Saturday, April 29, 2006

Friends over for dinner

Having friends over for dinner. It sounds like such a banal phrase.

But Desney had recently realised that we actually haven't had friends over for dinner for over a year. There were obviously mitigating circumstances for a large portion of that year. But it's been a long time. The last time we had friends over was David and Sasha back in May 2005.

We invited a couple of friends over along with their two children. These are parents of one of Jessica's classmates. Jessica spends an enormous amount of time at their house after school on a regular basis and the mother works at the same Organisation as Desney.

We had a great time, great conversations, great food and large quantities of wine. Champagne and hors d'oeuvre; vintage Champagne (1995 Pierre Moncuit) along with Desney's amazing goat's cheese soufflées; a 1999 Morgon with duck shishkebabs; a 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape with cheese and finally a 1997 Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) from our favourite Alsatian winemaker to accompany Desney's apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.

All in all a great evening... now we remember why we used to have friends over for dinner!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug

Tonight I was rushing off to go to a parents' meeting for Jessica's class and rushing through dinner.

It was not respectful of Desney's meal as she had prepared some duck and carrots which were quite delicious. But I picked up my water glass and quickly drank it while rushing. I put the glass down with a start and realised. I had just drank the entire glass in one action with a glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug. That's eight consecutive glugs. My previous record was four. I suddenly realised what had just happened. I filled the glass up again and pointed at Desney for her to watch. I picked up the glass and again drank it down in 8 glugs. I put it down and explained to her what had just happened. Obviously this is of minute importance to anyone but myself. It's an extremely tiny step forward in the scheme of things.

But damn it felt good!

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Sunday morning and I'm here in front of the computer again...

Every now and then I get these flashbacks of my treatment days and it hurts. Something will remind me of those times and my stomach will lurch for a second or longer.

Desney had bought me three really big, and cheap, polo shirts to wear during the 3 days of chemotherapy when I would have to have the pump safetypinned to the inside of my shirt for 24 hours including while I slept. Whenever I open my wardrobe now and look through my polo shirts for one to wear today, as it's warm enough, and I come upon those 3 shirts my stomach gets nauseous for a few seconds...

To try and help during the chemo sessions I had bought, ripped and listened to some relaxation music. It's basically electronic, techno, trance stuff. Now whenever I hear that sort of music my mind flashes back to sitting in that white room with the needle in my chest and feeling awful and I get nauseous all over again...

I had bought myself a tiny iPod shuffle to listen to music and comedy and such during my chemo sessions... now I can't even look at the thing any more. It sits on a shelf in the living room and when I see it I get a brief flash of those days...

Sensual memory can many times be wonderful... remembering how wonderful things felt once upon a time... but sometimes they can also be nightmares...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dinner out

It's an amazingly beautiful day out today...

It's also my (rare) turn to make dinner. I decided to make pasta which is not a great surprise to those who know me. Pasta can sometimes be difficult for me to eat now like potatoes. But I find that if there's a lot of sauce, and I drink a lot of liquid with it, it can still be enjoyable. I decided to make spaghetti with Mexican shrimp sauce which is quite easy to prepare. It's so easy to prepare that I was able to enjoy a few glasses of a very nice Australian Shiraz that some friends had bought for me before I got sick. The very strong fruit and faint wood made this the perfect sort of wine for my throat and taste buds at the moment. I wasn't missing out on much as the aspects of the wine that I ususually can't taste were not that prevalent in this wine. Quite nice...

While I was making dinner the girls were preparing the terrace which Desney had spent most of the afternoon cleaning. When dinner was ready we took everything upstairs and to the terrace for our first meal of the year outside. It was wonderful to sit outside and eat. However I must admit that, this early in the year, it does start getting very cold very quickly. I didn't mind that much for myself. But it also means that one's food gets quite cold quite quickly. As I don't eat quickly at the best of times, and much slower nowadays, my pasta was icy cold before I could finish it.

But it was a great feeling to eat outside again and a delightful taste of evenings to come which will be even warmer and sunnier...

Log Me In

Work, work, work...

Friday night I was hit with a programming emergency (yes... that does exist) and I've got a lot of work to do. I therefore spent all of this beautiful day in front of my computer. I'm staring outside my window, just to the left of my screen, at big red, yellow and orange tulips (thanks to Desney's amazing gardening) and a bright sunny day. Alex is hanging out outside and Desney is "Karchering" the terrace. I'm working in front of my computer... All day.

One of the things I'm working on is a change in a very important tool I use in my everyday business. I have been using Go To My PC for about 2 years now to connect to my clients' computers and work on them when need be. Prior to using Go To My PC I used PC Anywhere to connect to computers. But that was very clumsy, required the user to establish the connection each time and was even more expensive than Go To My PC. Go To My PC, which works across Firewalls and without the user being logged in, has been revolutionary to the way I work and allowed me to work on computers regardless of where they are in the world.

