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:: Wednesday, March 31 2004 ::

I received another exciting document from the unions on my way to the subway this morning. I will quote the opening paragraph:

As Desney (my co-worker) noted "Oh. They're on globalization again."
:: David (04:57 in Michigan, 10:57 in Paris)

So I discovered a new toy for users of handheld devices. It's called Roundpoint, and it's like AvantGo, except that the newspapers and magazines you can get require you to pay money. OK, so it's not quite as nice as AvantGo, in that respect. However, it does allow you to download the Page 3 Girls directly to your PDA. Which I'm sure is nice for some people....
:: David (03:29 in Michigan, 09:29 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, March 30 2004 ::

There's an absolutely wonderful, wonderful piece in the Guardian today by Philip Pullman. It's all about how important the arts are to children, and I'm going to quote the opening in it's entirety:

Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air. They need to hear real music played by real musicians on real instruments as much as they need food and drink. They need to read and listen to proper stories as much as they need to be loved and cared for.

The difficulty with persuading grown-up people about this is that if you deprive children of shelter and kindness and food and drink and exercise, they die visibly; whereas if you deprive them of art and music and story and theatre, they perish on the inside, and it doesn't show.

So the grown-ups who should be responsible for providing these good and necessary things - teachers, politicians, parents - don't always notice until it's too late; or they pretend that art and theatre and so on are not necessities at all, but expensive luxuries that only snobbish people want in any case; or they claim that children are perfectly happy with their computers and video games, and don't need anything else.

I'm not going to argue about this: I'm right. Children need art and music and literature; they need to go to art galleries and museums and theatres; they need to learn to play musical instruments and to act and to dance. They need these things so much that human rights legislation alone should ensure that they get them.

Doesn't that just make you happy?
:: David (13:03 in Michigan, 19:03 in Paris)

There's an interesting article in the Economist this week talking about bariatric surgery, or stomach stapling as it is more commonly known. It's a scary, scary thing when surgery is a cure-all. For 98% of the people (apparently it has a 2% morbidity rate). I can't decide what to think - morbid obesity isn't exactly good for one's health, either.
:: David (12:06 in Michigan, 18:06 in Paris)

It's taken me a long time, but I've finally figured out exactly how easily small minds can be amused. Allow me to explain:

Here in the EuroZone, we have coins valued at 1,2,5,10,20, and 50 cents, as well as 1 and 2 euros. This can lead, very quickly, to a pocket full of change. Thus, for some time now, I've been playing the 'change game' with the coffee machine downstairs. How is this game played, you might ask? As follows: I know, from experience, that the machine favours larger coins over smaller ones - for example, if you are getting 50 cents back, it will give you a single fifty cent coin, not, for example, two twenties and a ten. By the same token, if you are getting thirty cents back, it will definitely be a twenty and a ten, not three tens. Thus, I always make it a point to feed all of my small change into the machine, in an attempt to reduce the number of coins in my pocket. For example: coffee costs 40 cents. Thus, I could put a 50 in, get back a 10. Net: no gain, no loss. I put one coin in, got one coin out. On the other hand, if I put a 50, a twenty, and a ten in (80 cents) I will get two twenties back. Net: one coin less in my pocket (three go in, two come out).

Twice a day, usually around 10:00 or so and again at 3:00 or so, this game amuses me for several moments as I wander down to the machine, slide in the various change chosen for this particular event, and then smugly contemplate my gain as I wait for the machine to produce my chosen drink for the day. Happiness is in the little things.
:: David (11:49 in Michigan, 17:49 in Paris)

Really interesting article in the IHT today, talking about Spain deciding to give working papers to illegal immigrants injured in the Madrid bombing:

"It is like a dream coming true through a nightmare," said Doinita Violeta Luca, pondering a brand-new, plastic-sealed residency card that carries her name next to the Spanish national colors, the first step toward a proper passport later this year.

As she readied herself to leave the makeshift immigration office in a central police station in Madrid, there was a troubled mix of pain, guilt and wonder in her eyes. Like many others, Luca, a 34-year-old Romanian mother of two, earned her right to citizenship by being wounded and traumatized in one of the four trains that were ripped apart in coordinated bombings on March 11.

Within hours of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Spanish history, the outgoing prime minister, José María Aznar, announced that immediate family members of foreign-born victims and the non-Spaniards among the 1,900-plus people who were hurt in the bombings would be given Spanish passports.

According to the article, of the 190 people who died in the bombings, 47 of them were immigrants. Spain has not addressed the need for workers in the country, and thus demand for illegal immigrants is quite high. The incoming government has promised to address this issue, but it has taken a lot to get them there:
"It’s pretty symbolic of their immigration policy. You have to almost die to get the papers. It’s a high price to pay."
- Marisol Arias, 32, an Ecuadorian injured in the attacks.

:: David (07:43 in Michigan, 13:43 in Paris)

:: Monday, March 29 2004 ::

Given the option, I don't think I'll come straight to work from a 3 hour train ride out of London. It just doesn't make me happy. Nor does it make me particularly productive. I suspect I'm going to need to spend the rest of the week working as hard as I can to get anything even remotely close to finished before I leave.

That's an odd thought, as well - I can't believe I'm going to be heading home in a week. It seems completely odd and surreal. I'm looking forward to it though - some real time off, which doesn't involve a mad dash across the water to fill out forms, will be most welcome. I'm going to try and take it easy, simply relax and see who I can, when I can, and if I don't see everyone or do everything, I'll catch them the next time around. I'm definitely not going to do what I have on some previous trips where I tried to see everyone within a 200 mile radius. An evening here, an evening there, and back.

My mobile phone is still working - Jason sent me a text message from Egypt, which I find just tremendously exciting. I'm hoping to pick up a card so I can have a French phone number as well as a british one. I might stop by Darty on my way home this evening. I figure if I wander in with a huge backpack, I'll have an excuse for not speaking French. On the other hand, that might be too much excitement for one day. We'll see.
:: David (11:18 in Michigan, 17:18 in Paris)

:: Sunday, March 28 2004 ::

I'm afraid there's a further lack of regaling you with tales of wild parties in London and so forth, but in point of fact we went for a pub lunch, read the paper, and went out for mexican food this evening. Little if anything by way of touristy bits. Oh, except for one random bit of fun. It seems the Oxford/Cambridge boat race started near where we went to lunch. So we got to see massive crowds lining the river and swamping the town, and came home to watch the race on television (which was much more comfortable). Very exciting race, for a few moments, followed by a long bit where the winner was obvious and we were simply waiting for them to reach the finish line.

It's been funny being here - I've watched more rugby and football (soccer) than I have in ages, and got to experience the whole 'will he/won't he' Sven Eriksson saga unfolding. All of which would have been completely ignored were I in Paris. So it was fun. We've reserved a cab for 4:30 AM and hope to be on the train by 5:30, arriving at something crazy like 9:30 AM or so.
:: David (17:33 in Michigan, 23:33 in Paris)

:: Saturday, March 27 2004 ::

I watched some rugby this evening - France versus England. France won, which was no surprise to anyone we were with.
:: David (17:14 in Michigan, 23:14 in Paris)

Busy day - lots of walking, lots of random sights. We had a lazy morning, and finally made it out of the flat about 12:30 or 1:00 pm. Lots of random this and that, wandering town looking at anything that struck our mind. We had Indian for the second time in two days, this time for dinner. It's nice to be able to get good Indian food!
:: David (17:05 in Michigan, 23:05 in Paris)

You know, there's something very special about a beer named 'Waggledance'. It speaks to me.
:: David (17:03 in Michigan, 23:03 in Paris)

:: Friday, March 26 2004 ::

Tired as all get out - I feel like I've been through an evil wringer. On the upside, after an hour queueing outside the French visa office (I don't think it was an embassy or a consulate, merely a visa processing centre) I have successfully gone through tohe hoops to get a visa. We'll see how it turns out in a month or so.

