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Things French People Like: Paperwork

24 Oct

For such an eco-friendly country, the French sure are killing a lot of trees.

Upon arrival in France, I was submerged into a gruelingly slow, unnecessarily complex, and complacently outdated bureaucratic process. For example, I recently submitted some paperwork to my school’s secretary in order to get my salary. Before doing so, I needed to open a bank account.  Easy enough, right?

Before going to the bank, I checked my documentation folder to be sure I had at least six copies of everything. My passport, my visa, my work contract, my proces verbal d’installation, my birth certificate, the receipt for my rent, a dozen photos of myself, my last plane ticket, my mother’s signature, my high school diploma, several photos of my uncle, an affidavit signed by the Bristol, New Hampshire town registrar, my elementary school report cards,  an autographed picture of Ewan McGregor, and an extra kidney. Okay — maybe not those last few things.

I had gone to the bank on a Tuesday after the 2-hour lunch break to make an appointment to open an account. (Of course you can’t just show up at the bank and open an account immediately. Don’t be so unreasonable!) The teller told me what documentation I needed (which I already had in my hands) and told me to come back Friday afternoon. It doesn’t matter when you want to open an account, the answer is always the same: Friday afternoon.

When I returned to Caisse d’Epargne on Friday, a new teller was working. I told her I wanted to open an account, so she told me to come back the next week. I then mentioned I had already spoken to another teller on Tuesday. Apparently the Tuesday teller was busy, so she wouldn’t be able to see me. The new teller also explained that I wouldn’t be able to get a debit card from their bank, because Caisse d’Epargne doesn’t give debit cards to people whose work contracts have a definite termination date.

I promptly left the bank and, in desperation to get my salary sorted out, walked into another bank – BNP Paribas. I retold my situation to the BNP teller, who told me to come back the following Friday. Worked some scared American puppy dog eyes and she made a phone call. I was seen five minutes later and set up my bank account immediately.

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Well, not exactly immediately. First, I had to sign no less than 10 different forms, each covering a different aspect of my account. Some of the forms only had a few lines of print on them. Why the French can’t just consolidate everything onto a couple of forms with a signature line at the end, I have no idea. To add to the officialness of it all, French forms also require you to indicate the city where the form is being signed and to copy the phrase “lu et approuvé” (“read and approved”).

I was also told that the receipt for my rent was not sufficient proof of domicile, but that I shouldn’t worry. The bank would just send a form to my house to confirm that I actually lived there. A week later (I’m not sure if that’s the normal speed of the mail or if it’s because the mail carriers were on strike), I received three separate envelopes from the bank (once again, France: consolidation). Except the important form didn’t actually arrive, because I wasn’t at home when the mail carrier came. Instead, I got a form telling me to go to the post office and pick it up within 15 days. I read this message on a Saturday afternoon before a 2-week vacation.

Crap.

As it turns out, I’ll make it back to Toulon just in time to pick up the form and get my debit card. As for when I’ll get all the paperwork sorted out to get social security and my carte de séjour — damned if I know.

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An Incomplete A-Z Glossary of the Past Decade

3 Jan

Since I’m obsessed with history, pop culture, and nostalgia, I decided to begin a series of retrospectives on the decade that has just ended. The first task I took upon myself was to compile a list of all the words I could possibly associate with the 2000s. It was a challenging endeavour, to say the least. You will find this very incomplete “glossary” below — feel free to add your own entries, as I surely have not done this crazy decade justice.

#

9/11
16:9
24
300
2 girls 1 cup
24-hour news cycle
28 Days Later
30 Rock
40-Year-Old Virgin, The
4chan
50 Cent
80s nostalgia

A
A.I.
Abu Ghraib
Across the Universe
Adult Swim
Afghanistan
-age (suffix)
a’ight
airport security
Akon
Al Gore
Al Jazeera
Ali G
Alias
Alicia Keys
All Your Base Are Belong to Us
Al-Qaeda
Amazing Race, The
Amber alert
Amélie
America, f*** yeah!
American Chopper
American Idol
America’s Next Top Model
amnesty
Amy Winehouse
An Inconvenient Truth
Anchorman
Anderson Cooper
anime
Anna Nicole Smith
Anonymous
anthrax
AOL Time Warner
app
Apple
Apprentice, The
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Arcade Fire, The
Arctic Monkeys
Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?
armchair general
Arrested Development
Ashlee Simpson
Ashton Kutcher
ass-hat
Atkins Diet
auto-tune
Avatar
Avenue Q
Avril Lavigne
Axe
Axis of Evil
Ayman al-Zawahiri

B
baby mama
Bachelor, The
Backstreet Boys
badunkadunk
bag for life
Baghdad
bailout
Bali bombings
ballin’
balloon boy
Ban Ki-moon
Barack Obama
bare midriff
Beautiful Mind, A
Beltway Sniper
Ben Stiller
Benazir Bhutto
Bennifer
Bernie Mac
Bernie Madoff
Beyoncé Knowles
BFF
bicurious
Big Brother
Big Mouth Billy Bass
Bill O’Reilly
Billy Mays
biotch
bird flu
Birthers
Black Eyed Peas, The
Blackberry
Blackwater
Blades of Glory
Blagojevich
Blanket Jackson (over the balcony)
bleached blond hair
bling (bling)
Blink-182
Bloc Party
blog
blogosphere
Bluetooth
Blu-ray
boho-chic
Borat
Boston Legal
Boston Public
Botox
Bourne Trilogy, The
Bowling for Columbine
box sets
brain fart
Brangelina
bridezilla
Britney Spears
Brokeback Mountain
bromance
Bruce Almighty
Burger King King
Burj Dubai
Bush v. Gore
Bushisms
Butterfly Effect, The