Remote control, or telemaintenance, has made my professional life much easier. I can be anywhere in the world on the Internet and my client(s) can be anywhere in the world on the Internet and I can work on their computer(s) as though I was there in the room with the computer. This is vital to my work. However it has greatly reduced my revenue. It used to be that I would go to a client's for a half-day or a day or longer to carry out installations and I would bill them for my time spent (half-day, day, days, ...). This is easy for everyone to comprehend as I am physically present and working. Now I don't have to go to the clients' location to work on the computers and the intervention does not have to be planned and pre-ordered. This is great from the clients' point of view. However I'm still having difficulty getting the clients to be billed for time spent (an hour here, a half-hour there, a couple of hours here) when I'm not actually physically present. I am therefore actually working the same, if not more due to the ease, and earning less. I am an amazing technician, if I do say so myself, but not the world's greatest business man...

While on my last trip to London I was watching The Gadget Show, nerdy geek that I am, and they did a report on a programme called Log Me In. They were, of course, reporting on the free version which was quite interesting. The free version allows you to control another computer, presumably your own or a contact's, and work on the computer remotely. The free version doesn't allow transferring file, or remote printing or file sharing or some of the other neat functions of the pro version. But for basic telemaintenance you can't beat the price. Highly recommended...

I went to the Log Me In web site to check out the Pro version just out of professional curiosity. What I found amazed me. The Pro version provides the same functionality as Go To My PC at a much lower price. Go To My PC starts at about US$15 per month per computer and Log Me In Pro starts at about $13 per month per computer. I have 65 computers with Go To My PC and my price was therefore reduced to about US$ 12 per month per computer. The equivalent with Log Me In Pro is an amazing US$ 3.60 per month per computer. But the difference is not just price.

With Log Me In Pro I can see all of the computers available on one screen and organise them in to groups, etc. But for the same price they have another product range called Log Me In IT Reach. This is where they just make Go To My PC eat their dust. With IT Reach I can see all of the computers, I can create "secondary users" to whom I can give access to specific computers without them seeing the other computers. With this I can give my assistant in London access to the London computers without having to give him access to my other clients' computers. I can also give clients themselves access to their own computers, where necessary, without giving them access to others. With IT Reach I can also see every time someone's connected to a computer, how long it's been turned on and connected and all sorts of other information stored in logs. With IT Reach I can even work on the insides of the computer without disturbing the user. I can work with the command prompt, the registry editor, the services, etc. without opening Remote Control. I can see the disk space usage, the memory usage, the error logs, the event viewer, etc. without having to interrupt the user. It's like being able to look under the bonnet while the car is still moving. With IT Reach I can even set up alerts and messages so that the computer can send me e-mail messages when it's got a problem... it's a pretty amazing product.

I spent a few hours, while at the same time programming away, setting up quite a few computers with the different versions: I set up all of the home computers with the free version, as I can transfer files via our internal network, and many of my clients' computers with the IT Reach version. I played around with them for a while and had a great time. Geeky Power Control Freak Heaven! I'm afraid Go To My PC is about to lose (another) client.

Friday, April 21, 2006

La marche de l'empereur

A very looong working day. Got off the phone at the end at about 20:00 just in time for dinner.

Marche de l'empereur, LaDesney had prepared lots of finger food for dinner while we kicked back and watched La marche de l'empereur.

I had heard so many good things about this movie. Awards, good reviews, recommendations, ...

A beautifully filmed move...

However, in my personal opinion, probably one of the most boring films I've seen. I watched the "making of" afterwards... almsot equally as boring.

Maybe I was just tired...


Normally I fear the "morning after" I've had a throat exam. This morning actually went quite well and I only had to drink a bunch of water to get everything working again. Serious dry mouth overnight. But that's probably partly due to the fact that I stupidly slept with my mouth open for quite some time. There are many times when I simply have difficulty remembering that I'm not like I used to be. Subconsciously I sometimes think nothing's changed. It happens a lot when I'm looking at food... I think "that looks great!" and it takes me a long time, sometimes too long, to remember that it's something I probably wouldn't enjoy any more. Pizza, simple pasta without sauce, mashed potatotes, BAGUETTES, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ... These are all things that look great but are practically impossible for me to eat... I forget too often...

I spent the day working, working, working. I'm still playing "catch up" with correspondance and billing while also having to do some work on computers in America while they're asleep and get it finished before they get to the office... it makes for a rushful morning and then the afternoon is spent doing both what I would have done in the afternoon along with what I didn't do in the morning...

Ended the day by opening my Amazon delivery. I had ordered yet some more DVDs as they have had some really good deals lately. One of them is a movie Jess had seen in the cinema and has been dying to watch again.

RizeRize is a documentary about the evolution of the dance movement in South Central Los Angeles (read the ghetto) to offer an alternative to gangs. The subject was interesting. But I don't think it really filled the amount of time dedicated to it.

The director (David Lachapelle) obviously had his own slant on what he wanted to show. Every review I've seen seems to bring up how much he glossed over the oriental and white dance groups in his film.

There were some interesting "characters" such as Tommy the Clown who appears to have started everything and Miss Prissy who appears to be the one with enough grace and character to move on out some day.

Jessica loves the dancing. I was impressed with the Krumping at the beginning. But the lack of rhythm and musicality in the dance got on my nerves after a while. Good ole break dancing at least looked like the music was relevant to what they were doing. This looked great and athletic but the music just seemed to be incidental and having grown up with music and dance I personally found it just not to be my cuppa tea.

