Today is the day after the American elections. For the most part, the election was a run-of-the-mill affair. We chose a new mayor, re-elected a senator, things of this nature.
And then there was the presidential election.
Like many/most of my friends, and like-minded information sources, and apparently even some old-guard republicans, I wasn't sure what to do with the rise of Donald Trump. A bizarre aberration that would soon be gone, we thought. And then he was the Republican candidate. So not soon gone, but easily dispatched by the Democrat's candidate.
On the other side, I supported Bernie Sanders through the primaries. I had concerns - he clearly didn't get race or international affairs - but I felt that he was addressing the concerns of the middle class and the poor. And his heart seemed to be in the right place, so I was hopeful that he could be trusted to learn the issues where he was weak. But I also understood that people felt safer going with the clearly more experienced Hillary Clinton as the candidate. She was a strong candidate, and with the exclusion of my personal disagreement with her foreign policy (which actually made her a stronger candidate with most people who aren't as left-wing and pacifistic as I), she seemed to be where people were. Where the center was.
The one thing she lacked, but started to come around to, was Bernie's (and Trump's) appeal to the economically disenfranchised. But pro-business had its own political capital, and as a Democrat I was confident that even if she didn't have all the populist talk she would be very good for the poor.
What I did not anticipate was how strongly those populist ideas that had come up in the primaries had resonated with the right.
And then Trump started saying all the many things that were beyond the pale of American politics, and I was quite sure we were in the clear. Sexist, racist, horrible things, that surely would turn off many of the people who might otherwise have supported him.
I was, obviously, wrong.
I do not actually think that 59,245,678 (give or take) of my fellow Americans are racist, or sexist, or 'deplorable'. I suspect many of them are the same people who, at the Thanksgiving table, would prefer to breeze past the racist spoutings of their relatives rather than confront them. They prefer to look at the 'whole person' or somesuch. We are all, to some degree, like this. I was willing to vote for a candidate with whom I strongly disagreed on certain issues, thinking that, on the whole, we agreed, even if there were places I would have preferred they were different.
But it is not the same. We knew, of course, from the discourse of Black Lives Matter and of white privilege and of campus sexual assault that Americans were, in large part, not woke. But I'm not sure we had recognized (in fact, I sure we had not) that in Trump we had a confluence of these ideas that so conflicted a large percent of the country. He spouted the things that 'right thinking, salt of the earth' folks felt were obvious: cops are good, criminals are bad. Jobs are going overseas, and it needs to stop. Etc.
And of course the insidiousness of this platform is that I can write it in short, easy to read (and understand) sentences. That's not a dig at his supporters - what I'm saying is that the ideas were pithy and easy to digest. Whereas things like 'most cops are good, but the fact that the people we call criminals in this country are disproporionately black indicates there is systemic racism that we need to fight' is not pithy, nor easy to digest.
Moving forward, of course, is challenging. The supreme court alone is going to destroy this country for a generation. But if we draw one lesson from this, I am personally of the opinion that it's the economic question. People with good, stable jobs don't spend their days hating the foreigners who 'took their job'. However, it must be said that part of the reason I choose that lesson is because I'm still at a loss about the racism and the sexism.
That said, I'm off to scroll through facebook looking at the pictures of kittens and puppies people are posting to try to cheer each other up.
:: David (11:15 in Arkansas, 18:15 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, October 31 2016 ::
Home finance remains insane to me, long after I have learned many of its ins and outs. We are in the process of knocking another few points off the mortgage, and I'm still running my spreadsheets and losing my mind. Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut, which is disturbing. Either way I'm pretty sure I don't want to wait until the Fed raises rates!
:: David (12:07 in Arkansas, 19:07 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, October 27 2016 ::
I've spent the fall working on several projects - a local food project, an education project, and then teaching an intro to business class. It's been fun, and also revealing about my preferences for different types of work. I find myself happily plugging away at my class when I know I should be working on something else. Regardless, for the time being it gives me the flexibility to deal with the various and sundry things that come of having a teenager living in the house. The financial side of that is stressful, but we seem to be keeping afloat for the moment. We're also plotting a refinance, which while it might not change the payment situation dramatically will still end up saving us tons of money due to interest rates, which remain bonkers (in a good way).
:: David (15:34 in Arkansas, 22:34 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, September 21 2016 ::
I'm a developer. A programmer. A hacker. These aren't intended to be credentials, they simply represent how I think about the world. If I see a problem, I think about the steps I would take to fix it. In some cases, I take those steps, whether they involve a problem on my computer, where I might write a piece of code, or a problem with local government, where I might write letters to the responsible parties.
One of the things that concerns me most about concentrated power is that it takes away my ability to fix problems. Nameless faceless bureaucrats, be they politicians or employees at Facebook or Google, have no incentive to care if I've seen a problem I think I can fix. It's not worth their time.
This summer, a programmer who had written an extension for Google's 'Chrome' web browser wrote a post that went viral, talking about this very problem, when Google, for no particular reason, killed an app he had written that had 24,000 users. In the end, after much work to fix the problem, he just gave up.
This is the danger we find ourselves in. Concentrated power, in the form of two party systems that exclude third-party candidates or so-called 'walled gardens' that force us to operate only within the confines of what Google, or Apple, or Facebook deem acceptable, reduce the number of people willing to take the time to fix problems. So things don't get better. And all anyone really wants, hacker or not, is for things to get better.