C
California recall
Can you hear me now?
Can’t Get You Out of My Head
canvas totes
capris
Captain Sully
carbon footprint
Carrie Prejean
Carrie Underwood
Cash for Clunkers
Cast Away
Catholic sex abuse scandal
CGI
Change
Chappelle’s Show
Chapter 11
Chechnya
chillax
Chocolate Rain
Chris Brown
Christian Bale
Christina Aguilera
Chronicles of Narnia, The
Chuck Norris facts
City of God
civil unions
Clay Aiken
Clay Henry
climate change
Clocks
Cloverfield
cockblock
Colbert Report, The
Coldplay
Colin Powell
comic book movie
Concorde crash
Condoleezza Rice
cosplay
cougar
Counter-Strike
craigslist
Crash
Crazy
credit crunch
Creed
Cribs
Crocs
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
crunk
CSI
Curb Your Enthusiasm
CW, The

D
D.C. Madam
Da Vinci Code, The
Daft Punk
Dan Brown
Dancing with the Stars
Daniel Craig
Daniel Pearl
Danish cartoons
Darfur
Dashboard Confessional
David Beckham
DDR
Deal or No Deal
Death Cab for Cutie
death panel
Decembrists, The
decider, the
Demetri Martin
Demotivators
Departed, The
Descent, The
Desperate Housewives
Destiny’s Child
Dexter
Dick Cheney
Dick in a Box
digital cameras
dirty bomb
Dixie Chicks
DO NOT WANT
Don Imus
Donald Trump
Donnie Darko
Don’t tase me, bro
Dora the Explorer
Dot-com bubble
douche
douche chill
Dr. Phil
Dragonball Z
dramatic chipmunk
Drop It Like It’s Hot
Dubai
Dubya
Dude, Where’s My Car?
DVDs
DVR

E
earmarks
ebaumsworld
Election 2000
electronica
Elian Gonzales
Eliot Spitzer
Elizabeth Smart
Emeril Lagasse
Eminem
emo
energy drinks
Engrish
Enron
Entourage
epic
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Ethanol
Euro
European Heat Wave of 2003
Evanescence
evil-doers
extraordinary rendition
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

F
facebook
facepalm
Fahrenheit 9/11
FAIL
fairtrade
Fall Out Boy
Fallujah
Family Guy
fashionista
Fast and the Furious, The
fauxhawk
Fear Factor
Fergalicious
Fergie
fetch
Final Destination
financial crisis
Finding Nemo
Firefly
Firefox
Flaming Lips, The
flash mobs
flat-screen
Flight of the Conchords
flip-flopping
Flying Spaghetti Monster
FML
fo’ shizzle my nizzle
foodie
foreclosures
Franz Ferdinand
Frat Pack, The
Freddy Got Fingered
freedom fries
freegan
From Justin to Kelly
frosted hair
FTW
furries

G
Game, the (sorry, you just lost)
game-changer
Garden State
Gary Condit and Chandra Levy
gaydar
GEICO
gel pens
geocaching
George Bush doesn’t care about black people
George Lopez
George W. Bush
Get ‘er done
ghetto
Ghost Hunters
Gigli
Gilmore Girls
ginger
ginormous
girly men
Gladiator
global warming
Gnarls Barkley
Gnutella
goatse
God Bless America
Goldman Sachs
Goldmember
Gone in Sixty Seconds
Google
Gossip Girl
Governator
GPS
grammar Nazi
Grand Theft Auto
Great American Boycott
green
Grey’s Anatomy
grinding
Ground Zero
Guantanamo Bay / Gitmo
Guitar Hero
G-Unit
Gwen Stefani
Gym Class Heroes

H
H1N1
Haliburton
Halle Berry
Halo
Hamid Karzai
hanging chads
Hangover, The
Hans Blix
Harry Potter
hater
hawt
hax (h4x)
HeadOn
Heath Ledger
Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt
hella
Heroes
Hey Ya!
Hezbollah
High Definition
High School Musical
high-speed Internet
Hillary Duff
Hills Have Eyes, The
Hills, The
hip hop culture
hipsters
hockey mom
holla
hollaback girl
Homeland Security
Homestar Runner
hoodie
hookah
hooking up
Hope
Hot Topic
House (M.D.)
housing market bubble
How I Met Your Mother
Howard Dean scream
Hugh Jackman
Hugo Chavez
Human Genome Project
Hummers
hybrid
hyphy

I
I do what I want!
I drink your milkshake!
I like!
I see what you did there
I.E.D.
Ice Road Truckers
illegal immigration
ILOVEYOU
I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
I’m f***ing Matt Damon
I’m Lovin’ It
I’m on a Boat
I’m Rick James, bitch
IMDb
I’mma let you finish
In Da Club
Incredibles, The
Indian Ocean Tsunami
indie
insider trading
insurgents
Intelligent Design
Internets, the
interweb(s)
Invisible Children
iPhone
iPod
Iran
Iraq
ironic T-shirts
Is that your final answer?
Islamic extremism
It’s a trap!
iTunes

J
J.K. Rowling
Ja Rule
Jack Black
Jackass
Jamie Salé and David Pelletier
Jared Fogle
Jay-Z
Jena Six, The
Jennifer Holloway
Jessica Alba
Jessica Simpson
Jesusland
jewfro
jihad
Jim Gaffigan
Jimmy Eat World
JLo
Joe Lieberman
Joe Millionaire
Joe Sixpack
Joe the Plumber
John Ashcroft
John Edwards
John Kerry
John McCain
John Walker Lindh
Jon and Kate Plus 8
Jon Stewart
Jonas Brothers
Judd Apatow
Juno
Justin Timberlake

K
Kabul
Kanye West
Karl Rove
Katrina
KaZaA
Keith Olbermann
Keith Urban
Kelly Clarkson
Ken Jennings
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
K-Fed
Kill Bill
Kim Jong-Il
Kim Kardashian
kind of a big deal
Kindle
Kings of Leon
Kobe Bryant
kthxbye
Kurds

