Sunday, September 24, 2006


So, I went to this debate and I was wondering what some of you thought about it. 

The Economist Debate: 'We must embrace nuclear power to solve global warming'

Amongst Britain's political class there is an emerging consensus: climate change is the challenge of our time. But each party proposes different solutions, and none is more divisive than nuclear power. In the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power certainly trumps coal and gas every time. And unlike fossil fuels, uranium can be purchased from friendly and reliable countries like Canada and Australia. But at what human, environmental and economic cost would such carbon-cutting and "energy security" come? Nuclear fission was itself once considered to be a grave threat to humanity. While some prominent Greens now support nuclear power as the pragmatic answer to global warming, others argue that the associated toxic waste may prove an enduring environmental nightmare. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the prospective nuclear renaissance lies in the economics of the technology. While the nuclear industry argues that new designs will make plants safer, cheaper and faster to build, sceptics are keeping a watchful eye on the various hidden and explicit government subsidies.


I tend to prefer nuclear power.  I think it is the most viable alternative we currently have.  What do you guys think?

mmmm French Food....

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
Next trip on the corp card is gay Pari’. Caught a train on a Monday evening. That eurostar is a very nice way to travel. Much less constricting than the plane. The train from LDN to paris is about 3 hours. It feels similar to catching the train from NY – DC. Same deal w/ time as well. By the time you get out to an airport on the outskirts of town, fly, and come back into the middle of town, you have taken as much time as the train from the middle of town to the middle of town. Add the excessive scrutiny, lest the terrorists win, the math becomes simpler. Plus, the food is a bit better than airplane food.

Checked in to the hotel. I had done a bunch of searching to pick a hotel next the office I was supposed to be going to. I ended up w/ a Holiday inn. Looked at a bunch of more local hotels but as far as I could tell, the local hotels tended to be “quaint”. Put another way, maybe….small and run down. But I am learning that is just a Paris hotel. They seem to all be pretty shoddy (shy of the Ritz). They had some euronet for internet access. I have seen the network in other cities. It seems to be a single sign on for many big cities. I don’t travel enough to subscribe though and the single day access is too expensive.

The hotel was just around the corner from the business offices but it really didn’t matter b/c I wasn’t working in the business office. The office I was working at was changed to the outskirts of town. Luckily, I was also on a train line that went right there so my commute was manageable. The paris metro was pretty good. The trains were plentiful and I like the countries w/ the timetables on the platform (x mins to next train, etc). They don’t have any concept of the express train and it closes though, I suppose they only have single tracks. Another annoyance was the tickets. I bought some 10 pack and it came as 10 individual tickets about the size of a couple of postage stamps. Not only were 10 individual stamps annoying to keep in your pocket but they kept failing on me. When you give the stall your ticket, it returns it so the first time a ticket read as bad, I figured I had already used. The next time I was pretty sure and by the third time I was positive that the ticket was bad. Finally, I went to the booth clerk to see if I could communicate my point. I needn’t have worried. I saw a couple other people exchange out their tickets in the same way. It seems to be pretty common. Indeed, I had a 30% failure rate. How is this acceptable? The tickets are marketed towards tourists, locals use monthly passes. So, secondary revenue stream for them I guess. Grr…

This is feeling a bit like a rant, Paris actually was pretty nice overall but there are quite a few things that stuck in my craw, so to speak. I am really glad I don’t keep my money in a French bank. I was there for maybe 2 hours of effective work. They seemed to think it would take 3 days. They were right. 80% of the time was me and 2-3 of their employees waiting for another part of the bank to call us back. We didn’t to anything until 3:30 – 4 pm the second day I was there. Thinking about it, many people explained to me that a good night out in France is going to a café and arguing about things. I can totally see the allure in that. But when I don’t speak the language and we have work to do… I drank more coffee in that week (good café too) than I had in the previous 2 months. All day we sat and drank coffee. An in, “We can’t work on that part b/c we need a server guy. I called his desk, didn’t get him… Let’s sit for an hour and debate (en francais) about how hard it will be to get anything in done in the bank.” If there was ever a business case for Active Directory it was this bank. Getting anything done was so difficult b/c they are only half using MS technologies and many of the simple tasks are very difficult. I really just wanted to get the damn thing in, I had plenty of other work I could be getting through.

One of those other things was the pop quiz at work. They called it budget. I had 24 hours to put it together. It could have been worse. I sat outside a café in Bastille and found some stolen internet access and finished the budget. It was actually a nice pleasant evening.

The French food ##(*$&(#*& rocks. What is it about even the basic French food that makes you want to chew more slowly? Savor each layer. I had a couple of fairly simple meals that were just great. One misadventure was the escargot. I realized I hadn’t had the snails before. I got some pot of snails and mushrooms and sauces. The sauces were great. The snails reminded me of eating dirt. A very earthy flavor, shall we say. Meh, still better than oysters.

After working T-Thurs and barely getting the damn thing in, I took Friday off and stayed the weekend in paris. (Did I mention they told me the last day that they were just going to erase it next week?) Audrey, a girl from the bank, had mentioned that the Louvre is mostly empty at night. Friday night is not the empty night. The Louvre is one of the top art collections in the world. All of these pieces have been studied in depth. What better way to bring that knowledge to the people than the audiotour. Don’t get the audio tour in the Louvre. Maybe 30% of the collection even has audio snippets posted. Only a very few of the pieces I was interested in had the tour. Of course the mona lisa has it, some of the good stuff did. Not all of the good stuff and none of the secondary stuff that looked interesting had an audio entry. Still, lots of cool stuff. I like the classical sculptures myself. And I did see the code of Hammurabi which was pretty cool.