After freezing my butt off outside, I decided I needed to go someplace warm, so I headed to the national gallery. It has changed a lot in a short span of time - they've closed off the road out front and are doing renovations inside as well. It's an interesting gallery, as compared to the louvre. It's funny to me that I can make that comparison. When I first rolled in to town I wasn't sure if I was as impressed with London as I had been in the past. Living in Paris for a while changes your impression of things. But now it's all coming back, all the old haunts, places I've been and the people I was with. Fun.
:: David (06:41 in Michigan, 12:41 in Paris)

So, as you may have worked out, I have managed to wake up in time for my train. The coffee is helping with the part of my brain which is trying to point out how early it is. I can only hope it continues to help until I get on the Eurostar, at which point I am seriously considering some sleep.
:: David (22:53 in Michigan, 04:53 in Paris)

You know, some things simply shouldn't be the first thing you read in the morning. Especially when you haven't had a lot of sleep:

Circumcised men may be six times less likely to contract HIV than uncircumcised men, research suggests.
Things like this only serve to confuse at 5 AM.
:: David (22:52 in Michigan, 04:52 in Paris)

:: Thursday, March 25 2004 ::

Ah, the early morning departure. Theoretically, in four hours or so I will board a train to London. When I arrive in London, again theoretically, I will take the underground to the French embassy, and in a few short moments, complete phase one of my paperwork to become a real boy (in France, at least). We'll see how it all goes. There's a labour action expected tomorrow, which may mean I never make it to the train station, and if I do there's no guarantee the train itself will run (although I think they are of a different union - a less strike-y union). And then there's the rest of the worry - will I have all the paperwork, will they like my paperwork, etc. But after all that, I have a weekend in London. And I like London. It's a nice town. Full of happy people who speak English. So that in and of itself will be a change.
:: David (18:28 in Michigan, 00:28 in Paris)

My co-worker Max walked by a little bit ago and said "quit blogging and go home!" which amused me to no end. The office is really quiet late in the evening, which I like a lot. I get more done when I'm relaxed and not worried about leaving on time, or trying to get home for anything. Or maybe I get just as much done, but it takes me longer...?
:: David (13:02 in Michigan, 19:02 in Paris)

I've just had a realization, and it amuses me greatly: I was reading a commentary in the Wall Street Journal which described how many jobs were 'insourced', as the author put it, i.e. moved to the States from abroad. The author, Walter Wriston, is a former CEO of Citicorp/Citibank, and one assumes from his tone a conservative (although his first paragraph makes one amusingly uncertain - "What is relatively new is that today in the U.S. one politician can command coast-to-coast attention by repeating some assertion over and over - a power not given to an absolute monarch a few years ago." - he was speaking, it appears from the rest of his article, of the Democrats, but in the beginning the phrase was quite ambiguous - is he talking about the 'war on terror'? Who knows?) Regardless, what he neglects to mention quite thoroughly is the fact that the 'imported' jobs require a higher skill set than the jobs which are exported. But, and here's what threw me because so rarely do I see it working for the liberals, it doesn't matter what he says. Why is this? Because the popular media won't pick up on it, and even if they do it won't be believed by the people he is trying to convince. Wasted words. Usually it's the liberals who have this problem, because often issues reduced to black and white don't favour the liberal agenda. It's easier to see money not in your pocket as, well, money not in your pocket. Explaining all the good uses it goes to doesn't help, because it's still... money not in your pocket. This is the first time I've seen the conservatives fall afoul of it. Unemployment is... unemployment. And saying 'we're better off because someone else has a better job' doesn't help if you don't have a job. I'm not sure I want Kerry to win on an isolationist ticket, but I am sure I want him to win (or rather, I want Bush to lose). If simplifying the issue works, then there you are.
:: David (06:45 in Michigan, 12:45 in Paris)

An article in the Financial Times today gives me cause for hope that Europe, at least, 'gets it':

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, will today map out an EU strategy on terrorism that stresses the importance of tackling the social and economic grievances that fuel it.

Mr Solana, writing in the Financial Times ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, also tells US critics that Europe is not backing away from fighting terror after the Madrid bombings. "Those who detect a new climate of appeasement in Europe towards terrorism are wrong," says Mr Solana. He says: "No cause justifies terrorism but nothing justifies ignoring the causes of terrorism".

Wouldn't it be nice if that message got around?
:: David (05:55 in Michigan, 11:55 in Paris)

I was thinking this morning how much I like short stories. Especially well crafted short stories where the character development happens at breakneck speed and a single word or phrase tells you volumes about the character. I've started reading a short story by Patricia McKillip called "The Snow Queen" in which she develops the characters marvelously in elegant little phrases: "Gerda, not hearing the silence, spoke." It sets a scene, a person, and an emotion, all at once. When you read as much as I do, and much of it designed simply to impart information without regard for beauty, a well-crafted short story is like a breath of fresh air - a shining, tiny jewel among huge grey stones.
:: David (05:50 in Michigan, 11:50 in Paris)

Payday! I think my paycheck is different again from what it was last month, which was in turn different than the month before that, etc.
:: David (05:42 in Michigan, 11:42 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, March 24 2004 ::

Pim's are tasty cookies covered with chocolate and filled with orange marmalade. They make me happy. Except when I sit at my desk and eat a whole box. Then they make me sad. *sigh*
:: David (13:18 in Michigan, 19:18 in Paris)

I know I shouldn't post silly things like this, but I really do need to (from the BBC):

Violinists in a German orchestra are suing for a pay rise on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their colleagues. The 16 violinists at the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn say they work much harder than their fellow musicians. [...] The violinists say they should receive an extra £60 per rehearsal or performance from their employer, the city of Bonn, to reflect the "extra notes" they have to read and play. They also claim that a collective bargaining agreement that gives bonuses to soloists is unjust.
It's tough to know what to say to that. Also worth noting is that the article states "German musicians earn basic monthly wages of up to £4,100" or better than $60,000/year. Not bad at all!
:: David (11:35 in Michigan, 17:35 in Paris)

The independent reported today that tensions between the US and Europe are set to increase dramatically due to a huge fine levied on Microsoft by the European commission.

