Megnut

Something you loved in Paris

It's hard to believe one quarter of my time here in Paris has passed already. I don't feel like I've even begun to do all the things I want, never mind the things I don't know I should be doing! Before it's too late, I'd like to hear some recommendations for interesting things you've done or experienced in Paris (or France, for that matter, if I could find the same wine in Paris, etc.).

Is there a little restaurant you loved? An amazing unpasteurised milk cheese you tasted once? A small store that sold lovely little things? Something you just don't think I should miss while I'm here? Comments are open, share what you will. Thanks!

The amazing world of my French class

On the very first day of French class, Madame spent the good part of our first hour together having everyone state their name, where they were from, what they did, and what hobbies and/or activites they enjoyed. I was surprised (and relieved) to discover that I was the only American. And in fact, one of only two North Americans! I tried to jot down as best I could everyone's name and hometown. Roughly here's the summary by country:

America (1) me!
Brazil (3)
China (5)
Columbia (1)
Japan (3)
Korea (1)
México (1)
Poland (1)
Russia (2)
Spain (1)

And what's even more interesting are the cities the group represents; the list reads like a "Great Cities of the World." Beijing, Moscow, México City, São Paolo, Shanghai, Tokyo...And of course, we're all in Paris learning French. It's pretty amazing.

Also what's even more amazing is our teacher, who seems to be able to speak nearly all the languages of her students. Sometimes she'll translate something to English or Spanish (which today tripped up one of the Chinese students, who started to ask about a word and the teacher said, "No, that's Spanish!"), when she isn't using French to define things. But she also cracked some joke in Chinese that got the Chinese students chuckling. And yesterday she surprised us all when she went to the board and started writing in Russian! Madame le professeur est incroyable!

Learn French too

Just because you're not here in Paris with me doesn't mean you can't join along from home. You too can learn all the French you need to know from About.com's Learn French - Lessons and Classes. C'est super!

Unintended consequences

You're full after a lovely La Terrine de Courgettes au Coulis de Tomates Fraîches and a daunting but delicious Le Lapin en Cocotte when the waiter asks if you'd like dessert. Because you're spacing out a bit, and because he's lifting your empty plate, you assume he's asking if you're all finished. So you say, "Oui." Next thing you know you're ordering the tarte Tatin rather than extricate yourself from this unforeseen predicament. Good thing for the dessert compartment in the stomach. Perhaps French lessons are required after all.

I finally acknowledge my limits

When I decided to run the Paris Marathon last fall, I did so for two main reasons: I was all hopped up on the running junk after the NYC Marathon and wanted to try another and wanted to try and go faster, and I wanted an excuse to go to Paris.

As the fall turned into winter though, I found I was less psyched for running. I turned my attention to skiing and, whether from exhaustion or lack of training, or over-training, or who knows, I found that whenever I did run, I had a bad run. I never felt good, either during the jog or after. I know for many people that's always the case, but for me running is usually something that makes me feel better; it gives me a real boost.

The more this happened, the more I dreaded my runs. The more I dreaded, the less I ran, until the cycle fed upon itself, culminating in a very difficult and long Brooklyn Half-Marathon last month. I told myself it was because I was tired (true) and that once I got some rest, I'd have great runs again (false). That hasn't been the case, and though I thought I'd "turn around" here in Paris, I haven't. I dreaded running from the moment I got here, and I was seriously beginning to dread 26.2 miles of Paris Marathon on April 10th.

So I decided a couple days ago that I wouldn't run the marathon. And just like that, the anxiety lifted. I'm not a good quitter, and it was *really* hard for me to allow myself to make this decision. In fact I can't recall a time where I've ever done something like this before. I'm pretty confident I could have finished the marathon, because I'm obstinate and can push through all kinds of nearly-incapacitating physical pain (thanks Tufts Crew!) but it seemed rather perverse to do something when clearly my body repeatedly was telling me not to.

More importantly, I want to love running. It's something that -- not to sound too overly dramatic but it's true -- has really sustained me during some very difficult dark periods of my life. And I didn't want to lose that.

