Doubtful Effect of a Little Rain

L'Européen, in Sévres

Where Not to Get Fresh Eggs

Paris:- Saturday, 25. April 1997:- It is the time of the count-downs. From today, 29 days until French voters go to the ballot boxes for the first round. I can't see the Tour Eiffel's countdown clock from where I'm sitting, but there must still be about 980-odd days until the reason for the election becomes reality on 31. December 1999.

For the duration of the current elections, I will report on these in another column in Metropole. If you don't like politics, just skip it. If you don't trust me to be not opinionated, not biased, not a fanatical left-wing, slavering 'Euro'-crazy, just skip it.

To bring you this week's news from France, I turn to page eight of Tuesday's Le Parisien. But first, the important news:

The Rain Came - a Little Bit of It

Yesterday afternoon, a bit of humidity fell from the grey sky. Was it a tickle, a tease? By the time I got home, my coat was soaked. But what all France requires is a good couple of centimetres of it, and soon.

Farmers were watching their unplanted fields carefully; others were digging into their pockets and turning their sprinklers on to help things along a bit.

The Internet Limps Into France

"I wish in the year 2000 that all secondary schools are connected the network..." is a loose translation of a recent speech on television by President Jacques Chirac.

Le Parisien thinks fulfilling this wish will cost about five billion francs, and dryly notes that the budget allots 23 million francs towards this goal this year. It leaves two short years to find the remaining 4.77 billion francs.

Back in 1985 there was a government initiative called 'Informatique Pour Tous' that foresaw putting The scouts have lost a ball computers in every classroom. A contract was awarded to one of the huge state electronics firms. They concocted an inexpensive machine and some software to go with it, and the grand plan eventually dropped dead like a dodo; possibly because it lacked compatibility with anything on earth.

It is a colorful fence to kick a ball over. But it's a high one.

Since then, the score now stands at one machine for 45 primary students, one for 28 in high school, one for 12 in the lycées, and one for eight in professional lycées. Only 12 percent of schools are connected to the Internet. The remaining 88 percent are not.

In contrast, private schools in France have ordered 10,000 computers* from Apple, to be delivered by 2000. A private ISP, 'Infonie,' has offered free access for a year to any school that asks for it. State-owned France Telecom, the head-cheese of all French ISPs, has offered nothing.

In some cases, individual schools or individual teachers have gone out begging for used equipment and donated software. Often, it is even parents who donate something; and there have also been attempts to restart old junk left over from the 'Informatique Pour Tous' era.

Microsoft has just equipped the classes of grades 3-5 of 11 French schools for free. The report does not say how many, with what, but does mention CD-ROM several times to give an idea of the 'why.' But they are also connected to the 'net and students are exchanging email.

Meanwhile, in garbage dumps and recycler plants, old PCs are rotting away or being vaporized - all perfectly good PC386s or Macintosh LCs - machines that may not run the newest CD-ROMs, but can connect to the net with no problem. East Europe would not mind having these, and they wouldn't be without use in Africa either.

Of course, putting these machines back in order might cost a little bit, and shipping them where they can have a useful life wouldn't be free either; and we mustn't forget software - surely it can't be too illegal to sign over a well-used license for 'Word 3' after you've upgraded to version six... or?

*Le Parisien's report says, "equipment for 10,000 schools," rather than 10,000 computers, as I have written. There may very well be 10,000 private schools in France; but a contract for Apple to equip them, is too good to be true - so I guess it is 10,000 machines.

First the Chickens, Now the Eggs

Last week's suggestion in the feature 'Paris is Not Chicken Crazy' that the reason for buying chickens is to get fresh eggs, seems to be borne out by a reader's letter to Le Parisien last Tuesday.

Fruits et legumes

The reader's supermarket is selling loose eggs without a date-stamp on every one and the reader wants to know if they are fresh.

This place might have fresh eggs; it is nearly in the country.

Le Parisien's answer includes the information that - if you can do this in a supermarket - if the egg floats, it's no good. If it half-floats, it's half-good. If you didn't bring equipment for floating eggs with you, you can try rattling the egg. If it rattles, it's no good. If it sounds sloshy, it's no good.

Eggs in egg-crates, labelled 'extra-fresh,' can not have spent more than seven ays lying around between the chicken and the package; after seven days they are merely 'fresh.'

Continued on page 2...
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