Monday, December 04, 2006

iFit Sucks!

I went to go for a run on my treadmill on Sunday morning. I powered up the computer in our gym and went to iFit to do my workout (basic running with a pretty streaming video of the mountains or the Hawaiian surfside along with a nasally American female trainer voice pushing me along). I should say I tried to go to iFit. For the third time in a row their server was not available. It appears as though they do regular server maintenance and they carry it out at what they must assume are American off hours (i.e. European morning times). This makes the service useless to me, and probably quite a lot of other Europeans, and I have now cancelled my subscription.

Instead I powered up my iPod Nano, plugged it in to the gym speakers, selected my "Running" playlist and cranked up the volume. On the computer I put on a movie with subtitles without the sound (Star Wreck a great Star Trek parody movie made in Finland specifically) and ran until I could no more...

A great business idea: I've looked all over the net for this. A site where one can download videos of walking or jogging through beautiful scenery (forests, beaches, mountains, cities even...) from the point of view of the walker/jogger. I have found one or two sites with VHS or DVD versions but you have to buy a whole film and pay for shipping and handling before you find out whether it is worth it or not. The ability to download a quick short version of each film, allowing the client to get an idea as to the quality of the film and the choice of scenery, would be a must but not a big deal to put in place. What we need is a good athletic filmmaker with a Steadicam willing to run around some beautiful locations around the world for the benefit of all of us bored sedentary geeks everywhere!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Online Poker

I've been spending more and more of my free time playing poker online... I love it! At the moment I play in spurts of anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and soon as I win a bit I leave the table. That means that at the end of any session I always go away ahead. A tiny bit each day...

A particularly wonderful combination is playing on my Tablet PC while hanging out on the couch in the living room. No wires, no keyboard, no mouse... just a stylus in one hand and the Tablet across my lap.

I've tried quite a few sites and I keep coming back to the same one which happened to be where I started.

I've tried the infamous Party Poker and even opened an account and made a deposit. That was silly. I should have tried the software first. I was overimpressed by the reputation of this site which is, as it declares, "The World's Largest Poker Room" and it also sponsors most of the poker tournaments or shows I see on television. Unfortunately it offers what has to be the worst software available for online poker. An extremely dull and dated interface. More importantly it lacks some of the functions I love such as remembering folded cards, and it doesn't show the chips and pot increasing until the end of each round. A boring interface just makes the game more boring. However they do have one very interesting, and dangerously enticing, Party Poker Anywhere feature which allows you to play poker with them without installing software. This means you can play on just about any computer. But it's still the same boring interface.

The other extreme is PKR which is almost like playing poker inside of Second Life or The Sims. Fully 3D avatars, full animation and sound, the ability to control the avatar's actions (swirl chips, thumbs up, ...) and facial expressions (sad, angry, happy, ...) with mouse clicks is pretty amazing. Although I enjoy playing with this one with "play money" I find the overly gamelike interface actually gets too much in the way of seroius gameplaying.

Along the same line is Full Tilt Poker which also has overly cute avatars and spacelike table settings. But again I find it really gets in the way of my playing when the guy across from the table is a shark and I'm sitting next to a monkey. Cute... but just not my idea of the poker experience.

The next one for me to try, maybe, is Poker Stars. But I doubt I will. I'm just too happy with my first choice that I'm no longer that interested in looking elsewhere. It's not an accident that the first place I looked for online poker was Betfair as that's where I do all the rest of my online gambling (horses mostly and a bit of big sports events (Super Bowl (of course), World Cup, ...)). What is pleasantly surprising is that Betfair Poker has turned out to be my favourite interface. It has all the features I want, including the aforementioned "remembering folded cards" which I had not even thought of as a possibility until I saw it there, and a great choice of tournaments and tables covering an extremely wide range of budgets which I definitely appreciate. For fun, and most of the time, you'll find me at the relatively cheap Texas Hold 'em No Limit Tables with a tiny average pot of about $5 or $7. I sit down, play a bit, win $5 or $10 and then leave and get back to whatever else was going on in the living. A bit of adrenaline rush with a few "all in" calls and I'm satisfied. The first time i played one of their tournaments I actually kicked ass and was in 6th place, out of about 90 players, before I finally just had to give up and go to bed. It was almost 2 o'clock in the morning (weekend night). I obviously need to try tournaments earlier in the day. But even going to bed I woke up $30 ahead. A lot of fun!

In addition to playing online every now and then I use's excellent site and their Poker Analyst for keeping track of my playing sessions. I'm slowly but surely recuperating the losses I incurred in one bad night back in September... I should break even in a week or so and maybe start making money again before Christmas. But that's almost irrelevant for the relatively small amounts of money I'm playing with. It's the overall sensation, excitement, risk and powerplay pleasure that keeps me coming back.

You know where to find me: Betfair Poker.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christian McBride Band... Live!

Christian McBrideYet another bass player I have always wanted to see perform live!

I battled through Sunday evening traffic and was late when I met Robbie at the Gare de l'Est. We found parking relatively near by and I ran from the car to the New Morning. This was partially because I was excited to get to the concert and try and get some good seats but honestly it was mostly because I desperately needed their toilet more than anything else. The quantity of water, or other liquids, I drink constantly to keep my throat lubricated has the negative effect of requiring me to always know where the nearest toilet is as when I need it, which is often, the need is immediate.

Robbie and I got our seats, which were slightly better than those for the Ron Carter concert. We put our coats down and started on our first overpriced, but delicious, beer. About an hour later it was time...

What an incredible quartet this turned out to be! Terreon Gully on drums; Geoffrey Keezer on piano; Ron Blake on saxes (tenor and soprano) and flute and, of course, the one and only Christian McBride on bass and bass guitar. The concert was unusual in that it was one long set... no intermission. It moved from a smooth start with Christian's obvious classic jazz beginnings and just built and built in energy. It's incredible how modern Christian can make an upright bass sound. He also switches from plucking to bowing at unexpected places as the mood hits him. In addition to his obvious expertise (this man's got bass chops that most can bearly fathom!) he's a great showman. He's obviously having a great time and wants us to too. The show just kept getting hotter and hotter in mood and all the time without getting overly esotheric or just plain weird. The were whipping us slowly and surely in to a frenzy right up to their rendition of Joe Zawinul and Weather Report's "Boogie Woogie Waltz" which just brought the house down. It went on forever and we just kept wanting more. Finally it ended and we all caught our breath, yelled, screamed, applauded and begged for more. They finished up with Ron Blake's "Sonic Tonic" which actually got us all even more excited. We all applauded and it was over. We obviously begged for an encore. They came back, all with a glass of red wine in their hands, and gave us a quickie as they wanted to hurry to get "prepared for the after show" {vbg}.

Christian McBride

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet you can actually download a video of the band performing "Boogie Woogie Waltz" HERE. It's a relatively big file (30 MB) and appears to be shot by a filmaker with a bit of a foot fetish. Believe it or not this is a relatively tame and short version of the performance in comparison to what we saw. We were blessed! I recommend checking it out though as it gives a general feel for the end of the concert. It starts off slow so you have to stick with it...

We left the club feeling rejuvenated and full of energy and a bit of awe at what we had just saw. We went looking for food and wound up at an Indian restaurant where we finished the evening with a bit of curry. I drove Robbie home and headed back to my place for sleep and preparation... back to work tomorrow!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Salon du Vin ... What a difference a year makes!

Today was the day I've been waiting for throughout the past few months: The Salon du Vin des Vignerons Independants de France. Our cellar is running empty and it desperately needs filling. Jess now drinks wine often with a meal, and I can enjoy more and more, so we are up to a bottle and a half during family meals which makes it disappear quicker.

