Paris Car Culture

Obviously local environment, and local culture, influence what people look for in car design and car usage. After living in California for 9+ years now, and then arriving in Paris for a couple of weeks, I found the car culture differences between Californian cars and Parisian cars quite amazing. More then I realized from previous trips.

  1. Tiny streets, tiny parking spaces. By tiny, I mean that villages in West of Ireland have bigger roads. Simply fitting your car down these narrow one-way streets, with parked cars lining each side of the road is a challenge in a small car. VW Golf counts as big. Very common here are Smart Cars, small, fast, practical city cars, and the fact that there are some made in France is probably helping too.
  2. Expensive petrol/gasoline – hence an interest in hybrids. So what new, thats all the rage in California too, right? Well, then I spotted this. Turns out that electric cars have reserved spaces throughout Paris, and the parking meter includes a recharging plug for the car!

How to reinstall the Palm desktop and still access pre-existing data

I always organize my applications separately from my data files.

  • All applications go under their default install location (ie: “C:\Program Files”).
  • All data files go under one separate tree (ie: “D:\John”). This allows me to easily migrate from one computer to another, do backups, replace disks, all without worrying if I missed any of my files. So far, so good.

Recently, I had to re-image the C drive on my laptop, and re-install WinXP, which in turn meant reinstalling all the applications. Tedious, but not a worry because all my data was safe on the other D partition, and I had all the original CDs.

For the most part, that worked perfectly. The only gotcha was while re-installing the Palm Desktop (v4.2).

I was concerned that the installer would overwrite my preserved data directory, so I told the installer to use the default user-data directory (ie: put user data under “C:\My Documents and Settings”). Once the installation was complete, I started the Desktop application, went to Tools->Options dialog box, to the “General” tab and tried to change the “Data Directory” to point to my existing “D:\John\PalmPilot” directory. Hitting “OK” failed out saying the directory “cannot be used to store your data because it is being used by another user”. Huh?

Turns out the solution is to:

  1. Shutdown the Palm Desktop application, and close the HotSync task icon in the windows taskbar notification area.
  2. Start “Regedit” (by doing Start->Run, enter “regedit” and click “OK”)
  3. In Regedit, search for the key “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\Core\Path”, and change the data value of this to be the location of your existing data. In my case, I changed the data value to be “D:\John\PalmPilot”.
  4. Save and Exit Regedit
  5. Start Palm Desktop and confirm that it now automatically opens up the data found in D:\John.
  6. Restart hotsync, palm desktop, and verify that you see your data in the Palm Desktop application
  7. Hotsync and verify that changes show up on both your PC and your Palm!
  8. Done!

(Credits: I originally stumbled across this registry hack in a post I can no longer find but I will update this blog if I find it, because they saved my neck. Subsequent searching I also found Both postings were framed around setting up shared access to Palm Pilot calendars. The same registry hack worked for my problem, so I’m posting them here, in case it helps others in the same situation… and so I can find it easily if I need it again in future!)

Aikido in Paris

Went to a lunchtime class taught by Gerard Blaize, 7th dan. There were just over 25 people training, of which only about 5 including myself were not in hakamas! For me, that felt like a large class, especially for a lunchtime. The very very advanced level of training felt a little daunting at first, especially as a complete new firstime visitor to the dojo. However, everyone was relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and the training was inspiring and educational. Despite the language barrier, it was really wonderful. All in all, quite exhilarating.
They have classes 5 days a week, including various lunchtimes, see their website for details. Additional useful info:

Nearest Metro stop is Gare de l’Est

Phone: or

Fresh Croissants…

So, if life in Paris is all about cafes and bakeries, why am I having breakfast like I was still at home? So…

Fell out of bed this morning, and still half asleep, wandered down the street to the local boulangerie… While standing in line, trying to decide between all the yummy pastries and breads, I noticed lots of people would buy a baguette, and they all did the exact same thing. They’d be quickly handed a narrow paper bag with about 2 ft of baguette sticking out the top, pay, put change in pocket, turn to leave and then *chomp* take a bite out of the top. Now happily chomping, they would march through the crowd to the sidewalk and out to continue their commute, proudly carrying their baguette in front of them. While I was there, not one baguette left the store intact, and they sold a *lot* of baguettes. In London, the sterotype is bowler hats and umbrellas. In the US, the stereotype is jeans and a latte-in-a-paper-cup. Looks like in Paris, it should be baguettes-with-a-bite-out-the-top?!?!

