Our first trip to Paris

The following is a transcription of my physical journal entries after our recent Paris vacation. I’ll punch it up with photographs because this is the internet, but there may still be some short-hand style writing. The difference between this post and my journal entry is the legibility of typeface vs. my scrawling on paper, & some privacy edits.

Day 1, Wed, May 18

Arrival. The crazy cab ride to the hotel reminded me of comic scenes in movies where a passenger is terrified while driving in Europe. It was… haphazard. We’re exhausted- we got no sleep on the plane because of George. Too much activity on the plane distracting him, so the little poor little guy just wouldn’t drop off & neither could we. Fits and temper tantrums, and eventually I took him inside a bathroom so his screaming would be muffled to other passengers. He had to be exhausted and cranky, because I know I was.

photo used without permission

Passage Jouffroy. Photo used without permission.

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Our first view of the Eiffel Tower.

Anyhow,
we got to the Hotel Chopin and the address finally made sense: 10 Blvd. Montmartre is the street address for the passage, and 46 Passage Jouffroy is the address w/in the passage. Paris has covered passages that are open on either end for pedestrians, with shops in them and glass-like covered ceilings. It’s really cool. Once we got checked in we bought 5-day metro passes and made our way to the Fat Tire bike tour meeting point. We were exhausted, didn’t want to be late but also didn’t know the timing and were in an unfamiliar city, so we wound up getting there an hour early and waiting in the cold and wind. Not fun, though we did see the Eiffel Tower on our way there, and the tour itself was great! We saw a lot of sights and got some great history that I’ll actually remember. Quips like “Louis the XIV built it all, Louis the XV spent it all, and Louis the XVI paid for it all”. And learning Paris still stands because Dietrich von Choltitz disobeyed Hitler’s order to detonate charges planted all over the city after he fell in love with it. We cut our tour short because George was  too upset in his bike trailer, and we became concerned because he kept holding his right arm and wouldn’t put any weight on it to stand up or lift anything with it. We made our way to the American Hospital where he was seen, got x-rays, and taken care of for about $300 cash without insurance and in-and-out in 90 minutes. If that’s socialized medicine, I say bring it on! He seemed to have somehow dislocated his elbow, but he got put right as rain in less time than we’ve waited to just to be seen back home. Dinner was steak and frites (Kendel’s uncle George’s recommendation) at Cafe Zephyr. Not a bad first day.

 

Day 2, Thurs, May 19

I went out early and bought Kendel some macarons from a pastry shop in the passage, then we had breakfast in the hotel w/ fresh squeezed orange juice. (We had a lot of fresh squeezed orange juice on the trip. It’s like France is Europe’s Florida. Have to Google that when I get home.) I got an Orange SIM card for my phone so we could get maps and info, then we took off for the day.

The only way to take a toddler into a museum: asleep.

The only way to take a toddler into a museum: asleep.

We went to the Louvre and were surprised to find the lines weren’t too long at all, possibly because it was a gray and drizzly morning. I didn’t realize it was also a natural history museum, I thought it was just art, so we went through the wing with Egyptian stuff. I can’t figure out how they got Rameses III sarcophagus down where they did, or how they’ll move it again. It was impressive.

Grandma sewed together a Hobbes that George cuddles for comfort.

Grandma sewed together a Hobbes that George cuddles for comfort.

George woke up at the end of the Egyptian wing and started crying, so we made our way to a cafe for lunch. We happened upon a weird park of black/white pillars Kendel had read about and went to a music box store nearby. For dinner we had crepes. I forgot Kendel’s birthday until today and feel like an idiot. We left the states on the 17th, but got here on her actual birthday and I completely spaced it. I feel like such a jerk right now.

 

Day 3, Fri, May 20

Photo used without permission

The Grand Palais. Photo used without permission.

We went to the Cafe Indiana for breakfast (later discovered it appeared to be a chain). George loved the sausage and more fresh squeezed OJ. We took the metro to Notre Dame. I always find cathedrals both impressive and bewildering. The immense scale of the architecture always impresses me, and I can’t believe they could build like this back then. The treasury and sheer amount of wealth seems questionable. “Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter heaven” and all that. Afterward we meandered around the area, I bought a scarf, and relaxed in a sandy park behind the church. George loved playing in the dirt and watching pigeons.

