When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

u r wt u wr - 30th April 2011

"Of those who say nothing, few are silent." - Thomas Neill


u r wt u wr:

- [Contributed] 'The waitress gave me crabs'
- [Auntie in her 50s] 'Just the two of us secret'
- '♥ my shirt'
- 'I may look innocent but I sure can put you into trouble'
- 'Magic woman' (Maybe she makes your money disappear)
- 'Happy nude year'
- 'Time has no meaning when you are in love' (I'd like to say that I saw her running for a bus, but that'd be a lie)
- 'Nice *picture of heart with moustache* moustache' (Maybe it was commentary on her bikini line)
- 'He's not my BOYFRIEND <- He's my BODYGUARD' - 'I'm confident' (If you are, you won't need to proclaim it) - 'Bisous *kiss lipstick mark* pour toi' (Translation: 'Kisses for you') - 'Not lonely here at the top' (There was an upward-pointing arrow in the o in 'not' pointing at her non-existent pearl necklace)
- 'Hot waffles to go *picture of open waffle maker*'
- 'I *star* shining for you'
- [Auntie in her 50s] 'What's Your Number?' (this looked like an event shirt but nothing was big enough to read)
- 'U like what you see?' (She had a bulging tummy, so no)
- 'We're so cool. We're so cool. Ice cubes are jealous'
- [Woman in her late 50s] 'I want to be your love *many words*'
- 'What you wish for'
- 'Don't forget to blink'
- 'Get what you want'
- 'Hug *tree trunk* me'
- 'I only date models not you' ("Only date" was in a heart)
- 'Only sos as girl lover'
- 'Nice and sweet' (she was wearing a tudung with a T-shirt)
- 'Innocent by day. Party girl *something*'
- 'I'm a beautiful girl. Just let us love'
- 'Your tee will look cool on me'

France 2010 - Day 14

"One man's folly is another man's wife." - Helen Rowland


France 2010
Day 14 - 15th October - Departure

Before returning the car I had to fill up the gas tank. The second station the GPS led me to - an Aldi - had disappeared. Then while getting to the third, I witnessed an accident (a car ploughed headlong into the side of the engine area of another car) which caused a traffic jam. Luckily both seemed unhurt.

The third station I went to had a long queue, and someone cut my line (Paris, je t'aime !); somehow most gas stations with payment at the pump rejected my cards - even those with chips.

On my way to Charles de Gaulle airport I saw another accident (in my 6 days driving, the worst that happened to me was I knocked a highway cone). As well as a Samsung ad where a colourful hand in a thumbsup pose grabbed a phone ("Bagus!"). There was also a Concorde ad mounted on the tarmac for some reason.

I returned the car at 9:45am, 45 mins late, but didn't get fined. Maybe you get an hour's grace. Or maybe they were understanding, with all the strikes.

For breakfast, I decided to have something one definitely cannot find in Singapore:

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McDonald's REAL Bacon and Egg McMuffun. And a 1€ "Mandise" (I can't find a translation so I'm assuming it's the name of the product rather than a generic name for the confection)

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Check out that bacon

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Inside of the "Mandise" with chocolate. It was excellent.

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"Liberté, sécurité, flexibilité et agilité, tout est dans un seul nuage" ("Liberty, safety, flexibility and agility, all in the same cloud")
They couldn't find a way to squeeze in égalité and fraternité in there.

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Charles de Gaulle looks like the Death Star, with all the grey concrete

Inside the Death Star

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A girl who likes to ride

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Woman in a coat which was basically a giant duvet from her neck to her ankles, with extra puffiness around her neck (and compartments with down/padding). Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, in black.
This was in the immigration queue. I'm not sure how she stood it.

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Giant Chupa Chups

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What happens to crisps in the plane

As we got further from France, the French of the stewardess doing announcements seemed to get worse.

5 star hotels do exist in France, but they only have since 1st January 2009.

Overall the weather was good during my trip, with no rain (even in Brittany). This was despite it raining the week or two before I went there.

After some travel, you discount guidebook descriptions by half. It seems every other town has a Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts museum) and a Château. That's not to say they are not nice, but the one in the next town might be better.

Two Concepts of Liberty (1/2)

"The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all" -Mark Twain


Reading the full text of Isaiah Berlin's Two Concepts of Liberty almost 7 years after reading extracts from it, I still find it (or most of it, anyway) equally powerful and compelling, if not even more so:

"Where ends are agreed, the only questions left are those of means, and these are not political but technical, that is to say, capable of being settled by experts or machines, like arguments between engineers or doctors. That is why those who put their faith in some immense, world-transforming phenomenon, like the final triumph of reason or the proletarian revolution, must believe that all political and moral problems can thereby be turned into technological ones...

The German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilization. He spoke of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as the sword with which German deism had been decapitated, and described the works of Rousseau as the blood-stained weapon which, in the hands of Robespierre, had destroyed the old regime... It is only a very vulgar historical materialism that denies the power of ideas, and says that ideals are mere material interests in disguise. It may be that, without the pressure of social forces, political ideas are stillborn: what is certain is that these forces, unless they clothe themselves in ideas, remain blind and undirected...

[Ed: Not to forget the useless writings of the whiner Karl Marx; Nia adds: "Marx out-Marxed"]

To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom - freedom from what? Almost every moralist in human history has praised freedom. Like happiness and goodness, like nature and reality, it is a term whose meaning is so porous that there is little interpretation that it seems able to resist. I do not propose to discuss either the history of this protean word or the more than two hundred senses of it recorded by historians of ideas...

I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity... Coercion is not, however, a term that covers every form of inability. If I say that I am unable to jump more than ten feet in the air, or cannot read because I am blind, or cannot understand the darker pages of Hegel, it would be eccentric to say that I am to that degree enslaved or coerced...