Today was the opening. I got there as quick as I could but still spent over an hour parking. For those of you who don't remember here is the ARTICLE I wrote once upon a time about the Salon. It was a great day and Desney and I truly enjoyed seeing our old friends. Many of them were very kind and said how great I looked. Wanna get me to buy more of your wine? Stroke my ego a bit? Does it work? Wel... it certainly can't hurt {g}. I was especially pleased at how much I could taste and enjoy. My taste buds and tongue certainly aren't 100% restored. But I believe they're up around 80% which is way beyond acceptable. We went back to our classic suppliers (Moreau Naudet - Chablis; Ehrhart & Fils - Alsace; Domaine de Fleurie - Beaujolais Cru; Le Fagé - Bergerac; Granoupiac - Languedoc-Roussillon and Michelas - Crozes-Hermitage/Cornas) and spent way too much money refilling the cellar. But we had a great time. The biggest challenge, as always, was getting everything to the car. We were home relatively early and ready for dinner...

Later in the evening I started contemplating Last Year's Salon du Vin which was towards the end of my treatments and the first time my mother had been. Eternally morbid as I am I went back to my blog entry for November 2005 and checked out what life was like a year ago. The first, slightly anecdotal, point I noticed was that the Salon started on Thanksgiving last year just like this year. The rest was slightly depressing and painful to remember. But the end result was the same: I've come a long way baby!!! Looking back I realise now that my present condition is actually far better than I ever thought it would be back then...

I can't wait to look back at this year's entry... next year!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another break in...

I get home late night from another long 3-day business trip to London and I go down to pick up my car in the Gare du Nord parking lot... unpleasant surprise...

They broke the read driver-side window (again) and broke in to the car (again). Unfortunately for them there wasn't anything to steal this time. I now take my Tom Tom 910 with me when I travel and I had coincidentally just emptied out the music CDs the night before leaving. They must have been pissed off! Unfortunately for me however it's going to be another waste of time as I'll have to go get the window replaced tomorrow...

My next car (coming soon hopefully) will have an alarm {duh}!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another test... another exam... I PASSED!

I had difficulty sleeping last night... yet another exam today that I can't study for...

I tried to get some work done in the morning but my head just wasn't in to it...

Back to see Dr. Hagège again for my quarterly checkup.

We went through my PET scan results first which we both knew were good.

Then on to the exam. I had taken a Xanax an hour and a half before to prepare. But he brought out a new "toy". In addition to the cameras which go up my nostrils and then down the back of my throat he now has a bigger one which goes right in the mouth and down the throat. I'm afraid that didn't work and we both knew it wasn't going to. He therefore shot the anesthesia up my nostrils and talked to me a bit while waiting for it to kick in. He asked me some questions about his old Mac computer which was acting up and I gave him a few tips as best I could with cotton shoved up my nose.

Finally he went in for the kill and I believe my innards were broadcast on an enormous screen he has on his wall. I say "I believe" as I keep my eyes closed throughout these things. I tend to be crying during and after so I wouldn't see anything anyway. He knows me well enough to give me tissues even before we get started. He was apparently pleased with what he saw. He tried to get the new camera down my throat again but my body just wasn't having it. One hand holding the tip of my tongue and pulling it towards him and the other hand trying to shove, excuse me "slide", this camera tube down my throat. My throat still considers that nothing should go back there that can not be chewed first or squeezed in to nothingness by my throat muscles. In other words "solid objects are forbidden". He saw what he wanted to see and had me do my "eeeee" and "uuuuuuu" and "ohohohoh" sounds while he checked out my vocal chords on the big screen.

Finally it was over. It must have lasted just a few minutes... maybe 10 or 20 all together... but for me it always feels like an eternity.

We sat down at his desk and went over the status and the future. He was pleased to announce that my entire throat area and upper chest are clear of cancer and have been for a while. He then came out with the first bit of really good news: as it's been more than a year now since the surgery he feels we can now see each other every 4 months rather than every 3 months. Most of you reading this are probably thinking: "big deal... one more month". But that means I will see him 3 times a year rather than 4 and that makes a big difference to me!

As we talked it was obvious that there are aspects, as I've always known, that I'm just "going to have to live with": the eternal lack of saliva (hyposalivation) and the "champignons" on the back of my tongue.

We plan on my next appointment for March 2007. I'm not holding my breath!

I went home and went to bed and slept with the comfort that, at least for today, I am (still) cancer free!

Friday, November 03, 2006

MSIE 7 and Vista

I've been "playing around" with Vista more and more on my Tablet PC and I have to admit I really like what I see. Microsoft have "been inspired" by some of the best functionality of the other OSes out there (Mac and LINUX especially) and have implemented some pretty nice new functions. A lot of the most interesting functions are actually "under the bonnet" motor type function (such as being able to go back to previous versions of files, offline document synchronising, ...). But the interface is a definite major change and going to require getting used to. I see training money coming in for many IT companies out there.

MSIE 7 is definitely a pleasure and I have a lot of trouble going back and forth between MSIE 6 on all of my other computers ans MSIE 7 on my Vista Tablet. Tabbing, "inspired" directly from Firefox, is probably the most noticeable improvement and definitely the one I use most. They got this one right and I now have difficulty remembering how to work without it. Their management of Favourites is also greatly improved and again I have difficulty going back to MSIE 6 and finding my Favourites through the "old" procedures.

I will not go in to Office 2007 at the moment... I am basically lost in the new interface. I am sure new users will find this much more "friendly". But I am losing lots of time trying to find how to do the same simple things I used to do within the new "ribbons" and "tabs"... This too is going to require major training around the world. IT companies should be raking it in next year (2007). Thank you Microsoft!

Rate Your Music or MusicThing

My loyal readers will remember I mentioned Library Thing a while ago for online cataloguing of our book collection.

I asked several times on their forums and such if they were planning anything similar for music which I referred to as "Music Thing". It appears that they are working hard on new functions for Library Thing and, although Music Thing is a thought in the back of a few developers' minds, they do not have time to work on such a product. However someone on the forum recommend I check out Rate Your Music.

On first glance I figured that he had not understood what I was looking for: online management of my CD collection. It looked as though this was just a site for everyone to put up their ratings (up to 5 stars) and personal reviews of music (CDs, vinyl, tapes, ...). Although that looked like fun, and a vital part of Library Thing, it was not what I was looking for.

Luckily the account creation was free and I gave it a try. I quickly found out that you can "also" include your own music and declare that you "own" the music and in what form it is owned. This is even better than I had hoped for. I can actually note which CDs I have as CDs, which vinyls and, most importantly, which music I have "only" as MP3 files. This allows me to have all of my music collection in one piece of software and online... and it's free!

Windows Media Player, or iTunes, allow me to catalogue and manage my MP3 files. But they do not include music which I have not put in to the computer. Some other software such as Music Collection Pro allow me to manage my CDs, vinyls and tapes and such but not my MP3 files. This is the first program I have found which nicely manages both in one place.

The functions similar to Library Thing such as tags and "compatability lists" are a lot of fun. I found someone else out there who has almost exactly the same jazz CDs I have. The statistics part is really fun as well.

I have entered about 150 of my CDs at the moment and will continue to do so as time permits. That's probably about one tenth of my total collection. I hope to finish cataloguing everything sometime before I die... then everyone else can have fun looking at what's I "had" and start fighting over who gets what!

I've added a link to my music collection in the Links section in the menu over there on the right.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Mushroom Hunt

Asleep at 2:30 and up early in the morning to get ready for the annual APESA Mushroom Hunt. I was really pleased someone else was organising this...

Alexandra and I jumped in the car and headed out to the forest of Saint Nom la Bretèche where we met everyone else who had come in by train. A little over an hour strolling through the forest ending with a picnic with hot chocolate for the kids and hot mulled wine for the rest of us. As I spent my entire time talking I didn't get to drink much. As I strolled through the forest I had my small bottle of water which I (unfortunately) always have to keep with me so as to keep my mouth and throat lubricated (replacing the saliva I no longer produce). A lot of the kids got thirsty throughout the walk and no one else seemed to have thought of bringing water. The kids therefore kept asking if they could have some of mine and I kept refusing. I didn't want to go in to a long explanation but water for me is more than just a nice drink to enjoy it's the vital ingredient that keeps me swallowing and talking...

