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January 31, 2006

The JCB song

This is great! Excellent if you're feeling like you need a pick-me-up I reckon...


January 30, 2006

Look at my wad!

Today's lunchtime blog reading ended up looking at a load of comparisons between countries, and there was one list that really didn't make much sense. It was a list of most expensive countries, and they claimed that the Economist was the source, but I couldn't dig out the original numbers, so I just ripped off the list -

The most expensive countries in the world

U.S = 100 (see source)
1. Japan (138)
2. Norway (123)
3. Denmark (116)
4. France (116)
5. Hong Kong (113)
6. Switzerland (109)
7. United Kingdom (109)
8. Iceland (106)
9. Austria (104)
10. Finland (103)
11. Netherlands (100)
12. Sweden (99)
13. Singapore (98)
14. South Korea (97)
15. Germany (95)
16. Ireland (94)
17. Australia (93)
18. Belgium (93)
19. Russia (92)
20. China (90)
Source: This cost of living index is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit ( for use by companies in determining expatriate compensation: it is a comparison of maintaining a typical international lifestyle in the country rather than a comparison of the purchasing power of a citizen in the country. The index is based on typical urban prices an international executive and family will face abroad. The prices are for products of international comparable quality found in a supermarket or department store. Prices found in local markets and bazaars are generally not used. New York City prices are used as the base, so United States equals 100.

So, France is more expensive than Britain? At what? So far the only thing that's really hurt financially have been taxes and beer, although the taxes aren't that much worse than Britain (well, they might be if I was rich, but I'm not :-P ). The beer however is very very very expensive. I think the average pint in Britain is about £2.30, or about 3 and a bit euros. Here it's €6.50 a pint! So a nice english night out (pub, pub, pub, club, kebab) can set you back a small fortune, and in a credit card challenged country like France, that's a real problem!

The alternative is of course to drink comme les français, but seriously, why would anyone want to sip a single demi of tasteless kronenbourg for 4 hours? The only upside of all this that I can think of is the lack of ghastly stag and hen nights that the British are using to invade cheapy beer places like Prague.

Anyway, back to the expensive countries list - before Alison and I came here we were living in Sheffield in the north of England. The north is a lot cheaper than the south, with the super-expensive London zone now expanding to the entire south-east of the country. I expected Paris, being a capital city and all, to be similar in cost of living to London, but amazingly it was no worse than Sheffield! I just couldn't understand why the french were all whinging when they talked about the cost of Paris... In fact, with housing in France being so relatively cheap, the English have now bought up vast tracts of Brittany, Toulouse, Chamonix etc, determined to live idyllic lives running 'gites' - there are even tv programs on the BBC on how to do this! I haven't noticed any programs about the post-traumatic return trip to the UK after being ostracised by the french and ruined by local planning permission laws, which is a shame since that would be *way* more entertaining...

So, last word on the subject of country comparisons - with regards to the most popular comparison (judging by the vast number of comments), where's the UK? and if it's so true, why do shoe sizes only go up to a 46 here (if you're lucky)!

January 29, 2006

Terminal nine and three quarters

Back from Germany at last! It wasn't a big trip really I suppose, since it's only a hop and a skip away by plane. Still, this flight seemed a bit riskier than normal - it was an EasyJet flight, which leaves from CDG terminal 3 which is a muddy hut hidden somewhere behind the main airport.

There were several bad omens looming, with the first being that the terminal still had its christmas tree up. Not that I take my tree down on the 12th day of christmas (not too bad this year, came down on the 18th Jan!), but you'd think that an airport wouldn't take any chances. The next thing was that my boarding pass showed the 22nd of January 2026, which meant either I was in for a long wait or the Y2K bug was still on EasyJet's To Do list. Then the flight attendants safety talk seemed *extremely* detailed. The way they demonstrated the 'BRACE! BRACE!' announcement seemed a bit too earnest I think! Unfortunately the speakers dropped out at the point they telling us about how to inflate the life jackets, but since we wouldn't be flying over any sea it was possibly not a problem!

Anyway, everything else went ok, and since it was such a short trip EasyJet didn't have to do an 'out of fuel, glide the last 50k' manouever.

One thing I thought was funny though was the sick bags - they've got an advert for photograph development, and the logo is 'Don't be sick, Come to Klick!', good advice if I ever heard it. I did wonder if people read this *while* they were being sick, and what the legal recourse would be if they had accidentally printed the adverts upside down...

