Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chevron BS

This poster for Chevron is all over the place in San Francisco, and every time I see it it just annoys me. "I will leave the car at home more" - why would Chevron want anyone to keep their car home? That's how they make their money. It's like the meatpacking industry sponsoring vegetarianism.
I am all for corporations trying to do good and improve their image along the way, but there needs to be a minimum of credibility for this to work. And while we all have our responsibility in keeping the environment clean, I don't see Chevron taking much responsibility here. This is as exploitative as it gets. Next time I don't keep my car home, I don't think I'll refill at Chevron.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Boats?

This week-end, L and I drove across the bay to pay an afternoon visit to Sausalito. Why? Well, why not. Once we established that Sausalito had a pet shop, we had to check that out, but not before going through the marina, which hosts some truly weird things, like this Taj Mahal replica, or this mutant floating log cabin.


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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Man on Wire

L and I watched the movie "Man on Wire" this Sunday; great movie, I have rarely seen something as crazy. One of the only cases of someone who can legitimately say that "life should be lived on the edge"...

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tanabata

L and I watched "The edge of heaven" (Auf der anderen Seite) yesterday - and both really liked it. It's more mature that Fatih Akin previous movie, and the permanent back and forth between the two languages was strangely appealing - Turkish being disorienting, German bringing back childhood memories.
After the movie, we stopped for dinner in Japantown, where we found multiple wish-trees. It felt very strange to browse through these anonymous requests - like reading through someone's diary. I found this one, left by a fellow rationalist, particularly endearing:
I wish for universal understanding of logic.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hieroglyphs

I have worked quite intensely in the past few days, which explains why I haven't written anything recently; I didn't have time, and there wasn't much to write about.
It wasn't all work, no play, though. L and I decided to go back at some projects that had been lingering for a while. She worked on her pistachio-and-emerald table, I on my orange frame. That frame belongs to my (vast) collection of pieces of junk from the garbage nice items handpicked from the urban treasure trove; here is its current state.


I had fun working with brushes, which is not a tool I am very used too. What next? I initially wanted to have a second layer of inscriptions, in golden color, to lighten up the whole frame and contrast with the dark red; but I kind of like the hieroglyphs as they are, and wouldn't want to mess them up or hide them too much! So far, I am leaning towards either "accenting" the hieroglyphs with thin-line gold color, or having another inscriptions all around the frame, going over the hieroglyphs, in a style graphically less heavy than hieroglyphs. Thoughts?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lionhead rabbits

A few days ago, for reasons which would take too long to explain, I began drawing some lions. After some warming-up, I got relatively pleased with the head, but was forced to admit that I didn't quite know how the body of a lion worked, and therefore had some issues with that part of the project:


After some Googling, I found out that lions actually don't have such a great body. Representations of lions usually look muscular and flexible, but in reality, they lack the feline grace cats or panthers have.
Anyways, I think my interest in lions got into Google's limitless memory of facts about me, and collapsed with another topic I had some interest into (and won't explain either), rabbits. As a result, while checking my mail on Gmail, I was recommended to check out Buffalo Creek Farms and their lionhead rabbits. I quote:
Lionhead rabbits are the newest breed of bunnies out there, and it has been a long time since we have seen a new breed. Lionhead rabbits first appeared in Belgium in the 1990's. They were a mix of the Swiss Fox and Belgian Dwarf. The breeding created a genetic mutaion that is the mane gene.

Practically, this has to be the most improbable animal I have seen in a while, one of those mystical beasts like the griffon or unicorn, but looking like a clueless rabbit wearing a lion costume.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

We went to see "Bigger, stronger, faster *" with L. last week, and I highly recommend it; it's an excellent documentary, smart, funny, and moving. Rather than talk about it, here is one of my favorite moments: the Schwarzenegger cow.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Special of the day

L and I had brunch at Zazie yesteday morning; the first item listed on the check was somehow unexpected. "SF health care ordinance $2.00". Uh? What is this about?

