Friday, October 12, 2007

Keyboard configuration

Ok, so at work, I use an office computer, which means this is the keyboard I use:

This is weird. I am a really fast typer. But only because my fingers know where the keys are (obviously). But this keyboard switches W and Z, Q and A, and the whole punctuation thing is weird, and M is where semicolon would be. I'm starting to get faster with it, but I have to actively think about my typing, which is not something I'm used to.

After work, I met with another conversation exchanger named Sridar, and we walked along the Champs Elysees since we both work near there. This reminds me that I took a picture there earlier when we went to go see Ratatouille.

It's a line. To enter the Louis Vuitton store. Are you kidding?

Anyway, after we had a coffee, I left to go meet Hannah and Corrinne to watch the Bourne Identity, which I'd never seen before. Hannah lives in a really interesting part of the city that's incredibly ethnically diverse (and I think not that far from Belleville), and her host is way into all things Indian. She has spices imported from India, a shrine in her bedroom, and a photo of some old Indian guy all over the place. It's very strange. Her kitchen smells like Asia. In reality, she is an American Jew from California.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Nothing interesting happened today, but on Tuesday, I met up with Pascal, one of the conversation exchangers I contacted online. Things got interesting the second I arrived - two Chinese women asked me to help them wire transfer some funds to their dad. I was already a little late, but my dad was very clear about this: When Chinese immigrants need help, I have to help them. Fair enough.

So I told Pascal what was going on and we all went to the bank and I helped them fill out the form to transfer - get this - seven thousand euros - to their dad. Crazy. They offered me 20 euros for helping them, but I didn't take it, because that wouldn't really be in the spirit of helping people. Actually, now that I think about it, the 10 euro bills they offered me were green, which is odd, since I think they're red. But the teller took them, so I don't know what the deal is there.

After that, Pascal and I walked around Belleville, which is a smaller Chinatown (the main one is in the 13th arrondissement). One perk to walking around with a local as opposed to just wandering around by yourself is getting stuff pointed out to you that you otherwise wouldn't know. So for example, Pascal noted that these two women who were just standing around outside a store were actually prostitutes. I never would have realized that. Once he said it though, it suddenly made sense, even though nothing they were doing was particularly lewd and they were dressed rather normally. But you could tell, once it had been pointed out. We went into a couple different shops which were selling spices from all over - different Asian countries as well as North Africa.

Pascal also explained to me that Belleville used to be the druggie area, and people thought it quite dangerous, but now it's been cleaned up a bit and is the hip, cheap place where artists live, so I guess it's not far off from what the East Village in Manhattan is. Like the prostitutes, he pointed out to me a bunch of guys who were most likely selling weed, again, something I never would've noticed. The housing here, as he explained to me, was a mix of rich people and socialized housing. I guess the closest thing we have to socialized housing in the states is projects, but it's not really the same.

It's not all sex and drugs though. There was this nice park that we walked through, and there were normal families there.

We ate at a fast food place which reminded me of whatever that Panda chain is in American malls, except it was just on the street. It was pretty good, and they sold roast duck and sweet pork chops (cha shao), so it was legit.

When we left, there was a protest going on on behalf of the sans papiers, or "without papers" (i.e. illegal immigrants). The picture's a bit out of focus, but I think you get the idea.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Holy crap (actually)

In high school, I thought it would be funny to get ordained online. Oh, how much this has paid off. A couple days ago, I received this email.

You are probably aware of recent events in Pennsylvania that may have or will affect your ministry. Earlier in September, a Judge Marcia Musti Cook of York County annulled a marriage solemnized by one of our fellow ULC ministers on the basis that his ordination was invalid because he had no church or congregation. Association solicitor David C. Cleaver has emailed court clerks throughout Pennsylvania telling them not to file a marriage license if the officiant has been ordained over the Internet.

The greatest threat lies in PA House Bill 1099. Its sponsors seek to invalidate all online ordinations in the state of Pennsylvania. We urgently need your help to kill this bill. Below are the e-mail addresses for some of its sponsors. The other sponsors’ emails were not readily available but they may be contacted at the following link:

We urge you to contact them and register your opposition to the bill. Additionally, a letter to your Representive would be extremely helpful.

HB 1099 Sponsors:,,,
Saylor, Hennessey, Kenney, Belfanti, Gillespie, Gingrich, Grell, Hershey,
Kauffman, M. Deller, R. Miller, Murt, Scavello, Schroder, True,

For your convience here is a sample letter. You may copy and paste the text into the body of your message to your Representive.

Dear [ ],
My name is [ ] and I am a resident of Pennsylvania. I am writing to strongly urge you to oppose House Bill 1099, and amendment to Title 23 (Domestic Relations)of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. If passed, the Bill will strip me and all other online-ordained ministers of our Constitutional right to solemnize marriages. I am sure I need not remind you, but the First Amendment states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
Please do the right thing and kill this bill.

[ ]
The ACLU needs to hear from you if you have been denied or have any information on anyone who has been denied the right to perform a marriage in Pennsylvania.

