Thursday, 10 November

Scared the Living F--- Out of Me::

Movies

If you want to see a great thriller/horror flick, go see The Descent. No link, no details (except to disambiguate by saying that it's the film with the women spelunkers).

I don't want you reading any spoilers. Just go see it.

It's been almost two hours, and I'm still shaken. Having seen more than my share of horror flicks, that's really unusual. Great stuff.

11:51 PM Thursday | comments (2)

In France, Construction is Spelled E-x-a-s-p-e-r-a-t-i-o-n::

France
big gap in wall
light from my kitchen, as seen from outside

Just a very quick entry because I have lots to do. But I'm so upset about this, I couldn't not write.

Last night, I came home to a chilly apartment. Turns out the reason is, the workers in the courtyard had punched a hole clear through the wall.

More than just a hole, in fact. If it weren't for some "decorative" slats in my kitchen (ugly as sin, but we won't get into my landlord's taste), I'd have a huge gap leading directly outside. Not to mention the new "ventilation" that I have above my kitchen sink.

hole above my sink
kitchen sink and hole

My landlord pleaded ignorance when I called him this morning, and I guess I believe him. He and his wife take a very hands-off approach to management (i.e. they're happy that I always pay on time, and they don't say much of anything). But, as an apartment owner in the building, he surely received at least one letter updating him - and that's even if he decided that he wouldn't attend the voting session that legally has to be held for work of this scale to be done.

Bien sûr, none of this could have been done during the warmer months. November, with its short days and plummeting temperatures, is much better suited for removing what little insulation my apartment has.

10:28 AM Thursday | comments (0)

Wednesday, 9 November

Lesson Learned::

Life

Two experiences today: one brief, the other extended.

One: Walking to the post office, I overtook a woman, her daughter, and the woman's dog. The dog was a cute little Jack Russell, who despite his diminutive size was keeping pace with the woman. The latter, dressed in furs and high heels, was nonetheless walking at quite a clip. Even I, a fast walker, didn't pass by nearly as fast as I normally would.

In fact, my opportunity only came when the woman stopped. The dog's lead wrapped around the woman's daughter, she scolded her child. This little girl, probably no older than seven (though I'm a bad judge of age) had been struggling for some distance to keep up with her mother. The task was made no easier by her school backpack.

Please, let that never be me, I thought as I passed by. Obviously, this woman has some screwed up priorities. Maybe they were late, I don't know. But somehow I came away with the impression that her daughter was a burden, and why couldn't she be more like my obedient dog, anyway?

Who's in so much of a rush that they they don't keep a child's pace, and yet can stop to scold her? It's so easy to think of the woman as having a typically French attitude, the way they value their dogs. But just as I'm sure not all French people are like her, I'm pretty certain that there are many more like her around the world.

Flash to this evening, our latest pre-Cana course. Tonight's topic was children, and raising them with Catholic beliefs (hardly a surprise, considering this is an official church course). I'm not very religious, but I have really enjoyed this course - tonight's class the most of all.

It's great to have a chance to gather with other to-be-married couples, to get a chance to listen and learn from a pair of experienced couples (21 and 24 years of marriage, or thereabouts). I also really like Father Ephrim, who has some excellent anecdotes.

The short experience is the long explanation, and vice-versa. And I'm pretty confident that I won't be like that woman with her dog and child. As long as I can enjoy a class like tonight's, there's always hope. Maybe I'll even do as well as my parents did with me.

11:47 PM Wednesday | comments (1)

Tuesday, 8 November

Safe and Sound (As Can Be)::

France

I've had a few people express worry about how I'm doing, what with the riots going on. Let me reassure you, I'm just fine. I don't live or work near where they started (and where the riots are at their most intense).

As grave as the riots are, I think that the media has probably made it worse for U.S. viewers. In part, out of not making it clear how Paris is laid out - which is understandable, since their goal isn't to cover who is "safe." In part, because they're playing catch-up. This is a problem that has been simmering for some time, and even then there was apparently little international coverage until late last week.

