June 16, 2003

Scattered Observations from Freedom

Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle is farcically ugly; it looks like something an Evil Overlord would build. French cooking really is, generally speaking, as good as they think it is, though the Lyonnaise have a perverse affection for organ meats. A sample of one-star restaurants (N=2) shows that they really are much better than those with no stars; this is not true of our samples of two-star (N=1) or three-star (N=1, via reliable proxies) establishments. There is a certain charm to receiving one's per diem in the form of well-handled bills with nonconsecutive serial numbers. There appears to be a principled objection to air conditioning, which would be just fine, were it not for the fact that the highs are currently around 40 centigrade, and the lows 31. But perhaps this involves a biological adaptation, since almost everybody wears long-sleeves and seems not to sweat. Didier Lockwood is amazing, especially when he gets into his feedback-enhanced electric violin solo, and appears to accompany himself with at least two other instruments, one of them from the percussion section.

Of course, it's not all three-hour lunches; there is actually a quite grueling schedule of intellectual work involved — hours of talks every day. (OK, you try having an intelligent discussion about math in 35 degree heat after three hours of eating and drinking. You need a glass of wine after that, I tell you.) This, too, is as good as it's cracked up to be; in fact, a week of "Science et Gastronomie" has restored my flagging faith that there is a field of complex systems worth bothering with.

Update: French cafeteria food, however, is the same dismal slop as anyplace else.


Posted at June 16, 2003 06:04 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth