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Saturday, June 25, 2011

France/Spain 2011 - Day 2, Part 5 - Colmar, Sélestat

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." - Henry Ford


France/Spain 2011
Day 2 - 18th March - Colmar, Sélestat
(Part 5)

I walked around Colmar before embarking on the next part of my day. It was a pretty little town.

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Maison des têtes (House of the Heads)

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Rue des boulangers (Road of the bakers)

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Rue des boulangers, Place de l'école (School Square)

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Dominican Church. Closed to visitors in Winter, bah.

There was a book on psychoanalysis of Alsace. Uhh.

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Former Cathedral (now Collegiate Church of St Martin). Inside was quite blah.

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Stream beside Former Cathedral. And girls eating Chinese takeout (go figure).

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I don't know what this was but it looked quite nice.

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Around Maison Pfister

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Maison Pfister, 1537

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Another interesting-looking building

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Law Court

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Rue des Tanneurs (Road of the Tanners)

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Quai de la Poissonnerie (Fishmonger's Quai)

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Rue de la Poissonnerie

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Petite Venise (Little Venice)

Petite Venise was the last of the interesting sights, so I rushed to the train station to try and catch a train to a town from which I would visit an impressive castle.

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Fontaine Roesselmann. They looked too young to be smoking.

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Monument Bartholdi

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Cour d'Appel (Court of Appeal)

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Gare de Colmar (Colmar Station)

I was not going to make the 13:01 train to Colmar, and the next one was at 13:57 so I was resigned. However, this was the first time I was happy to see the sign "retard 5 mn" (5 minutes delay). As it was I bought my ticket just as the train rolled into the station, and was lucky that there was a long queue to get onto it.

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Sélestat restaurant. Nothing special until I saw:

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The menu - it's an Asian Restaurant!

Naturally Tourist Information was closed for lunch. So I had time to rest on the bench outside and fail at accessing its free wifi. And eat the last La Durée macaron (vanilla - it was slightly more rich and intense than Ben and Jerry's Vanilla).

At Sélestat's tourist information, I tried to find out how I could get to the Castle of Haut-Kœnigsbourg; recall that the stupid castle had no shuttles servicing it during the week. This was despite the castle's website not mentioning that the shuttle didn't run every day (well, in June it did).

My options were:

- The smart option - skipping the castle and returning the next day when there would be a shuttle
- Taking a tour from Colmar (25€ per person - since I was alone it would've cost 50€)
- Taking a 20€ taxi there from Sélestat
- The stupid option - taking a bus to Châtenois and hiking 8km to the castle. I was assured by tourist information that the walk would take about 1 hour and wouldn't be too hard

At this point, I was missing 黑车 (unofficial transport), one of the [few] good things about China. Naturally, I chose the stupid option, as I figured it would be pleasant to walk. Really, I didn't choose this option just to save 19€ (the bus cost 1€).

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"La Route des Vins d'Alsace" ("The Alsatian Wine Route")
They managed to find an Asian chick for the cover. Excellent.

I wasn't going to walk 8km sans sustenance (I hadn't had lunch).

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"Maison de Qualité"
("House of Repute")

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Menu of Atas Restaurant

No, I didn't eat here. There was no kebab shop nearby, but I managed to get a ham and butter baguette sandwich, a Coke and an almond pastry.

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"Sélestat. Ville la plus sportive 2010"
("The city most enthusiastic about sport in 2010")

At the bus stop to Châtenois I saw a teen smoking, so I asked him what the minimum age for smoking was in France. He said 15. That explained the kids I saw smoking earlier.

He also asked for a bit of my sandwich, so I acquiesced (and gave him the last bit also). Then he asked me: "You're not from around here?" Again, Integration in France (or at least in Les Provinces) seems to be so bad that young members of minority groups cannot speak French. How can this be - this is not Germany!

Getting off the bus in Châtenois, I asked an elderly couple for directions. The man said he'd never seen anyone walk to Haut-Kœnigsbourg. Well, I was going to be the first.

So I tightened my shoelaces, popped 2 ibuprofen and started my walk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Links - 22nd June 2011

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." - Joseph Stalin


The precautionary principle does not take into account the deaths caused by NOT adopting a new technology - "A technology that might have prevented contaminated produce from infecting thousands of Germans with E. coli was vetoed—by Germany—11 years ago for use in the European Union... The German veto was a perfect example of what is wrong with the "precautionary principle"—the idea, long advocated by environmentalists, that the burden of proof is on innovators to demonstrate that a new technology is safe before it is approved.... The technology is effectively judged guilty until proven innocent. The precautionary principle often holds new technologies to a higher standard than existing technologies... the most common means of food irradiation is to use an electron gun of the kind found, until the arrival of flat screens, in every ordinary TV set"