What I don't like in some of the reports is a certain undertone of smugness. The U.S. is hardly one to present itself as a good example for race relations. I also worry that some of the reports are bringing political baggage besides this smugness. France is often used as a scapegoat for waning international support of U.S. policies, and I'm sure more than a couple of people feel that it's getting a deserved comeuppance for not kowtowing to U.S. pressures. Get real.

... "Safe and Sound (As Can Be)" continues » | 11:23 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Thursday, 3 November

Oh Bathroom, You Ought to Be in Pictures::

Life
scaffolding
scaffolding outside my bathroom window

My apartment's bathroom is rather, er, unique. Cramped to the extreme, the shower is immediately in front of the toilet, which crouches next to the sink. There's only just enough room to sidle between standing in front of the sink to standing in front of the toilet, and then spin around in that place.

Did I mention the deep-brown sink bowl, or the Margaritaville motif on the tiling? No? Well, then you must have heard about the Astroturf on the bathroom floor. Really. I have witnesses.

This room hardly sounds like a candidate for movie stardom, and yet there it is.

... "Oh Bathroom, You Ought to Be in Pictures" continues » | 11:43 AM Thursday | comments (1)

Wednesday, 2 November

Jack and Meg Paint the Town Red::

Music
The White Stripes
The White Stripes (click for more)

Living for the moment, slacking off, procrastinating - whatever you want to call it, I never did get around to writing about the concert that Heather and I saw two and a half weeks ago, Sunday, 16 October.

That concert was the White Stripes, and it was pretty decent. Their stripped-down sound carried well to a live show. Though you could only see Jack and Meg White on stage, it was pretty apparent that there was at least one, maybe two people, off-stage. Despite its being contrived to keep the illusion of only two band members on stage, at least using real off-stage musicians was truer to their keep-it-real sound. I for one definitely prefer that option to the alternative of using prerecorded backing tracks.

I really like how the White Stripes have gone back to certain rock fundamentals: shorter songs (typically around three minutes), clever lyrics and catchy tunes, a willingness to mix sounds (blues and country sounds seep in), a stripped-down approach to recording in an over-engineered world. In all these ways, their concert was a success.

... "Jack and Meg Paint the Town Red" continues » | 6:21 PM Wednesday | comments (0)

Tuesday, 1 November

Boo!::

Life

Yesterday was Halloween - which in France (lacking the history that led to the holiday in the U.S.) is a commercially driven holiday, much like Valentine's Day. But the bonus here is, November first is a holiday (All Saints). Great if you go to a Halloween party, since the next day is guaranteed to be a (recovery) day off.

I ended up not going to any parties this year, but I did see kids of all ages dressed in costumes on my way to see Corpse Bride. There was a small group of very cute kids, the oldest being no more than five or six, going door-to-door on Montorgueil, a market street near my apartment. (Heather is right, French spoken by little kids can be adorable.) As young as they were, they obviously had the same priorities of any American kid, noisily planning how to maximize their butin.

Halloween is my favorite celebration (my favorite holiday being Thanksgiving). Children get to rule the world, if only for a day. And adults get to become someone (or something) else, playing what-if and briefly escaping their normal lives.

America can certainly be considered immature but to me, Halloween represents the best of what Americans can offer the world: youthful playfulness, and the hope (and desire) to be anything you wish. I'm looking forward to being able to share the day with kids of my own.

1:56 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Snygging::

Life
me, Therese, Jenny
me, Therese, Jenny

My friend Jenny came down from Stockholm with her friend Therese for a weekend getaway, sort of an extended girl's night out. It was great to see her and catch up; it's been three years since we last saw each other in person. Also, I found out that both of them are regular readers of my blog - which almost doubles my last readership count. Heh.

Jenny and I worked together at Icon Medialab; Therese is a friend of hers who I met when I went to Stockholm for Midsommar in 2002. Midsommar, being the longest day of the year, is especially interesting when the darkest hour is around three in the morning but doesn't get much darker than twilight.