"This ruling is yet another example of the EU assaulting a successful American industry and policies that support our economic growth," said US Senator Patty Mumax, a Democrat from Microsoft’s home state of Washington. She called on President George Bush to "engage" with Brussels on the case.
I wonder if we're going to see yet more protectionist rhetoric come out of this. I also wonder if anyone besides Ms. Mumax is surprised or offended at an antitrust fine being levied on Microsoft?
:: David (06:40 in Michigan, 12:40 in Paris)

Today;s interesting thing seen out my window: a car accident. I can't tell if the taxi was parked diagonally and the woman scraped it as she drove by, or if it was just what I saw - the woman was backing along the street and scraped her car along the taxi. Either way, they've been sitting out there now for some time, intermittently yelling at one another. Fun.
:: David (06:34 in Michigan, 12:34 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, March 23 2004 ::

Bad news for the dollar, good news for me (from the Telegraph):

David Bloom, currency strategist at HSBC, said he expected the dollar would weaken further if Japanese intervention did not continue.

"The dollar can barely stand up on its own without intervention from the Far East, so we do not presume there has been any sori of a sea change," he said. "We think the dollar is on the cusp of resuming its downward trend."

Japan’s top financial diplomat, Zembei Mizoguchi, said Tokyo would intervene further if there were any sharp movements in the currency markets. The Bank of Japan last month disclosed that it spent around $92 billion on keeping the yen low against the dollar in the first two months of the year.

So what does this mean for me? I hold euros and wait for the dollar to fall some more. Sadly, this means Sasha will have even less money, due to the fact that her savings are in dollars. We'll have to do a major currency swap before I head home, so she isn't completely in the lurch.
:: David (04:03 in Michigan, 10:03 in Paris)

The big cover story on '20 minutes' (Paris edition) is the killing of Sheikh Yassin by an Israeli missile yesterday. The title of the story? "Hamas cries vengeance". You can also try to read the full magazine, but it may ask for a password (try odoketa/beagle if it does).
:: David (03:34 in Michigan, 09:34 in Paris)

Argh! Fluffy hair on the métro! I hate it! Since there's usually a breeze on the train (because the doors and windows aren't airtight), when your hair isn't completely locked down it blows everywhere, including in your face when you're trying to read. Grrr!
:: David (03:07 in Michigan, 09:07 in Paris)

:: Monday, March 22 2004 ::

So apparently the Guardian did a whole series on blogs, and with one of the blogs they pointed out they noted they had singled it out for its amazing photography. So I wandered over, and they weren't kidding! The photos are great! And the fact that he's using a pinhole camera half the time makes me even happier. I can't wait until digital cameras get somewhat near this level of versatility. I think I have a long wait for that day....
:: David (16:59 in Michigan, 22:59 in Paris)

Ah, math. I just read a quite fun commentary on math education. It always makes me smile. Now, I confess that I am not the one to talk to about math education - I never had a problem with math. But by the same token, I find it hard to believe that, with a good educational system, more than 70% of eighth graders would fail a basic math test. Crazy. And what are we spending our money on?

It's funny - although technically speaking I was a math geek (in that I majored in math and computer science), I never really had the affection for math that some of my more... eccentric colleagues did. Perhaps I should have. Perhaps they were just trying to spread the good word. Dancing in the face of the world that was rejecting math.

In the end, of course, the mathematicians will have the last laugh, because sooner or later someone is going to realize that everything we do now relies on computers that simply will not function without someone to do all those crazy calculations....
:: David (16:33 in Michigan, 22:33 in Paris)

Sometimes reading a Bush speech makes me wonder if I am watching "The Lord of the Rings" all over again - take this example, as reported in the IHT:

There is no neutral ground - no neutral ground - in the fight between civilization and terror, because there’s no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavéry, and life and death
and, if that wasn't enough to make you raise your sword over your head and yell 'Hurrah' or somesuch garbage, he continued to a rousing conclusion:
The war on terror is not a figure of speech, it is an inescapable calling of our generation
...it only sounds like a figure of speech...

Much of the speech was cast in this 'good versus evil' motif, and it is excellent stuff. I do respect the speechwriters who are doing this, and I do respect the president for being able to pull off phrases like 'the axis of evil'. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, if he buys this stuff, he's doing a great job of delivering his view to the people.

Sadly, if we give him the benefit of the doubt it actually makes him a dangerous maniac, rather than just a cynical politician who has found a way to use events to his advantage. And the real key is to remember exactly how dangerous zealots are - someone who truly believes, and can convince others to believe him, and is able to cast those who don't believe him as enemies of the state, can cause an awful lot of damage. World War Two was not the fault of one crazy man. It was the fault of one convincing crazy man.
:: David (04:39 in Michigan, 10:39 in Paris)

:: Sunday, March 21 2004 ::

I am amused at the thought that Misty in currently in India. Somewhere I have not in fact been. I wonder what she's going to think of the whole experience. Wacky.
:: David (13:51 in Michigan, 19:51 in Paris)

L'élargissement de l'Union européenne à dix nouveaux pays sera une réalité au mois de mai prochain. Cette Europe élargie ne doit pas être une simple zone de libre échange. Elle doit se construire dans l'intérêt des salariés et des populations.The enlargement of the European Union will be a reality this May. This enlarged Europe should not be a simple free market zone. It should be built keeping in mind the interests of paid workers and the people.
I don't know if you've all seen the cover to this week's Economist, but it made me laugh out loud when I saw it. I think the people who make those covers should be given an award for this one!

:: David (13:45 in Michigan, 19:45 in Paris)

Not a whole lot happening today - we went our in the morning, came back in the afternoon. We did swing by the train station (Gare du Nord) to see if our tickets to the UK were OK, as they both had my name on them, and we thought that was odd, but we have been informed that it is OK, so we're taking their word. Either way, it's Sasha who will have the problem, so I'll be able to (hoepfully) get my paperwork done. Hopefully.
:: David (13:41 in Michigan, 19:41 in Paris)

:: Saturday, March 20 2004 ::

Saved the world, went for sushi. It was an amusing day overall, and I learned lots of new things - like why the big stores aren't open on Sunday (they aren't allowed - if they open, they have to pay a fine!) and other random items. A good day, but long, so now I'm off to bed!
:: David (18:43 in Michigan, 00:43 in Paris)

Well, the party was a success, and we're looking forward to doing more of them (right now we are - once we do the dishes we might not be as keen about having more parties...). We're off today to hang out with Matthew and Gabrielle once more before they flee the country. It would seem now I have to find something else to do with my Thursday nights. Hopefully, that will involve more French classes.
:: David (04:44 in Michigan, 10:44 in Paris)

:: Friday, March 19 2004 ::

T-minus one hour to party. The place is cleared of stuff, my closet is chock full of dirty clothes which will explode all over the house if anyone touches it. Final prep is underway....
:: David (12:50 in Michigan, 18:50 in Paris)

I read an article today in the Washington Times by Richard Rahn (of the Cato institute) which discussed all of the new rules going into effect with regard to monitoring the movement of cash:

A certain international political class has used this anxiety to argue that since criminals and terrorists use money, all monetary movements and holdings must be monitored.
The article itself held little interest for me - I've never given much thought to the movement of huge amounts of money internationally, because even though I move money internationally on a regular basis, it's never in the quantities this article discusses. However, in making his argument, the author posits an interesting theory, beginning with the idea that the regulations place too much of a burden on smaller banks:
Smaller banks and businesses are at a competitive disadvantage because of the disproportionate effect of these regulatory costs. [...] Many of these new rules and regulations are overlapping, some are contradictory, some violate basic civil liberties and many are costly to administer and do not meet reasonable cost-benefit tests.
Again, it is possible that the rules place too much of a burden on smaller banks, and have assisted, or perhaps forced the consolidation of the banking industry. However, the conclusion the author draws is what really drew my attention:

The reason we should care is that all of these extra, and in many cases totally unnecessary, costs are passed along to consumers of financial services as higher fees and more expensive and fewer choices in financial products. This directly translates into job losses not only in financial industries but in all businesses that rely on some outside financing.