L
L Word, The
Lady Gaga
Large Hadron Collider
LARPing
Larry Craig
Leave Britney alone
Lebanon War
LeBron James
leetspeak
leggings (and mini-skirts)
legit
Lehman Brothers
Leona Lewis
Let the Right One In
Let’s roll
Lil Wayne
Lilo & Stitch
Lindsay Lohan
Linkin Park
lipstick on a pig
Little Miss Sunshine
livejournal
Lives of Others, The
Livestrong
Liza Minnelli and David Gest
Lizzie McGuire
lolcats
London bombings
Lonelygirl15
Lord of the Rings
LOST
Lost in Translation
low rise jeans
low-carb diets
Ludacris
Lupe Fiasco

M
M. Night Shyamalan
M.I.A.
mad cow disease
Mad Men
Madeleine McCann
Madrid bombings
Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Ahmadenijad
make it rain
Malcolm in the Middle
Mamma Mia!
man crush
manscaping
Marc Rich pardon
March of the Penguins
Mark Foley
Mark Sanford
Maroon 5
Mars rovers
Martha Stewart
mash-up
mavericks
McGriddles
McLovin’
McMansion
McNasty
Me, Myself & Irene
Mean Girls
meep
Meet the Parents
meetup
meh
Mel Gibson
meme
Memento
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mentos and Coke
metro(sexual)
Michael Cera
Michael Ian Black
Michael Jackson
Michael Moore
Michael Phelps
Michael Schumacher
Michael Vick
Michelle Obama
Miley Cyrus
MILF
military tribunals
Milkshake (brings all the boys to the yard)
Minority Report
Miracle on the Hudson
Miss South Carolina
Mission Accomplished
Missy Elliott
misunderestimate
Mitch Hedberg
MMORPGs
mobile 3G
mockumentary
Modest Mouse
Mole, The
Monk
more cowbell
Moscow theatre hostage crisis
Mosul
Moulin Rouge!
MP3s
muffin top
muggle
Muse
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
my friends
My Name is Earl
My Super Sweet 16
MySpace
MySpace angles
MythBusters

N
‘N Sync
n00b
Nancy Pelosi
nanotechnology
Napoleon Dynamite
Napster
Naruto
Nas
nasty
Nelly Furtado
Neo-Con
Neopets
nerdgasm
netbook
Netflix
Nickelback
Nicole Richie
ninjas
Nintendo DS
Nip/Tuck
No blood for oil
No Child Left Behind
No Country for Old Men
Norah Jones
North Korea
Northeast Blackout of 2003
Northern Alliance
Notebook, The
NSFW
nucular
Numa Numa

O
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
O RLY?
O.C., The
Ocean’s Eleven / Twelve / Thirteen
Octomom
off the chain
Office, The
offshore drilling
Oh, snap!
Old School
OMG
on the DL
Operation Iraqi Freedom
organic
Osbournes, The
Others, The
OutKast
outsourcing
oversized sunglasses
OxyContin

P
P2P file sharing
PalmPilot
Panic Room
Pan’s Labyrinth
Paper Planes
Paris Hilton
Passion of the Christ, The
Patriot Act
PDAs
Peanut butter jelly time
Pearl Harbor
Pervez Musharraf
Peter Jackson
phishing
photoshop
Pianist, The
Pimp My Ride
pirates (Somalia & Internet)
Pirates of the Caribbean
plasma TV
Plutoed
podcast
Poker Face
Pope Benedict XVI
popped collar
pre-emptive
prequel
Prison Break
Prius
Producers, The
prohibited liquids
Project Runway
PS2 / PS3
PT Cruiser
public option
pundit
Punk’d
Pussycat Dolls
pwn(ed) / own(ed)

Q
QFT
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

R
Rachael Ray
racial profiling
Radiohead
Ralph Nader
random
Raptor Jesus
Rascal Flatts
Ratatouille
Razor scooters
reality television
reboot
recount
Red Bull
Red States, Blue States
regime change
Regis and Kelly
remake
Reno 911!
Requiem for a Dream
reverse the curse
RIAA
Richard Reid / the Shoe Bomber
Rickroll
Ricky Gervais
ridiculous / ridonk(ulous) / ricockulous
Rihanna
Ring, The
ringtones
Road to Perdition
Rob Schneider
Robert Blake
Rock Band
ROFLcopter
Roger Federer
rolling blackouts
rollover (SUVs and minutes)
Ron Paul
Royal Tenenbaums, The
Ruben Studdard
Rudy Giuliani
Runaway Bride
Russell Crowe
Ryan Seacrest

S
Sacha Baron Cohen
Saddam Hussein
Salad Fingers
same sex marriage
Sarah Palin
Sarah Silverman
SARS
Sasha and Malia
sausage fest
Saw
Scary Movie
School of Rock
Scientology
Scooter Libby
Scott and Laci Peterson
Scrubs
Seabiscuit
Sealab 2021
Sean Kingston
Segway
September 11th
Serena & Venus Williams
Seven Nation Army
sexile
sexting
sexyback
shaggy hair
Shakira
Shaun of the Dead
Shia LaBeouf
Shi’as
Shock and Awe
shovel-ready
Shrek
sick / ill
Sigur Ros
Simon Cowell
Simple Life
Sims, The
Sin City
Six Feet Under
sketchy
skinny jeans
Skype
Slumdog Millionaire
smoking bans
Snakes on a Plane
Snape kills Dumbledore
Snoop Dogg speak
social networking sites
Something Awful
Soulja Boy
South Ossetia
South Park
Space Shuttle Columbia
spam
spider hole
Spider-Man
spiked hair
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Wars kid
Star Wars prequels
stay the course
staycation
stem cell research
Stephen Colbert
steroids
Steve Carrell
Steve Irwin
STFU
straightened hair
strategery
streaming video
Strokes, The
subprime
Sudoku
Sunnis
Superbad
Supersize Me
Surge
Survivor
Susan Boyle
sustainability
Swift Boat
Swine Flu

