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:: Wednesday, April 27 2005 ::

I got a message today about my Roland Garros tickets:

Madame, Monsieur,
Nous faisons suite à votre demande référencée sous le N°29853 et avons le plasir de vous informer que 6 place(s) vous ont été attribuée(s). Vous recevrez prochainement vos billets par courrier recommandé.

Dans l'attente du plaisir de vous accueillir à l'occasion des prochains Internationaux de France, nous vous prions de croire, Madame, Monsieur, à l'expression de nos sentiments les meilleurs.

Service Billetterie
Fédération Française de Tennis

Given that I picked the tickets up on Saturday from the post office, I'm thinking they might be a little bit backlogged on their email notifications. On the other hand, I'm impressed they managed to send anything at all by email, given that it requires effort to read handwriting and type it in to a computer....
:: David (11:25 in Michigan, 17:25 in Paris) - Comment


Our water heater doesn't work. Or rather, it does work (has worked) so long as the heat was turned on (we have radiators). Now that it's getting warm, the heat needs to be turned off, but the water doesn't seem to activate the heater unless the heat is turned on. Actually, even then it seems to be having some difficulty. Since we just had the plumber out, I hate to call him again, but I'm quite keen to continue having hot water in the house....
:: David (04:39 in Michigan, 10:39 in Paris) - Comment


Well, I'm watching the maiden voyage of the Airbus A380, and it hasn't fallen out of the sky yet, so that's good news for Airbus (and Europe). It's an awful big plane. The big show they had before the plane took off looks like it was a typical French production - bizarre dancers doing weird things, presumably symbolizing 'the spirit of flight' or some such claptrap. Official events here are often bizarre beyond description.
:: David (04:37 in Michigan, 10:37 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Tuesday, April 26 2005 ::

My computer is back. Happy day. Of course, I didn't really have time to get the network working and somesuch, but at some point in the not-too-distant future I hope to have it fully working. I installed Neverwinter Nights on my computer, as Sean acquired it in Portugal and it seems a fun game. Otherwise, the repairs seem to have worked, so no complaints. We'll see how long they last.
:: David (04:05 in Michigan, 10:05 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, April 25 2005 ::

Well, I thought the delivery people would call me this morning, to deliver my computer, but I haven't heard anything yet. Maybe I'll call....

That wasn't so bad - she even complimented my pronunciation of the letter 'B'. Sometimes those are the most difficult - the letters. There was a code attached to my package, a list of four letters and nine numbers, and doing those is occasionally difficult (especially as there was a 'J', which is pronounced 'G' in French). So tomorrow morning, if all goes well, the happy computer delivery people will bring my baby back to me.
:: David (04:24 in Michigan, 10:24 in Paris) - Comment


:: Saturday, April 23 2005 ::

We got our tickets today to the French Open! Woo hoo! Sadly, I thought they were going to be my computer, so I wasn't as excited as I should have been. But they are here, nevertheless, and we will be seeing some good tennis!
:: David (16:25 in Michigan, 22:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


Time for this week's book list. This week (and probably next week) I'll be reading the Homecoming Series by Orson Scott Card. It's five books done in that weird 'hi-tech sci-fi/middle age fantasy' genre. You know, the one where you've got a big computer or spaceship or hero who has to interact/live on a planet set in a standard fantasy milieu. In other words, I'm reading pure cheese this week. But I'm a big fan of mindless junk, sometimes.
:: David (08:57 in Michigan, 14:57 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, April 22 2005 ::

As most of you know, I lived in Japan from 1999 to 2001. Coincidentally, that was also the last time the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans almost came to blows over Japan's treatment of history in their textbooks. I say 'last time' because, as you may have seen in the news, there has been quite a bit of tension in recent weeks, with protests in China and threats and assaults on Japanese citizens.

The reason this seems to happen in cycles is because once every five years the educational arm of the Japanese government has to approve all the textbooks to be used in the schools. For some reason, once every five years they approve a textbook written by a group that seeks to whitewash the Japanese role in the second world war. And this always serves as the catalyst for China and Korea to complain about all the things Japan does that make them believe that Japan is not particularly aware of the severity of its past actions.

The juxtaposition today on the BBC of two stories serves to illustrate my point. The first, the lead story on the BBC website, is "Japanese PM apologises over war". The second, "Japanese MPs visit war memorial". The war memorial is the Yasukuni shrine, which the BBC notes "is dedicated to the 2.5 million Japanese who died in World War II, including convicted war criminals". So as the Prime Minister apologizes on the one hand, the MPs taunt on the other.

