Feb 242009
 

Before I go any further, I would like to apologize for the delay in new posts, new podcasts, and such. I really do enjoy the site and the show, and I have missed all of you very much! But no worries, because I am now back 🙂 For starters, I have recorded the next episode, and will be posting it for Wednesday, Expressions Lesson 09. If you use Twitter, you can follow me (under anglaispod), and will sometimes find early updates and fun info about the website and the show. Also, you will find that there is a new photo posted on the site, entitled “Bigger Fridge, Less Food.” As I mentioned in the photo description, my camera is broken, so until I purchase a new one, I only have the camera in my cell phone, so the picture quality is not as good for now. You can also check out the latest version of “Qui suis-je?” though I don’t know how interesting it is for anyone.

As for what I have planned for the site, you will have to come and see! I am working on a completely new version of anglaispod.com and will post previews here once I am closer to finishing it, but for now it is still in construction. I have been cleaning up the RSS feed and old episodes (adding the logo as well as text for iPhones and iPod Touches), and doing some maintenance, and also am working on new features that will be added when the new version arrives, but more on that later. I also have several podcast episodes planned, so stay subscribed and you will be getting those in shortly. Looking through my email, I have around 530 to answer, so that will take me a long, long time, and I will probably not be able to answer all of them, though I will try. Once I post the newest episode and update the main page, I will start participating on the forums again, and I really want to make that an integral part of AnglaisPod version 2, but more on that later.

On a personal note, for those who are interested, I have been working at the same job for several months now, and am enjoying my apartment, too. I work in computer networking, so if anyone is interested in that, feel free to ask me more. I am very excited to be working on the podcast again, and hope that I will finally be able to start doing it like I planned originally, and just in time for the 2 year anniversary of Apprendre l’anglais! Thank you to everyone who has stayed subscribed to the podcast and continued to visit the website, you are all my motivation for returning. Feel free to ask anything or comment below 🙂

Sep 292008
 

I have been cooking for a few years now, and I have a small repertoire of things that I can cook decently. Most of them are simple, such as pasta, chicken fried rice, or grilled fish, but I do try to experiment and branch out, too. I am a really big fan of spices, and so I am always trying to discover new spices and new combinations for old ones, too. One of my favorite things to do is to try a very plain fish, baked with different spice combinations. This allows me to test out new ideas, and was how I discovered that curry and chipolte chili powder go together well (try it if you don’t believe me).

On a different note, every since I haved moved into this apartment, I have been watching the Food Network a lot. I don’t watch the “how to cook” shows very much, I prefer the cooking competitions or events (Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Dinner Impossible, Iron Chef America, etc.) more. I think I enjoy it because it shows the amazing talents of the cooks. Take Tony Hawk for example. Sure, it’s fun for him to do a show on how to skateboard, how to do basic things, and such, but it’s much more fun to watch him do the amazing stuff that most people could never even hope to do. That’s how I feel about the cooking shows. It’s fun to watch the learning how to cook shows sometimes, but I would rather watch them do amazing things that I could never cook. (I think this may be part of the reason that the expressions lessons and advanced lessons are more popular than the regular and intermediate lessons, as another example)

The reason I mention these two things together is the following. Quite often on the cooking shows I watch, they use a spice called cumin. I am not familiar with it, and I see different chefs use it all the time, for a variety of things. So, last night, while I was at the store, I decided to buy some cumin, so I could attempt to cook something with it. When I got home, I opened it, and smelled it. The smell was incredibly strong, and definitely nothing like I have ever used. And because of that, I have no idea what to use it with. Based purely on the smell, I think it might go well with curry or maybe paprika, but I really have no idea. So…any suggestions? I know some of you have to be cooks!

Sep 212008
 

I am so glad that football season has started again. Just to be very clear from the beginning: I am a huge Seahawks fan, have been for several years now. In college, I am an Alabama fan, so Roll Tide! I am a graduate of Ball State university, and so I do pay some attention to their football team as well, but not as much as Alabama. And those are the teams I root for.

Now down to business. First off, I am absolutely blown away by the success of Ball State this year. 4-0 so far, and even beating Indiana! That is just insane, we really sucked when I was there at school. But Nate Davis and Dante Love have really stepped up and played amazingly this season. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to actually watch them play on TV, but I have seen some highlights. Now, as for Alabama, wow. We have been doing better this season than we have in a while. Granted, Wilson still can’t really throw the ball all that well, but especially in the last game, against Arkansas, we have been doing great. And as an Alabama fan, and thus being against Auburn, I was very happy when LSU beat them yesterday, and it was a great game, too.

