I just found a list of several good sites for AppleScripts that I found in the latest Mac Addict magazine. (Yes, I subscribe to it!)
On Monday, it was time to make visit the site that I chose to go to Paris for in the first place - The Louvre.
What is The Louvre? It's only one of the largest, best museums in the world. It has some of the most famous works of art there, such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, etc. This museum, by itself would have made the money I spent worth it. It was that good. Now, I'm not a big fan of art. I really had very little understanding of what most of the art was that I was looking at. I was only familiar with a few of the more famous works of art they had there, but even with my very limited knowledge, this place is a site to behold.
The art is absolutely fantastic. I have never seen so much great art in my life. It is clear by looking at any of the art in this place, that the people who did this, are very talented. The sculptures were very life-like. Some of the paintings were huge. They had paintings there that were at least 20-30 feet lone and a good 10-15 feet high! Plus, for most of the art, there was nothing between you and the art, but a small little 'fence' at the bottom of the wall. You could literally reach out and touch any of the art. Of course you can't touch the art, because they'd probably arrest you and throw you out for damaging it, but still, the thought that you are that close to art that is worth millions, is kind of mind-boggling.
The building is also huge. It is a large, U shaped building, with several floors. Each side of the 'U' is several city blocks long! I guess because of the buildings immense size, it never feels cramped inside. Despite the fact that you have rooms containing 30 foot long paintings, no room really feels 'cluttered'. Everything is nicely spaced out. There is lots of room to walk around, lots of benches to sit on, and in general, it is a very nicely laid out museum.
The building is also spotless. The inside of the place is incredibly clean. There is no dirt, or signs of age to be seen anywhere. While the outside of the building looks fairly old, the inside looks entirely brand new. This seems to be the way most buildings are in Paris - 'classic look' on the outside, and brand new inside. It's clear that Paris tries to keep the classic look of their buildings while being as modern as possible inside.
One problem with the building, as it is with many buildings in Paris, is that it is confusing as hell! The building has multiple floors. When you enter the museum, you pick up a museum map (conveniently available in several languages, including English). This map lists every room in the building and what types of exibits there are in that room. Sounds simple right? It's not. The problem is that each floor is made up of multiple levels. There are staircases everywhere. This means that at any given time, you may be on several 'levels' of the same floor. It reaches the point where you get completely lost. Am I still on the 2nd floor, or is this the third floor? After a while you just end up wandering until you've seen every room.
I had expected it to take me several days to be able to see the entire museum, but I was able to see the entire thing in one day. I suppose had I stopped in each room and read up on each piece of art and stayed to 'appreciate' each one longer, it could have taken longer. I still greatly enjoyed the trip though. It was a beautiful place. I took a lot of pictures here. Below are a few photos from the Louvre that I took.
The Entrance to the Louvre, and the climax of The Da Vinci Code
Approaching Winged Victory
Winged Victory of Samothrace
Venus de Milo
A famous sculpture I can't remember the name of...
Some of the huge paintings
You know, it really bugs me when a few bad apples out there spoil it for the rest of us.
I've been running this harmless little blog for about a year now. In that time I've noticed that probably 50-75% of my traffic is from referer spam. This referer spam I receive is from a large number of different IPs. I've already banned several hundred IPs as a result. I suspect that most of this referer spam is actually coming from a small number of people, utilizing a botnet of compromized computers. It's a constant battle with me to keep ahead of these stupid spammers.
The other problem is comments. My blog software allows the posting of comments without logging into the site. This allows people to post rude comments that serve no purpose on my site. Most of the comments I get lately have been either senseless attacks on me (I'm talking to you Commentator) or comment spam which is basically the same as referer spam, but it's in the comments. I'm going to have to do something about this comment problems.
Why is it these few 'bad apples' have to ruin things for everyone else?
I just replaced the old site search functionality on this site with a Google search. This should allow you to more easily search for whatever you need on my site (the default) or the web. See the Google box over on the side...
Ok, the site is now moved over to my new webhost - Dreamhost. Let's hope they do end up being a dream. :)
With luck, you shouldn't notice any difference. If you see anything missing, please let me know. Thanks.
Shopping in Paris, is an disorienting experience I am used to the US where most stores are in separate buildings and tend to be very spread out. US stores are usually large, one story buildings. Not in Paris.
The stores in Paris are very deceptive. What you tend to see is hundreds of buildings that look mostly identical. The only difference is on the first floor where you see the seeming small entrance to the store. When I first arrived in Paris, I thought it was a city full of tiny little storefronts. Where were all the big stores? It turns out, I was staring right at them without realizing it. In Paris, just about every store is fairly small in width, but it makes up for it in height. Every store has several floors, including a below ground floor. This means that whenever you walk into a store, the first thing you should look for is the stairs. This tells you that there are more than one floor to the place.
What tends to happen there is that there is a small, unassuming street level entrance, and then, hidden behind the facade of an old building is several more floors of a large, and very modern store. I encountered many of these in Paris. It was the better part of a week before I discovered that in the very same building as my hotel was a large, 3 story electronics store!
