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:: Saturday, July 31 2004 ::

Posted the photos from finland. Try to ignore the time/date stamp....
:: David (13:41 in Michigan, 19:41 in Paris)

So we went and visited Marie today, whose apartment we may be moving into at the end of this month. It's a lovely little village, and oh, so quiet. It's almost eerie how quiet it is. But the train ride is do-able and the apartment is about as well situated as is possible, two minutes from the train station. We still aren't sure how the details will work, but we'll figure it out. We also visited another apartment which was unacceptable, as we are coming to believe they all are in the city proper. I can't wait to move and be done with all of it!
:: David (13:40 in Michigan, 19:40 in Paris)

Scientific American has a very interesting interview with Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist (among other things), titled Questions That Plague Physics. But it ranges a lot further afield than that:

[S]cience is not done in a vacuum. It is done in a social context, and the results of science have important implications for society, even if it is simply providing a general understanding of how we humans fit into the cosmos. Thus, simply producing new knowledge, without making any attempt to help disseminate it and explain it, is not enough. I think one cannot expect every scientist to spend time on the effort to explain science. But in a society in which the science is of vital importance and also in which many forces are trying to distort the results of science, it is crucial that some of us speak out.
In addition to his 'day job', Dr. Krauss has been active in making sure evolution stays in schools (an occasionally difficult task in the United States), as well as a number of 'popularization' projects, bringing science to the masses, as it were. He notes
We live in a society where it's considered okay for intelligent people to be scientifically illiterate. Now, it wasn't always that way. At the beginning of the 20th century, you could not be considered an intellectual unless you could discuss the key scientific issues of the day. Today you can pick up an important intellectual magazine and find a write-up of a science book with a reviewer unashamedly saying, "This was fascinating. I didn't understand it."
I always find it shocking that science, which is so important to our world today, is treated as a subject nobody understands. How many people have to believe the cell phone is a magic device before we lose our ability to build them?
:: David (04:48 in Michigan, 10:48 in Paris)

:: Friday, July 30 2004 ::

I think better than half my office will be gone for the next month. Everyone is saying their goodbyes to everyone else, and heading off to their various holiday haunts. It's kind of exciting, not only for them, but also for me, to have the place to myself (plus or minus).
:: David (10:51 in Michigan, 16:51 in Paris)

The IHT has done another well-thought-out piece on the 35 hour workweek debate going on here in Europe. The article, Shorter workweek gets a second look, starts out like every other article, noting

The problem, politicians and businesses argue, is that short work hours are weakening the competitiveness of Germany and France vis-à-vis the new eastern European Union member states, where labor costs average less than a fifth of those paid in the west.
but then it takes a sharp turn towards the details everyone else has been ignoring - the fact that working more hours is a red herring:

"Even if we worked 60-hour weeks we wouldn't be competitive with the Czech Republic. Working another hour per week doesn't change our relative position very much," said Nicolas Sobczak, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Paris. "If you want to reduce unemployment and boost competitiveness in Europe, you need more flexibility in the labor market, not tinker with the hours."

For all the bad press it has gotten at home and abroad, the 35-hour week in France has so far neither deterred foreign investment, nor reduced hourly productivity levels, statistics show[...]

The article does lose its way a little bit, when it notes "taxpayers had to fork out some E23,000, or $28,000, for each of the 350,000 jobs the law created or protected since coming into effect four years ago." That particular statement is misleading - what taxpayers have done, rather, is to pay some much smaller amount to create and protect jobs, and also to lower the work hours of everyone in the country. Failing to note that last little bit is a huge omission. But otherwise the article is right on track, stating that what is key in Europe right now is labour market flexibility, not the number of hours people work per week.
:: David (06:25 in Michigan, 12:25 in Paris)

I always forget how much I enjoy listening to music when I go to work. I bought an MP3 player the last time I was in the states, because I thought it would be nice to have a way to listen to music on the train, and I was extremely pleased with it and listened to music every day. Then I got bored with the music, but couldn't be bothered to change it, and stopped listening for a while. But today I picked it up again, and was quite glad that I did. I find that music makes me happier, all the way around. It's really rather nice to arrive chipper in the morning, rather than grumpy. Now if only this infernal heat would stop, and I would be completely pleased with my arrival at the office each day....
:: David (03:08 in Michigan, 09:08 in Paris)

The BBC noted today that:

Almost 60% of Arab Muslims living in the US fear for the future of their families, according to a new report.
It's not as impartial an inquiry as it could be, as apparently all those questioned lived in or near Detroit. But it still makes you wonder.
:: David (01:47 in Michigan, 07:47 in Paris)

:: Thursday, July 29 2004 ::

Evidently, I am living on a metrosexual continent. Or so Parag Khanna posits in the article The Metrosexual Superpower in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy. The opening sentence says most of it: "The stylish European Union struts past the bumbling United States on the catwalk of global diplomacy." The article goes on to, obliquely, compare a cross-dressing David Beckham to new Europe. And this is just the first paragraph!

