29 June 2009

New Layout

It's not just your eyes, I just updated the layout of the blog. Everything should be the same, just centered better on your screen which should allow the large pictures to display better on smaller monitors. Let me know what you think!

Le Mans!

So it's been a while since I've been back, but other things have been keeping me too busy to post here. That said, a brief review of an American at Les 24 Heures du Mans:

Le Mans, the city, is like most other provincial French cities, full of little squares and narrow streets:

That said, some things stand out:

Not the least of which being the British. Here they are camping out of the back of a Bentley. How quaint:

Then there is the track itself. It's a world apart from the narrow, Medieval streets of the town. In fact, it would be downright familiar to anyone who's been to a major speedway in the US.

Then, finally, there are the cars. Living in Paris, I've gotten accustomed to thinking that 45mph was fast. That quickly changed once the cars started going by.

Perhaps even more striking than seeing the cars fly by was hearing them. Specifically at Le Mans, you have four classes of cars running against one another at the same time on the same track. And even within those classes there are many variations. In short, the variety of exhaust notes was pretty incredible. The Peugeots that would ultimately win, for example were extremely quiet (for a race car) being turbo diesels.

The Aston Martin LMP1 cars, on the other hand, screamed like Tie Fighters. Literally.

The award for most incredible auto-aural performance, however, goes absolutely hands down to the Corvettes. My God, they shook the Earth when they went by, nothing sounded as amazing as those American V8s.

I may be a Detroit boy at heart, but there was still a certain appreciation for how the Europeans get around.

Rarely do three characters mean so much as they do in RS6.

In short, it was a great time with the friends, I highly recommend it. It is one of the motorsports experiences to be had, hands down.

Alright, that's enough car-obsession for the time being. Those true-fans who want to see more can check it out in the full gallery:

Le Mans 2009

17 June 2009

A New Job!

That's it! I've signed my contract, received my badge and should be getting my email address tomorrow: I've started working at UNESCO!

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. It's headquartered in Paris and works on those above-mentioned subjects; in general promoting science and education, protecting the environment, and preserving culture.

I am part of the Natrual Sciences Sector, in the Basic and Engineering Sciences Division, and part of the Renewable Energy Programme. My title is "Consultant" which is the do-all, limited-term contract that they give to someone with my level of education and experience. I'll be supporting all aspects of the Programme's work which mainly focuses on using renewable energy technologies to build capacities in developping countries. A big part of it is training the technicians to take care of the systems that we and other organizations install (which fits nicely with the 'Education' part of UNESCO's mandate).

I haven't been working there for very long so I can't give any deep impressions, but so far it's fascinating. I'm meeting a lot of interesting people, I spend my days reading about energy in general and renewable energy in particular (which sounds far more boring than it is for me), and it's now a lot easier to explain what I do when people ask.

All in all, I couldn't be happier with it. To new adventures!

07 June 2009

It's About Time

What, dear reader, is this shockingly sub-par photo a representation of? Indeed, it is a train ticket for the French TGV. You see at the top that it starts at "Paris Mont 1" (that would be the Paris Montparnasse 1 station) and ends in two little words, indicated by the red arrow. What nice words indeed.

Yes boys and girls, it's time. It's been nearly three years that I've been in France and I've not yet made to the mecca of French motorsports events. It is time to rectify this rather serious oversight. Next weekend, two friends and I are off to Le Mans, to enjoy all of the insanity that a 24-hour auto race has to hold.

Thankfully, I'm going with a seasoned veteran who will be able to lead us around. I'm anticipating something like the Daytona 500 crossed with the Paris Metro during rush hour: pure insanity, so it will be good to have a guide. I will take plenty of pictures and, undoubtedly, bring back plenty of stories.

And yes, I do recognize the tension between my passions for renewable energy and for cars which get 6 mpg. It's just the way I is.