It is true that to offer political rights, or safeguards against intervention by the State, to men who are half-naked, illiterate, underfed and diseased is to mock their condition; they need medical help or education before they can understand, or make use of, an increase in their freedom. What is freedom to those who cannot make use of it? Without adequate conditions for the use of freedom, what is the value of freedom? First things come first: there are situations in which - to use a saying satirically attributed to the nihilists by Dostoevsky - boots are superior to Pushkin; individual freedom is not everyone's primary need. For freedom is not the mere absence of frustration of whatever kind; this would inflate the meaning of the word until it meant too much or too little. The Egyptian peasant needs clothes or medicine before, and more than, personal liberty, but the minimum freedom that he needs today, and the greater degree of freedom that he may need tomorrow, is not some species of freedom peculiar to him, but identical with that of professors, artists and millionaires...

Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience... the freedom of some must at times be curtailed to secure the freedom of others. Upon what principle should this be done? If freedom is a sacred, untouchable value, there can be no such principle... a practical compromise has to be found...

What made the protection of individual liberty so sacred to Mill? In his famous essay he declares that, unless the individual is left to live as he wishes in 'the part [of his conduct] which merely concerns himself', civilisation cannot advance; the truth will not, for lack of a free market in ideas, come to light; there will be no scope for spontaneity, originality, genius, for mental energy, for moral courage. Society will be crushed by the weight of 'collective mediocrity'. Whatever is rich and diversified will be crushed by the weight of custom, by men's constant tendency to conformity, which breeds only 'withered' capacities, 'pinched and hidebound', 'cramped and dwarfed' human beings... To threaten a man with persecution unless he submits to a life in which he exercises no choices of his goals; to block before him every door but one, no matter how noble the prospect upon which it opens, or how benevolent the motives of those who arrange this, is to sin against the truth that he is a man, a being with a life of his own to live...

Integrity, love of truth and fiery individualism grow at least as often in severely disciplined communities, among, for example, the puritan Calvinists of Scotland or New England, or under military discipline, as in more tolerant or indifferent societies; and if this is so, Mill's argument for liberty as a necessary condition for the growth of human genius falls to the ground...

The doctrine is comparatively modern. There seems to be scarcely any discussion of individual liberty as a conscious political ideal (as opposed to its actual existence) in the ancient world...

Freedom in this sense is not, at any rate logically, connected with democracy or selfgovernment. Self-government may, on the whole, provide a better guarantee of the preservation of civil liberties than other regimes, and has been defended as such by libertarians. But there is no necessary connection between individual liberty and democratic rule. The answer to the question 'Who governs me?' is logically distinct from the question 'How far does government interfere with me?'... The connection between democracy and individual liberty is a good deal more tenuous than it seemed to many advocates of both...

'I am my own master'; 'I am slave to no man'; but may I not (as Platonists or Hegelians tend to say) be a slave to nature? Or to my own 'unbridled' passions? Are these not so many species of the identical genus 'slave' - some political or legal, others moral or spiritual? Have not men had the experience of liberating themselves from spiritual slavery, or slavery to nature, and do they not in the course of it become aware, on the one hand, of a self which dominates, and, on the other, of something in them which is brought to heel? This dominant self is then variously identified with reason... with my 'real', or 'ideal', or 'autonomous' self, or with my self 'at its best'; which is then contrasted with irrational impulse, uncontrolled desires, my 'lower' nature, the pursuit of immediate pleasures, my 'empirical' or 'heteronomous' self, swept by every gust of desire and passion, needing to be rigidly disciplined if it is ever to rise to the full height of its 'real' nature. Presently the two selves may be represented as divided by an even larger gap; the real self may be conceived as something wider than the individual (as the term is normally understood), as a social 'whole' of which the individual is an element or aspect: a tribe, a race, a Church, a State, the great society of the living and the dead and the yet unborn. This entity is then identified as being the 'true' self which, by imposing its collective, or 'organic', single will upon its recalcitrant 'members', achieves its own, and therefore their, 'higher' freedom... it is possible, and at times justifiable, to coerce men in the name of some goal (let us say, justice or public health) which they would, if they were more enlightened, themselves pursue, but do not, because they are blind or ignorant or corrupt. This renders it easy for me to conceive of myself as coercing others for their own sake, in their, not my, they would not resist me if they were rational and as wise as I and understood their interests as I do. But I may go on to claim a good deal more than this. I may declare that they are actually aiming at what in their benighted state they consciously resist, because there exists within them an occult entity - their latent rational will, or their 'true' purpose - and that this entity, although it is belied by all that they overtly feel and do and say, is their 'real' self, of which the poor empirical self in space and time may know nothing or little; and that this inner spirit is the only self that deserves to have its wishes taken into account. Once I take this view, I am in a position to ignore the actual wishes of men or societies, to bully, oppress, torture them in the name, and on behalf, of their 'real' selves, in the secure knowledge that whatever is the true goal of man (happiness, performance of duty, wisdom, a just society, self-fulfilment) must be identical with his freedom - the free choice of his 'true', albeit often submerged and inarticulate, self.