It seems that the City of San Francisco passed a legislation which requires mid-sized businesses to provide their employees with health care coverage; some restaurants, rather than increasing their prices on the menu, have opted to explicitly charge their patrons with an add-on to the bill.
I actually don't have a problem with this. after all, most restaurant invoices do have a "Tax" section, and I have no idea what it covers, so knowing that my "tax dollars at work" are serving a good cause is somewhat satisfactory. However, I see the point of people who just go to the restaurant to have a decent meal and a good time, and would prefer a plain price increase, to being dragged into a politicized discussion.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Foot

Monday, June 2, 2008

Road trip

Two old friends of mine - let's call them Manu F. and Sylvain B. - came here for a few days.

No visit to the US would be complete without a road trip, so after some visiting of San Francisco, we hit the road last week-end. We had quite an itinerary: Yosemite on day one, crossing Death Valley on day two, finishing in Las Vegas. We saw snow and deers, giant trees, we saved our picnic from the bears, we got heat, we saw bikers, we went up and down - and we got zero cell phone reception in two days, it was absolutely amazing. Now I know two places where reception is worse than my apartment.
The itinerary

Yosemite park (California)

Zabriskie point, Death Valley (Nevada)

Sylvain B., superstar on the road

I was totally fried when we hit Vegas, figuratively and literally; by then I was a nice lobster-red color, courtesy of driving through the Death Valley in a convertible. Even though this was my third trip to Vegas, I have never gambled, and had vaguely decided to finally try out the roulette. It's something I have wanted to do for a long time: I always found it fascinating, for its James-Bond coolness, and its elegance and simplicity as a random number generation device. Anyways, first things first, we start with margaritas on the Strip, and half an hour later, I feel like I have been buried under a ton of bricks, so no roulette this time.
The next day, we split - my two friends driving further east, towards Grand Canyon, while I was driving back home through the central valley, which was quite counter-climactic, after the landscapes of the previous days. Coming back to San Francisco and its cool climate really felt like coming home - the only thing missing was L., who is still in Boston until the end of the week...

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't look any further than your own backyard

That's it, I now belong to the Oz-luminati, and I have seen Oz the Great and Powerful, in my own backyard, Dolores Park. As with most masterpieces, I had some idea of what to expect (L had briefed me quite a bit beforehand so that I would be ready), and I was still surprised. One thing I did not expect was the sudden switch from black-and-white (sepia, actually) to color; it is particularly effective, especially as it happens at a moment when the movie kicks into a scene that looks straight out of a deranged pothead fantasy - Munchkin land.
Munchkins in their natural habitat.

Munchkins sighting in Los Angeles.


Anyways, it was really fun. The open-air showing created a great ambiance; there was quite a crowd, strong whiffs of exotic plants being inhaled, and L and I had a big bag of popcorn and a great time. The movie is quite literally for all audiences: the dog of our grass neighbors really got into the movie, and strongly identified with the adventures of Toto the dog; at the same time, there is quite some exegesis around the movie, and its interpretation as a commentary on the relevance of the Gold Standard and other monetary policy considerations in the US. As a novice freshly initiated, I won't dare to comment on this question, but I definitely recommend this movie to fellow companions who want to gain a better understanding of America!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Foundation books

When I was in high school, our philosophy teacher gave us parts of the Bible as a reading assignment. His opinion was that, regardless of one's opinion about the contents, it was a worthwhile read because of its huge influence on occidental thought and writing. At that point, I had largely parted ways with catholicism, but I actually really enjoyed the experience. I had attended catechism as a kid, but there the book was studied as a source of guidance, and I had largely missed (or forgotten) that it was also the origin of numerous popular expressions.
I had a similar experience much later as I attended a class in graduate school in California. The professor made a reference to a road of yellow bricks, which was absolutely unintelligible to me. Looking around in the classroom, I could observe a divide: while most foreign students looked utterly puzzled, it seemed to make sense for Americans. Later on, it was explained to me that it referred to "The Wizard of Oz" - and I discovered that, while maybe less influential on western thought overall, Oz permeates the American language, with its set of references, covering topics from Kansas to what's to be found over the rainbow.
I haven't had the opportunity yet to watch Oz, but this will finally change, as tomorrow, the movie will be played in open air in Dolores Park. I have great hope this will help me figure out some of the missing keys in understanding America!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

