Entries for November 2002 (December 2002 »    January 2003 »    February 2003 »    Archives)

 

A new coatNOV 29

I just bought a new winter coat here in Paris. It's my first one since, oh, 1993 or so. I didn't need one in SF and in Minneapolis, two lighter jackets worn together did the trick. I'm glad I was able to find one here because one of the main reasons I haven't purchased a winter coat in 9 years is the difficulty in finding one with an appropriate style for me. Compared to the simply-cut French coats, the (more expensive) American coats look like stock cars, with racing stripes, company logos (What kind of coat is that? IT'S NORTH FACE!!!!), and all sorts of empty flair. I'm just not a race car person.

A People's History of the United StatesNOV 28

A People's History of the United States

Zinn's a Marxist freak (well, according to some), but this book is still worth reading as an antidote to what most American kids learn about in school.

iBook power problemsNOV 28

My iBook has picked up a distressing habit here in Paris. Whereas it lasted three or more hours on the battery prior to last week, it now only goes for about forty minutes to an hour. I haven't modified any of the Energy Saver settings or changed my usage pattern at all. The battery says it's fine, getting down to about 65% full and then it just sleeps. When I plug it in and wake it up, it says the battery is at 0% (and charging slow as hell). I guess a trip to the Apple store is in order when I get to NYC because a laptop that's not portable is just a paperweight.

Update: I reset the Power Manager as several people suggested. No dice.

Good design bookstore in ParisNOV 27

Stumbled upon a great design bookstore today: Librairie Leks on Rue Pierre Lescot near Les Halles. Excellent selection of contemporary books on graphic design, typography, photography, and fashion.

Hacktivismo Enhanced-Source Software License AgreementNOV 26

The HESSLA is a new open source-ish software license agreement that includes some terms that allows "both Hacktivismo and its end-users to go to court if someone tries to use the software in a malicious manner, or to introduce harmful changes into the software." Furthermore:

"The most novel innovation in the license distributes enforcement power instead of concentrating it in Hacktivismo's hands. If a private citizen happens to violate the license, then Hacktivismo is in charge of enforcement. But the situation is different if the violation is by a government or a governmental official. When Governments subvert human rights, and try to use Hactivismo-licensed software as part of any aspect of such a project, then the license empowers end-users act as enforcers too.

"The Hacktivismo license makes it clear that the act of voluntarily using Hacktivismo software, if it is used by a government as a part of any project that has the effect of violating human rights, explicitly constitutes a waiver by that government of its sovereign immunity in the courts of other countries.

"In other words, if Myanmar or China want to keep violating human rights -- then they have no choice but to steer clear from using Hacktivismo's software in connection with any of their wrongful projects. If not, then this software license just may be the victims' long-needed ticket into court; their pathway over the obstacle to justice previously presented by sovereign immunity."

I'm not quite sure how "malicious manner" or "harmful changes" are defined by the license or will be intepreted by the courts, but the whole thing is an interesting idea. (Thx, Oxblood.)

Whore presents?NOV 26

whorepresents.com is:

a) a site for finding out agents and managers for Hollywood actors and directors
b) the place to go to stock up on gifts for your favorite hooker
c) an unfortunate URL choice
d) a and c

Thanksgiving in ParisNOV 26

The hunt continues for a place to have Thanksgiving dinner here in Paris. So far, the results have not been that encouraging. Through Fusac, a magazine for English-speaking expats, we've located close approximations of turkey dinners at Tex-Mex, Cajun, and Canadian (???) restaurants, but those all seem sketchy somehow. (Cajun stuffing? No thanks.)

We're not completely gung-ho about the whole Thanksgiving thing, but it would be nice to have some good ole-fashioned turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Does anyone out there know how to do Thanksgiving in Paris?

Update (11.25.03): Since I've been getting a bit of email from people wondering what we ended up doing for Thanksgiving in Paris last year, I'm going to pass along what I learned.

Many places in Paris (the English bookstore WH Smith for example) have free English magazines like Fusac where you can find a number of options. I didn't think of this at the time, but you might also try asking the staff there if they know of any good places.

I received lots of recommendations for Thanksgiving in the Marais. They sell cooked turkeys and all the fixin's on Turkey Day...not entirely sure if the attached restaurant has a specific TD meal with a bird, stuffing, et. al. Several people also recommended American chain restaurants like TGI Friday's or Hard Rock Cafe.

Meg and I ended up going to Joe Allen, located in the 1st. They had a nice Thanksgiving meal, bilingual wait staff, French and California wines, etc. The menu contained a few different choices; most of it was straightforward Thanksgiving food, turkey, ham, stuffing, yams, potatoes, cranberries, etc. For two slightly homesick Americans, it was just the thing.

