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February 22, 2006

Sweets

sweets.gifIf you've read my blog for a while (anybody?) you'll know I'm addicted to the immune system suppressants, Haribo Togada.

Today while in a sugar low befuddled state, I picked up these look-a-like sweets from the local G20, but they've turned out to be a desperately poor copy. They're actually *tiring* to chew!

Damn that jolly green dragon! Someone should wipe that stupid smile off it's face...

I still ate the whole packet in minutes though, just in case it got better towards the bottom of the pack (like cheap wine does!).



February 22, 2006

Rankings

Life's hectic all of a sudden. I'm only just getting over the jetlag from San Diego, and then next week I have to dash off to Barcelona for another job. Not that I'm complaining about the travel, I've never been to the West coast, or Spain before, so it's all new to me. But it is tiring, and it's looking like my blog is the first thing to get left behind (um, along with laundry, washing up, and eating non-frozen foods). Nevertheless, I'll try and post the best I can...

One element of the hecticness comes from the sudden turnaround of Google - the Jagger update severely dropped Trips Europe in the ratings, and the number of people looking to stay with us dropped along with it. Things got a bit bleak just before Christmas :-(

However, there's been another huge update, this time called BigDaddy, and we're now back, and higher than ever! Do a search for "rental in Paris" on Google, and there we are, numero uno!!!! (update: Well, sometimes - I just tried again and we're sixth. A few refreshes later, back at top - the update is probably still ongoing...)

The upturn in business is incredible, which is great but also worrying - it seems we really depend on just one search engine, and we're at the mercy of their whims. Obviously we promote our site as best as possible, but there's no way you can safely predict the company's growth for the next year when at any moment Google can dash it to pieces... I use Google a lot myself (and as a discerning geek, it's because they are the best), but their dominance is starting to look a bit scary.



February 15, 2006

First time on the west coast

I'm half way through my week in San Diego, and it looks like they do have some computers here! Sarcasm aside, considering the dot com history of this place, I haven't seen a single internet cafe - neither is Starbucks populated by bored looking people trying to look bourgeois with laptops. Maybe computers are passe here now (sorry, can't do accents or graves on this a;erican keyboard - they would only come out pronounced all wrong anyway).

It is fantastic here though - my epic flight from Charles De Gaulle to Chicago to Denver to San Diego was a real endurance test, with brief periods of blinding blizzards at each stop. Until I arrived here that is - the weather is astounding! Bright blue skies, hot & sunny - my first stop had to be to buy sunblock! Which actually proved to be essential - I'm here without a car, and even quick walks to the shops are proving vast concrete treks. Asking directions results in distances given in blocks, which turn out to be miles and miles! Apparently 6 blocks is nothing - if you've got a car!!! Invariably I head off in the wrong direction anyway, and trudge for a few miles before doubling back - for a typical american city in a grid layout, how can I get lost so constantly?

Anyway, the flight back is in a couple of days, and this time it'll be San Diego, LA, London and then finally Paris. Hope the inflight movies are good....

February 10, 2006

away again

Possibly there will be no more posts for the next week, as I'll be in San Diego.

If they have computers there I might be able to do the odd post or two though...

February 8, 2006

Moi

I've noticed that a lot of people visiting my blog go to the 'Moi' category. I guess they're trying to check me out to put a face to the pearls of wisdom on this site. Hardly surprising, I do the same myself - there's no way I'm reading someone's blog if they're not cute!

Yahoo! AvatarsWell, 'Moi' isn't about me, it's just a category of my posts about, um, me. However, I decided I ought to have something personal here, and I noticed on Mrs B's blog that you can create an avatar of yourself, and so I did.

Disconcertingly, it was quite easy to create one that actually looks like me! The only difference is that in real life I'm not as well drawn...

ps if you really want to know what I look like, then just hunt around. My photo album's around here somewhere...

Noise pollution

The sound of cars outside is driving me nuts today. Not driving up and down noises, but continual blaring of car horns.