We all scream...

for ice scream! Sunny days are here again, the days when it's so nice to have an ice-cream right after dusk, when the temperature slowly cools off. L and I are just back from Mitchell's - where we found out we were not alone thinking that the evening is a perfect time for an ice-cream!
Besides Mitchell's, another area was packed with people tonight, and that's the Castro, where people were celebrating the California Supreme Court's ruling.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Tres de Mayo

Yesterday was May 3rd, also known as Tres de Mayo. Tres de Mayo is a date of some significance in the history of Spain, and, apparently, of Poland and Lithuania. On the other hand, from a Mexican perspective, Tres de Mayo isn't particularly memorable; what matters is Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates one of the numerous times the French army got smashed, this one taking place in Mexico in 1862...
This year, Cinco de Mayo falls a Monday (tomorrow), which isn't that convenient to party and celebrate, so the Mission Neighborhood decided to celebrate it on Saturday in Dolores Park. It was pretty nice, albeit a bit windy, and I think the discrepancy between Cinco and Tres may have confused some people, because the park wasn't as packed as I expected it too be. Anyways, it was fun, and I got a few nice sunburns.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The mysterious Netflix queue

I have been a (very happy) Netflix subscriber for a while now. For the obvious reasons (I hate going to a movie rental place, finding out they don't have the movie I like, getting another movie and paying late fees), and for less obvious ones - like being regularly surprised at how my queue, which contains only movies I picked, looks so random to me, as if a complete stranger had done the selection.
The principle of Netflix is simple: you select on the web movies you want to see, put them in a queue, and one by one, the movies are mailed to you. Nothing random about that. And yet, when I look at my queue, for quite a few movies I have no clue when and why I put them in there. I guess it has to do with this: I tend to put movies I really want to see ahead of the queue, so obscure movies I added for odd reasons linger at the end of the pile, and spend enough time there that I forget all about them and why they are there. I was reassured to realize that it happens to others as well; L too regularly receives mysterious movies.
Anyways, in the end, I kind of like this harmless form of schizophrenia, where my doppleganger selects movies which I then watch. It's a nice chaotic process, where a deterministic process dissipates information and ends up looking random.
Well, as a result, I watched a great movie yesterday: Onibaba. You should add it to your queue.

(Image from www.shillpages.com)
Do you have this same experience with your Netflix queue?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

To the beach!

The weather was fabulous for three days in a row. I have been complaining about the cold in my place for weeks, but even though it was actually too hot, I am not ready just yet to get unhappy about that. The nicest part of all this was possibly that everyone I see in the streets looks happy and smiling. On Saturday, L. got a stroke of genius, and suggested that we go to the beach, which we did. We got our feet wet, we saw a three-mast ship - life is good!

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Count Orlock in the Castro

Tomorrow evening, the Castro theater has a double-feature not to be missed: two silent movie masterpieces, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at 7pm, and Nosferatu at 9pm, with the Club Foot Orchestra playing live. There is even a third movie earlier that day, Sherlock Holmes Junior, but remembered that "the better is the enemy of the good", so L and I will just go to two movies, and skip Sherlock. Can't wait!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hang'em up!

After a few years of "good and loyal services", my old boxing gloves finally gave up and decided it was time to call it a day. If you look at the picture carefully, you'll see that one of the blue glove has a deflated look - it lost most of its padding through a rip.

I intended to get the same type of gloves as a replacement, but that day the gym had run out, and I had to go for the classic, lace'em up gloves. I must say, I am pretty happy about it. I was worried that putting them on would be a hassle, but it turns out you don't really need to lace them, slipping in is sufficient. On top of that, because there is no velcro, the padding around the wrists is actually much better and offers more protection. And, of course, they have this classic quality and look so much cooler!
Now I have to "break them", because they are still pretty stiff; I started doing just that last Monday, going to the gym for the first time in over 6 weeks - and right now, I don't feel all red, hot and shiny, but rather like my old pair of blue, deflated gloves...