Still adaptingNOV 25

With the NY/LA release of the movie less than two weeks away, the weblog I'm writing for Adaptation is picking up speed. My main concern is that the traffic for the site has been flat for the last few weeks. With my limited time online while in France, I haven't been able to promote the site as I would have liked. And I'm surprised that in all the news stories about the movie, the Web site hasn't been mentioned...it seems like something that might tie into the whole "metaness" thing that most of the articles seem to pick up on. Perhaps with the demise of sites like Suck, Ironminds, & Feed and magazines like Yahoo Internet Life, there's nowhere to publish stories that have an Internet angle (the rest of the world seems to have forgotten about it).

A word about sinksNOV 24

The bathroom sink in our Paris apartment is the best bathroom sink ever. Stylishly designed, it's big & white, has ample counter space, and a faucet that, although a bit confusing at first, offers high flow and fine control. It has the best drain stop I've seen. It's so simply designed -- without any moving parts but surprisingly functional -- that one wonders how drain stops could be designed in any other fashion.

The kicker is that the sink is from IKEA and probably costs about €12. As much as I dislike huge multinational companies, if we're going to have them, I'd take IKEA and their well-designed household items over Wal-Mart any day.

Hu's on FirstNOV 22

By James Sherman
(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of
China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the
Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we
should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you
get Chinese food in the Middle East?

(Thx to Jerry for sending this along.)

When nature and architecture make me seem like a great photographer, part 42 of an infinite seriesNOV 21

I caught this shot of the Invalides dome today:

the dome at Invalides

The sun was about 30 minutes from setting and the sky was just beginning to clear of some dark clouds. I don't think I've ever seen the bright blue of the sky, the dark cobalt blue of the clouds, and the bright yellow of the building together like that before. Wonderful.

Dialing a US 800 number from FranceNOV 21

I had some trouble finding this on Google, and it's a useful bit of information to have when you're in a pinch**, so I'm going to put this right here in the hope that future toll free dialers from France will be able to find it.

To call a U. S. or Canadian toll-free number from France:

- instead of 800, dial 00 1 880
- instead of 877, dial 00 1 882
- instead of 888, dial 00 1 881

and then the last seven digits of the number you are calling. So, if you are trying to call 800-555-1212, dial 00 1 880 555 1212 instead. This call will be charged at the regular rate of a phone call to the US or Canada (i.e. it's not toll-free). C'est simple.

** Like when your CC company decides to put a hold on your card because there have been purchases made in Paris (classified as "unusual activity"). People travelling to Europe and mixin' wit dem durty for'ners? That don't seem right in this day and age.

Huge vending machineNOV 20

We were wandering around Gare de l'Est today trying to decide whether or not to hop a random train to somewhere in Germany when we ran across a giant-sized vending machine.

USS Vending Machine

It dispensed such things as candy bars, phone cards, 1 litre bottles of water & soda, microwave dinners, and sandwiches. Standing next to it made me feel like we'd been shrunk down to 1/4 our original size or something, wee folk living in a land of giants. Giants that ate tiny Snickers bars and drank miniature bottles of Coke.

The best one-party two-party system in the worldNOV 20

I'm reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States while I'm here in Paris. I'm reading it more critically than I did a few years ago, but there's still some great stuff in there that pushes my buttons pretty hard. Here's a bit talking about Jacksonian politics in the 1830s:

"The two-party system came into its own in this time. To give people a choice between two different parties and allow them, in a period of rebellion, to choose the slightly more democratic one was an ingenious mode of control. Like so much in the American system, it was not devilishly contrived by some master plotters; it developed naturally out of the needs of the system."

Update: I fixed a typo in Zinn's quotation that changed the entire meaning of it (I had previously omitted the "not" in the last sentence). Thx to Nathaniel for catching the mistake. The people responsible for the error have been sacked.

Get yer Segways hereNOV 19

The Segway is now available for ordering on Amazon. Total cost is $4,950.00, you need to put down a deposit of 10% (nonrefundable), and they'll be starting delivery in March 2003.

Sedaris Eggers SmackdownNOV 19

It seems that David Sedaris really isn't a big fan of Dave Eggers:

"In conversation, Sedaris is rather like his writing: funny, sharp-witted, but seldom really mean. Except when the subject moves to a certain young writer whose first book's back cover featured an admiring blurb from Sedaris himself. An act for which he received little thanks. 'Dave Eggers is a huge pain in the ass. A huge pain in the ass,' says Sedaris. 'I went on a tour last year and he had just been on one before me, so I was visiting a lot of the same bookstores he'd been to. And I would go to stores that were actively unselling his book. Like, someone would go to the counter with the book [A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius] and the staff would say, "Actually, that book's not very good. No one likes that book. You should read this instead." Because Dave Eggers would have been in that book store the week before and yelled at the people who worked there and treated them horribly. He's a horrible person...but he's a really good writer.'"

(Thx Nichol.)

The kids today with their slangNOV 18

As expected, the south of France is lovely, especially that bit of it inhabited by Dean, Gail, and that dog from the Internet. In addition to much fine food and scenery, Dean filled us in on some French slang.

We've been seeing these signs all over the place for "K7 DVD". We figured they were DVD vending machines (which they are, and the idea of which is pretty cool), but didn't quite know what the K7 bit was. Turns out, K7 = K sept = cassette (in the manner of 4 sale = four sale = for sale).

But my favorite bit of slang are the prefixes of "super" and "giga" stuck onto words like "bon" or "cool". "Super bon" and "giga cool", appropriatedly pronounced with a French accent (roughly sue-pair-bone and she-gah-coo-ell), are way fun to say.

The case of the unknown toothpickNOV 14

Our in-house guests have arrived and there's a toothpick on the bathroom counter. I'm unsure of the heritage of this toothpick, so I've been carefully avoiding it. I thought about throwing it away instead of pushing it around with my contact lens case, but a toothpick, like chewed gum, is an intimate item that requires the attention of its owner in such matters. And so it sits.

Take my breath awayNOV 14

I haven't seen it myself (since I'm not reading any weblogs or any other online periodicals for the month of November), but rumor has it that Steven Johnson has himself one of those weblog thingies.

My Paris entriesNOV 13

All of my posts about my November 2002 trip to Paris (including this one) can be found on this handy page: Paris 2002.

42NOV 12

I've never been a great fan of Douglas Adams. I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in high school, but it didn't excite me enough to want to continue reading the series. In one of the books, Adams supplies the answer to the ultimate question, to life, the universe, and everything. The answer is 42.

Everything has been coming up 42 for me lately. The street address of our apartment in New York is 42. While my mom is here in Paris, she's staying in room 42 at a hotel in the 5th. I bought a pair of shoes the other day, size 42 (European size). They cost 42 €.

All these things are now related to each other in my mind. When I call my mom at the hotel, I can only remember her room number by thinking of my street address in New York. I used to have trouble remembering my European shoe size, but now I'll never forget it because I purchased that pair of shoes for the same price. As for the Adams connection, I might have to go back and read the other books in the series to see if there's some hidden information in them about my current 42 lifestyle.

The joy of good breadNOV 12

It's hard to believe, but I think we've discovered the best bakery in Paris right across the street from our apartment. I've inadvertantly become a connoisseur of pain au chocolats (chocolate croissants) and the Boulangerie Malineau sells the best I've ever had...and only 0,90 €. Their bagettes are top-notch as well, better than anything available in San Francisco at a third of the price.

Picasso MuseeNOV 11

We explored near our apartment in the Marais a couple of days ago. After lunch, we wandered a block to the Picasso Museé in the Hôtel Salé. My favorite piece in the museum (by a considerable margin) was femme assise dans un fauteuil rouge (woman sitting in a red armchair) from 1932. This choice says almost nothing about Picasso's art and a great deal about my own artistic preferences. In general, I enjoyed the pieces from Picasso's classical and blue periods, his earlier, less self-indulgent works, this self portrait in particular.

Accidental frogs' legsNOV 10

There's a commercial that has been playing on American TV for the past few months. It's an ad for Denny's and features Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy shilling for Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast. The Grand Slam comes with bacon. At least they didn't have Miss Piggy scarfing down a plate of their Moons Over My Hammy.

The irony here is that in The Muppet Movie, Doc Hopper chases Kermit and his pals all the way to Hollywood in order to procure Kermit's services as spokesfrog for his chain of frogs' legs restaurants. Kermit's pals stick by him and they eventually defeat Hopper and reach Hollywood.

As a longtime admirer of Kermit, I feel like I've let him down. Last night at dinner, I ordered ravioles de cuisses de grenouilles et champigion de Paris, not knowing exactly what it was. It came with a chicken-based sauce and was delicious. The ravioli filling tasted a bit like sausage, but I couldn't place it precisely. Turns out it was frogs' legs (cuisses de grenouilles), a dish I would never have ordered had I known what it was. Sorry, Kermit.

A grand day out, save for the rainNOV 10

My mom and her friend Cindy have arrived safely in Paris. I'm so excited for them to be here, even moreso than I am for myself being here. Neither one of them has ever been to Europe before or even to any big cities like Paris (with a subway, &c.). Last night we had dinner at the Brasserie Balzar down the the street from their hotel. Best onion soup I've had here yet. The Balzar was a favorite of ex-pat Adam Gopnik while he was living here and is featured in his Paris to the Moon.