As for the Seahawks…well…we have not been doing so well. But we’ll see in today’s game, maybe we can get a win in, we really need it. Being without Shaun Alexander, and being Holmgren’s last year, things are definitely different, but I think we still have potential, especially in the passing game. Here’s to no more dropped balls!

Jul 162008
 

As I said in Advanced Lesson 010, I have found an apartment. Today is Wednesday the 16th, and I will be moving into my new place on the 23rd. I’ll post a couple pictures when I get moved in. But I am excited to live in my own place again! In France, I had 3 roommates, one other American, a guy from Morocco, and a guy from Gabon. We had a lot of fun. But sometimes it seemed like a really small apartment with 4 people in it! I was wondering, though, in France, do people typically live by themselves, or with roommates? Does it change by age, or any other factors?

Here in America, it seems to me that people often have roommates when they first move out of their parents’ house. Some people go to school, and have a roommate there, and some people get a job and a place to live, and they have a roommate there. And sometimes people do have more than one roommate. About the age of 22-25, though, people start to live by themselves more often. The ones who went to school graduate, and often times when they move wherever they are going to work, they get a place by themselves. The ones who have been working jobs already usually have some money saved up, and so they decide at some point to move to a different apartment, or a different city, or they just get a better job, and then they start to live on their own. That is what I have seen in my own experience at least. People often have roommates until the lower to mid 20s, and then they tend to live by themselves more often. Of course, there are exceptions (one of my favorite shows, Friends, shows plenty of them 😛 ), but that seems to be the general trend here. What is it like in France?

But in my case, I will be living by myself, without a roommate. I am very much looking forward to having a whole apartment to myself!

Jun 092008
 

I miss my apple-pear juice 🙁 I have looked in about 6 stores now, and all I can find is regular apple juice. I like apple juice, it’s good, but…it just gets kinda boring, especially after the apple-pear juice. I wonder how expensive it would be to import it…

It’s kinda funny — I am getting used to speaking English again, and I have not had any problems adressing people in the wrong language since the 2nd day after I got back. However, there are a couple things that have been programmed into my brain that I can’t get out yet. It’s those little things that are more instinct than communication, words like “merci” and “pardon,” especially the second. Now, luckily, it is possible to say “pardon me” in English, and even though it is pronounced differently, people seem to accept me just saying “pardon” instead of the typical “excuse me.” When I say “merci” instead of “thanks” though, like I did at the grocery store earlier, I always get strange looks. It amuses me. Parler français me manque 🙁 It is no longer exciting to do every day things, and in a funny twist, it kinda feels like I’m “cheating” by speaking English, like I’m taking the easy way out or something.

I’m glad I finally got an episode up. I should be able to get back into my pattern of once a week for a while now, thanks to everyone who stayed subscribed!

May 282008
 

In a few hours, I will be leaving on a train from Tours to Paris, to Charles de Gaulle to be more precise, to fly back to the States. I am really going to miss France, I have enjoyed all my time here and all the things that I’ve learned. Right now I am really looking forward to having some of the things that I have really missed, like Popeye’s, but I am already missing things like Apple-Pear juice, which as far as I know, is nonexistent in America.

To all of you who are planning on making or currently enjoying a trip to America, England, or any other country to practice your language skills, make the most of your time! There’s always too much to see it all, but enjoy it while you can.

Until soon, from a different time zone!

May 262008
 

You know what is one of the most difficult things to deal with when you do a podcast? Losing your voice. Several of the podcasts I listen to have more than one host, and if one person cannot talk, they simply skip an episode or two and the other person/people on the show keep doing it. I, on the other hand, do this podcast alone, and so when I lose my voice, it sucks! I have actually been done with my classes for about a week, but I have been sick for about three, and for the last two of those three weeks, have been almost completely unable to talk. Thankfully, all my tests were written!

I definitely have lots of plans, like I “said” in the podcast (if you count what I was doing as actual talking and not just making noise). One of the major plans is to really improve this blog. I have tried several different subjects, with various success, and I have some ideas for what I can actually talk about now — you’ll just have to come back and read them to find out, though 😉

And by the way, eBay is addicting. I hadn’t bought anything from them since 2004, and for some reason, mid April, I decided to try buying something from eBay France ( http://www.ebay.fr/ ) . This was a mistake, as I have now purchased seven things from them :p The last thing I bought should be arriving tomorrow, just in time to put it in my suitcase (I mostly ordered books and DVDs) for the trip home.

