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:: Friday, September 30 2005 ::

By the way - did you all get images of the French military storming the 'hijacked' ferry, rappelling down from helicopters and such? I saw it was the front page of the Herald Tribune, so I thought it might have gotten English language coverage. Very exciting stuff!
:: David (13:12 in Michigan, 19:12 in Paris) - Comment


I'm taking the opportunity to sit down - it's been a busy day! I took a train from Nimes to Carcassonne, then had a heck of a time finding a hotel. Found one, set my stuff down, and headed out to see the old city. Think of Mont Saint Michel on steroids - it's really cool to see a complete walled city though - you can see the inner and outer walls, as well as the castle and buildings inside, now being used to sell a wide variety of tourist kitch. I'll visit the castle and ramparts tomorrow, but today I just went to the free stuff, like the churches. There are some very nice churches in this town.

By the way - last night they were working on the internet at the cafe I was at, so they asked us all to get off. As soon as I posted, they changed their mind and said we didn't have to, but by then I had already made the post, and figured I should go home and relax instead. So I did.

I had this master plan that this evening, before seven PM, I would buy all the clean clothes I needed for tomorrow. I failed. This means I am about to become one of those stinky backpackers. Sad. That said, there doesn't seem to be a place in this town to buy things cheaply. That appears to go for the locals as much as for me. Ah well - I'll survive, and so will the people around me, I imagine.
:: David (13:10 in Michigan, 19:10 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, September 29 2005 ::

I was looking at my train ticket yesterday, trying to figure out what the letters ME meant. I realized they were 'mercredi', which meant it was Wednesday. At that point I realized that I had very little time left, which was a shock.

They're throwing me out. Hold that thought.
:: David (14:53 in Michigan, 20:53 in Paris) - Comment


Saw the aquaduct, also other random Roman stuff. It took some serious walking, as well as use of rural public transport, but I feel like overall I did a good job.

Multiple interesting things today - this evening the place where I got dinner had a sign up alerting Algerians in France that they can vote on the referendum to 'forget the war'. I ran out of memory card and had to get another, which is a bad sign for my computer as it means now I can bring home two gigs of photos. I sent off lots of random letters, cards, checks, and somesuch. I spoke Japanese to a woman (well, I said 'it's over there', but she was very excited and told her friend. Lots of little things like this. A good day. And tomorrow, Carcassonne - very fun!
:: David (14:49 in Michigan, 20:49 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, September 28 2005 ::

Well, I made it up the towers of Notre Dame, I managed to meet with a friend, who is definitely NOT old, and then I left Paris, for the wilds of the south. I stopped in Avignon last night, and today went to Orange, where they keep a Roman theatre. Back to Avignon to pick up my bag, and on to Nimes, where they keep a roman amphitheatre and temple. Are you sensing a theme? Tomorrow I may go to a roman aquaduct. We'll see.

I've been going like a mad fool, and I thought I was going to try to get out of here tomorrow, but it seems like a really nice city, so I think I'll stay an extra day, let my backpack cool down (it was starting to smoke), and relax a bit.

In other random news, Sasha reports that the stuff from France arrived this morning, and that we are now the proud owners of yet more junk. At some point hopefully we'll be able to find a place for everything, but that's a job for after the holidays.
:: David (15:21 in Michigan, 21:21 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[7]


:: Monday, September 26 2005 ::

Paris. It's odd being in Paris. I stopped off at the office, to do a little work and discuss some details of work I will do, and to catch up with folks, as I could. And then I just wandered. Paris has not gotten less amazing since I left - I will miss it fiercely. But it's nice to see it after being back in the states, because now I recognize it as different, instead of just better. It's still a great place to live, tho - they've started a new night bus service, much improved on the old, which allows 24 hour transport, easily and efficiently. Things like that.