Most streets in Paris are fairly narrow, and the pavements have posts that stop cars driving up and parking on the pavement. Nice for the pedestrian, but terrible for delivery vans. So, now the vans just stop in the middle of the road, and the guys leap out to shift all the deliveries, but invariably fall into the nearest café for a quick pre-work coffee.

So, the traffic starts to back up behind the stationary van, and the car drivers are instantly onto the car horn. There's no room for the delicate beep-beep here either - it's usually continual beep-beep-beep-beep-beep (with a bit of variety thrown in so no-one confuses it with a car alarm). After ten minutes, it might evolve into one loooong beep that lasts forever - normally only heard on car chase films where the car crashes and the driver lies slumped on the steering wheel. I'm pretty sure the driver has just left a brick or something on the horn, and has gone to join the van drivers in the café for a pre-argument coffee....

However, no-one bats an eyelid at any of this normally - just a day in the life of Paris, repeated on countless streets, day in, day out. I *must* get some double glazing soon!

The most ludicrous example of this I've ever seen was a few years ago, where there was a carpark behind our building, and the entrance/exit was a little passage. Some poor woman was driving out when she came face to face with another car wanting to go into the carpark. Neither moved, but before they had chance to go through the full ritual of raised eyebrows, waving hands etc, another car pulled up behind the woman to also leave the car park. She now was unable to go forward or back up. The car behind was onto the horn in a flash. Then the car in front joined in. Beep-beep-beep...

And so it went on. For ten minutes at least.

Watching you closely

Egotistically I love watching my website stats. Possibly a bit too much, as it's an utterly pointless thing to do, but I can't help it!

Anyway, my favourite part is what search terms people used to find me. Of course, they weren't looking for me, but something about my listing caught their eye and they ended up here.

Here's the list from the last few days:

dreams about squirrels crossing the road
marais paris
paris hilton
launchcast doesn't load in yahoo sidebar
transfer d'appel topic
watchmen badge

Now I really want to know about that squirrel dream! Actually I could imagine it being quite disturbing, probably something about life being too short...

oh, and didn't I tell you that mentioning Paris Hilton would increase my traffic!

February 5, 2006

Not up to scratch

BritBlog have refused to add me to their directory. Apparently I have failed in their requirements to be a blog written by a British person. Needless to say I'm quite devastated by this. Despite international pressure I still spell colour with a 'u', and at this very moment I'm eating cheese on toast. That's British, with a capital B.

I had even put a little rectangle ad thing in the sidebar for them (removed now, obviously).


Hmph.

Illusion

This is a paper model dragon, whose head follows you around the room (sorry for the jerky vid, but I wanted to do an animated gif rather than an avi, since it doesn't need anything special to see it)

anidragon.gif

Here's the template so you can make one yourself.

It only works if you close one eye, and even this it's a bit tricky - a bit like those pictures you're supposed to look *'through* before you see the 3D image, although this isn't as hard as that. The easiest way is to shut both eyes, and then open one - if you start with both your eyes open, and shut one eye, it tends not to fool the brain...

*update* If you stand far enough away (more than 6 feet say), it works with both eyes open. And also, this isn't my design, I found it floating on the web somewhere...

February 4, 2006

I'd like to thank...

While perusing the local blogs, I noticed that Petite Anglaise had a weblogs award 2005 finalist pic, and so I trundled down that path to see what it was all about.

I recognised only one other blog on the list of finalists (Fistful of Euros), but had never heard of any of the others. Two things stood out though;

First, the winner and the guy in second came *way* above anyone else. Very fishy, especially as the winner was a really political site, and bored me to death (so therefore, fishy). They must have employed an army of monkeys to click on the links or something.

Secondly, the european category, was Best European Blog (non-UK). Uh? So, the UK is now banned from european awards? Are they too good, too bad, don't wear their jumpers around their shoulders?