Please contact the ACLU at

In the past there have been similar problems in other states such as New York, Utah, and Nevada but through legal action or threat of lawsuit, we have been able to preserve the rights of our ministers. We plan to do the same for Pennsylvania. If you would like to make a financial contribution to help defray legal expenses, Please visit our website As we must cage the beast of bureaucracy and fight those who would abridge the First amendment to deny us our God-given rights.


Universal Life Church
1415 Broadway Ave Ste 67
Seattle, WA 98122
Fax: (206) 285-7888Web:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Le Week-end

First, if you're wondering, I didn't make that up, that is actually "the weekend" in French.

On Friday, I went back to La Tour Maubourg with Hannah, Mary, fellow intern Sabine, and her brother. I had a salad with crab meat and shrimp and citrus fruits. It was quite good.

Hannah and I then watched "L'Age des Ténèbres," which is a film in French from Quebec. I didn't get it, but I was moved. Kind of like Kandinsky. (See? My meager art history knowledge allows me to make poor comparisons to world-renowned artists.)

Saturday night, as I mentioned before, was la nuit blanche, and it really kind of felt like all of Paris was out and about. Our first adventure was a sad attempt to use the velib service, which is the bike facet of Paris' public transportation. There are hundreds of "velib" stations where you can pick up and drop off bikes. It's actually really cheap - 1€ for 1 day, 5€ for 7 days, and 30€ for 1 year.

Of course, I haven't ridden a bike in something like 2 years, so I'm very surprised I didn't kill anyone, damage any property, or get killed myself. I was like Jim Halpert leaving the Stamford office of Dunder-Mifflin after the late-night sales party featuring a bottle of Jagermeister. Possibly worse. Candide's life was endangered.

Anyway, we realized the bikes were, in a practical sense, completely illogical, so we got rid of those right quick. Afterwards, we progressed to the Tuileries. I have no idea what this place looks like during the day, but on la nuit blanche, they had something that would never happen in the States - open fire in a public area. See?
This big chandelier thing was suspended by a crane well over our heads. It's on fire.
There were manually operated bursts of fire every now and then.

This was essentially a ring of fire around a pond with a fountain.
After satisfying my pyromania, we went to this exhibition by the Louvre. They had three big TV screens set about 10 or 20 feet apart from each other; they would've been widescreen, but vertically so. (Tall-screen?) Each screen (they were not synchronized) was displaying some weird pattern of light; they'd go from emanating a very bright red-orange-blendy color to just a white stripe down the middle (like light escaping from a lit elevator into an otherwise dark room) to checkerboard static to various other arrangements. The music being played was very... wavy-feeling. I'm not sure how else to describe it; there was sort of a throbbing quality to it, but not like techno-throbbing, more like dull ache throbbing. I know - it's like the music people would put over a scene of dolphins swimming in an ocean documentary. (Anyone? Anyone? No?) People from the public could line up to participate, and they would just go in front of a screen and do whatever. We did this, disco-style. Unfortunately, pointing your finger at your hip and then the sky gets old after about 1.7 seconds. Then we awkwardly stared at the screen (which was surprisingly bright) for about 20 seconds. Hannah tried to take some pictures, but it was not easy since we kept moving around and it was really dark.

Actually, in this picture you can't see us at all, but it provides the best general impression of what was going on.
Then, due to pure serendipity, this car passed us as we were walking:

Do you see this?! It's a giant duck! On a car! Aah!
We stopped for a crêpe (which rhymes with strep in strepthroat, not with crape in scrape) and then went to la Madeleine, which is a great big church that I took a picture of on the bus tour during orientation, but this night, they had this weird (but cool) exhibition. People were seated above the crowd by these poles, and each person had a tube with lighting down the side. Anyone in the crowd who was interested in participating would raise their hand up. The seated person would hold one end of the tube and sort of wave it very slowly above the crowd until they dropped the other end to a specific individual. Then they would say something through the tube while the crowd member listened intently through the other end. It was otherwise completely dark, so you'd see a bunch of these blue lines, the way you'd imagine a laser security system in a high art museum.

After this, we went to le théâtre du Chatelet, where they were showing music videos done by the mind behind "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." He has a very particular way of using the camera that involves a lot of repetition (and thus, mirrors and kaleidoscope-y effects) and a way of moving the camera that for some reason reminds of a video game introducing a new "world." I didn't take any pictures of the video, but the ceiling was pretty cool, although it didn't come out that well on film (or rather, SD card).

Lastly, we got a snack at a stand on the street. I got a waffle covered in melted chocolate. It was freaking amazing.

Also, we saw this sign:

It's kind of dark, but it says "Eat and Drink Non Stop."

La nuit blanche was great, but I would not want to be part of the cleanup crew.
That's just one trash can. In the background, you can see another one that's just as full.

Then we went to the metro station since regular service would be back up soon and went home.
Sunday I mostly stayed home and did some work, but in the evening I met up with one of the people I contacted for conversation exchange on Franglo or one of the other resources I mentioned before (I can't remember which). I learned a lot of vocab, especially more casual, everyday language, so I would highly recommend doing something like this.