Insomnia: Can't sleep? Try cooling your brain - "The method is effective because it slows metabolism in the frontal cortex"

Ghetto Women - "Many feminist interest groups have taken on this concept of ‘intersectionality’ but interpreted it in a simplistic way. They acknowledge how ‘feminism’ cannot represent all women as a homogenous group. They identify themselves as a minority who is ‘othered’ by the dominant feminist ideology, and is seen as ‘troublesome’. But their reaction is to retreat into their own ‘ghetto’, where they feel safe and are not ‘troubled’ by anyone else’s differing identities and opinions. So the radical feminists, trans women, ‘womanists’ , liberal feminists, anti-sex industry feminists, pro-porn feminists, trade union feminists all inhabit different discursive and physical spaces. In some cases they are patrolled by guards and have high fences round them, to keep out intruders... feminism is operating in ghettos, and how anyone who tries to break down the barriers and climb over the fence, gets her hand bitten... the language of hate could become the actions of hate... in this ghetto politics, men and their various ‘intersectional’ identities are not given any credence as far as I can see"

Camille Paglia on "Slutwalk" - "Its confused message is a symptom of the sexual chaos and anomie of the Western bourgeoisie. Don’t call yourself a slut unless you are prepared to live and defend yourself like one... Our liberation has burdened our successors with too many sexual choices too early. Their flesh-baring daily dress is a sex mime to whose arousing signals they seem blind. Only in a police state, and not even there, will women be totally safe on the streets. Honorable men do not rape. But protests and parades cannot create honor. Slutwalk’s overflowing emotion is a cry of distress, less about sexual violence than the spiritual disconnection of men and women in this garish, tech-driven, careerist age. When it devalued motherhood, Western feminism undermined women’s most ancient claim to dignity. Sluttishness as fact or metaphor cannot restore that lost mythic power"

Pedestrian fined for causing hurt to cyclist - "A PEDESTRIAN stepped onto the road without looking to the right and collided with a cyclist who died five hours later... [She] was fined $1,500 after she admitted to causing hurt to cleaner Lock Wai Chee, 42, by doing a negligent act as to endanger his life."
Maybe we need licenses for pedestrians now

Un Français sur trois flirte (ou plus) au bureau - "Un Français sur deux considère l'environnement professionnel comme propice au flirt et à la rencontre amoureuse et un sur trois a eu une relation (amoureuse, sentimentale ou sexuelle) avec une personne rencontrée dans le cadre de son travail (collègue, client, prestataire, fournisseur...)"

Obedient Wives Club to set up a Singapore chapter - "Singapore has supporters who agree with the club's stance of promoting harmonious marriages by advocating wives should act like a first-class prostitute in bed... "The key to make a man gentle and loving is a first-class loving wife an obedient wife. When the wife is obedient, the husband will be happy and gentle. They will not look elsewhere for the loving they need""

Bukit Brown: Progress comes first - "Cemeteries have to give way if our housing needs are to be met... we can still reminisce by looking at old photographs. In land-scarce Singapore, social progress must prevail over conserving burial grounds. Life goes on. When one window to history is closed, we open a new one for future generations."

Why Senator Joe McCarthy Hated 'It's a Wonderful Life' - "According to the FBI’s memo, portraying a capitalist in such a negative light was a classic communist trick... Meanwhile, opinions about Henry Potter’s character have changed over the years. In light of the housing-market crisis, the fiscally responsible banker may not have been such a bad guy after all. The loans that he tried to prevent George Bailey from handing out were essentially subprime mortgages. Mr. Potter may have just been trying to stop the poor citizens of Bedford Falls from over-leveraging themselves. Who’s the evil capitalist now?"
I'm sure some people slam both subprime mortgages and Henry Potter, because their conclusion is pre-ordained

Women Are More Attracted to Men Wearing Red - "Women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder. And it’s this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction"

2 Percent of Americans Identify as Gay

Rationally Speaking: The logic of skepticism - "Human beings are thus bound to navigate the treacherous waters between Scylla and Charybdis, between being too skeptical and too gullible. And yet, the two monsters are not of equal strength: if we accept the assumption that there is only one reality out there, then the number of false hypotheses must be inordinately higher than the number of correct ones. In other words, there must be many more ways of being wrong than right"

Lara Croft's large breasts were the result of an accidental mouse click!
"While making test adjustments to her girlish figure, a slip of his mouse turned an intended 50% increase to her breast size into a 150% gain. It met with instant approval from the team before he could correct it."