Wow, three years ago. You can imagine we had a lot to talk about. Jenny and her boyfriend Jon have an extremely cute little boy, Nils, now a year old. No photos of Nils, but I have one of us three at Fajitas, a Tex-Mex place, and another one of Therese and Jenny finishing their Tequila Slammers.

Good times, even before the tequila.

(Snygging - besides being one of the three words I know in Swedish - means "cute." In light of the photo of the three of us and mention of Nils, it's about the closest to a theme as this entry has.)

1:34 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Monday, 31 October

And So It Begins::

France

I returned to my apartment on Friday evening to find an envelope waiting for me, addressed to Heather and myself. Oh, joy! Our first piece of shared junk mail: a brochure from a marriage photographer. Obviously, this is because we registered our wedding with my mayor's office.

Looks like France is just as cutting-edge as the U.S. as far as the use of public records to generate sales leads. Except, the address label was hand-written.

6:20 PM Monday | comments (0)

Friday, 28 October

Röyksopp's Night Out::

Music
Röyksopp
Röyksopp (click for more)

Hit a bit (oh, just a tiny bit) by the shell shock of starting the process to buying an apartment, I didn't write yesterday about our latest concert experience.

Wednesday night, the same day as finding the apartment, Heather and I went to see Röyksopp. They played the Élysée Montmartre, the same place we saw Zero 7 last year.

The show was good, nothing remarkable. I really like Röyksopp's music - at least, the first album (I don't have the second one) - but there's very little an electronica group can do to impress. Well, there's always a big light show, but not everyone is loaded with money. Certainly not these two Norwegian geeks (and I mean that in the kindest way. Also the "geek" part).

I was surprised to find that the female vocals were done live; often, a woman's voice is sampled. This was cool to find out for "Sparks," a song with a somewhat retro-sound to the vocals. I'd always assumed it was a sample from an old record. On the other hand, the singer (Anneli Drecker) was overly camp while she vamped - to the point of being corny. Congrats to her for doing a tour while five months pregnant, that's some stamina.

Also cool to discover was that a lot of the percussion was live. The drum kit was virtual (except for a lone cymbal), but the half of the duo who played the drum pads really went at it with full vigor. I tried hard to capture it in a photo, but wasn't successful.

All in all, a solid show. Röyksopp played almost their full catalog (at least as far as I could tell), including some tracks not on their albums (I knew they were old, a friend said that they're not included on the second album). Better yet, they played all of my favorites - including a couple of great reworked songs (hard to call live versions "remixes"). Not bad for an earnestly geeky duo and their two backups (vocals and guitar).

6:01 PM Friday | comments (2)

Thursday, 27 October

I Heart My Hearth::

Life
apartment
apartment photos (click for more)

It seems like a lot of landmarks and major events this year have taken place on the 14th of a month. I proposed to Heather on 14 August. That marked the anniversary of when we met (and almost exactly six months after our Valentine's Day weekend in Florence). There was 14 October, when I applied for French citizenship.

So you can imagine that it came as sort of a surprise that yesterday should be such a pivotal day.

... "I Heart My Hearth" continues » | 6:56 PM Thursday | comments (1)

Tuesday, 25 October

A Weekend in Nantes::

France
cathédrale
cathédrale Saint Pierre, Nantes (click for more)

This weekend, my bride-to-be surprised me with a trip. (Actually, my being too clever by half - often too much for my own good - I had sort of figured out the destination a while back. But I pushed it to the back of my mind, and so it remained a surprise.)

Heather took me to Nantes, the French town where I was a student so long ago. We'd been talking for a long time about my showing her the place, especially since it essentially marks the start of my French Experience. So it was a thrill to play tour guide for her - and for myself, since Nantes has changed in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways since my student days.

You can see photos of our trip in my new gallery. At the time I write this, though, things are still in flux. I still have to add titles and descriptions (and more). But sooner is better than never, right?

