Sunday, October 7, 2012

Arriving in Paris...

I've been invited to attend a workshop in a suburb of Paris, at the Ecole Normale Supérieure - Cachan (pronounced like ). I'm very excited to be here, particularly with the line-up of speakers. I took a flight from San Diego to France (with a layover in Phily) overnight, and I have to admit I've got the worst jetlag I've ever had before. It might be because I was up late the night before I was leaving so in general I've had very limited sleep, but I got here and promptly fell asleep. I should have tried to wait, because now who knows if I will be able to sleep through the night. Arriving at the charles de gaulle airport () and terminal 1, I went through the passport control, and then out into the outer ring of information desks, rental car desks, a convenience store. I stopped at the tourist info desk, and was please to be helped for quite some time by the employee there. He described in detail how to get to where I needed to be, and also about the advantages of the different metro passes; this was very helpful particualrly after the overnight flight and onsetting fatigue.
I took the RoissyBus to close to the center of paris. This bus was very convenient (Signs pointing to BUS, but also labeled exit 32 in Terminal 1). I purchased a ParisVisite 5 day pass for all zones (since my hotel and the workshop are outside the first three zones, and this will allow me to use any transportation I want (metro lines; RER train lines (RATP and SNCF); Ile-de-France bus lines (RATP and OPTILE), including the RoissyBus).
When you get on the bus or in the metro, you have to validate the ticket.
After getting off the Roissy bus (there is only one stop), I walked around and went into the metro (that seemed to be below the Opera) and caught the 7 down to Villejuif. Paris some of the buildings in the morning were just amazing looking, like the "Academy National du Musique", which was on the same block as the Opera, and in front of where I ended up going down into the metro.
From there I took a bus (162) to the hotel. There were sufficient signs with "vous etes ici" (you are here) and "Prochains bus" (next bus), so that it helped me feel like I'd be fine. Day one CHECK!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Only breezing through for a girls weekend, I spent most of the time on the beach, noshing over drinks at outdoor cafes on Ocean drive or Espaniola way, and dancing in huge clubs you could get lost in.

We hit all the tourism traps but probably did not mind as much because it was a whirlwind.
Best restaurant: Nexxt, huge delicious salads. Had to get used to eating outside in the heat, probably no need for a straightener in the future.

The beach was amazingly calming. White sands, very little seaweed, schools of little fish weaving through the water. The temperature of the water made me want to stay in the whole time, and I did, as it was almost to hot to lay out.
Puddle jumping to Gainsville...
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Bonneville Salt Flats - are flat.

A friend of mine from Seattle flew down to see Salt Lake City with me, and I convinced her to drive to the Bonnevile Salt Flats, near the border of Nevada. We drove for what seemed like forever, through beautiful scenery.

While in Salt Lake City, you can see the most amazing mountains right out of your window, as we got closer to Nevada the land was extremely flat.

And then out of no where, the ground was white. I'm not sure we even noticed where it changed over. And then there was this sign:This is the site of testing of high speed race cars. It is an extremely large flat salt pan, which forms where water pools. The water that doesn't sink into the ground remains on the surface until it evaporates, leaving behind the salt.

We ran out onto the salt, which gave the eeriest feeling of being out on a lake, as if we jumped too hard, we might fall through. We then tasted the salt. It was salty. Then we turned around a drove back.

Salt Lake City

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The last time I traveled to Utah, I was rafting in Moab, which was amazing. Since I was traveling to Salt Lake for work, I had high hopes it would be beautiful, but not having too much time to be outside, the expectations were a bit lower.

First stop, Temple Square. This is an area in the heart of Salt Lake City, that is owned by the Church of Later Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church:

The Temple is of limits to visitors, Mormon or not, and only "Spiritually prepared" people can go in. It was very beautiful.

We walking into the North Visitors' center, and were rushed into a tour that was just departing. The tours are lead by missionaries from all over the world, and they had badges with flags from where they had come from (ours were from Canada, US, and Brazil). Apparently, according to wikipedia:

The visitors' centers and grounds are staffed by sister missionaries, and senior missionary couples exclusively; no single male missionaries are called to serve on Temple Square.
I can only really describe the visitor center as the Epcot center for the church of LDS. The tour lead us through carpeted rooms with stories of the church, with soundtracks and lcds with videos about the church. Very frequently one of the sisters would start her discussion with "I'm grateful to the church because", so it wasn't exactly the museum experience I was looking for.

While everyone was extremely friendly, there was a more of a sense of persuasion rather than description. I thought we were visiting a museum, but I think it is more for recruitment. We were bombarded with cards to evaluate the presentations, and to give out our mailing information, to receive materials. I also didn't get a sense that the sisters, who were no doubt in their early twenties, knew much more than their scripted descriptions.

I asked very plain questions, so as to not seem too aggressive (which is sometimes difficult for me), and straightforward answers were not forthcoming. For example, why there were no women Apostles or Prophets? This is a question I assumed, incorrectly, that this young woman might have contemplated. She had no answer, and changed the subject. I assumed that a tour guide at a facility like this would be able to answer questions such as that in a more confident and compelling way.

The rest of Temple square was very clean, and well maintained, with some ornate fountains and other buildings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Being part of history

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401 pictures later, back in the warmth of my friends apartment, I sit down to recap on an amazing day.

After two hours of sleep and a bowl of oatmeal we headed out, before the sun came up, to the train station. While at different times the crowd was overwhelmingly packed, the tension dissipated easily in light of the event we would all be witnessing.

We navigated to a place we could get a good view of one of the jumbotrons. It was a good ten degrees colder than the opening ceremony concert, and many people were huddling, or jumping around.

Others brought blankets and cards. Luckily we had a blanket, although we ended up using it for warmth more than keeping clean.
This was the scene as the sun was coming up. They replayed the concert from Sunday, which as I said, kept people moving and warm.

An overwhelming amount of people were wearing some type of Obama paraphernalia, including myself.

We watched all of the famous politicians and cabinet members, and random lucky celebrities file in, and then it was like electricity when they started the ceremony.

After the swearing in everyone put the cameras down to listen to the speech. It was very moving.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us...

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

... we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

were some of the more memorable phrases I could remember. Everyone was silent for most parts during the speech, which was almost eerie since we had all be jumping around trying to keep warm, but it was a complete pausing point, and it was pretty amazing to be there. Worth every second of the whole weekend just to be there for the speech.

Always wanted to walk on the highway

Crazyness. Total chaos. In all directions.
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Can you see me?
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