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:: Friday, October 31 2003 ::

Y'all should check out my new terror alert level indicator, on my Home Page. Made me chuckle for some time. Found first on Wil Wheaton dot Net. Brought to you by the letter R (for Rummy!)
:: David (12:03 in Michigan, 18:03 in Paris)

Out of the blue, sad news: a friend of mine by the name of Lucy Fann, whom I haven't seen in a while, just sent a mass-email detailing the tragic death of her young niece, who was hit by a van on her way to school. The family spread the word using internet, tv, and flyers, and for what it's worth the guy was caught. As Lucy points out, the use of the word "surrender" in the news story is somewhat questionable: Five days later after saturating the surrounding cities with posters and fliers someone from a bodyshop20 miles away informed the detectives they had thevan. They saw our posters and called the number on theposter. The media stated he turn himself in but theman got caught.
:: David (11:02 in Michigan, 17:02 in Paris)

The European Commission published a survey recently, concerning the opinion of Europeans on the 'war on terror'. I found it very interesting, not only because of the total results, but also because of how different the totals were, compared to individual member countries' responses. For example, when asked if there might be a terrorist attack in their home country in the near future, the European total for the answer "Not at all" (the strongest 'no' answer) was 10.3%. However, in Denmark the percentage was 42.2% and Finland, Sweden, and Portugal were not far behind. So what does this say about 'the European opinion'? Seems pretty divided to me....
:: David (07:15 in Michigan, 13:15 in Paris)

Have you all seen the Halloween Day Google Logo? I really do enjoy their clever images!
:: David (07:00 in Michigan, 13:00 in Paris)

:: Thursday, October 30 2003 ::

A random reader out Boston way by the name of Terri Edmonston wrote me the other day, and I wrote this big long reply to her all about life in Europe and somesuch, and her return address bounced. So, if you are she (and I hope you know who you are!) please drop me your email address!
:: David (15:58 in Michigan, 21:58 in Paris)

For those of you who don't follow British politics, you might want to skip the rest. Or you may not, because it certainly has bearing on the US political scene: News today is that Iain Duncan Smith has stepped down as the head of the UK's Tory party (the equivilent of the Republicans in the US, more or less). This is interesting for two reasons: firstly, Iain Duncan Smith was chosen by the grass roots of the conservative party, and was ousted by the inner circle, who also seem set on choosing his successor. The second reason is because of the people who set him up for a fall - wealthy donors to the Tory party. Now I know money talks, but as this guardian article commented, the events which occurred last weekend were a bit much:
Hardly a voice has been raised against what can fairly be described as a donors' attempted coup. Barely a commentator seems to be exercised by the implications of what is going on.

Few, that is, except for the ordinary members of the Tory party itself. Most of them chose Duncan Smith as their leader two years ago. A large proportion of them still support him. And all of them would be thoroughly justified if they suspected that there is a Westminster- and media-driven conspiracy going on to take their leader - and their party - away from them.

Of course, I don't really know that we in the US hear even this much of the backroom BS that takes place in choosing our leaders. But either way, it would seem people in the UK should be paying more attention...
:: David (09:20 in Michigan, 15:20 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, October 29 2003 ::

I keep meaning to mention the final abuse we had to suffer through on our way home from Larchant: on the subway from the Gare de Lyon to our house, a travelling rap group ducked in just after we sat down and set up shop in our subway car, right in front of us. Now, in addition to the drum (like a bongo, only bigger and used more in African and Middle Eastern music), which was loud enough, there was also the amplifier (which was on a wheeled cart, powered by a large battery) which powered the backup singers (on CD) and the microphone of the rapper. We just looked at each other and rolled our eyes....
:: David (12:59 in Michigan, 18:59 in Paris)

Answered my own question: Wally Pleasant has a website, and according to it "Wally will be touring EVERYWHERE! HE'S TAKING OVER THE WORLD!". If you aren't familiar with this legend, this phenomenon, this... ah... you get the idea, you might want to read the Wally Pleasant history page.
:: David (10:40 in Michigan, 16:40 in Paris)

So, under the 'why in the world' motif: Raclette is this dish, either Swiss or French depending on who you ask, which involves a cheese of the same name. Apparently the cheese is completely inedible if it is not cooked, and even when it is cooked there are certain foods (pickles, onions, etc.) which you have to eat with it or it does *bad* things to your digestive tract. However, just like 'shabu shabu' in Japan, it's one of those tasty experiences I highly recommend. We had it with Sasha's brother's family in Switzerland, and I was reminded because Auchon (a french supermarché) was advertising a Raclette set (yes, the meal requires special utensils - see below). You cook the cheese below, and grill veggies and meat (or just veggies, if the meat offends) on top. It's an experience!