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Monday, February 18, 2008

A trip to the South Bay

I originally wanted to write something about my two recent super American experiences, Super Bowl XLII, and Super Tuesday 2008, but I have been down with a cold, and in the time it took me to get back on my feet and catch up with things, these two events have been talked about to death; so I will keep my thoughts on football and politics to myself for now, and discuss MuShu and shower heads instead.
This Saturday, I was coordinating an educational event organized by Bay.Net in Cupertino. I really don’t go to the South Bay much since I moved to San Francisco, and even though it has only been three years since I left Palo Alto, it feels like an eternity, and this trip was almost nostalgic. Luckily, a friend of mine who lives in Santa Clara let me crash at his place on Friday evening, which spared me a drive at the crack of dawn from San Francisco. L was at Stanford on Friday, so we decided to have dinner at Windy’s, on University avenue in Palo Alto, but found out when arriving there that it had closed, for good. I was surprisingly sad – this is where I had my fist MuShu, and it was the best I had tasted in the Bay Area. As an aside, if you know a great place for MuShu in San Francisco, you will earn lots of gratitude points!
After dinner, I drove to my friend’s place. The South Bay archetypal habitat is a 2-store condo, built in the middle of a parking lot and around a swimming pool; its paper-thin walls make it possible to hear in utmost details the days of your neighbors unfolding, and thus create a great sense of community. Fortunately, my friend lives in a house he shares with 2 other software engineers, another pretty typical combination, but definitely a step up comfort-, and privacy-wise.
So I crash, and Saturday, 7 am, I wake up, in an unfamiliar environment. There is no coffee – a shower is what I need now to start the day right, and get my thoughts together. So I head to the shower, and find the following shower mechanism. Aha – a challenge!

After 5 good minutes, I have made some progress. I quickly figured out how to get the water flowing, by turning the large handle, and I painfully figured out how to adjust the water temperature, by changing the angle between the second handle and the first one. This one was trickier, but the red/blue symbols on the handle provided a hint. Anyways, I finally got hot water, but was now stuck on the last but crucial step: how to get the water to flow to the shower head, instead of the faucet located one foot above ground level?

There is usually some lever to pull or push to do that, so I started to pull and push everything I could, but to no avail. By a lucky turn of events, one of the roommates was already up to go to triathlon practice, so I gave up, swallowed my pride, and asked what the trick was. Here it is:

You seriously have to wonder what perverse mind designed this; it is a very clever design, if your goal is to make sure no one will find out the mechanism. Had I not read The Design of Everyday Things, I may have been a bit depressed that after all this years of costly education, I was still unable to get a shower to work; instead, I felt excited I had found another remarkable specimen of terrible design.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Avec le sourire!

I have a lot of catching up to do, and until I find the time to share with you some of the events that have kept me busy last week, I will try to buy some time by sharing a nice cup of coffee with you:

I am usually not big on the whole "barrista" culture, which is in my mind associated with the whole Starbucks thing; but as L and I went for breakfast this morning, my coffee came decorated with this smiling face which I found pretty nice, so I tip my hat off to the Barrista at "la Boulange de Cole Valley".
As an aside, though, the random shortening of words in French ("Clim'") is a pet peeve of mine, and "Boulange" is one of the worst offenders out there.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

40 days, 40 nights

It's been what? A week or two of rain, and besides bringing out the fungi-like creatures in San Francisco, it's starting to depress the hell out of me. A long time ago, in a former life, I was used to this kind of weather, but California has done it to me: any week which doesn't include basking in the sun feels like an abnormality. Where is global warming when you need it?

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Literary readings

Thanks to my status of happy satellite of the D-list, new circles are revealed to me, and I am introduced to events the existence of which I did not even suspect before. My latest initiation was to the literary reading circuit. When L told me that we were going to a reading featuring Ann Gelder, I was not too sure what to expect. Not having much of a point of reference, I remembered a high-school lecture on "the battle of Hernani", and vaguely imagined authors reading their texts with revolutionary ardor, furiously arguing for the need to radically renew their art form.

