January 24, 2007

bad bad blogger

I'm the worst blogger in the world - last entry almost 20 days ago...

Bike's still stolen and not replaced yet - this month I've had the pleasure of using a carte orange ticket and taken the metro everywhere. Especially appreciated today as it snowed in an extremely wet kind of way - one of those snow showers where if you don't have a brolly it gives you an ice cream headache without the ice cream (I had a brolly though, but amazing how many people didn't).

Admittedly I feel a bit guilty since my trip to work is all of two metro stops, but I have to get my daily quota of 1.9 trips a day to make it worth the carte orange ticket - surprisingly the carte orange isn't much of a bargain vs the regular carnet of 10 tickets, although it is an awful lot less crinkled up purple pieces of paper in the pocket (and inevitably laundry).

And you still can't complain about the price overall - I was in London over xmas (and again just after new year), and the single ticket for the tube is now £4!!! What's that, 6 euros per trip? Unbelievably outrageous price, although still pale compared to taxi prices over there - I think taxi seats are now classed as real estate in the UK, and a trip across town is seen a short-hold lease....

November 23, 2006


I've just got back from Düsseldorf, where I've been doing various businesslike things. This is about the fifth time I've been there, and it seems to be the only area of Germany that I ever end up in - not by choice particularly, but the work seems to have always lead me there. I really want to go to Berlin since *everyone* is saying how fantastic it is, but that's not happened yet.

One of the big reasons I love going to Düsseldorf is the nightlife and beer. Parisiens seem to want to drag out a glass of wine for the entire night, while Düsseldorfians have perfected the conveyor belt method of keeping a full glass of beer in front of all night! A waiter or waitress constantly patrols the bar with a tray full of 20cl glasses of beer. As soon as you've finished one, they swoop down and quickly replace it with a full one. No wasting time with receipts and additions, as they just make a mark on your beer mat, and at the end of the night count the number of notches to make the bill.


There were a few times when we felt a bit ashamed of the fact that our beer mats were becoming more notches than mat, but it seemed we were in plenty of good company. There were even a few people who were onto the second or third beer mat.

Food is good too, although kinda heavy and meaty though. There is meat *everywhere*, even to the point of the vegetarian dishes still having meat in them;


The picture is a bit blurry, but in the small print under Vegetable soup are the words 'with beef'. Of course, what kind of vegetable soup could respect itself in Germany without beef in it! So, for the entire time there we were fairly stuffed, but no complaints.

Finally, just to be infantile, here's a bar we found called the 'Bastard', which amused me greatly, although as you can see my brother didn't appreciate being photo'd in front of it...


October 31, 2006

Short stories

Wired had an article about very very short stories. Apparently Hemingway felt his best work ever was;

'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.'

Wired asked a bunch of modern writers (including William Shatner?) to have a go, and to write something with six or less words. There were some pretty good ones, and some not so good ones, although Mr Hemingway's was still head & shoulders above them all (ok, as a fan I'm a bit biased). Hmm, on writing that I'd just like to curse a certain shampoo brand...

Anyway, while waiting for my laundry to finish (took quite a while as the machine kept breaking down), I had a go myself. The Wired article was mainly for sci fi, but I thought I'd broaden my topics a little;

'Hate you! Ah, no, love you.'

Sci Fi:
'Time travel, carreful what du chângchinese.gif'

'Damn you Admiral! Hard to starboard...'

Crime thriller:
'A clue? Dashing detective, that's you!'

Hollywood file
'Captured! Run around, big explosion, free!'

'Look out Scooby doo! Meddling kids!'

Seems I'm a bit partial to exclamation marks, and I wonder if using apostrophes is cheating?
Still no Hemingway beaters, although I'll save the last for one from Wired's article, which was Joss Whedon's (Buffy creator);

'Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.'

September 25, 2006

Living the dark ages

Friday afternoon the electricity to my apartment was cut off. Everything stopped, no lights, no hot water, no TV! On calling the electricity company (EDF) we were told that I'd never opened a new account with them for the new apartment. I had actually called them just before I moved and informed them of the new apartment, but they'd decided that all I wanted was the bill for the old place sent to the new address. Perhaps they'd assumed I'd signed up with another electricity company - oh, wait, EDF are a government monopoly, so maybe they assumed I was going to erect my own windfarm or something.

After quickly explaining the mistake, they said they'd send someone round to reconnect me. The quickest they could do was Tuesday afternoon! 4 days without electricity! When we asked if that was the absolute quickest, they said they couldn't tell us, since the people who manned the phones at the weekend didn't have access to the roster of engineers (who only do visits Monday to Friday). We were told to call back Monday at 8am and ask again. This we did, only to be told the engineers left at 7:30 and there was no changing things.