To some observers, the EU may always be little more than a cheap superpower knockoff with little substance to show but a common multilingual passport. But after 60 years of dressing up, Europe has revealed its true 21st-century orientation. Just as metrosexuals are redefining masculinity, Europe is redefining old notions of power and influence. Expect Bend It Like Brussels to play soon in capital cities worldwide.
I'm of the opinion the author is a little too excited about Europe, but I'm also of the opinion that it's about time somebody noticed....
:: David (18:22 in Michigan, 00:22 in Paris)

I've gotten two separate stories today about a new book which has touched a raw nerve here in France. It's written by a consultant for the electric company, and it abuses the corporate culture in France to no end. You can read all about the author's troubles for writing the book on the BBC.
:: David (06:36 in Michigan, 12:36 in Paris)

An article in the Guardian today, titled A woman's right to choose if, how and when she works discusses the current movement in Britain towards family friendly policies, and also gives a nutshell review of the movement since its inception.

I always find this topic interesting, not only because it's a facet of what I do in my job, but also because it makes so much sense - if I could work part time, and my significant other could work part time, and the wages and benefits be acceptable, why in the world would I want to work full time? Don't get me wrong - if the job is interesting enough, I would want to work on it probably more than is good for me. But by and large people do not like their jobs enough to want to work more than they have to. Of course, there's also the question of the definition of 'have to', involving the amount of money one needs to live.
:: David (03:19 in Michigan, 09:19 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, July 28 2004 ::

In a sign that technology changes faster than you really need it to, the camera I bought Sasha for less than $100 is a better movie camera than the one I lost, purchased for more than twice that amount. And the pictures are pretty good, too. Maybe someday I'll post some of them!
:: David (17:42 in Michigan, 23:42 in Paris)

€350 for a bloomin' lock. That's $420 at today's rates. I sure as heck hope the insurance covers it. But, we all feel better with a nifty new lock guarding our door.

We went and looked at another apartment today, and the eiffel tower was -huge- out the window. But it was tiny, and we have better options lined up. We may be moving to the suburbs. But don't worry - I'll still take the train to work every day. It just means on weekends we can get out of Paris, because we'll be living outside of Paris to start with. We'll see what happens....
:: David (14:25 in Michigan, 20:25 in Paris)

:: Monday, July 26 2004 ::

We're back. Looks like the thieves had it in for me, as our lock was drilled in Paris. Thankfully, the second lock held, or I don't think I would be typing this on my computer....
:: David (17:27 in Michigan, 23:27 in Paris)

:: Sunday, July 25 2004 ::

Well, we had a bit of an adventure yesterday. I left my camera in a changing room in Helsinki, and when I came back the bag was still there, but the camera was not. So no photos of Estonia for people, I'm afraid. But we went out this morning and bought a cheap little point and click digital (less than $100 for a 2 megapixel camera. Astonishing) so we have been re-taking photos of Helsinki. I did get to meet a very nice police officer who took my report and explained some of the things that happen in finland - whether any of it will mean my camera comes back is a different question, sadly. But it was interesting, anyway.

We also went to an island fortress off the coast here. It was interesting not only for what it said, but for what it left out - history in Finland appears to stop between 1919 and 1973, at least if this place was any indication. Seems the Finns aren't too pleased about what they did in the years between....
:: David (10:05 in Michigan, 16:05 in Paris)

:: Friday, July 23 2004 ::

Greetings from Estonia! We´re waiting for the ferry to take us back, after a full day in Tallinn, a medieval city located due south of Helsinki. I had some leftover time, and thought I would use it to drop a note to everyone that all was well, and the holiday is going splendidly. More from Finland later in the weekend!
:: David (11:33 in Michigan, 17:33 in Paris)

:: Thursday, July 22 2004 ::

Off to Finland!!!
:: David (22:10 in Michigan, 04:10 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, July 21 2004 ::