Apparently selfie sticks are really a thing. That’s so strange. The Grand Palace (Palais) has a beautiful glass panel roof and I wanted to see the inside but there was an exhibit we didn’t want to pay for, so we went to the Eiffel Tower instead. Baguette, croque monsieur, and gelato. Walked along the Siene, under the tower, to the park, played soccer with Mateo, walked to the metro. Packed metro back to hotel was hot and sweaty.

At the risk of seeming racist, the guys hawking mini tower souvenirs and selfie sticks for 1€ are always black.

 

Day 4. Sat. May 21.

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The Hall of Mirrors.

Versailles. Holy cow. Photos can’t capture the sheer scale of the place. It’s truly amazing. We did another Fat Tire bike tour except it’s not cold and rainy today- it’s a clear, humid, sweltering day and the sun really beat down on us. We had a great picnic on the grounds of the palace, at the far end of the Grand Canal. One mile east-west, one kilometer north-south, 12 feet deep the entire way, and took 10,000 men over a decade to dig out by hand, iirc. The grounds are over 2,000 acres and we had more fresh squeezed orange juice at a stand in the Peasant’s Village (Marie Antoinette’s bizarre fantasy recreation of what she thought peasant life was like).

If Notre Dame was impressive, the palace here is stupefying. It’s not just the scale but the sheer amount of detail over every square foot of it.

I’m remembering the distinct lack of a/c in England. I love the cars in Europe, but I miss the comfort of the states.

 

Day 5. Sun. May 22

Layabout day to recover after Versailles. Hard Rock Cafe for lunch because we missed burgers and refills on cold drinks with ice. George is having really bad temper tantrums- we don’t know if it’s exhaustion, a toddler phase, or something related to his meds. Carry out pizza for dinner in the room was pretty tasty. Always get margherita here.

 

Day 6 Mon May 23

IMG_1774Weird sauce on Starbucks “English muffin” breakfast sandwiches. RAIN. We walked to Passage Vivienne and were disappointed with the lack of shopping. I intentionally didn’t pack enough shirts to have an excuse to buy some stuff here. Walked to Les Halles (a nice shopping mall) when it started to pour, and poor Kendel got soaked- she had me keep the umbrella since I was wearing George in the Lillebaby. Bought shoes and shirts. Mall McDonalds had rows of touch screen kiosks for ordering and the “royale” from Pulp Fiction is real! Bought shoes and shirts and a second umbrella, which George loved carrying around like a big boy when he woke up. I love how he always wants to help- it’s so cute! We bought some crazy fancy eclairs on the walk home- very expensive but very tasty. Dinner at Chartier and I tried escargot. Not bad, but not worth the $ to do it again. George liked it because he’s too young be grossed out by the idea. Kendel promised to never kiss me again. LOL.

 

Day 7

Big Bus tour, just to see more than we could on the metro. We forgot headphones for the first half, so we just watched Paris go by. It’s such a beautiful city. We found headphones and listed to the tour for the last half before George woke up and was fussy. Great tour, lots of interesting info.

photo used without permission, because mine was terrible

Institut de France. Photo used without permission, because mine was terrible

For instance, we saw the Institut de France, home of the Académie française, which is the official authority of the French language and tasked with publishing their dictionary. We also learned they dislike cognates and urge people to use only French words rather than “email” or “weekend” (which are in common usage because they’re simpler than the Académie alternative). The street along the Seine was lined with green boxes used by roadside booksellers.

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Palais Bourbon. Photo used w/o permission.

We also saw the Palais Bourbon, from which we derive right wing and left wing as descriptors of political affiliation. It started there in the 1870s.

When George woke, we changed tour lines to get home but it was too slow so we got off at Pigalle station to take the metro and stumbled onto a Kebab shop.

Late afternoon cruise with Fat Tire again on the Sienne, and the Eiffel Tower at night to see the lights of Paris. I was embarrassed to ask but I finally did- why were all the tchotchke hawkers black? It turns out that most of them come from countries that were French colonies, but they’re not allowed to get official jobs (taxable income) while they’re waiting for residency paperwork. It’s a legal thing. So to make ends meet until they can get a “real” job they do this. That changed my view of them instantly (before it was just opportunist bothering of tourists) and I was struck by their desire to improve their lives, so we bought some toys from one before heading back to hotel for the night. Pretty great last night in Paris, but I’m sure we’ll come back again in the future. It’s an easy city to fall in love with.

(note- the fast clacking noise at the beginning of the Tower video above is a mechanical flying toy bird one of the souvenir hawkers would toss in the air as demonstration.)