This paradox has been often exposed. It is one thing to say that I know what is good for X, while he himself does not; and even to ignore his wishes for its - and his - sake; and a very different one to say that he has eo ipso chosen it, not indeed consciously, not as he seems in everyday life, but in his role as a rational self which his empirical self may not know - the 'real' self which discerns the good, and cannot help choosing it once it is revealed. This monstrous impersonation, which consists in equating what X would choose if he were something he is not, or at least not yet, with what X actually seeks and chooses, is at the heart of all political theories of self-realisation. It is one thing to say that I may be coerced for my own good, which I am too blind to see: this may, on occasion, be for my benefit; indeed it may enlarge the scope of my liberty. It is another to say that if it is my good, then I am not being coerced, for I have willed it, whether I know this or not, and am free (or 'truly' free) even while my poor earthly body and foolish mind bitterly reject it, and struggle with the greatest desperation against those who seek, however benevolently, to impose it... conceptions of freedom directly derive from views of what constitutes a self, a person, a man. Enough manipulation of the definition of man, and freedom can be made to mean whatever the manipulator wishes. Recent history has made it only too clear that the issue is not merely academic...

If I no longer feel attached to property, no longer care whether or not I am in prison, if I have killed within myself my natural affections, then [the tyrant] cannot bend me to his will, for all that is left of myself is no longer subject to empirical fears or desires. It is as if I had performed a strategic retreat into an inner citadel - my reason, my soul, my 'noumenal' self - which, do what they may, neither external blind force, nor human malice, can touch...

For if the essence of men is that they are autonomous beings -authors of values, of ends in themselves, the ultimate authority of which consists precisely in the fact that they are willed freely - then nothing is worse than to treat them as if they were not autonomous, but natural objects, played on by causal influences, creatures at the mercy of external stimuli, whose choices can be manipulated by their rulers, whether by threats of force or offers of rewards. To treat men in this way is to treat them as if they were not self-determined. 'Nobody may compel me to be happy in his own way', said Kant. Paternalism is 'the greatest despotism imaginable'. This is so because it is to treat men as if they were not free, but human material for me, the benevolent reformer, to mould in accordance with my own, not their, freely adopted purpose... to manipulate men, to propel them towards goals which you - the social reformer - see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them. That is why to lie to men, or to deceive them, that is, to use them as means for my, not their own, independently conceived ends, even if it is for their own benefit, is, in effect, to treat them as subhuman, to behave as if their ends are less ultimate and sacred than my own. In the name of what can I ever be justified in forcing men to do what they have not willed or consented to?... All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought-control and conditioning, is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate...

To rid myself of fear, or love, or the desire to conform is to liberate myself from the despotism of something which I cannot control. Sophocles, whom Plato reports as saying that old age alone has liberated him from the passion of love - the yoke of a cruel master - is reporting an experience as real as that of liberation from a human tyrant or slave owner. The psychological experience of observing myself yielding to some 'lower' impulse, acting from a motive that I dislike, or of doing something which at the very moment of doing I may detest, and reflecting later that I was 'not myself, or 'not in control of myself, when I did it, belongs to this way of thinking and speaking. I identify myself with my critical and rational moments. The consequences of my acts cannot matter, for they are not in my control; only my motives are. This is the creed of the solitary thinker who has defied the world and emancipated himself from the chains of men and things...

If I find that I am able to do little or nothing of what I wish, I need only contract or extinguish my wishes, and I am made free. If the tyrant (or 'hidden persuader') manages to condition his subjects (or customers) into losing their original wishes and embracing ('internalising') the form of life he has invented for them, he will, on this definition, have succeeded in liberating them. He will, no doubt, have made them feel free - as Epictetus feels freer than his master (and the proverbial good man is said to feel happy on the rack). But what he has created is the very antithesis of political freedom...

The logical culmination of the process of destroying everything through which I can possibly be wounded is suicide. While I exist in the natural world, I can never be wholly secure. Total liberation in this sense (as Schopenhauer correctly perceived) is conferred only by death..."

(to be continued)

Friday, April 29, 2011

On Ignorant Pedantry in English

"The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools." - Doug Larson


"The first prohibition against the split infinitive occurs in an 1834 article by an author identified only as "P." After that, increasingly over the course of the nineteenth century, a "rule" banning split infinitives began ricocheting from grammar book to grammar book, until every self-conscious English-speaker 'knew' that to put a word between 'to' and a verb in its infinitive was barbaric.

The split-infinitive rule may represent mindless prescriptivism's greatest height. It was foreign. (It was almost certainty based on the inability to split infinitives in Latin and Greek, since they consist of one word only.) It had been routinely violated by the great writers in English; one 1931 study found split infinitives in English literature from every century, beginning with the fourteenth-century epic poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, through wrongdoers such as William Tyndale, Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe, John Donne, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and others.

Rewording split infinitives can introduce ambiguity: 'He failed entirely to comprehend it' can mean he failed entirely, or he comprehended, but not entirely. Only putting 'entirely' between 'to' and 'comprehend' can convey clearly 'he comprehended most, but not all.' True, sentences can be reworded to work around the problem ('He failed to comprehend everything'), but there is no reason to do so. While many prescriptive rules falsely claim to improve readability and clarity, this one is worse, introducing a problem that wasn't there in the first place. Yet as split infinitives in fact became more common in nineteenth-century writing, condemnations of it grew equally strongly. The idea that 'rules' were more important than history, elegance, or actual practice ... held writers and speakers in terror of making them. ...

Why is it 'wrong' to end a sentence with a preposition? ... Who, upon seeing a cake in the office break room, says, 'For whom is this cake?' instead of 'Who's the cake for?' Where did this rule come from?

The answer will surprise even most English teachers: John Dryden, the seventeenth-century poet less well known as an early, influential stickler. In a 1672 essay, he criticized his literary predecessor Ben Jonson for writing 'The bodies that these souls were frightened from.' Why the prepositional bee in Dryden's syntactical bonnet? This pseudo-rule probably springs from the same source many others do: the classical languages. Dryden said he liked to compose in Latin and translate into English, as he valued the precision and clarity he believed Latin required of writers. The preposition-final construction is impossible in Latin. Hence: it is impossible in English. Confused by his logic? Linguists remain so to this day. But once Dryden proclaimed the rule, it made its way into the first generation of English usage books roughly a century later and thence into the minds of two hundred years of English teachers and copy editors.