Ambled back to the apartment, through crowds of people carrying baguettes-with-a-bite-out-the-top, to have orange juice, some fresh strong coffee, fresh croissants and pain au chocolat. mmmm…. Great start to the day!

Just found a list of boulangeries to try out: This could take a while!!

Sidewalk cafe, watching commuter traffic in Paris

Commuting back from the office on a brisk winter Monday evening, as we were coming out of the metro, I saw a sign “Commuter special: Belgian beer + plate of chips 5euro”. Interesting retro designed cafe, right there at the very top of the metro steps. How could we resist? Perfect place to sit while we decided what to do for dinner. Two minutes later, we are sitting at an inside table in the cafe, looking out the window at the traffic, sipping our beer, waiting for the fries and contemplating the day at the office.

Looking out the window, I realized that the cafe was on the corner of a couple of streets, with evening rush hour traffic in full swing just the other side of the metro steps. It was all behind us as we came up the metro steps, so I could only see the surface roads now for the first time. Slowly, I realized it was a 7 road intersection. And a complete free-for-all.

There were no lights, no stop signs, no yield signs, no roundabout in the middle, no lines in the road. Just a large empty space where 7 roads meet. So, for example, cars zipping through from R.duTurbigo to R.Beaubourg had to duck-and-weave around cars going from R.Reaumur to R.Bailly. (Click on street view for better perspective). It was all done at a fast pace, with no indicators, no horns, no squealing brakes, and amazingly enough, no accidents! It just looked like a busy smooth flowing intersection, until you looked in detail and realised that there was no stop-and-go in the flow because there were no lights controlling any cars entering the arena. All of the 7 roads seemed to have similarly large volumes of traffic, adding to the whirling dance-of-hubris feel.

In a nod to practical reality, at least the city planners explicitly did not paint any road markings in the center of the intersection. At first, I thought that added to the hazard, but I later changed my mind. Beats me what way they could have painted lines, anyway, even if they wanted to. Honestly, I now think that if they had painted lines in the intersection, that would give people a false sense of security, some sense of “what is right, what is wrong”. Instead, by leaving it completely unmarked, all drivers were equally on edge, equally unsure of his right-of-way status, which is probably the best you could hope for. Each road connecting in/out of the intersection was painted correctly, but when they reached the edge of the intersection, the road-line-painters just stopped.

Once the initial surprise wore off, and I stopped wincing at some of the near misses, I noticed some interesting details:

  • There was a traffic island on the NorthEast corner, so cars going from R.duTurbigo to R.Reaumur had to do a U-turn around the island, all in the middle of the arena. It wasn’t painted, had no signs/bollards, so was easy to miss in all the excitement, yet no-one hit it.
  • There were pedestrian crossings all over the place. Mostly, they were near the edge of the arena, and conveniently blocked from sight by advertising billboards on the sidewalk. This meant that a driving zipping through the intersection had to also be prepared to stop suddenly at the zebra crossing if they turned the corner and found a pedestrian right in front of them. And the car behind had to be prepared for that also!
  • Occasionally, a car would weave through the arena to reach its chosen exit road – only to realize that it was the wrong exit road! At that point, they just stopped and reversed back into the arena, until they had a clear shot at the correct exit road. They would then swing forward to the correct exit road and leave. This happened 6+ times while I watched, and no-one even honked at that.

Despite all the duck-and-weave driving, there were no accidents over the course of the beer-and-chips. Not sure what it says about the standard of driving in Paris, the same situation in Ireland or the US would have been a complete demolition derby disaster. If that cafe ever setup a streaming webcam, it would be well worth watching! I left the cafe, carefully looked both ways before hurrying across the zebra crossing, and vowed to never drive in Paris!