Girls of the Yamanote | Alexandre Gervais
Like the one who sent me this, I can't tell the difference

Des esclaves sexuelles pour lutter contre l’adultère? - "Salwa al-Mutairi, une militante politique et ancienne candidate aux élections législatives a demandé la légalisation d’esclaves féminins pour les hommes musulmans du Koweït, explique Kuwait Times. Selon elle, cela permettrait d’éloigner les hommes de l’adultère et de la corruption"

An Open Letter to Girls Who Wear Too Little - "I used to wear the tiniest cropped tops with jeans to go clubbing. Yes I had nice abs, but wearing a top no bigger than a bra is quite frankly, disgusting. Then came the slew of backless tops in my wardrobe.. with nothing but a shoelace holding it together. And my worst mistake was wearing my tiny tops with the shortest of skirts. Disgusting... being able to attract horny losers is not something to be proud of... the Less-Is-More approach is not a sense of style. Instead, it suggests that you're that kind of girl who thinks being dumb, slutty, and drunk is the way to make a lasting impression"
Does this count as 'slut shaming'?

Finally, a Pill for men 'with no side-effects' which could be on the shelves in a few years

The Great Wall of Vagina - "I cast, over the course of 5 years, the vaginas (well the vulva area in fact) of hundreds of volunteers. The Great Wall of Vagina is an exploration of women's relationships with their genitals"
I wonder if anyone does this with penises

How to Talk to Cupid - "What if you want to outsmart Cupid and stay in a long-term relationship harmoniously?... How would you steer the primitive part of your brain in the direction of the results you want? It's problematic, because this primitive region of the brain predated the human rational brain (neo-cortex) by millions of years. It doesn't run on logic. This is why you can't use willpower to force yourself to fall in love or stay in love... mating frenzy (hot sex, lots of orgasms) resulting in sexual satiation (that "I'm done!" feeling) plays right into Cupid's plan. Decreasing dopamine (after the delicious neurochemical blast of orgasm) tells your limbic system, "Fertilization duty is done here; time to find this mate less alluring-and respond to any potential novel mate with gusto""

Anthony Weiner and gender politics - "We've been much too quick to ignore the role that women -- and modern feminism -- have played in setting the stage for many of these infidelities... for every disloyal and lewd male lawmaker, there's a woman (or two, or three, or more) who is all too willing to enable his behavior... it has allowed so many women to think it's permissible to have an affair with a married man"
In short, it takes two hands to clap (the claim that feminism makes affairs more likely is tenuous). A better point is that feminism, by right, means women can't play the innocent victim card anymore (not that it stops them). Contrawise, whereas women who had affairs in the past might've been portrayed as sluts, now women who have affairs are portrayed as victims, which is not necessarily an improvement.

When Scientists Act Like Jerks, Asian-Americans Reach for a Hamburger - "Americans who’d been asked if they spoke English were three times as likely to write down American foods like hamburgers or pizza as those who hadn’t been. White students wrote down the same kinds of foods either way."

Man jailed for underage sex; girl now has baby son - "A WEEK after they met in 2009, a man took a teenage girl to a staircase landing in Bukit Batok Central, where they had sex... The unemployed man, aged 25, was jailed on Tuesday for two weeks and fined $8,000 for having sex with a girl below 16... she told him she was 16"
Are there any other crimes where you are guilty even if you don't know you were committing a crime? Well, besides drug trafficking

S'pore 18th in that journey experience - "Survey shows nearly 8 in 10 public transport commuters dissatisfied"
Shanghai, New Delhi, KL, Beijing and Tokyo all ranked higher - the fact that New Delhi ranked higher shows that high expectations, nurtured by talk of world class transport, figures in it

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

N. China - Day 9, Part 3 - Great Wall (Mutianyu)

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." - Marie Curie


N. China
Day 9 - 7th November - Great Wall (Mutianyu)
(Part 3)

Now it was time to descend the Wall. Although we had bought return tickets for the cable car, there was another method of descent that looked much more fun:

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Wiegand-Toboggan-Run (Sports Slide)

The signage is interesting, because the English and Mandarin versions are very different. The English version starts off with how the Toboggan is fun ("How to Enjoy Your Toboggan Ride"). Yet, in the Mandarin version:

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"The slide is a physical activity in which each individual will face danger"

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People having fun sliding down

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Part of the course

Part of my ride

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Costumed individuals waiting to fleece tourists at the exit

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The Toboggan is the "Nonirrigated farmland sled". Also there're numbers for an ambulance, the police and a complaint hotline above the faded picture of ang moh women sliding down with delirious looks on their faces.

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A delicious juxtaposition of Mao and Female Nudes

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"Folk Art
China one certainly
Pure Manual Manufacture
Mutian Valley Great Wall"

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Three Views of the Wall

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Super faded photos of a costumed artist, with his uniform which is only slightly less faded. They've seen better days.

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Pig brand fertiliser (I think)

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"Fresh Italian Coffee
Fresh Columian coffee
I don't trust this. Two types of coffee?

Red Bull cost ¥10 at the bottom.