Tomorrow I hope to climb the towers of Notre Dame, just because, and also meet an old friend for drinks. We'll see what happens.
:: David (15:22 in Michigan, 21:22 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[2]


:: Sunday, September 25 2005 ::

An interesting Sunday - lots of small adventures. Friday, when I got to France, I asked the woman at the bank if my ATM card would still work. She told me absolutely yes. So this morning I put it in the ATM, and the ATM kept it. Nice. So tomorrow morning I'll get up early and draw money out in person. Which is fine. I then ran into Dominique, my colleague from work, who heard my sob story and loaned me some 'liquid' (paper money) to make it to Monday. After that, tourism in Reims. There are many interesting sites here, some of which close for the season, some of which close for lunch. I managed to see the biggies though, and do a pretty good job of walking the length of the city as well. Now begins the difficult part of the journey - do I try to get a cheap (not too nasty, I hope) room in Paris, or head back tomorrow and leave again immediately for Aix-en-Provence? I've mostly packed, so now I just need to work out the planning. I'm sure it will all come together before too long. For now, I'm going to go give my feet a rest.
:: David (15:20 in Michigan, 21:20 in Paris) - Comment


I cannot even begin to describe what a cool day yesterday was. The wedding happened in the morning, at the city hall in Reims. Then in the evening, the most amazing party ever. There was a procession in with the bride, groom, the families, and the band, which consisted of drummers and what I am going to call 'North African bagpipes' until I find the correct term. It stayed wacky from there. Just great! And today - the cathedral.
:: David (04:21 in Michigan, 10:21 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, September 23 2005 ::

Safely made it to France, safely made it to Reims, safely made it to the hotel. Met Noura's entire extended family. And did some ironing on two hours sleep. Assuming I did not hallucinate it, my suit looks ready for a wedding tomorrow. Hooray!
:: David (18:24 in Michigan, 00:24 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, September 22 2005 ::

I'm off this evening to a wedding in Reims, France. I'll be back the 3rd of October. This space may or may not be full of exciting news between now and then, depending on whether I have internet access at any point in my journey. I'm currently making the assumption I will not. But when I come back, there should be lots of exciting hurricane news to dissect, along with photos of France and stories of random this-and-that; not least of which, I hope, will be stories of how our apartment looks with all the furniture moved in. It could happen! Until then, take care of yourselves, and I'll talk to you when I get back.
:: David (14:04 in Michigan, 20:04 in Paris) - Comment


:: Wednesday, September 21 2005 ::

I spent about three hours yesterday going through all my old negatives and photographs, searching for the negative to my photograph of the bridge over the river Kwai. I discovered that (a) I have a whole lot of just amazing photographs, and that (b) my storage methods may not have been up to snuff. Many of the packs of photos were stuck together, some of the negatives looked in dubious condition, and, to top it all off, I couldn't find the photos of my first trip to Thailand at all. Absolutely shocking. So now I am all motivated to do something about it, but instead I'm going away for a week to see a friend get married. Such is life. I'll work on it when I get back, I think - I can't stand the idea of my photos just quietly rotting away.
:: David (10:25 in Michigan, 16:25 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, September 20 2005 ::

So I'm not really sure if the US papers are covering it in any detail, but the Germans had an election recently, which resulted in a resounding... deadlock. Germany has two larger parties, both of whom lost votes (a lot of votes) in this year's election, and now both of whom are scrambling to find partners, in order to accumulate enough votes to have a majority. One amusing result of this has been speculation on a 'black-yellow-green' coalition (CDU-FDP-Green). These colors are also the colors of the Jamaican flag, and thus the possibility is being called the 'Jamaican coalition'. According to Le Monde, Tuesday the Bild Zeitung had a sketch of the three party leaders decked out in dreads. Apparently it was the Green party leader who first introduced the idea, saying he had had a vision of his partners decked out in dreads, "joint in hand".

One of my personal questions is, how long is Jamaica going to put up with these jokes before they officially complain?
:: David (10:23 in Michigan, 16:23 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Monday, September 19 2005 ::

Arrr! It's the 19th of September, and that can only mean one thing: international talk like a pirate day!

OK - actually, it can also mean that I turn 30 today. But the pirate thing is pretty exciting too!
:: David (09:25 in Michigan, 15:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[8]


Found on our new Hammer:

WARNING: WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES USERS AND BYSTANDER. This tool can be made to chip if struck against a hardened nail or other hard object. Use this hammer to drive and pull common nails only. Flying chips ca [sic] result in eye or other bodily injury.
I must say, I hadn't really missed the warning labels. If hammers have to have warnings on them, something has gone wrong.
:: David (22:25 in Michigan, 04:25 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Sunday, September 18 2005 ::

