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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;

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

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

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

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

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

Misc:
'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.'



May 3, 2006

Book review

A friend recently gave me a book to review, saying that if I reviewed it I'd get to keep it. The book was all about how to make money from websites, and he figured I'd know what I'd be talking about.

To be honest, the subject has interested me, since to keep your website on top of the search engine listings you have to keep abreast of the latest changes, and usually this means reading various blogs and forums. Quite often you come across people who are making a living purely from having a website. This isn't from selling things through websites, but actually the adverts on the pages themselves. I've always been skeptical, and even after reading this book I still am.

Nevertheless, I should at least try and test out what I've read in the book (actually, this isn't a lot, the book is mostly a rehash of the google adsense help pages - which incidentally is the first lesson. You don't need to write new content, there's a whole load out there free to use). So, here's the grand announcement of my cobbled content, advert overladen website;

Paris - Show City Info! A guide for tourists planning a trip to Paris.

A rather clumsy title I admit. The first difficulty was getting a domain name. Everything is taken already! And not by legitimate sites either. I piled through a whole ton of ideas, using thesauruses (thesauri?) and keyword generators trying to get a decent name. When you check out where the URL leads, it invariably was a domain speculator, which really sucked since without them everyone would have really cool URL's... Actually someone swiped tripseurope.eu before we could get it ourselves (admittedly we were a bit lazy, but they took it within hours of the .eu domains being released to general public). Annoying as that was, it kinda means we're good enough to *be* swiped, so there's a compliment in there somewhere.

Anyway. With luck I'll be raking in 10's of dollars every year with my new site. Maybe this will be the start of a whole new career (how many's that now? At least five...). At the moment the site's still under construction, so I've done absolutely no SEO work on it. Googlebots have still somehow found it, but no visitors. It'll be interesting to see if this blog entry will cause any.



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

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!