So I'm back to running for fun, and I'm looking forward to some spring and summer fun races, where I hope to get the good feelings back and find the love again. I'll still be out there on Sunday, but I'll be cheering instead of perspiring. I'll be offering encouragement because I know what it's like to put in all the training and see it pay off on the big day, and the feeling that gives you. I've run 26.2 miles before, and I'll do it again. But I just won't do it this Sunday. And that's OK.

Rehashing the same stale file sharing argument

Over on Dangerousmeta I saw a link to this Op-Ed by Daniel Henninger from the Wall Street Journal,Can Justice Scalia Solve the Riddles Of the Internet? Without profit even the digital world will break down. Having recently read the excellent profile of Justice Scalia in The New Yorker (which frustratingly doesn't appear to be online), I was curious to read the article. I was disappointed to discover it rehashed the same old fallacious arguments about people "stealing" music online, and worse, that it got mired in questions of morals.

One would expect the article, beginning with its subtitle, "Without profit even the digital world will break down," to espouse a pro free-market stance (it is the Wall Street Journal, after all), but one only has to read half of the piece before Mr. Henninger begins to crow for old business models to be locked in place by the government if "the people" (Pirates, I'm looking in your direction...) won't follow the old rules:

[T]here will always be another wave of digitized aliens hacking through the copyright walls. There has to be a better way.

There is. It's called right and wrong.

It may seem quaintly old school to suggest that people should stop downloading culture without paying simply because it's the right thing to do. But that may be the best option available.

For starters, if "the people" don't solve this problem themselves, Congress will, and you won't like the solution--unless you enjoy the tax code.

Why it's up to "the people" to solve a problem that's surely not theirs I don't know. Worse, the presumably pro free market writer Mr. Henninger, (who is the deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page) threatens/encourages/suggests government intervention rather than identify the real source of the problem: the media companies themselves. Instead he hints that downloaders may just well be a bunch of Commie freeloaders!

I would push this even further; it requires a moral or at least philosophical commitment to the legitimacy of profit. Absent that, there's no hope.

If only Mr. Henninger, the RIAA, and those enamored of their old business models predicated on tangible media would stop litigating for the past, they would see there's a whole lot of hope out there.

According to this Pew Internet & American Life Project March 2005 Data Memo (warning: pdf):

Current file downloaders are now more likely to say they use online music services like iTunes than they are to report using p2p services. The percentage of music downloaders who have tried paid services has grown from 24% in 2004 to 43% in our most recent survey.

There are two things happening with online file sharing:

1. It's the market's way of saying not that it doesn't see profit, per se, as legitimate but that the prices charged, for example, by BMG for Shakira's CD don't reflect its perceived value.

2. People are willing to pay when there's a means available for them to do so that embraces what's great about the digitization of media (easy access, portability, recommendations/sharing with friends and family, etc.).

Just because large companies chose to ignore this technology rather than embrace it doesn't mean the market should as well. The market is actually working as it should, and consumer demand is driving the development of stores like iTunes. The people/market aren't wrong, it's the companies who'd rather litigate instead of catching up, or leading.

What if big media companies -- instead of pouring millions into lawsuits like Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer v. Grokster -- invested money to:

1. Digitize all the content in their catalogs, and offer it for sale through iTunes or some other online music store of choice. During the 2003 Eldred v. Ashcroft case, the Supreme Court found that 98 percent of all copyrighted works are not commercially available. Digitize all that, and suddenly there's a whole lot more to sell.

2. Continue to explore and expand ancillary revenue streams from all the album extras like concerts and merchandise. I seem to recall from a New Yorker article that this is where a lot of the money comes from anyway, and a large amount isn't from CD sales.

3. Embrace the web -- not just to create a distribution mechanism for the digital bits, but also for the fans. Create lively sites for each artist, populate them with real consistent content, create conversation space for aficionados (what fans have already done with sites like green plastic radiohead, a fan site for the band Radiohead) and build the traffic. Make money off of the ad revenue.

How hard is it to adapt and evolve one's business model to the changing time? I think that's what irks me the most about all this -- taking it to the courts to ensure that because something once was, it should (be legislated to) always be. All this "copyright" is just code for "profit."