Here’s to a good return flight! I’ll be talking to everyone on the podcast as soon as my voice is back to normal again.

Mar 152008
 

I consider myself an expert at ignoring advertising. I have never once clicked a link in an email ad, I don’t sign up for anything unless I’m 100% sure it’s legit and will get me no spam, be it a newsletter, website account, whatever (I still refuse to get a YouTube account), and most forms of advertising simply have no effect on me, because of the effect many studies have found — repeated, irrelevant advertising in the same location is very easy to tune out as noise for pretty much everybody. (Note: I do have one friend, who shall remain nameless, and when she sees a commercial on TV for almost anything, she wants to try it.) When I watch TV, I often mute it during commercials, depending on what channel I’m watching, and ads like those little videos that play before the video you actually want on some website, I always open up some other browser window or something else to do while the video is playing, I refuse to even give them my attention.

However, I realized the other day that some advertising does work on me. I thought about the situation as it was happening (I was quite aware that the advertising was working, but this did not lower its effectiveness level), and I came to the conclusion that I imagine the same thing happens for a lot of people, and it is that very situation which causes things like mailers to be effective. (Of note: I do NOT believe the same tactic works for spam email — I have encountered this exact same situation with spam email and it had zero effect. I believe that as internet users we are trained that all spam is evil and probably a scam to steal our identity/money/very souls).

So what happened, you ask? Well, a brief backstory: I love movies, and have been a member of Blockbuster’s online movie rental for a long time now, maybe 2 years or so, I don’t remember exactly. Several months ago, sometime last year, I decided that to be fair, I should compare the Blockbuster online movie rental service to Netflix, its biggest competitor. Now, this is not about my thoughts on which is better, if you’re interested, feel free to ask, but after a couple of months of using Netflix and comparing it, I cancelled the service for financial reasons (and again, if you’re interested in comparing the two, don’t read too much into this, there is a lot of other backstory here I’m not telling), even though I really enjoyed it. Recently, I have been considering restarting my Netflix membership for various reasons, but I had not yet decided to do it. But then the advertising happened. I got, in the mail, a flyer from Netflix, saying that I should renew my membership and reminding me of all the benefits and blah blah blah. It didn’t offer me any special prices. It didn’t offer me any more free stuff (new members get a 2 week free trial). And it didn’t tell me anything about the service that I didn’t already know. I enjoy being well-versed in anything I do, so I do my research on every product I buy and every service I use, to a reasonable extent of course, depending on what they are. But the very same night that I got my Netflix flyer, I went online and renewed my membership. Am I a sucker for advertising? No, of course not. Had I received that flyer at a random time, I would have simply thrown it away and not given it a second thought. But I was currently considering restarting my membership at Netflix. So did the flyer tip me over the edge and make the decision for me? Perhaps, nobody can say for sure what tips them in situations like that. But I know that the flyer had at least some effect, be it small or large.

So that, in my opinion, is when advertising works the best. There are other situations for different people where it works in other ways, but I think that it works the best when the potential customer is already considering the product or service offered.

And now I’m off to enjoy my unlimited Watch it Now service 🙂

Mar 082008
 

D’abord, je voulais dire à tout le monde qui m’a envoyé un mail, veuillez m’excuser, j’essaye de répondre, mais j’en ai beaucoup! Je vais répondre à chaque mail, mais il me faudra quelques jours de plus 😛