This is a story by a person who followed exactly what was being read off his computer by banner ads on websites. Since he was following the largest of the marketers, it is more than everyone reading this who surfs the web with any regularity has also given similar information to this agency. A less personal, but excellent article on the various ways everything you do online is being tracked by marketers and less savoury types....
:: David (15:47 in Michigan, 21:47 in Paris)

According to a New York Times article today, Microsoft will pay a one-time dividend of $3 per share - "a payout worth $32 billion". The article goes on to point out some of the people who will receive large sums of money (Bill Gates, $3.3 billion, Steve Ballmer, $1.2 billion) and discusses how this was something that has been in the works for some time, waiting only on the settlement of all the lawsuits. And then, near the end of the article, it points out something that everyone should be aware of, but fewer than you might expect probably are:

And under the tax law enacted last year, investors will be able to keep even more of their dividends in their pockets. The law cut the maximum tax rate on dividends to 15 percent, down from the maximum 35 percent that stockholders would pay on ordinary income.
To review, that means, just on this dividend, the government gave away $6.4 billion dollars. Now, for those who would say that tax cuts help everyone, let me point out that $660 million of that 'giveaway', more than 10% of the total, went to Mr. Bill Gates. Another $240 million went to Steve Ballmer.
:: David (03:12 in Michigan, 09:12 in Paris)

There's an article in Wired that talks about another country gaining from the outsourcing of call centers: Senegal.

Senegal, having retained the language of its former colonial power, has plenty of fluent French speakers. It also lies on the route of a high-quality fiber-optic link between Europe and Latin America. In France, a call from Dakar should sound pretty much like a call from Dijon.

Much like U.S. telemarketing companies enlisting the flatter tones of the Midwest, the Dakar call center staff are chosen partly because they have an accent neutral enough to pass for native French. Only a few of the people they call guess they are phoning from abroad.

Nice to see Africa gaining, at least a little bit, from globalisation.
:: David (02:57 in Michigan, 08:57 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, July 20 2004 ::

We found the bad part of Paris, and there was a very nice man there wanting to rent us his apartment. Sadly, we were not able to take it, because it had an amazing view of a cathedral. Too bad about the whole scary ghetto aspect. But now we know that living next to Belleville might not be so wonderful.
:: David (14:15 in Michigan, 20:15 in Paris)

"nth position is a free online magazine/ezine with politics & opinion, travel writing, fiction & poetry, reviews & interviews, and some high weirdness." [from the website]
:: David (14:12 in Michigan, 20:12 in Paris)

From the BBC:
"Correspondents say intoxicated passengers are common on Russian flights, but this incident was unprecedented."
:: David (13:21 in Michigan, 19:21 in Paris)

Yet another article about the changes to the workweek in Europe. It's shocking how much Newsweek doesn't get it.
:: David (08:41 in Michigan, 14:41 in Paris)

:: Monday, July 19 2004 ::

So I scrounged up an interesting site today - the USDA, who runs the food stamp program (or whatever it's called now that there are no 'stamps') publishes an annual study which looks at usage patterns of food stamps. There were two interesting points I thought I might share - the first was that lone parents (i.e. single people with children) made up quite nearly half of all food stamp recipients. The second, more interesting point, was that the average family size, including the recipient, was 2. So those images of one person and six children you have floating around in your head? False. A majority of recipients appear to have just one child, or at most two, children. Note family component (average 2 people?!) and lone parents (45%)
:: David (17:14 in Michigan, 23:14 in Paris)

Finally! An intelligent article on the state of Europe's economy. It's in today's IHT, and it is titled "Continent Guards its Right to Leisure". It states in no uncertain terms that Europe has made a choice, and that the choice might not be all bad:

Jorgen Ronnest, director for international affairs at the Danish Employers' Confederation, says it is healthy in a mature economy to enjoy the fruits of labor.

"The main difference with the U.S. is that we spend more time enjoying life," he said. "And if you look around, maybe we don't need more refrigerators and more cars."

