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Archive for October, 2010

It has been over a month since our plane took off from O’Hare Airport and it has already been quite the experience! I have yet to really blog about France and here are my keen observations regarding that other Red, White, and Blue country:

1) Scooters

Remember 10 years ago when it seemed every kid had a razor scooter only to be immediately disgarded and shelfed after a solid summer? Well apparently that trend never died in France and they are everywhere to this day. Kids ride them up and down the block like I rode my bike when I was 7. Adults ride them to work (no joke) and even bring them on the bus. It is just one of the many transportation options that should have been killed years ago but still remains popular.

Minus Wolverine this is typical.

I feel like for the amount of effort you put into into riding a scooter, you don’t get much of a return. You can only go so far with those 14 oz. wheels and an awkward center of balance.

2) Fashion

The French dress nice, they really do and it’s somewhat embarrassing how inferior we are on a day to day basis. They deck themselves out: Scarf, berets, layers, muted colors, Louis Vuittons under their under arms!

3) Strikes

To quote my structures teacher, “the French have a proud tradition of public uprisings.” And he couldn’t be more right because they always seem to be going on the strike. The first thing to go? The public transportation system. You see, they play the game that if you get other people mad who don’t have anything to do with their demands, then The Man must cave in. Which sucks because we and the rest of the public who are even more dependent on public transit aren’t able to travel from place to place as easy. However, it also makes it really difficult to have that same structures teacher make it from Paris to Versailles to teach us some maths.

On an unrelated note, I learned all about the French and their striking way of life in Sicko oddly enough.

4) P.D.A.

The French don’t hold back when it comes to P.D.A. Guys and gals everywhere are just mackin’ it. On the streets, on the bus, on a bench, everywhere. Hide yo kids, hide yo wives!

5) Cigarettes

They also feen (spelling?) cigarettes like no other. One of the most common stores in France are tobacco shops, there is probably one every 3 blocks. There is one in Champaign, a college campus no less. Their smoke of choice seems to be rolling one up themselves with or without marijuana sprinkled in there.

6) McDonalds and Starbucks

I’m going to make an entire post centered around McDonalds but to generalize they are extremely common. France and the rest of the world make fun of us for our obesity (and for good reason) but I’ve noticed that there are a buttload of McDonalds and they’re always packed with people. A bit hypocritical no? You’d think that they would want to eat at a number of places before ever considering McDonalds. But then again, all those calories are usually burned off by the end of the day because they walk so often.

Also, Starbucks is extremely common as well. If you’re ever in France, you might as well walk half a block to the nearest cafe.

7) English?

Not so much. The French don’t speak a whole lot of English like I was told before leaving. They speak a little English but for anyone who doesn’t speak a lick of French, it isn’t enough. Restaruants know basic English well but people on the street will give you a look if you are speaking English. That’s happened like 5 times these past 2 days.

The French also talk very quietly. As Americans, we are obnoxiously loud compared to them. In public adults are almost whispering to each other. Our kind on the other hand are always laughing and yelling up a storm where ever we go- that’s probably why we warrant an unwelcoming stare wherever we go.

Do they speak English in “What”?

8) Weather

The day I left Chicago the temperature was in the 70s/80s I can’t remember. The moment I stepped outside of the airport I couldn’t help but notice how noticeably cooler it was. I forgot the fact that Europe is higher in Latitude than Illinois. Despite how much cooler it is in the fall, Paris has may actually have a warmer Winter with the help of the good ‘ol North Atlantic current – the one that stops working and is responsible for all the destruction in The Day After Tomorrow. Time will tell though because I don’t really know who or what to believe at this point.

In general, the weather has been sporadic in which I mean, it’ll be cold, dreary and damp in the morning, and warm, sunny and awesome by noon with a drop off in temperature by night. The weather is extremely unpredictable but according to our program director, ” It [Versailles] gets more rain than London.” Now that is harsh.

9) Drivers

Everyone in France drives like an inner-city taxi cab driver – absolutely bat shit. You really have to be careful with them because they don’t follow many of the basic guidelines of driving an automobile. You even have to be careful crossing at a crosswalk with a green light I am that dead serious.

Driving Instructor: You’re a nice young man and, yes, I am your friend.

Borat: You will be my boyfriend?

Driving Instructor: No I will not be your boyfriend.