I'll probably watch the making of some day, with Jess, just out of curiosity. But my interest will probably stop there...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

* Throat Cancer Free *

Today was my quarterly visit with my ENT (ORL) doctor. I had been preparing myself psychologically for quite some time now. We were up late last night so I didn't get up until around 08:30, had breakfast and tried to get at least a couple of hours of work done before preparing to leave. I spent at least 2 hours just going through e-mails and bookkeeping and filing. It's amazing how it all piles up after spending just one (entire) day away from the computer.

At 14:00 I took a Xanax as per my doctor's instructions, to try and start calming me down, especially my reflexes, before his examination. I took the bus, and then the métro, to the doctor's office. I didn't want to drive as I didn't know what condition I would be in afterwards.

He was actually reasonably on time (15 minutes late) and we started by discussing the evolution in my situation since we last saw each other. I had to admit there wasn't a lot of change. My voice is still not working properly albeit slightly better than the last time. My swallowing is much better. But my mouth is still as dry as ever without any saliva. My taste buds are still not great, although they're reasonably better than the last time, and I can drink beer and wine. He immediately reminded me not to "abuse" the wine and beer.

I then sat in the dreaded examination chair. He checked out my ears and started in on my nose. I thought he was going to clamp my nose open or something with the weird thing he shoved up there. Finally he sprayed the anaesthesia up my nose and down my throat. I had to gargle with the anaesthesia for 30 seconds before swallowing it. He then had to wait a bit for it to take effect so he made a phone call while I sat staring at a mirror worrying about what was coming next. He now has a huge flat screen on the wall with the video setup so you can't avoid it. I closed my eyes the whole time so as not to have to watch the inside of my throat in amazing technicolor and the size of the wall. The exam went much better than last time and I didn't cough or gag half as much. He shoved the camera up each nostril and down the throat and looked around and made me make noises with my throat (ehhh, eeeee, ehehehe) and count. He would make comments as he was looking around and was actually silly enough to ask me a question of two. If you think it's bad enough when a dentist asks you something while your mouth is full of cotton or such you can imagine how ridiculous the situation is when you've got a video camera twirling around down the inside of your throat. He had to wait for an answer. Finally came the part I was dreading: I stuck out my tongue, he wrapped a Kleenex around the tip and held on to it while he stuck his finger down my throat and felt around inside. I only gagged two or three times and didn't actually spit up this time. He did the other hand as well and then it was over.

We sat down to "talk" about the status. He used a new anaesthesia which is apparently stronger and I could not speak for about an hour afterwards. The rest of our conversation took place with him speaking and me writing on paper. Apparently I still have bruises and burns in the back of my throat and just behind my vocal chords. The bruises are from the surgery and the burns are from the radiotherapy and they have been aggravated by the chemotherapy. My vocal chords appear to be in good condition. But they don't approach each other when I speak. He is sending me to an "orthophonist" for some vocal re-education work so that I use my "new" throat correctly when speaking. The bruises themselves are from a combination of the surgery, the radiotherapy and the chemotherapy. They will be absorbed over time. But, as usual, he can't say how much time.

We also spoke about the skin and the muscles. I mentioned the difficulties I have in the morning moving my left arm and shoulder and such as well as the pains I get during the day over the scar area and along the shoulder. He is sending me to a physiotherapist for some massages and heat treatments.

He palped all around my throat and neck. He explained that the solid bits were scar tissue which had been hardened by both the surgery and the radiotherapy. He said that, although massaging twice a day was good, I need to be massaging longer to break it down more.

Finally we spoke about the cancer surveillance aspect. He gave me the good news first that from everything he had just checked in my throat is completely cancer free. I will be seeing him again at the end of July. Two weeks before seeing him again, in mid-July, I will go back to the Clinique Hartmann for a full chest x-ray and an ultrasound exam of everything from my thorax down to my genitals. Then after his examination in July we'll book me for a complete PET scan for September prior to seeing him again in October. September will be one year from the beginning of treatment (surgery). Apparently there are not that many PET scan machines in the Paris area and I'll be going to Sarcelles for mine.

We discussed the evolution I could expect in the future. He used quite often the phrase "it's the ransom to pay for cancer" in that most of what we discussed he said would never be 100% again. My swallowing will continue to improve and, once the bruising and burns have been reduced, should eventually reach a normal level. My voice will never be 100% again. But, with re-education, should get much much better than it is now. The depressing prediction was that my taste buds will never be 100% again. They will get better and better, very slowly and over several years, but they will never achieve the level of fine tasting they had before. The chemotherapy has permanently destroyed too many of the buds themselves. Eventually I will probably look in to alternatives for this situation as I refuse to believe that I can't get my taste buds back. The dry mouth and lack of saliva will always be a problem. This I knew even prior to the treatment as they had explained this to me at the clinic. This too will continue to improve but it will never be 100% again and I'll be spending the rest of my life with a bottle of water next to me. The tasting situation and the swallowing situation are directly linked to the lack of saliva. I will be looking to alternatives for this evolution as well.

I left feeling pleased. Pleased that the examination itself had gone much better than last time. It certainly was still extremely painful and uncomfortable. But it was better. Pleased as well that my throat is completely cancer free and anything which I may have felt along my throat is not a problem.

I got home, wrote down on paper to Desney that everything was fine, crawled in to bed for about 3 hours, and I have just finished eating dinner (fish and rice( without any difficulty.