T
Taliban
Talladega Nights
tap that
tard (suffix)
tasers
Taylor Swift
Tea Partay
tea party protests
Team America: World Police
Team Edward / Team Jacob
Ted Williams
teeth whitening
Terror alert color system
Terry Schiavo
Texas Hold ’em
texting
texts from last night
That ’70s Show
That’s what she said
This is Sparta
Tiger Woods
Tikrit
Timbaland
Tina Fey
TiVo
tl;dr
To Catch a Predator
Tom Brady
Tom Cruise
TomKat
Tony Blair
torrents
torture porn
totes
totes magotes
town hall meetings
Traffic
tramp stamps
Trigger Happy TV
Triplets of Belleville, The
Trogdor
troll
trucker hats
truthers
truthiness
tweens
tweet
Twilight
Twitter

U
über
Uday and Qusay
Uggs
Ugly Betty
underboob
Underworld
Usain Bolt
USB flash drives
USS Cole bombing

V
V card
V for Vendetta
vajayjay
Valerie Plame affair
vampires
Very nice!
Viktor Yuschenko
viral video
Virginia Tech
Vladimir Putin
vlogs

W
Walk the Line
WALL-E
Wanda Sykes
War on Terror
wardrobe malfunction
warmonger
warrantless wiretapping
Watchmen
waterboarding
Weakest Link, The
weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)
Web 2.0
Wedding Crashers
Weeds
Wes Anderson
Westboro Baptist Church
whassup
White Stripes, The
Who let the dogs out?
Whose Line is it Anyway?
Why so serious?
Wicked
widescreen
Wii
wiki
wikipedia
Will Ferrell
William Hung
Willis Tower
Wilson!!!!!!!!
Windows XP
Winona Ryder
Wire, The
wireless / Wi-Fi
World of Warcraft
World Trade Center
World Trade Center
WorldCom
Writers Strike

X
Xanga
Xbox
XFL
X-Men

Y
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yes we can
You lie!
your Mom jokes
You’re fired!
youtube
ytmnd
Yu-Gi-Oh!
yvan eht nioj

Z
Zac Efron
Zacarias Moussaoui
Zhang Yimou
Zinedine Zidane
zombie walks
Zombieland
zOMG
Zoolander

12 of 12 for December 2008

13 Dec

Another fascinating slice of my life.

Breakfast. A chocolate chip muffin and skim milk. Not the healthiest breakfast, but it was my first day back home after a very long and stressful semester. So I splurged a little.

Angel giving me a quizzical look. I’m not sure if she was actually confused by my taking pictures, or if she was really just hoping to get a piece of muffin. She has earned the nickname of “The Muffin Bandit” after she not-so-stealthily grabbed my brother’s muffin in her mouth off of the coffee table one morning. I feel bad about her evident arthritis and other old (12) age-related ailments (she’s lost a lot of muscle), but I think she has good genes. We got a Christmas card from her breeder, which told us that Angel’s uncle had recently passed away. He was 16.

Ahh, Christmastime. One of the absolute best times of year. I’m a bit ashamed of our fake little tree (and I miss the smell of the real kind), but after years of pine needle-covered parlor carpets, I guess my parents were fed up.

The backyard from my window. Last night, New England got hit with a devastating ice storm that left about 25% of New Hampshire’s population without power. We felt pretty lucky to still have it — most of the worst damage was south of us. Fortunately for us, the freezing rain turned into sleet and snow and we now have a shallow carpet of the white stuff.

100_2186

Watching some of the devastation on TV. Channel 9 wouldn’t come in at all, so I watched the Boston news. Deval Patrick (Governor of Massachusetts) was giving a press conference on the state of emergency. The pictures from Worcester were pretty incredible.

100_2189

As the morning fog and clouds started to break, I spotted this surreal view of the hills to the southwest, just above the condos on the southern end of Newfound Lake. That’s ice and snow covering all those trees.

100_2194

Remember what I said about splurging? I spotted one of my absolute favourite culinary delicacies in the freezer – BBQ chicken pizza – and decided to have some for lunch. I seriously would murder my first-born child for this stuff.

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Now that the clouds had cleared up, I decided to take a shot of the lake as well. I don’t like the picture very much, though. It doesn’t really capture the wildness and the desolateness of the lake on a windy, winter day that I was hoping to capture. The white crests on the blue-grey water, with the snow-covered cliffs behind… it’s a pretty amazing sight.

100_2206

In the afternoon, my dad (who was home from work due to a power outage) asked to watch my latest Netflix. Although I was quite busy working on my grad school applications, finishing my honors thesis, and preparing for my upcoming Mid-Atlantic trip (the stressful semester isn’t *quite* over), I decided to watch as well. It was a film called “Mongol,” which recounted the origins of Genghis Khan. It was actually in Mongolian and everything. I was kind of hoping it would go more into the whole empire-conquering stuff, but nonetheless it was very interesting and well-made film.

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I guess my mom’s supper was slightly healthier than my other two meals of the day, although still guiltfully tasty. Breaded haddock and some of her delicious roast potatoes. It’s nice to have some Yankee cooking again.

100_2200

Mom wrapping presents for our Madan family Christmas gathering today. I still haven’t gotten my Yankee swap gift, but I’ll probably pick it up at Wal-Mart later (most likely going to get a haircut…). I’m thinking Apples to Apples. My memory of the game was jogged by SquamLoon’s photostream. …yeah, I’m not e-stalking you or anything, LB.

