Saturday, July 22, 2006

Paris vaut bien une messe...

I thought Easton, Pittsburgh and DC were bad enough, but it's actually just as hot here in Paris. You'd think that thick stone walls and leafy shade would prevent that, but in fact... not really.

My parents and sister are down in the south of France, or were, as they are now on the atlantic coast for my grandmothers' errrr... 72nd birthday? Anywhooo, I would have sort of liked to go down to our summer house in Cozes as well, but I didn't want to spend three hours in the train for just a weekend. Plus, my friend Liam from Sheffield is in town, so I might hang out with him a bit (as my friend Eduardo is at his girlfriend's all weekend), but so far no luck: he's not answering his cell phone, and I'm rather bad at answering my landline. It's sort of sad when a man becomes more reliably reachable by IM or email than by phone.

But back to the heat. It really takes the energy straight out of you. I have loads I want to do, including getting a hair cut, but the prospect of sitting 45 minutes in a non-air conditioned commuter train to go to Paris and get a haircut in a decent place is a bit daunting. It's a bit funny that, being rather fond of having my hair long and slightly ruffled (blatant understatement), I'm still so picky when it comes to haircuts. The reason, I guess, is that when your hair is long there's a rather large gray area when it comes to how it looks. I mean, either you don't look good at all with long hair, or you look okay-ish to good. Whereas for short hair a bad haircut is instantly noticeable. Less artistic license, har har. Nonetheless, I'll try to brave the heat and go into town one of these days, if anything, to have lunch/dinner with my grandmother (when she comes back up) or with Jim & Millie (my godfather and his spouse). Or maybe with my grandfather. We'll see.

Other than that, I have loads to do here. The first step towards actually doing some of that load is bit difficult though, and involves resisting the temptation to play DoD all afternoon. My friend Eduardo brough his (quite powerful) PC up to Paris with him, and it now resides in my room. After two years of having a Mac (G*d bless it) which not only helps me work efficiently, but also prevents me from feeding my gaming addiction, I now realize that playing a few rounds is probably equivalent to sticking a needle back into your arm after two years off smack (previous statement not from personal experience).

I had to get off m'arse on thursday to revise/edit a paper I wrote on qualia and epiphenomenalism, which I have been informed would be published in the next edition of the British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy (finally... got something published other than a philosophical book review). Aside from that, I've got loads of papers (quite a few courtesy of Yorick Wilks) to read and/or re-read, as well as some books on Linguistics, and K&R's White Book on C, all of which I hope to get through before the summers' over. Over a month left. I think it'll be fine.

That's about all there is to say for now. Time for a cold bath, a book, and a beer. Even with work to do and humid heatwaves, life is pretty damn good.


Where geeks congregate

Whew. Got some catching up to do on this whole blogging thing. Quick summary of the past two weeks:

On the weekend on the 8th (of July) I went up to Boston to visit MIT, where I'd like to do some [post]grad research. I was shown around by a friendly local postdoc, Hugo Liu, who was kind enough spare some time and give me an eccentric tour of campus (Hugo: "So... this is the green building. A few people kill themselves here every year". Me: "That's... nice"), including the media labs, and answer my boring ol' questions. We had lunch and a chat. He's a truly fascinating guy. Consider yourselves lucky if you know him. Peace out, Hugo.

But let's get back to the Media Lab part. As a potential philosophy postgrad, I'd have nothing to do there (or would I... I mean if I could justify my presence there, well... score.) but as a self-confessed geek, it's probably the closest thing to heaven you can get (in life or death). Being quite a tech-blog aficionado (or at least very keen for them), it was a treat to be able to see all the crazy-cool inventions you'd read about just lying around, semi-finished, on tables with notes and leaflets and whatnot. It was quite the experience...

Following a brief return to DC, I went up to Pittsburgh for a week, spending time with my Grandparents, my Aunt Mary Jane, and my cousin Conor. It was nice to see Pittsburgh again (after what... two years almost?). I even got to visit my former neighbour (and babysitter) Erica, and dine at Ol' Max & Erma's, for old times' sake. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I would have gotten no work done there... not that I'm doing that much now, either. But more about that in my next post...

Word up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

DC: Behind the Scenes

I'm currently spending a few days in DC with my cousins and aunt and uncle (and father and sister). My cousin Bridget is an intern at the White House, so we made plans to have lunch and visit some of the buildings not accessible to the public. Lunch was great, but what was even better was that her boss got me access to the Old Executive Office Building (not open to the public), where most of the senior staffers work. That was pretty impressive, and the architecture (both inside and out) was beautiful (and very french, hon hon). After that, I visited the Decatur House, which was fairly cool.

Next, my cousin's boss got me access to the White House for a departure. We got to stand next to the White House door as Marine One landed.

Click here to expand the landing pictures.

Then Bush came out, just a few steps away from me. It's no secret I'm not a huge fan of the guy, but it was pretty damn weird seeing a scene you'd usually see on your TV screen happen at a distance where the only thing preventing your from leaning out and pun...err touching the guy is the sniper bullet you'd get for doing something so intensly stupid. (Disclaimer: This is but jest. Political debate is done with words, not fists. Plus... I dislike cheap jabs. Please don't kill me, Secret Service people...).

Pictures of The Man himself:

Click here to expand the Bush pictures.

A caption which comes to mind is Ace Ventura's "A**holes in the mirror [lens] may be closer than they appear..." I kid, I kid. Again, SS peeps, please don't hunt me down.

We also had some time to take a few pictures of us in front of the White House. Pretty good day all around. Quite an experience, I must say...

Click here to see the rest of the pictures.Here are some more pictures:

Bush's dogs: Barney and Mrs. Ihaveknowfrigginclue.

My cousin Bridget and I in front of the south lawn.

Me, in front of the White House.

Bridget, ditto.

Bridget and I, ditto.

That's all for now folks.

News from the Bay

Got back from Easton (Chesapeake Bay) yesterday.

I had a really great week of just lazing about across a house roughly five or six times the size of mine, with pool, hotub, and people cooking for us and bringing us drink. You'd think this extremely opulent lifestyle might be morally objectionable, but it turns out the considering the good company and the good wine, it's suprisingly not.

Anywhooo, not much exciting happened (no explosions, man eating sharks, magical racoons), and what did happen isn't of much concern or interest for people outside the family (then again, does anyone outside the family actually read this thing?).

Amusing anecdote though...
One morning, I woke up and went down to breakfast. One of the caterers greeted me with "There's a Scottish Man outside serving ice cream". I must admit my first thought was that either I was not completely awake, or that he was on crack, but as it turns out...

Click here to see more selected pictures.And now, for more pictures from the Bay:
The house, as seen from the bay.

Who's that sexy beast?

Conor catches up on some World Cup action.

The "adults" take the pool...

... and the "kids" claim it back.

Ben: about to discover that you can't really see anything underwater in the hot tub.

Ellie: The best fishergirlie ever. Beginner's luck, or natural talent?

Who on earth needs two boats?

Carol attempting to get everyone's attention.

Everyone, not paying attention.