Onward and upwards...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


We all got up reasonably early and after a quick breakfast and a lot of yelling and screaming we were in the car and on our way by 09:15. At 10:00 we had parked the car at EuroDisney and were heading towards the gates, which had just opened, with the hoards of other visitors.

A beautiful sunny day during the Easter holidays. Why were we surprised to find that we were not the only ones with the idea to go to Disney today?

Our first stop was the Star Tours ride, which is my favourite, where we grabbed a couple of Fast Passes to come back and go straight on. In the mean time we played Air Hockey (Alex and Jess against me) and strolled around a bit. Finally we got on the ride (Jess, Alex and I) and, of course, it had not changed. A few minutes later and we were back outside and heading off for Honey, I shrunk the audience. We only had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes and then all four of us were inside the theatre with our 3D glasses on and enjoying the show which we had already seen at least once before. Afterwards we strolled past Space Mountain 2, watching it shoot off every now and then, and decided we'd go for a Fast Pass in the afternoon. We strolled over to It's A Small World and, after a bit of strategic queue management, we were all on the ride in about 10 or 15 minutes. That was probably the longest we've ever queued up for It's A Small World before. Then off to Pirates of the Caribbean which is another of the rare rides that all 4 of us go on together. I believe the wait was about 45 minutes which was just starting to get long.

Derek and TiggerAfterwards we headed off to The Lucky Nugget for lunch. The "show" we paid 30 € each for was basically a 4-piece band and the classic Disney characters coming 'round to bother us while we ate (all you can eat buffet).

After lunch we headed off to Big Thunder Mountain to grab a Fast Pass. But they weren't doing Fast Passes any more. Instead there was a 75 minute wait. That's right... an hour and a quarter of queuing up through endlessly winding roped-off lanes. Alex, Jess and I enjoyed the ride. But it certainly wasn't worth that long a wait.

All four of us headed off to Phantom Manor where the wait was "only" about 20 minutes. It was bit of fun but nothing extraordinary.

We headed back to Discoveryland where Jessica and I were going on Space Mountain 2. As we approached we noticed that it wasn't running. We went to ask why and were informed that there were "technical difficulties" and the ride had been stopped for 15 minutes. They didn't know when it would be running again. As the queues were so long on each ride and we didn't know quite what to do next we headed over to the new Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride. The queue was 75 minutes! With nothing better to do all 4 of us got on the queue. As we wound through the endless lanes Jess and I watched Space Mountain 2 to see if it reopened. An hour and a half later we were in our Buzz Lightyear cars, with our laser pistols, and Space Mountain 2 still had not reopened. The ride was a lot of fun and we all compared our scores as we left. But we also all agreed it wasn't worth that long a wait. Then again few rides would be.

Space Mountain 2As we got out of Buzz Lightyear we noticed that Space Mountain 2 had opened again. Jessica and I ran for the queue where we spent the next 60 minutes with the suspense and fear building up as we heard each rocket shoot to the sky. Jessica is the first of her friends to try Space Mountain 2 so she didn't know what it would be like. We both knew it would be faster than Space Mountain 1 which we had gone on together years ago. While we were queuing up Desney and Alex went on rides in Fantasyland, but most of them were closing by now, and ended up at It's A Small World again. Jessican and I survived Space Mountain 2 and got off the ride a bit wobbly-legged and dazed. We ran for the toilets as we needed to go before we got on the queue but didn't want to risk it back then. We then headed over to It's a small world to find Desney and Alex. There were no queues whatsoever so we ran on and went on the ride ourselves once before meeting Alex and Desney afterwards.

It was 20:00 by this time. We had spent 10 hours at Disney and gone on a total of 8 rides. It was a completely ridiculous experience. I fear today will be our last trip to Eurodisney... at least until we come back with our grandchildren!

We got home, ordered pizza and kicked back to watch Be Cool on DVD.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Ah! What a pleasure to sleep in my own bed, in my own bedroom next to my own wife. We all slept in this morning at our own rhythms. This means Desney was up at 8, I was up at 9:30, Alex at 10:30 and I don't even know when Jess crawled out of bed but I assume it was after noon. Desney had laid out chocolate eggs for the kids on the breakfast table. I made myself some scrambled eggs and a cup of my own coffee. It felt good to be home!

I have been spending most of the day just catching up... opening snail mail... installing new versions of software on my computers and getting the computer ready for the gym...

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Hacker Cracker

On the Eurostar I finished reading Hacker Cracker on my Palm. I enjoyed it. But I certainly do not consider it above average in any way. A hacker very full of himself who wrote about his childhood, his rough neighbourhood, a bit about his hacking and cracking experiences, his kung-fu and martial arts exploits and championships and finally his personal experiences on September 11th. I was only interested in about 1/10th of what he had to say and if ever I wanted to read the book again I would use the very helpful chapters and bookmarks functions of eReader to get to just the hacking bits.

If anyone out there is interested in anything similar to this but with more technical details then they should find Cliff Stoll's classic real-life hacker tracking experiences in The Cuckoo's Egg. Interested in hacking gangs then Masters of Deception would be much more interesting than this...