P.S. What about a bumper sticker that says, "Your failed business model is not my problem"?

P.P.S. In retrospect, this is such a stupid article, I can't believe I wasted any time responding to it, when I could be enjoying the glories of Paris!

Soon to be even more French

Back to schoolThat thumbnail to the right is a photo of my new (er, I should say nouvelle) carte d'etudiant! That's right, it's back to school for me, and starting tomorrow I will begin to study French formally so that I'll no longer have to stammer sentences like, "I look for a phone card not to put in the phone but to press the numbers on the phone to use" or "the moon, like the moon and the earth and the plane -- the Space Shuttle -- that goes there, to the space."

Of course, the idea of actually speaking French properly, rather than concocting it through an assemblage of words and the application of Spanish grammar rules, saddens me a bit. I rather enjoyed walking into the pharmacy this morning (to combat my Camilla hair) with my request, "I look for the thing for the hair whose name I do not know, but it is like this," whereupon I slide two fingers into my hair to mimic a bobby pin holding it in place, "and it is not called barrette." I triumphed again! The monsieur directed me to the magasin Claire, an accessories store, where I purchased said chose.

My Paris picture set

For those that read megnut.com through a news reader, you may be missing my photos from Paris that I've been posting to the site via Flickr. If you want to follow along on my adventures, you can check out my Flickr photo set, April in Paris 2005. So far there aren't a lot of photos, but as I wander the streets, I'll take more. They're all from my phone, so the quality isn't great. As I get (hopefully) better photos from my digital camera, I'll post those as well.

Me vs. Camilla's hair

Now that I'm in Europe, my hair -- perhaps in an homage to her pending nuptuals -- has chosen to channel Camilla Parker Bowles. Granted, it needs more length to get the look just right, but as a simple compare and contrast will show (Camilla and Me), my coiffure is right on track. Bring on the foxes and tweeds!

So much light, so confused

Last night on the plane to France, I changed my watch and set it ahead six hours pretty much as soon as I got onboard. I like to begin my change to my new time zone as soon as possible. So I was little surprised and confused when the plane began its descent at 6:55 AM since we weren't due into Charles de Gaulle until 8:20. "Aha!" I thought, "the time must have changed already in Europe."

But then later in the day, I was at the UPS store overnighting some documents, and they had those clocks on the walls, and it showed New York six hours behind Paris. So I figured I must have been confused, and maybe I just moved my watch ahead five hours or something.

Then, even later, I noticed it was still light out, even though it was past 7 PM. I checked the weather and it said sunset was at 8:21 PM, which seemed very late for April 1st.

Then I bothered to check, and discovered that Europe had already sprung ahead, because they do so the last Sunday in March (see
When we change our clocks
). All that's a very long and dull way of saying: it's finally dark enough here for me to go to sleep. I stayed up all day and am now very tired, and obviously the lack of sleep caused some sort of time-related mental breakdown. Hopefully tomorrow will produce better time-telling results and less boring posts.

Some land problems

My post last month about free land, Get yer free land!, has landed (har har) me in a tricky spot. I now seem to be the fifth Googe response for free land which is leading to strange emails from people. Two excerpts:

I would like to request more information about the free land. I'd like too know how I could get in on it also.

And today's missive, with (I hope) some typos:

would love to move from calif to on of the places that has free land . But i have quistions like I have two foster bays I need to know what that county would give to them to live on. The other thing is do they have places to rent until you build. the other is could you place a mudular or moble home on the land to live in while you get a job and you feel me.

I updated the post. I don't know about the free land, I only link to it. And I don't want to feel anyone.

Remembering the French Laundry

Ages ago, I began the process of moving all my megnut.com entries into a new version of Movable Type, a process I never completed. There are still about seven months of entries from 2002 that never made the transition, and sit only on my hard drive. One of those entries was my tale of eating dinner at the French Laundry, and many people have emailed asking why they can't find it on my site.

Well I'm happy to say I've reposted it: It's All About Finesse. All the rest of the stuff is still missing, but for all those who've asked for it, and for myself too, I've gotten it back online. I think it's one of my favorite megnut posts of all time. Every time I re-read it, it brings that magical evening rushing back. Hard to believe it was almost three years ago!

