February 2002 Archives

So much to talk about, so little time

Want Jimmy Carter’s (or Rush Limbaugh’s) home phone number? This guy broke in to the New York Times’ internal network and was able to dig it up. For some reason, the Times itself hasn’t seen fit to print this story.

And speaking of the Times… Whoops, he did it again. Hank Kissinger gets caught lying (again) about the past. In brief: Kissinger claims that Taiwan "was only mentioned briefly" during the first meeting he had with Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. Well, Henry must be using a different dictionary than the rest of us, because recently released documents show that the first third of that meeting was devoted entirely to the (understandably tricky) topic of Taiwan.

Baby Giant Squid.

No, really, I'm serious...

Walking down Columbus Avenue this morning, the thought occurred, unbidden: Why are there so many beautiful women in the world?

Globalize This

In Paris, there are some very nice specialty shops: Le Pain Quotidian, which is a very nice bakery/cafe; L'Occitane, which sells soaps and the like from Provence; and Oliviers & Co., which deals in expensive but very high-quality olive oil (and other olive and olive oil products). In fact, all three of them have shops close to each other in the Marais, the old Jewish quarter (as a side note, the Marais has evolved into the Parisian equivalent of the West Village, or Chelsea; one bar my sister and I walked past had about 70 men in it and 3 women (and I'm pretty sure that one of those women actually worked there, so she doesn't count)).

All three stores sell some really amazing stuff and Le Pain Quotidian has a large communal table for everyone to sit at, which is pretty cool.

The kicker, however is that all three stores have branches within 90 seconds (by foot) of my front door back home in here in Manhattan (and the Le Pain Quotidian even has the large communal table, to boot!).

From this, we can conclude the following:

  1. Globalization, while not inherently bad, certainly takes some of the fun out of travelling.
  2. I live in a neighborhood that's way too bourgious.
  3. I really shouldn't complain.

Beautiful Gods

Of Course

It figures that the New York Times would run an article about restaurants in Paris the week after I get back from there.

le returnee

Back from Paris. What details I can remember to follow shortly. Definitely want to move there. Have to learn French, though, which might be a problem. First, sleep.

I can't believe that I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow. Ech.

Saint Valentine

Star Trek Crew to Compete at Olympics. I just wonder which country they’ll represent…

I went and saw La Vie Parisienne at the Opera Comique last night. It was very funny, even though I don’t speak French. Having said that… I can’t recommend it unless you speak French or have a willing translator. But it really was tremendous fun and oo-la-la those dancers are something else. It’s definitely an only-in-Paris thing.

Mardi Gras

It's Fat Tuesday today, the last day before Lent. What are you giving up for Lent? Me, I'm going to try to give up celibacy. I figure I've got 40 days...

It's also Chinese New Year's today, or at least the first day of the Chinese New Year. This gives me a chance to take a break from eating my way through Paris, as one is supposed to eat only vegetarian on Chinese New Year's. Of course, this is slightly trickier in Paris, where it seems like every salad verte (green salad) comes with lardons (chopped up bacon). But at least it's doable here, unlike more carnivorous countries (Germany, for one).

The weather has been consistently cool, verging on cold, with varying degrees of damp involved. The only constant has been the total lack of any kind of blue sky at all. The one time it's been clear here was the night after I arrived. And, of course, the sky wasn't blue at all but rather black.

I've been spending a fair amount of time just wandering around the city. Yesterday I was down at les Halles, which is a giant underground mall in the middle of the city, underneath what used to be an giant open-air market. There's now a park where the market used to be.

Even though the market has left, the kitchen supply stores haven't. And if you're a kitchen geek, you'll love these stores. Ones to definitely check out include A. Simon, Dehillerin, and La Bovida. Zabar's has nothing, and I mean nothing on these guys. These are stores for serious, professional chefs. You can buy knives that are, for all intents and purposes, machetes (I didn't get one because I thought that I might have a little trouble getting it on the plane)! And they're cheaper than the stores in New York, too. I found some circular 2-inch molds for 3.25 euros; in New York, I've seen the exact same thing for about 5 or 6 bucks.