I can never decide if these statements are calculated, or if the Japanese simply don't recognize the overtones implicit in their actions vis-a-vis the shrine and the textbooks. If it is intentional, they are playing a very bizarre game, and one which honestly doesn't make them look good to the international community. It takes a lot to make China look sympathetic, but this is one of the things that does it.
:: David (03:35 in Michigan, 09:35 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, April 21 2005 ::

A comic in le monde today shows a bishop walking up to what is obviously supposed to be a non-european congregation and saying "They have a pope."
:: David (04:29 in Michigan, 10:29 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, April 20 2005 ::

I have heard that a German newspaper today has a black front page with the phrase "God Help Us" (gott hilf uns) on it. I'm still trying to verify.
:: David (04:48 in Michigan, 10:48 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[6]


I could make comments on the new pope, but I don't really see the need. I talked about Cardinal Ratzinger earlier in the month, and now he's pope. I haven't talked to anyone excited about it, but then, one wouldn't expect young Episcopalians to want a conservative pope, and those were mostly the people I talked to last night, as there was a big dinner at the American Cathedral.
:: David (03:58 in Michigan, 09:58 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, April 19 2005 ::

The BBC would remind us that the pope selection process need not be quick. In an article on the website, they point out that in 1268 the selection process took so long that "After two years had elapsed, local people became so impatient that they tore off the roof of the palace where the cardinals were staying", which lead to the death of two of the cardinals. It concludes with the hope that "we will not have to starve them out."
:: David (03:32 in Michigan, 09:32 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, April 18 2005 ::

Well, that seals it. All the hemming and hawing, reduced to a question posed suddenly, and unexpectedly - "when do you want your contract extended to?" So no staying through December, or whatever, as I blurted "end of August" without thinking. Which, honestly, is what I had been planning, but until it was fixed, it wasn't solid - real. Now it is. See you in September.
:: David (06:37 in Michigan, 12:37 in Paris) - Comment


Hooray for modern digital imaging. The classical world is about to experience a growth in literature unlike anything seen in modern times, as a new technique for reading documents is revealing previously hidden literature:

Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University's Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum - ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

An article in The Independent, pointed out by Arts & Letters Daily, tipped me off to this (of all things) currently breaking story.
:: David (04:49 in Michigan, 10:49 in Paris) - Comment


We had a busy, busy weekend - Kimberly and Sean arrived Friday, and we've been on the go ever since. A visit into Paris to do some shopping and wandering on Saturday, and on Sunday a trip out to Chantilly (yes, the home of cream and lace) to see the chateau. It's an amazing building, quite pretty, although it's too new for Sasha. Inside was a most impressive collection of art, primarily portraits. The grounds were also quite pretty, and for some reason there was an enclosure full of Wallaby (one of which had a baby in its pouch - very cute!) No big plans to my knowledge for the rest of the week, as I'll be at work. At some point I'm going to have to take some holiday, as I've got several weeks to burn, but as yet I've had no opportunity to get away. We'll see what happens next month when Jason gets here - perhaps we'll take a week somewhere away from Paris. On the upside, all of this staying at home has been great for my bank account.
:: David (03:55 in Michigan, 09:55 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Friday, April 15 2005 ::

Family Values:

We have decided that raising a child is real work. And that this work provides value for the whole society. And that the society as a whole should pay for this valuable service. Americans like to talk about family values. We have decided to do more than talk; we use our tax revenues to pay for family values.
So says the leader of Norway's Christian Democrat party in a new book by by T.R. Reid titled The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy. I actually got the quote from a book review on The Nation, which talks about books which discuss the US/Europe relationship.
:: David (11:49 in Michigan, 17:49 in Paris) - Comment


I'm sure you've all read by now that there was a huge fire at a Paris hotel, and more than a dozen people have died. The hotel, which is located right downtown, suffered from a common Parisian failing - only one staircase. So when the lower floors caught fire, the people on the upper floors had nowhere to go. We've often discussed a scenario like this, and sadly this is exactly what we expected would happen.
:: David (01:46 in Michigan, 07:46 in Paris) - Comment


The BBC has more complete coverage of yesterday's push by Chirac for the European constitution. Not a lot of new info - it looks like we watched all that we needed to watch to get his message (of course, that was why we turned him off - he had started to repeat himself a bit too much). I do wish I'd seen him respond to the question of Turkey - just so we could have howled at his response. Ah well. You can read all about it on the BBC website.
:: David (01:33 in Michigan, 07:33 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, April 14 2005 ::

Oh - combining the two previous topics (French culture and books) a book which caused quite a ruckus here in France is getting an English translation soon, and it is certainly worth a look. Bonjour Laziness : Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder by Corinne Maier is all about working in a large French corporation - where nothing ever gets done, but everyone is well paid. She lost her job over the book (obviously, some would say). Every now and again you still hear jokes about some of the stories she tells - wandering the halls with a clipboard, to look like you're working, for example.