The long and winding road home

Up (relatively) early, a cup of coffee and off to the Leamington train station for the 08:29 train to London. I got to Marylebone at a little after 10:00 and grabbed a taxi directly for Waterloo station. Alexandra arrived right on time at 11:00 with the rest of her friends from Camp Beaumont. She looked great... albeit exhausted! I signed the papers releasing my daughter back to me and we waited around until 11:30 for them to open the gates for our Eurostar. At 11:31 we checked through and in to the Eurostar Lounge where we hung out for the next couple of hours. Luckily we were actually able to find a new pair of earphones for Alex so that, along with the y-connector in my computer bag, we could watch a DVD together on the train. We grabbed lunch at Bagel Factory. But mostly Alex spent her time playing on the Internet computers in the Salon and I did the same through the WiFi connection on my laptop. The Eurostar journey went fine and we watched Be Cool which I had rented. It finished a bit early so Alex watched the beginning of Timeline again. We also had a meal on the train so we were feeling a bit stuffed when we got to Paris. Our taxi was waiting there ready to whisk us off to home. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way as we spent quite some traffic and didn't get home until one hour and 35 euros later. Desney and Jessica were waiting for us in open arms and I was just glad to sit down on my own sofa in my own living room and relax.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A wonderful evening!

For my birthday present, ever so slightly belated, my in-laws took me out for an evening of dinner and theatre. We drove to Stratford-upon-Avon for an early meal at the restaurant in the theatre. Quarto's is the restaurant actually in the theatre. We had wonderful seats directly overlooking the Avon and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun was shining, the willow trees and all were in full bloom, there were a few swans in the river, tourists gently rowing in their rented rowboats and us looking over everything.

The entire experience was actually amazing. It turned out to be one of the best meals I've ever had in England. The food was excellent. I had a roast duck with cranberry sauce and some lightly steamed vegetables followed by a crème brulée for dessert which is only surpassed by my wife's crème brulée. Bill and I shared an excellent Chianti Russina red wine with the meal and the coffee afterwards was perfect.

After the meal all we had to do was walk downstairs to enter the theatre and our seats. The placement was amazing. We were close to the front while enough rows away to be able to see the entire stage (about 8 rows back) and right in the centre. The Royal Shakespeare Company is performing the entire works of Shakespeare over the next few months. Actually there are quite a lot of companies performing many of the shows as well at the RSC theatre. Tonight was Romeo and Juliet. I can safely say this was one of the strangest performances of Romeo and Juliet I have ever seen. However it was also one of the most enjoyable versions I have seen yet. It was rather timeless in the choice of period. The costumes looked like late 19th century. It also appeared as though the Capulets were gypsies. But that was just because of the music. Whenever the characters would fight they would actually dance. Instead of fighting each other they would dance against each other. It was all very precisely choreographed and mostly tap. They all had huge sticks (batons) that they used as weapons instead of swords. It was quite an novel way of presenting the fights. But I must say I missed the good ole fashioned sword fights more than once. This was particularly apparent during the scene when Mercutio is dying and speaks of being pierced and the blood. There was neither piercing nor blood to be seen. It was also a bit of a raunchy production with particular concentration being done to emphasise much of the built-in double-entendre and sexual innuendoes which Shakespeare had delicately sprinkled throughout the script. All-in-all it was a very strong production and one left the theatre exhausted.

At the end of the meal the waitress took our drink orders for the intermission and our same table and seats were there waiting for us. It was wonderful sitting over the river, now with nighttime offering a completely different scene, and slowly sipping red wine (Rioja) knowing we only had to stroll back downstairs to get to our seats. At the end of the performance Bill was there to drive us home. A cuppa tea later and I was in bed before midnight, packed and ready to leave the next morning.

Good Friday

I actually didn't sleep as well as I had hoped. Obviously I was in a strange bed. Although I have slept in this particular bed and this particular room so many times over the many years I believe this was the first time I was in the room alone. The room still feels to me like it's Desney's room and it is very strange sleeping in her room without her. I have been missing her a bit more and more the past few days and even the past few trips. But I truly missed her last night. It's just her simple presence that makes me somehow feel reassured and whole. Without her presence, after a while, I start feeling as though part of me is missing. It turns out that part of me is actually quite important to me and difficult to be without. I slept until about 07:00 and then stared at the ceiling until about 09:00.

My mother-in-law, Hazel, prepared for me a wonderful homemade English breakfast of perfectly scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. I wasn't able to eat it all. But what I did eat was delicious. A bit of coffee and the ridiculous tabloid (Daily Mail) made it a relaxing experience.

After lunch I plugged my laptop in to their cable broadband connection. I was just going to check out my e-mail and surf the Internet a bit. However I noticed they now have a scanner. They had had problems with their printer, once upon a time, and they replaced it with an Epson all-in-one. I have been dreaming of coming over with my scanner one year to scan in the family photos they have preserved in boxes and albums as they are priceless additions to the family tree. I downloaded the drivers, installed, configured and connected the scanner to my laptop. I then found myself spending the rest of the day scanning in a little over 50 photos. I didn't even scratch the surface! I'm going to have to do this again and again... But I'm going to be going home with some very precious images which will no longer fade and which the rest of the family are going to love...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The end of a long week

I left the London office at about 17:30 and took a taxi to Marylebone station. I hung around Marylebone station until about 19:15 as that's when my phone call to Alex at camp was scheduled for. Desney had booked the call for me. You have to call in the morning to schedule a call for the same night or the next night. I called Alex and spoke to her for a while. She was having a great time. I was a bit disappointed that there were apparently quite a lot more French kids at the camp this time and she was spending time translating. We paid a fortune for her to go to this camp in England for her to be with English kids and speak English. I doubt we'll be sending her there again. I was not impressed with the kids, and their families, when we had waited to go on Saturday either. But she's enjoying herself and everything's going well.

