I saw in the window… (You can see why I did not leave the shop with an actual pair of clogs.) And I’m also going to offer to translate their site into English pro bono.

By all means stop by and see all the other things they have, like the barrettes (you know, the kind with the stick through two holes, straight outta the 70s,) and the irresistible little leather pouches…

Cuir du Voyageur
32, rue Saint Paul
75004 Paris

Cuir du Voyageur Facebook page

Last year I published a Christmas post featuring a favorite family pic from my childhood and talked about how Christmas is pointless without kids. This year, like every year, I’m really missing mine! He’s 26 now and on the other side of the world, having one of what I hope will be many adventures… (Preferably without any more skydiving. And get one of those shocky things for sharks before you go dive the Barrier Reef next summer. Just in case. Sorry David. At least I didn’t say spear gun.)

I called him today, around 7 pm his time. He’d worked till 4:30, then packed up a cooler of beer, a beach chair, and the copy of Notes from Underground I had Amazon send him for Christmas, and headed for the beach to watch the sun set in paradise.

Here he is at three, not so sure about the big red dude…

And at 26, about to jump out of an airplane over an island in the South Pacific. One day they are men and they are magnificent, these men we made.

Out of the goodness of his heart, a French tech blogger named Cédric Serret (author of Autour du Web) decided to launch a fundraising campaign last year to encourage bloggers to contribute to the iconic French charity Les Restaurants du Coeur founded by comedian/activist Coluche in 1985. Cédric is running his Les Enfoirés de Blogueurs campaign again this year.

(Les Enfoirés refers to artists and musicians who give benefit concerts for Les Restos du Coeur. Read all about them in English.)

Les Restos du Coeur feeds those who have trouble feeding themselves. The organization has no religious or other agenda. There are more and more people needing this kind of help (+25% in the last three years), and they’re getting younger and younger…

I’ve translated Cédric’s blog post describing his campaign below. The rest is up to you!

The first Enfoirés de Blogueurs campaign took place in 2010. The goal? To support Les Restos du Coeur, a charitable organization that has been helping the less fortunate since 1985.
 Would you like to become an Enfoiré de Blogueur? Read on to find out how…

In 2010, we had 55 donors who raised 1,555€ — enough to pay for 55 daily meals for a month.

We’d like to do even better this year!

Whether you donate 10, 20 or 100€, the important thing is to make a donation.

How to become an Enfoiré de Blogueur

I haven’t changed the rules since last year:

  1. Make a donation through the Restos du Cœoeur site.
  2. When you get your confirmation e-mail, forward it to me at or

Why send me the e-mail? So I can add your donation to the counter and offer you two links.

Two free links

Since the only way I can thank you for your donation is through my blog, you’ll get two links:

Bloggers who participated last year will get another two links this year.

Spread the word

Encourage your readers to participate too. Write a post on your blog, share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+. Display one of the banners in our banner pack. Be creative and spread the word among your network.

And don’t forget that without Coluche, none of this would exist… And only our help can keep it going!

P.S.: I am getting no personal gain from this. I’m just trying to make things happen the only way a blogger can! Your donations are made exclusively through the Restos du Coeœur site and I get NOTHING AT ALL!

Thank you for participating.

It’s hard to believe this is my sixth November in Paris. It may be my last! We’ll almost surely be leaving Paris and heading to the countryside before this time next year…

I was afraid I wouldn’t get a November picture at all this year. I don’t get out and about as much as I did before, what with The Illness and all. Don’t even walk the dog as often now that he lives half the time with a friend of ours in Normandy! But I managed to snap this with my iPhone while walking him in the late afternoon a few days ago. It’s right behind Notre Dame. I made it under the wire. Not much November left!

Click the picture for a large version to get the full effect of the luscious, mellow tones of the buildings in the setting sun.

You’ll find a list of previous years’ November pictures below. Want more? Here’s a site with nothing but photos I’ve taken all year.

2010 | 20092008 | 2007 | 2006

Some might think my work is boring. Today I was editing a video voiceover script written in English by a non-native English speaker (which can be a real pain). I stumbled on a tech term I didn’t know: “heavy VB client.”

I googled it and it only appeared once, which suggested to me that it’s not something English speakers say a lot. So I’m digging around online to find out how we do talk about VB clients, whatever the hell those are, and I came across this magnificent poem. It was masquerading as tech support. But I saw it for what it really was.

Everything is art.

Why does my VB client keep crashing
when compiled
and not in the IDE
when I use an ActiveX Control
with a worker thread?

You probably fire events
from the worker thread
in your control.

Since all ActiveX Controls
live in single-threaded apartments,
the event sink
your VB client supplies
lives in that STA too.

VB operates in apartment model only,
hence the pointer for the event sink
is in fact
a direct pointer
to the object in VB.

Hence you are able to call
through this pointer.

Unfortunately, by doing so
you violate
the COM threading rules –
every interface pointer
is valid 
within the apartment
it is obtained in.

Since VB is not thread-safe –
you experience
the crash.


There are three possible solutions
(described in ATL terms,
but they are appropriate
for straight C++ COM coding too):

1. The easiest solution is to create
a hidden window
upon the object’s construction
in FinalConstruct
(it is not a good idea
to put such code
in the constructor).

Then whenever you need to raise an event,
you post a message
to that window

The message handler then
fires the event.
The drawback is
that you have to package
any arguments
and unpackage them
in the message handler.

An additional benefit is
that unlike the other approaches,
this way the worker thread
is immediately
ready to continue
with the next task –
asynchronous notifications.

This approach is made possible
by the rule
that all STA threads
must have
a message loop
(in this case
implemented by VB).

2. Rewrite the implementation of
and Unadvise
and forward the call
to the worker thread

The implementation uses
and the worker thread uses
to marshal the interface pointer
to the worker thread.

Then the marshaled pointer
is stored in the map
instead of the direct pointer
from the client.

The worker thread
must enter an apartment
(MTA or create new STA).
The advantage of this approach is that
the code generated
by the ATL connection points wizard
doesn’t change.

The drawback is that
the events must be fired
from the worker thread’s apartment
(so if you have multiple worker threads
you better enter the MTA
in all of them).

The worker thread
is suspended
for the duration
of the call.

3. This one is a generalized version
of the second.
Instead of explicitly
the interface pointer
for a specific apartment
up front,
the code in the Advise method
is modified
to use the Global Interface Table
to store the interface
and a cookie
is stored
in the map instead.

Whenever any thread
wants to fire
an event,
the cookie is used
to temporarily obtain
an interface pointer
for the current apartment.

Then the event is fired
and the interface pointer
is released.

The drawback
(with ATL in mind)
is that in addition to
the IConnectionPointImpl code,
you have to modify
the code
for the proxy
generated by the ATL wizard.

The advantage is that
events can be fired
from any apartment.
All threads which fire events
must enter an apartment.

The thread firing the event
is blocked
for the duration
of the call.

Oh yes indeedy.

Air warm and thick with the smell of fresh corn tortillas. Valentina (and other familiar faces) on the table (as opposed to some little-known Louisiana hot sauce that has no business being there: Mexi & Co.). Tasty refried black beans (as opposed to hard, cold and flavorless kidney beans: La Perla). Fresh shredded chicken (as opposed to deep fried and greasy: O’Mexico). Thick, crispy, homemade tortilla chips (as opposed to thin, stale and industrial: Indiana Café).

Till now, with one exception, the Mexican food I’ve had in Paris has made me sad. The exception is Anahuacali, where I’ve eaten twice. It’s authentic but way overrated. The food is only fair (bland), portions are small, and everything’s overpriced. 50€ for a skinny-ass pitcher of margaritas. Hell with that.

But now there is Candelaria, the latest Mexican restaurant to arrive in Paris, where I had dinner with friends on Friday night. It’s more taco stand than restaurant, actually, with one table and a counter providing seating for a total of 15 or so. Best to order takeout if you eat later than 7 pm, which is about when it turns into a zoo.

But it’s worth it. If this place were in my neighborhood (it’s in the Marais) I’d be eating there once a week at least.

The young, pretty, hipster owners are onto something. The stodgy sit down and eat heavy expensive shit for three hours with a stiff waiter dressed in black thing is not what younger Parisians want. And there were more young French couples and families there than there were expats.

The food is quite authentic. The tacos aren’t like the jumbo overstuffed things you get in SoCal restaurants. They’re closer to what you’ll find in taco stands in Mexico. Or, as my friend said repeatedly, bouncing up and down, “taco truck!” “taco truck!” (She was as excited as I was and for a while couldn’t say anything else.) But I think I saw feta on the menu. I’m sure it would be good, though maybe a little odd. (I understand, though. I’ve used Cantal as a substitute for Monterey Jack for 5 years.)