:: David (10:29 in Michigan, 16:29 in Paris)

Does anyone know what the heck happened to Wally Pleasant?
:: David (10:08 in Michigan, 16:08 in Paris)

My friend Tammy forwarded me another section of her book, which is apparently now over 50,000 words. I always say I'm going to get around to writing a book - she's way ahead of me on the execution (and it's a good read so far, too, although I'm not sure what genre it's going to be yet...).
:: David (10:08 in Michigan, 16:08 in Paris)

I forwarded this article to my friend Jason in Egypt, and I realized it might have a wider attraction - it's a Christian writing about why 'the chatterati' (as she calls them), who pride themselves on tolerance, find it OK to persecute Christians. I'm not saying I agree with her, but she makes some interesting points (which have been made elsewhere, it must be said) about Faith.
:: David (10:04 in Michigan, 16:04 in Paris)

You know, I installed I-Tunes recently, and have been listening to the *truly* random music left on my computer, and I recently hit some of the music my Uncle David gave to me for Christmas, which included Frank Zappa. Once again, I am amused, and somewhat impressed - who can dislike a guy who writes songs with lyrics like:

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I'm the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I'm the slime oozin' out
From your TV set

:: David (09:59 in Michigan, 15:59 in Paris)

A little article on a subject which up until recently was very close to my heart - the rising tide of Japanese crime. As the Economist notes: With a general election looming on November 9th, Japan's political parties have made public safety an issue. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan wants to add 30,000 police officers over the next four years, and allow for life sentences without parole. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has tapped into the fear of foreign criminals by pledging to halve the number of immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

An even trickier political issue is the interaction between crime and economic worries, especially a looming shortfall in pensions. One obvious source of relief would be an influx of foreign workers. But given Japan's history of xenophobia, fears of a foreign crime wave may make it even harder to import the labour Japan needs.
:: David (06:07 in Michigan, 12:07 in Paris)

OK - the trip. There's a church south of paris where people would make pilgrimages to pray for the mad. Apparently Charles VI's wife made a pilgrimage to this church, and thus Sasha wanted to see the church for her research. Unfortunately, trains don't run to the village (named Larchant), only to nearby Nemours. According to the Larchant website, the only way to get from Nemours to Larchant is by walking, or taking a taxi. Since it was only 8KM from Nemours to LArchant we figured it would be no problem to walk it. The walking path leads through a huge forest which runs from Fountainbleu all the way down to Nemours, and from the terrain of the city it looked like it would be a smooth walk all the way there. Of course, since it was a hiking path, the people who built it had apparently decided that anyone walking along it must want to climb every bloody hill between Nemours and Larchant. So we went up the hill, down the hill, up the hill, down the hill, and finally onto the straightaway which led to Larchant. We made it to the city without being eaten by any of the huge dogs we saw along the way, and it really was a pretty church. Unfortunately, the church was literally the only thing open in the village. Everyone else was closed for lunch between noon and four PM. So we had some biscuits we had brought with us, sitting on a bench in a small park in front of the church, and then started back. We decided on the way back we would walk along the road (to avoid the hills), but the road was a little too skinny and a little too heavily travelled for us to walk along it comfortably. So we made an educated guess, ducked down a side street, and reconnected with the walking path. Up the hill, down the hill. At this point we were both starting to wear down (starting? Finishing, maybe), and the final walk to the station was somewhat nearer a crawl for me. We just missed the train we wanted, but there was another one about fifteen minutes later. So we sat, and waited. And waited. And went to check the schedule again, where we realized the train we were waiting for only ran on Saturdays and holidays. So we had another half hour to wait. At this point I thought it would be a good idea to explore Nemours a little, as it looked like a cute town. After walking a couple of blocks, though, it became clear that sitting in the cold after walking all day does not make your body want to walk any further. And it was starting to rain. So we returned to the station and waited, and then caught the train back to Paris.
:: David (04:22 in Michigan, 10:22 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, October 28 2003 ::

We took a little road trip to the Southern part of the Ile de France (basically just outside suburban Paris). The train took us most of the way, and then we walked the last eight kilometers (5 miles-ish). Each way. Over rocky terrain. I'm far too tired to talk about it now, but fear not, for there are pictures (which I will also get to, as soon as I can move).
:: David (17:37 in Michigan, 23:37 in Paris)

:: Monday, October 27 2003 ::

I've updated my photos of Notre Dame with some photos I took over the weekend. I'm still having difficulties figuring out how to arrange these photos, but take a look anyhow!
:: David (11:21 in Michigan, 17:21 in Paris)

Darned cemeteries anyway! I went down to the phone card place, and managed to get a phone card without hurting myself too badly. I then thought to take a wander back through the cemetary near my house (Le cimetière du Père François de La Chaise). I was... mistaken... about the short part of that. As you can see from the map, it is a fairly straight shot from one end to the other.