The other book I'm reading (I know - I've got a lot going) doesn't have an English translation. The title would be Paris is not France: the countryside fights back, and it's a rather entertaining tale of a moderately well known reporter who goes to live outside Paris, and is promptly forgotten by everyone inside the beltway, as it were.
:: David (17:42 in Michigan, 23:42 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


The president of France is live on television this evening, trying to convince a room full of 18-25 year olds that the European consitution is a good thing. It's interesting, as he seems to be sticking to a concept of power - if you vote yes there is: power for France in the EU, power in the EU against the US, India, and China; if you vote no, we'll become a wasteland. As Sasha put it, he's saying if you vote yes, France will stay France, but if you vote no, they'll take away all our money, and be able to impose their will on us. It wasn't, obviously, that convincing. There was a moment, where it sounded like he was preaching something he really believed in - it was almost an 'amber waves of grain' moment. Which is really what he ought to be doing. Instead he's sticking to the domestic issues. I think the political equivilant of The Lord of the Rings would have worked better for him....
:: David (15:43 in Michigan, 21:43 in Paris) - Comment


Well, amazon has been after me to sell some stuff ("We noticed that you were accepted to the Amazon.com Associate Program several weeks ago but have yet to refer an order.") so it must be time to tell you all what I've been reading.

It's actually really funny - I used to date a woman who had read all of the Anne of Green Gables books, and at the time I thought what a wacky concept that was, having at best a passing idea that the books existed, and in fact only knowing the books existed because of a trip I took to Nova Scotia. But, of course, the wheel turns, and here I am reading Pat of Silver Bush, also by L.M. Montgomery. It's actually really nice - it reminds me of home, and I suppose of a romanticized time that never existed when life was calm and slow, and took place in an area of a few square miles. Sometimes it's tough to read, because we're so used to things happening every second. But at the same time, it's nice to take some time and just slow down.

I've also been trying to get through Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, because I know I really should have read it. It's a lot like Walden (which I also read fairly recently), in both its language and tempo, and as you may remember from when you read Walden for whatever reason you did that it was a little difficult to get through.

So there you go - my reading list for the week. Maybe I'll make this a weekly thing (I usually get through two books a week, or so).
:: David (11:13 in Michigan, 17:13 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, April 13 2005 ::

Occasionally, the New York Times is just plain weird. In an article titled "The Man Date", the paper disects the difficulties men have socializing with one another in situations that might make them seem homosexual. I really, honestly, do worry about these folks (and more about the author, who makes this sound like a problem gripping the nation).
:: David (01:57 in Michigan, 07:57 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, April 12 2005 ::

Well, according to the chronopost website, today, 12/04/2005 at 08:35 my Livraison was effectuée, which is to say the computer people have received my computer, and hopefully will now proceed to (1) NOT erase the hard drive, and (2) fix the screen. (3), sending it back, would also be a nice touch. We'll see how they do.
:: David (12:18 in Michigan, 18:18 in Paris) - Comment


Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, commented in the Guardian today on a recent report by the United Nations:

A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.

Commenting for the 'Department of Making Things Better for Children in the Middle East By Military Force', he notes that this is especially odd, given that the last attempt didn't work either: "For example, the policy of applying the most draconian sanctions in living memory totally failed to improve conditions." it's definitely worth a read.
:: David (07:37 in Michigan, 13:37 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, April 11 2005 ::

An article on the Titan landing, published today on the BBC website, discusses the idea that the surface of Titan was like creme brulee:

And what of the crème brûlée analogy? Yes, the OU team has tested it.

"I have to stress this was the students; it was all their idea and they did it in their spare time, not in the university's time," Professor Zarnecki admitted.

"They did a drop into a crème brûlée. It had a nice crust and, horrifyingly, they got a signal that wasn't a million miles from the real one from Titan. So maybe the moon is a crème brûlée in the sky after all," the researcher joked.