Has my Keller devotion waned in that time, you ask? Hardly! I got the Bouchon cookbook for Christmas and have already tried several of the recipes. And not only that, but I've been practicing for a return to one of Mr. Keller's kitchens by eating as much yummy food as possible, including a recent superb outing to Gramercy Tavern in New York City. My hope is to visit Per Se, Thomas' New York City outpost, later this year. Belly -- and wallet -- beware!

The persistence of almost nothing

There are very few things in this world that don't change, or that you can count on being the same upon returning after a long absence. I can count on one hand the places I still frequent that were regular visits for me as a child in the 70s and a 80s: my grandparents' house in western Massachusetts; our summer home on Nantucket; and again this winter, Mad River Glen, a ski area in Vermont. My grandparents home has a new back staircase and different furniture. Nantucket has changed quite profoundly: from our deck you now look upon a house where there used to be woods. But after a long hiatus, I returned earlier this winter to Mad River Glen -- a ski area where I began skiing with my family as a very little girl and frequented every weekend for many winters while in high school -- to discover that it hadn't changed a bit.

Ok, well the lodge at the base was painted a slightly different color, and they now allow you to ski in the trees whereas before we had to do it surreptitiously, but those are minor changes. Fundamentally the mountain remains the same: the same Single Chair, the same trails, the same woman directing you in the small icy parking lot where to cram your car on a busy Saturday, the same delicious burgers from the grill at lunch. In a day and age when progress is a given, when newer is nearly always seen as better, the consistency is not only refreshing, it's comforting as well.

I've spent as many days as possible this winter reacquainting myself with the mountain, rediscovering trails and cut-offs I'd long forgotten. And it's as delicious as reuniting with an old dear friend you haven't seen in ages, only to discover you've just as much in common as you did fifteen years ago. Driving up Route 17, with the mountain off in the distance, the Catamount bright and mogully in the early morning light, "Here Comes the Sun" playing on my iPod (that's progress: it use to play from my Abbey Road cassette!) I feel all the excitement I did as a fifteen-year-old heading up for a Saturday of fun.

Traditions are to be treasured, and continuity cherished. I'm so happy to have reconnected with my mountain friend again, and look forward to my final weekend of skiing for this season. It's all over too soon. It will be hard to wait until December to hang out again!

The very long half-marathon

Saturday morning I ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, a supposed final "tune-up" before the Paris Marathon which looms before me on April 10th. Since I've been skiing a lot more than I should be, and running a lot less (with the slim hope that all the skiing will be close enough to running to "count"), I'd lowered my goal for Paris from Sub 4:30 Marathon to Just Finish and Have Fun. Judging by my performance on Saturday, Just Finish will be a challenge, and Have Fun will be unachievable.

Guh! Who would have thought 13.1 miles could be sooooo looooong? Perhaps it was because I skied for nearly seven straight days, then headed to San Diego where I barely got any rest and conferenced up a storm, then flew the red-eye back to NY and two nights before the race had only 4 hours sleep? Perhaps it's because I just haven't done the work. Either way, my legs felt like lead, and I had to coax them through the flats of Brooklyn and then plead with them through the rolling hills of Prospect Park. Final result? 2:18:52. I'm really beginning to dread Paris.

Dwindling Etech links

As you can see by the number of links posted over the course of three days, Etech kicked my butt and exhaustion took hold. By the end just being able to follow a talk was about all I could muster. Dare I say I'll write up my thoughts about the conference in the next few days and post something about my experience? A wiser woman would not, but I still dream of the day when I actually take the time to summarize a conference.

Links from Day 3 of ETech

This is a dump of lnks of interest to me that come up during talks during the third day at Etech. Newest at top.

An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin
Matt Webb says this is one of his favorite books from 2004.

Links from Day 2 of ETech

This is a dump of lnks of interest to me that come up during talks during the second day at Etech. Newest at top. Late start because I was running in the AM.

Ta-da Lists
Really simple to-do list management.

Cory Doctorow's notes
Cory's notes from James Surowiecki's talk, "Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds, or Is It Possible to Be Too Connected?"