10) The French Are Assholes

The French really are assholes. I gave them the benefit of the doubt but they truly are assholes. They may be a proud people, but they are just as conceited to anyone who isn’t French. I have been laughed at so many times at the grocery store or what have you. In a setting where I am giving them money, they still find it amusing to laugh at our broken attempt at French. Sometimes they don’t laugh but are just down right rude. For instance, I went to order food at McDonalds and the woman at the cash register barely acknowledged my existence and showed no human compassion whatsoever. I ordered in French too! AND who is she to be snooty towards me? She is a French citizen who works at McDonalds, probably the most American symbol on the planet next to the flag. When I went to Germany and Belgium, those people were so nice and even helpful at times. The French are the complete opposite except for the French farmer who helped us out on our Normandy trip. Other than that, everyone in the Paris metropolitan area of French descent is an ass. There I said it.

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Playoff Predictions

My beloved White Sox fell way short of the Division title despite winning 88 games. I must say that I wasn’t expecting them to win that many games during the pre-season. In fact in recent years, 88 games will win you the AL Central Division Title. But the Twins had to steal the show after the All-Star break and completely shut us down for the year. Alas, another season has passed but that doesn’t mean I will stop paying attention to baseball. The post-season has arrived and here are my picks: (expect extremely casual analysis without little to any merit).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

ALDS: Rays-Rangers: Rays Win in 4.

First of all, I really like both teams. The Rays are the antithesis of The Yankees – small market team, based centered around versatility, speed, and defense. The Rangers haven’t been to the post-season in over 10 years and are starting to make a turnaround in their organization spearheaded by Nolan Ryan.

that Nolan Ryan.

This is certainly the most difficult series to predict and easily the most interesting. Both teams have ridiculous pitching. I think Texas has the edge with their hitting but the Rays are more efficient with runners on base.

But if I had to decide I would say the Rays simply because of their ability to win with their outstanding defense and speed. Also, a pesky home field advantage doesn’t hurt as well. And everyone on that roster is thinking at the back of their mind when they will have another opportunity like this?

Either way if the Rangers win, I’ll be ecstatic. They deserve to be a force to be reckon with. Plus, I love Cliff Lee.

ALDS: Yankees-Twins: Twins Win in 5.

As a White Sox, I love the Minnesota Twins. They’re the most respectable opponent in baseball second maybe to The Rays. They’re just so god damn efficient. I don’t know how Ron Gardenhire does it year in and year out. They always seem to have question marks on their roster (most notably Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan this year) and yet always seem to defy expectations. They too rely on their speed but also they seem to always come through in the clutch. I don’t know how they can stay so consistent year after year.

The Yankees are the Yankees. I hate the Yankees. I hate their philosophy on baseball and I hate their obnoxious fans – easily the worst. Most Yankees fans aren’t even from New York. Seriously? How can you not root for the team that is geographically closest to you? Those people aren’t baseball fans. Being part of a team means that you stick together through good and bad times. So when you actually have a shot at glory, there is no better feeling. Yankees fans do not understand that because they are spoiled brats. They’re the Veruca Salt of Major League Baseball.

“I want a golden goose now!”

But I will say this: every sport needs a villian. The Yankees are the ultimate villian. Someone has to do it. Just like how Lebron took that niche this past summer.

so gay.

Ultimately I truly believe the Twins will win this series because this is arguably the best Twins team we’ve seen in years. They’ve also been one of the hottest team if not THE hottest since the All-Star Break. They may not have a true ace but their rotation has been surprisingly consistent and unbearably confident. Liriano’s 14 wins is incredibly deceiving and the rest of the pack can put up a fight against all the Yankees starters except for maybe Sabathia.

The Yanks power and hitting will bolster their chances but after C.C. their rotation isn’t what it was last year and they should never underestimate out The Twinkies.

Plus, I love Jim Thome.

ALCS: Twins – Rays: Twins win in 7

Again, any team that isn’t named The Yankees making it to the Championship Series will be extremely satisfying. Both of my picks are two teams I would love to see go all the way. But in the end, if I had to roll the dice, I would like The Twins have a shot at the title. No analysis needed, just a simple guess.

National LEAGUE

NLDS: San Francisco – Atlanta – San Francisco in 5

This is where my analysis gets even more shady as we venture in the National League but here’s what I think anyways. San Fran and ATL are the two teams people don’t truly expect to make it past the Championship Series. But if I had to give an edge to either or it would have to be San Francisco. Their pitching is underrated entering the playoffs and they actually started swinging the bat again after a lengthy absence.

The Braves have had lights out pitching in September as well but ultimately prevail with their hitting especially without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. If there is a reason The Braves continue to the next round it’s because of Bobby Cox. The dude is in his final season with the organization and they want to do it justly.

scary, intimidating old man.