The article also notes some of the benefits of living the leisurely, high-tax life.
Europe has less child poverty, a lower incidence of illiteracy and a smaller prison population than the United States, OECD statistics show. Europeans also have a slightly higher life expectancy and can hope to spend more of their old age in good health.
What a nice place to live, wouldn't you say?
:: David (07:43 in Michigan, 13:43 in Paris)

Well, we have a winner for least appetizing morning ever - walking through the metro from one line to another, I saw a guy take a serious spill after slipping on a substance I will leave to your imagination. He also, I believe, landed in same substance. As my co-worker once told me, there are times you just turn around and go home. I sincerely hope he took her advice.
:: David (02:58 in Michigan, 08:58 in Paris)

:: Sunday, July 18 2004 ::

We visited three apartments yesterday, including a student ghetto place unfit for human consumption. It was packed to the gills. Amazing. Today we tracked down some places from the American Church (the place where I used to look for jobs), and hopefully some more stuff will turn up on the morrow. Meantime, nothing too exciting, except for the new season of Stargate/Atlantis.
:: David (15:06 in Michigan, 21:06 in Paris)

Have you ever had one of those nights where your brain was so completely all over the place you couldn't possibly sleep? I have. Last night was one of them. So last night, about 1:30 or 2:00 AM, I got out of bed, where I hadn't been sleeping, and made a note in my Palm titled "why david doesn't sleep". Here are the reasons:

  • The first idea started with an LCD screen on the front of your door, connected to a camera. When someone comes to visit, instead of a peep hole to look through, you could video conference with them through the door. Of course, then I realized you wouldn't need to be at the door, you could put the equipment anywhere, and answer the door in comfort. Then I realized that, with the new 3G phones, you could video conference from anywhere. Being at home was no longer necessary - you could get a ring when someone rings your doorbell, and answer the door through your phone. Then I thought 'why not be able to open the door using your phone, for delivery people and the like?' But this opened the idea of security - opening your house to the delivery man when you aren't around isn't a great idea. So I thought maybe a mail slot, or a small room (foyer) which they could enter, and then a separate lock for entering the house proper. But then people would know you weren't home, so the question went to home sescurity, and hooking cameras throughout the house to your mobile phone/computer. But that started to get a little disturbing, and I think people wouldn't be so keen to have their house wired for video, even if only they themselves had access (which is always a question - once something is available for remote access, there are always people who can hack the network - and how many people do you want watching what's going on in your house 24/7?)
  • Using a blog to publish ideas, prove intellectual property ownership - this one sprang forth from the last one, when I thought about the fact that since I had thought of it first, I should be able to hold IP rights to it. And then I wondered if publishing it on my blog counted, and whether that would stand up in court.
  • I also thought about a debate with Sasha's former roommate Kimberly about who can reasonably claim to be able to talk about philosophy - only scholars, or also people who had lead a 'reflective life'.
  • Securing computers from internet traffic - tcp/ip architecture, and why there is no cute, clear picture of who is sending or recieving data on a computer? It seems a relatively simple exercise to say 'there is traffic, from this program, going to this site, should I allow it?' So why doesn't it currently exist? It's not like people can't understand if you tell them the details.
  • The os as database - how much space would be required to keep track of all changes to all files over the lifetime of the computer? Nothing complex, just a date/time stamp, with a user ID, perhaps.
  • A proof of loss to consumers due to too much choice. There is a cost to consumers when they have to think too much about which product to buy, and there is a gain to be had by lying to them. The question was, would consumers lose more or less than under a Monopoly/oligopoly situation? There was also the question of 'must find best deal' people - are all people like that, and if not, how many?
  • A PhD in economics at the University of Michigan. I would need to contact my prof from emich to get a letter, etc. Also, should I do a PhD in Economics, or would philosophy or computer science be better?
  • The transferability of skills in the age of high tech - are more people able to change fields b/c computers are so ubiquitous
  • And finally, I thought "I need to write down all these ideas!"
So now you know what kind of things keep me awake at night. I'm glad it was a weekend, or I'd have been useless at work the next day!
:: David (12:48 in Michigan, 18:48 in Paris)

As many of you are aware, we live in the heart of a gigantic wine industry, where zillions of litres of wine are produced each year, and where, if you have the desire, you can go straight to the place your wine is produced to see all the ins and outs of your favourite vintage. I know some of my friends back in Michigan must be jealous, so I have found a solution for them.

The Indiana uplands wine trail aims "[t]o promote a quality wine experience for our consumers by providing options for educational and enjoyable outings." Yes, seven vineyards in south central indiana have started a wine trail. According to an article on MSNBC, they think they can one day be "similar to the larger wine industry found in New York and Ohio."