January 22, 2006

My music


I've been listening to Yahoo's LaunchCast for about a year or so now, and I think it's fantastic. Apart from not being able to subscribe to it outside the States that is, so I still have to put up with their tedious adverts. Click on the pic to play my station, which is an awkward mix of britpop, 60's psychedelic, 80's pop, country&western, lounge, and the occasional indie-rock thrown in. It's mainly low key stuff since I listen to it while working, and seems to be rather heavy on the country music, but I enjoy it...

January 21, 2006

Nobody understands moi

I'm off to Germany tomorrow to install my company's software at a childrens hospital, so I might not be blogging for the next week (hospitals don't trust staff with internet connections).

I thought that it might be a good idea to transfer my landline to my mobile phone just in case any super important phone calls come in, and according to the France Telecom website to do that you call 3000. Comme d'habitude a computer answered, although this time it didn't ask me to press 1 to do this, 2 to do that etc, it asked me to say it!

FT: Dit accedé ma ligne pour blah blah
moi: um, accedé ma ligne
FT: Accedé ma ligne. Entrez les dix chiffres de blah blah blah
moi: beep beep beep (I didn't say that, that was me entering my phone number)
FT: dit ton service blah blah blah
moi: transfer d'appel
FT: Secret d'appel. Entrez la numero blah blah blah ou dit sommaire pour la menu principal
moi: um, no - transfer d'appel
FT: Secret d'appel. Entrez la blah blah
moi: duh, somaire.
FT: menu des choix est indisponsible. Dit somaire. pour...
moi. soooh-moire
FT: ...
moi: suh-mwah
FT: blah blah blah
moi: *sigh* trrrans-FER d'appel
FT: messagerie vocal. blah blah
moi: what?
FT: ...
moi: trans-fer da pel!
FT: transfer d'appel. blah blah
moi: whoo hoo.
FT: heures locale. blah blah
moi: crap. trans-fer de pell.

And so it went on into the small hours of the night. Eventually I managed it, only to be told I had to subscribe to the service at 1,50€ per month (of course), and I had to wait until my subscription had been validated. Of course tomorrow is Sunday, sooo....

January 20, 2006

Who watches the Watchmen

I just walked past someone with a Watchman badge on!

I spent months when I was a student trying to track one of those down, and once I found one I wore it religously for about two years before it rusted off and I lost it. I think someone's making a film on it now (the book, not me looking for a badge), so that'll make it very uncool I suppose.

January 18, 2006

Other blogs

I haven't got round to adding one of lists of blogs that I read yet, mainly because I don't really have time to read many (or any). But I've just found one that does deserve to be put there, since it doesn't take much reading which is cool - - this guy has blogged a photo a day for almost a year now! Every day, a different photo, and not your crummy mobile phone type photos either. I can just about cope with that...

Hmm, also when I was younger I used to visit the daily astronomy pic of the day, but I'm older and cooler now, honestly.


I seriously need help! I'm completely addicted to Haribo Tagada, which are squishy little red sweets, allegedly strawberry flavoured, but I could be just saying that because they're red.

Unfortunately it's impossible to eat just a few - you have to continue until the whole packet is gone. Usually you feel a bit queasy at the end, but that's normal. However, I've found that drinking strong coffee to perk yourself up doesn't work too well... Also, there's a certain knack in timing the next handful from the packet before finishing chewing the last mouthful - too late and it's unfulfilling, too early and you run a serious risk of choking to death. Don't tell me that you should just put them in your mouth one at a time, that's just crazy talk.

Click here to find the best price to buy by the truckload!

Beware the fuites

The season of the fuite seems to be well and truly upon us. It seems that every week a friend or other has received a panic stricken phone call that there's a fuite in their neighbours apartment, and they need to check for infestations in their apartment. So far we've never seen a fuite ourselves, but usually it's not the owners fault anyway, as it usually comes from inside the walls somewhere.

Hopefully it'll soon be over, but if you're travelling to Paris at this time of year and you're worried about fuites, the only thing to do is arm yourself with a 'seau', and pray you never have to use it...