The rule has no basis in clarity ('Who's that cake for?' is perfectly clear); history (it was made up from whole cloth); literary tradition (Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Samuel Johnson, Lord Byron, Henry Adams, Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, and dozens of other great writers have violated it); or purity (it isn't native to English but probably stolen from Latin; clause-final prepositions exist in English's cousin languages such as Danish and Icelandic). Many people know that the Dryden rule is nonsense. From the great usage-book writer Henry Fowler in the early twentieth century, usage experts began to caution readers io ignore it. The New York Times flouts it. The 'rule' should be put to death, but it may never be. Even those who know it is ridiculous observe it for fear of annoying others."

--- You Are What You Speak / Robert Lane Greene

Joke of the Day: "'Emotional dilemma' of Aljunied voters"

'Emotional dilemma' of Aljunied voters
WP forcing them to pick between opposition cause, self-interest: George Yeo

"THE Workers' Party (WP) is making use of Aljunied GRC voters by placing on them the burden of pushing the opposition cause, said Mr George Yeo yesterday...

'It's an emotional dilemma for many people,' said Mr Yeo. 'I get many people (writing) on my Facebook wall who feel very uncomfortable about this. They said, because of this, even if they vote for WP, please do not feel that we have anything against you.'

He added: 'I find that it's against the spirit of democracy.'"


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Links - 28th April 2011

“I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.” - Woodrow Wilson


Physics Envy May Be Hazardous To Your Health– And Economy - "The language of probability and statistics is so well-developed and ingrained in the scientific method that we often forget the fact that many probabilistic mechanisms are, in fact, proxies for deterministic phenomena that are too complex to be modeled in any other fashion. Coin tosses are random, but as they exist in the physical world and are governed by physics, they should be deterministic if we were able/motivated to control/know all the conditions, e.g. a coin flipping machine... 'When physics experiences a crisis, physicists are generally allowed to sort through the issues by themselves, without the distraction of outside interference. When a financial crisis occurs, it seems that everyone becomes a financial expert overnight, with surprisingly strong opinions on what caused the crisis and how to fix it.'"
Original paper: "We... describe an alternate perspective of economic behavior based on a new taxonomy of uncertainty. We illustrate the relevance of this taxonomy with two concrete examples: the classical harmonic oscillator with some new twists that make physics look more like economics"

Mobile Opportunity: The Real Lesson of Cisco's Billion-Dollar Flip Debacle - "There's an old saying that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. We need a similar proverb for news analysis -- when you're obsessed with smartphones, every market change looks like it was caused by them... Presenting a stationary target is enough to doom any consumer electronics product. For example, what would have happened if Apple had stopped evolving the iPhone after version 1?... The lesson in all of this: If you're at an enterprise company that wants to enter the consumer market, or vice-versa, you need to wall off the new business completely from your existing company... The other lesson of the Flip failure is that we should all be very skeptical when a big enterprise company says it's going consumer"

Chinese man accused of creating fake Army Ranger unit - "A California man allegedly recruited more than 100 other Chinese nationals, gave them phony uniforms and documents, and charged them initiation dues, CNN reported. He declared himself "supreme commander" of the unit and told the recruits it was a path to U.S. citizenship. He even offered them a chance to buy a higher rank -- by paying him cash."

Silvio Berlusconi gave Ruby £40,000 'to buy hair removal equipment' - "The prime minister said he wanted to help set up Karima El Mahroug in business because he feared that poverty and a lack of opportunities would otherwise force her into prostitution. He also repeated that he believed at the time that she was the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt."

"No more time-travel drama", authority says it disrespects history - "[In China] The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore... Besides of the over-exaggerated time-travel dramas, the bureau is also making it clear that no more new film and TV versions of the Four Great Classical Novels should be produced and aired on the screen in the near future"
"Sans doute parce que ces histoires révèlent un besoin de s'avader de la Chine communiste contemporaine pour retrouver un temps glorieux où le bonheur était possible. Voilà une étrange atteinte aux libertés, particulièrement insidueuse puisque la Chine n'interdit pas seulement l'évasion, mais le rêve d'évasion, le recours au passé, la nostalgie"

Comment rendre un homme amoureux ? - "Les mecs réfléchissent différemment des femmes, car malgré tout ce qu’ils diront, ils couchent d’abord et réfléchissent ensuite... Soyez une déesse au lit, ne soyez pas inactive le jour où vous ferez l’amour pour la première fois avec lui. En somme, ne faites pas la planche... Ne cherchez pas compliqué. Même si c’est dans la nature féminine, faites simple. Si un homme vous plaît, faites lui comprendre et arrangez vous pour vous retrouver seule avec lui"

Transgender celebrities - "HAVING gone through a sex change makes you exceptionally lucky in stardom. Or so it seems. Lianhe Wanbao listed out certain known personalities who have had a sex change - Taiwanese model Alicia Liu Xun-ai, Japanese Haruna Ai, Korean Harisu Lee Kyung-eun - have all made a name for themselves in the entertainment industry."