So now all you folks in Michigan know what to do with your weekend if you want a vineyard experience!
:: David (04:15 in Michigan, 10:15 in Paris)

:: Saturday, July 17 2004 ::

Sasha informs me I use the word 'apparently' too much, and looking at yesterday's entries, she is apparently correct. So I shall endeavour in future to be less apparent in my fixation on certain words....
:: David (16:05 in Michigan, 22:05 in Paris)

Finally got the pictures from the top of the eiffel tower up on the site. There's some fun stuff, and if you look closely (really, really closely) you might see our apartment.
:: David (15:26 in Michigan, 21:26 in Paris)

Cheers to Sir Elton John! The BBC has reported that in an interview with New Yorker magazine that "stars are scared to speak out against war in Iraq because of 'bullying tactics' used by the US government to hinder free speech." He went on to compare the atmosphere in the States right now to that of the McCarthy era.
:: David (09:05 in Michigan, 15:05 in Paris)

Saturday. Apartment hunting. I hope someday we find one, because I don't want to live on the street. *sigh*
:: David (08:53 in Michigan, 14:53 in Paris)

:: Friday, July 16 2004 ::

So Ann Arbor is Overrated has informed me that they are shooting a film in my hometown (well, near enough). The film, to be called apparently Kalamazoo? (including apparently the question mark), is being fimed on location in and around the fair city from which I hie. So if you're interested in seeing some people who might be slightly famous depending on how you define it, pop on over to K-town and see what you can see!
:: David (18:30 in Michigan, 00:30 in Paris)

I gave up on MySQL, finally - I just can't make the data load correctly, and don't really want to spend the time. Access will do, for now, since all I'm really doing is counting things. Like how many people read my weblog. It's averaging 30 hits per day, these days. I don't know if that should scare me or not. I think it scares me most because I've been feeling completely un-creative lately, and noone has noticed it. Does that mean I'm always equally un-interesting?!

In the next few weeks, I'm going to be doing some serious work on child care in developed countries, looking at costs for various types of care, and comparing the costs we have to published data. It should be entertaining, if I can get myself motivated - I've been finding lately that motivation is hard to come by. I can't decide if that's because my brain has been switched on so much for so long, or because I haven't had a holiday, or what. But it's Friday, and next week we're off to Finland, which will be another nice break. We'll see what we can come up with by the time all is said and done.

Tasks to do this weekend include getting the website up-to-date with the pictures - we went to the top of the eiffel tower with Sasha's parents, and there are a horde of fun photos. Hopefully I'll find the time to sit down with them and put them on the web.
:: David (18:00 in Michigan, 00:00 in Paris)

So, I don't usually link to adult content, but VegPorn dot com needs to be pointed out. Apparently it is a porn site for vegetarians to bare all - according to the site, they are "titillating tofu eaters". Needless to say, there is adult content, and at least some of it you really didn't want to see, but it's certainly good to know that someone out there is taking their clothes off to support a bookstore in Vancouver....
:: David (13:33 in Michigan, 19:33 in Paris)

:: Thursday, July 15 2004 ::

So the BBC is reporting that New Zealand has jailed some Israeli spies trying to get New Zealand passports. The report includes the rather lighthearted comment by one BBC reporter that:

Israeli officials give the impression of regarding New Zealand as a relatively unimportant country. Sources close to the government say the Israeli reaction might have been different if a larger and more influential country had been involved.
The article also noted that the Israeli president would not be allowed to visit next month. Which led us to ask the question "Israel has a president?" And it turns out they do. He is the most figureheaded figurehead ever to be a figurehead, but they do. We know this because we went to the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs (which, at the moment, has a very balanced comment on the International Court of Justice's ruling on the Israeli wall), where we found the Israeli Democracy - how does it work? page. It informs us that
The President of the State is elected by the Knesset in a secret vote, and primarily fulfills ceremonial functions as head of State.
And that, apparently, is all he does.
:: David (17:03 in Michigan, 23:03 in Paris)

Well, I've been ssaying this for years, and finally the media appears to agree - the BBC reports on how Japan is in danger of a massive AIDS epidemic.
:: David (01:28 in Michigan, 07:28 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, July 14 2004 ::

I read an article on Reuters yesterday titled Will Europe Have to Give Up Its 6-Week Vacations? which reminded me how one sided economic reporting can be. I'm still trying to decide if the title implies some sort of value judgement, but we'll leave that be for the moment.

The euro zone is facing dire demographic trends which are likely to see its working population, and hence its economic capacity and potential, decline over the coming decade unless either output per worker or its income growth accelerates fast.

Working harder -- with or without extra pay -- appears difficult to avoid.