Mmmmm. Tasty moons of Saturn.... I think perhaps we should send a manned probe. I'll volunteer!
:: David (04:02 in Michigan, 10:02 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


Am I the only one who didn't realize the US was banning people from flying to other countries, as well as to the US? It seems a flight from Amsterdam going to Mexico city was turned around by the US authorities when it tried to enter US airspace, because two passengers appeared on the US 'no-fly' list. I can't believe other countries are allowing this to happen! The full details (such as they are) appear on CNN's web site.
:: David (02:02 in Michigan, 08:02 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, April 10 2005 ::

Busy, crazy weekend. The independent winemaker's convention was held over the weekend, and Sasha's friend Stew came to visit, with his girlfriend Carol, so we combined the two events and took them to taste as many wines as they could without falling down. On the way home from picking them up Friday night, our train was stopped one station early, and although I'm not absolutely certain I may have seen my first dead body outside of a funeral home - the train may or may not have hit someone coming in to the station.

Saturday we wandered town, taking lots of photos and seeing all the usual stuff, before heading to the wine tasting. Sunday we split up - they headed to the Orsay, we headed to the Louvre (to see the new Mona Lisa room). We saw lots of interesting sights around town - the Paris marathon was being run, and there was a protest by motorcycle riders against a law forcing people to drive with their headlights on during the day, which involved thousands of motorcycles rolling through Paris. There were lots of photos taken, which I have put up (without text, I'm afraid). Overall it was quite a busy weekend.
:: David (15:32 in Michigan, 21:32 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, April 8 2005 ::

PC World notes today that Yahoo has decided to support wikipedia, giving it server space and featuring articles in search results. Google, meanwhile, is rolling out a natural language question and answer service. The two, while not directly related, I think both point the direction search is going, which is to quickly find you an authoritative answer when you want facts. Of course, this also means private companies will be the arbiters of 'fact'.

Which ties nicely in with the French government's recent comments on the google digital library project, which seeks to digitize books and make them available on the internet. As this story in the Washington Post notes, "What happens when the keys to a nation's patrimony are controlled by a private company rather than a government elected by the people? That's a good question, and Google hasn't called back yet with a comment." France is of the opinion that Europe needs to create a public repository, to reflect a more democratic selection of what is important in literature. Seems reasonable. We'll see where it leads....
:: David (04:06 in Michigan, 10:06 in Paris) - Comment


Also on the front page of the NYT is a subject close to my heart, the question of separation of church and state in France, as it relates to the death of the pope. As I may have noted previously, the flags were at half-mast on Sunday, per an order from the national government. By Monday, accusations and complaints were flying, with some politicians noting that no other religious leader (the Dalai Lama was given as an example) would be accorded so much recognition by the government, and that doing so violated the principles of laicite - the state as a non-religious institution. The debate continues, but as the story in the times notes, the lines are not drawn along political parties.
:: David (03:50 in Michigan, 09:50 in Paris) - Comment


I'm one step ahead of the New York Times, which has an article on Cardinal Ratzinger on the front page of today's paper. Apparently he will say the funderal Mass for the pope. It also details his increases in power and notes that he is expected to be a power broker (or candidate) for the top job.
:: David (03:45 in Michigan, 09:45 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, April 7 2005 ::

According to wired, blogger has been having a bit of difficulty lately. I find this interesting for a few reasons: (1) I started blogging using blogger (back before they were google) (coincidentally, I had hotmail before microsoft bought them, too - I get in early, and bail at the right time, it seems). (2) I spent a lot of time working on the software that publishes my site, and I'm glad to see it's paying off - there are no nameless, faceless companies when things go wrong, only me. (3) It's funny to see that blogger has so much control over the (dare I use this word?) blogosphere. I can't imagine that such a geeky occupation doesn't have loads of people perfectly capable of writing their own software. Anyway, you can read the story on the wired website.
:: David (16:04 in Michigan, 22:04 in Paris) - Comment


The BBC has an article on the Vatican's attempts to embrace the web, which included the following details on the uses one cardinal has found for the web (or rather, one use his fans have found):

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican department once known as the Holy Inquisition, has two unofficial fan sites.

Supporters can purchase T-shirts and hats declaring support for the cardinal, branded with the phrase: "Putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981."

You can see online both the BBC article, and the Cardinal Ratzinger fan club.