Things did not quite turn out that way. The reading was hosted in the Bernal Yoga center; I owe to its policy of "no shoes inside" the knowledge that writers, like us mere humans, go to Mervyn's to renew their stockpile of socks. The Bernal Heights neighborhood provided an unexpectedly rich audio background to the reading - a Safeway cart shuffling in the adjacent street, and what sounded to the untrained ear like a duck being chased by a dog.
To be perfectly honest, it was not my first reading, and it confirmed something I did not expect initially: I do enjoy readings. I like to read in the privacy of my couch, following my own pace and going back to passages I enjoy, so I imagined initially that having to follow someone else's rhythm would be more of an imposition than anything. Quite to the contrary, it turns out that listening to someone else has a very soothing quality, and creates a state of mind which is very different from reading the text itself, simultaneously surrendering to it, and paying more attention to individual words so as no to lose the flow. The cushioned and peaceful atmosphere of the yoga center may have contributed to this, but it made me think that the pleasure I had as a kid when I was told stories must have been similar.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tempest in San Francisco

San Francisco has been hit since Friday by what has been poetically described in the blogosphere as "a big ass storm". Like a few others, L had no power at her place on Twin Peaks on Friday. Comparatively, I haven't seen too much damage in the Mission - just heavy gusts of wind and rain, and the tragic end of my tomato plant, which was broken off its pot. I had nurtured it with great care last year, and was rewarded for my efforts with one single and tiny, yet oh so beautiful tomato, which I remember happily sharing with L. Good bye, tomato plant! You were maybe not the most impressive out there, but you made me really proud, and it was a pleasure taking care of you.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday tree

From what I gather, in the State of California, it is not appropriate to wish other people a Merry Christmas - this may be offensive to non-Christians. Instead, the good Californian will wish you Happy (and politically correct) Holidays. I believe my Californian integration is going well; in the same spirit, I decided it was time to move on and replace the inappropriate and divisive Christmas Tree by a much more all-inclusive Holiday Tree. Or even a Holidays Mutant Giant Cabbage Palm Tree.
Love you all, and wish you in advance a great year 2008!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

One hour, two bananas

A few days ago, leaving a building I used to work at, I checked the parking entrance booth, and was a bit surprised to see that a new face had replaced the usual attendant.
Happy Holidays, everybody!

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bottle case display

Let me tell you a secrte - I collect things of all sorts, big and small, things people most of the time label as "garbage". OK, if you have been at my place, this is probably not really a secret (or you may want to go get an appointment with your ophthalmologist soon).
Anyways, L is by now aware of this taste of mine, and contributes to my ever-growing pile of stuff; she recently brought me a gorgeous Pepsi bottle case, all wood, with a painted logo and some metal reinforcement. Of course, I loved it (how could you not), but had a tough time figuring out what to do with it, until it hit me: it would make a perfect display case, and provide a home for all the useless garbage sentimental memorabilia I also tend to accumulate...

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Local inference

Last week L and I were sitting at a cafe; as I finished my drink, I stood up to leave - and noticed that L was not done yet. I sat back, and as a matter of an apology, said "It is not because I am done, that everyone has to leave".
A little later, she came back to that sentence, pointing that it probably did not convey the meaning I intended. As often, I had liberally transposed a French structure into English, hoping for the best. It usually fails, most of the time because of idiomatic reasons, but in this situation I was fairly surprised: there is no such ambiguity taking place here, and in both languages, the logical relationship expressed by the sentence is identical.
The structure "It is not because [Condition], that [Consequence]" signifies that there is no causal link between the Condition and the Consequence. And yet, the meaning conveyed in each language is very different, because of what should be inferred. In English, it would be interpreted as "As this condition does not cause that consequence, it must be another condition that caused it", emphasizing the existence of another explanation for a phenomenon. This form exists also in French, but is not typical. Generally, it is meant as a challenge: "As this condition does not cause that consequence, a different reason will need to be produced in order for the consequence to be accepted as valid".
So when I tell you that "It is not because the point of this post is intricate, that you should give up reading it", when the Englishman in you may be looking for other reasons to give up (style, maybe?), your French side should remind you that really, one should not give up on something only because it is intricate.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Booo!

