:: Sunday, December 31 2006 ::
Looks like it may be a bad time to be a city that starts with 'Ba'. Baghdad, of course, is a given, but now Al Jazeera is reporting that Bangkok has joined the fray:
At least six bombs have exploded in central Bangkok, killing two people and injuring more than 20 others.Although noone has yet claimed responsibility, the article does note that previous attacks have been carried out by muslim separatists.
I looked for some analysis of the situation, and found that Global Security had a nice article (if biased), explaining that the South has traditionally been a dumping ground for inept politicos, etc., so it's very little wonder that people are unhappy. There is apparently a certain history of rebellion, and recent government actions involving heavy handed tactics and deaths in police custody can only have added fuel to the fire.
:: David (12:21 in Michigan, 13:21 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, December 30 2006 ::
After much work collecting, selecting, and arranging, the photos from the wedding have been put online. These were assembled from the pictures the various guests took while in Bermuda, and include both the wedding and the stuff we saw while not getting married. Thanks to all who came, took pictures, sent me the disks, etc.
:: David (0:08 in Michigan, 1:08 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Friday, December 29 2006 ::
Well, this is news: the BBC is reporting that Saddam Hussein has been executed. I'm sure there will be more on this as we go.
:: David (22:39 in Michigan, 23:39 in Paris) - Comment
As you may have guessed, we made it back from Chicago more or less intact, and managed to visit lots of people in the process. Fun for all! Photos, as always, to come.
:: David (21:02 in Michigan, 22:02 in Paris) - Comment
You may remember I
posted some time back about an article in the Economist which suggested
buying local may not be as 'good' as buying Wal-Mart. Lisa pointed me to a local blogger who
also mantioned the article, and has
generated some interesting discussion thereof. It's worth
taking a peek.
:: David (20:59 in Michigan, 21:59 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, December 26 2006 ::
There's an article in the New York Times today that touches on a subject which is very close to my heart: Italian coffee. For those of you that aren't aware of our coffee habit, we are quite particular about coffee, and drink only Lavazza at home. In France we were fans of Segafredo, and managed to get a set of their espresso cups after buying a significant amount of their coffee and collecting proof of purchase labels. According to the NYT article, the only major Italian coffee maker we missed was Illy, which we have discovered since returning to the states (although they seem to have priced themselves right out of our range, here).
The article, titled "Coffeehouses as Fashion Boutiques; Selling Cachet by the Cup", is all about how the Italian coffeemakers are taking the battle to Starbucks by going upmarket. Specifically, Illy is opening a series of upscale coffee places called 'Espressamente'. Apparently there are already some in France, but I never saw them (though I didn't know to look - apparently they're near Opera in Paris, and who goes there?)
The article contained a few surprises, like the fact that Segafredo took over "the American coffee brands of the Sara Lee Corporation, including Chase & Sanborn, Chock Full o’Nuts and Hills Brothers." I don't know that I would ever have thought that Segafredo would do Hills Brothers, but I guess it makes sense.
:: David (14:41 in Michigan, 15:41 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Well, we're back at home now, having survived the first round of holiday cheer. We're heading back tomorrow to spend time with the kids, and then Thursday we'll be off to Chicago to see the fishies (and maybe the mummies). Lots still to do, but the big day went well, so that's something.
:: David (12:28 in Michigan, 13:28 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, December 25 2006 ::
Merry Christmas! We made it back to Ann Arbor at about 2am this morning, but we made it back with all our luggage, so it was OK. Our last flight, coming from Minneapolis, was delayed for an hour because the stewardess didn't show up for work. No kidding. So they apparently had to find someone willing to spend Christmas away from home so they could fly us to Detroit. Crazy.
We also passed over Santa doing his rounds a couple of times on our way back, or so reported the pilots.
:: David (9:38 in Michigan, 10:38 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, December 23 2006 ::
While driving around San Diego, I noted a number of places offering 'check cashing' and 'payday loans' - advances on a person's paycheck. I thought it really interesting, in light of the immigration situation, but didn't think much more about it. Now the New York Times has an article on the topic, which points out other dangers of the practice:
If they repay on time, borrowers pay fees ranging from $15 per $100 borrowed in some states to, in New Mexico, often $20 or more per $100, which translates into an annualized interest rate, for a two-week loan, of 520 percent or more.Congress addressed the issue for military personnel earlier this year, however, ignored the same practices when used on non-military individuals.