We got there Saturday afternoon, which meant we missed out on "normal" lunch hour - and with it, my being able to eat at my once-favorite crêperie, La Crêperie Jaune. So instead we had our galettes at another of the many crêperies in the old town area. We did have time during our wanderings to have a great cup of hot chocolate at La Maison des Ancêtres (a new addition since my student days).

... "A Weekend in Nantes" continues » | 11:19 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Thursday, 20 October

There's No French Word for "Geek" but There Sure Is One for "Snob"::

Geek

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy certain annual rituals - among them, my pilgrimage to Steve Jobs's Apple Expo keynote. This year marked only the second time since I moved to Paris that I didn't see the keynote. Like the first time, it was because it had been canceled.

For me, Jobs's keynote is the high point of the Expo. With it canceled, I didn't even bother to mingle with the masses of Mac fanatics fans. What, pass up being crushed by the great unwashed (sometimes literally)? I must be crazy!

Sarcasm aside, I did miss going to the Apple Expo this year. Apple has in recent years been distancing itself from trade shows to announce new products, instead preferring to create its own "events."

... "There's No French Word for "Geek" but There Sure Is One for "Snob"" continues » | 7:32 PM Thursday | comments (0)

Neighborhood Watch::

France

So that building down the street from my office - you know, the one I wrote about before - has been undergoing construction for a few months. Abandoned for I don't know how long, then a squat, it's now shaping up to be a very nice-looking building.

The restaurant on the ground floor in the corner was completely gutted (as were the floors above, I would imagine). The new interior is quite nice, lots of wood and stone. It's still the same pizza restaurant as before, but now it looks much nicer. The workers are just getting started on the commercial space next to the restaurant, so that'll be interesting to follow.

The building exterior was cleaned up, French-style: the stone is ground and scrubbed down, pocks and pits are filled in with a similarly colored cement. Best of all, they've removed a very ugly concrete addition (probably a result of some quickie work in the 60's or 70's) on the side of the restaurant. It's now roughly the same texture and color as the rest of the building's stone, the concrete having been stripped away and the underlying stone repaired (within the limits of how much you can repair stone).

The building proper will become logements sociaux, or low-income housing. This is good news, as there were a rash of fires this summer in buildings filled beyond capacity. There was an outcry at the time that the people running Paris were ignoring the needs of the large number of poor (typically immigrants). I'm sure this is a drop in the bucket; but from the looks of this building, Paris certainly isn't ignoring the poor who need housing.

So everyone wins: Low-income families get housing in a pretty nice location; a cheap-looking pizzeria is revamped to the extreme; and a largely vacant building is once again useful, with a very nice-looking exterior. And life in the city moves on...

3:18 PM Thursday | comments (0)

Wednesday, 19 October

One Giant Leap::

France

This morning, I received a return receipt for an envelope full of papers that I sent last Friday. This little, pink slip of paper is a sort of recognition that I finally took the big step.

Last Friday, 14 October 2005, I applied for French nationality.

... "One Giant Leap" continues » | 11:49 PM Wednesday | comments (0)

They're Not All Like That::

France

As much as I rail on French service (hint: each word is a separate link), I do have good experiences. Yes, I'm far from alone: most French people I know also have bad experiences. But yes, it's also entirely possible to have good ones!

We (as in, Matchbox, my company) have to declare VAT (TVA in French) every nineteenth of the month. We declare sales tax that we've collected (there's a flat tax on all goods and services), and get credit for VAT that that we've paid. But that's hardly fun, or good service, you say. And you'd be right. It's just an inevitability - as sure as death and, um, taxes.

But today's filing reminded my of a nice experience that I had early last December. We'd filed our November VAT declaration, as for any other month. Only as it turns out, I'd forgotten to enclose a check for what we owed that month. How I found out was pretty great: I got a call in the late evening (after 7:00 PM) - hardly the time you'd expect a paper-pushing fonctionnaire to be working.

"Monsieur," my caller said, and approximately words to this effect: "You forgot to enclose a check. I wanted to call you so that you had a chance to pay on time. It'd be a shame if you had to pay penalties."