Since coming back from Spain, I have been a bit head down in the bucket, caught between catching up with a project at Applied Strategies, getting sick, and preparing for my talk at Code Camp. As a result, no post in a week, shame on me.
So what is new, besides the stuff mentioned above? Yesterday was Halloween in San Francisco, and apparently the city was also hit by a 5.6 earthquake. I definitely noticed the kids and the pumpkins, I am sorry they canceled the yearly party in Castro, and I noticed absolutely nothing like a quake. I am sure it happened, but somehow I never pay attention.
I was going through my pockets, and dug out these, which had been sitting there for a few weeks.


So far, the closest I got from being singled out for a promotion are the credit card offers which keep on piling in my mailbox, even though I went through the steps to get my name off the list. Maybe that is the big change ahead - when banks will finally realize that if I did not bite to the same offer I have received every other day for two years, it's probably not worth wasting paper any more. I am still pretty unclear about the third one, but I am sure it will all become obvious soon when it becomes realized. And finally, I hope that the musical opportunity was not my neighbors' new passion for the bongos at night, but rather the Ravi and Anoushka Shankar concert we are going to tomorrow with L!

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Silicon Valley Code Camp '07

I will be talking this Saturday, October 27, at Silicon Valley Code Camp 2007. Code Camp is
a free conference by and for the developer community. Speakers volunteer their time and everyone attends for free. It's a place to learn, to network and to dig into some code.

I am pretty excited to have that opportunity; I will be talking about Test Driven Development, a subject dear to me. My session will take place on Saturday, 5:15 pm. I am also looking forward checking out the other sessions - the line-up this year is awesome!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back from Spain!

We are just back from two weeks of vacation in Spain; "Due to technical issues", I could not upload any pictures during the trip - I will do so in the coming days, but in the meanwhile, here is the highly condensed trailer:
On a fait la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona...

On a fait the Quixotic Molinos in La Mancha...

On a fait the Tapas bars in Madrid at night...

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Barcelona

After a few hectic days in New York - L decided to write an original piece for the reading that followed the Rona Jaffe Foundation prize, and has been working on it pretty much until the last minute - we arrived in Barcelona, where we spent 3 nights. Busy streets at night, bocadillas in all imaginable sausage flavors, and Gaudi all over, the contrast has hit us pretty strong. The city is all it was supposed to be, and yet, probably because of the tourists crowd, I am not unhappy to leave for Madrid tonight...

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

And your spin... large, or extra-large?

Last week, I made a flight reservation on JetBlue.com; I wanted to be on row 14, to be seated close to L, who already got her ticket. While choosing my seat, I am very pleased to discover that row 14, by virtue of being located between rows 12 and 25, has "Plenty of legroom".



How could I be so naive! For a minute, I thought that "plenty", as in "more than sufficiently, to a considerable degree" (Webster) meant that I would have more space that most passengers to stretch my legs. A quick look at the entire floor plan revealed that "Plenty of legroom" was instead to be opposed to "More legroom", or "Most legroom"; or, in other words, that "plenty of legroom" was the worst section of the airplane. Welcome to marketing, were the world exists in large or extra-large only!

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Self-employed!

That's it - Last Friday was my last day as a full-time employee of Applied Strategies, and technically, I am now beginning my first week of self-employment. It feels very odd, a mixture of excitement and nostalgia.
This Friday, I was invited to "a picnic in the park"; going out for lunch in the park, away from the computer for a little while, has been a ritual of mine, and the whole team had put a twist on it, with a beautiful setup. Except for Ryan and Kristina, everyone was there, and it was a very emotional moment. It has been almost exactly five years since I had started with this company, with lots of memories gathered along the way. Possibly the most touching moment for me was when I saw a familiar silhouette coming under the trees; Sandy had called up L, who joined and finally met everyone.
A page is turned - and a very exciting time is coming ahead, trying to find the right balance between what I love about that job, and my personal life; I am really looking forward seeing what shape this will all take!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back from L.A.