I'll be sharing this post on Facebook. Because really, what other choice to I have if I want people to read it?
:: David (9:35 in Arkansas, 16:35 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, September 15 2016 ::
I got a little crazy and spent some money on the website, getting some help with a goofy logo and a new color scheme. I did it through a site called fiverr (not my fault) that does little gigs for five bucks each. It was actually surprisingly worthwhile - five bucks is just small enough that if it doesn't work it's OK, but if it does I feel like I've gotten a deal. If nothing else now I have a goofy avatar to use on websites. The other thing I bought, though, was a new color scheme for the website, and a new logo. You can see both of them on my how to study abroad page that I put together to offer guidance to family and friends who might want to study outside the US.
:: David (16:27 in Arkansas, 23:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, August 11 2016 ::
Procrastination is an amazing thing. I don't think I did it in college, at least not the way I do it these days, where I have to work, intend to work, but then do anything but work (including posting on my blog). It's been interesting to me to realize how easy it is, when one's work is self-directed, to simply put it off, but not actually decide to put it off. Just avoid it by doing other things. It's not even work I find particularly distasteful, and yet, here I am, delaying...
:: David (15:32 in Arkansas, 22:32 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, August 8 2016 ::
For a while now, we've been going through the process of having my niece move in with us full time. This has meant, among other things, that we've needed to get some sort of piece of paper saying the state recognized this relationship. Although the number of times people actually ask to see proof that you are responsible for someone is small, it is usually something really important where they will ask. So, to head off awkwardness we applied to become legal guardians. Now, it is possible to pay a lawyer to take care of this, but since everyone I talked to quoted me a price of $1500 I figured I could do it myself. There are lots of guides online to help you through the process, but as it turns out if you don't read them carefully enough you may still end up looking silly. At our hearing, we made it all the way to the end, with only a few promptings from the judge (for example, he made me state for the record that I was, in fact, over the age of 18), before we ran into a snag. It turns out, when you win a court case, you are expected to provide the judge with an order to sign, basically confirming the ruling that was made. I didn't have it (I should have - it was included in the packet - I just didn't print everything off when I should have). But no real problem. It's nice to have verification from time to time that the legal system really is something one can navigate without a lawyer, even if it isn't all that much fun to have to learn everything on the fly.
:: David (14:54 in Arkansas, 21:54 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, July 28 2016 ::
Our old car is a 2007 Yaris. It's nice. We love it. And we thought, with my niece just about to get her driver's license, that it would be a great vehicle to learn in. Although it technically has very little value in monetary terms, it's been well maintained, and will probably live another 100K miles or more.
So when a recall notice came in for it, I was not too surprised - I've taken it in for a few things, like the rails that hold the seats in place needed to be replaced (as one person described it, 'Toyota didn't take into account how big Americans are'). These things happen.
And I kind of expected this recall anyway - I've certainly heard the news about the takata airbags and their tendency to shoot metal shrapnel into people's faces, so an airbag recall was not a surprise.
What was a surprise was what the letter contained. It informed me that my car had defective airbags, they were working on a fix, and in the meantime could I please refrain from letting anyone sit in the passenger seat. Of course, I'm assuming (but I don't know) that the driver's airbag is the same brand, so I read the letter as 'we would like to inform you that your car will kill you, we're working on it, in the meantime please don't drive your car'. Which seems a bit much. But I guess the alternative is not telling me. And considering the number of lawsuits I'm sure are already flying around at least they can say they've covered their bases on this one!
:: David (17:03 in Arkansas, 0:03 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, July 26 2016 ::
So we spent nearly a month in San Diego, after spending nearly a month driving all over the US. It was a great vacation, a nice reminder that the US is full of variety, but also that the world is quite small, as we made the drive home from the west coast in less than 48 hours.
I had a bit of a weird moment when I realized that although I was jealous of aspects of life on the coast, I really didn't want to live there. I listened to a podcast on the subject of the tradeoffs of city life, and one of the elements they listed, as sort of one leg of the stool that one tries to balance when choosing where to live, was quality of life. And although their definition of quality of life was surprisingly different from ours, it was still a nice reminder that Arkansas, for the most part, works for us. It may be that we aren't too picky, but having lived in many urban centers around the world there's no question in my mind that city life just isn't my thing. It's fun for a while, but that's it.
I'm hoping to put together a photo album that hits the highlights of our trip. It was so extensive and so long that I'm not sure where to begin. But it would be silly for all the photos I took (2500 if Lightroom is to be believed) to never see the light of day.
So now it's back to the real world - work I've been delaying, including working up the syllabus for the class I'm teaching in the fall. I can't decide yet if I'm recharged, or if I need a really long vacation from my really long vacation.
:: David (16:37 in Arkansas, 23:37 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, July 15 2016 ::
We're in the middle of phase 2 of our giant summer vacation, spending nearly a month in San Diego. Scuba and surfing and snorkeling and, yes, Pokemon Go. Also a stop by the Grand Canyon. All in all a giant month, and we haven't even made it to Comicon yet!
:: David (19:53 in Arkansas, 2:53 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Monday, June 27 2016 ::
The provider who hosts my website is shutting down my server, and the price is set to double if I stay with them, which means I need to block off a couple weeks to do a serious move and refurb of the website. I assume at some point they'll just shut it down randomly, which really means I need to get things moved sooner rather than later. Heaven only knows when I'll find the time. I suppose my coming month in San Diego is an option, except I'd rather be diving and such. But at some point fairly soon. Maybe in the fall, when I'm only teaching one class (Business 101) and maybe taking one (Jazz?). Planning a major block of time in the future is hard.