Mais en pensant à cela, j’ai commencé à penser un peu au sujet du temps. On a plusieurs dizaines d’années dans la vie, mais j’entend toujours des gens qui disent que la est courte. Et même si je n’ai que 23 ans, chaque jour je comprends cette phrase un peu de plus. Il y a plusieurs choses que je veux faire, et il y a plusieurs choses que je dois faire. Et la réalité c’est que il n’y a pas assez de temps pour en faire tout. Par example, les langues. Personellement, mon but, c’est de parler 5 langues courrament par l’âge de 30 (l’anglais y compris). Ok, je parle anglais, je parle français (j’ai dit courrament, je n’ai pas dit parfaitement ! Même l’anglais, je ne le parle pas parfaitement). Alors, il me reste 7 années et 3 langues. Si vous avez lu la page “Qui suis-je?” sur le site (une page que j’ai vraiment besoin de changer, ça fait presqu’une année entière…), vous savez peut-être que j’ai étudié le japonais, le chinois, et l’italien, aussi. Mais, pour être honnête, mon japonais, c’est terrible. Le grammaire, je le comprends assez bien, les kanjis, je les adore, mais le vocabulaire, c’est ça que je n’ai pas bien appris. Et mon chinois? Pire que mon japonais, mais encore la même situation, une manque de vocabulaire surtout. Mon italien n’est pas mal, je peux le lire et le comprendre assez facilement, même le parler un peu, mais je suis toujours loin de le parler courrament. Et ça, c’est seulement les langues. Je veux aussi m’améliorer en informatique, pour pouvoir améliorer le site. Et il y a plein d’autres choses que je veux apprendre, même si je n’ai pas d’une raison plus spécifique que le plaisir (l’astronomie, par exemple).

Mais toujours on trouve un problème: tout ça, c’est seulement les choses que je veux apprendre. Même ça, tout seul, il serait impossible de le faire. Mais j’ai des amis. J’aime parler à mes amis, et quand c’est possible (évidement, pour mes amis aux USA ce n’est pas le cas maintenant), j’aime passer du temps avec eux. Et j’ai des parents, des frères, des neveux et des nièces, etc., avec qui c’est la même situation.

Et même après ça, il y a moi-même. J’aime écouter de la musique, regarder les films, même dormier un peu! Il y a tout simplement trop de choses à faire, et peu de temps pour les faire. La difficulté, c’est que l’on doit décider. Si on avait une liste pour la vie avec tout ce qu’il faut faire, ce serait simple. Mais on doit décider soi-même! Il faut décider la priorité de chaque activité, mais parce qu’on est humain, on le fait pas logiquement. On décide chaque moment, que veux-je faire? Et si on est responsable, on planifie un peu. Mais c’est impossible de le faire avec tout, parce que les priorités changent. Par example, ce podcast, les mails, le forum, le site, tout ça — je l’adore. Étudier les langues étrangères — je l’adore. Alors, pourquoi, me demande-je, est-ce qu’il y a des jours, des semaines même, où je réponds, chaque jour, à chaque mail que je reçois, où je fais un podcast tous les 4 ou 5 jours, et j’étudie une langue chaque jour, mais il y a aussi des fois où je prends deux semaines pour répondre aux mails, où je n’étudie rien, et je ne fais que peut-être un épisode par mois? Je comprends pas cette différence. Quelques jours j’ai assez de motivation pour faire tout ce qu’il me faut et puis de faire un peu de plus, mais quelques jours je veux dormir tard et ne rien faire, regarder un DVD, jouer un peu aux jeux vidéos, parler au téléphone.

La raison pour tout ça, c’est cette manque de temps. J’ai peur de ne pas pouvoir faire tout ce que je veux dans la vie, et je n’ai pas encore trouvé ni l’équilibre qu’il faut pour les activités, ni la capacité de dire que ça va si je ne réalise pas un de mes buts personnels. Et je suis vraiment jaloux des personnes qui ont ces deux choses. Peut-être c’est un “symptôme” de mon âge, de cette étape de la vie, quelque chose que tout le monde  apprend par expérience, mais quand même, je suis jaloux!

There’s actually an English expression that is appropriate here, one that you hear quite often: “So much to do, so little time.”

Mar 042008
 

So, over the past few weeks, I have been spending countless hours working on redesigning the entire website, and very late last night, I finished it. I just uploaded all the new pages this morning, and so now, when you look at the website, you’re seeing the new version of it. But here’s the thing…

it looks exactly the same!

Well, not exaclty the same. The menu on the left changed a little bit. But other than that? Nothing looks different. And as you might guess (or as you might know, if you know even basic web design principles), changing the menu does not take very long. So why did it take me so long to update it, then? And why did I do it, if nothing looks different?

What I did when I originally built this site was very basic. I had maybe 300 listeners, back in April 2007, and I wanted a website for the podcast, so I threw something together in a couple days, in between classes. It was very simple, it had maybe 5 pages or so, and to be honest, there was no reason to visit the site more than once. But I liked having a site up anyway. Before AnglaisPod, I had managed a few different web pages, but they were always very small projects that usually involved putting news up or making slight changes to old designs from previous webmasters. I knew basic html, but to be honest, I still looked up a lot of stuff (thank god for w3schools as well as google, lol). To build the site, I used a table-based layout, which is a very easy to do, fast, reliable technique that has been used for years and years by webmasters everywhere. Now, without going into technical details (ask me if you’re interested, I can talk forever about this stuff), table-based layouts are a bad idea, for a variety of reasons. I don’t remember when I discovered that fact, but in the back of my mind, I knew that one day, I had to redo the layout of the site.