We had a great time outside and I was just as overjoyed to get home... ah the wonders of the afternoon nap.

Ron Carter... Live!

Yesterday was yet another long day to end a week of long days...

I had to get up extra early to drive out to Normandy for a meeting which was only supposed to last a couple of hours. A 3-hour drive one way, a 2-hour meeting and a 3-hour drive home was really something to look forward to... no? The meeting, as I should have guessed, lasted longer than expected and I was not going to have time to go home before going back out again for the meeting.

On the drive home I was so exhausted from this week of long days that I literally had to pull over and try and take a nap for about a half an hour or so. My phone hadn't rung at all during the morning or my meeting. But, of course, it rang 6 times while I was trying to take a nap. Realising that this just wasn't going to work I drove off heading back to Paris.

I called Robbie while on the road to let him know of the change of plans. I figured I would pick him up at his place rather than meeting him at the club. I was coming towards Paris and there was no point going home and then going to the club. That made things easier.

About an hour later it was obvious that I wasn't going to be able to get to Robbie's and then to the club in time. The traffic just outside of Paris meant that I was going to have to head directly for the club and meet him there.

Many weeks earlier, while surfing the web, I came across the JVC Jazz Festival Paris listing. I used to publish this programme on my, now defunct, Jazz in France web site. But I never went... not once. As many of you are aware I am spending the rest of my life, whatever's left of it, avoiding that sort of phrase "I always wanted to do that... I just never got around to it or I just never had the time". I saw who was playing and where and decided to contact Robbie and see if I could get some company as I knew there was one concert I just had to see.

Ron CarterRon Carter is one of those jazz legends I have sworn to see live before either he or I die. I still will never forgive myself for not having seen my hero Joe Pass before he died. Ron Carter is probably the jazz bassist I have listened to most in my life and probably the one I remember most. There's a much younger jazz bassist I adore as well but we'll discuss him sometime later {g}. It's rare that I would play a bass album over and over again. But my copies of his "Pastels" and "Piccolo" albums would have been long since worn out by now if they were vinyl.

The New Morning is probably one of the biggest and most famous jazz clubs in Paris. Again I used to publish the programme of this club on my Jazz in France web site and always longed to go there. I had never been before. I ordered tickets for this concert many weeks earlier to make sure we had them and it was a good thing. I picked Robbie up on the corner at about 18:45 and we looked forever for a parking space. We finally parked a reasonable distance from the club. As we finally reached the club on foot I let loose one of those classic smack on the forehead moments. I had left the tickets in the car. Walk back to the car, find me a toilet, walk back to the club and we were standing in the queue at 19:30. The concert was supposed to start at 21:00 and the joint was already packed. We were able to get some "reasonable" seats and purchase some overpriced beer at the bar. The concert was just plain wonderful. A perfectly relaxing evening to end a very rushed week. The adjectives are easy and they are all synonyms of "smooth" or "mellow" or "laid back" or... you get the idea. Just plain pleasure. The man was surrounded by people who loved him and were just dying to hear him play and he delivered. He had brought with him a guitar player I had also been dying to hear/see play live: Russell Malone. I have to admit to not having been an enormous fan of his own albums. But I have loved his work on Diana Krall's early trio and quartet albums. The concert was referred to as "Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio" and it was an interesting concept: the trio without a drum. A bass, a guitar and a piano [Stephen Scott who I wish would shut up while he's playing]. Although the entire concert was just plain wonderful, and few can beat Ron Carter for rhythym, I definitely was missing the drums within a half-hour in to the first set. At the end of the second set I definitely wished they had brought a drummer along... but it was still one of the better jazz concerts I've been to in a very long time. You may want to put this in to perspective: I have not been to a jazz concert in a very very long time.

Afterwards we went out to get a bite to eat. Not a lot was open... We wound up at a FLO Brasserie in the neighbourhood, had an excellent 3-course meal with a wonderful bottle of wine, and I didn't get home until about 2 in the morning. A great night with a great friend and great music. What more can one ask for?

And now to sleep... aye perchance to dream...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another long day

After getting in late last night I had to get up on time in the morning to get as much work done as possible after 3 days of being away. I also needed to go through my last-minute preparations for the evening.

In the evening was our parents' association Board meeting and we had an awful lot to get through. This turned out to be one of the most productive Board meetings we've ever had as we actually created our budget from A to Z in one night.

I got home absolutely exhausted...

NetGear Skype WiFi Phone

I have been waiting for this thing for so long I had almost forgotten about it. The NetGear Skype phone which works without a computer and which is completely WiFi. It can work all over my home, which has WiFi on each floor (of course), and anywhere else I can find a WiFi connection including many of my clients' offices. It connects to the nearest WiFi network almost automatically and it automatically has all of my Skype contacts built-in. This means I can call anyone on Skype for free without having to be near my computer and anyone else in the world at the low SkypeOut phone rates.

It arrived while I was working in London and I had it redelivered this morning. It arrived in what has become of my busier days. But it was already charged and I had it up and running in less than 10 minutes.

Lots of fun!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another long trip

Three days in London (again)...

Very long days, early travel on Monday morning and late nights every other night...

But probably one of the more productive business trips I've had recently. Lots of medium-term and long-term plans were put in to place and I felt good on the long train ride home...

It was particularly nice to find my car waiting for me in the parking lot when I arrived. Not having to queue up for a taxi or fight with the taxi company over why the taxi I ordered to wait for me was not there and all of those nerve-racking experiences made the entire trip much more pleasurable. I generally remember the last part of the trip more than the rest. Therefore if that last journey is enjoyable everything else appears more enjoyable too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


We have this absolutely amazing gym downstairs in the basement which Desney rebuilt and designed. She fixed the walls, sealed the leaks in the cement floors, repainted everything and set everything up.

We have rubber gym flooring we laid down; she has a step she uses for exercising.

I, of course, put in a computer and a big 19" screen on an arm out of the wall. Desney uses it for watching exercise DVDs for her workout. I also put in some speakers so we can listen to sound coming from the computer and, more importantly for me, music coming out of our iPods.

We've got a big weight bench we've had for almost as long as we've been married (it used to be in our bedroom) and a reasonable collection of free weights.

And we've got a treadmill which I run on every now and then. More then than now. I used it relatively often when I first bought it and I used it for a bit when I was getting better after treatments and such. I now rarely have the time and I get bored after a while... even with some great tunes blaring away.

Desney on the other hand is practically obsessive in how she treats her workout routines. She's already up early in the morning and now she's up even earlier enough in order to work out almost every morning of the week!

I thought I had a really simple idea: find a some stock footage type videos to watch while running so as to give me the feeling I'm moving. It seemed so simple and logical I figured there would be tons out there.

I couldn't find any.

The closest I found was iTrain which has these MP3 audio workouts you can buy and download and listen to while you work out. I bought one for a treadmill workout. I found the voice incredibly annoying, the music rather bland and elevator-like and the workout just plain boring. I gave up on that one after just one workout.

I then found something which I had actually looked at when I first bought the treadmill: iFit. This site is actually normally linked to the equipment itself. With iFit-compatible equipment the site workout literally controls the exercise machine and runs the workout for you. However you can also use their workouts without actually connecting something to your equipment. This is useful because my treadmill is not iFit-compatible.

I tried my first "video workout" today and did a half-hour run through the coast of Hawaii. It was certainly a lot more fun than any other treadmill workout I had done before and I was pushed more than I would normally have run. That's saying something because I tend to push myself too far in general. But their use of the term "video" was a bit exagerated. It's more like still shots with the camera moving around the shot (sort of like a slideshow) and the workout training talking over the shots. It's quite interesting in that I can choose between a male or a female voice and I can choose the style of music I want to exercise to. I chose Rock by accident as I wanted to choose Dance which is what I normally workout to. But it came out fine and I enjoyed it all the same. Looking at the choice of styles however I can't possibly imagine doing a half-hour (or longer) workout to Country! Talk aobut torture!!

