Pastry Hunt, 2.0

In the comments to my blog post “A Tale of Two Countries, and their Snack Foods,” one commenter asked, “Would you be able to tell us where in Paris you had that memorable pain au chocolat?”

Good question — and I’m using good question the way a politician does, when s/he doesn’t have an answer. When I travel I lean on a guidebook for things like hours, directions and tips, but I also do a lot wandering around on foot, and tend to eat at whatever place looks appetizing.

I learned this tip from my cousin. We were rambling through Seattle one day in search of lunch, and I had my nose in my guidebook. He suggested winging it, and we ended up eating in Chinatown at a place called Uncle Ball’s. The food was just okay, but eating at a place with such a bizarre name was one of the highlights of our trip.

But I digress. I didn’t actually know the name or exact location of the patisserie in Paris, but I did know it’s general location, since I had gone to the Saturday produce market at Place de la Bastille:

Then I wandered down a side street, went by a good-looking patisserie, and bought goodies there. I also remembered it was right around the corner from a Starbucks.

Thanks to the awesome power of Google (and I mean awesome in both senses of the word), it’s alarmingly easy to retrace my steps. I didn’t know the name of the side street,  so I simply mapped the locations of Starbucks nearby.

Place de la Bastille

Detail from a map of Paris, showing Place de la Bastille

From that I knew the Bucky’s I was thinking of was on Rue de la Roquette. I used Google Street View to check out the street corner a half-block away and then panned around, and … voilà:

There’s your answer: La Tradition du Pain, at Rue Duval/Rue Saint Sabin. If you paste the store’s name into Google, you can even see some Italian guy’s photo of the display cases on Flickr.

His photo caption sums up my thoughts pretty nicely: Aspettavo il giorno successivo solo per fare di nuovo colazione lì sperimentando altre squisitezze!

(P.S. – Don’t read Italian? Try dropping the sentence into Google Translate.)

Speed-the-Ochwat

About a month ago, Google introduced Google Instant, “a new search enhancement that shows results as you type.” In case you want to geek out, their “key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.”

(from the WSJ🙂 Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, said Google Instant could shave two to five seconds from the average 25 seconds previously needed to search and choose a link—reducing the collective time spent on Google searches by 350 million hours a year. It’s “search at the speed of thought,” she said.

But who cares about that? Especially when there are better uses for this shiny new technology, such as seeing how long it takes Google to predict your last name. Here’s the answer:

Instead of typing all six letter of my last name, I only have to type four, and then not accidentally select “ochweb.” And they even spell it correctly, unlike all these hapless folks.Wow. Dazzling.

So, 2-5 seconds of savings for the dozens upon dozens of people searching for Ochwat, and you have some real time savings–which you can use for better purposes, like Lolcats and Failblog.

It’s not the truth, it’s the humidity

The following is a screen grab from my Google home page. The weather in the Portland area has been crap the last few days, so it probably didn’t help when the Google page exaggerated the humidity:

screengrab.gif

Now, I’m no meteorologist, but if clouds and rain form at 100% humidity, I’d say we have about a 250% chance of rain. Pack your Mackintosh, eh?