Beki Grinter

This week in the Moselle

In European Union, France on August 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

This week in the Moselle I am pleased to report that I taught. After all that’s what I am here to do.

So, what’s new this week, well teaching that’s what. But a few other important things too.

My computer knows I’m in France, in several ways. For example, when I update things on Facebook I always get French adverts. And apparently Weight Watchers is paying Facebook heavily for adverts. At least that’s what I hope it is, if they’re scraping my status lines I’ll be ticked 🙂

What was also new this week was the French summer. Three days all over 30C, and the last one at 35C (that’s between the high 80s and mid 90s for you F degree people). Yeah, Atlanta’s like that all the time. Atlanta also has air conditioning. Metz does not. Not our home. Not the building we work in. Not nowhere (yes I know, its for added drama). Actually the frozen foods section of Cora was pleasant to spend an hour in.

So, other things I wanted to tell you. Toilets. I have a book about toilets of the world. Toilets are, not surprisingly, cultural. In France they have two sorts. The sort you’d recognise if you came from the United States, and then the ones on the motorway… (OK, I should have said this is ladies toilets of course, men’s are a mystery to me, thankfully). The ones on the motorway have a hole and two foot places… it’s pretty obvious… what I like about these is that there’s no mystery seat … but what I don’t like is the flush… at least my experience is that it can be quite vigorous, to the point… well shoes…  anyway the other type are mostly as you would expect… so all I’m going to say about those ones is that the ones they have in Cora come complete with ashtrays. I think it was just a couple of years ago, at most, that smoking was banned in public places in France (like bars), and I’ve not seen anyone smoking in the ladies at Cora, but I like the fact that if you were, and if you needed to put it down, ashtray is provided.

OK, what is different about French “like US toilets” toilets is that they are actually completely contained in a room. I do not know what, or why, American’s prefer to put minimal doors and walls around their toilets, preferably leaving large gaps in all sorts of places that I want to know nothing about.

OK, moving on from toilets.

We have a drier that I like too. Our dryer in the U.S. has a hose attachment, and somehow the air that comes out of the drier (along with some of the fluff) is mysteriously blown through the infrastructure of our house… the hose connects into an outlet that is directed to a wall outside. What I don’t like about this hose system is that first, the hose pipe does not always stay on. And it’s really difficult to put back on. I also assume at some point we’ll have to pay someone to come out and clean this particular piece of the house infrastructure as lint slowly makes its way into it.

By contrast our French dryer is completely self-contained. It dries the clothes and interestingly collects the water that it gets out of the clothes into a separate container… at the end of the drying cycle you pour the water out. I dont know whether it pushes any hot air out into the apartment, it certainly gets a little warmer, but it’s not terribly significant (a good thing since we don’t have air conditioning). This appliance impresses me, clearly French engineering has got it right on the dryer side.

But, then there’s the washer. Washers in the U.S. have been reduced to the simplest working interface (which I feel certain must be an HCI guideline of some sort, but K’s teaching that class). You can specify water temperature, hot, warm and cold. You can specify speed, fast, normal and slow (this is my front loading washing machine I am talking about because thankfully and finally the U.S. is on the front loader program, yay). Here in France the situation is different. Fortunately my Mum came and helped me debug the interface. So we have temperatures specified in C units (and we have four modes of those, and two lots of those four modes… dunno really why you need two ways to tell the machine you want it at 40C, but that’s for another day). Then there’s the speed of rotation of the final speed, and there are six choices there in rpms, actually I have no idea what unit they are in, but we can go as high as 1000 and as low as 500. Handy tip, my Mum recommends 900, so that’s what I’m going with (apparently her machine moves around at 1000 so I figured that I didn’t want some mad washing machine chasing me around the apartment).

Then there are some other buttons. Who knows what they do. I’m avoiding pressing those.

And speaking of buttons, let me conclude with the phone. I was the source of much amusement this week to my faculty colleagues. Why because someone asked me to press the mute button on my phone during a conference call. Yeah, that’s easy… easy when youve got a phone with a mute button. I have a phone which has many buttons (in addition to the numbers of course), but none are marked mute. Secret. Bis, and several M# buttons, but no mute button. Oh well. Time to use the computer to dial in.

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