Friday, September 26, 2008


It's been a busy few days in Denmark. Lolly and I flew into Copenhagen on Thursday although, sadly, her luggage didn't. We rented a car, drove a few hours to Haderslev, and met up with Trinh and Kate for dinner. Then this morning ... they got married by a very pleasant Danish judge with spiky hair and a spray-on tan. Actually, everyone in Denmark seems to be friendly and fluent in English. That plus the general tidiness makes Denmark quite a contrast with Paris.

Downtown Haderslev ...

Egeskov Castle ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008


You might think that two transplanted Californians who wake up one morning with no cars would be facing some serious withdrawal symptoms. But it hasn't really been a big deal for us. We've been without a car since we moved to Paris 11 weeks ago. The Métro is one reason for that ... lots of walking too. Another reason is Vélib. That's a public bike system in Paris. There are stations all around the city and you can rent a bike for a few euros a day. We took a major bike tour around Paris this afternoon and I have the photos to prove it ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Failure to Commun'cate

With another U.S. general election season in full swing, I'm struck again by how profoundly our communication channels can break down in this setting. You can look at elections along several dimensions; we each choose our preferred dimensions before we select candidates. By "dimensions" I mean scales on which we assess candidates like:
  • Democrat - Republican
  • Conservative - Liberal
  • Global - Local
  • Faith based - Secular
  • Ideological - Pragmatic
  • Honest - Dishonest
  • Detailed - Conceptual
  • Symbolic - Specific
I'm sure there are many others. I've seen otherwise friendly relationships turn tense because of a clash in dimensions. And that's even before declaring a candidate selection. For example, I don't value the "Democrat - Republican" or the "Conservative - Liberal" dimensions. So I tend to ignore them when I assess a candidate. Then if I express my assessments to someone who prioritizes those two dimensions, he or she tends to map those assessments onto his or her own dimensions. That, of course, leads him or her to defend in terms of those dimensions; I try to explain that that's not at all what I meant; tensions rise; etc etc etc.

I'm sure this whole clash of dimensions happens in others settings too. But it seems more raw in this setting.

France vs the French?

As I've interacted with friends, family, and colleagues both before and after our move to France, there is a particular sentiment that I often hear. It goes something like this:
Oh, I love France! I just don't like the French.
The longer I'm here the more puzzling I find that view. On the surface, it's illogical - France is the French. Everything about this culture is just a manifestation of the French people. France isn't Epcot Center - if you love France you love the French!

But I think underneath that view you find the stereotypical biases against the French - rudeness, aloofness, etc. But I'm here to tell you, based on my 11 weeks of living here, that the stereotypical anglo view of the French is just a strawman. There is definitely a unique culture and deep pride and a strong value on independence. But the negative stereotypical traits are no more prevalent here than in any developed country.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two Things That Are Making Craig Bob Nervous ...

  1. Apple. The new version of iTunes contains functionality called "genius." As far as I can tell, it does two things. First, it tries to sell you music based on tastes demonstrated in your existing iTunes library. That's cool - I respect a good capitalistic sales technique ... bully for Apple. The second one is the one that makes me nervous. It creates playlists from your existing library. Basically, you select a song you own, hit the genius button, and voila: it poops out a playlist of songs it thinks will go well with the selected song. It's scary good. Obviously, Apple has implanted that bug from the Wrath of Khan in my brain and knows my tastes better than I do. Time for a cat scan.
  2. Before going any further on the second one, let me just clarify that I have zero allegiance to any political party. I just don't care about the republican, democrat, green, communist, etc etc etc brands. But the system is making me nervous because it creates sub-optimal choices. Both Obama and Palin are intelligent, energetic, appealing people - but neither one is qualified for the job they're standing for. McCain and Biden are qualified but McCain has had to become something less than he was and could be in order to win. Blah.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today was a first - Holly, Lolly, and I rented a car in Paris and drove down to Burgundy for some photog action and wine tasting. We stopped in Sens and Beaune. The various regions (pays) of France like Burgundy, Normandy, Brittany, etc used to be independent. There were various wars throughout the centuries and some were claimed by other countries. Austria, German, England, and France horse-traded them after their various wars. Burgundy was the Duchy of Burgundy way back in the day. These first photos are from Sens.