At the end of the workout the workout "history" is recorded on the web site and I can keep track of my exercising online.

So far so good... we'll see how long this lasts!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A rough throat day

I spent basically the entire day on the telephone. I would hang up the phone and it would ring again. It just didn't stop. I didn't get anything I had planned on doing done. But I still worked non-stop.

When I get busy like this I generally feel as though I'm a prisoner in my office chair. Eventually I get up for some reason, to look up something or such, and suddenly realise that I haven't been to the toilet in quite some time. This time it was worse. The sudden realisation that I have not urinated in hours is quite a (negative) rush when I've been drinking water all day. But the sudden realisation that I have not drank any water in over an hour and I haven't stopped talking during that period is actually quite a shock. I had a minor coughing fit and basically felt incredibly stupid. It took me quite a lot of water to get everything lubricated again.

And then the phone rang...

[My first blog entry written entirely in handwriting on my Tablet PC]

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Day at the Arc

What a wonderful day!!!

Jessica and I were invited to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse race day at Longchamp racecourse in Paris. I've been going for almost 15 years now and have only missed one (last year - for obvious reasons).

We got there in time for the first race having parked somewhere in the middle of the race track kilometres away. Jessica looked beautiful, as usual, and her gorgeous cream heels were sinking in to the turf as we walked. We found our gracious host who welcomed us warmly and gave us our tickets. Off to the exclusive and private owners' section for a glass of Champagne and the day was off to a nice start. Beautiful weather, people all in their best attire and not necessarily best behaviour everywhere and just plain fun.

Our day started off wonderfully as Jess and I picked a winner in the 2nd race who was 24 to one. I had bet a nice sum, as this was my first bet of the day, and reaped in some great winnings! This was the first time when Jessica could bet by herself as no one believed she was under 18. Her first bet by herself and she wins 24 to one! Even betting 2 euros that is a great way to start.

Things couldn't be bad after that. I probably consistently lost afterwards, to a certain extent, but didn't get anywhere near to touching my winnings from the first race. We just had a great time going back and forth between the horse parading and our seats up in the Tribunes just overlooking the finish line.

My client (our team) had a runner in the fifth race and we were all excited to be part of it. The horse didn't win or place. But we were all still in great spirits.

Finally it was the big race of the day: The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The Japanese were present in amazingly full force as for the first time a Japanese horse was favourite to win. They were everywhere! Even the announcements throughout the day were in French and Japanese. Jessica bet on a not-so-likely stallion who was 25 to one. I bet (win and place) on the very unlikely only filly in the race up against seven stallions. Jessica bet the same filly to place. Jessica's horse won and the filly we chose to place came in second!!! The Japanese horse (Deep Impact) came in third.

We were both overjoyed. I was extra proud and pleased with Jessica's win. What a great end to a great day! We both went home with more money than when we came. If we had broken even, after having had such a great time, it would have been just a day. But having a wonderful day and going home a winner was just a great feeling.

[I am obviously running out of adjectives other than great, wonderful and amazing. I am writing this on Monday morning and not feeling too creative]

After battling traffic (less so than if we lived in Paris) we got home at a pretty reasonable hour. I turned off the mobile phone and relaxed for a while. We opened up a bottle of our favourite Crémant which we sipped upon while Desney and I prepared a very simple, but hearty, dinner of pasta and veg. A lovely bottle of Château Tour Haut-Caussan (2001) and a good dinner made for a great end of a great day.

Unfortunately dinner broke out in to arguments, yelling and screaming over child management, education, holidays, orientation and such and did not end well. Jessica had probably forgotten what a wonderful day it was by the time she went to bed.

I kicked back and watched another couple of episodes of E.R. (in French!) which is still my way of turning on to some completely mindless pleasure and tune out on the rest of the week in preparation for the week to come!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tablet PC, Windows Vista and Office 2007

While I was in London I picked up a new Fujitsu Siemens Stylistic ST5032 Tablet PC ( It's a pretty powerful piece of kit with 1.5 GB of RAM, 60 GB of disk a 1.2GHz Pentium M, WiFi (802.11abg), Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, a fingerprint reader and of course the stylus. I also got a docking station which comes with a DVD burner drive. In addition to my already overbusy evenings I played around with this most nights during my London trip. It's really quite a fun piece of equipment. I can already see lots and lots of different, and quite unique, uses for a truly portable computer with no wires at all and no keyboard or mouse necessary.

But one of the major reasons I got this, in addition to testing the Tablet PC concept, is that I have fully signed up to beta test Windows Vista and Office 2007. After getting home from my long trip, and getting a good night's sleep, I spent a good portion of the day installing all of this software on my new tablet to see what it looks like and how it works. For the moment I am both pleased, impressed and underimpressed. Although it looks pretty and more graphical my first gut reactions are "cluttered" and unorganised. But we'll see as I work with it... I have to start preparing as I'll be working pretty intensively with all of this next year and I need to be ready...

A long week

Woke up early Monday morning and headed off to the Eurostar for what was the beginning of a very long week at the London office.

Evenings (after a day at the office) were spent trying to catch up with the e-mails and problems of the day; early mornings (before going to the office) were spent trying to fix clients' problems in France before the London office hours. Working solid from about 07:30 to midnight every day...

Finally got on the Eurostar to come home Friday night, reached Gare du Nord and queued up for a half an hour to get a taxi. I got home about 23:30 to find the entire household already in bed.

A long and good night's sleep in MY bed next to my wife was worth it all...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The results are in!

Desney and I started up our dance classes again. We had missed out on last year's classes for reasons which should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog.

The class went very well and I didn't feel as though we were behind the others at all even after a year. It was a great hour of fun. It was really hot in the class room... I just wish I could sweat a bit less! More than slightly embarassing. I was a ball of sweat by the end. I didn't want to touch me so I can only fear what it would have been like for the women who had to dance with me...

Just as our class started Dr. Hagège, my specialist, called me. He had the results of my PET scan in front of him. Everything was negative. That always sounds bad to me and for a moment my heart flutters. But for those in the medical profession negative is good. It means that the scan did not find anything. This is actually quite positive for me. It means that there is no other cancer somewhere else in my body at the moment. That is nothing but good news.

I will see him again at the end of October, beginning of November, for another one of his wonderful exams [tongue planted firmly in cheek]

Monday, September 11, 2006

My 3 minutes 24 seconds of fame...

I am certainly not known for making long stories short and am infamous for quite the opposite. However I really do not have a lot of time recently for anything...

I was at a client's yesterday when I received a phone call from a friend who I've known for years. She had been recently interviewed by BBC World Service for some lexicographical information. Apparently the producer of the BBC World Service Europe Today program had called her looking to speak to Americans as regards September 11th and the evolution of how Americans have been treated in France. She gave him my contact information and he called me. When I was done with my client I had a long talk with him outside and basicaly did a phone pre-interview.

I found the subject quite interesting and was able to throw in quite a few mentions of our school and even our parents' association. I got the feeling during the interview however that I was not necessarily the ideal candidate he was looking for and I also felt that the direction I was going in as regards the treatment of Americans in France was not necessarily what he was looking to portray. I naively thought that this is the news and therefore it didn't matter. After our discussion he asked me to go to the BBC World Service Paris studios to record an interview. It was very close to where I was, it would take 15 minutes and I was just heading home anyway. Hell I get stuck in traffic for longer than that.

I walked to the BBC World Service Paris office which was a tiny little thing with 3 "journalists" working at computers and a small, but impressive, recording studio. I was sat down with an 8-track sound board in front of me. My eyes lit up and I was immediately reminded not to touch anything. That was a good thing as my first reflex was to play...