Somehow I botched it up, badly, and took quite a lengthy tour of the cemetery. I took a bunch of photos which I will post at a later date, but for the most part, one does not want to get lost when going from point 'a' to point 'b' - especially if one realizes midway that a visit to point 'wc' would not be out of order....

If you would like to know more about the cemetery, you can read the (short) wikipedia entry on it or the much longer North Star Gallery history.

:: David (10:16 in Michigan, 16:16 in Paris)

Other than the random things I've already discussed, I'm also becoming somewhat knowledgeable regarding the Windows XP registry. For example, did you know the 'start' bar need not contain the word 'start'? The Elder Geek knew. It helps keep the boredom away, and entertains me in small, silly ways. Alright - I'm going to go solve that phone card issue.
:: David (07:21 in Michigan, 13:21 in Paris)

The Economist has an excellent article talking about one of the biggest problems in France right now - Muslim girls wearing headscarves. As near as I can work out, France is more than ten percent muslim (more so where we live in Paris). As the article points out, the questions raised include what it means to be French. Right now being French and being Muslim seem to be at odds.
:: David (06:13 in Michigan, 12:13 in Paris)

On the other hand, rather than laughing I was just scared by the Pigeon Forge Tourist Page. This is what I get for using the 'I'm feeling Lucky' button on Google....
:: David (05:55 in Michigan, 11:55 in Paris)

I haven't laughed this much in a long while. Turns out Google uses birds to search. Tee hee!
:: David (05:52 in Michigan, 11:52 in Paris)

Calling cards are such a pain! The calling card we have to the US doesn't work for calls within Europe, nor does the calling card we had to the Middle East. So now I have to decide if I want to wander down to our friendly neighbourhood calling card store to get a card to the UK, so I can contact Tamara. On the upside, if I get a card which works in Europe, hopefully it will also work to Switzerland, which would allow Sasha to call her brother. Primarily my complaints stem from the fact that it's cold outside, and I don't want to go freeze!
:: David (05:34 in Michigan, 11:34 in Paris)

:: Sunday, October 26 2003 ::

For those who were wondering, yes, the time did change for us. We didn't really know until we woke up this morning. The cable box syncs with a server at the cable company, so we turned the TV on to see what time it was. It took a little while for the box to sync, so at first we thought the time changed on a different date for us, but then it kicked over and suddenly we had another hour in our day. Of course, as I type this the down side is evident, as the sun is now below the horizon, and it isn't even 6PM. If I ever do manage to get a job, I won't be able to see daylight for a while.
:: David (11:46 in Michigan, 17:46 in Paris)

In addition to paperwork, we went on a little jaunt today, hoping to find some free stuff to occupy our Sunday. Usually one can count on a concert or two, but we were unable to scare up anything (besides the halloween parties). Next weekend is the crazy fun free weekend where all the museums are open to the public, so we decided to put off a visit to the Musée D'Orsay until next weekend. We are, however, eyeing a trip to a little village south of Paris on Tuesday. The weather is the key - the forecast keeps changing on us, so we'll just have to play it by ear.
:: David (11:42 in Michigan, 17:42 in Paris)

Well, if it's Sunday night, it must be 'send out the apps!' time. This time there were even fewer ads which omitted the key phrase I tried so hard to avoid - 'must have work papers'. So this week I decided I'd send to them to - what the heck - if they call me back, great! If not, well... then it's really no different than if I hadn't sent them anything. I think this week I'm going to go out and buy a cheap printer, and get started on the 'David's Private English Lessons' business. With or without massage. I'm also expanding my job search beyond the borders of Paris, seeking work in London or Brussels (both about 2 hours away). We'll see how it all goes.
:: David (11:38 in Michigan, 17:38 in Paris)

:: Friday, October 24 2003 ::

So for those of you wondering what I've been doing with all my spare time, let me share: a long, long time ago, when I was still in high school, one of the few guys I really hung out with, Jeremiah, lent me some book by a guy named Robert Jordan. They were the first three books in a series called 'The Wheel of Time' and, as things go, they were pretty interesting. Off and on I managed to pick up the newer books as they were released. I bought book 6 in a train station in London in 1996 and it travelled Europe with me (I think I read it three times, from sheer boredom). Each of these works makes up in quantity what it lacks in quality - I just did a quick check and they average 300,000 words per book (seven or eight hundred pages). At any rate, I'd always meant to read them one after the other, because after ten years you kind of forget what the first book was about. So, when I got here I got a cute little program for my Palm which lets me put books on it, and starting with book one I've read them straight through. For those of you who know how quickly I read, the fact that I'm not finished with them already is another indicator of their size.
:: David (06:05 in Michigan, 12:05 in Paris)