The BBC has come under fire from the British prime minister for allegedly being anti-US in their coverage of the Katrina disaster. I think what he means to say there is 'anti-Bush', not 'anti-US', and when put in those terms the charge is probably true. On the other hand, it's difficult to cover ineptitude at this level without seeming biased - it's like covering the Iraq war - why don't they ever talk about all the good things? Because there aren't any.
:: David (12:33 in Michigan, 18:33 in Paris) - Comment


The New York Times takes note of the fact that taxpayers are covering the cost of private pension plans in record numbers. Meanwhile, the investors who dump the pensions onto the public system make billions.
:: David (11:14 in Michigan, 17:14 in Paris) - Comment


:: Saturday, September 17 2005 ::

We went out 'clubbing' in Ann Arbor yesterday. I use the term loosely, as I am firmly of the opinion that the playing of Def Leppard invalidates any establishment's ability to term itself a 'club'. As Sasha noted: "that said, when the kids are breakdancing and moonwalking, what do you expect?" Now we are mid-way through planning a get-together tomorrow for a sort of pre-birthday birthday party, mad more birthday-party-esque by the fact that my friend Jas (at whose home it appears to be taking place) is actually having a birthday tomorrow. But today, more plotting, planning, cleaning, and shopping.
:: David (14:14 in Michigan, 20:14 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, September 16 2005 ::

I enabled anonymous comments - it still requires you typing something, but at least now you'll be able to do it. I would, of course, ask that you note your name when you leave a comment.
:: David (12:42 in Michigan, 18:42 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[4]


I read in Le Monde today that the EU and the US have reached an accord over some of their differences in the area of wine production. As near as I can tell, the EU has agreed to recognize all the tricks American winemakers use to make their wine taste, ahem, 'better', in exchange for the US agreeing to stop using protected wine names, like Chablis and Chianti. However, the agreement over names only applies to new wines introduced, and as Jean-Louis Piton, president of COPA-Cogeca - a european winemaker's organisation, notes, "it's the existing usurpations which are, to us, a problem". You can read about it in English in the IHT and for a more biased view, this generic article from AP.
:: David (12:35 in Michigan, 18:35 in Paris) - Comment


We went out to see a movie this evening, a French film called Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants, which is correctly translated as 'they got married and lived happily ever after', but literally translates as 'they got married and had lots of kids'. It was the space between these two translations that the film operates, deciding whether life with someone else involves happiness, or just kids. It was really funny, but at the same time broke your heart - the director had a somewhat dark view of the human condition when it came to relationships. An excellent film - look for it on DVD in early October.
:: David (23:55 in Michigan, 05:55 in Paris) - Comment


:: Thursday, September 15 2005 ::

I want to resist, really I do - but when the US president writes a note to the secretary of state asking if he can go to the bathroom, and a photographer manages to catch the written note on camera, I really do need to link to it...
:: David (13:01 in Michigan, 19:01 in Paris) - Comment


I'm adding a link along the side to a woman I met while I was in Japan, who will be starting (in a week or so) a 27 month stint in Macedonia working with the Peace Corps. She currently has a first entry up, talking about why she wanted to join the Corps.
:: David (12:53 in Michigan, 18:53 in Paris) - Comment


There are many things you can accuse the French Post of doing badly, but forwarding mail is not one of those things. In addition to all the mail you would expect to be forwarded to us from France, such as bank statements and business letters, our junk mail is also being forwarded. A couple of days ago it was the eyeglass store in our village, today it was an ad to subscribe to cable. And these aren't small pieces of mail - they're full color glossy magazines and the like. Very impressive. Very not useful.
:: David (11:41 in Michigan, 17:41 in Paris) - Comment


:: Tuesday, September 13 2005 ::

Oh yeah - I'm supposed to tag somebody. I suppose the most likely person I know who's been doing a lot of driving lately is my friend Misty, so I guess 'tag! you're it!'
:: David (18:44 in Michigan, 00:44 in Paris) - Comment


As most of you know, for the past decade I have made it my policy to ignore 98% of all forwards, memes, etc. However, my friend Tex tagged me at an opportune moment, so I think I'll do this one.