In addition, it will make it more difficult for low-income people, the young and recent immigrants to open bank accounts. We are now seeing, for the first time in our nation's history, a rise in the portion of our citizens without banking relationships.

Now this, I have seen. As the banks have grown larger and larger, they have been charging more and more for basic services like savings and checking. However, the author's premise, that accounting and oversight rules have led to the increases in fees and decreases in accounts held, seems disingenuous at best. While I am as likely as anyone to acknowledge the effect of market forces on lowering prices, I think one also has to recognize another force which acts on organizations like this - moving upstream. Moving upstream simply means instead of focusing on 200 people who make you $1.00 in profit each, you focus on 20 people who make you $100.00 in profit each. In the case of financial institutions, I think the integration of multiple business lines as banks merge has as much to do with this as anything else - now you can focus on those customers who have multiple relationships with you, perhaps insurance, investments, and banking.

I think we all recognize the archetype, and it has always been true that at a certain level, people simply got better service. My parent's next door neighbor was, for a while, on a first name basis with the bank owner in town, because he had a large amount of money. Now that he is a small business owner, and the money mostly gone, he is back to being a number. This has always been the case. But now it is possible, due to the ability of banks to disconnect from regions altogether, to ignore lower margin clients almost altogether. An example - ATMs. Now that basic transactions can be done through a machine, banks have been rolling back their hours, and the number of clients they see face-to-face. It is necessary to have a certain number of customers, to cover the cost of ATMs, but that's about it.

Sadly, I don't have any real conclusions to be drawn from this - I suspect there is an untapped market out there of people who would like a real bank, with good customer service and friendly people. But I also suspect it would be hard to make money doing business that way. I do know that I worry about a society which is heading down the road of having to pay people for every basic service.
:: David (09:31 in Michigan, 15:31 in Paris)

:: Thursday, March 18 2004 ::

Another day, another, ah, euro. My French class was really interesting today - we talked about the bombings in Spain for about an hour or so. In French. Not bad. After that, game night. Last game is on Saturday, and after that I have free evenings as far as the eye can see, which means I need to line up something in French!
:: David (18:04 in Michigan, 00:04 in Paris)

An article on the French language and the European Union, from the Financial Times:

France is launching a push to maintain the importance of French as a working language in the European Union, in the face of a tide of new eastern European members who prefer to speak English.
The accession of more members on May 1 will reinforce English as the main EU working language - a survey of officials from the new members found 69 per cent had English as their second language, with German next and French third.
The article goes on to detail French efforts to promote the speaking of French in the 10 accession countries, including French language contests and free lessons for officials. They are also pursuing some more unorthodox methods:
Pierre Sellai, French ambassador to the EU, said recently: “During lunches, I operate in a way to suggest to those who don’t understand me that they’re missing out on something important.”
The article concludes by noting that although France may ostensibly object to monolingualism, it isn't doing a great job of promoting the speaking of other languages in France:
A recent government report showed that French 15- to 16-year-olds now speak far worse English than teenagers in six other European countries surveyed.
France’s commitment to linguistic diversity has also been called into question by Luc Ferry, education minister, who complained last week that fewer French teenagers were learning foreign languages.
Mr Ferry said in Libération newspaper: "The more our country talks about linguistic diversity, the more we notice that exactly the opposite is happening."

:: David (04:59 in Michigan, 10:59 in Paris)

I found a link to the articles the speaker last night, David Ignatius, has written for the Washington Post (there's also a photo).
:: David (03:10 in Michigan, 09:10 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, March 17 2004 ::

Sasha's friend Becky wrote (actually, Becky's "special friend" wrote) to say that Becky wouldn't be arriving in Paris tomorrow, because she was too sick to board the plane. Sad. No visitors for us.
:: David (17:26 in Michigan, 23:26 in Paris)

Also found today, an interesting website on the recent history of the Japanese language. Lots of interesting details about how and why furigana went away, and came back.
:: David (17:24 in Michigan, 23:24 in Paris)

Speaker this evening, guy from the Washington Post. He talked about the temptations of Christ, and compared them to the situation in Iraq. It was actually quite thought provoking, although he did it not that well - as you may or may not know the third temptation in the desert was power over all the earth. Interestingly, the US could obviously try to have something like that if it wanted. And, as he pointed out, you might have good intentions (like overthrowing a dictator) when you use the power. But....
:: David (17:21 in Michigan, 23:21 in Paris)

From today's Financial Times, an author who is neither for nor against GM crops, but is definitely unimpressed with the way the situation has been handled:

Genetics is the most exciting of today’s new technologies and has the potential to revolutionise nutrition and medicine. As with all scientific developments, there is potential for both good and harm. Maximising the benefit requires thoughtful regulation, informed debate and visionary businesses. instead, we are patronised by a discredited government department, misled by campaign groups that are more interested in publicity than in the truth and let down by companies whose self-interest is so obvious and so short-term that it has proved self-defeating. May biodiversity choke them all.
The author, John Kay, also has a website.
:: David (05:49 in Michigan, 11:49 in Paris)

According to Reuters today,

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday called on Spain and other allies in Iraq to stick with the United States and not cave in to pressure from al Qaeda by withdrawing their troops.
Related to this, the Wall Street Journal (US version) opined today that John Kerry was clearly not up to being president, because he hadn't denounced Spain for threatening to withdraw.

What amazes me in all of this is that the conservatives, almost across the board, seem to be missing the fact that Spain, as defined by her people, was dead-set against the war. You can't be for democracy only when it's convenient. The only reason Spain ever went to Iraq was because her leader rejected the will of the people.
:: David (03:37 in Michigan, 09:37 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, March 16 2004 ::

Needless to say, not much of anything overwhelming happened today - well, we did book a trip to the UK, and send out invites to our party this Friday (you're welcome to come if you're in Paris!) but in terms of actually doing anything, not really. Nice day though, nice sunset. Looking forward to a week of warm weather. Sasha's friend Becky will be here on Thursday, and tomorrow we have a speaker to go see. Fun all around.
:: David (16:42 in Michigan, 22:42 in Paris)

Your thought for the day:

Phear my l33t k3b4b skillz
Sadly enough, brought to you by Sasha.
:: David (16:39 in Michigan, 22:39 in Paris)

Now this is what I call a lovely day! Mid 60's, sunny, amazing!
:: David (06:36 in Michigan, 12:36 in Paris)

:: Monday, March 15 2004 ::

So I just completed filling out the 2004 census. Yes, for Americans living overseas in a few select countries (of which France is one) there is a census test being run. My favorite question was in the 'feedback' section - describe the strength of your ties to the United States - high, medium, or low. Tee hee.
:: David (17:00 in Michigan, 23:00 in Paris)

L'Express Mag has published their spécial Mode Homme issue, and once again I will not be fashionable. Sad.
:: David (13:43 in Michigan, 19:43 in Paris)