:: Thursday, October 23 2003 ::

An article titled Are Suicide Bombings Morally Defensible? discusses several items, few of them directly related to the question, but most of them interesting to some degree or another. By and large I do not agree with the author, but I still thought it an interesting read.
:: David (08:52 in Michigan, 14:52 in Paris)

I read an interesting article/diatribe on obesity in America, both amusing and disturbing. I quote:
Let us [...] be reminded that there is perhaps no group in this country more maligned and abused and taunted than the overweight and the obese, and yet there is perhaps no group more directly marketed to and willfully miseducated and chronically self-abused. This is the American conundrum. This is the real cultural epidemic.

:: David (08:36 in Michigan, 14:36 in Paris)

Sasha had a 9:30 AM appointment with the Green Card people this morning. She's staying in town to do some work, so I won't know how it all resolved itself. With any luck, she has an appointment to do the next phase of the process, which is an official medical test (to ensure that after two months in the country, she isn't a hazard to anyone...) and if that goes off she may get her card by the middle of next month. I am always amazed at how completely useless immigration procedures are. But, especially now, noone would dream of reducing them.

There was an article in The Economist targeted at Europeans which said 'if you must travel to the US, there's no need to run right out and get the spiffy new passport the US claims it will require from foreign travellers, because it turns out noone inside or outside the US is going to be able to meet the deadlines set by the US Congress.' Nothing quite like setting up a bunch of expensive new regulations, and then never enacting them. If I were paying US taxes right now I would be livid.
:: David (08:23 in Michigan, 14:23 in Paris)

Well, after loads of time and a variety of incidents, Salam Pax has made me aware that Al Jazeera is online with an English edition. Now I recognize there is a lot of propaganda and probably a lot of falsehood (to one degree or another) involved in this. But at the same time, there's very few places you can get a fair and balanced perspective on the Middle East.
:: David (08:12 in Michigan, 14:12 in Paris)

More applications. Thank goodness the weather is bad - it makes me want to stay inside and apply for jobs!
:: David (07:39 in Michigan, 13:39 in Paris)

I learned a new word today. The word is 'chauffer' and it means 'to heat up' or 'to warm up'. Where did I pick up this little gem? I'll give you a hint - the whole phrase was 'Chauffez les guitares, sortez [get out] les munitions." If that doesn't help, nothing will, so I'll tell you - it's the tagline for "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" or, as it is tagged here, "Desperado 2, il était une fois au Mexique". It made me smile, which is no mean feat considering how wet I was when I saw it. I had the brilliant idea of heading downtown to check the job boards, and the train I needed to take was completely full to overcrowding, and it was clear I wasn't going to get on the next one either, so I decided to walk (in the rain) the several blocks to the American Church (where they keep the job boards). Sadly, once again there was nothing but babysitting jobs. I'm seriously considering just doing private lessons, but I haven't quite worked up the nerve to take that step yet. In another few weeks I suspect I'll be ready.
:: David (05:55 in Michigan, 11:55 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, October 22 2003 ::

On the 'weirder side', the BBC has a story today about a Norwegian woman who was given a government grant to open a business. The twist? She's opening shop as a witch. Apparently her business plan includes telling fortunes, and teaching magic tricks. One part of the grant states she can't do any 'bad magic' as part of her business.
:: David (07:38 in Michigan, 13:38 in Paris)

:: Tuesday, October 21 2003 ::

6:30 in the morning. Sasha is off to try and get her carte de sejour (green card) yet again, and she left extra early so she'd be sure to get in the door (they only process 200 people per day). Also today IKEA will deliver our new desk, which will give me something to put together, I believe. Also, a girl I went to high school (and college) with, Amy Emmert, is in town, and we're going to try and meet up for coffee. We'll see how much actually gets done today.
:: David (00:38 in Michigan, 06:38 in Paris)

:: Monday, October 20 2003 ::

I updated my wine list and added a couple of photos to the apartment page
:: David (07:21 in Michigan, 13:21 in Paris)

It's supposed to be downright cold in Paris this week, with temperatures not making it above 50 degree Fahrenheit in the day and going down to freezing at night. As such (and since I'm home anyway) we decided we should test the heaters to make certain they work. The results are currently somewhat mixed - there is heat coming from it, but it seems to reach only about six inches in front of it. Not really very promising....

