EWEC Marseille

I’m back in Strasbourg from Marseille; I was attending the first couple days of the European Wind Energy Conference. This is the big trade show for Europe so all the companies related to wind energy (from those who make little bobs and bits for obscure electrical connexions to the turbine manufacturers) are present and hawking their wares. There were some massive extremely expensive displays (in the, say, half-million dollar range); two of the turbine companies actually bring in the nacelles from a turbine and put them on show! There were also some little booths that looked like high school science projects. Ours was somewhere in-between. We had a big digital display that I created a looping show for (though it was a technical headache figuring it all out; it was three 58 inch plasma screens side-by-side that acted as one very big wide screen). One could see it from far away on the floor and I caught some people sitting at the other stands (some stands had cafés and lounges) staring off at our display. The only problem is that the fellows who made the stand did not build in any provision for ventilation! There are two computers running full on in a cabinet (hot); lamps lighting various panels and pictures (hotter), and the three big screens (there is a reason they are called plasma screens). They got so hot that they warped the vinyl above and beside them; we will have fans installed before the next conference (which is in Houston, so it will probably be hot to begin with). Here is a mobile phone image of the display (I’ve got to get a new digital camera):

A lot of people come over to look at the ZephIR (the Mars lander looking thing) and ask what the heck it is, “Well, sir, it’s a laser anemometer!” The funniest incident was when a group of Japanese people came over and had their pictures taken in front of it. I said, in about a year, the ZephIR will show up in an anime saving the world from invasion.

My only gripe with the conference was that it’s such a tremendous waste. Thousands and thousands of people travel there to attend. Much of the material for the displays gets binned afterward. Lots of energy and material wasted for a “green” conference. There must be some better option for doing these things.

I wish I could have gone to hear the keynote speaker (the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). There was also a premiere showing for The Age of Stupid which I want to make a note to see.

Marseille, as it is on the sea, has a port. We went down to the old port for dinner; the first night, we wanted seafood. Unfortunately, the restaurant we chose was all shellfish (which I am mildly allergic to). The only thing on the menu I could eat was salmon and foie gras…so I ate fish from the North Sea and the liver of an abused goose. I have now eaten three things I’ve never had before coming to France. Beef Tartar (raw hamburger with raw egg and spices), foie gras, and then, on the last night in Marseille, I tried someone’s escargot (which I quite liked). Of course, my favourite food is raw octopus; so maybe that’s saying something about my tastes to begin with.

I took the train from Strasbourg to Marseille and back (better for CO2 emissions…though it’s a long ride across the country). Here are a couple random happenings from the trip:

On the morning I left, I did something I almost never do; at the train station, I purchased a sandwich (a 5 Euro sandwich!) which, when I tasted, did not register as “food.” It had no taste whatsoever and was as dry as paper. So—I threw it away along with its unnecessary plastic packaging. I then found a bakery sandwich place, paid three euro for a fresh sandwich that was excellent (and only wrapped with a napkin).

Police stations in France are called Hotel du Police. I did not know this when I saw one from the train; it rather conjured up images of a convict coming in to serve his sentence only to be greeted by a polite policeman in a hotelier’s uniform. “Ah, oui, messier; we are expecting you. We have prepared a room especially for you and hope you find it to your satisfaction. Please let us know if you have any special needs; towels and sheets are changed once a week…no, I am afraid there is no internet; however, there are four channels on the television in the common room.”

On the train, whenever there is an announcement by the conductor, an electronic notification sounds beforehand. This was apparently not working for the return trip. Before the conductor made an announcement, he would say “dong, dong, dong.”

There is a big difference between visiting or living in a small country where people assume you don’t speak the local language—and a large one where they do. Must work on my French.

I’m loving my office here; right now I’m on my lunch break—sitting by the big windows overlooking the street. There is a general strike today; so a lot of people are out walking about.

By the way, I’ve found a flat. Clean and orderly (the two primary components) and still near to my work. I’ll move in tonight and can then get to the actual “settling in” part of things.