Resources from brynjar

scrapbook iconFriend or more than friends?

I just got back from visiting some friends in Lyon and I asked them to explain how to talk about friends versus boyfriends/girlfriends in French; something I've never been sure about.

In school I was taught that:

un ami - a male friend
une amie - a female friend
un petit ami - a boyfriend
une petite amie - a girlfriend

then there is the more casual vocabulary:

un copain - a male friend
une copine - a female friend

What has often confused me though is that ami/amie and copain/copine can also mean boyfriend/girlfriend as well as just friend. An important difference when discussing your friends or love life with someone French.

My friends explained it like so - expressions such as:

J'ai une copine qui s'appelle Jeanne
Jeanne, une de mes amies

suggest friends, whereas using the possessive suggests more than friends:

Jeanne, ma copine (girlfriend)
Robert, mon copain (boyfriend)

Having said that, while petit ami and petite amie definitely mean boy and girlfriend, the words ami/amie/copain/copine can often be ambiguous and there are no absolute rules; it all depends on the context.
Not simple all in all..


scrapbook iconDu rififi chez les hommes

The cabaret scene and title music for rififi.

scrapbook iconBob le Flambeur

Trailer for Bob le Flambeur

scrapbook iconSome great French films

I bought a few French films on DVD the other day, all from the fifties and sixties and all superb. I'd recommend them all:

Le Trou -

A prison break set in La Santé prison in Paris, most of the actors were not professionals.

Bob le Flambeur -

A casino heist. The main character Bob is a very suave, aging gambler.

Du rififi chez les hommes -
(also called just 'rififi')

A gangster film and another heist movie.

There is some great slang in these films too:

balancer quelqu'un - to snitch on someone
fous le camp - get out! (of here) (quite strong this one)
le rififi - fisticuffs
un flambeur - a big time gambler
un truand - vagabond / criminal

scrapbook iconssh tunnels

I have been trying to get my head around ssh tunnels lately as I need to be able to access a development web server on our private network that doesn't have an IP accessible from the internet.
It's taken me a while to understand what is going on; it can be pretty confusing.

I'd recommend the following for a good explanation of what ports are used, e.g. when your browser requests a page:

And I thought this was probably the best single page explanation of tunneling:

What I found helped me was thinking about this from both perspectives; from the client -> server request and the resulting server -> client response.

The only thing the bitvise article misses (if I'm understanding this correctly) is that the ssh server must change the packet going to the forwarded port so that the response from the server on that port goes back through the ssh tunnel to the client. It would be pointless of course if the request went through the encrypted ssh tunnel one way but then got sent back directly in cleartext to the originating IP.

On a windows box, you can set up a tunnel using putty like so:

Alternatively you can use plink (that comes with putty), e.g.

plink -v -L 8080:ultimate-destination-hostname:80 [email protected]

This would connect port 8080 on your windows box to port 80 of your ultimate-destination-hostname via your ssh server ssh-server-hostname. The ssh-server-hostname needs to be a machine you have an ssh account on and needs to be internet routable as well as being on your private network.

The other gotcha with this stuff is that the ultimate-destination-hostname is with respect to the ssh server, i.e. it doesn't matter if that host doesn't resolve from your local machine, just that it IS resolvable from the ssh server.

scrapbook iconFixing my helicopter

I spent quite a lot of the weekend fixing my Blade 400 helicopter but I didn't manage to finish it. The lesson here is after you crash, take it apart and work out all the parts you need first! I thought I could tell what was broken and went to the shop and bought the new parts, but it was only after taking it to pieces that I realised I needed other parts as well, so now I have to make yet another trip to the shop.

And make sure you have all the tools you need beforehand. Obvious of course, but I still learned the hard way..

Still, at least I didn't crash it as badly as this guy did his:


scrapbook iconUS elections

Today I've been trying to get my head around how the US election tonight works.

Wikipedia is quite helpful:

and I thought this slideshow was very good at explaining things:

One thing that still wasn't really clear though was how the numbers added up. The electoral college consists of 538 votes, which means a candidate needs 270 votes to win (half the 538 plus 1) and there is one electoral college vote per senator (each of the 50 states has 2 senators) plus one vote per representative in Congress and the number of representatives each state has in Congress is proportional to the state's population.

But the total number of senators (100) plus representatives in Congress (which is 435) doesn't equal 538. Turns out this is because Washington DC doesn't have any representatives in Congress, but does get 3 electoral votes.
I hope I'm right in that analysis..