The myth of liberal media bias

If the mainstream media is so left-wing, why has Bernie Sanders received 1/80th (not a typo) the coverage of Donald Trump?

A lot of liberals may work in media, but the mainstream media itself is profit driven. This is true regardless of network. 24-hour news networks (mostly) don’t sell agenda, they sell sensationalism. They sell what people want. It’s a ratings fight so they can sell advertising, pure and simple. That’s why the bombshell story is always “coming up after the break”.

I’ll bet $20 there’s a corresponding amount of sensationalism to ratings for any given show on any given 24-hour news channel.

Horseshoe theory

In writing on cynicism vs. skepticism I brought up Glenn Beck as an example. The man is an Alex Jones-lite conspiracy theorist whose predictions fail over and over again, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be right sometimes or that he should be completely disregarded. In an episode of his show, he came very close to Jean-Pierre Faye’s horseshoe theory and while the models can be argued over I think the substance behind them rings true.

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Pardon my crude, simplified sketch of Beck’s model. Beck argues that right-wing fascism and left-wing communism are a false dichotomy and that the real model is simply totalitarianism vs anarchy. He believes that the choice between democrats and republicans is simply a matter of degrees and that as a relative framework the two parties are both sliding toward totalitarian models- the democrats are just a little more so than the GOP. As a libertarian, his belief is that the ideal amount of government is just enough to prevent anarchy. (Trivia: some libertarians call this philosophy minarchy.)

political-spectrum-horseshoFaye’s horseshoe theory says the right/left spectrum isn’t linear, but shaped like, well, a horseshoe, and the further one goes to the right or left the closer they actually become. This is best exemplified by the theory that both ideologies will become totalitarian if unopposed, either through communism or fascism. I don’t know if I would have found this theory very credible before living in a variety of different political environments, but I see it now. Obviously, very subtle hints, but there’s a definite tendency of a group in power to enforce its moral agenda on others whether or not they adhere to the same beliefs. Whether it’s the regressive left’s dogma on university campuses or religiously motivated legislation of morality (alcohol, porn, etc.), there’s a definite tendency of unopposed authority to trample the rights of the minority.

Curious digression: several of the Google image results for “horseshoe model” actually placed liberalism at the center of the horseshoe with socialism to the left and communism at the extreme. While I like this based on the definition of classical liberalism, it doesn’t really work in the context of today’s popular usage. Still, there are some fascinating images with detailed placement of ideologies along the continuum if you’re interested.

The horseshoe theory has its detractors, often from the extremists themselves. However, there’s a reasonable argument that says the theory leads to the balance fallacy. There are simply times where one side is factually wrong and they do not merit a fair and balanced representation. But that’s a topic for another time.

Maybe it’s human nature. I imagine if I re-read my social psychology books I’d find an interesting angle to attach this to. In-group bias, maybe? Regardless, there’s merit to both Beck’s and Faye’s models. Maybe the best representation would be a three dimensional combination of the two. Because the hyperbolic warnings from either side about the other creating a police-state are overblown, but the tendency to tell others how they must live is undeniable.

The labeling of a generation

The greatest generation. Baby boomers. Generation X. Millennials.

I was born in 1978, during a span of years other authors have noted is a strange middle ground that doesn’t quite fit either label of Gen X or Gen Y (millennial). The precise years vary, but it’s generally agreed as being from ’75 or ’77 to ’81 or ’82. Doree Shafrir wrote for Slate that we’re a micro-generation of those in high school when My So-Called Life aired on ABC. If you watched Saved By The Bell during its first run, you’re a contender.

Despite being told I was a member of Generation X growing up, I always felt more like a Gen Xer’s kid brother. When the term Millennial came into common usage, it felt clear they were talking about people younger than me.

Maybe it’s because I fit with both and neither that this vlogbrothers video spoke to me. Millennials have been thoroughly trashed in mainstream media as lazy, entitled narcissists, but it’s just not true. At least, not any more true than it was for Baby Boomers, who “were the first generation to take a breather between childhood and adulthood and explore being young. They got married later, had kids later…” [1]

I have to say, though, that the older I get the more I identify with Millennials. The more time I spend with them, chief example being my wife’s brother, the more I see the pragmatism and idealism coexisting. The more I see headlines about Millennials as being full of crap.

Enjoy the video, and consider reading the article that inspired it here.