Some random observations about Paris:

  • It's not as smoky as I remember it being. My sister backs me up on this one, saying that it's actually smokier in Germany. I mean, yeah, there's really no such thing as a "no-smoking" zone; it's more like a "less-smoking" zone. But you can go out to a restaurant or a cafe and leave not feeling like an ashtray; in fact, this is far more often the case (that I've observed) than not.
     
  • The French have a over-developed reputation for rudeness. Either that or I'm just not noticing it, which is pretty much the same thing. Just remember to say please and thank you (preferably in French), and you'll be fine. Just like everywhere else in the world, a little courtesy goes a long, long, long way.
     
  • French keyboards are a real pain to type on for people used to an American keyboard. It's a standard QWERTY layout... except for the fact that the W and the Z have flopped places; the A and the Q have also switched, and the M has moved to where the semi-colon lives. So instead of QWERTY, you have AZERTY. Also the symbols are in different places (the greater-than and less-than signs (otherwise known as the angle brackets) are on a separate key between the W (formerly the Z) and the left shift key) and you have to hold the shift key down to get the numbers. I'm getting around this by using my sister's laptop.
     
  • The Paris Subway map was laid out by drunken orangutans on acid.
     
  • The legendary French reputation for stylishness is slipping. Either that or New York is somewhat more fashion-forward than the rest of the United State. Probably a little of both. A lot of the kids (i.e. anyone younger than your faithful correspondent) dress more or less the same way their New York contemporaries do (i.e. badly). Having said that, I have to say that on the whole, they definitely are better dressed here than back home; it's just that the gap has narrowed somewhat.
     
  • One thing that hasn't succumbed to American Cultural Imperialism (and let's face it, the war was lost when Rock 'n' Roll took over the world) is the food, and lordy I am thankful for that. I was in a restaurant the other night, and everyone was chomping on healthy chunks of red meat. Young, old, male, female. None of the usual New York dichotomy where the men get the T-Bone and the women get the Endive Salad with Walnut-Encrusted Goat Cheese, Gently Marinated Artichoke Hearts and a light Balsamic dressing (which, for the record, would probably be pretty good, but the French would improve it by adding lardons). The French attitude towards food pretty much seems to be: It's food, it's here, it's good, let's eat it. Something that I agree with whole-heartedly.
     
  • There a lot of places that are trying to get off selling postcards for a Euro each. Yeah, right.
     
  • The Euro makes traveling in Europe much easier for Americans. You don't have to worry about converting anything, since one Euro pretty much equal to one US Dollar. In fact, it's actually slightly less than one dollar. So all you have to do pretend the Euro sign is actually a dollar sign, and then assume that it's going to be slightly less than that.
     
  • Paris isn't as expensive as Manhattan. It's not a whole heck of a lot less expensive, but it is less expensive. A five-or-six dollar sandwich in New York usually comes out to about four Euros. That adds up over time.
     
  • Next time I'm bringing better walking shoes.
     
  • The French seem to be more interested in Valentine's Day this year than Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras if you want it in the original). However, there are a few major differences. First of all, they call it Saint Valentine's Day (which is accurate, as it's the feast of Saint Valentine) rather than just Valentine's Day. Second, it's not ALL OVER THE PLACE, unlike some places I can think of. The French have always seemed to have a somewhat more rational approach to love and romance, which are, of course, the least rational of emotions (or at least that's how it seems to this observer).
     
  • Euro coins are cool.
     
  • They really do drive like maniacs.

Off to put this entry up and then to the le musee!

L'Arivee

Arrived in Paris yesterday after surviving 5 hours of sleep in 2 days. Am having lots of fun adjusting to a French keyboard. Walked around the City of Light in a fatigued-induced stupor much of the day, then slept the sleep of the dead for a very long time.

It's too bad to hear of Princess Margaret's passing -- my sister just pointed out that the princess died almost exactly 50 years to the day after her father died.

