Thursday, April 13, 2006


I love this word, calisthenics. It's got this early twentieth century hygienist ring to it. I just hope I'm spelling it right.

And by the way, I took the good old dumbells out of the drawer - had some trouble picking them up though. Hahaha. Just kidding. They're not very heavy, about 13 pounds each. And I'm not overdoing it either - but still, there are some muscles there that I had completely forgotten about.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Economic patriotism my b*tt

Read this excellent column in the Washington post: Ports Furor Is Just Protectionism, With a French Accent. Pretty accurate. Whish we had more column like this one in the French press. Of course, there's not much of a French press nowadays.

Excerpts from Steven Pearlstein's column:

And last weekend, de Villepin personally arranged the shotgun wedding of Gaz de France, the state-controlled gas supplier, and Suez, the French water and power supplier, to thwart a bid for Suez by Enel, a rich and attractive Italian suitor. So obvious was the patriotic intent that the boards of the two companies approved the deal on Saturday even before the price had been worked out.

Scare quotes around "patriotic" would have been in order.

But when viewed through the prism of French exceptionalism, what's good for the poule is not necessarily good for the coq. The view within both the French left and right now is that full European integration must await the development of "national champions" that can then carve up the rest of the world in ways that don't threaten workers at home or the cozy relationship between the political and economic elites.

He's missing the extent of this relationship: Suez has had close ties with the neogaullist establishment for years. What this operation amounts to, at the end of the day, is to give away a state-owned company to corporate cronies with absolutely no benefits to the taxpayer. Are we a great country, or what?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My short history of the Internet, part 1.

Okay, so I've been connected to the internet, one way or another, for the last 15 years. That in itself makes me such an expert in the field I should be invited on TV talk shows all the time. Or not.

In any case, here it is: my own abridged history of the Internet.

“There be the internet”: fiber optics do the dance inside a wiring closet.

First came email - not much more available in 1990, except for a few ftp servers. We had an account on Unix machines, with our personal disk space on the server: our home directory. Ah-ha. Big deal. Of course as students we didn't have much in the way of actual homes back then, so having a home directory was just great.

Along came the first chat systems: I was on one of those when the first gulf war broke out (and if this isn't history, I don't know what is). And there were the Usenet News, which were a sort of useful mean of communication at the time.

Then came the first online library catalogs, in text mode of course. Then came gopher, the first navigational system for accessing data repositories. And then, in 1993, came the World-wide web.

Why did the “web” become such a thing so fast? Well, first, it was technically simple, if not simplistic. Second, server software was made available for free - good old CERN httpd server, took a matter of minutes to set up on any Unix machine with TCP/IP connectivity. Once you had that running, it was a child game for any self-respecting geek to write html pages about, er, whatever - and, tah-dah! it was available worldwide. Third, graphical user interfaces were quicly available, making things just as simple on the client side.

Then a strange thing happened: the fit was so good that it took off - and people started to have their personal computers hooked up to the internet. Now, that was quite unexpected: most of the computers connected to the internet at that time were Unix machines, with a few VMS servers here and there; the idea any PC or Mac could be connected too came as a bit of a shock, and indeed neither Windows 3.1 nor Apple System 7 had native IP capabilities.

Anyway, there was this new medium, and not much to fill it yet - naturally, all of us CompSci students had to jump on board... We had our home directory; now we had to have our home pages. Conveniently enough, the home pages were located in a subdirectory of our home directories. Now we could say anything we wanted to the world. Provided of course we had something to say.

The way I remember it, I set up my first web pages in the autumn of 1993 to show pictures I took back from a trip to Greenland to friends of mine who had moved to the other end of France (Hi guys, by the way!) - pictures scanned in grey scale with a hand scanner, and don't ask me how I managed to transfer them onto the server. And the html pages themselves were written with a plain text editor, of course - I am still very uncomfortable using any kind of html editor. They're for sissies anyway. Ha.

O.K. folks, let's stop here for today. Next episode will be: From home pages to weblogs, very soon on a web browser near you.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I once managed to grasp the rules of cricket. I understand soccer, rugby union and most of baseball.

So, could anybody points me to a good Football for dummy resource? I so don' get it it makes my teeth hurt.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Second-hand New Philospher for sale. Cheap.