:: David (21:46 in Michigan, 22:46 in Paris) - Comment
An evening with Turner Classic Movies showed us In The Good Old Summertime and Bundle of Joy. If Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds don't make you happy, nothing will.
:: David (0:41 in Michigan, 1:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 22 2006 ::
We walked what can only be called 'a lot' yesterday, from Holly's apartment to Balboa park and then downtown, finally meeting Bucky for dinner on the harbour front. We also watched (twice) the Colbert Report shred off, to prove that we love television.
:: David (13:13 in Michigan, 14:13 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, December 21 2006 ::
We had a busy, busy day yesterday. Started out with a visit to the ocean, where Holly walked her dogs, and then a visit to the mission, which may be our favourite breakfast place in town. Then we came back to the house and helped Holly pack for her trip home for the holidays, which basically involved chatting with her while she whittled down to a single bag of clothes. Then we loaded into separate cars and headed east, into the mountains and the desert, stopping to see Holly's old house en route.
I'd never really seen the desert before, so the day was conceived to see some of the nature outside of San Diego's urban sprawl. The mountains were amazing, running up to 4200 feet, and then we dropped almost straight down into the desert proper. When we pulled off the highway in the desert onto an empty highway containing only a gas station and scrub, it felt an awful lot like we had suddenly entered any bad television movie ever made, probably something with Chuck Norris. We bid adieu to Holly, who continued on her way to Arizona, and we turned around. The drive back was possibly more beautiful than the drive out, as the sunset kept teasing us with beautiful pink skies seen through mountain peaks.
We stopped off at the Viejas casino and outlet mall to get some jeans for Sasha. The experience of going to a Gap on a reservation, across from a casino, was something a little odd. But there you are. We bought significantly more than a pair of jeans, and got back on the road.
Heading west from there, we came to a place on the highway where one of the lanes had been closed, and traffic backed up. We had spotted this area earlier in the day, and knew it was some sort of checkpoint. As we rolled up to the place where a million lights were pointed at the road, and a man in uniform was peering intently into each car, waving most on, sending some off. We rolled up and rolled down our window. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I waited for the uniformed man to speak. He asked 'how you folks doin'?' and waved us through. I never spoke, nor showed any documents. It had been a checkpoint for illegals, and was so clearly profiling non-whites that it made our heads spin.
We finished the trip into town, hooked up with Bucky, Holly's friend, and headed out for sushi. By the end of the evening we were pretty well finished. Plans for today may include taking it a bit easy, and certainly involve taking Rufus (Bucky's dog) for a walk, as Holly took Apple, leaving one sad puppy behind.
:: David (12:03 in Michigan, 13:03 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, December 18 2006 ::
We saw a whole lot of San Diego zoo today, spending basically from opening to close wandering among the various animals you see at a zoo. I think, though I'm not sure, that we saw a rhino that had fallen into the pit that is supposed to keep it from escaping (in our minds, the rhino had an inner monologue: "50 million years of evolution, and I fell in the pit again. Damn.") The high point might have been the meerkats, but that might just be the meerkat manor fan in me talking....
:: David (20:40 in Michigan, 21:40 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, December 17 2006 ::
Sailing, sailing, over the San Diego harbor. That's pretty much what we got up to today. It was picturesque beyond belief, and a whole lot of fun besides. But now, at some time before 9pm, we're whipped, and bed will happen soon.
:: David (23:49 in Michigan, 0:49 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, December 16 2006 ::
We managed to pick up Jason from the airport yesterday. He's been living in Egypt for the past four years, and is now relocating to central Michigan. We spent the evening with a bunch of people talking and playing games, and today we started packing for our trip to San Diego. Jason is giving us a ride to the airport, and then we'll be there to Christmas Eve. Fun times! We headed out at one point to get a guide to San Diego, but the lines at the book store were too long, so we skipped it.