A wicked googleyNOV 09

Desperate for some news and warmth, we picked up some English newspapers and headed for a café and some chocolat chaud. When I got to the sport section in The Guardian, I attempted to understand the articles on cricket but failed miserably. An excerpt:

"The Yorkshireman Len Hutton was so eager to let loose Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson upon the Australians that he inserted them on a lifeless pitch and watched in dismay as Arthur Morris and Neil Harvey hit centuries and Australia rattled up 601 for eight. England lost by an innings but Hutton had the last laugh. Tyson ruled from then on and England won the Ashes."

I'm pretty sure I know the meanings of all those words individually, but they make little sense strung together like that.

Musee d'OrsayNOV 08

Pointillist Charles Angrand's couple dans la rue stood out for me during our trip to the Museé d'Orsay. From about 8 feet away, it looks amazingly like a B&W photograph taken with a shallow depth of field and something over the lens to soften the image.

Turns out I'm not much of a Monet fan (beyond his Waterlilies at the MoMA in NYC), but I do like some of the other Impressionist stuff, especially the neo-Impressionists like Angrand. I've always liked Van Gogh (Starry Skies is one of my favorite pieces of art) and the small collection of his at the d'Orsay was very nice (esp. his self-portrait).

Being Jason KottkeNOV 08

The bedroom in our tiny Paris apartment is on the 2 1/2 floor of the Merton Flemmer Building. No word on any portals so far.

Except for the horse meat tartareNOV 07

I don't know what the hell we ate the last time we were here, but the food we've had the last few days in Paris has been nothing short of almost perfect. You can easily get food this good in San Francisco, but it's significantly more expensive, too Californian (would you like avocado with that?), and not quite as good. The secret ingredients are butter and cream.

Addendum: This afternoon for lunch, we stopped at a little cafe not unlike every other cafe in Paris. Poulet et scalloped potatoes for 11 € (VAT + service included)...best chicken I've had in awhile. I hardly needed a beverage it was so juicy.

So good it'll make you wanna croqueNOV 04

A croque monsieur is a sandwich consisting of two slices of white bread, ham, cheese, a bit of cream (or cheese) sauce, and yet more cheese melted over the top of it after the whole thing has been grilled. I somehow missed this miracle of French cuisine the last time around, but am taking full advantage of it now. I've even written a little song about it, quite unintentionally. It just popped into my head and every time I see le croque monsieur on the menu, I can't help singing it:

Croque Monsieur, Croque Monsieur
uh huh huh**, Croque Monsieur
(repeat)

A chart topper for sure.

** The "uh huh huh" here is what I think of as typical French grunting (gathered mostly from misrepresentions of snooty French characters in movies and cartoons), a sound that when followed by a "monsieur" could be thought of as playfully condescending in tone.

Ex patNOV 03

Only three full days in Paris and I'm feeling like a resident. My French still sucks**, but other than that, the city feels like any other big city. We're getting around town, using the phone, purchasing goods and services, feeding & clothing ourselves, giving directions to tourists, and slowly enjoying our boissons and enduring the slow service at the café, just like natives. Having an apartment helps; it feels like we're living here and not just visiting.

** A woman sitting next to us at the restaurant last night asked me if my pizza had been any good. I stared at her, mouth agape, not even able to muster up a "je ne parle pas francais". Luckily, Meg caught her drift and translated quickly; I stammered back a "oui".

Ding dang dongNOV 01

The desertion I spoke of earlier was a fluke. Friday was the start of a busy three day weekend here in Paris; you'd think it was the middle of June with all the people wandering around. Last night as we walked back through the crowded streets of the Latin Quarter and crossed over to the Ile de la Cité, we ran into an All Saints celebration at the Notre Dame. A queue of people stretched out the doors, many holding large white banners with saints depicted on them.

We followed the banners into the church and attended vespers, a service comprised mostly of parading banners, singing, and a guy swinging that little incense Smokey Joe around. If you ever get the chance to attend a church service in a huge Gothic cathedral, it's worth your while. The organ music fills the entire church, an awe-inspiring feeling for the religious and non-religious alike.

All Saints DayNOV 01

We're in Paris and the place is like a ghost town. Aside from our early morning arrival -- nothing really gets going here until 10am -- it turns out that it's All Saints Day, a national holiday. We had a bit of trouble getting into our apartment (wrong key!), but a few phone calls cleared that up. Our flat is small, cozy, and absolutely perfect, situated on a baby bear street in the Marais, not too busy but not too deserted either.

The bells of the Notre Dame have been tolling for the last half hour. I'm not much on religion, but more bell tolling would be a good thing.

Bonjour from ParisNOV 01

We have arrived in Paris safe and sound; much too busy to email yet or post much more. Later, later. Mom, see you in a few days.

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