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December 31, 2005

Chocolate

I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night, and it wasn't quite how I remember it.
I'm not saying it didn't follow the book (it did really well up until the end and then went off the rails fairly badly), but suddenly now I see it's really a sweat shop employing third world workers paid in beans, and Charlie is selected as the heir through his competitors being whittled down by a series of industrial accidents. Looks like he'll be inheriting nothing but a bunch of law suits.

I wonder how I missed all that as a kid?



December 29, 2005

Back home

Home again. Christmas was very pleasant this year, although since I still haven't figured out the moblogging bit I can't show you any photos. The UK seems to have been like France with everyone holding off onto the very last second before buying anything, and the sales in London even started before christmas this year (should I be writing christmas with a capital C?).

I've been blaming the media overreaction of the riots here for the recent slump in rental bookings, but apparently it's been bad all round as one hair-dresser friend reported. Apparently the french have discovered rotating credit cards (if that's the right phrase). I remember when I arrived all those years ago how there were no credit cards ads or junk mail here, and wondered why the french didn't use credit cards. Well, apparently now they do, and have even moved onto the stage of moving credit from one card to another. This years retail slump is the result of too much credit debt.

How true this is I've no idea since I'm definitely not about to launch a straw poll of my french friends about their credit card debts. There's a whole bunch of faux pas' that a new arrival here will make (such as taking wine when you've been invited to a dinner), and one of them is asking a french person how much they earn. In the UK it's only a slight minefield, as most people are happy to ask even if they're not happy to reply, while in the US it seems a topic on par with asking about cosmetic surgery and whether you're irish-italian-american or just irish-american (ie, it's ok to ask, just to be clear).

Anyway, allegedly the french are now up to their eyeballs in credit card debt. Presumeably one day they'll pass through that pain barrier just like the yanks and the brits have, and move onto remortgaging debt consolidation schemes with a sigh of relief. In the meantime, they'll huff and puff about it in the papers and tv news.

This actuall reminds me of another news item that has been recently bothering the french. Apparently they're getting fatter. I'm not sure whether it's the aesthetic problem, or fear of just another way we're invading french culture, but the media was quite anxious about it. Unfortunately they had to have some film to go with the news report, and clearly the cameraman couldn't find any fat french people, and it was quite obvious that all the people shown were tourists. From what country though, I'm not going to say ;-)



December 22, 2005

Moblogging

I received a new mobile phone the other week which has a much better camera than my old phone. New blog + new camera = moblogging of course! It all seemed to easy with Mfop2, but unfortunately after a day of trying I finally find out it doesn't work with Movable Type 3.2 :-(

Is it worth pursuing any further. Sure it is, but I can't be bothered right now. Perhaps after christmas - at least you'll be spared the close-ups of the household pets, chocolates and the xmas turkey...

Eurostar part deux

oh, and as an extension to this, a friend here in france always hires cars through the UK site (can't remember which company, Hertz possibly), even though he wants the car here. Since you can ask to pick the car up anywhere it doesn't matter that he's not in the UK using the UK website. He saves quite a bit apparently...

Eurostar

Since I'm trying to avoid doing any work at the moment, and since this blogging is a lot of fun, here's something I've learnt about getting across the channel (english channel that is, even though the french want to call it a sleeve (La Manche), but then as I saw on a comedy thing somewhere, since they've the Riviera and the mediterranean on their borders, why would they care about a little 22 mile wide strip of water on a freezing north coast!):

When you first go to the Eurostar website to buy a ticket, it'll ask you what country/language you would like - you don't have to choose the correct country, as they'll still send out tickets to the right address. I've found that looking at the UK/English site the cheap 'loisir' tickets disappear quicker than if you're using the France/French site.

So, if you can't find the 35 euro tickets on the english page, delete your cookies (which means you'll get offered the language choice again), try again but in french and see if you can now get cheaper tickets.

Apparently it's due to the english and french services having their own ticket allocations, and the english side usually runs out first...

Post to France

Here's a touching story on how to hassle little old ladies in the post office: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4551696.stm

Quelle surprise that the letter still hasn't arrived...

Keep the receipt

Living in France is a bitter-sweet experience, definitely when you come from a country like the UK or US. One of the biggest things to come to terms with is the different level of service you get in shops et, especially when there's a complaint to be made.

It all comes down to personality and first impressions - stride into a shop and declare that you've been sold faulty goods and you'll get nowhere! To imply that the shop assistant is at fault (even if they were) will immediately create a huge obstacle to returning or even replacing the goods. I had a friend who bought an iron and tried to iron some curtains. Immediately the thermostat on the iron broke, it heated up fully and melted a hole in the curtains. She took it back and berated the shop keeper, who berated her back about how stupid she was for putting such a hot iron on the curtains, and so it went on. She did get a replacement iron, but was too exhausted to fight for any compensation with the curtains.

However, it goes the other way too. Go into a shop and side with the assistant on how they have to put up with horrible customers, and they'll see you as one of the nice ones and go a long way to help you out. A vague example is my parents who were holidaying in the south somewhere. On their return trip there was a transport strike (must have been a Friday), and there were no trains back to the city where they'd get a link to the airport. They tried for a taxi but they were also on strike. In the end they tried the local buses, and found only a few were running, but none to where they needed to go (they were trying to get to another train station where they had heard they could get a train that was still running). After listening to their story, the bus driver said not to worry, and he'd take his bus off route just to drop them off at the station. I couldn't imagine this happening in the UK, but it seems to fit in with what I've learnt about the french. Just don't blame them for anything, ever!

December 21, 2005

Paris not burning

The apartment rental has been a bit slow lately - hopefully it's down to the fact that the foreign media totally overreacted to the riots we had here at the end of last month. I've heard from various places that americans were advised not to travel to France, and that the media portrayed the city as being a warzone!

If I hadn't been watching the news, I would never have known anything was going on. Paris seemed to be its usual self - very very safe! However, the police chief's statement that violence was back to normal levels and that the usual number of cars (about 80!) was being burnt each night! Very reassuring...

VMWare

This is cool stuff (not that I'm the first to find it!) - VMWare

It allows you to run virtual computers from windows or linux. At the moment my PC is dual boot Debian linux and W2K, and if I need to try something out on the other OS I have to reboot. Now that's a thing of the past! Well, more or less anyway. I found a few links to hack around with it, and was able to make my own Debian images.

How useful is it? For me I need to do lots of testing on both linux and windows, so it's great for me. Also for any web development it's useful to see results in browsers under different OS's quickly, although I'm going to need a mac image to be really useful for that.