:: David (17:04 in Arkansas, 0:04 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, April 20 2016 ::
Something I haven't remarked on yet, despite being completely obsessed with it, is the 2016 U.S. elections. This has been a fascinating year (well, let's say 'election cycle' since 'year' really doesn't cover it). I am an unapologetic leftist, so seeing a candidate like Bernie Sanders come out and do well has been quite lovely, a real reminder that the United States is not completely populated by the right wing. Although it's fairly clear at this point that barring something quite unforseen Clinton will be the Democrat's candidate, at least the conversation has been more substansive than we could have expected otherwise. And on the Republican side, we've had this rise of the populist candidate and on some level a complete self destruction (or re-awakening, depending on how you think about the whole thing). It's going to be a very interesting election. The one thing that really has taken a beating has been the candidate selection process. It's not clear to me that either side will reform it, but it has certainly become clear that when the U.S. uses the word 'democracy' they mean something very different indeed.
:: David (10:19 in Arkansas, 17:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, April 13 2016 ::
As part of the 'significant lifestyle changes that come from having a teenager', we've bought a new (to us) car. Despite some of the serious costs one incurs from having a third person in the house, I stand by my earlier assessment that one can afford to live any lifestyle you want if you're willing to make sacrifices for it (this obviously only applies when the basics of life are covered - food and shelter come first for everyone). Specifically someone asked if this was going to cut down on our travels, and I responded 'why would it?' Obviously the cost has gone up, but only by a bit - we certainly won't be going first class anytime soon, but we (probably) wouldn't have before. The challenge, of course, is figuring out where to cut. It's a learning experience.
:: David (10:05 in Arkansas, 17:05 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 22 2016 ::
At the turn of the year I started freelance writing on Economics with a company called Shmoop. It turns out that writing, even about something you like, can be exhausting. I can't believe how hard my brain has been working since I started, mostly trying to remember all the knowledge hiding under 13 years of cruft. And even though I've kept my hand in, the basic 101 concepts are hard to put in a simple form, without overwhelming the reader with other stuff that maybe they haven't learned yet.
This is part of my 2016 'year of the gig economy' that I am living, where I cobble together a living from odd jobs. I'll tell you in 2017 how it worked out, but right now I'd say it doesn't pay all that well.
:: David (17:03 in Arkansas, 0:03 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, February 3 2016 ::
I haven't mentioned the elections happening in the states, even though I've been following them quite closely. In part this is because, for all the hot air, there wasn't really much to say. I knew who I liked, others knew who they liked, we probably weren't going to agree, unless we already did. The Republican field was insanely large, the Democratic field was weirdly small, and the press had decided their narrative.
Then Iowa happened, which gave us some actual data, and things got a little more interesting. Trump wasn't as strong as people thought, and Sanders was far stronger than many gave him credit for.
Now that there are actual votes happening the election is a lot more fun. It's still weird we have to do this for the next couple months, before we even get to the actual campaign.
I was about to type that all this lead up to the real campaign means we don't get an Ed Miliband type situation where the candidate is truly awful, and then I remembered that guy who ran against Obama (seriously, every time the topic comes up I can't remember his name - it's Mitt Romney) or Al Gore. So we just waste a lot of time and still might end up with some stinkers.
Much more importantly for us, we have local elections coming up at the same time. At this point I don't know who is running, but I know that will really matter to the city in a way that the president most likely will not.
:: David (12:12 in Arkansas, 19:12 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, January 25 2016 ::
As of this last weekend we have my niece living with us. A significant change of lifestyle, I expect, is coming.
:: David (16:38 in Arkansas, 23:38 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, January 14 2016 ::
I recently (at the end of last year) read an article on the Guardian about an Iranian blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who had been an important figure in the blogosphere until 2008, when he was arrested and put in prison. The article basically says that social media was killing the power of the internet to effect change, by removing the democratic nature of the blogosphere.
I've thought a lot about this since Facebook et al. started eating my blog, by dint of giving my silly thoughts a wider audience and at the same time sharing with me the silly thoughts of my friends. But, as was feared by many back in the early days, it has led to a lack of, for lack of a better term, 'feature length content'. A quick quip and a share of an article or picture. Or worse, a quick quip about a picture with a quick quip written on the image. Goodbye deeper thought.
But, as Derakhshan writes, it goes beyond this.
The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralisation – all the links, lines and hierarchies – and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks. Since I got out of jail, though, I’ve realised how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.
We've moved debate, discourse, to centralized areas. It's been good, in a way - certainly more convenient. And some platforms have done interesting things with their power. Tumblr has in some ways brought together some features of the old and the new in a good way. But that doesn't change the fact that it's centralized.
When I built my blog, including writing the software, I did it out of fear that if I allowed anything to live on some other company's servers, everything would disappear the day that company shut down. That hasn't changed, but the odds of these companies shutting down I think is much reduced.
Now the fear is censorship. Twitter and Facebook can be blocked. Google can be blocked, or can be made to block (witness the 'removed due to DCMA' notifications one sees at the bottom of search results). I don't necessarily think my words in particular are of such note, but I think that, at its height, the blogosphere as a whole was a powerful thing. One that, as we saw, governments had trouble controlling.