Let's evaluate the above, shall we? The conclusion, paragraph two, appears to be drawn from paragraph one. But is there a connection? The first paragraph notes there is a growing demographic problem, specifically more and more people on pensions, fewer and fewer people working (and paying into the pension system). However, the solutions to this problem are myriad. The author chooses to ignore most of them, and focus instead on the solution one group of workers chose to take:

Last month, industrial giant Siemens, while threatening to move thousands of jobs to Hungary, agreed with unions and workers in two German mobile phone plants to increase the working week to 40 hours from 35 hours for no extra pay.

Workers at these plants and the IG Metall union agreed to an effective 12.5 percent cut in hourly wages to save their jobs.

Dozens of other German firms are reported to be seeking similar pacts. Carmaker DaimlerChrysler is negotiating longer hours with more pay for some staff and thousands of public sector workers are being required to work longer.

More than likely, saving those particular jobs could not be done without taking pay cuts, and in other ways lowering labour costs. However, the suggestion that that is the way the problem must be dealt with or else the economy will crash and burn, or some other such nonsense, is simply untrue. Workers in the US and Britain have made a choice, for the most part unconsciously, to allow themselves to be lied to with the idea that working more hours is the only way to finance public projects. It's simply untrue. One could choose to pay more taxes. One could lower benefit levels. And, of course, one can find ways to make the system more efficient. Oh - and one can allow more immigrants in, legally, who will get jobs and pay taxes and thus fund pensions and governments. But people seem not to like this idea, for reasons which quite honestly escape me. Overall, I have to say the tone of this article offended me, because it makes assumptions which are simply untrue.
:: David (10:08 in Michigan, 16:08 in Paris)

Sasha and I took a couple of hours today and scanned in her mom's cookbook - it turned out that the electronic copies had all been lost or destroyed, and given the number of people who had requested copies we decided an electronic version was a good idea. I hope to be posting it on the website someplace fairly soon, but right now it's in the 'in-progress' stage. As soon as I can, though, I'll get it posted and you can all experience the joy of Pasta with Vodka Sauce!
:: David (09:40 in Michigan, 15:40 in Paris)

So I read a really amusing article the other day - well, actually, I suppose it was neither amusing, nor an article, but I found one part kind of funny, and thought I would share. The paper, titled The Return to a University Education in Great Britain is by Peter J. Sloane and Nigel C. O'Leary. The idea of 'returns to education' is that there is a cost to getting additional education, in the form of time spent, and costs paid (like tuition). But the benefit is that somebody with additional education should, all other things being equal, earn more than someone with less education.

The thing I found amusing was an element of their paper which discussed the possibility of other reasons people in one field might earn more than people in another field. They suggested that the groups might be self selecting. An obvious example is medicine. There is, in our mind, the idea that doctors are smart. Therefore, people who do not consider themselves very intelligent might not even try to become a doctor, and people who do consider themselves smart might be more likely to become a doctor. Thus, the average 'quality' of students in a medical program might be expected to be higher than in other fields.

Leslie (2003) hypotheses that the more able students will self-select into the more difficult subjects and using University College Admissions Service (UCAS) applications data over the period 1996-2001 develops a unidimensional measure of quality on a scale figure 0 (lowest) to 1 (highest) for a total of 170 broad subject groups. These rankings are based on the average success rate of each qualification in gaining entry. For 22 broad subject areas, the range is from 0.614 in the case of other General and Combined Studies to 0.863 in the case of Medicine and Dentistry. For all 170 subject groups, the range is 0.447 in the case of Social Work to 0.882 in the case of Pre-Clinical Dentistry.
Now, you can draw any conclusion you want from this, but the first interpretation that leapt to mind was somewhat unkind to the Social Work profession. Given that I now work in the 'Social Policy' branch of my organization, I'm not sure how that reflects on me, though....
:: David (09:36 in Michigan, 15:36 in Paris)

Ah, 14 Juillet! Bastille Day! No work. Just sleeping in late (missed the parade downtown, but I'll live) and relaxing. Last night we went out to see the festivities - there was a big party at the Bastille, music and dancing, and downtown there was dancing as well - they were teaching us the steps to an old jazz flick with (I think) Audrey Hepburn. Very bizarre. So overall, a great holiday.
:: David (05:53 in Michigan, 11:53 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, July 13 2004 ::

I mentioned yesterday there was an attack on a train by racists. Now today there is some question as to whether it happened at all. So is that because it didn't happen, or because it's being covered up because it's so embarrasing. We'll see.
:: David (13:57 in Michigan, 19:57 in Paris)