:: David (06:59 in Michigan, 12:59 in Paris)

You know, I've been here almost two months and I still haven't managed to have a complete conversation on the phone in French. Today IKEA called to inform us that our desk (which we purchased to replace the scary, wobbly (is that how you spell that?) table on which I am currently typing) will be delivered tomorrow. I made it as far as the door code before she asked if I spoke English, and the rest of the conversation was in English. Defeat, again. Argh! On the upside, the desk will come tomorrow, despite my linguistic shortcomings....
:: David (06:04 in Michigan, 12:04 in Paris)

:: Sunday, October 19 2003 ::

We went to an organ concert at St. Eustache (I think that's how it's spelled) this afternoon. A quick wander across town, which took longer than expected as we went slightly off course, and then settling down in the church. It was quite fun - the concert was at 5:30 and mass was at 6pm, so they had the sheets out for mass (with the readings, the songs, and so forth) and as people came in for the concert they would pick up the sheets. Most of them would then put the sheets back down, as they were only there for the concert. One group stopped and looked at the sheet, and then one of them said (in English) "I don't think this is the concert!" - I was afraid they were going to leave, because I probably would have felt the need to stop them, but they finally sat down. It was standing room only in the place, which must have been a shock for the regulars (or maybe not - they have organ concerts there quite regularly). Some of the people who walked in after the concert started were clearly there for mass, and there was simply nowhere for them to sit. After the concert ended, we got up to leave, and the priest and everyone were standing right where we were walking out, waiting to walk in. Busted! We then wandered back to the metro station just as our train arrived - a little serendipity for a Sunday.
:: David (13:00 in Michigan, 19:00 in Paris)

While searching for the lyrics to Alice's Restaurant, I ran across a web page which has the testimony of Arlo Guthrie at the trial of the Chicago Seven. Who knew? I didn't know much about the Chicago Seven, but thankfully the page also had all kinds of background on what it was, why it was important, and so forth. For those who, like me, don't know, the short version of the Chicago Seven is that it wasthe 1969-70 trial of seven radicals accused of conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. What made it interesting was its relationship to the Vietnam war and the fact that many said the disruption at the convention was why Nixon was re-elected. The events surrounding the trial have resonance today because similar legislation to the Anti-Riot Act of 1968 could easily be put forward by the current crazies running the United States.
:: David (07:23 in Michigan, 13:23 in Paris)

According to the BBC, "The Arab TV station al-Jazeera has broadcast an audiotape of two messages which it attributed to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden". The BBC has published an English translation of both messages, which is well worth reading. Usually, when reading or hearing excerpts of the messages bin Laden sends out, one gets the impression of a raving loony screaming "Kill! Kill! Kill!" (while jumping up and down, if you want the full "Alice's Restaurant" imagery). But reading the full text one is reminded more of a consumate politician, using the imagery of history and religion to impact the listener/reader viscerally.
:: David (07:12 in Michigan, 13:12 in Paris)

:: Friday, October 17 2003 ::

They sent her away again. No nervous breakdown so far. I think she's getting used to the idea that they are never going to give her a residency card....
:: David (12:57 in Michigan, 18:57 in Paris)

Thomas Friedman, shooting his mouth off: "It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy." He suggests that "If France were serious, it would be using its influence within the European Union to assemble an army of 25,000 Eurotroops, and a $5 billion reconstruction package, and then saying to the Bush team: Here, we're sincere about helping to rebuild Iraq, but now we want a real seat at the management table." I think keeping troops out of Iraq has been most people's goal. Well, except the US.
:: David (02:44 in Michigan, 08:44 in Paris)

There's a new book by Virginia Postrel called "The Substance of Style" which advances the idea that the growth in low cost 'stylish' items has allowed greater self expression to individuals who previously could not have afforded such self-expression. The full review of the book expands on the ideas put forward, and offers some comment. I think the reviewer misses the real bone of contention I have with the idea that all of this product differentiation allows greater self expression. Rather, I would suggest that people buying these products are in part trying to put forward the image they have been told these products carry. That is, the order is not 'a person who plays basketball buys Nike shoes because they reflect his personality' but rather 'a famous basketball player advertises Nike shoes so people who think he is cool buy the shoes.' To some degree this does reflect a person's personality, but only by way of marketing. I suppose to some degree style is always shaped, by and large, by those in the know telling everyone else what any particular style 'represents', but I think there's a gap between people with interesting fashion sense telling us what something means, versus some suit coming up with a pithy slogan to tell us what a style represents....
:: David (02:25 in Michigan, 08:25 in Paris)