The producer came over the headphones, from London, and briefly went over our original discussion and then finally the interviewer. He asked me the questions for the "real interview" and it was very obvious we were going in two different directions. It was obvious that everything I had said about the school was no longer of interest. It was also obvious that I was not the proud American citizen in France they were looking for. They were not that interested in my positive comments as regards the general treatment of Americans in France and they took some of my comments as regards treatment of foreigners in general and applied them to the Americans. And this was just within the interview itself! The interview ended on a sour note as I was not able to give them the sound bite they were looking for. He wanted to end the interview with the question "So Derek are you proud to be an American and in France?" I replied "I'm afraid I can't say that I am." He then came back with "Can you say you are proud to be an American?" and I replied "I certainly could not go on the record with that remark... all I can say is I am pleased and proud to be in France." After the mike was supposedly shut down he thanked me for the interview and I apologised for not being the ideal American interviewee.

In the evening I listened to the end result on the Europe Today web page. If you hurry to that page you can hear the entire show online... until they upload the next show to replace it. I realised just how naive I was. Through some rather brilliant editing they had actually made it sound like I felt that Americans were treated poorly in France for a time. They even took one of the things I just generally mentioned and threw in a question before it, which they had never actually asked me during the interviews, so it sounds like my remark was in reply to the question. My remark as to speaking French so as not to be recognised as an American was not in relation to anything as regards snide remarks. It was in relation to a separet discussion about the fact that I am not proud to be an American and am pleased to be an expatriot.

The entire experience just goes to enforce my skeptical and cynical beliefs as regards the bias of the news media around the world. The more I am personally involved with events which are newsworthy and then see how they are portrayed in the news the more I realise just how far reality is from the news.

I obviously recorded my part of the interview for prosperity. I have stored it all in one MP3 File which is 1.6 Megabytes in size. I stand behind very little of what it appears as though I actually said.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My first PET scan

I woke up late as I knew I wasn't going to be able to eat all morning. There was no need to prolong the uncomfortability. The girls had already left for school and Desney was doing her, now daily, workout in the gym. I therefore was left to putter around trying to find some way to keep my mind occupied and off of food without starting work which I would not be able to stop in time to leave for my appointment. Eventually I went off to Darty to pick up the new electric toothbrush my dentist had prescribed for me. It took me quite some time to choose between the two he had recommended and eventually I chose the Oral B Professional Care 8500. I personally found 100 € quite a lot of money for this sort of everyday tool. But with all I've been spending on my health over the past year this is a grain of sand on the endless beach.

I finally drove off to Sarcelles to find the special clinic for my scan. I had calculated an hour with traffic and gave myself a few extra minutes as well. Of course it only took 20 minutes and I spent over a half an hour just strolling through the suburb of Sarcelles. This is one of those amazingly ugly suburbs with concrete block tower flats all over the place. I walked around the area where my scan was going to take place and felt like I was in the cancer capital of the world. Next to my PET scan hangar was an IRM scan speciality building, and then a clinic providing radiotherapy and chemotherapy and then a private hospital with specialist cancer wards and surgery and then an ambulance building and last, but certainly not least from an impact point of view, was a funeral house. I obviously turned away from this area and headed to the centre of town.

What I was amazed to find was that this was probably the biggest Jewish neighbourhood I've been to in France next to the rue des Rosiers. The radioactive hangar which housed my scan laboratory was behind what is the biggest synagogue I've seen in France. Absolutely every single restaurant was Beth Din kosher, as was every butcher and even the greengrocers and bakeries. 90% of the males walking around had yarmulkes on and the vast majority of women and little girls were wearing very old-fashioned dresses. It was quite an interesting walk around. Unfortunately for me however the bagel shops and felafel restaurants were making me very hungry. I headed back to the car, which was parked in the blazing sun in the parking lot in front of the scan centre, took out my bag with all of my x-ray and scan results and my small bottle of water and headed off for my scan.

PET ScanI arrived about 10 minutes early which, as usual, was a good idea due to all of the necessary paperwork. The PET scan itself doesn't cost me anything. However I had to fill out and sign the papers which go to the social security for them to pay directly so I know that normally it would cost about 1,250 €. I can understand why they don't want many of us having this sort of thing too often. I had a visit with a doctor which lasted all of 5 minutes. He looked at the results of my scans and x-rays and noted that there was nothing to note. He asked me about my cancer, my surgery, my treatment dates and any allergies. He then told me what they were going to do to me and to sit in the waiting room. This 5-minute consultation cost me 89.00 € (which will be entirely reimbursed).

I sat in the waiting room with all of the other cancer victims or survivors. This was a much easier situation than sitting in the normal treatment clinic waiting room as everyone here had finished their treatments at least 3 months ago and generaly longer. One can not have a PET Scan earlier than that. This was therefore the "Survivor's Room" and I was damn glad, and actually quite proud, to be one of them. Looking around I realised, yet again, how lucky I really should start feeling some time soon. The long-term effects of my cancer and treatments could have been so much worse than the annoying little discomforts I have to live with. I don't have a sack hanging out of my body for my waste, I have all my hair, I still have all of my organs (except for my appendix which is a different, unrelated and ridiculously trivial matter), I can still speak and taste (to a certain extent), my legs and arms still function perfectly and so on and so forth. None of us said a word to each other. But we all knew why we were there and we all had a pretty good idea as to what the other had been through to get there. There is a sort of mutual respect and admiration amongst cancer survivors. We don't need to describe things to each other for we know what we're talking about without even talking. This is the exact opposite of trying to explain chemotherapy to someone who's never been through it. It's like explaining sex to a virgin. There is just too much which is beyond intellectual explanation. That said I would certainly prefer telling a virgin "Don't worry about it you'll know someday" than even faintly wishing chemotherapy, and the various other cancer treatments, upon even my worst enemy. We all sat there in silence, reading our books and magazines, waiting for our turn.

The exam was not a big deal. It was just very long. First they take some blood and then put in an IV unit. I then have to lie down while they run through some liquids to dilute me and protect me from the tiny quantities of radioactive stuff they put through afterwards. This involves me lying down for about an hour and a half with liquids running through me and a nurse coming around to change the IV bags every now and then. This reminded me way too much of my chemotherapy treatment periods. Eventually I am then taken to the scan room where I take off my shoes, trousers, earring, eyeglasses and watch. I was then told to lie down on the scan bed and placed in a position with my hands above my head, my chin in a specific position and my hips in a specific position. I was then told not to move for a little over 20 minutes. I was not strapped in our physically held in any way. Twenty minutes may seem like a very short amount of time in the scheme of things. But remaining perfectly immobile for that long can become excruciatingly long. At the same time the scan tunnel is passing up and down my body. My eyes are closed of course and I am trying to think of other things... I make all sorts of plans during these moments and create long lists of things to do in my head. They are almost all completely forgotten about 5 minutes after the procedure.

Once the scan was finished I was told to sit in the waiting room and was allowed to eat. I was not that hungry so the fact that I hadn't brought anything with me was not a problem. About 15 minutes later I was allowed to leave. They explained that the results of the scan would be sent directly to my doctor who should have them in about 10 days.

I am assuming that if the results show any bad news then my doctor would contact me directly. If it's good news it will probably wait until I see him again sometime in October.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Books Online

I know there are a whole lot of entries I should be adding here before this... But I've been spending (wasting) quite a lot of time on this stuff recently and thought I'd mention it.

Library Anything

I've been using Book Collector Pro for many years now to organise my library of books. The program works wonderfully well and the fact that it gets all of its information online makes entry very easy. However, by definition, it's a private program which runs on my computers. In order to share the information I have to publish it on one of my web sites somewhere. I will probably continue to use Book Collector for quite some time to come as there is a lot of information in their database which I can't (yet) store somewhere else.

Library Thing is a completely online library collection service where one can store one's book collection online where it is always available. There are a few big advantages to this. One is what they refer to as "tags". With this notion you can add any sort of tagged information to books to find them, group them or sort them later. Even more interesting is that you can see other people's libraries with the same tags and browse. I find the tag cloud and the author cloud functions quite fun and the statistics function can be quite interesting.

But one of the functions I found to be the most interesting and practical for me is the PDA version of the site. This allows me to access my library, or anyone else's for that matter, directly on my Blackberry or my Palm via the Internet. This can be invaluable as it allows me to see if I already have a book when I'm looking for books in stores or talking to people.