:: David (15:42 in Michigan, 16:42 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 15 2006 ::
I wish I could show you all how freakin' beautiful this sunrise is here, but I can't, and even as I type the glorious golds fade to yellow. But believe me when I say that those few seconds made the whole 'waking up early' thing worthwhile.
:: David (8:22 in Michigan, 9:22 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Sasha had a big dinner with her colleagues last night, so I was left to my own devices. After some bizarrely mundane stuff like washing the car, I got cracking on a new web page.
You may remember that for a while google was my friend. They even sent me a check. But then, just like their sudden arrival, their departure was also swift. I was abandoned. So I decided to see if I could reclaim the glorious heights with a page designed to attract certain keywords, which also contained exactly what it claimed to contain (as opposed to a junk page). So I crafted the France Pictures page, which is a selection of some of my favourite pictures taken over my two years in Paris. It's a work in progress, as I hope to eventually link the pictures back to the original location on the website, but for now I think it's fairly attractive, and we'll see if it's also search engine attractive.
:: David (7:43 in Michigan, 8:43 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, December 14 2006 ::
A fun article in the New York Times talks about Merlot abuse in mass media (specifically the film Sideways), and the fact that although much American Merlot is bad (or maybe 'much American wine is bad', depending on how you interpret "if the net outcome is that people have simply traded in bad merlot for a growing sea of bad pinot noir, that’s not such a good thing"). They give the nod to some Washington wineries bucking the trend.
:: David (12:54 in Michigan, 13:54 in Paris) - Comment
You know, I've lived a lot of places, and become pretty international in my worldview, but no matter how far you go, you will still retain certain elements, phrases, etc., from the culture you started in. That's why I'm pretty sure that no matter how familiar I am with British culture and language, the fact that many cough syrups are 'chesty' will always make me chuckle. It's the little things.
For those of you with the same mental image I always get when I think of anything 'chesty', pharmweb can explain what a 'chesty' cough is. Special thanks to petite anglaise for reminding me of the term.
:: David (7:26 in Michigan, 8:26 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, December 13 2006 ::
A big story today happening in Botswana - some time ago the government moved one of the native peoples from their
home in the Kalahari game reserve to camps, ostensibly for reasons of conservation (they lived in a game reserve). The
bushmen sued, and today the judges rule on their case.
Survival International backs their case, and one of their assertions is that
the move was made because of diamonds. I've read that the bushmen have appealed to Leonardo DiCaprio (who stars in the new
film Blood Diamond, which is about diamonds and politics in Africa) to promote
:: David (9:26 in Michigan, 10:26 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, December 12 2006 ::
I was thinking this morning on my walk to work about how much this presidency has harmed individual rights in the the United States, and what could be done about it. I came up with a couple of constitutional amendments we could use to clarify matters. I posted them in the wiki, and left it open so feel free to go add your own that you think would help the US get back on track.
:: David (11:29 in Michigan, 12:29 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
This week's Economist has a terribly interesting special report called Voting with your trolley, in which the pros and cons of organic/fairtrade/whatever food are discussed. Some of the ideas discussed are fairly standard, for example, that fair trade causes farmers to grow the wrong crops by boosting the price paid (a standard economic concept). Some of the ideas, however, are fairly shocking:
It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain. And it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.when you think about it, this makes sense - a semi-truck may use a lot of gas, but it also moves an awful lot of lettuce.
Overall, the verdict on the locally grown food movement was fairly grim - "Conventional political activity may not be as enjoyable as shopping, but it is far more likely to make a difference." There are pro and con arguments to be made, I can think of arguments refuting some of the claims made, but then I can think of counter-arguments as well. The jury remains out, but kudos to The Economist for adding more information to the pile.
:: David (0:18 in Michigan, 1:18 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, December 11 2006 ::
It's like watching a train wreck in really, really slow motion. Today the EU decided to slow down talks with Turkey concerning Turkey's bid to join the EU. Apparently it was decided to suspend talks in eight areas (as opposed to three, or seventeen - the other number of talk suspensions bandied about) due to Turkey's failure to open its ports to Cyprus. It's all so absurd - everyone would be better off if they would just admit that the EU will never let Turkey in - Turkey could then avoid all those silly EU laws, Europe could avoid the cost of taking in a relatively poor country, and everyone would be happy. Mostly. Sort of.
:: David (23:50 in Michigan, 0:50 in Paris) - Comment
The power of being on the way out is that you can say what you really think; Kofi Annan has done just that, with a speech designed to roundly rebuke the US' recent interactions with the United Nations, and urge the US to "[remain] true to its principles - including in the struggle against terrorism".
:: David (15:22 in Michigan, 16:22 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, December 10 2006 ::
The Christmas shopping is just about done - a few things to get, but for the most part everything is here. As always, I have no idea how things will go over - we'll have to wait and see. I've mostly just grabbed randomly things that might interest, or be useful, or whatever. We'll see how it goes. Wrapping happens this week sometime, and then it's all about San Diego for a while. I still have to call Holly and verify she got my email telling her when we arrive - it'd be sad to get there and have nowhere to go and noone to see, just because of a communication oops.
:: David (12:03 in Michigan, 13:03 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Saturday, December 9 2006 ::
It's amazing to me how much freakin' time you can spend playing civilization if you aren't careful. We're feeling a little futsukayoi today, so moving hasn't been very high on our list of things to do. I feel bad, because we were going to go to a friend's birthday party.
:: David (18:46 in Michigan, 19:46 in Paris) - Comment
We had quite the little shindig here last night. Sasha invited her teaching colleagues over to celebrate the ending of the semester, and much, much wine was consumed. It's actually kind of exciting, because our wine rack is now seriously depleted compared to its pre-party state, which means we can fill it with new yummy tasty wines. We made it to bed by four, and managed to crawl out of bed before noon, so it wasn't too crazy, all things being equal. Just mostly crazy.
:: David (12:35 in Michigan, 13:35 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 8 2006 ::
I read somewhere recently that Al Gore had made an appearance, somewhere, where rather than saying 'I will not run in 2008', he fudged. And they said the rest of the appearance, while on the subject of 2008, was a bad flashback to 2000, when Al Gore was the worst presidential candidate ever.
I was reminded of this because I just got an email directing me to Al Gore's website, where you can sign up to go to an 'An Inconvenient Truth houseparty' in your area. And I was halfway tempted - I haven't seen the movie, and I thought it might be amusing to see it in the presence of the truly devout.
This Al Gore, the environmentalist and crusader, I could vote for. The Al Gore of 2000 I could not vote for. Which will we get, and will whichever one we get be a candidate in 2008? We'll see.
:: David (11:21 in Michigan, 12:21 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Thursday, December 7 2006 ::
Made a few minor changes to the blog software this evening, some of it pretty sketchy, and a few parts downright questionable, but I think it should hold up. A few days ago I changed the software so it would automatically ping technorati when I made a new blog post, and I noticed that it was creating a link to a weird place (the comment form) because it thought that was the link to my post. So I added a link (next to my name - the four dots) to the post itself. We'll see if that helps. I also made some changes to the comments program, which hopefully will make visible that which had been hidden - the title of each post.
:: David (22:31 in Michigan, 23:31 in Paris) - Comment
Well, after fiddling around with it, I decided to throw a wiki up on the server. So now you can all go to thought bubbles and see what sort of random stuff I would put in a wiki if I had one, because I do. I also created a password-free wiki area where you can all add messages, links to your favourite sites, a recipe for cheesecake, whatever.
For those of you that care, the wiki on my server is different than the one pbwiki is running. My wiki server is running pmwiki, which is a little more ghetto-licious in its default implementation, but which is incredibly easy to manage - something I very much appreciate.
:: David (8:52 in Michigan, 14:52 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, December 6 2006 ::
Well, if Al-Jazeera live on the internet isn't doing it for you (and really, their feed is pretty small), you can try France's new 24 hour news channel, which went live today. All I've seen thus far is their weather map, but it's pretty swanky.