As appalling as all this sounds, it was actually worse - when I say 'we quickly explained', it was nothing of the sort really. It was about 5 phone calls, 3 of which the phone operators hung up on us. Raise your voice even slightly, and they hang up. Redial and start again.

Shockingly this is not an isolated case. Neuf telecom messed up and disconnected my internet - It took me a month to get reconnected with the cost of calls at 35c/minute and a typical 20 minute wait to reach an operator - that month I ran up a phone bill of 200€ purely on support calls and dial connections to the internet. We were once in a post office and they'd lost yet another parcel from the UK, and as we complained to the person behind the till, they just walked away and didn't come back. With a plumbing problem (toilet wouldn't flush), it took daily calls, followed by daily calls *and* faxes to the landlord to get a plumber out - the landlord is an estate agency, so I'm talking about just a lazy slum landlord, but a proper french company. If we had called one ourselves, we would have had to pay. The agency took several weeks just to get a plumber to give a quote, and then another week to fix it. All during this period the toilet was unflushable, if you can imagine that.

September 20, 2006


It seems my blogging pace has reduced to a crawl :-(

Life is still just boulot-vino-dodo (there never was a métro - I could say vélo I suppose), although I've cut out the vino part since it was getting a bit much, so now it's just boulot-dodo, which is a bit too short to be a snappy phrase and is definitely too few things to bounce between and not feel completely dizzy. So, not much variety of life going on, which means not much blogging...

In fact the most exciting thing that's happened is that I've discovered sage tea. How exciting - should increase my party invites tenfold ;-)

It's true though, I was feeling somewhat under the weather and feeling hot and sweaty for no real reason and generally not getting things together properly. I did a little research and found that sage tea was a pretty good for a lot of things, and so popped down to the market by Bastille to pick up some. By the way, as a digression, the market by Bastille is fantastic - Thursday to Sunday (I think), and it covers the huge central area of Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Tons of great stalls, all with wonderfully fresh food.

The day I started drinking the tea, everything got better. Admittedly there were a few other factors, such as stopping the vino and coffee, and the horrendous humid heat cleared (hoorah for heavy handed halliteration!), but I definitely perked up. If it's psychosomatic then I don't care, in fact bring it on (where can I buy some placebo pills, I've heard they're good...). It doesn't taste too bad either, although I've always enjoyed herbal teas, and it's similar to nettle tea which used to be one of my favourites.

Oh, and the other thing was my birthday slipped by quietly. When friends asked how old I was, I thought it was 38, but Alison quickly worked out I was 37 (I don't mention names here much, but Alison insists! Alison Alison Alison Alison - that should do for a few months). She was right of course, and somewhere in the fog of time I'd lost count of my years. This was somewhat depressing since it means that being 37 is now going to drag on another year, and 36 seems a wonderfully young age that was only a few days ago but I never knew it. Like being told you've woken from a coma and it's twenty years later, except it was only a year, and I was awake the whole time, so not much like a coma I guess...

So that's it. Back to boulot, and watch the clock waiting for dodo.

September 12, 2006

I'll eat it if you will

The other day I very nearly ordered steak tartare! I was so close - I looked at the menu and it was suddenly really tempting. Then someone else at the table said 'oh, perhaps I should try the steak tartare', and all of a sudden it was looking like 'I steak tartare, you steak tartare, we all steak tartare!!!'.

Except we didn't. I ordered the pave steak and they went for a pasta dish, and we felt very ordinary indeed. What a missed opportunity. It could take ages for the stars and moon to align again like that, but there you go.

Since I arrived in France, my bravery with food has actually increased a lot. Now steaks have to drip blood to create a nice orangey colour out of the pepper sauce, and one of my regular meals is the andouillete which is a sausage where the most recognisable ingredient is intestine. One of my earliest breakthroughs was the salade de gesier, which is salad with the gizzards of some unfortunate birdie. Usually served with a nice big chunk of fois gras (it only gets better!), it's the best salad ever I reckon, if it wasn't for all the green stuff.

All very daring, although there are still limits. Oysters being one of them - the word snot comes to mind very easily when looking at them (does the word snot exist outside Britain? I do hope so). Which also reminds me how cultivating my palate francais has also meant discarding some foods - brie, which was a big favourite with my parents, has now become merely a good word to explain what snot is to the rest of the world (so now you know).

