Saint Michel d’Aiguilhe, France


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I happen to be a dyed-in-the-wool francophile; how in the world did I ever miss knowing about this stunning accomplishment?

From Wikipedia:

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is a chapel in Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, built in 962 on a volcanic formation 85 metres (279 ft) high. The chapel is reached by 268 steps carved into the rock. It was built to celebrate the return from the pilgrimage of Saint James. In 1429, the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, was said to have come to the site to pray.

I would love to visit this chapel some day.

Montparnasse, 1895



“The Gare Montparnasse became famous for the derailment on 22 October 1895 of the Granville–Paris Express, which overran the buffer stop. The engine careered across almost 30 meters (100 ft) of the station concourse, crashed through a 60-cm (2 ft) thick wall, shot across a terrace and smashed out of the station, plummeting onto the Place de Rennes 10 meters (33 ft) below, where it stood on its nose. Two of the 131 passengers sustained injuries, along with the fireman and two conductors. The only fatality was a woman on the street below, Marie-Augustine Aguilard, who was temporarily taking over her husband’s work duty while he went out to get the newspapers. She was killed by falling masonry. The railway company later paid for her funeral and provided a pension to look after her two children. The accident was caused by a faulty Westinghouse brake and the engine driver, who was trying to make up lost time. A conductor was given a 25-franc fine and the engine driver a 50-franc fine.” (Wikipedia)



The Montparnasse wreck recreated at The Mundo a Vapor (“Steam World”) museum in Brazil.



A happier train wreck (From “Silver Streak”)

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Technological Prejudice

Steve Mann, called by some “The Father of Wearable Technology,” was hungry in Paris. Instead of stopping in at a local boîte, he and his family (inexplicably – this is Paris, after all) chose to dine at McDonald’s. It turned into something of an incident, which he also reported on his blog. Despite being shown a doctor’s note that explained his wearable eyepiece (a PARC1-esque precursor to Google Glass,) the staff at McDo had reservations.

Steve Mann with his EyeTap device

I imagine something like this taking place:

Staffer 1: Excusez-moi, monsieur, qu’est-ce que c’est on your face there?

Mann: It’s a wearable eyepiece. I need it. Here’s a note from my doctor.

Staffer 1: (reads.) (sniffs.) Hmp. D’accord, monsieur. For now. (Returns to work, muttering Gallic imprecations under his breath.)

[In the kitchen]

Staffer 2: What did he say?

Staffer 1: He says it’s technology. He says he needs it. He showed me a note from his doctor.

Staffer 2: And you believed him? Crétin! All américains sont des liars! He is doubtless a spy for le Wendy’s, or un Borg, or un observeur from the 7th dimension, or worse, from le CIA!

Staffer 3: Oui! We must throw him out before he begins to throw caca on les clients of our fine establishment!

All: Allons, enfants de la patrie!

Staffer 1: Monsieur! You must leave! You may not wear Borg technology in our store!

Mann: But it’s just an eyepiece…

Staffers (together): Non! Hérétique! You will burn for your blasphemy! Away avec toi! (staff hustles Mann and his family out of the restaurant, trying to rip off his eyepiece which is rather bolted to his head)

Staffers: Voila! The pûreté of our établissement has been restored! Vive la France! And stay out, or next time we will not be so charitable, cochon américain!

Of course, all révolutions begin en France, and then migrate to other shores. Perhaps a dark time will fall upon our own nation, with gangs of thugs roving the streets yanking hearing aids out of the ears of the elderly, but after the population has been decimated by the technology wars which ensue, equilibrium will be established, and portable technology will be accepted by the remainder.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go polish my optical implants.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

1PARC, or the Palo Alto Research Center of XEROX, developed the technology that has now become ubiquitous as the Macintosh, and marketed it as the 8010 STAR system and the subsequent 6085 Desktop Publishing System. They invented the desktop metaphor, with documents, folders, trashcans, windows, raster font design, and a whole host of other things… and did it in 1985, long before Windows was even a bad mushroom dream in Bill Gates’ mind.