I'm currently trying to finalize plans for a visit to London, to get my paperwork in order. Some mis-communication here led to a delay, but I'm hoping to have things in order before I return to the states. Which is coming up soon!
:: David (05:20 in Michigan, 11:20 in Paris)

So the elections in Spain turned out differently than expected, due to the terrorist attacks there last week. We will be observing a moment of silence in about half an hour, to mourn the victims of the attack. The Spanish populace, by and large, were not supporters of the Iraq war, and many of them are saying this attack was the result of their country's support of the invasion. A headline I saw today stated that the election results were directly attributable to the attacks. Which is a frightening, in that in some respects it would suggest that the terrorists got what they wanted. On the other hand, it is difficult to say that anyone's mind was changed, merely that more people actually went to vote. But even that is an effect....
:: David (05:19 in Michigan, 11:19 in Paris)

:: Sunday, March 14 2004 ::

So tonight we watched Love, Actually, which was just a wonderful film. For those of you who know me, you know I'm a sucker for 'feel-good' films, and this one was better done than many. For those of you who don't know me, why not? I'm a nice guy - you should get to know me!

Overall, it was a recovery day. I was still sore this morning from all the walking around we did last week, and church didn't help matters any (the episcopalians kneel during services, which uses weird muscles that, apparently, walking all day also uses. *sigh*). Afterward we went and met lots of people at the cathedral's 'coffee hour', and some time after that headed out for lunch. It looks as though the tourists are starting to arrive, because places we expected to be quiet and charming were instead packed to the gills with people, many speaking english. I wonder if I will recognize this place when high season hits?
:: David (16:00 in Michigan, 22:00 in Paris)

:: Saturday, March 13 2004 ::

Safe at home, and boy! are my legs tired!!! We walked everywhere! Troyes is the most amazing city in the universe, if you're into really old stuff. Very cool. Sleep now.
:: David (18:11 in Michigan, 00:11 in Paris)

Argh. Morning. Coffee.Must have coffee....
:: David (23:31 in Michigan, 05:31 in Paris)

:: Friday, March 12 2004 ::

Why, oh why did I think it was a good idea to go away on the weekend, when it means getting up at 5:30 am?!?
:: David (17:08 in Michigan, 23:08 in Paris)

From the Guardian Style Guide:


We are more liberal than any other newspaper, using words such as cunt and fuck that most of our competitors would not use, even in direct quotes

The editor's guidelines are straightforward:

First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend

Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes

Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it

Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a copout

While the Guardian may fail occasionally in its mission to be taken seriously, its attidue towards printing what was actually said is something I have always respected. If the person being interviewed swears during an interview, tell us. We don't need protecting from 'that kind of language' if we're old enough to be reading a newspaper like the Guardian.
:: David (17:06 in Michigan, 23:06 in Paris)

Had a little bit of a scare this evening when I accidentally erased the blog - I was trying to modify the program so I could post other things easily (in this case, wine) and it took a wrong turn in a big way and overwrote the blog. Thankfully, there was backup.
:: David (16:45 in Michigan, 22:45 in Paris)

So my big accomplishment of the day was at lunch, when I went over to DARTY and purchased a SmartMedia card for my camera. Why was this a big achievement, you ask? Because the card was in a locked cabinet, which meant I had to ask for it. In French! Woo!
:: David (12:53 in Michigan, 18:53 in Paris)

So here's a thought for you - according to the Financial Times, estimated demand for oil throughout the world is 80,200,000 barrels of oil per day. That's 29,273,000,000 barrels of oil per year. According to the article, which was about how much oil China is using, Chinese demand is 13% of that total. In dollar terms, using today's oil prices, that's $196,767,900 per day. Now, China is actually the number two oil consumer in the world. Guess who is number one? That's right - the United States. That means the US spends more than 70 billion dollars a year on oil.
:: David (05:21 in Michigan, 11:21 in Paris)

:: Thursday, March 11 2004 ::

An article in the Wall Street Journal (Europe) today augments my previous comments on employee benefits. It states that "A random survey of 2,800 employers conducted last year found that the typical employer spent about $6,619, or about €5,3600, a year per family on health-insurance premiums" and that "the typical employee paid an additional $2,412." For those doing the math, that's $9,000 per year per family on health care. That's as much or more than most people spend on housing.

The article continues, noting that despite the fact that many employers continue to shift more of the cost of health care to employees, "employers’ premiums have risen 38% over the past three years. In the last year, the U.S. government says employers’ health costs have risen 10.5% per hour while wages are up 3%."

The article also makes an interesting point about the manner in which rising health care costs are interpreted, pointing out that "[s]pending more on health isn’t necessarily bad. It isn’t all rising prices, excessive drug makers’ profits or unneeded care. Some reflects the growing American appetite for health care and costly life-improving advances in knowledge." Leaving aside the idea of a 'growing American appetite for health care', which is just silly, the fact that a great deal of fairly expensive research is going into 'quality of life' medical care is a good point.
:: David (11:25 in Michigan, 17:25 in Paris)

Something many of you may not be aware of is the fact that, internationally, the same degree can have radically different meaning. This has proved frustrating to me, because the United States has a much longer period of training than many other places. For example, in the UK, France, and Canada, a Master's degree refers to a degree earned after four year of higher education, and the writing of a thesis paper. In the U.S. it is generally a six year degree, also generally involving a thesis paper. Of course, it is fair to note that many other countries specialize much more in their higher education, and thus one could argue the extra two years required for a Master's degree in the States were simply spent doing non-essential things (like ballroom dance and basket weaving) rather than degree related work. Of course, this assumes that one does not have a Master's degree in ballroom dance or basket weaving.
:: David (04:31 in Michigan, 10:31 in Paris)

Tee hee - Lisa forwarded me an article in the Guardian concerning Japan's push for FDI and tourism. the article makes it clear that the author doesn't believe Japan is going to succeed, due to xenophobia being pushed in the press. One of the people mentioned, Ishihara, was denounced (internationally) in 2000 for telling the police that if there were a large earthquake in Japan, the foreigners would need to be locked up to stop them from rioting and looting.
:: David (01:35 in Michigan, 07:35 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, March 10 2004 ::

...and speaking of playing to the wrong audience, this article in the Weekly Standard made me happy that there are those out there who think this way, although I may not qualify. A taste:

Consider contemporary journalism, which tends to play everything to lower and lower common denominators. Why does the New York Times, with its pretensions to being our national newspaper, choose to put on its front pages stories about Gennifer Flowers's career as a chanteuse in New Orleans, the firing of NFL coaches, the retirement of Yves Saint Laurent, the canceling of the singer Mariah Carey's recording contract? Slow-news days is a charitable guess; a lowered standard of the significant is a more realistic one.