I firmly believe that there are some key things that everyone should take on a trip with them. These include:

  • Saline nasal spray. Keeps your nose from drying out on those long airline rides. I think that I left mine at home.
  • Anti-inflammatory analgesic. The drug of choice is usually Advil (did you know you can’t by the stuff in Hong Kong?), though on this trip I’m test-driving extra-strength aspirin. Tylenol is not recommended as it does absolutely nothing for sprains and strains.
  • Imodium AD. It just works. That, and trying to explain what you need to a hotel clerk who doesn’t speak your language particularly well at 2:30 in the morning isn’t my idea of fun. So save yourself the hassle and bring it with you. Also, the only pharmacies that you can find when you’re traveling are only open from 12:30 to 2:15 on alternate Tuesdays (this holds true even when you’re visiting a 24-hour city like Vegas or New York).
  • Athletic tape. Useful for all sorts of things.
  • A pocket knife. Though I will freely admit that the hassle of bringing a small knife on a trip these days probably outweighs its usefulness. Which is why I left mine at home. The fact that I couldn’t find it has nothing to do with my decision at all.
  • If your flight is more than 6 hours, a change of clothes is highly recommended.

BMG

So I'm paying my bills last night, and I get to an invoice from BMG Classical Music service. I had, at some point in the past, acquired "music points" which I used to buy a couple of CDs. Two things to note here:

  1. You can apply your "music points" to the purchase price of a CD, but not to the shipping and handling; and
  2. There's no option to pay by check -- they insist on a credit card, even though they'll take checks for product ordered the regular way -- just space for your credit card number. The worst part is that there's an option that would allow BMG to automatically charge your card for purchases. Which is, of course, really great for BMG, which is trying to sell stuff on an opt-out basis. It is, however, really sucky for Joe Consumer.

Blasphemy!

I would posit (on three hours of sleep: I'm not particularly tired -- slightly fatigued, but not tired, at least as long as my are open. But blinking is flirting with disaster) that the weeks leading up to my vacations would be significantly less stressful if I didn't schedule my vacations quite so tightly. For example, I'm leaving straight from the office tonight. I suspect that if I left, say, tomorrow afternoon at some point, as opposed to right after work, I'd be more relaxed and actually get some sleep.

Then there are those who think that such wishful thinking is bullshit. Your call.

Yum.

Ate lunch yesterday at a fantastic tapas joint on 19th St. called Pipa. Superb. Really, really, good, and I'm fairly confident in saying that the innumerable pitchers of sangria that were passed down the table have had no impact whatsoever on my rating of either the food or the restaurant.

It was good sangria, too.

Digital

Yesterday, when I was going to go get my passport, I passed a tan Chevy Malibu that made me wish I carried a camera with me all the time: the license plate read "DELETE". Damn. Maybe I'll see it today when I go pick it up. What I really need is a digital camera. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Either that (a digital camera, that is) or a winning lottery ticket (speaking of tickets).

. . .

This was an obvious candidate for The Mirror Project.

The Lord of the Rings by Various Authors. Though I have to say that the Raymond Chandler one is actually more like Mickey Spillane than Ray Chandler. But I digress.

I never knew why those bleeding idjits in the UK drive on the wrong side of the road. Now I Know. Incidentally, there are some roads that are impossible to reverse. Cotton Tree Drive in Hong Kong is one of them...

Stress

The week before you leave on vacation is always the most stressful, action-packed week of the year.

Why?

The Cool Kids

Yeah, so everyone's doing it. Sue me. I wanna be one of the cool kids. The best part is that we'll all get to do it again next year in March.

. . .

I spent a little while trying to teach myself a little more CSS, so I can do nifty things with this web page. In the process I discovered that trying to use OmniWeb for anything with floating CSS boxes is a exercise in things not working.

On the other hand, it just may be that I can't code CSS worth squat. C'est la vie, what?

. . .

A great article about one of my favorite web sites.

Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard broke his engagement with Regine Olsen because he believed that he could only find truth if he was miserable. From this we can conclude that he was both

Danish, and a philosopher.

He may also have been a realist.

Welcome To February

Angered By Snubbing, Libya, China Syria Form Axis Of Just As Evil. This the clearly the future of international balance-of-power politics.

. . .

It's February, the month that happens to have Valentine's Day in it.

Lose That Girl (Trouser Enthusiast Mix).mp3

. . .

If you're wondering why there's no December entry, the answer is simple. There were no entries in December, therefore there is no December entry.

Well, it makes sense to me.

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