So, still not tried steak tartare. Not however for the reason it used to be though. My brave new taste buds aren't too worried about the rawness of the meat, but now simply I feel loathed to pay good money for a plate where the recipe is;

Chop meat, serve.

September 11, 2006

Hot cycling day

It's a hot day today! Unfortunately I had to cycle up to the Pantheon area today, which is at the top of a big hill. I say big in a Parisien sense, since compared to back home in Sheffield it's no more than a slight rise. Actually, that's compared to anywhere with hills. My bike has oodles of gears, but has rarely needed more than two or three of the lowest gears (lowest or highest? I mean the gear that takes the most effort to cycle - the least used gear on my bike is like the one on the exercise bike at the gym where you get on it after some g-strung granny and it's on the lowest setting) - so, I look up the definition of 'low gear' and it means ' The low gear configuration of a transmission'. How dumb is that! So the definition of ineffectual dictionary is 'a dictionary that's ineffectual'...

Anyway, the hill was enough to put me in a terrible sweat, and I must have looked like a complete idiot to the people I was checking into one of our apartments. At least the ride back was effortless, with a nice freewheel from the jardin du luxembourg all the way down to the river.

At one point I stopped at a red light. I was squashed between the curb and a giant bus, so my view across the pededstrian crossing was blocked and I figured there would a crowd of tourists about to pour across in front of me, which they did. However, behind me there was a big ringing of bike bells, and this slightly more than middle aged woman calling to me that 'je vais passer, en fait'. I hauled my bike to the curb, and she pushed past, over the toes of various pedestrians (what was the 'en fait' about? Perhaps more of an ultimatum than a request?).

I have to admit that I'm not the most law-abiding when it comes to traffic lights, since it's very hard to stand still in an empty road when every other bicyclist is happily ignoring the lights and shooting through. At the same time I do try, and tell myself at each lights that I don't really need to get to my destination two minutes quicker. Take your time, smell the roses or artificial coffee smell from Starbucks.

The police do stop you if you go through a red, or the wrong way up a one way street, and the punishment can be a traffic ticket leading to a fine, points off your license, or more usually in Paris, a small scrunched up ball of waste paper. Makes no difference though - cyclists in Paris do not obey any known rules of the road.

So what, you might say. It's the same everywhere. True, but I've seen cyclists hammer through crowded crossings with no consideration at all, and it annoys and disapoints me. The car drivers, even though it might seem hectic here, are actually very considerate to pedestrians. Possibly cyclists consider themselves the same as pedestrians, and can follow the same lack of rules. The only consideration is that they've a little bell to help clear a path.

September 1, 2006


Back from hols, or rentrée as they call it here (literally re-entry). The fact that the french have a special name for just shows how synchronised everyone's holidays are here. Start of August, big traffic queues, empty city, then tumbleweeds a-blowing around for a bit, and then whoomph, more traffic queues, well tanned full city.

It's not quite as severe as that, but not far off. Certainly many companies shut down and enforce the August break, even if just for a week. Then everyone gets back, and if the news is anything to go by, everyone has to get down to the shops and kit out their children with several thousand euros worth of pens and rulers. Why they can't use the old ones I've no idea, but considering how the rest of the time France is totally uncommercial, this seems a remarkable coup by Bic or pencilcases-R-Us.

Anyway, I'm back. Actually I was back a week ago, but fell into horrible amounts of work while switching webhost, which meant I couldn't post anything even if I did have something to say (which I didn't, all I could manage was velo-boulot-wino-dodo).

Hopefully sometime soon I'll put my photos of Turkey up on the webpage somewhere - between all of us who went we've over a thousand pics (digital cameras - surely the slideshow bore's wet dream!). Turkey was fantastic, despite all the dire warnings of bombs and terrorists. Admittedly some of the warnings were borne out after we left, but there was little sign of any unrest (ok, we were stopped by the military police at one point, but I think it was because we were speeding just a teensy-weensy bit over the speed limit, um kindof). Before we went we checked out the british embassy site there for details on the visa required, and it was covered with all sorts of scary warnings. Hardly surprising that there were *no* americans there.

Ok, still brain-dead from this work actually. Next posting will have more on Turkey once I've got some photos up...

August 10, 2006

Off on hols

I know I've not been the most concientious of bloggers lately, but it's going to get even quieter!

I'm off on hols to Turkey for the next two weeks. I won't have internet access unless I want to go to cybercafes, which doesn't appeal that much, so there'll be no blogging for the next fortnight.

July 24, 2006

Finding time to breathe

I've been a bit quiet on the blog front lately, hopefully I'll get back on track again soon. I've mainly been busy with work and moving apartment, and posting inconsequential ramblings on the web tends to drop down in your priorities...