... "They're Not All Like That" continues » | 6:50 PM Wednesday | comments (0)

More Phone Fun::

France

Note to self: Don't buy from The Phone House again (previously: Phone Fun and Phone Fun, Part II). Two weeks waiting for my phone that I ordered online, one week of which was because they misplaced my faxed copy of my ID card and I had to fax it again. Which they required in order to ship my order, despite having happily taken my money the same day that I ordered the phone.

So, let's get that straight: You already took someone's money (mine), but it's ostensibly for their protection (mine) that you require my ID card after the fact? Um, good logic.

Oh, and another note to self: Don't order things on the Internet in France until they join the rest of us in the 21st century. Otherwise, you'll end up spending more time on the phone than if you'd just ordered by phone originally.

Only in France would it be harder to use the Internet than to phone in my order. Oh, that's right: it costs 15 (euro) cents a minute to make phone calls. Gotta milk that for what you can.

At least I finally got my phone last Thursday. It's really, really nice. More on that in some other entry, some other time.

4:26 PM Wednesday | comments (0)

Ommm::

Life

I've long been a fan of Friskis & Svettis, a Swedish aerobics class, since my friend Jenny introduced me to it. Say what you will, but it's fun and gets me off my ass from in front of my computer. My other experiences with gyms in Paris weren't great, with classes and the machines being full of preening men and women who were mostly there to check out and be checked out.

After four years, I've started volunteering; it's a not-for-profit organization, and so all its operations are run by volunteers. The group rents from a private gym, so they need people to run the program itself. I take care of membership fees and checking people's passes on Tuesday nights.

All this to say, it feels comfortably familiar. Years ago, I worked for a chain of software and game stores. It's pretty much the same now: I give people information, sell them something if they want, and chat. It's easy, though sometimes hectic.

Which is why I was very pleasantly surprised when the gym employee who runs the front desk complimented me the other week. "You know," she said. "You are really quite Zen." Wow, that's nice. I certainly don't feel Zen most of the time - she's obviously never seen me at my real job. But it's still nice to hear, since it goes to show the good state of mind that Friskis puts me in.

On the other hand, she also thinks that I look much younger than my real, 35-almost-36 age. So maybe I should take her comments with a grain of salt...

10:42 AM Wednesday | comments (2)

Tuesday, 18 October

I'm Breaking About Half of Them Right Now::

Geek

Jakob Nielsen has posted his latest Alertbox, dedicated to blogs.

In general (i.e. not just this article) Nielson regularly takes himself way too seriously, but I have to admit that he makes one or two good points (numbers five, nine, and ten). Otherwise, he seems to be placing himself as some serious journalism consultant for a medium that has everything to do with informal writing (number seven). Too many of the points lose their weight outside of a corporate environment.

Just what I needed: Creative tips from a guy who has little room for creative uses of a new medium (number four) - or even and old one (number three). Whatever, Jakob. Oh, and about number seven: were that I had a staff who wrote things ready for my imprimatur. Jeesh.

10:28 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Monday, 17 October

Tea Time::

Life

Ever since lugging back a giant container of pre-sweetened iced tea mix, I've rediscovered the joys of iced tea. Now the weather turns colder, and I'm fixing myself hot tea using an electric kettle I brought to the office.

Hot tea is good. Drink lots of hot tea.

This message brought to you by fluctuating temperatures and an oncoming head cold. Additional funding provided by the icky, phlegmy feeling in the back of my throat.

7:00 PM Monday | comments (0)

Sunday, 16 October

The Accent Is on "Cool"::

France

Having lived long enough in a non-English-speaking country, I've had my fair share of comments on my accent. It's really interesting to hear what people have to say, though sometimes a little bruising to my ego.

Often, I've heard French people say that I have overtones of a Quebecois accent - which can be good or bad, since some find it charming in a rustic way and others find that accent to be grating or too backwards (as in country boy). Just this Friday, a real estate agent thought I was Canadian because of the way I said "bonjour."