Anyway, congrats to Petite Anglaise & Fistful of Euros...

February 3, 2006

Professional gamers

Here's a surprising story about professional sports. Apparently a professional tennis player has switched to professional video game playing since it's easier to make a living!

He describes the world of tennis as being extremely top heavy when it comes to the sponsors and rewards of playing, so that only the top few can actually make any money (or a living even). In comparison, professional video gamers can find sponsors easily even if the top prizes are smaller.

It's probably interesting that the tennis player was British, which only goes to enforce the image that British tennis is still woefully undersupported...

February 2, 2006

Paris Hilton et moi

I was checking out why I was an insignificant microbe on the truth laid bear blog directory (there's a little box on the sidebar), when I saw that you could search for all the blogs that are about Paris.

And there I was, numero 122, just under...
parishilton.gif

I can't believe it! Paris Hilton is probably at home in front of her computer right now feeling extremely smug. Well, maybe...

Also, if I mention Paris Hilton enough times, traffic to my site is bound to pick up! She certainly screws up trying to advertise anything to do with the city on search engines...

A use for cats

I would never do this of course... :-)

http://www.dumpalink.com/media/1138821581/Fun_With_Your_Cat

Mon tailleur est riche

The other day I had to sort out some plumbing issues with a neighbour of one of our apartments (the ground floor flat had a veritable waterfall going on!), although fortunately it wasn't coming from our apartment. Or at least, I think it wasn't - I had left the keys with the neighbours, and when I picked them up later they went into detail about taps, pipes and other bits & pieces, all in french, and unfortunately their french went straight over my head, and I did that stupid thing of saying 'oui,oui, d'accord'. Duh, when you don't understand, never, never just say yes. After all this time I should have learnt my lesson by now - who knows what you're agreeing to!

Anyway, it seemed ok, although I was definitely having an 'off' day with speaking french - earlier as I had given them the keys they asked me if they should call once the plumber had been, all in french, except it went as follows;
(oh, and I'll do this in english, since I'll only get the french wrong, and you might not be able to understand it!)

les voisins: Do you mind if we called you after the plumber has been here
me: um, oui (nodding vigorously)
les v: uh? So, it's not ok to call you?
me: oh (penny dropping on the 'do you mind' part), non - pas de tout!
les v: non?
me: uh, oui, non, oui, d'accord...

eventually we got in sync, and I was able to run away...

A quiet revolution

When I arrived in Paris 5 years ago, rather sadly one of the things I was most excited about was getting broadband internet! In Britain ADSL still didn't exist, and the best you could do was a double ISDN line which would sputter out 256k at best (about 5 times faster than a dial-up modem). France Telecom were offering 500k ADSL for about 60 euros a month, which shockingly I was quite happy to pay for.

Since then, things have moved at an amazing pace! The speeds jumped, from 500k to 1MB, to 2Mb and last year to 20Mb, while the prices dropped and dropped, so now I'm paying 15 euros/month for 40 times the speed of that original line (all a bit fake though really, since I've *never* seen 20Mb/s speeds, but it still is very very fast). Meanwhile back in the UK, ADSL made an appearance, but has still not risen above 2Mb, while the prices are still 60 euros/month!

Around Christmas time, the biggest jump of all happened. VoIP here became a household reality,and not just Skype style internet telephony, but regular landline phone type VoIP - the type that even your slightly confused gran can cope with. Even more significantly they're offering not only free phone calls in France, but free international calls! For expats like me, that's pretty cool, but for a business, this must be a major saving.

Strangely there doesn't seem to be much talk about it, but surely *everyone* will switch over to these services. Certainly for our apartments it should prove popular with the visitors - we'll just have to persuade the owners to switch over (which they probably will, since the line rental is cheaper than FT anyway).

Actually I haven't switched yet though - Neuf have given me such a horrendous run-around when FT accidentally snipped my phone lines (leaving me offline for a month!) that I'm not too keen to find out how much downtime will happen once I do.