The apartment move went well, although was typically exhausting. How come every time I move, it's always in the middle of a heat wave. Today someone complemented me on losing some weight - it looks like total dehydration & exhaustion is a fantastic dieting technique! Moving the stuff out of the apartment didn't go too badly, with the exception of chatting to one of my neighbours who decides now's the time to tell me about his 65m2 one bedroom apartment in the same building for only 600 euros/month!!! Unbelievable - cheaper than the broom closet I'm moving to and three times the size! I can only face moving once a year now though, so I'll have to pass that one up. If you're interested, then go to the laundrette on 38 rue d'Enghien and phone the number that's on the wall there. He says he'll have the flat refurbished by September...

Anyway, so now I'm a resident of the troisième. I have to admit already feeling a bit out of place by being straight, but I should be used to that by now. I seem to be blending in by accident though, as all my cheapy tshirts from H&M seem to have shrunk alarmingly. The next steps are to find the local supermarket and best takeaways etc. There are plenty of takeaways, but finding a decent one might be hard - it's unfortunate truth that there's an inverse correlation between numbers of tourists and food quality :-(

The other downside is I'm also back to going to the laundrette. The washing machine just wouldn't fit in the lift (maximum of three very friendly people can get in the lift), so I gave it away to a friend. The other option was to carry it up five flights of narrow stairs, which was just not an option. At that stage we were all gasping our last - rue st Martin has parking spaces, but you're lucky to catch a car leaving as you arrive, and here we were with a great big van. So, it was hazard lights on, pile everything on the pavement (occasionally having to head off to do a quick circle around the streets when traffic built up behind you), and then lose the van somewhere else. Hopefully nothing disappeared from the pavement, but apparently everyone seemed very interested in my stuff as they walked past. It's a fact of life here (probably like everywhere else) in that leave something out on the street and it'll be gone half an hour later. One man's rubbish is another man's something or other...

Anyway, all over now. Feels strange knowing that I'll almost never step foot in the tenth again (apart from Gare du Nord for Eurostar I guess). Paris has just shrunk to single digit arrondissements for me...

July 17, 2006

I wouldn't survive Borneo

There's a nice box of cold beers in my fridge - almost empty since it's almost a day old now. I was trying to get a beer out from the back of the box, but couldn't get it out through the hole.

After struggling several times I was suddenly reminded of the fact that Borneo hunters trap monkeys by putting food in a box with a hole smaller than the food, and the monkeys get caught because they refuse to let go of the food.


June 17, 2006

Tennis, Tennis and more tennis!

I've just been looking at my webstats (again!: Clearly becoming an OCD...), and saw that someone found my blog through the keywords british embassy in france tennis. For this search I come top apparently, which is bizarre since I've never actually blogged about playing tennis at the embassy, and yet play there regularly! The british embassy has the only grass court in Paris, and allegedly top players occasionally turn up there to brush up before Wimbledon - both of those facts have always surprised me, since in a city of 2 million people, how on earth can there be no grass courts (admittedly no-one has a garden to make one though), and also the quality of the court is hardly Wimbledon standard. It is however beautiful to play on, since the garden setting is absolutely wonderful! You do have to watch where the balls go, since they tend to hide in the borders, and I'm not too sure the ambassador would be too keen to see us slashing away at the flowerbeds in search of lost balls.

That could be all over for us now though - my friend who works there, and who books the court for us (our man in Paris), is having his knees removed in some 'I don't want to hear the details' surgery. His season is well and truly over, which is a real shame (for him much more than us).

However, tennis at the jardin du luxembourg is still going nicely - two hours today and we've two hours tomorrow. At this rate we ought to be super-proficient! Somehow we still pale in comparison to most of the french playing alongside us - it looks like they've taken a lot more lessons than us, since their style is just so flowing and natural...

Anyway, back to the webstat thing - apparently it was a combination of me writing an entry about tennis the other day, and a second post on watching football at the embassy that put me top of the search results.

Other searches that find ME are;
two legged dog
things to do on a rainy day

May 15, 2006

The villainies of Infinite monkeys

TypingMonkey.gifThere's a theory that if an infinite number of monkeys had typewriters, they'd produce the complete works of Shakespeare. That's actually a dumbed down version for us non-french speakers. The original was by a guy called Émile Borel, who said 'a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard will almost surely eventually type every book in France's Bibliothèque nationale de France'. As wikipedia points out, 'almost surely eventually' seems rather non-committal. Such is the nature of the french perhaps ;-)

Anyway, it made me think that if monkeys can do it, surely bloggers can come close too. So, after writing a few bits of code, I left my computer to churn over the weekend and see what it would come up with. Basically it looked for blog entries using words from Macbeth (my favourite Shakespeare play), and tried to reconstruct it.