YouTube - Home Bouldering

A Brief Primer on Criminal Statistics - "When a change in the police reported crime rate is observed from year to year or across a span of time we may be observing a “real” change, we may be observing a change in how these crimes come to the attention of police, or we may be seeing a mixture of both"

Chinese Cyberattacks: Myth or Menace? - "There certainly is a lot of hacking coming out of China. Any company that does security monitoring sees it all the time. Of course, they can't prove that it comes out of China. But the majority of servers used in the attacks are located in China, using DNS bouncers that can only be registered by people literate in Chinese. The hacker websites where different hackers and hacker groups brag about their exploits and sell hacker tools and how-to videos are written in Chinese. Technically, it's possible all the attackers are from, say, Canada and trying to disguise themselves, but it seems pretty unlikely... the fact that these groups aren't being run by the Chinese government makes the problem worse. Without central political coordination, they're likely to take more risks, do stupider things and generally ignore the political fallout of their actions"

My holiday in the 'axis of evil' - "I've recently been to both Syria and Iran and, say what you like about the foreign policies of Damascus and Tehran, you won't find a Starbucks, a Gap or a hen party fighting in the street in either of them."

Fascinating Facts About Internet Sex - "Women look at Internet porn, but they're much less likely to pay for it
MILFs are as popular as nineteen-year-olds
Plenty of guys think grannies are hot
More men search for fat women than for skinny ones
Trans women are popular in porn, and their audience is mostly straight dudes"
Some of the generalisation about the anti-generalisations are themselves problematic

The Unleashed Mind: Why Creative People Are Eccentric - "Creativity and eccentricity often go hand in hand, and researchers now believe that both traits may be a result of how the brain filters incoming information. Even in the business world, there is a growing appreciation of the link between creative thinking and unconventional behavior, with increased acceptance of the latter... creative individuals tend to score higher on scales of schizotypal personality than less creative individuals"

Top 10 Myths About Sex - "A cold shower actually stimulates libido by increasing hormone levels... staring at your lover has about a 50/50 chance of promoting feelings of love and passion. The other fifty percent of the time it promotes aggression and annoyance, which has been documented in couple studies as fighting and arguing... women show substantial increases in sexual arousal (measured by testosterone in saliva) while listening to the sound of a high performance Maserati, as compared to a low performance Volkswagen (VW) Polo. In fact, the VW actually decreased the arousal of women below that of the baseline... married couples actually have more sex than the swinging single. This is mostly because couples living together are presented with more opportunities to have sex... only half of men (54 percent) think about sex once per day... Talk about a grossly overinflated female-chauvinistic rumor... [Premature ejaculation] is more of a hardwired system for survival, than an abnormality... The threat of a Tyrannosaurus charging while in the throes of passion, was enough to make him even quicker, which is why anxiety is still one of the leading causes of PE"

Video: Behind China's Great Firewall, Subversive Content in Cartoon Form | Asia Society - "On the surface the latest "Kuang Kuang" animation seems innocuous enough, but with a little context, it's "a very clear reference to the artist Ai Weiwei""

Problem Solving, Vivian-style - "I told Samiah it was not a crime to speak to reporters. Neither was it a crime to be homeless... What happened next shocked me. Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, stood up in Parliament a few days later and revealed selective details of Samiah and her partner’s financial history to well, practically everyone in Singapore"

Why this hawker can't afford to maintain prices - "On the one hand, MTI wants to keep inflation low and prices stable. On the other hand, NEA is bent on keeping in line with "prevailing economic conditions". My friend is keen to maintain his prices but with a 36 per cent increase in rental, he will find it difficult not to pass this price increase to his customers. NEA's letter also states: "If you have difficulty maintaining your stall rent, you may consider assigning the stall to an eligible party or surrendering it to NEA." This is his livelihood as a retiree. So it's a take it or leave it approach? Such compassion, coming from the civil service. I can understand if this were a private landlord"

Controversy After Vegan Magazine Found to Use Non-Vegan Stock Photos - "An example presented is a “Vegan Spare Ribs” article that uses a Photoshopped iStockPhoto image of actual barbecue spare ribs"

YouTube - Opening Ceremony Blog - Spike Jonze Presents: Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma
Breakdancing to a cello

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2 Paris Pictures from Yoga's Album

I was browing his Paris photos and came across 2 I particularly liked:

I prefer this shot of La Joconde to the actual picture

Frigid Pussy

My Bets for the Singapore General Election 2011

"God help those who do not help themselves." - Wilson Mizner


Unlike most people, I am pessimistic about the possibility of change.

Despite all the excitement in the air, one cannot forget that we've seen it all before in 2006 - whereas Blogs were the big thing then, Facebook and Twitter are now the poisons of choice. Yet there is something called the Echo Chamber effect, which "reinforce[s] a certain sense of truth that resonates with individual belief systems".

In other words, boys, you're preaching to the choir.

And to those who say that some old voters have died and many new young voters are going to be voting, remember that there're also many new citizens who will tend to support the existing government.

We also have yet to see what surprises will come up on the way to Cooling Off Day - not to mention how the Mainstream Media will be doing campaigning on Cooling Off Day itself.


To quote @rudeshock paraphrasing Emma Goldman, "If voting changes anything, they'd make it illegal. #hardtruths."

Putting my money where my mouth is, here're my Election 2011-related bets:

- If Marine Parades ousts Goh Chok Tong, I will buy Hui Ran lunch
- If GST doesn't rise within a year of the election (Polling Day) I'm donating my $400 pork-barrel money to charity
- If the PAP loses a grc I'll buy @jongolia and @jin_ lunch and @psychealkaios a bottle of French farmgrown apple cider (2%) from Barracks @ House (Dempsey). Which is excellent and a steal at $5.50 a glass, incidentally.