January 17, 2006

My Google desktop

Also yesterday I noticed my google desktop weather bar is a complete phony. It was saying the weather was nice and bright while clearly outside it was completely clouded over with just a dash of rain (the dash that turned into the hateful gonna get you rain today).

So, I was on the phone to the gorgeous Alison (you never know, she might be reading), and she was doubting we'd be able to play tennis on wednesday since it looked like rain etc, and I was saying 'oh, of course not - my superior google desktop weather predictor says it's fine' (I didn't actually say that, just that the weather was going to be ok, but it's leading up to my sarcastic comments about google's desktop weather thingy...), even though clearly all I had to do was turn my head 90 degrees left, look out the window and see that the weather thingy was wayyy off base.

Just as I'd said that, the weather thingy suddenly updated and went all the way from bright and clear to overcast with chance of rain! What! There's definitely some dodgy privacy issues here, since some spod at Google is listening in to my call, called someone up in Paris and said, oy, is it bright & clear, they've said Non, and they changed the google bar. Right there and then. Not even a cunning transitionary phase of 'bit of cloud, could get worse', just wham, straight into 'yuk weather, stay at home'.

Anyway, it still says nice and bright for wednesday, which is the main thing, because that means I'm still right about the weather and we *will* be playing tennis...

Things to do on a rainy day

It's been a wet, cold and miserable day in Paris today - normally I'd just say wet, but since I spent most of the day trudging around, buying of all things cardboard boxes, I'd just like to emphaisize the cold and miserable part. IT WAS COLD AND MISERABLE. It was that icy cold type rain, not the Gene Kelly type of rain, and I've still got a headache as you can tell from this whiney post.

I can't believe it's so hard to buy cardboard boxes. When I was a lad, you'd get them at the supermarket - they'd even cordon off a big area where they piled them up for people to take. Either that was just the UK, or it doesn't exist anymore. Of course the office supplies shops didn't stock them (duh! This is sooo typical of france. I'm not super keen on commercialism, but when I go to an office supply shop I want a choice of shredders, not just the one poxy overpriced model that they thought they ought to stock just to look like an office supplies shop. Cardboard boxes, packaging - pretty basic stuff, but nowhere to be seen). In the end I found them at BHV, which is a truly miraculous shop and always makes me feel better (still wasn't going to sing in the rain though). Their basement has *everything* for DIY, including the totally useless things you don't even know what they're for until one day you really need it (and happens more than you'd think).

Sadly I'm quite into all that 'do it yourself, I'm not paying all that to buy one ready made' type stuff. My living room lights, coffee table, and other bits & pieces are all homemade, most of the paintings on the wall are mine, and if you surf on the web hard enough you'll find that I've made my own telescopes which involved lots of power tools and fiddly bit of stuff tied together with wire (ah, here's a word of warning - be careful what you put on the web! You think you're in control, but you're not. Once you've forgotten the passwords to those free webhost sites, and then those pages are up there FOREVER! Also, bizarrely, once those pages no longer had my input, they became way more popular! Something not right there).

Oh, and the other sad thing is that in order to cheer myself up while at BHV, I impulse bought a new filofax to replace my usual one. A filofax! Good grief, I am working *way* too much. Next I'll be pleased that I can find a suit that matches both my stapler *and* my hole-punch! Then shoot me. Please.

January 14, 2006

Ex-Pat bloggers in Paris

I must do some work (yes, even though it's saturday, and it's not going to change tomorrow either *sigh*), so instead of course I've been looking around for other non-french blogs from france (I know, reading the french blogs will be good for my french and help me integrate more, but it makes my head hurt), and there's loads of them, which is great!

Bizarrely most of them seem to be into knitting. I hope that's not obligatory...

L'Auberge Espagnol

I finally saw L'Auberge Espagnol the other night, and I'm probably the last person in France to do so. They're already past the sequel Les Poupées russes which I'll have to get hold of soon as Auberge was a great film!

It's kind of odd seeing a film about escaping Paris for a better life after making my way here from the UK to do the same thing, but it does give a great perspective on the French (even though it's mostly in Spain). Apart from the great scene about insane bureaucracy and getting the right forms to take the Erasmus trip (should be part of any induction course into living in France - there's no avoiding it, just live with it!), the biggest thing it showed was the propensity of the french for having affairs. It seems to be a natural state of being here - I once knew a woman who was the second mistress of some guy or other, and she felt she was in quite a position of power (since she could tell either the first mistress or the wife to screw him over, whereas the first mistress only knew about the wife). Unfortunately she had begun to suspect there was a third mistress who knew about all of them, and she was wondering whether she really wanted to entertain his dreams of forming a quintet...

Not that L'Auberge goes to that kind of lengths (I'm sure there's a french film or two out there that does, although I'm sure they've managed to reduce it to the same dreary introspective that's de rigour here - just because you get french exports like Amelie and Delicatessen, don't think that they're all that great!). The main guy just gets all depressed when skinny Audrey Tatou dumps him because that means he's reduced to only the wife of his friend (at least, I think that's why he was fed up).

Anyway, try and see the film if you can. Definitely worth it...

January 13, 2006

Mini ego trips

Someone has mentioned my post about crossing the road on their blog (In Paris Now -!. What's more, my web stats show that yesterday 6 people came from that site to mine!!! Well, one of those people might have been me, but still... Unfortunately yesterday I was posting mainly articles on healthcare rather than Paris which they would have found *extremely* dull and confusing. So they'll not be back in a hurry...

Anyway, that's made my day, but I guess I should write more Paris stuff though. Writing into the void without an audience did seem a bit pointless other than good for the finger muscles (and I'm sure there are better exercises for that). I saw some advice that with blogging doing more posts is better than just a few big posts, and I should be posting most days. So, new years resolution number 63, blog more (just under new years resolution number 62, pack away xmas tree before february).

Also, they added a picture which looked sooo much cooler than my original post. Wish I had time to do that :-(

January 11, 2006

Newbie to pinging services

Movable Type pings three sites when I add an article, but I've just realised there are loads more. So, this is a posting to try them out really, so apologies for possibly the most dull blog entry ever! On the other hand, it's not as if I've been inspired to write anything really interesting lately anyway - too much work to do, so tied to the desk rather than exploring for cool tid-bits to write about.

The one interesting thing I have found lately is, which I'm using to send out my articles on Paris. They seem a fairly new service, so some things are a bit shaky at the moment. However, it did get my article distributed a fair distance, certainly further than I could be bothered to do. Now I'm just waiting for my google alerts to tell me if anyone published any of them...


The sales started today in Paris. Considering how uncommercial France generally is, the annual sales are actually quite impressive with 'real' reductions of 50% or so. Usually I replace my entire wardrobe during the sales, since I can't be bothered to clothes shop the rest of the year, but money's a bit tight this month :-(

I was in an irish pub with a couple of friends on sunday (the guys in the photo earlier in the blog), and we noticed that they had wallpapered with some british newspapers and we joking about the eternal DFS sofa sales - well, two of us were, the other guy was french and didn't have a clue what we were going on about. He was also puzzled by our disparaging remarks about the irishness of the pub. This was a pub in the banlieu rather than one of the Parisien irish pubs (which aren't too bad), and consequently was run by french people and full of french people. Somehow it just doesn't work (one guy was drinking an espresso for goodness sake, and they'd run out of guinness - 'keelkenny monsieur?'). It's a bit like when I was stuck in Singapore for a month or so, and you quickly realised the western food was a strange imitation of the real thing, as though the chef had seen a picture once but had never actually tried any. Fortunately the local food was fantastic, and the lack of a decent burger didn't really matter after a while.

January 9, 2006

Mad scientists

A friend forwarded me this story from New Scientist. It's about a mid-20th century who had been working on anti-gravity, and possible hyper-space travel. Normally all the stuff you read about on the net on these topics is sheer bollocks, pretty much on par with the Area 51 wackos - it's startling (or worrying) how many people can just tag professor or Dr onto their name and then claim to be experts in something or other. Or actually, the worrying part is that other people go along with it.

Anyway, this story seems to have some credence to it. Well, kind of anyway - the credence only comes from the lack of dismissal by other scientists rather than the evidence backing the theory up. The scientists asked about the theory said they couldn't understand it, and so couldn't rubbish the idea. Honest I suppose.

Anyway, the real reason I think this is a cool story isn't because of the fantastic claims it makes, but because of the scientist himself. Apparently when he was 19 he accidentally blew himself up in the lab, and lost both forearms, his hearing and his sight. Despite this he carried on to study quantum physics with his parents transcribing all his equations etc...