I got on the next train for Royal Leamington Spa (19:30), which was packed, and arrived at Leamington station at a little after 21:00. My father-in-law, Bill, picked me up at the station and it wasn't long before I was lounging in front of the television with a can of Guinness bitter beside me. You can't beat family hospitality!

I was actually quite exhausted. It has been an extremely productive week and I am both proud and pleased about that. But it has also been long with several long days. Installing and training during the day, programming in the evening and doing a bit of telemaintenance in the evenings and mornings as clients in New York and in France needed work done on their computers. It added up to a very long week and I'm looking in to not having to wake up for anything tomorrow morning.


One of the department's of my client's office (horse racing) took me out to lunch today. I was literally declared the "Guest of Honour". I don't think that's ever happened to me before. They brought us all out to an absolutely fabulous little Italian restaurant near the office. We ate and drank like kings and queens. I had some fresh steamed asparagus with a simple garlic butter sauce to start, then some beef-filled ravioli with tomato sauce for my main course and finally a wonderful cappuccino to end it all off. All of this was accompanied by an absolutely wonderful Chianti Classico Riserva. The fine Chiantis have certainly moved up in quality over the past few years and this was right up there with the full-bodied fine Tuscans. It filled my mouth completely and I was able to taste most of it. The wine was so smooth and soft, while still being full-bodied, that it didn't sting me or harm me in the slightest. Just delicious pleasure going down.

I truly felt spoiled and appreciated. Just like last month... I had very little desire to go back to the office.

But back to the office to finish a very important day...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I'm still here...

I've just finished reading Jonathan Kellerman's Gone. It was quite enjoyable as always. I've been reading the Alex Delaware novels for 20 years now. I must say that they've become extremely "formulaic". This can greatly reduce the excitement. But it also feels quite comfortable... like an old blanket. It always nice to have a new Kellerman on my Palm...

It's been a few long days and late nights here in London. I've basically come to the conlusion that I no longer sleep well in hotels. I certainly used to be able to sleep anywhere. Now, whether it's due to stress or worries or comfort or whatever, I just don't get to sleep until quite late and I wake up several times in the evening. I can't wait until Friday morning to be able to sleep a bit.

I had a beer on Monday lunchtime and it went down wonderfully. I had a glass of red wine at an Italian restaurant for lunch yesterday and it just didn't. I was able to drink it but it was not really enjoyable. Much too acidic and burning on my throat. This could be due to the fact that the bottle had been kept open for quite some time, which was apparent from the nose, or simply the wine itself. But it may also just be me (again). I've been eating as fast as I can at lunch to try and keep up to what one would consider a normal speed. But starches like potatoes and bread just don't go down well at all... I tend to leave them on the plate...

Sunday, April 09, 2006


For those of you who are interested I've been using Skype more and more and am actually quite impressed.

I originally started using Skype after installing it for a client for whom Skype is a revolutionary and fantastic solution. This client has offices around the world as far flung as islands on the other side of the planet. The Skype solution of free Internet phone calling is just too logical an option. I set him up with a Linksys CIT200 Wireless Skype Phone and oen in his Assistant's office. The system worked so well that I bought myself one the next day.

I set myself up with a SkypeOut account to be able to call regular phones and a SkypeIn account so people could call me on the Skype phone from regular phones and the voicemail so that I didn't have to always answer the damn thing. Most people know that I consider the telephone to be the most intrusive, aggressive and obnoxious invention known to man when misused. It is also, quite obviously, one of the most practical, invaluable and wonderful inventions known to man when used properly.

After a few weeks of regular usage I actually cancelled my normal office phone line and now use Skype exclusively as my business phone.

This trip has been particularly interesting as it's the first time I've been using Skype while travelling. I bought myself a VoIP Voice V Traveller portable Skype phone before leaving and it fits nicely in my computer bag. It's wired, rather than wireless, but when I'm travelling that's not a big deal. What is a big deal is that I can now call home, and elsewhere, via the Internet rather than the ridiculously overpriced hotel phone charges or even the less ridiculous but still overpriced international mobile phone rates. It works wonderfully.

A rude awakening

I was hoping to sleep in this morning. A few long days in a row, a relatively nice hotel, no work and no reason to wake up.

At 08:11 in the morning a friend of mine calls me on my mobile phone which wakes me up. I didn't actually answer the phone but rather turned it off and tried to go back to sleep. Later when I did get up I listened to the message. This asshole actually called me at 08:11 in the morning on a Sunday to ask me what my Skype account name was. For those of you who use Skype try this incredibly difficult task: Use the search contact feature; enter Derek as the first name and France as the country. See if you can figure out which is me out of the thousands of entries which appear. Hint: it's the first one!