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Just felt like taking a picture of my room. Boy it feels good to sleep in my bed again. Actually, that’s what I should be doing right now, but instead I’m working on a million things I should have finished ages ago (not including this post – but I knew that if I didn’t post it now, I never would). I’m heading to NYC on Sunday and then DC on Tuesday night to visit grad schools. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to lug my laptop along with me to continue working on stuff.

The Season of Change

1 Nov

Since I’ve been rather busy the past month, I’ve neglected to blog about two things I really wanted to talk about: my short trip home (touched upon in my 12 of 12) as well as the election.

If there is any common theme between New England foliage and this election, it’s change. And so I’ve decided to intertwine the two subjects in one post.

Some leaves photographed at home. Walking around New England in October is like bathing in rainbows, although a lot less gay-sounding.

Fall foliage is an interesting phenomenon. People fret over how vibrant the colours will be every year, when they’ll hit peak, etc. They cite a lot of meterological factors but it’s always impossible to predict. This year, the colours seemed to be progressing more slowly than usual due to some warm (and dry) late September temperatures, but suddenly the rain and cool air came rushing down and the foliage began progressing towards peak more quickly than usual.

Although some years are better than others, I think it’s impossible to see anything less than the most vibrant fall colours in New England. I actually noticed slightly fewer reds this year than last year; I noticed that one or two red trees in particular that I had photographed in 2007 were orange this year. Compare the same tree, photographed in 2007 and 2008.

Of course, the orange is just as beautiful, if not moreso.

I guess I have a thing for colours. When I take pictures, my eye is very frequently captured by colour and it often shapes the composition of my photographs.

That’s a shot of Lake Winnepesaukee in Alton.

Since I wasn’t about to sit around at home during the entire weekend, my mom and I made some requisite leaf-peeping drives in the area. Interestingly, we noted a wide variety of colour quality. We crossed over to Woodstock in Vermont and drove some lovely backroads, but the colours were surprisingly weak. I thought that maybe the valley had had an early frost.

On the other hand, the White Mountains were aflame with colour, at least south of the notches. North of Franconia and Crawford Notch, almost all the reds had already disappeared. Still pretty, though. But the best colour was easily in the Conway area. The colours in the Lakes Region were also fantastic, although just short of full peak by a few days.

Ahh, New Hampshire…

Anyway, driving all these backroads, we also saw a lot of lawn signs for Obama and McCain (a relatively rare phenomenon in California, it seems). At one spot along Route 16 in Tamworth, where a lot of leaf-peepers stop to get a shot of Mt. Chocorua, the farmer who owns the property had placed an Obama sign in his field for all the leaf-peepers to see.

We also went to the Sandwich Fair, which typically isn’t my cup of tea because of all the people and the general lack of excitement (although I did get head-butted by a horse… no injuries), but in the centre of town there were two little political camps campaigning for the two parties. As we passed by the Democratic camp, they suggested I take a picture with Obama, but I politely declined and just took a picture of him.

Anyway, that brings us to the second topic of this post — the election.

I typically describe myself as a moderate libertarian. I tend to follow the mold of “classical liberalism,” which embraces the ideals of individual liberty, limited government, and personal responsibility. Interestingly, I wouldn’t say that my political beliefs necessarily reflect my personal moral values. For example, while I am pro-life in principle, I don’t think there’s enough legal reason to ban abortion. Of course, that’s an incredibly complicated issue.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where I lie on the political spectrum, especially if one attempts to confine me to the ridiculous left/right line. According to my most recent Political Compass results, I score a 4.50 on the x-axis (economic right) and a -2.72 on the y-axis (social libertarian). The scores are out of 10.

I would say that I generally can see both sides of most arguments, and am infinitely frustrated by those who can’t. While I favour the freedom offered by capitalism, is the idea of collectively providing for the poor so outrageous? While I think that the second amendment is a fundamentally good idea, is it so ridiculous to suggest methods of decreasing the sad amount of gun violence in this country? (Ironically, the fervent gun rights people are probably the least likely to revolt against the government. The founding fathers were the original unpatriotic “angry left.”)

I defy labels. I despise political correctness and affirmative action quotas. I am anti-dealth penalty and a pacifist. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants but I am not xenophobic and also recognize that mass deportation would be unfeasibly expensive. I am pro-environment. I believe strongly in the free market, despite its flaws. I think spending should be cut BEFORE taxes. And there’s a lot of spending that can be cut. I don’t think any single group should get a tax break, be they rich or poor. I think people should be able to marry whomever they want. I think the United States has an obligation to help promote liberty, peace, and well-being across the world, but that our current foreign policy is incredibly dangerous and misguided.

I think education is incredibly, incredibly important to the nation as a whole and not enough politicians give a rat’s arse about it.

Now, while I actually have a strong sense of enmity towards politics and politicians in general, this election has brought a lot out in me. I should note that I used to admire John McCain when he ran for President back in 2000, because I associated with his “RINO” identity and his moderate positions. Unfortunately, as the Daily Show pointed out, McCain has basically abandoned everything he ever stood for. I was actually just watching the documentary “Why We Fight” (2005) and was amazed at how candid and critical McCain was of the military-industrial complex. Of course, that was before he started running for president.

Heck, even his positions on torture and offshore drilling have changed since the primaries. Rather than moving towards the centre like most presidential candidates tend to do after the primaries, McCain has only moved farther and farther to the right. His campaign, and more specifically the people who actually buy into the BS it spews, have made me very angry. Recently, a post on the NH forum of the city-data.com message boards (which I frequent) asked the following question:

Just wondering what is happening in NH as far as the election goes. I have seen several “polls” which are showing that Obama has/will win NH I thought and was hoping that NH was still a predominantly Republican state. Am I wrong or are things changing rapidly?