NLDS: Phillies-Reds – Phillies in 4

Oh Philadelphia. Entering the 2008 season, I was too worried about the Cubs winning it all (which couldn’t have been more true), I wasn’t focusing on what would be the first World Series win for what could very well be a dynasty team. This year is no different. The Phillies are way too sick nasty with their pitching: Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels. It is a shame for the underdog-ish Cincinnati Reds. The Reds will put up a good fight with the amount of pop in their offense but pitching is what wins you championships. And Philadelphia has 3 starts that can easily anchor an entire team. Halladay is undoubtedly the NL Cy Young Winner and has never even had the chance to go to the post-season. He will finally have that chance for ultimate glory which is a ridiculously scary thing. Oswalt was on the ’05 Astros staff when they made it to the Series but we all know that got swept from a much highly superior team. He asked to be traded to a contending team and here he is behind Halladay to make up the greatest 1-2 combo in the post season.

It really is a shame because the Reds are an excellent baseball team that defied expectations and then some this season. The few things holding them back are their spotty record against first place teams and their starting pitching. Not one of their pitchers stands out as a true ace  but certainly have the stuff to compete. Ultimately, the Phillies pitching is too overpowering.

NLCS: Phillies-San Francisco – Phillies in 5

Same story. Phillies pitching is too damn good. Stupid Phillies.

World Series: Twins – Phillies

One half of this match up is who I want there, and the other half is who will probably come strolling in. I really like the Twins but I can see any of these AL teams making it to the Series – even the Yankees. But its the Twins who I want to take the Big Kahuna – for the AL Central and for arguably the most efficient organization in baseball. The 2010 Twins remind me of my beloved 2005 White Sox. There certainly are similarities: No lights out starters, excellent bullpen, the ability to score runs in several different ways, and a team that defied expectations.

But what about the Phillies? Their offense respectively matches up with the Twins but they also have the best rotation in the post season. I hate to say it but I think in the end, the Phillies will make it to the series for a third straight year and win it all. I don’t like it but I like their chances of winning if we’re talking probability.

Players I Will be Rooting For

  • Jim Thome: I love Mr. Incredible. It was sad to see him go but he really didn’t fit in to our preliminary plans entering the pre-season. However, in retrospect it would have been nice to have Thome’s production value if he was not an everyday DH like he was with Minnesota. Regardless, the nicest guy in baseball deserves a ring and he may never have another opportunity like this ever again.


  • Buster Posey: The dude is a stud. What can I say? A rookie catcher that is bringing  a spark back to the SF lineup that hasn’t been seen since well, Barry Bonds?
  • Roy Halladay: No one should hate on Halladay for being on the Phillies. Is it really his fault he was tearing it up in baseball purgatory with Toronto and had enough of it? The guy is one of the best pitchers of all time, just give him a ring.
  • Joey Votto: What is not to like about him? You’re an asshole if you have a problem with him.
  • Nick Swisher: Because he’s Nick Swisher.

great episode of How I Met Your Mother

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A few days ago, the United States issued a warning to all Americans in Europe that there was a higher risk of a terrorist attack based on “cumulative analysis.” The State Department did not mention any specific cities but suggested that anyone near areas of tourism and public transportation should be alert. As a result, my school cancelled a trip to Paris to examine the site for our design project. They thought with the risk of an attack, that having 48 American students congregating at the same train station might not necessarily be a good idea so instead we’ll be going this Friday 🙂

However, we also have a research paper for our History of French Architecture class that requires us to visit the site of our building. Mine is in Paris. It’s the Val-de-Grace. Regardless of what it is, I am required to go to my site, take some pictures, sketch the main facade, along with a few other typed up research details by Friday in order to receive full credit for Appendix I.

Val-de-Grâce

So today, despite the warning issued out a few days ago, I ventured into the heart of Paris to complete my assignment or die trying of course. I took the train into Paris from Versailles and had to transfer at St. Michel Notre-Dame, which just happens to be the station right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, a hot spot for tourists. It was also the location of a bombing that happened in 1995. I was somewhat nervous transferring off at that spot but I knew that I had to continue on with my life and that this is just a warning and nothing is absolutely guaranteed. The terror alert was raised up dozens of times during Bush’s presidency. But I was reassured as well as intimidated to see many armed guards walking around the station. However, you do have to remember that you can’t be afraid and must go on.

typical French soldier

And in the end, I came back in one piece AND I found some really helpful information along the way for my research paper. It is certainly an interesting time to be living in Paris, for better or for worse. I hope for the better.

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