- If WP wins in Aljunied, I will buy "Ken" a Santouka Ramen
- If WP wins in Aljunied, aprilene says "we go get pho when I'm back :)"
- If "only a single GRC falls" chaosbutterfly will buy me lunch (no word on what if not even a single does)
- If they win 2 GRCs and 4 SMCs or more I'll buy @chewlink @joelfirenze and @shaunkoh ramen]

- If the PAP loses more than 4 seats, I'll buy Carl Rajoo a bottle of Perrier
If the PAP loses a GRC I'll get him a beer
If they lose the 2/3 majority I'll buy him dinner
If they lose power...

Someone: "if they lose power you will do a striptease?"
Me: "I think that will get people to try and boost their vote share"

However, I realise that I need to cover my downside risk. So I should make bets in the opposite direction too.

The bets I have so far:

If a GRC falls:

- Eisen will buy me lunch
- MFTTW will buy me a hawker centre lunch ("I'll up the ante if it's holland bt").

- If WP loses in Aljunied, "Ken" will buy me a Santouka Ramen
- If 2 or more GRCs fall I'll buy chaosbutterfly lunch]

The best offer I've had so far is from "Ralph Waldo Emerson" (don't look at me, he chose the nom de guerre): "if a GRC falls I buy you one hour with a social escort of your choice."

Of course all the conditions came later:

"okay okay
progress package
nothing more

if angmokio [or marine parade] falls
i get u the 1,500 one"

Oh, and if Nicole Seah loses her election deposit I'll contribute $200 to defraying it.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Links - 26th April 2011

"There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology - the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good." - Robert Pirsig


iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go - "Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised... "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been... We haven't come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this"... Apple had failed to take users' privacy seriously"

A woman to do the job - "Is someone racist? Homophobic? Or misogynistic? You wouldn't have a clue when things are rosy. But when the stakes are high and people get desperate, facades of propriety start to unravel... Will the opposition parties field women in these wards, for example? This will be a key test in whether gender diversity is a priority for them... the current gender diversity in Singapore's parliament is depressing... By not having a larger number of women in parliament, Singapore is missing out on a key source of diversity which could lend it the insight to steer it through any choppy waters ahead... if the opposition parties will not or cannot field the a woman in these contests, will their man on the ground subsequently lean on sexist logic to score points?... all of the above reactions apply only to people who believe that women have an equal status in Singapore. For those who think otherwise, I can only hope they are well and truly outnumbered in this country"
Among the many problematic aspects, it's not clear that being the target of sexist political point-scoring is worse than being the target of normal political point-scoring. Luckily, I don't think his attempt to stir up gender identity politics will work - and the commenters called him out on it, for example:
"If 50% of citizens have less than undergraduate degrees, does it also mean we need 'enough representation' of less educated in the parliament? Get REAL. "
"I think candidates should be judged by whether they have the relevant experience, ability, commitment and empathy to serve their constituents, not by their age, gender, oratorial skills or tv presence"
"The author forgot to mention that in the build up to the 1991 election, Seet Ai Mei was seen scrambling to wash her hands after shaking hands with a fishmonger... don't misrepresent lah, just to push your feminist agenda"
"If we studied the 1991 results... Gender was either a non-issue or a minor issue"
A letter: "it is superficial to judge a person based on race or occupation [or gender]"

Addendum: I just found out that Tan Hui Yee is a woman. It all makes sense now!

Kenan Malik - Test-tube truths - "In his new book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, [Sam Harris] sets out to demolish the traditional philosophical distinction between is and ought... Imagine a sociologist who wrote about evolutionary theory without discussing the work of Darwin, Fisher, Mayr, Hamilton, Trivers or Dawkins on the grounds that he did not come to his conclusions by reading about biology and because discussing concepts such as “adaptation”, “speciation”, “homology”, “phylogenetics” or “kin selection” would “increase the amount of boredom in the universe”. How seriously would we, and should we, take his argument?... The insistence that because it seems obvious that rape and murder are bad, and that wealth and security are good, so there must be objective values seems about as plausible as the argument that because there are gaps in the fossil record, so God must have created Adam and Eve... why should morality self-evidently relate solely to the “wellbeing of conscious creatures”? Why not, as some insist, to the wellbeing of the planet? Or of ecosystems? Or, as others argue, to the wellbeing of humans, as autonomous moral agents, rather than to that of all conscious creatures? I can think of rational arguments that can help distinguish between these claims. But I can think of no empirical test that can do so. Nor does Harris suggest any... The issue is not so much that wellbeing is a fuzzy category as that it can, in specific cases, be well-defined but in a number of different ways that are often conflicting in a manner that science cannot resolve... The difference between a consequentialist and a non-consequentialist view of torture, for instance, cannot be resolved empirically... just as we do not need the false certainty of a divinely sanctified moral code, neither do we need the false certainty of a morality rooted in science... The significance of the Euthyphro dilemma is that it embodies a deeper claim: that concepts such as goodness, happiness and wellbeing only have meaning in a world in which conscious, rational, moral agents exist that themselves are capable of defining moral right and wrong and acting upon it.It is the existence of humans as autonomous moral agents that allows us to act as the bridge between facts and values"

Trends in use of complementary and alternative medicine by US adults: 1997-2002. - "Factors associated with highest rates of CAM use were ages 40-64, female gender, non-black/non-Hispanic race, and annual income of dollar 65,000 or higher"

UK: 'Waste of time and money' - GPs deliver damning diagnosis on fad health-styles of the rich and famous - "more than three quarters (79%) of women use alternative health treatments favoured by celebrities... to try each treatment on the GPs’ list could cost women more than £800* on average – with upgrades to practitioners used by the celebs themselves seeing the costs running to thousands... Seven in 10 (70%) would try alternative treatments rather than visit their doctor"
Interestingly this research was conducted on "over 1,000 full-time UK workers" but there're no results reported for men; women are more into alternative medicine because they reject the racist, patriarchal basis of modern medicine which is run by white men, ignores the ideas of traditional minority medicine and privileges tangible, measurable outcomes like quality-adjusted life years