This post, while not infuriating in itself, spawned replies like this one:

A couple of extra footnotes. Personally I would prefer Palin as our next president. But if Obama wins I predict some of the following to happen in NH and the USA;

  • Private Property Ownership will cease to exist as we know it today.
  • Reparations will be paid to slave descendents
  • Israel will cease to exist
  • The UN will control our military more
  • Energy Companies will be nationalized
  • free speech will be greatly hindered
  • Right to own a firearm will be taken away.
  • Our borders will no longer be secure
  • The Obama party will encourage illegal immigration

Since this was the same kind of insane sh*t I’ve been hearing for the past few months, especially from my own father and other relatives, a lot of anger had built up inside me and I was forced to vent in my reply post:

These political threads always make me angry so I usually try to avoid them, but people really need to learn to stop being so ridiculously alarmist.

First of all, there is no such thing as a “red state” or a “blue state.” If you look at any election map, you will see that there are Republican-leaning areas and Democratic-leaning areas in every state of the nation. Moreover, a lot of Americans are independents who vote either way.

The concept of “red states” and “blue states” is one used by idealogues to further polarize this country, and used by the media to simplify and stereotype. It’s also worth noting that just because a particular party may win in certain states, it doesn’t mean that people in those states share the same ideals. For example, the religious right and neoconservatives make up a much smaller portion of the Republican Party in New Hampshire than they do in other states (say, Texas).

The reason that New Hampshire has been voting out Republicans for the past two years is because many traditional conservatives in this state do not share the current national party’s support of an extremely expensive and ideologically misguided foreign policy, curtailing of civil liberties in the name of national security (or religious beliefs), and extensive government meddling in the economy. In this sense, many NH conservatives are more faithful to the roots of the Republican Party; that is, how the party was before it integrated the southern Dixiecrats in the ’60s and ’70s.

While I’m disheartened that NHites are voting out Republicans on the local level, since they have nothing to do with national policies and are usually socially moderate, fiscally conservative politicians, this is just part of a temporary backlash against the party. NH is, always has been, and always will be an independent, libertarian-minded state that will vote for either party.

I am voting Libertarian in the election because my views are not particularly compatible with those of either candidate. However, I am seriously infuriated by the Republican’s party continual move towards the far right, utilizing right-wing propoganda and fear tactics to insinuate that Obama somehow sympathizes with terrorists or is going to turn our nation into a “socialist” society (the horror!). And don’t get me started on Palin… the woman represents the most right-wing element of the party and her knowledge of federal government and foreign affairs is pretty pathetic. If you’re worried about your right of free speech, you should be worried about Palin, not Obama.

All this talk about “real Americans” and “anti-American elites” is the most divisive, Orwellian rhetoric I’ve heard of in the US since McCarthyism. The McCain campaign’s only tool for acquiring voters is fear, and their campaign has focused almost entirely on trying to make people afraid of Obama rather than actually talking about concrete plans for repairing the country and moving on from this rather depressing decade. John Kerry’s entire platform in 2004 was essentially “Bush sucks, so vote for me,” and we saw how well that campaign turned out.

Whoever wins, we are not going to turn into a communist or fascist state, have our free speech or right to bear arms taken away, or be overridden by terrorists crossing unsecure borders. Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t stand partisan types because they attack the other party for things they would defend if conducted by their own party. So what if Obama wins? New Hampshire voted for Bill Clinton, and under that Democratic administration we had relative peace and economic prosperity, including a surplus. Sure, things might not turn out great if a Democrat wins, but how the heck do you know they’ll be better if a Republican wins? The past 8 years certainly haven’t been peachy keen.

Sorry for going off on a rant here, I don’t want to incite an argument with anyone. But I feel compelled to respond because I think that my views reflect those of a lot of New Hampshirities who will NOT be voting Republican this year. Just my two cents.

I disagree with Obama on several issues, primarily economic, but I don’t think McCain’s positions are any better. I voted Libertarian for all the major offices on the ballot; although if I was less certain that Obama was going to win New Hampshire, I might have thought twice about that. But I feel good about voting on principle and the Libertarians need all the votes they can get in order to achieve recognition and money. God I hope the two-party system dies soon.

As I mentioned, a lot of my relatives, including my own father, are rather diehard Republicans. Not really of the socially conservative kind, but very partisan nonetheless. It’s very frustrating to put up with people who are so narrow-minded; and that includes my liberal friends, too.

I was very glad when Colin Powell appeared on Meet the Press. I agree with pretty much everything he said, and I think his comments about Islam were wonderful. He belongs to a list of moderate Republicans whom I admire more than any other group of politicans. I just hope the party doesn’t keep moving to the right when they abandon ship.

While Obama’s lack of experience is a legitimate concern (although not really compared to Palin’s lack of experience AND intelligence), I recently came across something which pointed out that experience isn’t always everything. Obama has more in common with Abraham Lincoln than you might realize.

I did vote Republican for most of the state offices, in large part for the reasons I mentioned in my quoted post above. I am also a bit wary about one party controlling the White House and both houses of Congress (like the Republicans in 2002-2006), but who knows what will happen.

If the current polls are to believed, this will be the outcome of the presidential election on Tuesday:

I do despise the red/blue state concept, but I use it here for recognition purposes. I hope that we are moving towards eliminating this kind of categorization and redrawing the political map.

If you do like colours, though, check out my photo albums from my autumnal trip back home:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

12 of 12 for October 2008

14 Oct

So, I got the idea for this from SquamLoon, who in turn got it from PodCacher, who got it from someone named Chad. Basically, a “12 of 12” is a monthly blog post which recounts the 12th day of the month with 12 photographs.

I went home to New Hampshire this weekend. I fly home in October in lieu of going home on Thanksgiving because 1) it’s nice to go home in the middle of the semester instead of towards the end, and 2) October is much nicer than November. On the morning of the 12th, I was getting ready to go to the airport and fly back to LA.

The fall colours were getting close to peak in the Lakes Region this Columbus Day weekend. I love waking up to beauty like this right outside the windows of our house. A bittersweet moment, however, since I was packing my bags for “Hell-A.” You can’t get such snuggly autumn mornings out here.