I had two tacos pollo pibil and two tostadas nopal queso (I do love my prickly pear!). I didn’t have the carnitas but my friends said they were good. I had a Dos Equis. My taco truck friend had a Negra Modelo. (That calmed her down.)


Tacos and tostadas are 3.50€ each. A little high considering their size, but not at all too expensive compared to other fast and fresh dining options in Paris (of which there aren’t many). And you have to remember that you can’t get prickly pears or Mexican chorizo in France…

The bad news

A nondescript, narrow white door at the end of the counter leads to a cavey bar that has a completely different feel and clientele than the restaurant. (In fact the tiny, unmarked door looks so much like it leads to the bathroom that you get the feeling they don’t want their taco eaters to suspect there’s a bar back there…) The bar was full of the usual Paris vampire crowd: 20/30-something hipsters, scrawny girls with long, straight hair dressed in black… I wonder if the vampires even knew that there were tacos on the other side of that door.

We went to the bar for margaritas after dinner (because I had to do the complete taste test). It was good, but seriously, 12€ (about $17) for a margarita? Once is enough for me. Those prices plus the vampire crowd: not my thang.

I just found this list of Mexican restaurants in Paris by David Lebovitz, which he clearly worked very hard on… At least it’s pretty current.

I guess I’ll have to try them all just to be sure I have actually found the best. If I can ever again force myself to eat Mexican anywhere besides Candelaria, that is.

A person accustoms himself to what he is, after all, and if he’s lucky he learns to hold in somewhat lower esteem all other ways of being, so as not to spend life envying them. —Jonathan Franzen, Strong Motion

You know, the American Left (such as it is) might not be melting faster than the ice caps if we made it a little harder for the Righties in Power to whip the masses into a frenzy of hatred with the use of that magic word elitist.

But instead, Lefty just blushes and lets Righty dress her up in the word, she turns this way and that in front of the mirror, likes the way it looks on her, she throws her shoulders back, lifts her chin, thinks Damn, I’m hot. Lefty doesn’t object to being called an elitist because it feeds her vanity.

It’s true that the lefter you are in the US, the more likely you are to have a college degree. But that hardly makes you an elite anything. These days it doesn’t even mean you can spell for chrissakes.

The Righties in Power know that perfectly well yet, without compunction (sorry, elitist word), they actively fabricate an utterly false class gap, exploit that sad human tendency to despise people who are different, and foment (sorry, elitist word) a climate of hate that ends up with little girls and other nice people dead in grocery store parking lots.

Law enforcement officials continue to piece together the facts in Saturday’s shooting rampage that left a federal judge dead and a congresswoman critically injured in Arizona, and some are questioning whether divisive political rhetoric may have played a role.

The above quote is from NPR (my emphasis). Can you believe the lack of spine? (Arizona just needs to be roped the fuck off.)

Back to elitists. You and I both know that most of us don’t have an elite bone in our bodies. (I actually do. Well, a tendon, not a bone; some chromosomal defect associated with English aristocracy gave me a short tendon on the inside of the last joint of my pinkies so they bend funny at the tip. But I’m sure it’s only because some ancestor of mine was raped by a blue blood while trying to empty a chamberpot or something. Unless of course you consider the aristocracy to be the bottom of the gene pool barrel due to inbreeding rather than the elite, which is probably closer to the truth and explains my deformity.)

The rest of me comes from all-American white trash stock. My dad was the first person ever to get a college degree on either side of my family, and that’s only because the Navy yanked him out of the enlisted ranks and popped him into Purdue and officer training at the tender age of 20. I went to a Party League college; when I was at San Diego State it was one of the top five party schools in the US. But I was a single mom with a preschooler and was not doing Girls Gone Wild at Cabo, trust me. I had a damn good time, though, and still graduated cum laude (sorry, elitist expression).

(Sexy trashy girls image: White Trash Beautiful II by Stefanie Schneider. Limited edition photo, edition of 150, signed.)

I do know what arugula is, and I adore it, but I couldn’t tell a Bordeaux from a Merlot, which I guess puts me on the beer track, which is peachy with me. I get so bored around wine people when they get going. Just pour me a glass of whatever goes with my spaghetti, there, Mr. Fancypants. I like opera (but know zip about it) and NFL football (which I know a lot more about). I read good literature almost exclusively, but I’m also a WoT geek (which is some of the worst writing around: “The boat made haste slowly down the river…”). I say fuck a lot.