Unfortunately I couldn't really get back to sleep. I got up at a little after 09:00, showered and headed off to something I had been looking forward to: a full English breakfast. The food here ain't great, in comparison to many other hotels I've been to, but breakfast was what I had expected. I literally had bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms... There's no point mentioning fried next to any of those words as an English breakfast is 100% fried. I had scrambled eggs which I have not had for quite some time. They went down very well. They were actually easier to eat and more enjoyable than the poached eggs I've been making myself recently. I have to remember that. The salty sausages and bacon also went down very well and I could taste all of it. The coffee was just plain awful... but then again that was entirely expected. The English make some of the best tea in the world. But they don't know from coffee. Unless of course you're willing to sell your car for the right to purchase a cup of espresso which is better than any other coffee one can drink in England but still about the level of mediocre cup of coffee in France. Breakfast was excellent.

I checked out not long after that and schlepped my bags down Park Street to Grosvenor Square and to the Marriott. I got there at 11:30 expecting to just leave my bags and head back out. My room was ready!!! I was therefore able to get up in to my room, completely unpack, lie down for a bit and get the computer up and running. I am now sitting here typing this on the, in my personal opinion, overpriced WiFi connection in my room (£20.00 per day) which was entirely free at the other hotel.

I will be heading out for a bit of shopping soon...

A late night

Unfortunately the food here is actually even worse than at the Marriott Hotel which is worse than what was at the Millenium Hotel. But all of these compare as junk food in comparison to the Capital Hotel.

Room service food was really quite disappointing. When the food looks and smells disappointing before my, seriously impaired, taste buds even attempt to start it's not an enjoyable experience.

It's nights like these that I miss the Capital Hotel. The Capital was probably one of my all-time favourite hotels. The rooms were beautiful. The service impeccable. The food just plain wonderful. Absolutely High-Class all the way. The only problem was it's just not practical as a business hotel for my particular needs. It's too far from my client's office and requires a taxi which is not always easy to acquire first thing in the morning. Sometimes it literally took 45 minutes to get a taxi in the morning. It also has NO INTERNET ACCESS in the rooms. The only possibility is nose-hemmorhage slow and old-fashioned telephone access (56k) at outrageous per-minute charges. It's obvious that the Capital will most likely never be my business hotel location again... but there are definitely moments like these that I miss it.

After a really long day, following a couple of sequentially long days, I just can't get to sleep.

The first time I've taken a nap in the afternoon in a while?

Too much coffee in the afternoon?

Nerves, stress and anxiety?

English-language television on almost every channel of the television?

French is more than my second language. But it'll never be my first language. English will always be more subconscious than French. French is somewhere in between a second language and my first language: my 1.5 language? Although I watch French-language quite often English-language entertainment still feels more natural and easy. Therefore when I'm in a country where there is so much English-language entertainment available I tend to overindulge.

Whatever the reason... it's 1:30 in the morning, I'm exhausted and still awake.

But tomorrow's Sunday morning... time for a bit of a lie-in after 3 long days.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Bison futé

Road traffic and slow transportation is so important to us here in France that we treat it much the same ways that the Americans treat National Defense.

In America there are the DefCon conditions which pass from 5 through 1 and, more appropriately, the Homeland Security advisories which pass from green through blue, yellow and orange to red.

In France we have our road traffic conditions which pass from green days through orange days and red days through to black days and nights. These are all dictated and predicted by the national organisation known as Bison Futé (sharpened buffalo).

This morning was declared Orange. Therfore, after having spent an hour getting in to Paris in the morning for that past two mornings running, I was quite worried that Alex and I were going to have to leave home at 06:30 in the morning to get to the Gare du Nord on time for a 10:19 Eurostar.

Yet again... things were no where near as bad as the national organisations had predicted.

Anyone remember the Y2K Scare?

On the road again

We were all up early this morning.

Jessica was actually going to school and hoping that it wasn't blocked again by protesters.

Alex and I were cleaned, breakfasted and jumping out to our taxi at 08:40. I had called the taxi as early as possible as I feared the traffic on this first day of the holidays. In actual fact we got to the Gare du Nord in 25 minutes! We hung out in the Salon for about an hour and our Eurostar left on time with us on it.

Alex watched Oscar on my laptop while I read Jonathan Kellerman's Gone on my Palm.

We got to Waterloo on time and waited around for an hour for her Camp representatives to show up. They actually showed up on time (13:00) and Alex was quite excited to see that one of the counsellors who came to accompany them was one she knew from her last camp trip (Will). Once the paperwork was done it all went quite quickly and they were soon all aboard their coach and heading off to Camp Beaumont on the Isle of Wight.

I lugged my luggage over to the taxi rank and headed off to the Radisson Portman Hotel. I then went out and spent a good portion of the afternoon shopping, then had a nap and I am just about to dig in to my room service dinner...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another long day (Friday)

Up early again and on the road again and another hour of traffic to get back to my client in Paris. I got there for about 09:45 this time...

This was one of those installations where "If it can go wrong... it did go wrong". Dell delivered a brand new beautiful Dimension 9150 computer with a wireless keyboard and mouse as ordered. The new Dimension series don't have mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports. But they have tons of USB ports. As the vast majority of keyboards and mice one would purchase today are USB-based this actually quite logical. However the Logitech wireless Desktop set they sent us only had PS/2 connectors (!). I had to send someone out to buy a new USB mouse just so I could continue with the installation.