Another view from our house, with some morning fog lingering over Newfound Lake. I was particularly mesmerized by the light blue colour of the lake, and the contrast with the foliage. Our house is on the market, and nothing about the prospect of moving makes me sadder than giving up this view.

We drove down to the airport in Manchester. Takeoff provided an excellent view of the foliage down below (despite being a native New Englander, I am a proud leaf-peeper). Manchester is New Hampshire’s largest city, with about 100,000 inhabitants. Second and third are Nashua and Concord, with around 80,000 and 40,000 citizens, respectively. There are only 11 towns and cities in NH with more than 20,000 people. Looking at the photo of Manchester above, it really does look like a bastion of civilization within the wilderness.

Since I’m such a geography nut, I love spotting landmarks from the plane. The lake nearest the wing above is Pleasant Lake in Northwood, while the elongated lake just north of it is Northwood Lake (which is just south of Route 4). Northwood Lake was one of the sites of the bizarre tornado damage this summer; if you look carefully at the western end of the lake, you can spot a small area that’s been cleared of trees. The tornado actually crossed right over the lake (some of the damage can be seen here).

In the distance you can make out Lake Winnipesaukee and a host of summits, including the most prominent, Mount Washington.

Seeing all the colour from the air is breahtaking. The small village in the bottom right corner is Deerfield Center, I believe.

On its way to Washington (Dulles), the plane briefly followed the coast. I snapped a cool shot of Boston, but since I’m limited to 12 photos, I opted to post a different shot taken over Massachusetts. In the foreground, you can see Cape Ann, and in the distance, across Massachusetts Bay, is Cape Cod. Pretty cool, if I say so myself.

Thanks to the clear weather, I also had an unobstructed view of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and most of the major Northeastern cities.

After hopping on my connecting flight in D.C., I snapped this shot, presumably somewhere over Virginia (I haven’t bothered to figure out exactly where yet). Evidently the foliage has not turned here yet, although if you look carefully, you can see a hint of colour at the top of the ridges.

I’m always fascinated by the changes in landscape as I fly over the country. The endless geometrical farmland in the Midwest… the other-wordly, desolate landscapes of the Southwest… and of course, the mighty Rockies.

I think this is somewhere over Colorado, although it might even be northern New Mexico. The snow-capped peaks stand in stark contrast to the desert below.

Perhaps the most remarkable sight of the journey is the seemingly infinite SoCal metropolis. This photograph only represents a fraction of the incredible urban sprawl here. Even NYC, despite its larger population, is a mere fraction of LA’s land area, and is much greener than LA’s sprawling mass of concrete and stucco. Fortunately, the smog level was relatively low this day, allowing me a clear shot of downtown LA with the San Gabriels behind (you can still see all that grey in the background though).

Sadly, the wing is obscuring both the Hollywood sign and the USC campus.

After a somewhat bumpy descent into LAX, I was happy to be back on terra firma and got in my shuttle back to USC. What should’ve been a 20-minute ride turned out to be nearly an hour as the driver took an out-of-the-way route through Ladera Heights, an interesting section of LA that I’d never seen before. Ugly brown hills covered with oil rigs.

It was suppertime when I got finally got back to campus, so I stopped in the dining hall for some bouffe. After a week of stuffing myself on Thai takeout, free colloqium food, airport fast food, and “I’m home so I should treat myself” food, I tried to eat something relatively healthy (terriyaki chicken, green beans, potatoes, and cranberry juice). Unfortunately, more free food (pizza) the past few days has ruined any sort of healthy diet I may have hoped to maintain this week.

I’m trying hard, though, because 1) I gained way too much weight last year by not watching what I ate, 2) I’m starting to have digestive system-related problems, which makes me nervous at my age, and 3) I don’t really feel comfortable in my skin at the moment. Every time I see skinny college students eating a plate full of pizza and chicken nuggets for supper, a little part of me dies.

Anyway, the main reason I took that photo was to show the skateboard rack in the background. Each of the dining halls has one. How much more Californian can something be?

I was hoping to get a cool shot of the LA skyline at night for my 12 of 12, so I walked to the top of one of the parking structures on campus before realizing that the view of downtown was obstructed by another building. Instead, I looked to the west and saw this view of the sunset over the horizon. You can see the two tallest buildings on the USC campus, the Von Kleinsmid Center (with a globe on top – VKC typically houses courses in international relations, political science, foreign languages (including my Italian class), etc.) and Waite Phillips Hall, the education school building (whose 12 storeys I ascend for exercise).

On the way back to my apartment, I walked by the Shrine Auditorium. My apartment is located one block from campus, and that block is occupied by the Shrine. It was built in 1926, hosted the Oscars in 1947-8 and 1988-2001, as well as the Emmys in 1998-2007 (this year they moved to the much nicer and newer Nokia Theatre downtown).

The road on which this picture was taken is where the red carpet is rolled out. It’s a bit odd to think that I was walking in the same place that so many famous celebrities have walked before. But considering the countless times I’ve walked here to and from campus, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

It’s no surprise that the Emmys moved, however, considering what a ghetto the Shrine is located in. There’s really no glamour at all, and I have to admit that I’m always nervous walking to my apartment at night.

Since I gained 3 extra hours with the time change, by the time I went to bed I had been up for over 20 hours and was quite tired. Travel days are very fatiguing.

Escape from Hell-A

5 Oct

Well, I haven’t exactly escaped… yet. But I do try to get out of the local ghetto as often as possible, and this morning I headed up to Griffith Park for the first time since I arrived in LA over three years ago.

After a week of oppressive temperatures in the 80s and 90s, yesterday was more genuinely “fall-like” (at least to those of us who know what a real fall is), with cloudy skies, temperatures in the 60s, and even a few raindrops. When such fronts come through, they tend to temporarily clean out some of the smog in the air, so I figured I would take advantage of the improved weather today for a hike up Mt. Hollywood.