January 8, 2006

A history of the Marais, Paris, France.

In the center of Paris is a charming area called the Marais. After the big sights such as the Eiffel Tower, it is one of the most popular area visited by tourists due to it's narrow streets, old buildings and variety of shops, boutiques and bars. However, even despite the tourism, it has managed to fight off the forces of commercialism and is still a favorite area of the Parisiens.

The word Marais means 'swamp' in French, and indeed originally the Marais area was a swamp. In the tenth century, while the city only occupied the islands on the Seine, the swamp was drained and reclaimed to extend the borders. However, it was another four hundred years before the area began to truly flourish when grand buildings such as the royal hotel des Tournelles and the hotel Saint-Pol were built (hotel in this sense doesn't mean guests and mini-bars, but grand buildings built by the aristocracy). For another two hundred years the Marais continued to be an area of grandeur with beautiful areas such as the place des Vosges.

This period was not to last forever, and by the 18th century the Marais was neglected. The area had become a slum and a jewish ghetto, spurned by the rest of the city. However, the poor state of the Marais was ultimately to become it's savior, when at the end of the 19th century Baron Haussmann started one of the greatest urban reconstruction projects ever seen in the world. Ironically it was not the reconstruction that created the Marais as we see today, but the lack of it in that area. Haussmann felt that the Marais wasn't worthy of reconstruction, and the slum was left untouched while the rest of Paris was transformed with broad boulevards and grand buildings. As the rest of Paris flourished in grandeur, eyes gradually turned to the Marais as prime real estate. Fortunately, a man called Le Corbusier recognized the beauty of the ancient buildings, and decrees were made to prevent the demolition of the Marais and other old areas of the city.

It took a long time for the Marais to truly reach it's present beauty. Even mid-20th century areas such as the Place des Vosges had a grim and neglected appearance. However, after the war and protected even further in the 1960's by French law, the Marais has become a highly desired area. The buildings are now clean and well kept, magnificently glorious in all their ancient splendor.

January 6, 2006

what was that?

That last entry wasn't very blog like! I've found a site that will submit articles to lots of sources, so that the article becomes free content for anyone who wants to use it. Seems a fantastic way to promote Trips Europe, although I'll have to get my writing hat on. The article below isn't too bad, although a bit dull perhaps. Anyway, the reason it appeared here is because there's one place the site submits the article to that relies on the article being published on the net somewhere. So I figured I'd stick it here...

Holiday in an apartment rather than a hotel

Nowadays arranging your holiday independently of travel agents is a breeze, and more people are doing it every day. Chances are though, you're still doing the 'find a flight' then 'find a hotel' route. Instead, next time why not consider an apartment instead of a hotel? It's usually no more expensive than a hotel, especially for families, and can provide a much more comfortable base for your holiday.

You're free to come and go as you please, and save time and money for the quick meals or breakfasts rather than having to stop at an expensive café every day. You'll have a living room to rest in during sightseeing trips, and no rush to get up in the mornings to avoid the cleaning staff.

Here's an example of what you might expect. We have an apartment on rue St Antoine in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Since the owner often uses it himself, he has beautifully decorated it and equipped it with all the modern conveniences such as dishwasher, satellite television, broadband internet etc. The apartment is on the fourth floor with a beautiful view, and has a living room and dining room as well a single bedroom. With the fold out sofa-bed, the apartment can sleep up to 4 people, and is only 135 euros a night. Could you find a hotel suite that would be equivalent to this at that price?

Most of the people who stay in our apartments are overjoyed at the ease and comfort. Since working in this business I've also changed the way in which I approach booking holidays. Taking a hotel room now reminds me too much of business trips and stark tiny rooms with overpriced continental breakfasts. Being in an apartment means you live like a local, popping to the local boulangerie for croissants, a quick powernap in the afternoon, and then finally stumbling home in the early hours after a night on the tiles in Paris. Be truly independent on your holiday, and book an apartment instead of a hotel!

Photo album

Quite a while ago I spent ages trying to find a simple cgi or php webpage that could create a thumbnail photoalbum from the folders that contained the photos. All I wanted to do was upload all my photos, plus this page, and that should be it - no rebuilding, converting etc.