Despite a BA and one and a half MAs, I realize every single day how little I know about anything. (It doesn’t help that I live in France where everybody knows everything.) In any given week I run across hundreds of cultural and historical references—things I never knew, know superficially, or have forgotten the details of—and I gotta look ‘em up on Wikipedia just like every other non-elitist, which is pretty much everybody.

(Wikipedia is the ultimate face-saver and dilettante-enabler (sorry, elitist word), isn’t it? You’re at a party, somebody starts talking about some esoteric (sorry, elitist word) topic, so you pop off to the bathroom, look it up on your iPhone, and come back and act like you knew all along what they were talking about. Plus you really learn stuff that way. Not that I ever did this. I usually just say “I have no idea what you’re talking about” and look it up when I get home.)

My point is (yes, I have one, kind of) that maybe if the Poor Right Trash weren’t made to feel so afraid that they wouldn’t know which metaphorical fork to use at a metaphorical dinner at a Liberal’s metaphorical house, they’d see us less as The Other. We just need to show them you can go to college and still know next to nothing, and top your tuna casserole with potato chips and still believe that gays have a right to live and breathe and get married and adopt kids!

Maybe the answer is a reality TV show where a liberal mom and conservative mom switch houses and cook Velveeta-based dinners for their temporary families and casually discuss values over dinner, all in an attempt to find common ground. (No evangelicals though, they can’t be reasoned with. We just need to write them off as a loss and hope they abstinence themselves to extinction.)

Or not.

Aside: I was going to call this post Left Wing White Trash, but of course trash comes in all colors and flavors, and if we had to go and start adding letters for all of us, we’d end up like the LGBTIQPFLAG crowd and at a certain point you just have to pick a letter or a symbol or make up a word or something and let it go already. You guys (meaning guys and girls and everything in between and above and beyond, but I’m from California where you can just say you guys and everybody knows what you mean) had a good thing going with that upside-down triangle a while back instead of all these letters. It seems to have disappeared, don’t know where I was when that happened, but if you ditched it because of the Hitler connection I understand completely. But you could still revisit the general symbol idea and lose all the letters, although Prince with his little thou shalt not pronounce my name phase was totally absurd. The rainbow just doesn’t have enough gravitas; it’s way too Care Bear. There must be a happy medium somewhere between acronym and abstraction, and there must be something that does not scream fabric softener. And I’m a lifelong card-carrying FLAG by the way, so don’t even give me any shit about any of this.

Right, back to trash.

For your dining pleasure, here are my favorite White Trash recipes. I welcome any of your (mammal-free) trash recipes if you’d like to share. Hey elitist: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Crying Chicken (Its name in our family because my uncle Jim cried the first time my mom made it for him. Then he tasted it and stopped crying.)

4 skinned chicken breasts
2 T melted butter
1/2 medium onion minced (the original WT version called for the dried stuff)
10 oz can Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup
1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese

Sauté minced onion in butter. Mix soup, cheddar, and sautéed onions in bowl. Place chicken in round casserole dish. Pour soup mixture over chicken. Bake covered at 325° for an hour. Good served with rice and peas.

Bunny’s Fruit Salad (Bunny is the mom of an ex-boyfriend.)

1 pkg (3 1/8 oz) vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 lg and 1 sm can pineapple chunks
2-3 bananas
1 2/3 c of juice from pineapples plus syrup from oranges

Drain fruit, reserve juice. Prepare pudding according to box using juice instead of milk. Cool and thicken pudding. Slice bananas. Fold fruit into pudding. Serve chilled. 6-8 servings.

Tuna Casserole (From the side of a Creamette macaroni box, a brand I only ever saw in Michigan. No potato chips. Sorry to disappoint. But knock yourself out if you want.)

1 can tuna
8 oz Velveeta
1 c milk
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
3-4 c medium or large elbow mac

Elitist ingredients I added to original WT version:
grated parmesan
1 c frozen peas
1-2 t curry powder
1-2 t mustard

Heat soup, Velveeta, and milk in a saucepan till “cheese” is melted. Add tuna and, if using, peas, curry and mustard. Heat for a few minutes over med-low heat and remove from heat. Cook macaroni. Combine cooked mac and soup mixture and mix well. Pour into casserole. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake covered at 325° for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 10 or 15 minutes till top gets a little crispy.