A vendor was selling Little Red Books for ¥180. This was 6 times the price in Pingyao, which doubtless was an inflated price itself. I told the woman I already had one, and she started shouting "讨厌" ("I hate you!" - this seems to be a term used in flirting contexts, but her tone was definitely not flirty) at me. I was told that in Dongbei I could be hit for asking for quotes and then telling shopkeepers I already had the item(s) in question. Ahh, uncivilised countries!

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Racist bag (juxtaposing Obama with Mao)

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"egg pancake with apple
egg pancake with fried dough stick
beef noodel chicken noodle"
I didn't trust this pancake stall either

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"Thin pancake, or Chinese Hamburger, is something quite unique of Beijing. It is rarely found in other parts of the country. When presented with a fried dough stick condiments inside,or With banana,apple,oreven with chocolate.chicken strawbrry It can be prepared on the spot on buyer's request."
I trusted it even less after reading this

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"Picking up Holiday
Farm-flavor Restaurant
Restaurant Whiff Barbecue...
Farm-Flavor Barbecue"

For lunch we surveyed the area, and were faced with lots of overpriced options. In protest, we decided to have Subway, since it was the least overpriced (the other options were so overpriced, they cost more than they would've in Singapore - but Subway was about the same). Though the large Coke here was equivalent to the medium in Singapore.

To return to a place from which we could take the bus, we took a "黑车" (literally "Black Car"). At first I thought this referred to their colour, but really it referred to their legal status (though most of them were black!) The driver originally quoted us ¥50 per duo, so we refused, but another duo came along and we got a price of ¥30 per duo.

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"Don't Disturb the Drive"
Cute cartoon

Seeing how quick people were to rush for seats on the Beijing subway and their general ungraciousness, I decided to conduct an experiment. I took out my stick and used it somewhat ostentatiously. As I expected, no one gave up his seat to me; hell, one seat was even snatched from me. In contrast, in Singapore someone would always do so - unless the train was so crowded no one sitting down could see me. Also, contrary to what someone had observed, I saw no one reading books on the subway. Perhaps because it was so crowded there was no space to do so.

For dinner I met some NUS students studying in BJ, of whom I knew a few. Since I was not the only foreign visitor, we went to the Dadong restaurant. Which was so atas they covered our coats and bags left on chairs with covers.

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"Caesar Salad. House Innovation"
Go figure.

Carbohydrates were served in per person portions for some reason; this place was basically modern Chinese food.

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"Ice Cream. House Innovation"
Go figure.

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Condiments platter for Peking Duck
The 3 ways of eating Peking Duck we were presented with: dipping in sugar, the traditional pancake with hoisin sauce (including meat) and putting the cuts inside a puff with hoisin, cucumber and garlic

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Carving the duck

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Peking Duck, pancakes and puffs
Besides the Peking Duck coming with skin, the pancake was also different. It was smooth and thick, not thin and veined as in Singapore. Of course, different does not mean worse, but in this case it was. Yet they won many awards, like City Weekend 2009's Best Peking Duck Readers Choice.

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Grilled Eggplant. It had a very earthy taste which came from too much star anise.

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Duck Soup

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Fried Millet with River Eel - "小米饭"
It reminded me of couscous

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Ee Fu noodles with lobster. This was a bit nua (soft). I was told the lobster tasted like hae bi (prawn floss) and the soup was not full enough of flavour.

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Sour-hot fish fish. "ming2 lu2 chu1 jiao1 gui1 yu2" (Salmon, I think). Someone heard 贵鱼 (expensive fish).
The soup had a delicate balance and the richness of the bones was great. However the flesh didn't come off smoothly.

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Chilled hawthorne. It was dry and refreshing.

Dinner came up to ¥156 per pax.

When I got back to the hostel I wanted to bathe after climbing the Great Wall, since I was going to take 2 night trains in a row. However, the reception said that I could've done it in the afternoon but not now - since the guests would want to use the bathroom. This despite my former room having only one occupied bed and an ensuite bathroom. So much for winning Best Hostel awards. Moral of the story: it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission!

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Hutong alley around hostel

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2 grades of waiting room - Soft Seat and normal (presumably Hard Seat)

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In the train station they flashed a hygiene tip about not going to work if you were sick, and not sneezing with an open mouth. Good luck.

The McDonalds in Beijing had no apple pie, only taro and pineapple. I was told they had apple pie before the middle of the year.

I was told that 方大同's (Fang Datong) 爱爱爱 ("Love Love Love") kept being played in Beijing Macs, and that those in other provinces also played 方大同 songs, but not 爱爱爱.

The Beijing subway had lots of automatic ticketthis is spectacularly enforced.using them I found out why - my notes kept getting rejected.

Apparently street vending is illegal at least in Beijing if not in the whole of China. Evidently

Tourists from Korea have their Korean names and Chinese characters on cards around their necks.
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