Adding books from Book Collector was really easy as Library Thing works almost entirely with ISBNs. I exported the list of ISBNs from Book Collector, imported them in to Library Thing, waited a few hours while it compared the ISBNs with books in Amazon and elsewhere and when I awoke the next morning I had about 500 books in my online library.

I have since been spending way too much time fine tuning my library entries and browsing around through my library and other people's libraries...

You'll find a couple of new references to Library Thing down on the bottom of the right tool bar...

Book CrossingBook Crossing
Wihle browsing through Library Thing I got sidetracked over to Book Crossing. It looks like another very interesting web concept. We have a whole bunch of books we're about to ged rid of, as the kids have grown out of them, and this looks like a really great way to do so. I immediately set up an account, ordered a bunch of stickers and will start registering books when I get some time. Looks like an interesting project along the same lines as Freecycle while throwing in a lot of literary aspects and references.

Now you know why I've been too busy to update my blog!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean 2

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's ChestAlexandra has been dying to see this one! The second installment of Pirates of the Caribbean opened in the States and in the UK almost a month ago. Jessica went to see it in the States and reported back to us which Alex even more jealous. Today was the opening in France. I bought tickets online to be entirely certain we had places and swooped Alex up and in the car and off to La Défense at lunch time. We got there a half-hour before the start of the séance and there were already about a dozen people queued up even with their tickets. We obviously arrived at the right time as about 10 minutes later the queue was literally 100 metres long.

We sat through the séance of previews and adverts as usual. Alex is now dying to see the new Alex Rider movie, whenever it comes out here, and she has even said she'd like to read the books!

Finally the movie started and two and a half hours later it ended. It was definitely long and a lot could have been edited out. Alex had a great time which was the goal. I thoroughly enjoyed Johnny Depp as always and had fun. It was a cheap ending leading up to the third movie which I believe has currently finished filming.

I was actually able to eat a bit of popcorn this time, washed down with a reasonable amount of coke, which made me feel like it was an achievement!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Sheeeee's Back!

After 5 weeks in America and, more importantly, away from home... she's back!

I went to the airport and picked up Jessica. She had flown from New York City to London and had actually made the transfer in London to her Paris flight and arrived safe and sound.

She came home with just about exactly twice as much luggage as when she left. But everything arrived in one piece.

She was pleasantly surprised with the new furniture in the living room and news of our holiday plans (August 13th through August 27th)...

But she's a very difficult lady to impress...

Either way... we're truly glad to have her back!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Blackberry 8700fMore and more of my clients have one of these things. I also see more and more people using them when I'm travelling (train, plane, coach, ...). Although I still adore my beloved Palm TX I had to finally go out and get myself a Blackberry 8700.

It took most of the day to get the damn thing to work. This had nothing to do with the Blackberry itself but rather the amazing level of imcompetence of Orange (the mobile phone company which is a direct affiliate of France Télécom which is our national phone company. All of the employees of both companies are therefore civil servants. The level of service, or lack thereof, can be quite amazing.

I had ordered a Blackberry with the Blackberry data plan (15 MB per month automatically adjusted) to be used in addition to my mobile phone. My mobile phone is still my voice line and my Blackberry is to be used almost solely as a mobile Internet terminal.

Funny enough I had just spent yesterday installing a Blackberry 8700f (Orange) for a client and had exactly the same sort of problems there. They had not activated the Blackberry option and had only activated the voice option. Yesterday it took me about 2 phone calls and an hour to get it all sorted out. Today it took at least 8 to 10 phone calls and several hours. Finally I got everything working and was able to start playing with the handset.

I of course immediately started searching the web for additional software and options. I was actually quite underwhelmed by what I found... especially in comparison to the hundreds, if not thousands, of software I find for Palms.

But I can definitely see the attraction. The thing does what it's supposed to do and it can certainly become addictive. Always being able to get one's e-mail and being able to answer and being able to (relatively) quickly access the Internet for info and such is a great feeling of power. But it's still just like a mobile phone: the first thing to learn is how to turn the damn thing off!

I will be testing software and various options to see if I can get the thing to work with our secure e-mail services, with digital certificates and such, and whether it will be a valid option for our mobile users.

I now am a very well-equipped travelling geek. I'm easy to spot. I'm sitting on the Eurostar with a Nokia N70 mobile phone, a Blackberry 8700, a Palm TX, an iPod Nano and my big Dell Inspiron 9400 laptop.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quarterly Checkup

Yesterday I got up out of bed after not sleeping well. The heat at night is not making it easy to sleep. Add on to that my general apprehension of today's appointment and it makes for a rough night.

I basically live my live 3 months at a time. After my exams I live happily for about a week and then I spend the next eleven weeks worrying about my next exam. My basic problem is that I never saw this coming in the first place and I therefore don't think I would have any idea if it started to come back. Thus I live in constant fear that it's going to come back sometime between these quarterly visits and I will not know about it until after the visit.

I tried to get some work done in the morning as I knew the rest of the day would be useless and the next day was going to be at a client's. I then took Alexandra out to lunch to her favourite lunchtime restaurant Le Cercle down by the train station. I had a good lunch as I knew I wouldn't eat again.

I dropped Alexanda off at home, took my pre-medication (Xanax) to calm me down and relax my muscles. [I just read the entry in Wikipedia "panic and anxiety" that's definitely me... "borderline personality disorder" is probably the way others describe me] I think it's the heat but the effects of the Xanax seemed to be stronger this time than others as I took the métro to the doctor's and seemingly drunkenly staggered down the road to his office.

My ENT specialist, Dr. Hagège, started with the standard questions about how I was doing. He said my voice sounds much better than it did last time. As usual I only tend to notice that it doesn't sound as good as it did pre-cancer than the fact that it has greatly improved over the last 3 months. I also realised that my cough is gone. It has come back over the past 10 days or so. But not with coughing fits like before and it seems to be purely due to the heat and my throat drying out more often as I stupidly forget to drink while working.

We then went through the exam I had been dreading or more correctly trying not to think about. The camera up each nostril and down the throat, the image of my insides projected about 2 metres by 1 metre on a huge screen while I desperately try and relax and think of other things... strolling through a green forest with the sun just piercing through a high mist and the leaves crumbling under my feet holding my wife's hand and just walking forward... Finally that part was over and it was time for my favourite when he pulls on my tongue with one hand while "palping" the inside of my throat with the rubber-gloved finger of his other hand. I still can't understand why he's always surprised when I gag. That went as well as the last time in that I didn't throw up on him and he was able to get a quick probe at what he wanted to.

Finally it was all over and I wiped the tears from my eyes and the sweat from my brow and we sat at his desk. First he went over my chest x-ray and my liver sonogram which I had gone through, as per his request, just recently. They were both perfectly fine. He didn't understand one of the terms used on the liver sonogram, which I'll check with my beloved general practitioner, but everything looked perfectly fine. He then gave me the good news / bad news routine. I almost had a heart attack. At least he was kind enough to start with the good news: there is no trace of cancer anywhere he's looked. From my nose, down through my throat, my lungs and down to my liver there are no "lesions" or tumours. This was obviously a great relief. But made me more curious. The bad news is that I have a couple of infections which have been caused by the long-term side-effects of the treatment rather than by the cancer itself. These are definitely minor and the good news / bad news approach was actually extremely exaggerated for this sort of thing and probably should have been presented differently.

There's a fungus among us
That's something my mother used to say... I can't remember why. I have a fungus on the back of my tongue. This is mostly a long-term reaction to the chemotherapy and in some ways preferable to the mouth sores I had before. My tongue gets almost completely black and there are hard flaky things built up on it sometimes. I didn't mention the fact that this phenomenon is accentuated when I drink a particularly tannic wine. He prescribed a tablet I'm going to have to take for a couple of weeks and I have to brush my tongue with an anti-fugicide.