:: David (11:12 in Michigan, 17:12 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
We all know actors can be presidents, so why not Christopher Walken in 2008? (from Digital Identity)
:: David (7:49 in Michigan, 13:49 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
A colleague asked me recently if I knew of a good free online wiki, as as it happened I had recently seen one, called pbwiki. I decided to set one up for myself, but I couldn't figure out what to do with it. So I decided to create a want list of things I'm keeping my eye on with the idea of someday, maybe, purchasing. It seemed as good an idea as any. I'm going to play with it a while, and then maybe put a wiki on my website, so I don't have to put up with the advertisements.
:: David (7:27 in Michigan, 13:27 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Tuesday, December 5 2006 ::
Last week as part of our weekly 'television night' we added a new series called Heroes to the mix. It's your basic 'what if normal people one day realized they had super powers' motif, but it's well done, at least so far. If you haven't had the chance, give it a try - it's pretty good.
:: David (18:28 in Michigan, 0:28 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
For my American readers with a mobile phone, Yahoo has started a new service called mixd which allows you to create 'texting groups', where you send a text message to Yahoo's server, and it sends it to all the group members. It's all pretty obvious, but a nice idea nevertheless.
:: David (8:10 in Michigan, 14:10 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Sasha's new computer arrived last night, and boy is it small! We've been calling this her 'rock', as it cost as much as a piece of compressed carbon harvested by children, but is much cooler. As you can see from the photo, next to my computer (the 'hummer' as we like to call it), the laptop is miniscule. She wanted something that could be easily carried, and as a side effect got a computer with a ridiculous battery life and no fan, so it's totally (almost creepily) silent. Now that I've had the chance to play with it a little, I am starting to covet - using it is like curling up with a backlighted book with internet access.
:: David (4:01 in Michigan, 10:01 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, December 4 2006 ::
Hooray! Sasha sent me this link this morning, which says that John Bolton is leaving the UN - he was unable to secure the votes to be officially confirmed as US ambassador to the UN. Even writing his name in the same sentence as ambassador seems ironic at best, so I'll be happy to see him go.
:: David (6:21 in Michigan, 12:21 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, December 3 2006 ::
OK - I've updated the comment software slightly so (hopefully) people can't break it anymore. Fun Sunday stuff. I've also updated my digital camera page, in the hopes of attracting more holiday clickers. Stores seem to be paying quite a lot right now for web page ads that might be related to a Christmas gift!
:: David (11:23 in Michigan, 17:23 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
Christmas time is upon us again. I had sort of forgotten how close we were to the day, and then I went to a store. Yikes! We escaped mostly intact, and I decided that maybe a visit to amazon was a safer route. I wasn't totally successful, as there are still things to be got, but I feel better now that I have a few things on their way.
I'm a little befuddled by the number of animitronic trinkets available - I remember as a kid hating the machines that walked (and as I recall I wasn't taken with the talking ones either), so that fact that, for example, the Barbie horse is now battery operated (and 'not for use on carpet') strikes me as a bit obtuse, both from the seller's and buyer's perspective. Perhaps there's a hefty profit margin involved?
Although I did use amazon for my Christmas shopping bonanza (vol. 1) I am more and more convinced that it is not a good online store. The fact that they no longer seem to do any vetting of what is on offer, and don't allow you to eliminate all the bizarre items mixed in (or unavailable), seems inconvenient to say the least. So I think the new year will probably see me finding a new place to get my online goods. But for now, they suffice.
:: David (9:57 in Michigan, 15:57 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, December 1 2006 ::
The lead paragraph says it all:
French schools should teach children the virtues of drinking wine, a report by France's governing party says.
You can see the
rest of the story on the BBC website.
:: David (11:04 in Michigan, 17:04 in Paris) - Comment
The New York Times has an article, which follows on other articles I have read, about how the French government is selling the old buildings in its possession for cash to pay down national debt. It's an interesting question, exactly how much a government should be expected to preserve. I'm not sure where I fall on this, honestly - most of the buildings in question aren't open to the public anyway, and the rules generally protect the buildings from being replaced by an ugly modern structure, so I'm not sure how much is gained by the state holding them.
:: David (8:42 in Michigan, 14:42 in Paris) - Comment