For Many Bachelors in China, No Deed Means No Dates - "more than 70 percent of single women in a recent survey said they would tie the knot only with a prospective husband who owned a home... “It’s the guy’s responsibility to tell a girl right away whether he owns an apartment,” she said. “It gives her a chance not to fall in love.” With such women on the prowl, even men who do have their own homes have come up with techniques to weed out the covetous and the inordinately materialistic. Liu Binbin, 30, an editor at a publishing house in Beijing, said he often arrived at first dates by bus, even though he owned a car. “If they ask me questions like ‘Do you live with your parents?’ I know what they’re after,” he said... he knew she was the one after passing the three-month mark. “The whole time she thought I didn’t own an apartment and she still wanted me,” he said. “Someone like that is rare.”"

Food Raves Gain in Popularity - "Here, where the food rave — call it a crave — was born, the market organizers sidestep city health inspections by operating as a private club, requiring that participants become “members” (free) and sign a disclaimer noting that food might not be prepared in a space that has been inspected... many friends could not afford to sell at farmers markets, which requires business and product liability insurance (around $250), space rental ($40 to $55 a day), yearly member fees (around $110), and a health and safety permit (about $500). The use of commercial kitchens would cost an additional $45 to $75 an hour, Mr. Rabins noted, and making jam can take eight hours or more"

Diary of A Singaporean Mind: Minister Mah attacks WP's affordable housing plan.... - "Minister Mah calls WP irresponsible for its plan to provide more affordable flats. He says that cheaper flats means more housing subsidies and less money for education and healthcare. Let me ask you a simple question. In the past few years when the price of HDB flats surge by more than 50% , by Minister Mah's logic, the govt should be awashed with more money from selling HDB flats for healthcare and education - if that is so, why did the govt implement means testing to cut subsidies for healthcare and why did they have to raise school fees for universities and cuts subsidies for education of children with special needs etc? The fact is budget has little to do with HDB selling price. If anything, when the HDB prices go up, the HDB actually shows more losses due to "market subsidies" which increase proportionately with price"

Students don’t need protection from ideas - "The University of Westminster had elected [two] linked to the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation that is pretty keen on establishing a global Islamic state... ‘Our rules state individuals or members of organisations or groups identified as holding racist and fascist views are not allowed to stand for election, or go to, speak at, or take part in conferences, meetings or any other events’... [Some] suffer from some sort of Kim Jong Il-esque paranoia that the BNP or Islamofascists are at the gates of our university campuses just awaiting the opportunity to turn the nation’s students racist. This patronisingly assumes that students are an uncritically receptive bunch capable of being whipped into a crazed mob at the merest hint of BNP or Islamist rhetoric. The other camp of students in favour of No Platform, while less obviously hysterical than their fellow no-platformers, is in fact far more insidious. This group talks of creating a safe space to ensure that people do not feel intimidated or feel unable to make their voices heard... The types of student that need protection from such radical views range from the traditional, such as black students or women, right through to the absurd, such as socialist or ‘nervous’. Yet I have seen black, women and even nervous students take the stand, as I have myself at the NUS annual conference, and say ‘I don’t want or need your “protection”’. And they have argued this for a good reason. The idea of ‘protection’ assumes that people have a right not to be offended, that they have a right not to hear students with views influenced by Hizb ut-Tahrir. But there is no right not to be offended. Why should there be? These are students after all; they are at university to experience new and often offensive ideas""
This is a more nuanced issue than he puts it - elected members of the body may be misconstrued as representing it

Given our current technology and with the proper training, would it be possible for someone to become Batman? - Quora - "The genius of Batman is that it pretends to be realistic, it lets us convince ourselves that with enough money and training, we could become Batman, too. But it's still fantasy... The police draw their guns and order you to stop. You turn and grab for the smoke pellet on your belt to help hide your getaway, but unfortunately for you the cops see you reaching for something and open fire... and you suit's armor is already a mess from the shotgun blast earlier. Uh oh. When you wake up in the ICU, your mask and costume are gone, you're in a lot of pain, but the doctors successfully removed the bullets and re-inflated your lung. The downside is the set of handcuffs trapping you in the bed"

www.AncientAfricanVoodoo.com - "My name is Odongo Baakoo. I am one of the most powerful, and recognized Voodoo Master Priests. “My Powerful gifts have amazed the world”... WARNING: “Ancient African Voodoo Spells” invoke the power of Spiritual Forces which are Real and Powerful. You must consider Ancient African Voodoo Spells very seriously. I will not assume responsibility for the wrong use of my Ancient African Voodoo Spells... 30 Day Money Back Guarantee... Your prices are quite low comparing to others, why? First, I am a real African Voodoo Priest. Most voodoo’s websites are scams."

Review: The Black Sheep Cafe (Mayo Street)

"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." - Sir Francis Bacon


Fine dining at cafe prices
(Cross posted as usual on HGW)

"Had the daily soup (Mushroom), Crispy pork cheeks, Duck Confit and Flourless Chocolate Tart.

The mushroom soup was good and didn't fall prey to some common mushroom soup pitfalls - too much mushroom (so that it becomes like a stew - or even a sauce - rather than a soup) or too intense a mushroom taste (you can have too much of a good thing, which comes with an off-bitter aftertaste too).

The pork cheeks and duck confit were perfectly moist, tender and flavourful, and the fruity condiments were a perfect foil for the meat (I have a sweet tooth though, so your mileage might vary). I have rarely come across such finely-executed meat, especially in Singapore.