It is worth noting that Cardinal Ratzinger is considered by some the leading anti-gay bishop. You can read about his efforts in opposition on same sex marriage (Canada).
:: David (07:40 in Michigan, 13:40 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, April 6 2005 ::

An editorial in today's Le Monde informs me that each day between 20 and 40 thousand people cram themselves in to see the Mona Lisa. It also tells me that the new room cost almost 5 million euros, which was supplied by Nippon Television Network (and is probably going to provide them with great PR in Japan for years, if not decades). Most of all, the article gushes praise on what it describes as a key piece of French patrimony.
:: David (17:29 in Michigan, 23:29 in Paris) - Comment


Well, it looks like it's good I saw the Mona Lisa when I did - otherwise I might have had to wander the louvre looking for her new resting place. If the information on CNN is correct, they moved her Monday (the day after our most recent visit) to a new room, designed, one presumes, to survive the overwhelming crush of people trying to see her. I'll let you know how they did.
:: David (05:07 in Michigan, 11:07 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


According to 20 minutes today, the metro in Paris has had a record year, with 7% growth over last year. It averaged 9 million people per day, and 1.6 million people have a year-long pass. Overall, in 2004 2.7 billion trips were made on the metro. According to Anne-Marie Idrac, the President/director-general of RATP (the company which runs the metro), in 2005 they've already seen a further 2% growth. That's some crazy, crazy, crazy busy stuff!
:: David (03:47 in Michigan, 09:47 in Paris) - Comment


According to a report on the BBC, Florida has just made it easier to have a shootout in the streets. The new law states that you are allowed to shoot an attacker in a public place. Previously, you were expected to try and get away, and only if that failed could you shoot someone.

So let's say someone tries to mug you when you're out on the town. Maybe you've gone to dinner and a movie, and you're headed back to your car. This means, necessarily, that you took a gun to a restaurant and a movie theatre. In fact, the only way to defend yourself with a gun is to carry a gun. How many people do we want carrying guns in any particular location? Think, for example, of the young man who went to a mall with a gun and started shooting people. What if everyone there had had a gun? How many would have shot the wrong person, either on accident or because they saw someone with a gun, people were being shot, and therefore the person in front of them must be the attacker?

I can't absolutely say it would be that way, because I've never been in that situation. But most likely neither have any of the people we would be encouraging to carry a gun, were laws like this to become the norm. Would they be too scared to shoot (in which case, the ability to carry a gun does no good at all), or would they be too eager to shoot (in which case there's a serious problem)?
:: David (03:40 in Michigan, 09:40 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Tuesday, April 5 2005 ::

Hitachi has announced they have figured out a new (old) way to store data, which will make hard drives smaller. In order to demonstrate their new technology, they made an instructional video, which includes (I kid you not) 70's style dancing, multiple disco balls, and a hard drive with one eye. You have to see it to believe it.
:: David (07:47 in Michigan, 13:47 in Paris) - Comment


:: Monday, April 4 2005 ::

So, the weekend was a crazy tourist bonanza: the eiffel tower, arc de triomphe, louvre, orsay, notre dame, sorbonne, and scary japanese food. We saw a good portion of the city in two days, and came back at the end of each day fairly well on our way to complete exhaustion. But it was fun, even if the Louvre was more inundated with tourists than I have ever seen. It was amazing. And needless to say, I took photographs, which I will try to put on the web before June, but probably not much before, given the whole computer thing.
:: David (05:42 in Michigan, 11:42 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


Well, I'm back at work, in front of a computer that works, which is nice. I have printed the forms I need to use to ship my computer off to Roissy (north-east of Paris), and the man I spoke to yesterday told me it would take ten days to repair it and get it back to me. I bought a new external hard drive on Friday to backup my photos and email before I shipped the beasty off, so if they erase the computer (as they often do at repair shops) I can restore everything. The biggest difficulty is finding a box to pack it all in. I'm going to have to either buy something from the post office, or go into the scary storage closet at home and find something. We'll see what turns up.
:: David (05:39 in Michigan, 11:39 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, April 3 2005 ::

Well, the pope is dead, and the flags are at half mast all over Paris. It was interesting yesterday, because one of the newsstands put out the "Pope John Paul II - 19xx-2005" before he actually died. It was very strange. And at Notre Dame, all the news trucks were poised, waiting for the final word. The BBC has an excellent "what happens next" which explains the steps to choose a new pope.
:: David (13:11 in Michigan, 19:11 in Paris) - Comment


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