The trouble with RSS, and by extension HTML, is that it is still a pain in the *** to cross reference objects of different types. Theoretically, I should be able to include any sort of object from anywhere on the internet just by pointing to it. And I can. If I choose a programming language, install a widget some guy just wrote in his basement, and create six special web pages to do the job. Argh! Standards, people! Standards!
:: David (13:56 in Michigan, 19:56 in Paris)

:: Monday, July 12 2004 ::

I've been reading C.S. Lewis recently - actually for quite some time now, off and on. It's a book called "The Screwtape Letters", and it is, as its name implies, a series of letters, purportedly from a creature of hell to one of his understudies, on the manner in which man should be corrupted. Today I was particularly struck by a passage, because it remained in many ways so true today. I quote:

In a rough and ready way, of course, this question is decided for us by spirits far deeper down in the Lowerarchy than you and I. It is the business of these great masters to produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual "taste". This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely. Thus we have now for many centuries triumphed over nature to the extent of making certain secondary characteristics of the male (such as the beard) disagreeable to nearly all the females—and there is more in that than you might suppose. As regards the male taste we have varied a good deal. At one time we have directed it to the statuesque and aristocratic type of beauty, mixing men's vanity with their desires and encouraging the race to breed chiefly from the most arrogant and prodigal women. At another, we have selected an exaggeratedly feminine type, faint and languishing, so that folly and cowardice, and all the general falseness and littleness of mind which go with them, shall be at a premium. At present we are on the opposite tack. The age of jazz has succeeded the age of the waltz, and we now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind of beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female's chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children. And that is not all. We have engineered a great increase in the licence which society allows to the representation of the apparent nude (not the real nude) in art, and its exhibition on the stage or the bathing beach. It is all a fake, of course; the figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be. Yet at the same time, the modern world is taught to believe that it is being "frank" and "healthy" and getting back to nature. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast!
As you can see, although the language is different than we might use today, the idea of the creation of images of sexuality which distort reality is as valid today as when it was first made.
:: David (16:53 in Michigan, 22:53 in Paris)

Well, at least people took note - today's Metro is headlined "Vague d'indignation après l'agression antisémite du RER" ('Wave of indignation after anti-semitic aggression on Paris train'). There are some interesting statistics showing that incidents of (officially recognized) anti-semitic behavior had been falling from 1993 to 1999, then it spiked dramatically by some 500% by 2002. Weird.
:: David (03:06 in Michigan, 09:06 in Paris)

:: Sunday, July 11 2004 ::

Oh, yeah - the 16th is where I work. Funny - I don't look Druish....
:: David (15:59 in Michigan, 21:59 in Paris)

So maybe we won't be moving to the houseboat. According to the BBC this racist attack happened "just north of paris", which to me translates to Saint Denis, where the houseboat is located.

And no, we can't move it. The place where the boat lives is fixed by law.
:: David (15:57 in Michigan, 21:57 in Paris)

Looked at two places today. One was scary, the other... was so close to perfect it hurt. Great part of town, wonderful woman who owned it, amazing kitchen, great view... and it was a Studio. One room. And I just don't know that we can live in a place with just one room.
:: David (13:25 in Michigan, 19:25 in Paris)

You too can win a trip to lovely Columbus, Ohio!!!!

Advertisement for a contest for a trip to Ohio

Sasha has been receiving this ad on her Yahoo account, and I had to share....
:: David (04:06 in Michigan, 10:06 in Paris)

:: Saturday, July 10 2004 ::

So we went and visited a houseboat that is for rent, in the north part of town. I took several photos, because it was kind of fun. It's a long way to town, in a not-so-great area, and the houseboat itself needs work. But it's cheap, and it's a houseboat....
:: David (08:39 in Michigan, 14:39 in Paris)

:: Thursday, July 8 2004 ::

Took a boat ride down the Seine this evening, followed by a nice dinner in the Marais and then a walk past Bastille to our apartment. Lots and lots of French homework, and the apartment search continues - hopefully Sasha will contact several tomorrow, and we'll keep at it until something turns up.
:: David (17:48 in Michigan, 23:48 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, July 7 2004 ::

So, if you've written to me recently, say in the last year, you may have discovered I have not improved my ability to respond to email. I've been saying for years that I was going to work on my response time, but it just hasn't happened. I wonder how people who keep on top of their email do it? Magic, I suspect....
:: David (17:50 in Michigan, 23:50 in Paris)