It's going to be one of the most interesting elections in a long time for sure!


scrapbook iconLanguage show in London

If anyone is interested, there is a language show on at Olympia in London today, tomorrow and Sunday, called the "language show" (logically enough).

It's free if you register in advance, else I think you can pay on the door on the day. I'm going to go and check it out.


scrapbook iconFrench meetup last night

Last night I went along to a French meetup event near Charing Cross and it was great.
There were at least 50 people there and a good mix of nationalities.
Everyone was very friendly and after a few hours of speaking moderately badly in French, I was worn out(!)

Definitely recommend this group if you want to practice your French over a glass of wine or two.


scrapbook iconGetting into model helicopters

Ok, so my rc helicopter interest has become a bit of a joke about the office, but secretly I think they just envy my flying skills..

When I first went to the shop to buy one, the guy there told me not to buy the nice big one at first but work your way up, else it will all end in frustration, probably tears and definitely end up costing you.
I think I should say he was totally right! If you are interested in getting into model helicopters, DO NOT go and buy a nice expensive one to start with, because you will crash it and most likely in under 30 seconds. Seriously.

I started out with a Twister Hawk like this one: (but I don't have the nice red lights)

It has 4 channels of control and is a good model to learn on. You can't really use it outdoors unless it is dead calm, so a big room is ideal.

Then you can think about moving up to an outdoors model, I got a E-flite Blade 400 like here:

It is a 6 channel model and lots of fun, although I've already crashed it twice and broken lots of parts in the process.

The other thing I should say is don't get one of these helis unless you are interested in (or at least don't mind) fixing things, because you will spend as much time diagnosing and repairing these things as you do flying them.


scrapbook iconWatching French news online

There are various sites that allow you to watch the news in French online and I try and watch a bit whenever I can. If you are trying to learn a language, you definitely want to get as much exposure to it as possible and I think the news is a great way of doing that, even if you don't understand everything.

I'd particularly recommend as it has lots of short segments so you can easily watch a particular story a few times over and it has transcriptions, so I often just listen at first, then listen again and follow the transcript. Watch out though, because the transcripts are usually not 100% correct and that can catch you out. It's normally good enough though and I find it very useful.


scrapbook iconThe Code Book - a brief review

I've recently started re-reading a book I've had for many years now and I'm enjoying it just as much the second time around.

It's called "The Code Book" by Simon Singh:

It's about the history of cryptography and it's very readable. It is written at just the right level in my opinion, not too basic, so it keeps your interest, but not full of mathematics that might be frustrating.

The story of how the Enigma machine was broken by the Allies during the second world war is particularly good. At first glance, it would seem that the Enigma machine encryption couldn't possibly be broken as the workings of the machine create so many possible encryption keys, yet slowly buy surely patterns were found that gave code-breakers a way in.

Then there is the great story of the Beale ciphers which are a set of encrypted texts written in 1885 which describe the location of around $20 million (in today's prices) of gold and jewels. To this day, the horde has still not been found and people still try and dig to find it in and around the town of Buford, Virginia in America.

I think anyone with a general interest in technology, history or maths would really enjoy this book.

scrapbook iconBeginning Spanish

I am hoping to finish my beginners Spanish book before my trip to Madrid.
I've never learned Spanish before although my French is reasonable.
The thing is I don't like going abroad and being clueless about the language if I can help it, so even if I can just get the basics I'll be pleased.

It's interesting that some things in Spanish are very familiar if you know French:

By foot - à pied (French) - a pie (Spanish)
Bread - pain (French) - pan (Spanish)
Wednesday - mercredi (French) - miércoles (Spanish)

but then at times Spanish is very different:

To the left - à gauche (French) - a la izquierda (Spanish)

I can only imagine a word like "izquierda" in Spanish comes from the
Arabic influence.


scrapbook iconFrench podcasts

I've been learning French for many years now and one of the problems I have had is that there tend to be lots of resources available for beginners and conversely, if you are at an advanced level, you can watch French television online or buy French novels etc.

But if you are at an intermediate level like me then it can be a little tricky. The beginner stuff you already know, but you're not quite ready for the advanced stuff.

One thing I found a while back was a podcast in French called and I'd definitely recommend it. The podcasts actually vary in difficulty, but I've found them really useful.

One thing I like is that no English is spoken on these podcasts at all - the thing about language learning is that you really need to get into the mindset of the language you are learning and listening to podcasts that constantly switch back into English to explain things is so counter productive.

So get your ipod out and start downloading.


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