And more than that, really - there's also questions of internal censorship, like the 'free the nipple' movement. Interestingly, this is an example of nested levels of censorship:
During a talk in London on Wednesday, the app's [instagram's] co-founder and CEO explained that because Instagram is housed in the tech giant's App Store, it -- like every other app -- is designated an age rating. The paradoxical guidelines that govern this rating system have received a fair share of criticism all their own, but basically: the store only permits explicit nudity if an app is rated 17+. Instagram is currently rated 12+, a status Systrom argues allows it to appeal to a more diverse audience, including younger users that aren't interested in nudity.
So here we see censorship rolling down from on high.
Regardless of your thoughts on this particular topic, it's easy to see how this sort of censorship can be applied anywhere it is convenient. One we see often is government's blocking news outlets' publication of certain stories. And if there aren't stories, they can't be shared. Or, using the new predictive algorithms they can simply be 'disappeared', by not allowing them to show in other people's feeds.
I'm not suggesting blogs were a panacea - obviously people wouldn't have moved to social media if they had been. But I'm convinced things were lost during the transition, and I don't think we've got them back yet.
:: David (14:09 in Arkansas, 21:09 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, November 16 2015 ::
Friday afternoon here in Arkansas, Friday evening in Paris, where it happened, a terrorist attack killed over 100 people. In coordinated attacks several restaurants and a concert venue were shot up. This time we weren't there. But it's only been 10 months since we were, since the last attack.
So far as I know everyone we know is OK. But others were not so lucky.
It's frustrating (this is a word that does not convey all the emotions I feel, but this is one of them). Frustrating that people feel they can do this. Frustrating that we can't seem to stop them. Frustrating that every time this happens, people blame entire groups of people (this time it's Muslims and refugees).
I wrote an explainer on Quora to talk about some of the structural issues that lead to youths in France choosing to kill themselves and others, and it's frustrating that we know this problem exists and noone has fixed it.
And of course it's frustrating to know that, if friends had needed me, I couldn't have been there. The world is so small, but it remains at the same time large enough to make it difficult to be where you need to be, when you need to be there.
At a memorial today, I was reminded that in 2001, Le Monde ran an editorial titled 'Nous sommes tous Américains'. It's been good to see the many people returning the favor.
:: David (14:55 in Arkansas, 21:55 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, October 8 2015 ::
In the last week we've had a great two-day tech conference (Made by Few), Bill Nye, Tig Notaro, and the National Circus & Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China. We also practiced some new songs with the band and I had a first round job interview. It's been a heck of a week for the little town of Conway!
:: David (22:41 in Arkansas, 5:41 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, August 13 2015 ::
It's amazing to me how busy you can be even if you have, technically, nothing you have to do. I've been spending some time working on the house and the yard, and lots of other little things, and the next thing I know several weeks have passed. I'm still working out a schedule for myself, but I'm actually quite busy most days. It's... bizarre.
One thing that will increase my time commitment significantly is that I have signed up for a class this fall (technically, I've enrolled and will be signing up for the class). It's a French film class, so should force my French to move to the next level fairly quickly. I'm hoping I'm up for it!
:: David (9:29 in Arkansas, 16:29 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, July 31 2015 ::
One of the things I've found interesting about moving back to the states is that, for the last year I've effectively been living out of a suitcase. It's been more comfortable than that, with hangers and closets and such, but the total volume of my life has been one large and one small suitcase, more or less. So now I'm back, and I have boxes and boxes of clothes. And just stuff. So much stuff. And quite honestly, I feel like I could just as happily leave everything packed away and my life would be just fine. I'm curious to see if, now that I'm back, the American habit of collecting objects reasserts itself.
:: David (23:10 in Arkansas, 6:10 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, July 27 2015 ::
Getting settled back into life with a house. I think everything I've done in the last 10 days has either been house related or band related. Our band is back together, save the drummer who is headed abroad, so yesterday we tried a new guy, who seemed to work out, though it was definitely strange playing with someone different.
The house work has been two-fold - building some new shelves that pull out, and mowing. Lots of mowing. It's been a rainy summer, and the grass is simply out of control (as are the plants that come once the grass is three feet tall). So I've spent a good chunk of time working through that - mowing, then trimming the bushes, then mowing, then cutting down small trees, then mowing.
I've got a small photo gig - trying a new career, or at least a new pro-hobby. We'll see how it works out. It's funny how all the gear I have for taking pictures doesn't include things for taking basic family shots - I had to order a new flash. Still, I'll hopefully get some experience in a comfortable environment.
:: David (15:16 in Arkansas, 22:16 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, July 17 2015 ::
Back in the states. Back in Arkansas. So much happened in the last month. We sailed back to the states, saw both our families (and friends old and new). Drove from NY to MI to AR. Stayed for a week in our house, then left again to go to a party we had signed up for when driving across the country seemed like a good idea. Drove AR to MD and then back, seeing friends old and new (different ones than the first cross-country drive). And now we're back. The renters (our friends) are still moving out so the house is a bit of a mess, but getting better every day. Each day we attack one small item on the 'putting our life back together' list. Today includes getting phones and putting the plants back in the sunroom. Yesterday was getting the utilities in our name. I had thought once we got back to AR the feeling of nonstop motion would stop, but it hasn't - it still feels a bit like we're moving (in the 'moving house' sense, as well as the 'get me off this crazy ride' sense).
Culture shock is real, and reverse culture shock is real-er. Adapting back to the US takes time. I'm used to it, recognize it, but that doesn't mean I don't have to ride it out. Hopefully once the house is back in some semblance of order it will have settled down and I can get moving with next steps.