The meme in question is quite simple: list ten songs you've been listening to recently. As this also gives me the opportunity to pad my links to Amazon, and maybe make some money if y'all are crazy enough to buy the stuff I'm about to list, I figured I should do it. In addition, as I've been driving across the state seemingly every other day, I've heard a lot of music. So here goes: ten songs/artists currently making the rounds

1: Rush - Test for Echo
My nephew brought this along when he drove over with us from my folks' house. I almost had to listen to it more than once, as he showed no sign of pulling it after the first go through. It's later day Rush, but the title track is quite good, and it's overall a good listen.

2: Carly Simon - You're So Vain
There was one of those countdown shows - something like 'greatest hits of the early-mid-70's' or something, and this song came on. I was sorta befuddled, I guess, because I didn't change the channel - maybe I liked it, because it's been stuck in my head off and on ever since. My nephew, who probably hadn't experienced the song before, unless he was being tortured by one of his teachers after school, commented 'this song is cruel!' Which, let's face it, is why it's so good....

3: Black Sabbath - War Pigs
You know you're back in Michigan when you get Black Sabbath on the radio. I can't decide if the fact that I have heard 'war pigs' twice is due to a very limited rotation of songs (which would be odd - Paranoid is without a doubt a masterpiece, and every song on it a classic), or if it is a not-too-subtle way of protesting the war by people with long hair who ride motorcycles. A much more manly way of protesting than, for example, requesting Alice's Restaurant.

4: No Doubt - Hella Good
I can't really explain why I like No Doubt. I just do. Rumour has it that Gwen has gone solo now, so I'll probably have to give that a listen at some point.

5: The Outfield - Your Love
Yup - an 80's one-hit-wonder song. I'm chock full of them. It was actually quite exciting to hear in the car this morning - I had to turn it up and sing along and everything!

6: Laura Branigan - Gloria
Told you! Full of one-hit wonders! I've always liked this song - it's tacky, and clearly shows wear and tear, but it's not as bad as some of the more full-on 80's songs like 'Video Killed the Radio Star' or 'Banana Split'.

7: Gandharvas - The First Day Of Spring
I don't even know if I can call these guys a one-hit wonder...?

8: Collective Soul - December
Originally this was going to be Cowboy Mouth's "Jenny Says", but then while I was typing Collective Soul came on, and there was nothing I could do. These guys had a string of hits, and then fell off the map - I wonder if they still make music. I wonder if it's still catchy, yet formulaic?

9: Green Day - Wake Me Up When September Ends
Yup. Green Day. Nothing much to say, except they were there, and I couldn't be bothered to change the station.

10: 19 year-olds whining
No, this is not the name of a band, though it would be a good one. It doesn't refer to my nephew who stayed with us for a week, either. It is intended to be a blanket reference to everything I've been hearing on the 'indy' music stations, like 89X out of Windsor. An excellent example is Blink 182's "I Miss You". You may wonder why Green Day didn't go in with this, but they seem to have mellowed to power ballads these days.
:: David (18:39 in Michigan, 00:39 in Paris) - Comment


The BBC has reminded me of one of those truly bizarre stories that just keep coming back. On this day in 1982 the dingoes ate my baby! trial opened. To this day, the case remains officially unsolved, although popular sentiment has it that dingoes did, in fact, eat Azaria Chamberlain.
:: David (17:27 in Michigan, 23:27 in Paris) - Comment


I met the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson in a U-Haul truck rental shop this morning.

It hadn't been my intention to find him, or anyone else for that matter. I drove the shiny new U-Haul to the agency closest to my house, over on the west side of town near where 14 and 94 hook up, and my only intention was to leave it there, and never think about it again. But when I arrived, and had parked the beast firmly in the handicapped parking area, I discovered an empty building. Walking in, the till was on my left, unmanned, with the door to the little 'security booth' wide open. I looked around and there was a dirty sign hanging near the back that said 'U-Haul' and had an arrow pointing into an office-cum-storage-area. The desk looked recently occupied, and the computer was on, but noone was there. I saw people working in the garage next door, so I opened the door and attracted the attention of one of them. He told me someone would be back soon.