On my good days, I've been able to convince people that I was a native French speaker and that I was slipping in an occasional slip-up on purpose. On my bad days, I sound every bit the drawling American tourist, fumbling for my vocabulary and speaking with broken grammar. If I'm lucky, I might be able to pass myself off as a non-American tourist. Not that the French dislike American tourists any more or less than others, but I think Parisians are tired of the waves of Americans that visit at certain times of the year (justifiably so, since I count myself among them).

But maybe the coolest experience I had with my accent was in the U.S. While rushing to make a tight flight connection at the Detroit airport, I asked a guy in his early twenties if he had the time. He gave it to me, showing his watch at the same time. Then he added, "I like your accent." This from a very American-looking "hip urban style" kid. I, the consummate geek, was cool to someone from the cool crowd.

Neato.

4:30 PM Sunday | comments (3)

Thursday, 6 October

Brotherly Block-Rockin' Beats::

Music

It's two-fer Thursday! I'm looking back a bit here, so bear with me.

light show
The Chemical Brothers in concert at the Zénith de Paris

Besides giving me an iPod for Christmas, Heather gave me tickets to a concert for my birthday. Not just any concert, but one I'd been gabbing about for some time: The Chemical Brothers. I was good boy.

Mind you, the concert was in February, so this entry is hardly news - but the concert was cool. Being the old people we were, Heather and I sat. But the show didn't have any reserved seating (aside from VIP seats that were pretty crappy, actually), and we ended up with a great view of the stage. Unless we'd been at the front of the standing crowd - crushed by sweaty, bouncing bodies, oh fun! - we couldn't have done better.

What can I say? The music was great, and so was the light show. Heather hadn't heard a lot of their music, but recognized a lot of songs, so the tickets turned out to be a good investment for her too. We had a blast.

love
during the last song, Brother Screen reminded us to get outside more often

But since there isn't much to say, I'll just leave you with the pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Pretty, animated ones. Listen to the sound of my voice. You are getting sleepy. Very sleepy. Feeling like, you could send me all your money. Aside from a nebulous feeling of generosity towards me, you'll remember nothing after I snap my fingers...

*Snap!*

More after the jump...

... "Brotherly Block-Rockin' Beats" continues » | 11:32 PM Thursday | comments (2)

Inching Closer to the Aisle::

Life

A couple of interesting tidbits in Heather's and my progress towards our wedding.

First, last night: Heather and I went to the first of several weekly pre-marriage sessions at her church. It's an opportunity to learn from the experiences of two experienced couples and the advice of the priest (who, don't forget, has surely counseled plenty of married couples).

It was a nice experience, and it'll be interesting to see what the next weeks' sessions will bring. I'm far from being Catholic, but it's important to Heather to go - and it's important to me that we go together. I think we'll get some useful insights out of this; hopefully they'll be helpful down the line as a couple.

Second, today: I went to the doctor for what turned out to be a very fast checkup. He was happy with my lab results from my last visit (doctors have their own private offices here, so anything more involved than blood pressure is done in a lab and sent back to them). That was two years ago, but the results were borderline "great" (especially my cholesterol levels), so he didn't see a need this time. I'm not sure if that's the best response, but I would've requested tests if I'd really felt the need myself.

Anyway, what prompted me to go was that I needed a doctor for my prenuptial medical exam - and the resulting certificate - in order to start the ball rolling at the mayor's office. Everything official in France requires paperwork, so it was great to get my mine signed so easily.

Heather had a bit more to do, since recent bloodwork is considered more important for women (all the fun things that might interfere with a pregnancy). Since my doctor felt my previous tests were enough, I only need to find out my blood type. Which I knew back in junior high biology by an in-class self-test, but have lost in the mists of time. So, it's off to the lab tomorrow and then to the mairie next week.

7:01 PM Thursday | comments (1)

Tuesday, 4 October

Gathering Moss::

France

In this morning's mail I received my latest quittance de loyer, for the month of October. It looked just like all the others before it, except this one was special. This one is number sixty-one.

