In My Name, Act Now!

In September 2000 the United Nations set the 8 millenium goals. These goals intend to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. The deadline is set in 2015. Halfway through, not much has been done. Therefore, the campaign In My Name calls upon all to urge their leaders to put all they can into reaching the millenium goals in 2015. You can even submit your name or pledge on the special You Tube channel.

Snapshots of Lutetia – Closed doors of La Samaritaine

Closed for business?

Once, this was one of the famous Grands Magasins of Paris, but La Samaritaine has been closed since 2005 now, officially due to ‘works for the purpose of security’. Apparently, luxury giant LVMH has new plans for the building, which indicates something different.

A surprising ride in an unfamiliar hometown

The other day I took the metro to work on an earlier hour than usual. I had an important meeting, that also needed some last minute preparing, so I had to get into the office early. Now, this is not really something to write about. it just happes sometimes, and since I had to travel a bit htis month, it wasn’t even the earliest I had to get up and out the door. What made it special that riding my usual route, the other people in the metro surprised me. It was a completely different set of Parisians surrounding me, as if I was in a different city, or even country. The metro trains have enough room to accomodate a representative mixture of Parisians and tourists, but this mixture had completely different ingredients. And it surprised me a bit.

Snapshots of Lutetia – Street Carpeting

Carpet on a Parisian street
In a city where streets are cleaned everyday, it seems a bit odd to find rolls of carpet lying on the streets almost everywhere. It looks like they’re just pieces of garbage, but in fact they are part of an ingenious water management system. The little rolls are used as dams, to direct the dirt carrying water with which the gutters are flushed everyday into the sewer system.

What’s In A Name

Streetnames can tell you about the history of the city you’re in. Not only can they tell you in what era the street was originally planned (Dutch neighbourhoods built during or after the nineteen-seventies all sport the same typical types of names), but by remembering their heroes or influential peoples, cities actively write their history in their streetnames. And sometimes even that of their country.

In my birth city The Hague is a street called Amaliastraat, which is not to commemorate the daughter of our prince-heir, but in honour of the secret lover of a municipal civil-servant back in the days. And, of course, streetnames like Piet Heijnstraat, or streets that do bear the names of the Dutch royalty are very familiar to me. So familiar that I don’t even think twice about them. But now that I live in Paris, names like Hausmann, Kleber and Foch arouse my curiousity. Finding Hausmann in Paris is not surprising, since during his reign as prefecture, he had a defining influence on the street lay-out in Paris. The grand boulevards were his idea. But finding Kleber and Foch also outside my new hometown (in casu Strasbourg and Reims) did make me realise also a country’s history is written in the streets.

So, who then where Kleber and Foch. Well, in short Jean-Baptiste Kleber was a French general in the French Revolutionary Wars. Marechal Ferdinand Foch was seen as the most original and subtle mind in the French army, and was supreme commander of the allied armies in the last part of the First World War, so we could say he was responisble for defeating the Germans then. For more information, try following the links by clicking their names. Another interesting name is of course, Pont Bir Hakeim, that was renamed from its original Pont de Passy, so to commemorate a won battle in the Second World War. And recently, my m/gl learnt that the meaning of the word Feaubourg in streetnames in France indicates that part of the street lying on the far-side from the city center, actually outside of the ‘original’ bourg.

Snapshots of Lutetia – Petite Lady Liberty

Petite Lady Liberty

For a long time, coming to New York meant being welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, until most people decided to come by airplane instead of by boat. All around the world, this statue signifies the United States of America, even if we all know that it actually is French. Yes, Lady Liberty was built in Paris, as a present to the United States. That is why, on the southern tip of the Ile des Cygnes, a smaller copy welcomes all that come by water to Paris.

How a Dull Read Turns Into a Confronting Mirror

Normally, a Booker Prize winner is just my flavour. So with great enthusiasm I started to read Anne Enright’s The Gathering. At first, I was a bit dissapointed. The book has a slow start and seems to go nowhere except to a predictable horrific event that must have been the thing that started all events eventually leading to the death of the main character’s brother. And even the predictable horrific event, finally reached somewhere halfway through, isn’t as horrific as you’d might expect. But then the story started to kick in. Being from a rather large family myself (I am the youngest of seven) I could very much relate to the feelings the main character has for her somewhat estranged family. You know their habits, their remarks and behaviour becomes predictable and everyone has found his part to play somewhere in his or her early twenties and has stuck to the literal text of the play. And although you’ve grown a bit apart, and sometimes there doesn’t seem much that binds you, you still love them with all your hart. You simply have no choice.

So the second part of the book turned my initial opinion of it upside down, and if you’re from a large family, just read this. It isn’t as strong a story as the movie Festen, but it just exactly tells you all the things you always knew, put jus couldn’t put your finger on

Snapshots of Lutetia – Parc Monceau Gate

The gate of Parc Monceau

Parc Monceau is one of the most beautiful parcs in Paris. Once it was the sight of the first silk parachute jump; nowadays it is a perfect place to walk, lie in the sun or jog. It’s entrances are marked by large gates, topped with gold. From one of them, you have a straight look at the Arc de Triomphe. Fortunately it is also very near to where we live, so I get to come there quite often.

Another One of Google’s New Gadgets

Goole has a new thing: Chrome, a webbrowser that is said to start a new browser war. It is mainly targeting Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but will probably be more in competition with Firefox. Curious as I am, I downloaded Chrome and gave it a quick try.

At first sight, it looks just as plain and simple as other Google gadgets, like Gmail. It is downloaded fast and works perfectly. Obviously it has tabbed browsing and it seems to load pages very fast. My favourite webpages all seem to be displayed perfectly fine as is this website. There was only one small problem in posting this entry, but I will find a way around that. In short, it has the typical Google touch and feel and all the functionality that Firefox has and IE will have. Some benchmarktests show that it is many times faster than the other browsers available. But will it be enough to dig into Microsoft’s large browser market share. I think not.

In general there are two types of users: those who care, and those who don’t. The last group is by far the largest. They just want to be on the internet and take the browser that is pre-installed or most widely used. This group uses IE, mainly, and will not bother to change. The other group contains a part that is interested in new technology, or just plainly dislike Microsoft. They will care about Chrome and probably give it a try. But this is also the group that minimizes use of IE to the where it is necessary and for the rest use browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari. So Google seems to be getting into a fight over a small part of the market, that is now occupied by all others than IE. So what’s the point?

It seems that technically, Chrome is ready to be the user interface of what was once called network computing. Although I am not a technician, from what I understand it is ready for all sorts of applications, already available from Google and to be developed by others, that can replace the functionality of Windows. Apparently Chrome will be more of an attack on Vista than on IE. And maybe it will bring us widespread server-based computing. A sort of Back to the Future, with users using terminals and saving their data and files on a distant, cloud-computed, location. Like in those mainframe years.