:: David (16:58 in Michigan, 22:58 in Paris)

Sasha directed me to this comment piece in which Naomi Klein points out just how completely misguided Freidman's latest piece was:

In Friedmanworld, call centres are the front lines of world war three: The Fight for Modernity, bravely keeping brown-skinned young people out of the clutches of Hamas and al-Qaida.
Thank goodness someone was paying attention.
:: David (16:04 in Michigan, 22:04 in Paris)

The evening got off to a bad start when Sasha was attacked by a metro door on our way to the event. Now all the church people will think I beat her, but really, really she did walk into a door!
:: David (15:58 in Michigan, 21:58 in Paris)

You know, it was Wednesday, and thus we went to a talk at the cathdral after work. It was given by a man and his wife who spent the last five years going to a variety of places which were... down on their luck, to say the least. Burundi, Rwanda, Cambodia, etc. And yet, for all that, for all the amazing places they went and all the amazing things they had seen, it was incredibly, painfully boring. I don't know how. We speculated they had aimed for a less well educated group or something. I don't know. All I know is that sitting for that long, after sitting all day, was horrible.
:: David (15:57 in Michigan, 21:57 in Paris)

So I bought a bag of potato chips to go with my lunch today, and as I was munching my way through them I thought "I wonder what awful things I have put into my body today?" So I looked. Potatoes, vegetable oil, salt. And who sold me such amazingly pure potato chips? Some tiny potato chip maker in southern France? Nope. Pepsi did. So if things can be this fresh and pure here, why does the ingredients list in the States stretch to a page and a half?
:: David (08:04 in Michigan, 14:04 in Paris)

The Financial Times pointed out today that last week's economic figures showed that "Of 290,000 private-sector jobs created since April 2003, most - 215,000 - have been temporary positions". As one US economist noted, "It is slightly depressing to think that even the poor job-creation figures we have had have been flattered by temporary positions".

I think most people are aware that temporary employees have become much more popular in the US. The FT quotes one CEO as saying "Companies are trying to think of staff more like inventory, keeping things to a minimum." Of course, one reason for this is benefits. According to the article, in 2003 alone the cost of benefits rose 6.3%, as compared to wages which rose 2.9%. Since 2000 the cost of employee benefits has risen almost 5% annually.

To put this in perspective, some back of the envelope numbers: according to the article, benefits now cost about 1/3 of total renumeration. Thus, for an 'average worker', in 2000 making $20,000, a company would have paid $29,100. Today that worker, taking into account wage increases and benefit increases, costs $33,600.

In comparison, a temporary employee who cost $29,000 in 2000 would today only cost $32,500. A savings of more than $1,000 per employee.

The other benefit, of course, is the ease with which temporary employees can be released when the economy takes a downturn. A worker who in 2000 cost a company $29,000 costs exactly nothing today if they can be easily fired when circumstances require.

Of course, rehiring and retraining takes time and energy, raising the actual cost of temporary employees. But many employers are coming to believe that the benefits (or lack of benefits) outweigh the costs.
:: David (05:47 in Michigan, 11:47 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, March 9 2004 ::

Long day. Got to have lunch with Sasha in the middle of it, though, so it was not a total loss. I have finally worked out how to get my paperwork through so in a few weeks/months I will be legal to work in France. Thank goodness! Otherwise, not a lot happening on this fine Tuesday evening. I find work drains my brain, for the most part, so mostly we just watch bad television. Most recently I've been watching Love Hina in addition to the usual suspects (andgel and stargate).
:: David (12:48 in Michigan, 18:48 in Paris)

:: Monday, March 8 2004 ::

You know, I think this came from the FT, but I'll be darned if I can find it on their website...

The enduring Atlantic divide

[...W]hoever is in the White House, tensions between European and American approaches to the world seem sure to persist. The heyday of Atlanticism came to a close with the end of the cold war. The overriding concern for America now is the stabilisation of the “Greater Middle East”. And for all the hopeful talk, on both sides of the Atlantic, that this might be a new project on which to rebuild American-European relations, the reality is that attitudes and priorities will remain different.

Thus, polls suggest that Americans are far more sympathetic to Israel than Europeans and also more open to the use of military force. Some Europeans complain that American policymakers, preoccupied by the Middle East, take a cavalier approach to some extremely sensitive issues, such as Turkish membership of the European Union. One German analyst groans that "as far as the Americans are concerned, the discussion over whether Turkey should join the EU is already over. Now they want us to accept Israel, Palestine and Georgia."

Were John Kerry to win the White House in November, such differences would remain. Indeed in some areas, such as trade, the quarrels between the two sides couldget worse: Mr Bush has been bad enough, but Mr Kerry is deploying some alarmingly protectionist language in his campaign. The United States would remain preoccupied by the war on terror, pro-Israeli and willing to use its military strength unilaterally. Mr Kerry might explain American views more tactfully than Mr Bush. He might even do it in French. But transatlantic tensions would endure.

I thought this was an interesting commentary on the relationship between Europe and the US, and one that doesn't get enough play in the states (since the Europeans are 'just like us', except when they aren't).
:: David (13:16 in Michigan, 19:16 in Paris)

:: Sunday, March 7 2004 ::

So, I snapped a photo of the American Cathedral interior today - since I mention it on a regular basis I thought you might be interested to know what it looks like. Here you go!
:: David (13:58 in Michigan, 19:58 in Paris)

In the afternoon we took atvantage of free museum Sunday to head over to the Cluny (because, once again, climbing the towers of Notre Dame would simply require too much time spent standing in line). At the Cluny, Sasha spotted a painting of one of the people she is currently reading, Jean Juvenal des Ursins. It's kind of entertaining, to me, that these paintings which are more than 500 years old, represent someone Sasha in some way 'knows'. Wacky!
:: David (11:59 in Michigan, 17:59 in Paris)

We had a really interesting sermon today, from Sharon, our local 'hot-topic' sermon maker. Today was based off the Mel Gibson movie "The Passion of Christ", which has been condemned in some circles for being anti-semitic. From there, she gave an excellent 'anti anti-semitic' speech, which was very interesting, given that Europe is not necessarily noted for its pro-semitic positions, or history. And neither, she pointed out, is the church's history clean (or even all that good). There was an excellent moment where she pointed out that 'being against Israel is not necessarily being anti-semitic'. I've a sneaky suspicion this woman would have been burned at the stake in some places.
:: David (11:31 in Michigan, 17:31 in Paris)

Another free museum Sunday. We're off to the American Cathedral and then on to (hopefully) climb Notre Dame.
:: David (04:10 in Michigan, 10:10 in Paris)

Just finished watching Cold Mountain. I still don't like Civil War movies. They're all the same story (told better, or worse). This one was told better than many.
:: David (19:15 in Michigan, 01:15 in Paris)

:: Saturday, March 6 2004 ::

Big ol' shopping day today! Sasha and I walked downtown (yes, walked - we decided we must have gotten a lot more in shape since first arriving) and stopped off for a tasty crêpe at our local place (one of the fancy ones with ice cream and somesuch) and then decided we would go clothes shopping. And boy did we! I was picking on Sasha for not wearing enough colors, but sadly in the end it was me who had nothing but blues and blacks, because Sasha got these awesome jeans with red cuffs, and all I got was dress shirts and a sweater. Ah well - plenty of time to get more clothes (and when I get back to the states, all the clothes will be CHEAP! Now it's dinner and a movie, I suspect, as we are both rather tired.
:: David (13:27 in Michigan, 19:27 in Paris)

:: Friday, March 5 2004 ::

The Wall Street Journal, a paper which I usually detest but which at least keeps me apprised of what right-wing conservatives are thinking, has an article discussing current legislation in the US as regards the outsourcing of jobs internationally. It breaks them down into six categories:

Help Affected Workers
This legislation would "extend training, health care and other benefits to employees in the service industry whose jobs are moved abroad". Apparently, something like this already exists for manufacturing, but not for service industry workers, who are in many cases just as likely to be outsourced (think call centres).
Require Full Disclosure
This would be akin to a law requiring advance notice for plant closings. The idea is to give workers more time to find new jobs, or, perhaps, to fight the outsourcing. Overall, not a bad thing, although the use of the media in these fights can get dirty. Nevertheless, a little advance warning is always a good thing in my mind - gets workers perpared to shift jobs.
Cut Off Federal Aid
This would bar federal loans, grants or guarantees for any company that lays off more workers at home than it does abroad. Sounds like it has high overhead - is someone going to be paid to count?
Crack Down on Federal Contracts
"Congress already has barred companies that plan to use offshore labor from winning some federal-government contracts this year, and some Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, want to make the ban permanent." I can see the reasoning behind this one, but I'm not sure I buy it. Some things can just as easily be done from anywhere, and cheaper is often better. The question is whether other things, like the multiplier effect, might not need to be considered. The 'multiplier effect' is the growth that happens in an economy when someone spends money, and someone else receives that money, and then turns around and spends it again. If enough people do that, you can make one dollar spent do the work of many. And all of those dollars spent will be taxed. Thus, it is possible that by spending money locally, the cost, once the multiplier effect is taken into account, is actually less than a firm abroad might charge. But that would require more thought than some places are willing to do. And it might still be the case that shipping the jobs abroad is cheaper.
Provide Tax Incentives/Impose Tax Penalties
This would reduce or eliminate corporate tax deductions for the expense of moving jobs abroad or hiring offshore contractors. A second element would provide tax cuts for manufacturers that keep jobs in the U.S. I think the first part is just fine, but that's because I always enjoy taxing corporations. As for tax cuts for keeping jobs in the US, I think I would need to see a reason beyond just keeping jobs in the US. As I have noted before, some jobs it makes sense to send abroad.
Insist on Privacy Protections
Self explanatory, and probably a good idea. Depending on the form this one takes, it would prevent sensitive data from being sent to firms abroad. Why this doesn't already exist is probably a better question....
With the US elections rushing towards us, I'm sure we'll here more on these, and other schemes to 'protect American jobs'. We'll see if it amounts to anything.
:: David (18:20 in Michigan, 00:20 in Paris)

Here's an interesting take on the Cyprus issue I mentioned yesterday: The Financial Times has an article today which talks about the Turkish attitude towards Cyprus, and towards Turkish Cyprus. As one Turkish citizen notes in the article, "we had to go in [to Cyprus]. It’s like a family, like a father with a problem son." This is because, at least according to one form of the story, Turkey 'rescued' Cyprus 30 years ago from "an attempted coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists that was fanned by the military rulers in Athens." However, according to the article the Turkish Cypriots are not particularly grateful for the help Turkey gave them. Many people acknowledge, "some vehemently, others with a shrug of resignation, that the Turkish Cypriots may not necessarily reciprocate" the big happy family feeling Turkey has towards the Turkish residents of Cyprus.

As Ali Cihan, a 52-year-old businessman sitting with his friend Mr Dengiz, puts it: “If you ask a Turkish Cypriot whether he is a Turk, he will always say ‘I’m a Turkish Cypriot’. All we share is the word ‘Turkish’ to describe ourselves. They only ever look to Turkey when they need help.”
I do have to say, reading this story, that I do wonder if there wasn't more going on than I knew about. Neither side, Turkey nor Greece, have been particularly innocent with regard to the Cyprus issue, and while it seems Turkey was not particularly nice when it invaded, I sincerely doubt the Greeks would have been much better, if there was in fact a coup.
:: David (06:23 in Michigan, 12:23 in Paris)

:: Thursday, March 4 2004 ::

In an article in the IHT today, Turkey said it would turn over some of the land in Cyprus it controls in exchange for a less complete 'right of return' agreement with the Greek side of the island. I'm always interested in this stuff, in part because I knew someone who felt quite strongly about it, a guy by the name of Andreas Demetriou, who worked with me at Ford Motor Company back in the mid-1990s. Until that time I had been more or less unaware of the situation in Cyprus, but in working with him I was made aware both of the situation, and of the fact that many people felt very strongly about it. It was hard to argue with his claim on the land - his family had a place, the Turkish military or those associated with them came with guns and took it. So it's very easy to see why the 'right of return' issue might be felt quite strongly. On the other hand, whoever took over the land has now been there for 30 years (Turkey invaded, or however you want to phrase it, in 1974). Perhaps the land has even changed hands, maybe several times. It would be very difficult for them to just give the land up in some agreement made by others.

The issue is made even more interesting by the fact that Cyprus, or some part of it, will join the EU on May 1st. And Turkey has high hopes of someday being invited to the table as well. It would be very difficult to allow them both to enter if the issue of Cyprus were still unresolved. Of course, I do wonder if simply resolving the issue in some last-minute rush of diplomacy won't make the situation worse. It is very easy to envision a large number of bitter people whose land is, in one way or another, taken from them, becoming a force of hate on the island.
:: David (18:24 in Michigan, 00:24 in Paris)

I wrote a paper a while back on automobiles for an environmental economics class I took at EMU. In the paper, I talked about the value of a human life, as it is evaluated in economic terms. So today I was quite intrigued when a paper came through from the IZA website titled Estimating the Value of a Statistical Life. I took a look at it and found that I had fallen afoul of the very thing this paper was about. Fun stuff! If you're going to read this paper, you may want to read the introduction, skip the math bit in the middle, and read the conclusion....
:: David (04:00 in Michigan, 10:00 in Paris)

Someone sent around today an article from telerama on Blogs in the French regional campaigns:
The blog is not joke
For the regionals, some candidates put on line the private diary of their campaigns. The regional campaigns not only held in the markets, but also on the Internet sites of the candidates.
There are those who use "local colour", like François Bayrou, in photographs with the tomato farmers of Aquitaine, the fishermen of Gironde, the young champions of Basque ball... Or those who make tonnes of entries, such Andre Santini, the UDF candidate in the Island-of-France region, who decorates his banner page with a giant smiley :-) (it's a party!), placed above a banner where text messages from supporters scroll across, as with Fogiel television.
Le blog, c'est pas de la blague
Pour les régionales, quelques candidats mettent en ligne le journal intime de leur campagne
La campagne des régionales ne se déroule pas seulement sur les marchés, mais aussi sur les sites Internet des candidats.
Il y a ceux qui la jouent « couleur locale », comme François Bayrou, en photo avec les cultivateurs de tomates d'Aquitaine, les pêcheurs girondins, les p'tits champions de pelote basque... Ou encore ceux qui en font des tonnes, tel André Santini, candidat UDF en Ile-de-France, il orne sa page d'accueil d'un smiley :-) géant (c'est la fête !), placé au-dessus d'un bandeau où défilent des SMS de supporters, comme à la télé chez Fogiel.

:: David (03:17 in Michigan, 09:17 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, March 3 2004 ::

So has anyone else heard McDonald's is going to discontinue their 'Super-Size' menu? Apparently it's part of their 'making our menu healthier' program which also has apparently (don't ask me, I live in France! All we do is firebomb them!) resulted in salads on the menu....