I've now lived in this apartment for five years. I arrived in Paris in July 2000, but I didn't find a place to live until September. I've been living here ever since.

This marks the longest that I've lived in one place in my life, save for the twelve-plus years with my parents in Rochester. It's a weird feeling, especially since I never planned on staying in this place for so long - certainly not longer than my favorite apartment that I've ever had, which I lived in for three years.

I guess it's fitting that my next place will be with Heather. That, on the other hand, is a situation that I look forward to making permanent.

10:16 PM Tuesday | comments (0)

Monday, 3 October

Disconnect::

Geek

It's pretty amazing how reliant I've come on having an high-speed, always-on Internet connection. All day yesterday, my connection was down.

I've actually stayed later at the office this evening because I'm not sure if I'll have a connection at home. No other communication channel is this essential to me: not my television (which I never watch), not my phone (well, with the exception of my mobile phone when I go out). I can even do without mail delivery for several days.

It seems like data communications have reached the level of a basic utility in my life. Happily - especially for you, dear readers - my shower still runs and my toilet flushes.

(updated Thursday, 6 October 2005)

I guess it's not exciting at all - and borderline pedantic - but I did get back my connection on Tuesday evening. Hence my blog entry for that night. Turns out that my line had been changed over in expectation for my new ADSL 2+ box.

Now why they didn't wait to change over the line until after I'd received the box, I don't know. At least the outage lasted only two days, or else some real withdrawal symptoms may have manifested themselves.

6:52 PM Monday | comments (0)

Saturday, 1 October

Jonesin'::

Movies

I'm beginning to understand what the TV-addicted people, who I normally make fun of, go through. Today is the first day in several weeks that I haven't been able to download a new episode of SciFi channel's Battlestar Galactica, which airs on Friday evenings in the U.S. And I won't be able to again until the series comes back from its mid-season break.

I vividly remember watching the original series as a kid, usually while my dad cooked our Sunday steak dinner on the grill. Years later (and years ago), I watched its single season of episodes in a non-stop marathon, on the fledgling SciFi channel.

I realized during the later viewing just how corny the original series could be. But its basic premise - the last vestiges of mankind, searching for a fabled "Earth" - resonated with me all the same. It still does today. I loved ancient mythology as a kid, and a sci-fi twist - with us humble Earthlings as the distant (spatially and temporally), fabled MacGuffin - is a pretty cool concept.

I was none too sure of this reworked series, having only watched the two-episode miniseries that ended up serving as the series pilot. But I finally got around to watching the first season this summer, and got hooked. I've since regularly watched the second season as it's come out on American TV. Thanks to the Internet, I've been able to keep up just as well as anyone with a VCR in the U.S. I'm definitely buying the DVD set.

So, be supportive of me in your thoughts as I pass through this difficult time. In the meantime, I'll be skimming the Battlestar Wiki for more rumors and trying to avoid reading too many spoilers.

5:29 PM Saturday | comments (0)

Friday, 30 September

London Town::

Life

I apparently have bloggerrhea, so I'll share with you Heather's and my weekend from a couple of weeks ago. (Strike that - I guess it was the weekend of the tenth. Man, time flies.) Heather's friend Billie from Chicago was in London on the first leg of a European trip. So we decided to take a mini break (look at me, speaking perfect English) and visit her and a few friends who live in the city.

artist in window
artist in window at Selfridges; our portrait would be to the left of her face, if you could see it

This is one of the coolest things about having a high-speed train link: Hop the train in one city center, arrive in the other. No muss, no taxis, no airport shuffle. You do have to arrive at least a half an hour before departure, but since the Paris station is three metro stops from my apartment, this isn't a real hassle.

We had a great time visiting my friends Simon and Kristen for an extended lunch. I know them from my brief time at an apartment complex, during the eight months or so before I moved to Paris. He's English, she's Minnesotan, and they were my downstairs neighbors. They moved to London some three years ago, so we're neighbors of sorts once again.