Well, if the sun hasn't risen and Sasha is already out the door, it must be time for yet another attempt at getting her Carte de Sejour (Green Card). I think if they send her away again she'll have a nervous breakdown. I'm just glad it's not me doing this stuff, because I would have lost my temper and been thrown in jail long ago if I had to endure the stuff they've been handing her. This time she is going with three different letters from the Ecole des Charts all of which state that she really is a student. Last time they stated that a letter signed by the head of the school stating she would be taking classes wasn't enough, and they wanted her class schedule. This despite the fact that as a PhD student, and as a guest of the Ecole, she isn't required to take a single class. So she had someone from the school make something up. Now she gets to go and sit for four or five hours, and maybe, just maybe, they'll let her past the first phase of this madness. We'll see....
:: David (01:49 in Michigan, 07:49 in Paris)

:: Wednesday, October 15 2003 ::

For those of you that don't watch the new Star Trek series, Enterprise, some background before I begin: apparently ratings were not as high as hoped for the new series in the first two seasons, so it was decided the crew needed a bigger, better mission than just 'exploring strange new worlds.' The third season, it was determined, would involve the crew of the Enterprise trying to track down an alien species which was destined to destroy the Earth. What I did not realize until I tried to explain this plot to someone else was how closely the writers had tied the plot to the attacks of September 11th.

In order to introduce the plot, a 'terrorist attack' (for lack of a more appropriate phrase) was launched against the Earth. The enterprise is recalled, and what little is known of the entities who carried out the attack is gathered - some of the information coming from entities who before the attack had been enemies. The Enterprise flies off towards where the Xindi (the name of the attacking species) came from. Here's where things get interesting - the Xindi have many types, some of whom don't appear to want to destroy the Earth. And the ones who do want to destroy the Earth appear to be allied with other species with whom they would not ordinarily ally themselves. I don't want to suggest Sunni, Shi'i, and so forth, but if the shoe fits. Anyway, as the show progresses the parallels become more interesting/disturbing. In one episode an 'enemy combatant' is captured, and Captain Archer tries to make him talk. The captured soldier suggests that there is no way the Humans could make him talk, so Archer, in a fit of rage, sticks him in an airlock and decompresses it until the soldier agrees to tell them what they want to know. Of course, I believe the show would have us excuse torture because of the need to find the Xindi. Which all sounds suspiciously like a certain concentration camp the United States is running down in Guantanamo Bay. More recently, it has been revealed that rather than a 'conventional weapon' the Xindi are working on a 'biological weapon' to attack the Earth. Very familiar indeed.

I expressed to Sasha that, although the storyline did sound suspiciously like current events, it was also a classic storyline full of clichés and was therefore excusable. For example, the engineer, a texan, was not chosen specifically to be a George Bush stand-in. Sasha's rebuttal was that if the show had been made before the New York attacks, it could have been excused. However, since the show is being made now, the assumptions and statements made have to be informed by the opinions and actions taken since the attacks. An opinion I have to agree with, especially as the story line unfolds.

I still have hope for the show not being a complete parody. In a recent episode Captain Archer stated "I can't try to save humanity without holding on to what makes me human." Thus as social commentary the show could yet serve a purpose, rather than being a disturbing mouthpiece for the assumptions and prejudices of a nation bent on revenge.

With all of that said, episode five of the new season ("Impulse") gets awards from me for being the first 'zombie movie' Star Trek episode. Night of the Living Vulcans....
:: David (07:40 in Michigan, 13:40 in Paris)

:: Monday, October 13 2003 ::

Found an interesting blog linked to off Arts and Letters Daily called the irascible professor. He's a professor in the California university system who writes on education issues. He also has 'guest lecturers' who appear to follow the same format. Good stuff for those in the educational system, and those who are interested in education.
:: David (18:00 in Michigan, 00:00 in Paris)

Many large cities, Paris, London, Washington DC, and others, have a highway built around them in a large circle, in theory, to allow people to get where they want to go faster by avoiding driving through the city center. Often these 'orbital motorways' don't work as advertised, and instead are even bigger parking lots than the roads which lead straight through the heart of the city. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett discussed one such road in their book Good Omens:

Many phenomena - wars, plagues, sudden audits - have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for Exhibit A.

Where they go wrong, of course, is in assuming that the wretched road is evil simply because of the incredible carnage and frustration it engenders every day.

In fact, very few people on the face of the planet know that the very shape of the M25 forms the sigh odegra in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means "Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds." The thousands of motorists who daily fume their way around its serpentine lengths have the same effect as water on a prayer wheel, grinding out an endless fog of low grade evil to pollute the metaphysical atmosphere for scores of miles around.

