Snapshots of Lutetia – Noël à Paris

Lafayette at Christmas

A good way to lose the Christmas Spirit is to go shopping in the Grand Magasins of Paris the weekend before Christmas. The overcrowded streets and stores add only to the stress of finding the right presents at the last moment. But, when you finally have, the beautifully decorated shopwindows and buildings will bring the spirit back.

Commuting to a Holidaystination

Holland is a small country. So having to go to another city for a project is not a very big deal. And since you stay in similar surroundings, it doesn’t feel like traveling. Apart from the untypically Dutch landscape of Limburg, there is no real difference in our flat lands. So only when you need to go to Limburg to work, your commute feels like a holiday trip, especially when you go through Belgium.

Now I live in France, and I have to travel sometimes to Strasbourg and Grenoble. And not only due to the time it takes to get to the destination (3 TGV hours in the case of Grenoble), it often feels like going on a holiday. Recently I was in Grenoble, and the snow capped mountains were the perfect view from behind the desk. Apart from the desk and work, it really felt like being on holiday. The commute had become a trip.

Am I Where I Am From?

In our company it’s not unusual if you’re not French. The other obvious nationality being British, because that is, well, simply, the way it is. And so, a lot of my colleagues thought I was a Brit. By the quality of my French one can quickly assume that I am in any case not French, so, the general thought seemed to be, he must be English. And actually, people are quite suprised when I tell them I am Dutch.

To be honest, I don’t really care if people think me British, or Spanish, Italian, German or Belgian. But it made me think. Does this come from a lack of pride of my nationality, my country? I don’t go and introduce myself by saying, ‘I am dutch and my name is…’ I keep things simple and use my first name, mostly. That is what represents who I am. The rest, well, is bullocks. I strongly feel that where you are from is part of who you are, but it is never all that you are. And my ancestral lines from both sides arrived in Netherlands one and in the other case not much more than 4 generations before me. And yes, these backgrounds have partially formed me. But the do not make me more Dutch, French or Indonesian than I am.

Right now I consider myself mostly European. I have that old world culture engraved in my being. This means for me also that I feel at home in most European countries. And maybe if I could chose, I would have European as nationality. But that also wouldn’t change who I am. It would be an sign of who I am, but not a determining factor. I still wouldn’t introduce myself other than ‘hello, nice to meet you, I am…’

From Paper To Screen

Word Perfect was the tool for creating documents when I started using computers. And it was indeed almost perfect. You could control on the blue and white screen the appearance of your printed document in the smallest detail, by placing ‘on’ and ‘off’ tags for mark-up exactly there where you wanted them, when needed nested to infinity. With the coming to power of Word, all that changed. And still, sometimes Word messes so much with the desired lay-out and mark-up that I silently yearned for old WP5.1 until recently.
But indeed, again things are changing. More and more I find myself not making documents that are supposed to be read from paper, but which are meant to be read from a screen. Reading from a screen once was limited by resolution and portability problems, but these are mostly resolved. And when I was in a train, working on yet another document to be screen-read, I suddenly realised there was another limitation to reading from screens: our own mindset to present, and thus lay-out and mark-up, documents in a way that is best fit for paper. And when you’ve moved from Word Perfect to Word, that is exactly what you are doing. Although by now I am used to Word, it sort of gently pushes you to create a to-be-presented-on-paper document. That is what that piece of software is about. And since more and more I am using Power Point nowadays, I think I crossed another boundary. That of the fit-for-paper mindset.
Making documents that are fit-for-screen has repercussions on the way language is used. Because of the boundaries of your screen, and the readability, you need to be more concise. One good way to be concise is to use lists. And they tend to be grammatically monotonous and compacted. And that is often what happens with of the fit-for-screen documents: concise and compacted language is the norm. This usually leads to fit-for-screen documents that are not at all pleasurable reads. But hey, isn’t that what blogs and books should be for?

Snapshots of Lutetia – Nissim de Camondo

Service elevator sign

The Musée Nissim de Camondo is one of our neighbourhood pearls. And recently, on a rainy day off, we finally got round to visit it. The family’s history is impressively sad, but their art collection, which was donated to Paris with the house, is impressive. I personally like little details, like this sign pointing towards the service stairs, and this museum is full of it, especially on the ground floor in the kitchen area.

Song Story 6 – Summer Lingers On With Linger

Before my first iPod, I have gone through a couple of walkmans. Autoreverse and all, so you didn’t have to flip the cassette manually. Mostly using the 90 minute tapes, on which you could fit one cd and then some extra songs, I took my walkman everywhere, like on the bike to work one summer. And with a tape, recorded from the freshly acquired Cranberries album No Need to Argue with bonus cd of four live tracks, I happily pedalled through one of the most beautiful woody parts of The Hague. My favourite song of the tape became the live version of Linger from the bonus cd. And from there it evolved to one of my favorite pop-songs ever. And always when I hear it, it reminds me of those summer bikerides through that beautiful part of The Hague.

Annoyed by ‘Allo!?’

The phone rings, and I pick up saying my name.
CALLER: ‘Allo?!’ (Remember, it is the caller that calls me)
ME: ‘Hello’
CALLER: ‘Allo?!’
ME (Annoyed, because I already said my name, and by now know it is
someone trying to reach Mr. Chicken and he already said hello, which to
me is very ridiculous when you call someone who picks up introducing
himself): ‘Yes, Hello’
CALLER: ‘Allo?! Monsieur Chicken?’
ME: ‘Bonjour Monsieur Chicken,’ pretending not to understand that the
caller asks for Mr. Chicken, and then (in French) ‘Why are you calling.’
CALLER (of course, in French): ‘M. Chicken?’
ME: ‘Yes, hello Mr. Chicken, why are you calling?’
CALLER (a little confused by now): ‘I’m calling for Mr. Chicken?’
ME: Well, you are calling me right now, and I am not Mr. Chicken.’

Usually the caller hangs up at this point, sometimes with an apology,
but mostly calling back within 30 seconds for Mr. Chicken, again
starting the conversation with ‘Allo?!’ as at least the first three
words.

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