They've apparently been on a museum kick, visiting several on different weekends. We were having such a good time that Heather and I joined them to see the Wallace Collection. Free admission! The English definitely get it.

... "London Town" continues » | 7:44 PM Friday | comments (0)

Thursday, 29 September

Jamiroquai Brings It On::

Music

Besides getting engaged, earning French permanent residency, and planning for my future, I've been doing some more "normal" stuff - for instance, going to concerts.

Jamiroquai onstage
Jamiroquai in concert at the Palais des Omnisports de Bercy

Last Friday, Heather and I went to see Jamiroquai at the Palais des Omnisports de Bercy. Yes, "last Friday" - this is a timely entry, for a change!

I think we each only own one of his albums, and it might even be the same one. But ever since my friend and then-roommate Mark introduced me to the music, I've grooved on Jamiroquai. No? That didn't work? Yeah, I can't pull off being cool or hip. But you can deal with it.

Jay Kay is a little ball of energy; I don't think he stopped jumping around for more than a few seconds at any time. It's amazing to me how someone can pull off a two-hour set like that, and not miss a beat. Yeah, don't talk to me about playback - maybe the band uses it, but I doubt it after seeing several improvs and spontaneous jams.

... "Jamiroquai Brings It On" continues » | 11:07 PM Thursday | comments (0)

Wednesday, 28 September

Une vie à deux::

Life

Heather and I spent this last weekend looking forward - "forward" as in anticipation, ahead, towards what the future holds for us. We've decided that we'll get married in Paris, since France has been such a large part of our lives - not the least in that we met here. We're also working to make it a bit more of a permanent part of our lives, too.

So on Saturday, we crashed a wedding. Well, "crashed" is maybe not the right word for it because it turns out that all French civil ceremonies are open to the public. But we didn't know this when we woke up early and got dressed in our spiffies. We also didn't know that when the security guard asked us if we were there for the 11:30 or 12:00 wedding and we replied, "umm, 11:30?"

After killing a bit of time in the neighborhood, we returned. I approached the nice assistant (to the officiating vice mayor), who personally showed us the salle de mariage before the next ceremony started.

It was a beautiful room, restored to its 18th century state and full of dark wood, velvet, and ornate decorations. The three large hanging paintings made it seem more like a museum room than a public office. After a few minutes, the assistant escorted us to the registration clerk for our paperwork. The clerk was helpful and had a slightly wacky sense of humor, which made the process seem that much less dry and... officious.

... "Une vie à deux" continues » | 10:19 PM Wednesday | comments (1)

Tuesday, 27 September

Not Just Another (French) Face::

France

There. Take a look at them, the pictures below (click to enlarge).

front of carte de résident back of carte de résident

See them? That card, my carte de résident, represents five years, two months, nineteen days, and some change. I'm now officially a permanent resident of France.

I was more than a little worried, since my income has declined year-on-year during the five requisite years of renewing my temporary carte de séjour. My employment and financial circumstances were mostly beyond my control, but I still expected for them to put my application for permanent residency in a bad light. The clucking sounds that the fonctionnaire made while I submitted my latest papers, one month ago, did little to encourage me. In fact, I was flat out pessimistic about my chances after that.

Today's visit started with a ten-minute wait while the clerk, who sells official stamps (a centralized proof of payment), attempted to start her cash register. Not exactly an auspicious start. But we joked while she rang up my purchase, and parted with a smile. Yet another friendly face greeted me at the visa office - the same office as I'd visited in August.

A half an hour's "ten minute wait" later, and the clerk who'd received me summoned me into her cubicle. (This was a good sign. My last visit had me paired with a woman who readily admitted that she really would have preferred coffee and the morning off instead of working on cases like mine.) Immediately after I entered her cubicle, the woman had to excuse herself for others at the front desk. But, she said, not to worry. "Everything is fine."

... "Not Just Another (French) Face" continues » | 10:46 AM Tuesday | comments (0)
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