Unfortunately, the smog wasn’t pushed completely away (it never is); when I headed to the bus this morning, looking down Figueroa past the famous Felix sign, I could see plenty of smog downtown on the horizon:

I headed downtown, hopped on the metro and then took a trolley to the Griffith Park Observatory. I didn’t have time to explore the observatory itself — just enough to answer an eastern European tourist’s question in broken English about the name of the tallest building in the LA skyline (the US Bank building).

While I would have liked some tranquil hiking, the trail to the summit of Mt. Hollywood was quite busy. I did enjoy the change in scenery and vegetation, although given the aridity of southern California and the recent fire damage in the park, “vegetation” is a liberal appellation.

One advantage of the hike is the ubiquitous view of the Hollywood sign (which is on Mt. Lee, not Mt. Hollywood. Go figure.):

The views from the summit are incredible – not because they’re beautiful, but because they show you how incredibly vast the city is. The sprawling metropolis covers your entire field of vision and just disappears into the distance at the horizon.

To see all of my photos from Mt. Hollywood, click here.

The other highlight of the week was the French Club’s first major event, a “French Music Night” where we shared favourite songs and artists. Well, most of the suggestions came from myself, but I did discover some cool (and modern) artists thanks to others’ recommendations. Janet shared some particularly cool Canadian songs, including this music video, “Je suis un robot” by Plastic Lite:

Some other recent discoveries:

Malajube

Pierre Lapointe

Kaolin

But I think my favourite recent music video discovery is this song by “Les Trois Accords,” entitled “Saskatchewan.” Despite their strong Canadian accents, the video is the epitome of awesomeness. Not only does it have nothing to do with the lyrics, but it has NINJAS!!!!

SASKATCHEWAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TU M’AS PRIS MA FEMME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Where are the four corners of your world?

13 Sep

What is the farthest point north, south, east, and west that you’ve ever been?

I’m interested in this question not to see how well-traveled people are, but rather to see what points on the globe mentally represent the ends of the Earth for people, the boundaries of their experiences on this planet.

These are mine:

Farthest Point North – Near Duntulm Castle on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom

I went the farthest north I’ve ever been in June of 2007, as recounted in a previous blog post (right after the picture of the Old Man of Storr). This was during a bus ride around the northeastern peninsula of the Isle of Skye. The bus had finally let off all the local school children, so it was just me and a few Gaelic-speaking locals enjoying the scenery.

Looking out across the sea, seeing towering mountains in the distance on neighbouring islands, was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my entire life. There was a sense here, more than any of my other “farthest points,” of truly being at the edge of the world. Everything seemed so vast, so epic. For a brief moment, I found myself in the Medieval Europe of my childhood imagination, a place with endless open spaces. The mountains across the sea looked so unreachable and so desolate that it seemed as if I’d reached a place untouched by time. There was definitely something primordial about this place. The cold winds whipping off the sea reinforced the feeling of being at the edge of the Earth.

This is the most northerly photograph I’ve ever taken, shortly before passing the ruins of the ancient Duntulm Castle:

Farthest Point South – Near the airport in Tampa, Florida

A slightly less exotic location. In fact, it’s more of an approximation since I’m not sure exactly how far south we ended up going, but Tampa is definitely the southernmost city I’ve been to. Considering that Tampa isn’t particularly very far south on the Earth, it isn’t surprising that I don’t associate it with a feeling of being at the edge of the world. Rather, it represents a temporary boundary that I’d very much like to cross.

My two springtime vacations to Florida are very fond memories from my childhood, and in particular I always remember the feeling of the warm, tropical air at night after we landed at the Orlando airport in 1997. That’s a sensation that I haven’t had a chance to recapture in over a decade, and once I have the ability to do so, I’m heading south towards the dreamy blue waters of the Caribbean.

Farthest Point East – near Interlaken, Switzerland

My farthest point east was somewhat… impromptu. At the eastern terminus of a very scenic train ride between Montreux and Interlaken (described here), I decided to get off at the “Interlaken East” station instead of the “Interlaken West” station, since the former appeared closer to Brienzer See (the lake pictured above). In retrospect, the West station would have been the wiser choice since it’s actually located in the centre of Interlaken.

Instead, I walked for several minutes along a roadside with the hopes of reaching the lake, except that I had no map on hand and no idea how to reach the shore. Since I had to hurry back to the station to catch my train back to Montreux, I never did have a chance to reach the lake. I snapped my most easterly photograph ever and then turned around:

The fact that I turned around before reaching my destination is a good metaphor for how I view my farthest point east. There is so much of the world that lies to the east of this point which I haven’t had the time to see yet. It almost seemed as if there was an invisible barrier preventing me from going any farther, but that barrier will soon be broken. I will unlock a whole new area of the game.

Farthest Point West – on the Pacific Coast Highway, south of San Francisco, California

In August of 2006, my dad and I made a trip from San Francisco to LA along the PCH before the start of my sophomore year of college. It proved to be one of the most scenic journeys I’ve ever taken, and my dad got annoyed by my frequent requests for photo stops.

It’s easy to see how this can feel like the edge of the world. There is absolutely nothing on the horizon except the largest ocean in the world. And yet, when I look across the Pacific I don’t get the same feeling of isolation that I felt on the Isle of Skye. Maybe I just don’t know how to mentally compute looking west across an ocean, since I’m so accustomed to looking east across the Atlantic.

There’s almost something slightly melancholic about the Pacific Coast. It really does feel like the end… the end of the sun’s journey in a given day, which sometimes can feel like the end of eternity. Is that even possible? Well, before I get *too* philosophical, here’s the most westerly photo I’ve ever taken:

Where are the four corners of your world?