After one week of vacation topped by an in-and-out incursion to Los Angeles, returning to work felt like a crash-landing back to reality. Since our LA stint, L has been a bit sick, and I haven't felt that hot myself. The ambiance at the office has been a been tense; we had a deployment scheduled this week, which is always a bit stressful. No matter how carefully you prepare these, there are always some last minute surprises - and rarely of the pleasant kind. In addition to that, a colleague announced her resignation somewhat unexpectedly, which also dampened the spirits a bit.
Going to the movies sounded like the perfect indication for our condition - a movie not too intellectually demanding, and, if not uplifting, at least with no excessive drama. So we went for The Bourne Ultimatum. I am still unclear as to why the movie received such high praise from the critics; but, within the requirements aforementioned, the movie delivered, and L and I had a very good time. I can't recall another movie where the edit of fight scenes is so fast-paced. Where fight scenes are usually carefully choreograph to highlight the elegance of the movements, Bourne's fight scenes almost make it look like the cameraman is the one taking the beating while trying to shoot. Until there is only one man standing, it is pretty difficult to follow what is going on, but the very fast-pace makes up for the lack of coherence, and is really entertaining. Which, overall, is also an adequate description of the entire movie.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hollywood, baby!

L and I made it to L.A. yesterday. We are staying at the Sunset Tower, where, according to the brochure, Iggy Pop used to "dive from his apartment window into the pool". The ambiance has mellowed down quite a bit since; the staff seemed pretty thrown off when we asked if it was OK to take a swim. Our outlandish request gained us some respect from one of the waiters, who asked us later on in a conspiratorial manner if we were "the two who went in the swimming pool today". I somehow expected it would take more to create a sensation in Hollywood... Just in case there was any doubt, though, the directory of hotel services did confirm we were in Hollywood indeed: where else would that list propose "Wrinkle Relief & Dermal Filters", "Laser Vein Removal", and "30 Minutes Collagen Stimulation and Laser Rejuvenation (FDA Approved)"?

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Embourgeoisement?

I feel very happy and yet slightly embarrassed about my new acquisition: a cigar humidor. Since I quit smoking some two or three years back, I have allowed myself some space for just a little vice, and smoke a cigar here and there. That has worked pretty well for me, except for one issue. I buy a few cigars on duty-free at the airport when I travel out of the country, but because I smoke so little, the cigars tend to dry out. That may sound like a trivial issue, but really, puffing on a dry cigar ruined the pleasure of my quarterly smoke, so I decided to invest in a humidor. I seasoned it, filled it with my cigars, and I really like it; except that with my cigars now in this dignified looking box, I suddenly feel like a capitalist fat cat, feeling I somehow never got when they were stored in the bathroom near the q-tip box...



I can't say I am losing much sleep over this issue, though. In fact, I have been on vacation for nearly a week now, and I can't remember sleeping so much and so well in ages. I haven't done a thing in a week, and this is tremendously enjoyable. I will go back to work on Monday, but before that, L needs to go to L.A. for a project she is working on, so we'll drive there together over the week-end. Nothing like a good low-budget road trip to keep it real!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A page is turning

It's now official: after over 4 years working for Applied Strategies, I decided that it was time for some adjustments. I enjoyed the job tremendously, and for a long time now. For someone who is interested in developing quantitative models like me, it was a dream come true; but first and foremost, it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with a team of smart, dedicated, and trusting people - and I am really proud of what we achieved together.
And yet, over time, I have found it increasingly difficult to balance work and my personal life, and reached the conclusion that I needed to re-establish some independence, so that I could dedicate more time to other aspects of life which matter to me. This was a very difficult decision to reach, for a variety of reasons - but I will be resigning for my position on September 15. What exactly will happen afterwards is still open; both I and Applied Strategies want to keep working together, but the exact modalities of the partnership are still under discussion. The one part I am certain of, though, is that this will begin with a healthy dose of vacations!

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