The flourless chocolate tart was good. Typically I don't like fine chocolate as it is obligatory to pair a high cocoa content with a low sugar level, but this was fine (contrawise, others might find it too sweet). It also came with a scoop of fine vanilla ice cream.

We had wanted to try the Kahlua Soufflé, which was highly recommended, but the kitchen closed at 2pm (although the café itself is open till 3pm!), so I'll save it for my next visit.

All in all it was very good value. Bear in mind that there is no GST and service charge (the benefits of a Little India location, as opposed to some yuppie quarter).

The only downside is the portions - modest portions come with the modest prices. Fine dining comes with small portions, so this is something you have to keep in mind despite the café setting. We were served a few slices of garlic baguette (which was a bit out of place - it's more the province of Jack's Place, but I shan't quibble), but I'm not sure if we could've asked for more.

Those who like variety might turn their noses up at this place as the menu is very short, but this is a good thing since they enjoy gains from specialisation. In other words, if you try and cook too many types of dishes, each one is going to be less nice.

Some previous reviewers have complained about the service, but we ordered at almost 2pm and there was only one other table, so I can't attest to that.

PS: Remember to make a reservation, especially if you have a big group. There isn't much seating space."

Monday, April 25, 2011

France 2010 - Day 13, Part 4 - Château d'Amboise

"Men are not against you; they are merely for themselves." - Gene Fowler


France 2010
Day 13 - 14th October - Château d'Amboise
(Part 4)

All the Kings of France, from Charles VII to Francis I, stayed at Amboise.

After the Gothic furniture was the Renaissance furniture, which introduced perspective.

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Chair and perspective

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Drawers and perspective

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Henri III chamber

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Fireplace in Franciscan Antechamber

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Louis-Philippe Bedchamber

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Louis Philippe's sister Madame Adélaide: the Duke of Orleans and his wife

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Looking out the side

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Bridge and town

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Ramparts and the gardens

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Château windows

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Coat of Arms at a door

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Porcupine's Gate (I think) and shrubs

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Château and Gardens

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Château and St Hubert Chapel

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Cypress, Grape vines, porcupine bushes

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Lion's Gate

There was an area dedicated to the Middle East.

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Information about the Oriental Garden

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Oriental Garden and Memorial

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Dedicated to 25 henchmen of Emir Abdelkader, who died here from 1848 to 1852

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Town of Amboise and Heurtault Tower

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Cedar of Lebanon

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Bust of Leonardo da Vinci

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Heurtault Tower

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Gothic vs Renaissance Windows

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St Hubert Chapel

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A hot air balloon rises above the Château

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"Leonardo da Vinci - Renaissance Man"

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In the base of an arch supporting the vault: caught in fornication

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Pussy in a hollow
One American: "Have you seen one skinny cat here?"

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I love creams. Served with crème fraîche

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Weapons in weapon shop

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Incontinence awareness poster

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UNESCO signpole

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The Château from below
This was the closest I could get to the official shots

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I forgot why I was asked to take this picture. I think it was because this house was reversed: its rear was where other houses' fronts were, and vice versa

I think this was the other side of the house:

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Now I had to drive all the way back to Paris, which was quite far.

For dinner we stopped at a Buffalo Grill. We had seen a few but this was the first time we got to try it.

Buffalo Grill is a French chain specialising in American-style grilled meat. And apparently "Buffalo Grill" is a play on "Buffalo Bill"

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"Les desserts. Hits. So American !
Classics. So incontournables !" (incontournable = unavoidable)
Notice the French style of puncuation

There was also a item: "Fruités. So fruity !" Duh.

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"French Brioche. Brioche à la française"
Gotta love the translation (there's a law that all slogans in foreign languages must be translated into French - and it's more honoured in the observance than in the breach)

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Their idea of Buffalo Wings
The Barbecue sauce was a bit pedestrian. Oh well, American food outside the US

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French Duo with Rocquefort

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Bison pavé with Béarnaise sauce (Bison chunk)
You could ask for many types of sauce, but the server recommended Béarnaise

Bison tastes like a more neutral sort of beef.

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I ordered my meat à point (medium), but probably due to the strange shape of the meat it wasn't very thoroughly-cooked (this section was like rare). I sent it back, of course.

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The menu
Notice the lack of a vegetarian - let alone vegan - option. Even the salads all have meat in them
Notice also that they have "Viande Bovine Française" (French Beef) vs "Viande de race français" (French-breed beef)

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If you ever wanted to know the French translations for "onion rings", "Fish", "Bun's" (sic), "Ribs", "All Fruits", "Bison by Buffalo", "New", "Frenchy Burger", "French Beef", "The" and "French Brioche", look here

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The French Brioche
This was excellent. And also quite sweet, as the Brioche was already sweet before the caramel sauce and cookies and cream ice cream

Since I still had a way to go and was running low on gas, I tried to refuel in Orléans. The GPS led us to a street where the road was being drilled up, so it was bumpy. Eventually I found Auchan, a supermarket.

Red lights in the night

Eventually I got back to Paris. How did I know I was back in Paris? When I was driving on the Périphérique (ring road) in the evening, I was the target of aggressive driving as people kept coming up close behind me. The best was this guy who came up very close behind me, and FLASHED HIS HIGH BEAM. I was blinded and would've crashed if I hadn't had a certain modicum of experience. Perhaps it was that asshole's wish to make me crash into him, so that he could claim insurance money.

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What a Formule 1 room looks like

In all, in 6 days I had driven more than 1,688km:

We had apéritifs most of the time (and twice cider) but never a digestif. Partly because I had to drive.

Having a car is fun because when you finish a drink you can just toss the bottle into the back seat.
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