I never found it, which seemed amazing as it's such a simple thing to do. So, I made my own and here it is. Just put it in a folder called album (or whatever), then create a subfolder called Pics - this folder contains all your photos sorted out in subfolders with good names (like xmas2005 etc). Then add a second subfolder called thumbs, and have exactly the same as Pics, but all the pictures have been shrunk to thumnail size (I use Irfan view for this). And that's it. When you add more photos, just upload them, no changes to the photo album page needed.

In all, it's about 20 lines of very simple php code. I can understand why I couldn't find this anywhere....

Oh, and you can see an example of how I've used it on my photo album page here.

January 5, 2006

Crossing the road

I've just popped to the supermarket to buy wine and sweets (already have coffee), and watched another near death experience of some french pedestrian. When I was a kid in the UK, we had constant adverts with this guy called the Green Cross Code man (there's another vague memory of being taught to cross the road by squirrels, but that could be a false memory or a dream or something - I mean, what do squirrels know about roads!). Anyway, as every brit of my generation knows, the green cross code guy was played by the actor who later played Darth Vader, but they dubbed his voice because he was from Cornwall or somewhere like that, and Ooh arrh the force be strong with ye doesn't sound very scary. So, we were regularly brain washed on tv to stop, look and listen before leaving the curbside, don't step into the road until it's clear etc.

Here in France it's a completely different tactic. Your average Parisien strides purposely out into the road for 3 or so paces, looking straight ahead, and then takes a quick glance sideways (maybe) to see if death is coming quickly in a 6 seater Renault Espace (which it invariably is). Some people then take a step back (not back to the curb in a flailing mess as we would do), but most don't, and stand their ground toreador style.

If another pedestrian then approaches to cross at the same spot, the first guy has already annexed the first base camp of the road, and so the second pedestrian can go a little further into the road. With enough luck and body count, they can usually break through even the busiest road or freeway.

Why do they do this? I'm at a complete loss. I wonder whether the children of France have a tv caped crusader to help teach them how to cross a road, but they probably don't. And even if they did they wouldn't have seen it since tv is never watched here anyway since it only ever shows Celine Dion and interminable chat shows (ah, a topic for another day!). Apparently France has one of the worst pedestrian accident rates in Europe, although that's a totally unqualified fact. Possibly I misheard over the loud bar music that it ought to have the worst rate rather than actually has, but whatever.

Anyway, to wrap up, you can always tell who are the Germans here. They the ones still standing on the curb when there's not a car in sight because the crossing light is still showing a red man. Apparently in Germany if you get caught crossing when it's green you get points taken off your driving license, and if you cross against a red light everyone assumes you've already lost your license due to drink driving. (ok, I made the drinking bit up, but it's true about losing points, and it's true you can spot a german a mile off since they really really do wait until it's a green man. Long long after the french stormed the other side and removed the injured and dying...).

January 4, 2006


It looks like I've got an entry in the wikipedia!

Except, it isn't me. Oh well, no big deal. Googling moi gives me quite a few hits, even more when you spell me Nik and not Nicholas or Nick or even Nicky as my nan insisted on calling me for far too long.

As a guide, I'm not Nik Cain american wrestler, nor Nicholas 'Nick' Cain 60's TV government agent, nor August Nicholas Cain, 19th century sculptor, nor Nicholas Cain Kirven who's a poor soldier who recently died in afghanistan.

Unfortunately, I am the Nik Cain who writes stupid questions to programming forums (why do these things hang around forever!), and makes telescopes (one silly page which I asked another telescope maker to link to, and several years later it is listed everywhere!), and so consequently more stupid questions on telescope making that I posted while making the stupid thing (it's not stupid really, but I haven't seen a star here in Paris for 5 years now), etc etc.

Anyway, it did make me realise that as I'm so bad at keeping in contact with anyone and everyone (good job my parents know my phone number!), I should make my own googling landing page. In other words, list my name a load of times plus the things that I do and where I've lived etc. Then if someone googles for me, they should find me. There must be a name for a page like that?

Anyway, once I've done it I'll stick at the index page of this site I guess. Let you know when that happens (don't hold your breath)...