To my American readers: guys, apologies for Bernard-Henri Lévy. But could you please, please, pretty please, please with sugar on top and a cherry on it - could you please keep him for a few years?

You've probably never heard of him before, so here's the story: In the early eighties a group of French so-called intellectuals calling themselves the Nouveaux Philosophes appeared suddenly in the French media. They were young, talked well on TV and were quite markedly right wing - that's what made them “new” at a time when the French inteligentsia were still predominently close to Althusserian marxism. One of them got famous, mostly for his strange first name and his open-collar shirt: that's our guy.

Years passed - they tend to do that. BHL married a famous actress (turned singer now), which gave him some little extra media exposure, but basically his 15 minutes of fame had come and gone. Hence that new scheme.

Since it is a scheme, if not a scam: the plan was to publish a book in the US, hoping it would infuriate the American “establishment” (whatever that is), and a few month later publish it in French - with a dust cover calling it "What America doesn't want to hear" or something to that effect.

And of course this scam might very well work, at least in terms of French sales. People aren't going to read it anyway, but as long as they buy it before not reading it, he's an happy man. I mean, his wife's last album tanked badly, he probably needs the money.

Anyway, by all means, do read the well-desserved scalding his book got in the NY Times. And if I ever start sounding like he does, please throw something at me.

P.S.: thanks to my wife and to our friend Chris for pointing me to that review)

Friday, January 27, 2006


Nothing like a protracted breakfast on a cold winter day, with a mug of nice mocha, baguette, butter and marmelade and, of course, my daily instalment of comic strips on the Ibook, thanks to Yahoo! News :

9 Chickweed Lane, Andy Cap, Bob the Squirrel, Cleats, Dilbert, Doonesbury, For Better or for Worse, Fox Trot, Jane's World, Luann, Non Sequitur, Over the Hedge, PreTeena, Prickly City, Tank MacNamara, Wizzard of Id, and Ziggy.

Coffee is from New Guinea - I'm just having a small pang of guilt right now: probably not that good for the local environment. I'll get Harar next time. Jam is bittersweet oranges or strawberry, seeing that we're all out of my Mother's homemade blackberry jam, straight from the hedges and thornbushes of Brittany.

Smug? What you mean, Smug?

Have a great day.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Georgia on his mind?

OK, now that my French-speaking, daily weblog is close at hand, guess I'll be a bit more present here...

For now, more of the D.C. pictures. The federal capital statuary is not that different from what you'd find in any European capital - except for the fact that there's more of it, and more systematically located. But the most fascinating of it all is, in my opinion, the Sherman statue, right in front of the capitol.

People don't know much about the American civil war in France. They know it was about slavery and that, in that respect at least, the good guys won. Some people probably know it occured sometimes during the XIXth century, but that's pretty much that. They don't realize the trauma, they don't realize the space it takes in the colective memory. This statue is a clear reminder of that memory: William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the foremost proponent of total war, the General who blazed a trail of destruction across Georgia, is riding a horse as if he had just trotted down the steps of the Capitol, a military arm of the American Congress; calmly sitting on his horse, assessing the field; his eyes are steady and they're turned toward the South.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New Location

Yeah, this blog has moved. Not that it has readers or anything, anyway...

The thing is, I wanted to free the URL I was previously using ( because I might want to move my main French-speaking blog ( here - 20six is getting from bad to worse and I'm getting mighty tired of it.

In any case, my English-speaking ramblings have moved here, hal a block down the street. Please come in and make yourself comfortable!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back from D.C.

As I come back from Washington, D.C., I feel the need to go back to my English-speaking blog a little bit more - not to mention the fact that I might very well move my main, French-speaking blog to Blogger as soon as I find a way to transfer all my archives in a clean and easy way.

A week in D.C., then - a pretty good time there: even getting soaked on a rainy Christmas Day, walking around Downtown and the Mall, was sort of fun. More for me than for the guy that was trying to make the model trains to run around the national christmas tree despite the heavy rain, in any case...

Otherwise, the usual when visiting the U.S. : the good surprise of civil servants willing to serve you, the pleasantness of day to day interactions with people - and, God help me, I just love the food.