  1. David Neilson, Baby Boomers: All You Ever Needed to Know

Dream car so close; dream car so far

I’ve written before that my dream car is a fast, all-wheel-drive wagon. Quick and fast are fun, and I want a low center of gravity for handling. All-wheel-drive for me is strictly about snow tires and traction when things get slippy… or putting more power down to the ground than one set of wheels can accomplish. I’m not an off-roader and I don’t need any of the pretense offered by CUVs. But I’d still like a wagon because it’s a place to put the kid’s stroller, or use a gate and contain the dogs.

Back before Americans became neurotic and insecure they drove wagons (and minivans) without fearing for their manhood. I don’t have any mental issues about masculinity. I am totally cool with and proud of the fact that I’m a dad and I see nothing wrong with driving a family vehicle. I also see no reason why the family hauler can’t be fun. But for now, this is an itch that can only be scratched overseas. Every “dream car” for me right now is either not sold in North America or still a few years off. Here the list as it stands today.

The one I’d buy today: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R SportWagen

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A tastefully styled, 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive grocery getter with a nice interior, panoramic glass panel sunroof, and stereo that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (because OEM infotainment units universally suck). The best part is that it uses the driveline (and turbo) of the Golf R hatch, so this thing can be tuned for ridiculous amounts of power.

The runner up I’d buy today: Subaru LEVORG.

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Basically the same thing as the VW. Imagine if Subaru brought back the Legacy wagon or quit dressing the Outback up like a Jeep, and then gave it the STi treatment. How freaking cool would this be?! I doubt it’s got a glass panel roof and Subaru interiors are renowned for being little cheaper than competitors, but if the stereo supports CarPlay and Android Auto I could learn to live with the, um, unsubtle styling.

If money were no object: 2017 Volvo V90 T8

Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Panoramic glass panel roof. Semi-autonomous driving up to 80 mph. Up to 410 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and the hybrid will do 31 miles of pure electric range (enough for my commute). All that, and possibly the most beautiful interior on the market. If I had Lamborghini money, this is still the car I would buy.

It’s gonna be the future soon: Tesla Model 3

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Glass panel roof is standard. Available all-wheel drive. The slowest one will do 0-60 in under six seconds. Autonomous driving features are standard (because Interstate driving is awful). It doesn’t have a stupid fake grille like the Model S used to because it doesn’t need one because it doesn’t have a radiator. No oil changes, no transmission, no belts, no spark plugs, etc.! If only it came as a wagon…

Beware self-proclaimed Constitutionalists

Recently I’ve noticed I tend to get wary of anybody who portrays themselves or their position as being “constitutional”. People claims they’re trying to defend the constitution, or that the constitution is the law of the land. The problem is that most of these people either haven’t read it or misunderstand what it is.

A constitution is merely “a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” That’s it. It’s not a holy writ, nor is it above reproach. All it does is put the basic framework for our government in place. It is not the law of the land, because that title belongs to the U.S. Code. It is not perfect, because we’ve had to amend it 27 times.

Most people throw the constitution into the conversation as something you’re not allowed to assail so they don’t actually have to defend their position. They treat the constitution like a sacred text. They rarely if ever actually cite anything specific. Claims of unconstitutional behavior are almost always supported by cherry-picked quotes or ignoring amendments that contradict them. I’d bet five bucks that 90% of them don’t have a clue what a constitution’s actual function is.

Here’s an example/test: if you’re even around somebody that claims their actions are an effort to “defend the constitution”, ask them specifically what they mean or what section of the constitution is under attack and/or how. You could knock me over with a feather if you get lucid, informed response.

I’ve served in the military and I love the ideal that this nation is supposed to be, but you should be extremely wary of any ideologue, even when they drape themselves in the American flag. There’s a reason the analogy of a wolf in sheep’s clothing has endured for centuries- because there’s wisdom in it.

Because owls are awe inspiring

There’s a definitely proclivity toward eagles, falcons, and hawks as symbols of strength, power, or what-have-you. They’ve been used as symbolic “look how cool we are” birds by the U.S., Harley-Davidson, Germany, etc. We describe militarily aggressive attitudes as being hawkish. They’re predators, they’re fast, and they’re pretty. They’re admirable birds. I get it, but the most fascinating raptor is actually the owl.

Owls are awesome. Owls have heads on a swivel. They are birds of prey. The collective noun for a group of owls is a parliament. They’re symbols of wisdom (the reason I chose an owl as the icon for this blog) and some species and have been discovered to practice primitive tool usage. And they’re stealthy, able to fly almost completely silently.

Owls are the bird of prey for thinkers.