The actual, correct way to do site design is a div/css layout. When I started trying to figure out how to redesign the site, I knew nothing about divs. I knew how to use css for colors and font size, very basic stuff, but other than that, I knew nothing. I don’t even think I’d heard of css positioning to be honest. So I had to learn from scratch. I went to I dunno how many sites and read stories of other webmasters trying to do this very same thing, seeing if I could learn from their experience. I looked at tons of examples, modified them, played with them, to see what I could do and what I couldn’t. Like I said, I won’t go into technical details here, but I had to learn how to do a lot of different things, and I had to practice them and try them in all kinds of ways. I have no idea how many nights I spend messing with the stuff, but it never seemed to worked. And so I would work on it for 2 days straight, get nowhere, then quit for 3 weeks. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then yesterday, for some unknown reason, I finally got it to work. I vaguely know what I did differently, but basically, it finally “clicked” for me. I understood. So I went about actually recreating the current design using divs and css. I’m sure at some point I will redesign the look of the entire site, but I just wanted to recreate the old look so I could say I had a div-based layout instead of a table-based one. So AnglaisPod.com is now completely div-based. A few individual pages still have tables for other things, and I will be slowly replacing those, but the main layouts are not tables anymore, so I’m happy.

So now that it’s all said and done, what is the benefit? Sure, it’s the “proper” way to layout my pages, but so what? Is there a benefit? Well, I’m glad you asked! Yes, there is in fact. For you, the end user, the regular visitor, there is pretty much one benefit: faster loading pages. The difference will be minimal, you probably won’t even notice. But they will load slightly faster! The rest of the benefits are for me. See, the way it was set up before, if I want to update something about the layout of each page, I had to go and change each individual page. This takes a while, especially as the number of pages keeps growing. Not to mention the ever-increasing number of photo pages! But with this new system, if I want to change the layout, all I have to do is change my css file, and voila (we actually say that in English!), the entire website is changed. In other words, if I want to change something that is the same on all web pages, I just change one thing, one time, and every single page is automatically updated. It’s the brilliance of divs and css. And also, as I was redoing all the pages to prepare them to work with divs, I also added in database functionality for a variety of things, such as the left menu. So say I add a new page that I want to include in the left menu (such as the upcoming Extras page). Well, all I do is login to my database, add one entry, and voila, all of the website will now have one more link in the left menu. With the databases and the div-based layout now, updating the website will be soooo much easier!!! I’m quite happy about this. So I think I am going to go take a nap, I’m that excited. 😛

(if any of you do web design and are interested in how I did this, or if you’re an expert and want to laugh at me and tell me how dumb my code is and how much of an amateur I am for doing tables in the first place, feel free to do so)

Oh, and before I go, don’t even get me started on the incompatibilities of internet explorer with this whole thing. I do have it worked out, now, finally, but IE tends to ignore standards that firefox and opera can easily handle, so…that added a bit more time to the whole process. If you use internet explorer, do yourself a favor and download and try Firefox. If you don’t like it, try Opera. Just don’t use IE unless you absolutely have to, it’s a terrible browser. I mean, that’s just my opinion, but…it’s a terrible browser. And if you’re on a Mac, and you refuse to use Firefox and insist on Safari…well, I don’t understand, because I don’t like Safari’s interface, but at least Safari does a pretty good job with standards. And for all my fellow Linux users out there (I use Ubuntu and Vista both), read the Safari sentence again, but replace “Safari” with Konqueror. Oh, and one last random browser comment: Netscape has now officially been discontinued, no more updates for it ever.

One other good thing I suppose: before the update, the main menu had a special effect on it that only worked in real browsers, because of an IE incompatibility. Now, due to some of the magic of the changes I made, IE users can see the special effect, too. It’s not super special, it’s just the red box that appears around menu items when you move your mouse over them. But I think it makes the menu a lot nicer, still, so I’m glad it finally works in all browsers. So yay. And I promise, most of the posts on this blog will not be as technology-oriented as this one!

Now for my nap.