I also have a minor infection at the top of my right nostril near the sinus. This too is due to side-effects of my treatment. I now have to sniff some nose medicine twice a day for a week. He thinks I've got these infections because I haven't been resting enough. Although my white cell count may be near normal my anti-bodies are probably still not as strong as they should be. Rest, fruit and veg, relaxation and a bit of exercise should help. We talked about my weight and he was pleased to learn that I had gained a kilo and half (from 73.5 to 75 kg). He said I should now start exercising as I don't have to worry about burning off more weight than I'm putting on. But he said I should be careful as to not break anything as my bones are probably not as strong as they used to be. I told him that I could do a bit of running, stretching and weight lifting. But what I really want to get back to is rollerblading. He was slightly shocked. I told him that I was actually quite a regular rollerblader before and this wasn't something new. He said it would be good exercise as long as I don't have an accident which could be worse for me than it would be normally. I told him that I fall down more on my feet than on wheels and he laughed.

We then discussed my next exam which will be a full PET Scan. He said I should reserve it now for the month of September or October and I will then see him, with the results, for my next quarterly visit. This will be considered my first annual visit after the extraction surgery.

I made my way home, slowly, and slept through the rest of the afternoon until early evening. I didn't have any dinner, which was expected, by I did have my beloved ice cream at the end of the evening. Ice cream is my saviour these days and has been for quite some time now. I can't begin to thank Haagen Dazs enough for the absolutely perfect relief. I don't know what the secret is in the recipe. I don't even care particularly as long as they keep it up. Their ice cream just loving coats the inside of my throat and lingers long enough to provide actual relief from both pain and heat. It should be considered proper medication and be reimbursed by the social security.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Alex is back!

Alexandra @ XKeysI went to the airport this afternoon to pick up Alexandra coming back from her two weeks at Cross Keys camp in England. If you look real close you can see her in of the photos in week 1.

Her airplane left a bit late from London and she arrived even later on our end. She arrived looking tan and tired from the long trip. She regaled me all the way home, in the car, with stories of camp. When we got home she told Desney all of the same stories while I took a nap. She was impressed by the new furniture in the living room. But she completely forgot about us when she found her new computer in her bedroom with The Sims 2 pre-installed.

It is definitely hot here and I appreciate the coolness of the shady back garden.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Still clean after all these...

Back to the old Clinique Hartmann today for my quarterly tests.  Today was a full chest x-ray and a liver ultrasound sonogram.  The chest x-ray went fine with the classic cold chest plate as usual.  I had never had a liver ultrasound before.  I felt like a pregnant woman as normally I’m on the other side watching when they did this sort of thing to Desney.  The doctor looked very pleased and said that there was absolutely nothing.  She said my liver was easy to see and there was absolutely nothing abnormal.  I then went out to the waiting room and got the rest of my results.  As soon as I got home I had a look at the chest x-ray comments:  nothing to report.  Chest x-ray all clear and the “port à catheter” is still correctly in place and in the vein as it should be.

I’ll be 100% certain once I see my specialist again.  But it’s all good news for the moment!


Sunday, July 09, 2006

And the streets of France go silent...

Before the big match began Desney and I took Alexandra to the airport to send her off to England to camp. She was very upset about going to camp on the day of the final and to miss the match. After the airport Desney and I visited Ikea to make some changes to our living room. If it wasn’t for us, over the many years, Ikea would have gone out of business in France. On the drive home we saw people outside having fun, playing football in the parks, and generally in a great mood. I put together the new furniture just in time and Desney made us dinner to eat in front of the television for the match.

You couldn’t hear a pin drop outside. No one was in the parks any more, no cars drove along our normally reasonably busy street, no people strolled the pavement. The match started and it didn’t take long for Zidane to get the chance to shoot a penalty and give France its first goal. About 7 minutes in to the match. Another 12 minutes later and it was Italy who scored their first goal to even the score. From a score point of view that was it. No one else scored on either team. The end of the match after 90 minutes; another 30 minutes of overtime and that was it. But time truly stopped just a few minutes before the end of the match. Zidane got overly upset for a reason we’ll never know and actually head butted the chest of an Italian player knocking him to the ground. Zidane got the infamous red card and was ejected from the match and football forever. His last game ever. He didn’t sit on the side with everyone else. He went right to the locker room and hasn’t been seen since. Barthez was captain now and they finished the game 10 players to Italy’s 11. Then came the eternally dreaded penalty kicks.

David Trezeguet will never forget the moment he missed his penalty kick against Italy hitting the top bar and missing the goal completely. In the end Italy scored all 5 of their penalties and Barthez didn’t knock one out.

I’m sure throughout Italy the streets roared. Partying and exhilaration everywhere. Here in France: silence reigned. Still no movement in the streets. No sound from the windows. Nothing. France had lost the final of the World Cup and had also lost some of its best and most historic players forever.

If we won I probably would not be sitting here typing… I’d be in front of the television watching the celebrations and participating to my best ability in front of our house. Instead I try and think of other things…

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And the streets of France go wild!!!

We finished our dinner as normal... eating outside on the terrace and myself enjoying a very cold beer. I finished the remnants of the dishes (Desney rinses off the vast majority and fills the dishwasher) just 2 minutes before the start of the match.

At 21:00 the streets of France went silent. The match started and time stopped. I don't recall hearing cars go by our house, for once, and the pavements were empty. It didn't take long. About half way in to the first half Thierry Henry got fouled. They chose the old Zinédine Zidane to shoot the penalty against Portugal's goal. A brilliant direct shot to the left. The goalie dove for it. But it was too strong and too direct. France scores it's first goal and I let out what little of a hoarse scream I can. We can hear the screams coming in from the front windows from the rest of the neighbourhood. We live in a neighbourhood with a relatively large portion of Portuguese descendants. I didn't expect that much support from the surroundings.

The rest of the game was pure suspense. Every time Cristiano Ronaldo got the ball, even for a few seconds, the entire stadium would boo, hiss and whistle. This was due to his unsportsmanlike behaviour in the previous England v. Portugal match. It was amazing to hear everyone keep up the harassment right up to the end of the game. However this time he deserved it. That and the Academy Award. He simulated two of the most ridiculous fouls which were so blatantly obvious on the video replays that it was downright embarrassing. Luckily neither of them was transformed in to a goal for Portugal. No one scored for the rest of the match. The last 30 seconds were incredibly suspenseful especially as the last play could have been disastrous. Then it was announced...

France has won the semi-finals!

France will play in the finals of the World Cup 2006!!!

We (Desney, Alexandra and I) all gave a shout and jumped up and down a bit. But the streets went wild. There were screams and shouts and car horns honking and flags waving and just plain noise everywhere. I walked out on to the front terrace and let out the best and longest scream I could. I certainly miss being able to bellow out. But whatever it sounded like, and however feeble, it felt great. I walked around to the back window and listened to the screams and shouts some more. The arabs were doing that shout they do with their tongue which stutters and which I couldn't possible reproduce in writing. The rest were shouting up and down. Chants were streaming from the windows « On est en finale, on est en finale, on est, on est, on est en Finale! » (We are in the finals...). « On est les champions, on est les champions, on est, on est, on est les champions ! » (We are the champions...).

I sent Jessica an SMS in America to fill her in... she's missing out on the excitement as ever since America was eliminated from the World Cup, quite some time ago, they've all but forgotten the game.

Here the entire country was uplifted by this relatively minor event. An additional, and much needed, boost to morale has shot across the country.

We will live in suspense until Sunday night when France goes against Italy for the finals of the World Cup 2006.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Havin' a heat wave...

It’s really very hot these days.  Yesterday it hit 31 degrees (88 F) and today it’s supposed to get up to 33 degrees (92 F).  We have a bit more breeze out here in the ‘burbs than we did back in the 15th (Paris).  But it’s still certainly stuffy, hot and heavy.