:: David (11:04 in Arkansas, 18:04 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, June 13 2015 ::
Moved out of our apartment in France. Moving out of our homestay in England. 237 pounds (plus or minus) of luggage. We totally fail the 'light traveller' test this time!
The UK has been lovely, seeing lots of friends and re-visiting all the usual haunts. We even managed to make it into an exhibition at the British Museum, let in by someone who worked there. So a lovely time overall, but we're ready now to get back. Which technically means 'we're ready to board a ship to take us on an amazing seven day cruise across the Atlantic'. It's a bit ridiculous, honestly.
:: David (9:48 in Arkansas, 16:48 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, June 1 2015 ::
A weekend full of events with friends. Saturday night until 5AM Sunday morning, then a picnic (that was rained out so we just picnicked at their flat) that became coffee out that became dinner (Kotteri Ramen Naritake) out. A really nice way to spend our last weekend in Paris. Now we just need to get the flat in shape, get packed, and take care of any last minute shopping (clothes, art, whatever else strikes us).
:: David (3:04 in Arkansas, 10:04 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, May 29 2015 ::
Quai Branly museum yesterday. We're slowly trying to get all the stuff we haven't done yet in. I've written off a number of the smaller museums, but with almost a week left we've still got some time.
The Quai Branly museum was surprising - it seemed like the only reason it existed was to keep the 'backward' art away from the 'nice' art of the Louvre and Orsay.
:: David (4:29 in Arkansas, 11:29 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, May 26 2015 ::
One of the things i find interesting about France is the way people use the telephone for everything. I hadn't recognised how much society had changed in the US until I moved abroad, and everyone used the phone for everything. It's actually a lot like Arkansas in that respect. So today, when the train was seriously delayed due to "various incidents" (which sounds absolutely dire, really) everyone immediately leapt onto their phone.
Which is actually a subject all its own - people here don't talk on their phone, per se, they use their headphones to listen and hold the phone in front of their mouth so they can talk into it and see it at the same time (not sure if the 'see' part is intentional or coincidental). It took a bit of getting used to - at first I thought everyone was video conferencing on the street, which seemed weird (and dangerous).
:: David (4:31 in Arkansas, 11:31 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, May 21 2015 ::
I spent a few days in Copenhagen with an old friend, hanging out (perhaps even finding hygge?) and seeing the sights. I even went to a dance recital for their daughter. We biked around Copenhagen one days, seeing sights both old and new and eating in a crazy food truck warehouse. The next day, after the recital, we went to Tivoli and rode rides until I was somewhat ill. It's been quite a while since I rode crazy scary amusement park rides! The last day we went to the new-ish Aquarium (Den Blå Planet) before catching a plane home. I learned a few Danish words (my favourite is piratfisk, which is a Piranha, although 'mad' (food) is a close second!) and brought home some Danish licorice (Haribo 'super piratos') which should be fun at parties.
On the subject of learning Danish words, I think the kids very much enjoyed hearing me butcher common words (like 'mad'). Their son was quite concerned at the number of words I was unable to express because our alphabet doesn't have certain Danish letters. He decided this meant that we could not have those things, rather than that we would just use a different word.
:: David (2:19 in Arkansas, 9:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, May 14 2015 ::
Sasha has flown back to the states for a conference, so I'm on my own for a few days. Her flight out was a crazy mess, as there was a security lockdown at CDG, but she made it out (amazingly) more or less on time. It was a fairly early flight, and with the added stress of the security blockade I was already exhausted by 9am. I went in to town anyway, and wandered around. I ran across an interesting place while exploring a neighbourhood a friend and I had met in the day before, but it was closed, so today I went back. It's called the 'chapelle expiatoire', and it's a monument to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, built during the brief restoration and finished under Charles X (who was apparently king from 1824-1830).
A side note - 19th century France has become for me a sort of joke - there's so many revolutions and counter-revolutions that I've almost given up trying to understand it.
It was supposed to rain today, so I'd planned a museum or two, but ended up doing almost nothing on my list. There's an exposition at the Grand Palais on Jean Paul Gaultier that I've been somewhat interested in, but apparently so are the tourists, so I've yet to go at a time when there isn't a huge line. Today was no exception. I did finally make it to the Madeliene, and then made yet another visit to C&A, but when the JPG exhibit was full up I just headed home. Later in the evening I came back to town to take some evening photos of the city.
Tomorrow is Copenhagen to see an old friend. The days are flying by, and I can now see the end of our stay here in Paris. We've been discussing how it will be sad to leave, and yet how we're ready to head home (to see our kittens!)
:: David (16:27 in Arkansas, 23:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, May 13 2015 ::
One of the things I forget about places that aren't Paris is that they don't have espresso everywhere. In most of the large parks in Paris you can get a cup of coffee to sip while you sit and watch the people or the birds or whatever it is you do in a public park. It's a lovely option to have, and I wish everywhere did it.
The train stations also for the most part have coffee machines, and most restaurants will sell you an espresso from a real espresso machine (as opposed to whatever the train station coffee is). Overall it's a very caffeinated place.
:: David (15:28 in Arkansas, 22:28 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, May 11 2015 ::
Water heater wasn't working this morning, so we had a bracing shower.