In a similar vein, I would propose another item to add to the list of those things which were designed by diabolic minds with the intention of causing extreme discomfort in as many people as humanly possible: the jackhammer. Specifically, the jackhammer as used by early morning construction crews (who also may belong on the list of diabolically inspired). I awoke this morning believing that I, alone, was storming the beaches of Normandy or perhaps had awoken in London during the Blitz. When I was finally able to rise from my bed, disheveled and more than a little wary, I realized it was a crew down on the street doing some form of construction work or another. Our window had been left open during the night, and bright and early they had begun their attack on the pavement and my eardrums.

Looking out my window I see that the barrier they erected to keep out those people who could not work out that there was a great gaping hole in the sidewalk is still there. I fear for the future....
:: David (07:08 in Michigan, 13:08 in Paris)

:: Sunday, October 12 2003 ::

Lots of random Parisien wanderings this weekend. I did manage to take a few pictures of the Arc de Triomphe, because I was there, mostly. I also spent a good part of this evening sending out resumes to the various people offering jobs in FUSAC this week. Hopefully I'll get a bite or two this week.
:: David (17:00 in Michigan, 23:00 in Paris)

:: Friday, October 10 2003 ::

I added a link to the Economist in my news section. There's a great ad (I don't know if you get it in the states) where one of the men imprisoned with Nelson Mandela tells how they were able to get the guards at the prison to deliver The Economist to them because 'they thought it was all about economics!' and thus the men in prison were able to read about world news.
:: David (06:42 in Michigan, 12:42 in Paris)

I have been informed that I should most definitely get a job, or find some way to occupy my time. This was in reaction to the Potato History entry. I can't really deny that they are probably right. Which is why I took the step recently of starting to apply for English teaching positions (heaven help me). Of course, the question is whether they will hire me legally, illegally, or not at all. If I am to be legal it will mean flying back to the US and going to Chicago to get a visa. Nevertheless, this is my preferred method. We'll see what happens, and I'll let you all know if I'm coming back!

From the random entry department, I saw today that the area of the brain which senses pain is also involved in social rejection. So apparently when someone says rejection hurts, they really mean it hurts. The whole article is published in Science this week, but unless you have access through some institution you can't access it.
:: David (06:09 in Michigan, 12:09 in Paris)

:: Thursday, October 9 2003 ::

Our first package (one we sent to ourselves) arrived today, about six weeks after we sent it. So if you've been wondering what to get me for Thanksgiving, you better get on it quick!
:: David (12:55 in Michigan, 18:55 in Paris)

Yesterday Sasha mentioned that one of the stops on our subway line, Parmentier, has a statue of a man handing out potatoes to thedestitute, and she wondered whether I knew what it was all about. I had no clue, so we decided to look online. Thus began our weird, wild journey into the world of Potato History, as well as teaching us all about the French version of Johnny Appleseed. The basic facts wewere able to secure from The Potato: Then and Now, which informed us that: The French were originally suspicious of potatoes. Potatoes gained acceptance in the 18th century through the work of Antoine August Parmentier. Parmentier, a pharmacist, was imprisoned during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) in a German jail. Parmentier gave credit to the potatoes fed to him in jail for his survival. When he was released, Parmentier worked to promote the vegetable in his homeland. He managed to convince King Louis XVI of France to support the potato and thereby began the popular spread of potatoes in France. He also invited esteemed gentlemen, such as Benjamin Franklin, to his home to sample potato dishes in an attempt to quell the fears of his fellow Frenchmen. Parmentier was one of the most effective promoters of the potato in Europe. But then we got to the legendary part of the tale. Time and again, some version of the following story came up (this one is fromWhat's Cooking America's Potato History - I kid you not!):In 1785, Parmentier persuades Louis XVI (1754–1793), King of France, to encourage cultivatiion of potatoes. The King let him plant 100 useless acres outside Paris, France in potatoes with troops keeping the field heavily guarded. This aroused public curiosity and the people decided that anything so carefully guarded must be valuable. One night Parmentier allowed the guards to go off duty, and the local farmers, as he had hoped, went into the field, confiscated the potatoes and planted them on their own farms. From this small start, the habit of growing and eating potatoes spread. Some where between legend and fact lies the following (from the same page): It is said that Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Queen of France and married to Louis XVI, often pinned potato flowers in her curls. Because of her, ladies of the era wore potato blossoms in their hair.

Who says they never learn anything reading my blog?

During our hunt for the Parmentier history, we were actually able to find a website (in French) which tells you the history of all of the metro stop names, which presumably will be useful to us someday.