Visitor statistics

I've been watching closely the webstats of this site, wondering if any real people have visited yet. I'd be surprised if they have (um, other than friends & family). I'm only looking at the stats page that my webhost company have supplied, but it's no worse or better than any other I've seen. The biggest problem is it doesn't distinguish between spiders and real people at all. I can't believe it's that hard to do. For the Trips Europe site I implemented a cookie scheme to track visitors since spiders didn't seem to use cookies, and it works fairly well. It allows me to see which pages are the most popular, and also gives stats that are more specific to apartment rentals (for instance, I can see the peak periods people want to arrive, or the average length they'd like to stay).

The other thing I'd like to see is the path people take when they visit the site, not just the entry and exit pages. We have quite a few visitors to the site, and if they all booked then we'd be very rich :-) It would be nice though to take a guess why some don't - apartment not available? not enough beds? etc. We could then tailor things to help people find what they want...

January 2, 2006


Here's a couple of photos from my Sony Ericsson K600i phone. Not too bad when there's lots of light, but awful when there's not!


(BTW, neither of these guys are me!)

I still haven't found a way to send it to the blog yet, so still have to download from the phone and then upload it to the blog. Even worse, I have to rotate the photo on the PC since the phone's rotate doesn't (well, it rotates on the phone, but the downloaded pic is still sideways).


I've just removed the google adsense ads that were on my blog. Initially I thought 'ooh, extra cash', but once I'd implemented it I began to realise that it's very unlikely to make much or any money. Even if my blog was super popular, I still don't think many people would click on the ads (and they'd probably be my competitors since I'm talking about paris and apartments most of the time!).

So, faced with either making $1 every couple of months or a nice ad-free site, I got rid of them all.

Busy day

Made it to lunch time at last! It's been non-stop today, with a check-in and check-out at the same apartment, not that the next tenants have arrived yet, but shouldn't be long now. It's not one of our busiest apartments, but it is one of the most comfortable and nice to stay in, and the reason for this is that the owner normally lives there and occasionally lets it out for some pocket money. Only a few of our apartments are like this, but it makes the world of difference. Certainly we try to furnish our regular apartments as nicely as possible, but if it's someone's home, then the warmth of this often comes through.

Anyway, it's been busy because apart from the checking out, I had to do the cleaning plus chase all the way across town for a cot which the next clients need. All on the metro, which I'm not going to say is horrible (since it's not), but for the last year I've been cycling everywhere, and it's so much better! Paris is really very small, and I normally tell new arrivals that they should definitely walk everywhere since it's the best way to see everything. Cycling here isn't as dangerous as you might think either, as all the bus lanes are cycle ways too, and car drivers seem to respect the law here (no idea why, they don't anywhere else - if there's a one way road and you want to go the wrong way, just drive in reverse!, or if you ride a motorcycle, then use the pavements, that what they're there for!).

January 1, 2006

Happy new year

Happy new year everyone!

'Everyone' probably doesn't mean much right now I should think, since I doubt I've any readship. Not that I mind - in fact having a readership might be a bit scary, like having a responsibilty to write stuff that makes sense, or at least isn't mind numbingly boring!

Anyway, new year was fun, although as usual still paling in comparison to the millennium new year - I wonder how long that'll take to wear off, certainly can't wait another millennium. The streets were full of english speaking people as usual, or apparently so anyway. I think we tend to get drunker and shout louder anyway.

I've also given up on the big spectacle in Paris too, even though somehow Paris got a good rep about new years fireworks after the 2K do. Usually nothing goes on anywhere. On one of the first new years eve that I was here (2001), we were all on the Champs Elysées, expecting big things. The road was sealed off and packed with people - at about ten to midnight the lights on l'Arc de Triomphe went down and we all waited in anticipation. Gradually as various groups saw that it was midnight (totally unsynchronised of course, no Big Ben chimes here, and even if there were, they'd be an hour late), we all realised that the lights on the arch had merely been turned off for the night and that was your lot. Happy new year.

The next day friends who had gone to other areas such as the Eiffel Tower said that it had been the same for them, and had generally all been damp squib like, assuming there had been a firework anywhere, which there wasn't.

So, new year in Paris, is it worth it? I guess so, just don't expect any organised events. The following year we went to Montmartre instead, and this time there were lots of fireworks! Nothing organised, just anyone and everyone letting rockets off left, right and centre. Often horizontally rather than up too, so it had a bit of a warzone feel about it, which the fire breathing juggler people added to (not that people breath fire at the enemies in a war, certainly not while juggling anyway). Much cooler and all the more better for its home grown and spontaneous feel!