:: David (3:49 in Arkansas, 10:49 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, May 10 2015 ::
Slow weekend before a crazy busy week. Friday was VE day, and we went to see the president lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. This was a very different affair than in London, and we discussed extensively why that was the case (no conclusions were drawn). Certainly it seemed a much more informal affair here - we had French families on both sides of where we were standing, and the comments they made were more political than anything else.
I actually spent much of Friday watching the stunning results from the UK election roll in. I kept expecting things to shift, but in the end it was the Tories who carried a full majority. I knew Ed Miliband was a weak candidate - worse maybe than John Kerry (who coincidentally was at the VE ceremony). But I had expected Labour to win on, basically, not being Tories. Apparently I underestimated many things.
Yesterday we headed over to the Parc Floral and the Chateau de Vincennes. There was a nature photo exhibit in the Parc Floral that I had wanted to see, and as it turned out we had never been in the chateau, so we did that as well. The Parc Floral was an interesting contrast to Kew Gardens in London - free vs. very expensive, but also wild as opposed to formal. Which is the opposite of how it usually works - most gardens in France tend to be formal 'keep off the grass' affairs, and in the UK they tend to be much more 'for the people' type things.
:: David (3:43 in Arkansas, 10:43 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, May 6 2015 ::
Went to see the David Bowie Is exhibit downtown today. He's a fascinating guy, and while I'm not sure how much was art and how much was propoganda (he is known to fierly control his image), it was certainly interesting.
:: David (13:27 in Arkansas, 20:27 in Paris) - Comment
I have a bit of an addiction - once I start fixing something, I keep coming back to it. This time it was the blog's menu - it has been done in a certain way since 2003 (a table, if you know html). At some point I added some color and font and such, but basically it hasn't been updated in a decade. So I finally went through and fixed it. But of course it took too long, and was too irritating. So I think now I'll do something that makes more sense, like go to a park or something. On days when it's not clear if it's going to rain or be sunny it's a bit hard to decide what to do - museum or walking around the city. I think I'll risk it today, and if worse comes to worse, well, I end up at the Museum. Which is not terrible.
:: David (4:12 in Arkansas, 11:12 in Paris) - Comment - View Comments
:: Sunday, May 3 2015 ::
It was free museum day today, so in theory we were going to get up early and hit several. But we had friends over last night, and it ran very late, so instead we meandered in around noon. We still managed to visit the Picasso museum and the Georges Pompidou. I had read an article last year that said the Picasso was a mess, but I didn't know what that meant. Now I do. We literally went from the first room to the second, and turned back around, assuming we had gone the wrong way - the jump was so sudden and so completely unrelated that we simply couldn't believe we were supposed to move from the one to the other. It continued this way - there were occasional rooms that were well done, but with no explanatory text we had to figure out on our own how things related. So if it wasn't obvious, we just moved on. It was, frankly, awful. And, as the article noted, the new space is no longer intimate, so what used to be a pleasant museum now just feels overdone - I imagine, in part, the fact that we had no idea what was going on, and the new space is quite large, so we spent quite a lot of time having no idea what was going on made it all seem worse. Overall it was a stunning example in how badly you can screw up what should be a lot of interesting artwork.
Thankfully the Pompidou was much nicer. And to compensate for our troubles as we left the sun came out and we had a lovely walk through Paris. Given that it has rained the past few days that was nice indeed.
:: David (14:25 in Arkansas, 21:25 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, May 1 2015 ::
I was a little disappointed in May Day today - I had hoped for a few more protests, and a few fewer basketball tournaments at city hall. And a lot less rain. But still, a nice day - and the beginning of a three day weekend!
:: David (15:16 in Arkansas, 22:16 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, April 29 2015 ::
I knew there was a chance I would regret it, but as part of my quest to get my website mobile ready (or at least the parts that draw in Google searches), I decided to make the blog somewhat responsive. Basically this meant hiding the left hand menu if someone was using a phone to view the blog. But as with most 12 year old web pages (!!!) this one required a bit more work than some simple tweaks. I think I've fixed most of the tricky stuff, but I'm sure I'll be poking at it with a stick for the next several months trying to make everything semi-perfect. Fortunately, as soon as I'm done with this I'm going to head in to Paris and go to the Musee d'Orsay, so that should make things better.
:: David (5:45 in Arkansas, 12:45 in Paris) - Comment
:: Tuesday, April 28 2015 ::
Paris has been hazy for weeks, and the pollution has been in the spotlight several times - alternating traffic restrictions, gags like 'here's your number, here's your gas mask' for the Paris Marathon, etc. Fortunately, nothing clears the smog like a good rain, which it seems to have done while we were out of town, and again last night. So this morning dawned as clear as it's been in a long while. As such, I decided to take advantage by going up somewhere high. I debated several spots (Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Grand Arch de La Defense) but settled on the Tour Monparnasse, in part because it's the easiest to get to, but also because it's very, very tall, but not very well known. Sure enough, I was able to walk right up and head right to the top. And then I just spent a great deal of time taking pictures. Lots of them. It was actually nice, because there's an enclosed part I could retreat to and warm up in before heading back out. So I did. repeatedly. I doubt I'll post very many of the pictures anywhere, but it's fun to see the city, each building, when you know them and walk past them everyday.
And to top it all off, we're headed to the theatre this evening to see Antigone. There's a well known French actress, Juliette Binoche, in the lead role, so it should be an excellent production (fingers crossed!)