The SchoolTool Project
"SchoolTool is a project to develop a common global school administration infrastructure that is freely available under an Open Source licence."

Instiki
"Instiki is a Wiki Clone (What is a wiki?) that’s so easy to set up and so pretty to look at, you’ll be wondering whether this is a real wiki at all...Instiki only relies on Ruby—no Apache, no MySQL, or other dependencies(yay!). Instiki runs on Windows, Linux, OSX, and any other platform where Ruby does."

Dodgeball
"A service which aims to coordinate social interactions between mobile users"

Pac-Manhattan
"Pac-Manhattan is a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980's video game sensation Pac-Man. This analog version of Pac-man is being developed in NYU's Interactive Telecommunications graduate program, in order to explore what happens when games are removed from their 'little world' of tabletops, televisions and computers and placed in the larger 'real world' of street corners, and cities."

Less monetize, more somethingelseize please

As much as I've been enjoying Day One of ETech, I have to say I've heard far too much of the verb monetize. While I understand the intent, can't we use something else? Monetize emits a kind of rotten dot-com stench. Let's have a new word we use to describe a way to implement a business model and keep something going, and growing, once one's got a cool product. Something akin to sustaining, or sustaining and growing, and making the web a better place, while rewarding the people who are trying to do so.

Links from Day 1 of Etech

This is a dump of lnks of interest to me that come up during talks during the first day at Etech. Newest at top.

Citizen journalism, one-handed department
"There has been so much debate over whether bloggers are journalists, the real issue has been obscured: are IRC chatters journalists? Mr. Sun has done some careful investigation and found that the IRC conversation logged below preceded the supposed revolutionizing of journalism by bloggers." Totally unrelated to the conference, but a funny reminder that I don't read Mr. Sun enough.

Ten Hour Takeover
"Ten Hour Takeover is your chance to choose the music Radio 1 plays." The BBC asked listeners to send a text message song request. Ten hours of music totally driven by the listening public. Awesome.

"Average UK adult listens to 24 hours of radio a week" according to Paul in the presentation, BBC Programme Information Pages: An Architecture for an On-Demand World. Wow. That's amazing. For comparison, I found this document about American teenage radio habits stating that US young adults agee 12-17 listen to an average of 13.5 hours of radio a week. Maybe it's because we've got more Clear Channel and they've got Radio 1?

Cory's notes from George Dyson's talk
Dyson's talk on "Von Neumann's Universe" was one of my favorites so far, and makes me want to take a field trip to Princeton to visit the Institute for Advanced Study.

Near Near Future
A blog from a woman who's, "currently working as a new media consultant for a multimedia and virtual reality park in Turin." I like the way she's got her categories displayed across the top of the page, using a larger font to display categories with more posts.

pasta and vinegar
"A blog by nicolas nova about pasta (human computer interaction, innovation, technologies, futuristic trends, location based services, mobile computing, user-centric stuff, video game design) and vinegar (digital culture and various weird stuff)."

The real digital divide (The Economist)
"Encouraging the spread of mobile phones is the most sensible and effective response to the digital divide"

(The above link is not from the conference, I read this on the plane and it's very interesting, I recommend the whole Technology Quarterly in the March 12th-18th The Economist. A lot of what I read in it feels relevant to what I'm thinking about and hearing at ETech.)

Google Sets
"Automatically create sets of items from a few examples." Here's an example with peanut butter & jelly.

Tech Buzz Game
"The Tech Buzz Game is a fantasy prediction market for high-tech products, concepts, and trends."

applied minds, inc.
Danny Hillis is talking about walking dinosaur that's electrically driven and fully articulated and all kinds of amazing robots that I'll find links for and pictures of later, I want to listen now.

Flickr Graph
"Flickr Graph is an application that explores the social relationships inside flickr.com."

Flickrfox
"flickrfox is an extension for Firefox (version 1.0) that lets you browse your Flickr photostreams in a sidebar."

Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager
Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager looks really cool but doesn't seem to work in Firefox. It graphs the popularity of baby names over time.

This got me laughing on the plane

Best spam headline in a while, "ChristianMortgages, Saving you more than your soul"

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