BTW, before I propagate that myth, in point of fact French people love MacDo, as they call it. Absolutely adore it. At least, those who aren't with José Bové love it.
:: David (17:16 in Michigan, 23:16 in Paris)

So tonight was an interesting night. We went to the American cathedral after work, and there we, with 13 other people, listened to a speech by Michael Abiola Omolewa, the president of UNESCO’s General Conference. Mr. Omolewa, who was seated to my left, gave an absolutely amazing talk about the influence God has had in his life. I wish I could convey how entertaining it was, but I think you had to be there, still sitting in shock from the fact that the group is this small and he's seated on your left, to truly appreciate how completely ... bizarre... the evening was. And apparently we have to get together with the Dean of the cathedral at some point to meet his son, who wants to do something vaguely like what I do, apparently. Did I mention bizarre? A truly entertaining night, on so many levels!

So, if you find yourself stranded on a beautiful island, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, needing some entertainment in your life (and you know who you are!), imagine yourself in this select gathering, discussing Jesse Jackson's visit earlier in the week.
:: David (15:41 in Michigan, 21:41 in Paris)

There is an article today in the IHT about the expansion of Europe, and some of the interesting economic problems it will bring with it, both to the rich states and to the poor ones. The article notes that the 10 new member states of the EU will "expand the EU's population by about one-fifth, to 455 million from 380 million, but they will add only 5 percent to its economy."

The article discusses the plight of certain groups in the new member states who will have to compete with 'Europe Rampant' - for example small farmers in Poland trying to compete with the well oiled machine that is subsidized EU farming - subsidies the new countries will only gain access to over time. Compounding the problem is the fact that applications for subsidies require a level of technical knowledge not possessed by the people most likely to benefit from them.
:: David (11:16 in Michigan, 17:16 in Paris)

In an article today in the Financial Times, reference was made to the Bank of Japan's intervention in financial markets to keep the yen closely pegged to the dollar. Julian Callow of Barclays Capital called it a "colossal intervention" and Alan Greenspan commented that the "'awesome' scale of Japan’s accumulation of dollar reserves could become 'problematic' for the Japanese economy." According to the FT article, the Bank of Japan has spent more than $100bn (€80bn) over the past two months.
:: David (09:49 in Michigan, 15:49 in Paris)

A mail message from Sasha this morning informed me that Disney has secured the rights to the Narnia books.

well, i suppose i should have guessed, when the lord of the rings took 11 oscars and made lots and lots of money, that someone would see the big glitter in the fantasy classics. but did it have to be disney who bought the rights to the chronicles of narnia [...]
The funny thing is, at one point it would have been the most appropriate option - Disney had such a sympathetic eye to children's stories. I don't think it does those stories anymore - perhaps because it believes people don't want them anymore. Of course, if you don't give them the option it is very hard for people to decide for themselves....
:: David (03:30 in Michigan, 09:30 in Paris)

So, a former co-worker, a guy who worked with the Japanese prefectural government as a translator by the name of Andrew Reay, is getting married in about a week, down in Australia. Fun stuff, although I do confess the idea of Andrew married scares me more than a little. Perhaps his bachelor party will make the news internationally, and you can all read about it.

I am, of course, joking, and I wish them all the happiness in the world.
:: David (02:58 in Michigan, 08:58 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, March 2 2004 ::

Hmm. I think I discovered my first bug in FireFox. Very exciting. Proof that I am easily amused.

And speaking of easily amused (brace yourselves everyone!) have you all given any thought at all to how exciting 802.11x wireless networking is when connected to a standalone server? Sony has, and they've released a product in Japan that is all that, in a device slightly bigger than a Palm. Put it anywhere, and it will sit there and hold your files, while you wander about the house with your laptop. This is a device that could make me spend too much money....
:: David (17:01 in Michigan, 23:01 in Paris)

Another person weighed in on the question of Haiti, with an opinion piece in the Guardian which stated the US and France simply couldn't have some tiny third world nation defying their will, so they forced Aristide out. It's really funny, in this day and age, to know that with all the technology at our disposal, with all the 24 hour news channels meant to keep us informed, with all the spy satellites whirling above our head, two completely different stories can surface, at complete odds with one another, and noone will ever know which on is 'true'.
:: David (16:32 in Michigan, 22:32 in Paris)

Also today, class divisions in China.

"A lot of people simply don't believe that things like truth, selflessness and altruism exist," said a government researcher in Beijing. "We have a very cynical population."
The article notes that the last time income inequalities were as high as they are today in China, there was a revolution shortly after. We'll see.
:: David (12:28 in Michigan, 18:28 in Paris)

The IHT has an article today on Poland's new role as 'guardian of the Eastern border', which it will become when Poland and the rest of the new countries join the EU. It's interesting because pre-EU Poland had an excellent relationship with its Eastern neighbours, with lots of international movement. But now the Poles are being asked to put much more stringent rules in place, primarily, one might say, because of the fear Western European countries have of Eastern Europe. The rules being put in place to keep those 'scary Easterners' out are really quite silly and excessive, unless you really believe that as soon as Poland et al. join the EU, their entire population is going to load their things into cars and trucks and buses and, en masse, descend on Western Europe to claim social benefits. What really kills me is that, even after time has passed and all these fears have been shown to have been malarky, people in Western Europe will still be raising fears of Eastern European 'barbarians at the gate'.
:: David (12:22 in Michigan, 18:22 in Paris)

From the Guardian, 2-March-2004:

The United States came under fire from a surprising quarter yesterday when the arch-Atlanticist Michael Howard lambasted Washington for imposing trade barriers which devastate the developing world.
I found the article interesting for the term included above - 'Atlanticist', meaning, one presumes, a firm believer in the UK/US axis of power. The fact that the conservatives in the UK are attacking the US position is also interesting, although their attacks, on Steel Tariffs and Farm Subsidies, should surprise noone.
:: David (12:22 in Michigan, 18:22 in Paris)

:: Monday, March 1 2004 ::

Friedman has weighed in on the concept of outsourcing jobs abroad. The original article was so completely offensive I was shocked, and thus I had to see whether anyone had written in commenting on his condescending tone, but all the letters to the editor attacked his ideas of outsourcing, rather than his neocolonial tone of voice. Remember - this is the closest thing the US has to a voice of reason on topics of globalization.
:: David (09:38 in Michigan, 15:38 in Paris)

I booked my ticket to the States today. April 5th (Monday) I will be touching down in the late afternoon in Detroit. I presume I'll either rent a car or ask someone to pick me up (I haven't really thought this process through completely). Then I'm in town for a week, and Easter Sunday at 6pm I board a plane to come back to Paris, arriving mid-day on Monday. Amusingly, Sasha and I have arranged our schedules almost perfectly, as she will be gone Tuesday the 6th through Monday the 12th as well, on a trip to Switzerland to be with her brother's family while their second child is born (one presumes - babies are not exactly notorious for being on time).
:: David (06:06 in Michigan, 12:06 in Paris)

Mondays. I love Mondays. This one is extra special because we have a big meeting, and I have my French class today. This means the actual level of work getting done today is quite nearly zero. *sigh*
:: David (03:43 in Michigan, 09:43 in Paris)

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