I even encountered a store called the Galleries Lafayette that took up three buildings of 5 floors! Now that's a big store. They had an entire building for women's clothes, an entire building for men's clothes and a third building (which I didn't look in). This store also had a floor that essentially a grocery store. I spent some time wandering around in this store. They had a huge candy section - several aisles worth. There was lots of interesting looking candy there, 99% of which I'd never heard of. I was very curious about what all this candy tasted like. I'm sure some of it was very good. But, seeing as how I had no idea what any of it was, my knowledge of French is very poor, and because I tend to prefer not to get any fatter, I didn't buy anything. It was fun to look though. I also glanced at the butcher shop in the store... Fairly standard stuff for the most part. They did have skinned rabbits for sale at the butcher shop though. Little skinned bunnies sitting in a freezer case! Yuck!
The floors are also numbered differently in Paris. In the US, usually the ground floor is the first floor and then the second floor above that etc. In Paris, the ground floor is floor zero, the floor above that is the first floor, the floor above that is the second floor etc. I was on the second floor of the hotel but it was actually the third floor from a US point of view. They even number their underground floors with negative numbers! The first below ground floor is -1, the second is -2 and so on. It's a very logical system when you think about it. Moreso than us 'backwards' Americans.
Another interesting difference when it comes to Paris is paying by credit card in restaraunts. In the US, you give the waiter your credit card. They walk away to a central credit card machine and charge your card. Then they bring your receipt back with your credit card. You sign the receipt, then leave the restaraunt's copy. This American way is a technique ripe with potentials for fraud. A dishonest waiter could run your card through a skimmer (thereby stealing the credit card information) and then give it back to you, while they have your card away from your site. Then, once they have your card info they can go off and charge things on your card. Also, in many restaraunts, the receipt has your name, entire credit card number and credit card expiration date printed right on it. This is all the information a crook needs to charge on your card. All they have to do is steal the receipt you leave on your table. Paris does it in a much better way.
In Paris, your credit card never leaves your site, when you pay at a restaraunt. Whenever you pay with a credit card, the waiter comes over with a handheld, wireless credit card reader. He scans your card right in front of you, prints out your receipt, hands it to you and you are done. There is no possibility of skimming your card or leaving a stray receipt around. This is a great system that I wish the US would adopt.
Taxes are also handled differently in Paris. Everything you buy in Paris has a price listed. This price includes the taxes. This means the price you see is the price you pay. No more having to calculate in your head how much the price will go up when you add the taxes in. It's a much nicer system, that agian I wish the US would adopt. It would be great to not to have to do this mental math every time you buy something. This does have its disadvantages though. Restaraunts include the tip price (usually 15% or so) in the price of the meals. You don't have any choice here. I think the taxes in Paris are also much higher than in the US. This causes prices there to be quite a bit higher than in the US.
I got a few minutes to play with the latest build of Windows Vista last night. I've only just installed it, so keep in mind these are just first impressions. They may change.
The installation is now graphical from the very beginning. A nice change. The installation is also nicely minimal. You pretty much just set it to install and then let it do it's thing. You don't need to click so many boxes anymore. It does a lot of this stuff automatically. I like this newer, simpler install. The only thing I would change is the progress bar on the bottom. The install takes a long time. It often seems as if it's not doing anything. For a while there I thought it got stuck. The installation needs a bit more 'confort UI' to ensure you that it is actually doing something. Maybe a 'time left to complete' or something that counts down...
The Control Panel is completely rearranged. I actually kind of like this arrangement. It seems to make more logical sense than previous versions of Windows.
The UI is interesting. I like most of the changes they have done. They finally got rid of the word "Start" from the menu button in the lower left corner... I always thought that was a really stupid design. I like this change. They made the taskbar default to a shaded black color... I'm not sure about this one. The minimize, maximize and close buttons in the upper right hand corner of a window look different. I'm not sure I like this look. I like how the buttons kind of light up when you hover over them though. Many of the windows now kind of 'expand' out when you open them. They don't just pop onto the screen. This is an interesting effect that I kind of like. I haven't played with the UI too much yet, but it does look like they've enhanced the 'snazzy' effects quite a bit. I'm not sure it's up to the Mac level of snazzy effects, but it's an improvement.
I haven't been able to try out Internet Explorer yet. Apparently it didn't detect my motherboard's network card properly and install the drivers. I'm going to have to try to do that manually.
It is buggy though. It seems to have some trouble with going into and out of Sleep mode. When I put it to sleep, it went to sleep very rapidly (nice!). But when I brought it back from sleep mode, it seemed to lose the mouse. I was forced to use the keyboard from that point on. Once I got back from sleep mode, I actually tried to shut it down and it seemed to get stuck in the middle of shutdown.
All in all, my first impression is that this new Windows looks promising. I'll have to play with it some more to see how stable it is and how well things work.
When I first told my parents that I was planning to make a trip to Paris, I got the distinct impression that my father was not happy with my decision. It seemed to me that he did not like the French. I think perhaps my father was of the impression that the French were rude. This is a common stereotype here in America.