There not being a lot of things going on in the office-cum-storage-area, I wandered back to the convenience store portion of the establishment. I was contemplating whether or not I should take a soda, and eventually pay for it (or not) based on the elapsed time between summoning and arrival of the U-Haul man, when a car pulled up to the front of the store. A guy got out and walked in - he must have been buying something stored behind the counter, because he immediately queued up at the register. I walked around to see if anyone had arrived to take over the till, but there was still noone there. The guy looked kind of uneasy, like you might if you were queued up waiting for someone who might or might not exist. I wandered over to him, admired his clown pants, and said 'it's kinda creepy, isn't it? Noone here at all'. He turned to look at me, and my eyes shifted to the lip ring I hadn't noticed before. He was young, and I think I scared him, because his voice kind of stuttered as he replied 'y-yeah'. At that moment the mechanic I had spoken to, who apparently was also wearing every other hat at the place, rushed in to help the guy. I grabbed him in passing and he said 'he's coming'.

I went back to the office-cum-storage-area, and after a bit more admiring of the decor, the ghost showed up.

He was wearing one of those t-shirts that had the sleeves torn off, and had been split from the armpit down to near the waist, so it sorta billows while you wear it. He was skinny, and wearing a cap of some sort. He looked like he had been roused from uncomfortable sleeping conditions, probably recently. The more I think about it, the harder he becomes to tell from the image I have in my mind of Hunter Thompson, or Duke, or some strange melange. He took the keys and headed out to the truck. Coming back in, he told me that there had been a lot of trucks goin' back and forth to Kalamazoo, which was where I had driven in from. "I don't mind taken their money," he said, "but I don't know why they all just don't rent a big truck and split it!" I didn't really know what to say to that, so there was a moment of silence until he pointed out that the mileage on my form suggested I had driven over two thousand miles coming from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor. I said I didn't know how that could have happened, and he, excusing the typographical error of some guy he would never meet in Kalamazoo, responded "mistakes happen!" He changed the contract so I had 3000 miles on my one day rental, closed it out, and sent me off.
:: David (22:33 in Michigan, 04:33 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Monday, September 12 2005 ::

We rented a truck yesterday, and with the help of many good people (thank you!!) managed to clear most of the junk Sasha and I had accumulated in my parents' basement. Of course, that means now it is all in our apartment, piled from floor to ceiling. So my task, for the afternoon and perhaps the evening, is to try to clear a percentage of the boxes away, so we have a place to put the other furniture, which should arrive from France any day now.
:: David (11:58 in Michigan, 17:58 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments[1]


:: Saturday, September 10 2005 ::

We returned to the United States after two years spent in France on the 31st of August. Before that we had been too busy with packing and moving to hear that Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans directly, and with devastating consequences. The television in the Detroit airport was covering the aftermath, at the time I was watching a fire had broken out and they couldn't get water to fight it. At the time, I thought it was the American media overreacting, like they always do.

Now we're more than a week into the catastrophe, and no end is in sight. The press in France and the UK, for a start, are wondering how things could be so completely monkeyed up.

During the blackout of 2003 I had many stories to tell, and in the end forgot to mention any of them on my blog. I thought this time I should make certain I mention this event I am living through, but the fact of the matter is I can't add anything to what is being said, and I have no personal stories of the place. I will instead link to the interdictor, who is blogging from inside the war zone that was New Orleans (link courtesy of Wil Wheaton). Perhaps in a month there will be enough clarity that I will be able to comment on this whole crazy circus, but right now it's all clear as mud.
:: David (00:03 in Michigan, 06:03 in Paris) - Comment


So I was putting up the photos of our summer trip to Denmark, annotating and copying and moving files around as I always do, and I realized that I would have to start a new directory on my website. For the past two years, everything has been in the 'France' directory, but now that chapter is, for the most part, behind me. How sad. So now I will have to consider whether 'Ann Arbor' warrants a photo. If I'm going to be here for two years (as is the current plan) it would certainly seem that I ought. But it simply rubs the wrong way.
:: David (22:48 in Michigan, 04:48 in Paris) - Comment


:: Friday, September 9 2005 ::

Back online - I was informed the internet wouldn't be live in my apartment until the 14th, but I plugged it in this morning and it works just fine. Expect significantly more blog entries from here on out.
:: David (11:47 in Michigan, 17:47 in Paris) - Comment


:: Sunday, September 4 2005 ::

Safely in Ann Arbor. Phone, but no internet. We'll see if the wizards of post-move internet installation can work their magic next week. In the meantime, the phone number on my contact page appears to work, so give me a call. If you want to text me, try +1-734-945-0283. I don't know if I can receive texts from abroad, but it will be fun to try.
:: David (19:56 in Michigan, 01:56 in Paris) - Comment


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