Somewhat less historically momentous is the report today that the first underwater marathon has been completed. Proof positive that the Scots are more than a little odd sometimes.
:: David (12:47 in Michigan, 18:47 in Paris)

:: Monday, October 6 2003 ::

You know, the number of jobs available, and the places one can work, if one is involved with the American military complex, is just astonishing. I've been surfing the myriad job boards today, looking for jobs more interesting than teaching English, and ran across the places military contractors advertise. If you would like to work in Iraq or Afghanistan, they've got your ticket!
:: David (07:55 in Michigan, 13:55 in Paris)

:: Sunday, October 5 2003 ::

Finally! I'm not completely done with it yet, but at least the photos are up (from Switzerland). Today was the free day for all the museums, so we visited the Louvre (the museum so big they give you a compass with the map!) and went through some of it. If we went every month for the rest of our time in France I don't think we could see all of it. I'll put up some of the photos from that when I recover from putting the Switzerland photos online.

Other than that, no news. The week should bring lots of news and changes, but we'll have to wait and see. Theoretically Sasha should get some needed documents on Tuesday and the rest of the week will be spent trying to make the authorities do their job.
:: David (17:27 in Michigan, 23:27 in Paris)

:: Saturday, October 4 2003 ::

Some of you may have been wondering exactly how much chocolate 55 swiss francs will buy from the Lindt outlet we visited. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am now able to show you. I also have larger photos of the top shelf and the bottom shelf. We figured there were 31 chocolate bars, and 8 bags of random chocolates. Our favorite bars are the 3 'mystery bars' which came wrapped in a blank wrapper....

In other exciting (for us) news, it seems the new season of Angel has started. We're looking forward to watching the first episode, in which Spike will return to the world of Joss Whedon (in some manner we have not yet determined). Frankly, we're probably much too excited about this, but what the heck?
:: David (05:36 in Michigan, 11:36 in Paris)

:: Friday, October 3 2003 ::

Have I mentioned the soundtrack of Paris? There are two songs we truthfully cannot escape from: Dido's "White Flag" and Kyo's "Je Cours" - with Dido being the more prominent in stores and shopping centres. I quite enjoyed the Dido video, which has David Boreanaz (of 'Angel') playing her estranged lover.
:: David (12:34 in Michigan, 18:34 in Paris)

Yesterday, after returning from Switzerland (an uneventful trip, made even more so by the fact that there was noone manning the border between France and Switzerland, which meant neither Sasha nor I had any difficulty returning to France), Sasha and I were lying in bed, relaxing and recovering from having gotten up at seven in the morning (earlier than we really are good at). Suddenly Sasha says "Oh my God!" in a voice that signals something being wrong, and immediately wrong. I see she is looking over the edge of the bed, and I assume there must be some amazingly wrong insect (perhaps a foot long cockroach?) coming to get us. I lean over and peer beside the bed and... there's a tiny white kitten investigating our things. We both look at it for a moment or two in shock (and awe), and then Sasha goes to the door to see if it is open. She yells that it is not, and proceeds to the back window to see how the cat came in. I head to the front window, and lean out. Sure enough, there's a man two windows down from me looking concernedly toward the ground (some sixty feet below). I yell in my best French (which Sasha informs me sounded exactly like someone who speaks no French at all) "Cherchez-vous un chat?" (Are you looking for a cat?) The man looks over and says he is, and I begin to laugh, and tell him the cat is with us. There are some other phrases hurled my way, but I don't know what they are, so I head off to find the cat after motioning to them to come over and get it. There's a mad rush for a bit when we realize the little guy has gone off, but I manage to snag him and keep hold of him (he didn't like being picked up at all!) long enough to give him to Sasha, who opens the door and chats briefly with the woman to whom the kitten belongs. Apparently my spoken French tipped her off (or perhaps the yelling we were doing to each other while chasing him around the house), because she conversed with Sasha in English, instead of starting off in French. And then Sasha and I sat around, laughing somewhat hysterically to ourselves for a while.
:: David (3: in Michigan, 3: in Paris)

:: Wednesday, Oct 1 2003 ::

Cursed be the name of all Human Resource personnel. I called the woman at MCI Worldcom, who had previously set up an interview time, to ask what her HR people had said. They said NO!!! No no no no nononononono! So it looks as though working legally will not happen, at least with a big company. There's a kid needing maths tuition in Paris, and he's starting to look like the type of job I can expect....

So, to sum up, I'm feeling a little dejected today. And it's a nice rainy day to go with it, so it all works out well. we wandered around in Zürich today, which was nice. Lots of random shopping districts and a few old churches, along with a large open market in the train station (I'm sure it's a fluke, but if you were to ask me based on my experience so far I would say there is always a festival-type thing going on somewhere in Zürich).
:: David (1: in Michigan, 1: in Paris)

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