My doctors all told me, more than once, that I have to avoid the sun for a year.  I can actually understand why (this time).  Every time I get out in the sun my skin around my neck, especially where it was radiated, feels like it’s crinkling up.  It tightens and pulls from the sides towards the centre and literally fells like someone’s stretching it.  It’s not enjoyable.  I will not even begin to describe the pleasures of direct sunlight shining upon my scar.  I tend to run and find shade when that happens or walk around with my hand over my scar.  Even without the sun however the simple increase in temperature makes my scar heat up and lately it fells like it’s burning.  It’s like a Y-shaped iron in my neck.  The other apparent side-effect of the heat is that my saliva, or the very tiny amount of that which is left, seems to get thicker.  It sometimes accumulates in to a ball in my throat which makes me cough like back in the old days of post-treatment trauma.

As you can see I am truly enjoying the heat and the beginnings of summer.  I dream of dark, grey, wintery days of hiding underneath my bedcovers…

Summer this year, for me, is just yet another stage to get through…


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Allez les bleus !!!

Alexandra, Desney and I piled in to the car and headed off to our friends Minh & Serges for dinner in Chatou.

As we were driving along we kept seeing Portugese flags every now and then and heard people screaming in the streets.  We all knew that today was the England v. Portugal match.  But we had forgotten what time.  The match was going on just while we were driving.  Luckily we arrived at Minh & Serges before the match ended.

We had a great time at dinner and I was able to eat most things served.  I had to miss out on the stuff I can no longer handle like potatoes, bread, cheese and that sort of thing.  We had some delicious foie gras as a starter served in some pretty hefty chunks.  I cant remember ever eating foie gras without bread or a biscuit of some sort.  Its certainly not the same experience and something is lacking.  However I certainly am not complaining as it was delicious all the same and the perfectly chilled and served Sauternes certainly made me forget the lack of bread pretty quickly.  I was able to taste most of the wine.   But I know Im definitely missing something as my nose tastes so much more than my mouth does.

It became apparent during the apéritif that we were not the only football fans at the soirée and they amazingly adapted the entire meal so that we could all eat in the salon watching the match on the television while we talked.  They literally moved all of the plates and silverware from the big table to the salon table nonchalantly and we continued as though this was what was planned in the first place.  Serge did an amazing job on the barbecue.  The meat was still juicy and flavourful which I do not tend to achieve on my barbecue.  Im going to have to start thinking about getting a Weber barbecue like his someday  Thankfully there was a lot of undercooked available for me which tends to be the only way I can eat meat without it taking an hour for me to chew.  It was delicious.  The red which accompanied the meat was outstanding:  a Chassagne-Montrachet 1èr Cru 1995!  Actually there were 3 bottles of this which we all went through and they were each unique.  They were all excellent each person had a particular preference for a particular bottle.  I know I missed out on at least 20 to 25% of the experience but the 75% I could taste was amazing.

Throughout the meal we watched the game off and on while talking and eating.  As the entire world knows by now France won one to nothing against Brazil.  We were all quite pleased not least of all myself as I had gotten pretty good odds on the match on BetFair not that long ago and had picked up enough to pay for petrol getting out to Chatou and back {vbg}.

We left there at about half past midnight and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a celebratory nightmare.  It appears as though every person of Portuguese or French origin, and there are quite a lot of both of these throughout the Ile de France region, had come out of their homes brandishing full country flags on their poles and had jumped in their cars to populate the roads and honk their horns throughout.  As we tried to drive to the autoroute, at an average speed of about 5 kilometres per hour, we were in the midst of what was practically a parade with French and Portuguese fans all along the sides of the road screaming and shouting and waving their flags.  I of course joined in on the honking as well as I dont actually need too much of an excuse to honk my cars horn.  It took us forever to get to the autoroute and we didnt get home until about 1:15.  Alexandra passed out as soon as we got home, Desney and I had our classic driving experience argument and we all piled in to our beds exhausted after a wonderful night out and we proceeded to sweat in our hot beds throughout the night

Now we eagerly await the semi-final (France v. Portugal) on July 5th!

A wasted day...

I woke up a bit late and spent the rest of the day working on the car (directly and indirectly).  I should have been working on my computer as after being relatively offline for a couple of days I literally have 100s of e-mails to deal with and projects to finish.

I went to the same place that had replaced my front windshield a year ago.  They very kindly Hoovered out all of the broken glass from the back seat and everywhere else in the car.  It is amazing how much broken glass there was all over the place.  They then put up a plastic sheet over the hole where the window was and we arranged to see each other again on Monday.

I then headed in to town to the FNAC to get a new GPS.  I had forgotten how stupid it would be to drive in to Paris on the first Saturday in July especially when its an amazingly beautiful day outside (30 degrees Celsius).  It felt like hours before I finally arrived.  I got the GPS I wanted practically immediately (TomTom GO 910) and also bought a proper Suburban map to give Desney something to read and verify the GPS information while I drive.  I feel that one of the vital roles of the husband in the driving relationship is to provide the wife with something to do during the trip {vbg}.

I was amazed that I had found the window place, the FNAC and home all by myself without a GPS.  Its been a very long time since Ive had to drive without it and it was a whole new experience.  I cant remember why I ever drove without one in the first place

I got it home and spent the next couple of hours setting it up and getting everything to work as I want it to and then I was ready to leave.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

An unwelcome return home

I arrived at Gare du Nord last night at about 22:30 after a very long week of travelling and working.

London is always long days and nights as after doing a full day of work at the office theres always at least a half-day of work waiting for me when I get back to the hotel.

To make things worse on Wednesday night I had to turn off Norton while I was programming as it was interfering with my database server connection.  I stupidly turned it off forgetting that I was working on a hotel Internet connection and not my safe home/office network.  Within a half-hour my computer had two pretty nasty viruses (spyware) and within an hour it was a nightmare.  I lost hours and hours of time trying to get Norton re-installed (never succeeded), trying to work with a different anti-virus software package (AVG which did work) and trying to get my computer to be able to do at least a minimum of productive work.  I couldnt print, I couldnt send and receive e-mails, I couldnt program, I was useless.  It was very frustrating.

I made the best out of the situation by trying to work on everyone elses computers in the office while I was there.  There was an awful lot to do in the London office during this trip and therefore I was never without work and my personal computer problems didnt impede that work.  However it meant that I couldnt help other clients or work on other projects or even properly communicate and it was truly a nightmare.

To top everything off I arrive at Gare du Nord last night at about 22:30 and I go to pick up my car from the Gare du Nord parking lot.  Theres the car always a tiny sigh of relief in comparison to that scary feeling when I cant find the car and I dont know if its because I stupidly lost it or its gone.  I had noted the emplacement on the parking ticket so the first scenario was eliminated.  However I get to the car and notice theres broken glass all across the back seat.  My heart sank.  They had broken the small window in the rear right-hand side and had broken in to the car.  They were kind enough to leave the car papers and the car insurance in the car, on the front seat, but they emptied out the glove compartment stealing at least a half-dozen of empty CD jackets as all the CDs are in the CD changer in the car.  Of course they stole my TomTom Go 510 which meant I was going to have to find my way home all by myself.

I made a declaration at the parking lot office and finally headed home at about 23:00 and got home at about 23:30.  My wife proceeded to blame it on me, of course, and the fact that I left the car in the parking lot.  I thought to myself I was on the fifth floor of this seven floor parking lot.  When I arrived it was almost completely full.  There must have been at least 5,000 cars parked in that lot.  Of course ALL of them, unlike myself, were aware of the fact that their cars were going to be broken in to, as must happen in all parking lots apparently, but I was stupidly ignorant of this obvious fact and was therefore entirely at fault.  Crime victims are entirely at fault in the eyes of their spouses.

I have hundreds of e-mail messages to go through.  I have projects that have to be completed this weekend (before Monday) and which should have been done yesterday.  We have to go out to a friends place for dinner this evening.  I therefore have to spend this afternoon, in thirty-one degree (Celsius) heat, to get the back seat cleaned up, the window space boarded up (they dont have the window in stock at the moment) and replace the GPS so I can tell where Im going.

Bad karma?