During this tour, I stopped and did a meeting w/ some of the CP guys for the budget. After spending half an hour talking out a storage solution I got off the phone feeling good. A thought started to occur to me, one that crystallized over the next few days. Work is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things I am doing right now. Is that great or totally pathetic. Jury is still out on that one.

Spent Saturday wandering around Paris. I had done the major stuff when I was backpacking, I didn’t feel the need to find the Eiffel tower again or the Notre Dame. I really didn’t feel too touristy at all. I wandered around, spent a long time playing Sudoko in a park. Saw “Little miss sunshine” (recommended) on Champs d’elysees. Went over to MontMartre and Pigalle.

Managed to connect w/ Felix’s sister, Veronica on Sunday morning. We found a café on Rue de Roquette and shared a nice breakfast of croissants, cheeses and meats. Yum, how french, good food and conversation.

I couldn’t leave france without a couple of bottles of wine. I picked out 4 bottles at the duty free and managed to leave them on the train. Doh!... Ah well, think how nice it will be for the next person that sits there. I wonder if they will be afraid of them and call out the bomb squad. If they throw those out rather than drink them, the terrorists really have won.

Heh, I went to prom.

Proms in the Park
Originally uploaded by keshav lewis.
There were a few sentences that I never thought I would say. One was “I am going to see Lionel Richie live in concert”. That one was unlikely, I would have bet against it. I would have given you a virtual lock against “Lionel Richie was the most entertaining artist of the bunch”. I would have lost both bets.

A bunch of extended friends were getting together to go to the last night of Proms. Best I could tell this was an “Opera in the park” kind of thing. A bunch of classical music in a park. One difference was it cost money. Another was Lionel Richie was playing. How does he fit in? What the hell, sounds like fun.

When we got to the park we found a mob. I thought the brits knew how to queue. They are ridiculously proud of their ability to stand in line properly but it wasn’t apparent here. There were a few thousand people massed in front of the entrances to this place. They moved us through pretty quickly though. Despite the big “No chairs” sign, everybody had lawn chairs. They checked backpacks for glass but not shopping bags. Indeed, most people brought wine. They also didn’t scan the barcode on our printed tickets. We could have Xeroxed one ticket and saved 200 bucks.

We were obviously way underprepared w/ our chips and beer. Many people went all out, there were full fancy picnic spreads in effect. I had wanted to go to the farmers market but I was overruled w/ the idea that there would be food vendors. Bad move. The food on site paled in comparison to the spreads that people brought.

Everybody kept remarking that this was such a British thing, so British. At this point, I didn’t see why. It seemed like every other city’s party in the park. Perhaps there were a few more flags in evidence. Actually, there were already a lot of flags. Mostly UK or British flags, a few other EU countries in evidence, even 2 US flags. I got a glimpse of the program and became even more confused. We started off w/ a Madness cover band (Madness did some crappy 80’s songs like “Our House”), moved on to an Amos and Andy type duo and then we were greeted w/ THE Chico. Apparently, Chico won XFactor. This is a Pop Idol type show. More evidence of the British obsession w/ the mildly famous, everybody loved to discuss how he had been a goat herder and even though he was terrible we should show him some support. I was of the opinion that he had gotten a disproportion amount of support given his skill. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be up there.

We finally got to the classical music, but it was short lived. They brought out a star trombonist and she played for 10 or 15 minutes. Then they brought out a soprano, a flautist etc. We pretty much tuned out and chatted amongst ourselves. There was 20 or so of us in the group by this point and it was nice to meet some new people.

Everything was pretty mellow (though there was a lot of drinking going on) until Lionel started. Within the first song, he had everybody on their feet. Maybe he was just more exciting than the classical types preceding him but even songs I normally dislike were fun then. “We are going to play until you all are exhausted …. As long as you get exhausted in 5 songs.”

It was about this time that I saw a public safety official really live up to their name in the best of ways. There were a group of ladies that were quite drunk. In order to make sure they didn’t hurt themselves or anyone else, one of the public safety, cop type people was opening their champagne for them. Hurrah for safety!

The crowd was sad to see lionel leave the stage. They asked for an encore but we had to move on to some horn player until it was time to join up w/ other locations in Britain for a live feed that marked the culmination of proms. This was when it got … well, interesting. Each location seemed to need to out-patriot each other. The flags came out and 10,000 drunk brits (in our location) all started singing national songs and dancing. It was a little freaky as an outsider. Now I see why it was “a very british thing”. In talking w/ some of the locals, they expounded at drunken length, basically saying that this was the one time it was acceptable for the normally reserved Brits to dance like fools and smack anybody they thought was attractive on the ass w/ the flag (how that follows, I am not sure). It was also the only time they felt they could wave the flag and sing to the queen about how they would never be slaves (those were the words) without being cast as racist.

Quite the experience. Fun but creepy in some ways. As Ariel put it, “I never really trust people waving their flags too much”