Along the Yonne River

The Cathedral of St. Étienne ...

In and around the Town Square

Driving out of Sens, we tried 4-wheeling in a Toyota Yaris to get some photos of this field of dead sunflowers. We also drove up to that grove of trees in the background.

These photos are in and around Beaune. A chateau whose name I forget ...

We did a wine tasting at the Marché aux Vins in Beaune. Very cool -- they set up about 15 wines in the cave ...

The only weird part was that, instead of a glass, you get this metal dish like situation for tasting ...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Birthday Surprise!

Today is Lolly's first French birthday. Holly successfully pulled off a huge surprise by arriving this morning and celebrating it in-person on the balcony.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


!!Understatement Warning!!

Classic beauty abounds in Paris.

There, I said it. The architecture, the art, the parks, the food, etc, etc, etc. So of course, there has to be an opposition or reaction ... a ying for that yang, no? I'm not talking about ugliness as a response to beauty. I'm talking about alternative beauty as a reaction to classic beauty. The leading voice in that chorus is the Centre Pompidou. We went yesterday with Aaron and Taraji who are staying with us ...

An architectural installation from Dominique Perrault ...

The evil nanny state sends another four poor souls to hell ...

Taraji entertains the locals with a Jerry Lewis homage ...

Aaron embeds himself in a mixed medium work ...

Alternative beauty ...

I really liked this one ...

Philippe Starck ...

Budda's entrails consumed by vultures?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reminders Everywhere

Last week we picked up our Residence Permits - they authorize us to live in France beyond the temporary 90-day period and to have jobs here. We went inside the Préfecture de la Police to pick them up. It's right next to Notre Dame. I snapped a few shots while we were inside. This one is a monument to the civil servants (fonctionnaires) who died for French liberation in the 40's.

Various subgroups of the police leave flowers on the monument. This one is from the gay and lesbian police association:

This is a separate monument dedicated to fonctionnaires who participated in the resistance.

There are a lot of reminders like this spread around Paris. The pain, suffering, and humiliation of WW2 is, as you would expect, very important to French culture. And the glory of the resistance is in a special category - maybe along with De Gaulle. I'm sure that's at least partially because the resistance and the Free French Army offset some of the shame of surrender. The WW2 French experience is a very solemn topic. I find myself being more aware of it than before - even with the many, many books I read about it over the years - but I talk about it less and less. From a distance in the U.S., it was easier to joke about the whole French / German thing and invasions and so forth. But now that seems like the equivalent of joking about 9/11.

There is a school of thought that says the French lost WW2 at the WW1 Battle of Verdun 30 years earlier. Everything you've heard about the hellishness of WW1 happened at Verdun. And French leadership was seen as callously throwing away thousands upon thousands of young French lives on pointless counterattacks and defense of valueless terrain. Leaders were accused of breaking the army through their flawed strategy. Its spirit (not to mention numbers and resources) still hadn't recovered when the next war rolled around. And Pétain refused to reenact anything like Verdun again in the 40's so he lead the capitulation.

Yeah - I know that was a pretty random post.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I paid my first visit to Hungary yesterday and today. I realize that it's only been a few months since we moved to Europe - but this stuff still fascinates me. To think about the very recent history of these very old places ... what happened to them during the two world wars, during communism, and today.

In Budapest, I stayed at the New York Palace hotel. It opened in 1894 and suffered various tragedies throughout the 20th century as broader European tragedies unfolded around it. It served as "the world's most beautiful warehouse" during the Nazi occupation. An Italian hotel company bought it and completely restored it during the 2000's - they did an amazing job as you can see below.

And on another historical note, during the last few weeks the Hungarian government apologized to the Czech Republic for their role in crushing the Prague Spring. Hungarian soldiers marched into Prague 40 years ago alongside Russian troops. An interesting juxtaposition with more recent events nearby.

The interior atrium with a Hungarian business group meeting over wine ...

Exterior shots ...

Fauns lining the exterior at street level ...

This morning in the atrium ...