:: David (9:47 in Arkansas, 16:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, April 26 2015 ::
We took a week off from Paris and headed down to the Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand and the parks south of it). It was simply breathtaking. We stayed in Le Puy-en-Velay the first several nights, then in a little place near Murat-le-Quaire in the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne. Lots of old stuff, as we had another medievalist with us, and lots of hiking and amazing scenery. Seriously one of the prettiest holidays I've had in a while.
:: David (14:15 in Arkansas, 21:15 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, April 19 2015 ::
Lazy spring days. We went looking for a suitcase (it was really just an excuse to go for a walk), and then drank wine in the back yard. Pretty.
:: David (14:05 in Arkansas, 21:05 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, April 18 2015 ::
We spent a lovely weekend doing crazy weird things - I booked into a sushi restaurant that turned out to be one of those places where you sit at the grill and they cook in front of you. The high point might have been the flower pot full of dry ice they put in front of us as we received our desserts - fog rolled over both our plates and the rest of the table. Surreal. We then wandered along the new banks of the Seine... experience?... with art displays and games and etc. Then today we stopped at the Parc de Sceaux south of Paris to see the cherry blossoms. It turns out it's a whole chateau with formal gardens, so we spent a couple hours wandering around (there's a museum, as well, which we might go back to). Then we headed into Paris to go to a wine tasting at a small wine shop. There were three vignerons there, and we chatted with them while drinking the wine. At one point the proprieter of the shop brought a glass of a yellow drink to the vignerons we were talking to, and we learned it was Chartreuse, and that the proprieter of the shop was a huge fan of the stuff, head of the association, etc. So as we were checking out, I asked if we could try some. It's an experience not to be missed, though surely a drink that is not for everyone. We then made our way back, stopping to grab some yummy desserts from the Boulanger.
:: David (15:16 in Arkansas, 22:16 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, April 13 2015 ::
We celebrated Sasha's birthday with a trip to her favourite medieval worksite: Guedelon. We went in 2005 and wanted to see how much progress had been made. Quite a lot, as it turns out - here's a photo from 2005 and a photo from our visit this year. Because of the weird way car rentals work, it was cheaper to rent for more days than less, so we took a long weekend instead of just the one day. We stayed in an amazing guest house / chateau where we were the only guests and the owner was super gregarious and the whole family was really nice. After the first day, we really didn't have any plans, so followed the Route Jacques Coeur map we found in their tourist brochures, which turned out to be a really great way to spend a couple of days. Coeur was a medieval French merchant, so the various sites were all right up our alley. We also, through some prodigious driving, managed to visit a regional park with some nice birdwatching. On the drive back up we also stopped in Sancerre, and went to a ridiculous (but informative!) wine museum, complete with a '4D experience' theme-park style movie/ride. Overall we had a great weekend, and assuming the car rental people managed to find the keys we left in a mysterious drop box at the Massy Palaiseau TGV station, everything worked out very well!
:: David (6:00 in Arkansas, 13:00 in Paris) - Comment
:: Saturday, April 4 2015 ::
We booked a transatlantic crossing (I'm informed it's not a cruise, it's a crossing) for this summer. I'm quite looking forward to it, but I'm also keeping my expectations in check, knowing I am not the target audience. This review of the voyage in the New York Times basically confirmed my expectations, good and bad.
:: David (11:33 in Arkansas, 18:33 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, March 30 2015 ::
I read the guardian as my main news source. It's not my only news source, but as a general rule I like what it has to say. This means I read a lot of UK news, and right now get a lot of news about the UK election. A great deal of the news talks about the erosion of the public sector, and about the gap between rich and poor. The election coverage is about how Cameron said Milliband is a doody-head and Milliband said 'am not' and Cameron responded 'are too'. The UK has changed a great deal in the 20 years I've been going there, not always for the better. Surely they deserve a more serious discussion of the way forward than they are getting.
:: David (16:59 in Arkansas, 23:59 in Paris) - Comment
I am somewhat addicted to statistics, so usually when I post a link to social media I do it through a tracking service so I can see how many people are clicking it. I usually hit about 100. Apparently stories about the new anti-gay Indiana law are more interesting to people than most, as I'm nearing 1000 click-throughs on that link. Ironically (or perhaps relatedly?) I had posted a story about how women shouldn't attack other women for being a working parent a few days before, and it had been my most read, with over 400 clicks.
:: David (4:12 in Arkansas, 11:12 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, March 29 2015 ::
Our friends left this morning, bright and early, and on the day clocks change in Europe, which adds a bit of insult to injury. We hit some good sites in Paris before they left, including the catacombs, a nice Alsatian restaurant, shopping on Rivoli, the Louvre... you get the idea. Now we've got a bit of down time before our next adventure, which means I can do fun tasks like 'paperwork' and 'taxes'. Whee! I've also been working on my website a bit, polishing old pages and adding some new ones.
:: David (2:19 in Arkansas, 9:19 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, March 26 2015 ::
A nice lazy day yesterday - I walked the city a bit with my big camera (I've taken to mostly carrying my smaller camera, so this is notable) stopping at Notre Dame and the Louvre. Our friends met us for the evening, as our Louvre passes got them in free. The big event yesterday was buying our tickets home, on a boat. We'll be taking the Queen Mary home from the UK this summer.