So I just got email from Lisa pointing me to a fun little list of acronyms - from NIMBY to CRAFT (Not In My Back Yard and Can't Remember A Friggin' Thing). But there were two elements which scared me to no end. First was the name of the site - Business Balls. And second was the website home page, which was busy to the point of disorienting. I thougt for a moment it was someone from the CIA pretending to be Lisa, in some elaborate plot to silence me on the JFK stuff by giving me an anurism with a busy website.
:: David (17:46 in Michigan, 23:46 in Paris)

Here's your bizarre story about Canada today, courtesy of the BBC:

Canada guide dog in language row
A blind francophone student in Canada has been barred from English immersion classes - because his guide dog only responds to commands in French.
It turns out it's an English immersion class - one of those 'if we catch you speaking your own language you're out!' type places. It's truly bizarre, overall, although one can see both sides, if one stretches slightly....
:: David (17:17 in Michigan, 23:17 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, July 6 2004 ::

You know, it isn't every day you dream you caught the person who shot JFK. Let alone having a flashback scene where you were there, even thought you hadn't been born yet. Something I ate last night must have been evil, because that was one odd way to wake up!
:: David (01:26 in Michigan, 07:26 in Paris)

:: Monday, July 5 2004 ::

According to an article in the IHT, the pension plan at United Airlines might be in trouble. But read a bit deeper into the story, and you find that one of the pensions involved would give people more than $100,000 a year as a pension.

Now, I am 100% against eliminating pensions. I like pensions. I like the idea that when we get old, we get to live on all the money we gave to the government. And if it's a private pension, I find the idea of just folding it up and telling everyone 'sorry!' abosolutely repugnant. But I'm not really clear that I, or anyone really, needs a $100,000 pension. The good things in life, while not free, generally aren't that expensive.
:: David (16:41 in Michigan, 22:41 in Paris)

The BBC noted that not all people are excited about the new Bangkok subway system.

"I haven't had a fare all morning", complained Somchai, as he sat in his colourful Tuk-Tuk.

"If this goes on, I'll have to look for another job.

"Or maybe I should just move to another city."

I would be very sad to see the tuk-tuk die. It's like a part of Thailand that everyone should experience. Especially if they can find one with a driver who stops for whisky shots on the way to their destination, like I did....
:: David (13:09 in Michigan, 19:09 in Paris)

A new version of eMule to start my day! Woohoo!
:: David (01:23 in Michigan, 07:23 in Paris)

:: Sunday, July 4 2004 ::

Oh, yeah - happy 4th to those who celebrated today!
:: David (17:06 in Michigan, 23:06 in Paris)

A most interesting morning - we met a man at the American Cathedral, and went out to lunch, and discovered that it is not always people you want to go out for drinks with who attend your cathedral.... We then went in search of a place to watch Wimbledon, but were unsuccessful. It was raining pretty much all day, so we wandered back to the apartment and passed the day in random television viewing. We did not, in fact, watch the Euro 2004 final, although I did see the goal in replay, a nice header by the Greeks. If they can beat the Czech Republic, they've earned the championship.
:: David (17:06 in Michigan, 23:06 in Paris)

:: Saturday, July 3 2004 ::

Went for a wander today, checking the neighbourhoods and looking at different places that list rentals. It was nice, actually, because we went to a number of places we haven't been before. Fun.
:: David (15:41 in Michigan, 21:41 in Paris)

:: Friday, July 2 2004 ::

This is interersting - New Yorkers wishing to protest the Republican convention, the war in Iraq, etc. are being urged to carry a light, candle, flashlight, whatever, and put the lights on in their homes. It's called Light up the Sky, and although I'm never a big fan of ten million people using extra electricity, it seems like a good cause.
:: David (13:10 in Michigan, 19:10 in Paris)

:: Thursday, July 1 2004 ::

Another apartment that just didn't work. We shall never find a place....
:: David (17:45 in Michigan, 23:45 in Paris)

Could the BBC, or perhaps the Germans, be any more sexist?

Female traffic wardens in Berlin have won the right not to wear their distinctive caps after complaining that their hairstyles were suffering.
The article goes on to quote one of the German newspapers stating
It is questionable... how a traffic policewoman will be able to carry out her duties when she has to replace the authority of the state with her own personal authority.
Truly, truly bizarre. Sometimes you forget how strange places can seem, even places you have begun to think of as right next door.
:: David (01:43 in Michigan, 07:43 in Paris)

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