It did very well, although still one or two words missing (I can't believe it couldn't find villainies, don't no-one speak no proper english no more? So I've used it here, which strictly speaking is one great big cheat!).

You can see the results here on my infinite monkeys page. I also added some niceties like a search for your blog, in the hope that people would put nice links to it on their blogs...

May 11, 2006

Niche Humour

My elevator was recently serviced, which is quite a relief as for the last year there's been a sign saying 'Last service by M. Lagrange'. For an entire year I've been running the risk of hitting a point of stability between the ground and 4th floor, destined to float between the two forever....

Of course, most of you won't have a clue what I'm talking about. It's a physics joke, that only physicists will get. Like this one;

There was a dairy farmer who, in a fit of desperation over the fact that his cows won't give enough milk, consults a theoretical physicist about the problem. The physicist listens to him, asks a few questions, and then says he'll take the assignment. A few weeks later, he calls up the farmer, and says "I've got the answer." They arrange for him to give a presentation of his solution to the milk shortage.

When the day for the presentation arrives, he begins his talk by saying, "First, we assume a spherical cow..."

I've told this to plenty of non-physicists, and most (if not all) just stared at me blankly. When I told it to some physics friends (or synchronously correlated associates as we call them), they all thought it was hilarious!

A friend of mine (a computer spod, rather than a physics nerd) reckoned that there's niche jokes for every career or hobby going, whether it's physics, accounting, or tinpot dictator. Each will have some jokes that only they get, and everyone else will give blank stares to. Well, maybe, perhaps everyone still laughs for the dictator jokes.

For those into tiny details, the lift was serviced by a M. Fils.

May 5, 2006


Just a quickie entry this morning as I'm in danger of letting this blog stagnate.

First a cute picture. Yesterday I was on rue Montorgueil, and there was a big fuss around some fire trucks (my friend Alison's favourite word is 'pompier', no idea why!). They were moving the ladder up and down aimlessly, and there was no smoke or anything dangerous happening.

Last year we saw them doing at the same spot taking children up and down the ladder, just as a community thing, so it could be the same event again.


April 22, 2006

Encore Moi

I can't believe it's been 10 days since my last entry. Well, I can believe it's been 10 days, but I find it hard to believe I've been so negligent of my blog! It seems that entries either pop out of nowhere, or I need to sit down and have a little thing about what I'd like to write about. Lately I haven't got round to sitting down, and certainly not had any sudden inspirations. In fact I still haven't, it's just that I can't stand to leave such a gap.

So, I thought I'd treat everyone to what I look like, if anything just so you all can see how much I look like that beer bellied avatar oop top of this blog. Recently I was asked to write an article for a healthcare trade mag (the British Journal of Healthcare Computing and Information Management - even the acronym (BJHC&IM) is a mouthful!). They've asked for a few piccies to go with the piece, and since the piece is a bit techy it's been hard to think of what to send, but I thought I should send a mug shot at the very least.

So far, attempts have been a bit hit or miss;


although I have been informed that it's not obligatory for mugshots to contain a mug, even if it's coffee...

March 30, 2006

Guerrilla Gardeners

I've just listened to a cool interview on BBC radio 2 (hoorah for internet radio) about guerrilla gardeners who sneak around at night gardening on waste ground and other public areas like roundabouts etc.

There's probably a dodgy side to it (already people are phoning the show saying don't plant trees on roundabouts!), but it sounds great to me!

Here's their website Guerrilla Gardeners.

Apparently they have lots of tactics, including 'seed bombing' where they just chuck a load of seeds out of the car window. I think I've seen something similar in Paris, although it only seems to grow pigeons...

March 18, 2006

Away again

I'm off to the UK for another trade show, this time is sunny Harrogate. Except it won't be sunny of course, it'll be snowy and cold :-(

Anyway, normal service will resume late next week. Thursday maybe.

March 14, 2006

Beer on tap

BBC news is just on a roll today!

'Woman said she thought she was in heaven when she turned on the kitchen tap to find a plentiful supply of beer'

February 22, 2006


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 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


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...

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).


February 2, 2006

A use for cats

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

January 31, 2006

The JCB song

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


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 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!

January 17, 2006

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 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 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 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...

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)...

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).

December 31, 2005


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 ;-)