I have to say that, based on my admitingly limited experience with the French, I can say that this is not true. I found them to be a very polite people. Were the overly friendly? No. Were they rude to me? No. Paris is a big city (population about 2.5 million). That's a lot of people running around going here and there. I rode the subway a lot while I was there. I rode it at least several times a day, including several times in evening rush hour. During rush hour, the subway gets very packed. It's literally wall to wall people, all crammed into a subway car together. However, despite this large mass of people, I never noticed any shoving, cussing, rude gestures or anything else like that. If anyone bumped someone else, there was a polite 'Pardon'. This was the same with me as it was with the native French. Now, these people largely kept to themselves on the subway. It was usually a very quiet ride with only a few people sitting there having a conversation in French. These were just average people going about their lives - riding to work, riding to dinner, riding to visit friends, whatever. Everyone moved around pretty fast in the streets and in the subway but I never really saw any overt rudeness. Even the bums were polite! All in all, I was quite impressed by this.
I'm going to make a slight detour on Rick's Blog Tour of Paris, to comment on something. I was planning to write about this later, but the news story linked to this blog was just too timely to resist.
The French are all in all a lean people. In my week there, every French person I saw there was slim. There were no fat people that I could see. Well, that's not entirely true. I did see fat people - American tourists. It was amazing. I could easily play a game of 'Spot the American' by just looking for the 'beer belly'. I was riding the subway one day, surrounded by a bunch of anonymous, slim French people. Then I see this guy with a huge gut get onto the subway. Before he says a word, I know he's an American. Then he starts speaking to his daughter, who was getting on with him and he's speaking English. Yep, I was right. An American. Fortunately, I'm not a 'typical fat American' so I think I blended in a bit better.
This realization is very sad. Americans are getting fatter by the day. This means their health is getting worse. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of death in the US and it is completely avoidable without any nasty drugs (which are a whole other blog in itself). My concern, after a week in Paris though, is that soon the French are going to start getting just as fat as us Americans. Why? McDonalds and KFC are everywhere in Paris!
McDonalds is at least one US corporation that has obviously been able to gain a very good foothold on the French market. The menu in the restaraunt is largely identical to American menus. This food is absolutely horrible for your health and very fattening. Don't believe me? Go out to your video store right now and rent a documentary called Super Size Me. This documentary tells the story of a guy who wanted to prove how unhealthy McDonalds food is. So, to prove it, he got a complete check up, then proceeded to eat nothing but McDonalds food, 3 meals a day for 30 days. It was absolutely amazing how badly McDonalds food affected his health in this time. The documentary is also filled with many very enlightening facts about the bad quality of their food. This is a must see documentary.
Fast food is literally killing Americans, and now it's going to start killing the French. This is just wrong. This corporation is single-handedly responsible for killing thousands of people! They are just as bad as cigarette companies. Americans need to be made aware of this and avoid these places like the plague. The French are much earlier in the obesity game. They are where America was perhaps 30 years ago as McDonalds was only rising to power. All they have to do is look at the size of Americans to see their future, if they don't stop themselves from developing the fast food habit.
End of Rant.
On my second day in Paris, I went to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. It was an incredible sight. The picture below is me standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Notice the two square towers...
Notre Dame Cathedral is a very famous place. It was the central location in Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (and the Disney movie of the same name.) It is a huge gothic cathedral built in the 1100s. It is one of the most incredible places I've ever seen. The stained glass windows don't look like much from the outside, but they are absolutely amazing from the inside. While there, I toured the interior of the church. I also took a tour of the towers of Notre Dame. In order to get up to to the top of the tower, you have to climb a narrow stone, spiral staircase going straight up to the top. This staircase is barely wide enough for one person to climb up. At one point, I was trying to climb up this staircase while someone else was trying to climb down. I ended up having to squeeze myself against the inside of the staircase and try to support myself on a stair maybe 1-2 inches thick at that point! I was kind of scared I would fall off that tiny part of the stairs. Nothing like that happened though. Once you climb to the top of these stairs, you reach the first level of the towers. If you look at the picture above, you can see this level as the walkway between the two large square towers on the front of the church. From here you have a nice view of the city of Paris, as well as a bunch of the famous gargoyles to keep you company. (See the photos below).
From this level, you cross over to the right hand tower and climb inside a small hole to visit the bell tower. After a short climb up a rickety set of wooden stairs, you reach the bell tower. Here there is a massive , several ton bell. Due to relatively small size of this room and the weak set of wooden stairs, they only let a few people up at a time. Then you climb back down the wooden stairs, head back out the small hole and continue your tour.
The Entrance to the Bell Tower
The Bell inside the Bell Tower
From here you mount another set of stairs and climb up to the very top of the right hand tower. This is an even higher spot and the view is even more impressive here. You can walk completely around the top of the tower, so you have a full 360 degree view. From there, I climbed all the way down another narrow spiral staircase in order to reach the bottom.
All in all Notre Dame was a very impressive site. This alone was worth the trip.