:: David (4:09 in Arkansas, 11:09 in Paris) - Comment
:: Wednesday, March 25 2015 ::
As we made yet another joke about one of the movies we watched while living here, it occurred to me I should jot them down. We've been sticking to low-brow films in the hopes that their language will be simpler. So in no particular order, since arriving we have watched Rien à déclarer (in part because we visited the town in Belgium where it was filmed, and they had a big sign saying 'visit the town where this movie was made!'). We also watched Avis de mistral which, for some reason, had Jean Reno in it, despite having a ridiculous plot. We actually visited seemingly all the places the movie was filmed when we went to Avignon and Arles, which was kind of ridiculous. And on the subject of ridiculous, Un monstre à Paris was about a flea blown up large by a crazy science experiment who can play guitar. But it was in French, so we watched it! That's all we've done so far, save our regular dips into Les Guignols de l'info, which has both kept us abreast of French news and introduced us to some crazy French personalities.
:: David (3:08 in Arkansas, 10:08 in Paris) - Comment
Our house guests and I walked up the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday, and had a coffee near the Champs Elysees. Then yesterday they headed off to Versailles, and I had a nice lazy day, with a quick stop at the Musee d'Orsay. They seem to have changed their policy regarding photos (they used to say 'none allowed' and now it seems to be 'no flash please'). I can't decide if this is the change in season, or a change in policy that happens to be very nice for people like me who like to take photos.
:: David (2:43 in Arkansas, 9:43 in Paris) - Comment
:: Sunday, March 22 2015 ::
Busy busy touristing! We headed to Chantilly today because, due to pollution, they've made public transport free, so we took advantage. A long train trip, a long lunch, a nice wander through a lovely castle, and a hike back through the woods looking for exciting birds (our friend Rick is a birdwatcher). Due to a weird set of circumstances we ended up taking back the fast train (it's not clear we were supposed to), followed by drinking several local beers and the insane chocolates our friends purchased (along with dramatic reading of their associated stories).
:: David (16:01 in Arkansas, 23:01 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, March 20 2015 ::
Our friends Rick and Lisa arrived today for a week's visit. I'd forgotten how slow the train from CDG can be. Add that to an inability to read timetables and it ended up being an all-day adventure. We're playing it low-key today, they're down for a nap and we'll do dinner in. Then tomorrow we can start the crazy!
:: David (9:27 in Arkansas, 16:27 in Paris) - Comment
:: Thursday, March 19 2015 ::
An article today talks about how writing down what you did each day can make you happier. So today I worked on this website (uploaded some pictures from London), caught a train to Paris for lunch at this crazy little place that had tasty tartes in the Marais, and went to see the Paris Magnum photo exhibit, which had just an amazing assortment of photos taken in Paris by the agency. We then caught the train back, had dinner, and watched our first episode of The Revenants, which had me on the edge of my seat.
:: David (15:57 in Arkansas, 22:57 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, March 9 2015 ::
We spent a nice long weekend in Brittany, eating a simply ridiculous number of crepes and seeing the sights. We rented a car and drove around the peninsula from Nantes. It was terrific, but only a sampler - we'll have to go back to see the islands. Next up is Avignon, which is kind of fun - very rarely do I go back to places I've been before - we're talking about seeing if we can find some of the restaurants we ate at 10 years ago. And in between we have friends and family visiting. All in all, this is a super busy time! It's great that people are coming now, though - the weather has just turned full-on Spring, with flowering trees along the highway and in the parks - the next month or so should be just amazingly beautiful.
:: David (4:47 in Arkansas, 11:47 in Paris) - Comment
:: Monday, February 9 2015 ::
If I were to describe my time (this time) in Paris, I would probably tell many stories of interesting events I walked into, or amazing places I visited, or things of that nature. What I might not mention is my current impression of life here, which is basically 'my mouth is falling apart'. When I arrived back in December, I went to the dentist because I was having pain. He did some major work, and I was happy. Then on Friday, the first day of a road trip out of Paris, I lost a crown. So today I went back, again, to my dentist's office, and I'll go, again, tomorrow. I imagine it will end up like the Scottish Death Flu (a sickness I acquired while visiting Edinburgh). If prompted, I'll remember it happened, but my narrative of events, given the choice, will omit the bad (or uninteresting) stuff.
:: David (9:54 in Arkansas, 16:54 in Paris) - Comment
:: Friday, January 9 2015 ::
Life in the big city is weird. Life in the big city of a not-very-big country is even weirder. Everything is so local. Not only because often, it actually happened in the city, but also because, at least in the case of London or Paris, when big things happen the government responds, and the government is located in those cities. So even big things that happen far away, like the Sivens dam project, which is about as far from here as you can get and still be in mainland France, it still feels like much of the action is happening right next door.
Unfortunately, the most recent thing to happen really did happen right next door. Gunmen stormed the building of Charlie Hebdo and shot many of the staff members. There's no question at this point that it was Islamic extremists. They escaped, and a manhunt is still underway. Although I never felt threatened, I was certainly relieved that when they headed to the suburbs, they went the other direction.
I went yesterday to their offices - it was actually an accident, but once I saw the long line of satellite trucks and reporters I decided to walk by. It feels a little odd, actually - I had my camera, but I felt awkward taking pictures. Clearly the media felt no such compuctions. I even watched what seemed to be a staged laying of flowers at an impromptu memorial.
Right now it looks like the (inter)national outpouring of support will mean Charlie Hebdo will survive. It's a shame people wait until you're no longer living to say how important your work is. The articles written for an international audience have been very complimentary, as Le Monde notes.
:: David (3:18 in Arkansas, 10:18 in Paris) - Comment