Then it turns out that the version of Easy Media Creator I had wouldn't work with the new DVD burner that came with the new computer. Luckily I got the person who was already out getting a new mouse to get a new version of Easy Media Creator.

The backup of the old computer took practically all morning. The restore went well but with a few hiccoughs.

It was a real challenge to get this whole thing up and running, perfectly as always, by the end of the day.

Just to make things more interesting, in case things were actually going well, the client announced that they had just purchased a new Mac laptop and that it needed to be installed and configured by the end of the day as I would be travelling as of tomorrow as would the client. I therefore configured everything on the new Mac laptop at the same time as installing the new Dimension.

By the time I crawled back in to my car at about 18:45 I felt like I had been through a boxing match... I'm not sure who won but I felt like a champion.

I was actually quite worried about having to drive home at that time on the Friday night before the holidays and expected traffic even worse than I experienced. It didn't take me a lot more than an hour to get home.

When I did... Alex and Desney were busy yelling and screaming up and down the stairs as Desney was preparing Alex' bags. I therefore decided to do my job which is to keep out of Desney's way and get my bags ready for the next day. We were all all packed by about 20:45 and sitting down waiting for dinner to arrive. Jessica had gone out babysitting so we ordered Japanese again as we didn't want to chance anything else the night before travelling.

We sat around watching what must be at least the 20th night of Les Enfoirés on television and then early to bed for all of us...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A long day

Got up early (everything's relative), got myself ready and out of the house by 09:00 to head off to an installation at a client's in Paris.

A full hour of sitting in traffic later... then desperately seeking a parking spot... I finally arrived at 10:00.

I spent the rest of the day miraculously recuperating data from an existing computer while installing and configuring an amazing new computer (Dell XPS with a 24" 16/9 screen and all the speed, power and performance a geek like myself could dream of).

Let my client's at about 18:15 and tackled another hour of traffic to get home. Dinner was running a bit late as Desney too had a long day. We still had a wonderful meal, as usual, and I think I headed off to bed not too long after a late cuppa.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Yet another national protest day

Jessica spent the night at a friend's house. We all knew she would not have school today. Already her lycée was blocked, again, yesterday and she could not get in. Today is the national day of anti-CPE protest so we knew she wouldn't get in today either.

The kids have missed out on a whole lot of school. These same kids missed out on a reasonable amount of school last year as well due to the strikes against Fillon's law. No one actually has a solution as to how these kids are going to catch up on the basics they've lost out on over this and last year.

Last Tuesday evening was supposed to be our annual performance by Word for Word. As happened last year we had to reschedule at the very last minute. The performance was therefore rescheduled for tonight. Again... we had to cancel at the very last minute (Sunday) due to today's strikes and protests. Word for Word is going to start thinking twice before coming to France!

The kids have missed out on a lot of school. We, in our tiny little international world at our one individual school, have missed out on our valuable annual social occasions (The International Meal and now Word for Word). We are even now starting to wonder if we'll be able to hold the school dance on May 13th. Even more alarming are questions as to such vital occurrences as admissions tests, Bac preparation tests (bac blanc) and the final bac tests themselves. Many feel that we have sacrificed an entire year of students around the country. Some feel we have sacrificed an entire generation. No matter how you look at it we have certainly penalised and handicapped students around the country.

A friend of mine sent me a wonderful phrase yesterday:

It's such a paradox that protesters are fighting for the maintenance of the status quo rather than change, and that the main goal of militant students is to secure a safe job for life!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

--- Forty Three! ---

Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday dear me,
Happy birthday to me.

I made it this far!

There were moments, towards the end of last year, when I actually thought I wouldn't. There were also moments, around the same period, when I actually didn't want to.

Most of us went to bed at a reasonable time last night so as to get up early this morning and head off to EuroDisney for my birthday. Desney had asked me quite some time ago what I wanted to do for my birthday. I explained that this year an evening out at a nice restaurant would be a complete waste as would getting me fine wine or anything gastronomic. However I also said I wanted to have fun... and I suggested EuroDisney (Disneyland Paris) where we've been many times before.

I say most of went to a bed at a reasonable time. But Jessica, who missed my birthday dinner, was out babysitting around the corner. She could really use the money so when the SMS came on Saturday asking her to babysit she jumped at the opportunity. She was supposed to get in around 01:00 - 01:30 and we were going to wake her up at 08:00 and let her sleep in the car on the way. In the end she actually got home closer to 02:30. But things worked out all right for her in the end.

The weather on Saturday was actually quite nice. There were a few scattered rain periods but they didn't last longer than 15 minutes at any given time and the sunshine afterwards was wonderful. We decided that if the weather on Sunday could be anything like Saturday then it was a perfect time to go to EuroDisney.

I slept like a kid on Christmas eve. I awoke at 06:00, again at 06:30, again at 07:00 and again at 07:30. I would have keep finally gotten up at 07:30 but I had made a decision at 07:10. We had said to the kids that we would not wake them up if it was raining as there was no way we were going to stand outside in the endless queues at EuroDisney in the rain. At 06:00 in the morning I could hear the rain pounding outside. At 06:30 it had not died down. At 07:00 it was just as strong. Finally at 07:10 Desney rolled over and asked me when I was getting up. I responded that I wasn't and we could just have a lie in.

Alexandra got up herself around 07:30-08:00 and was watching television, of course, when we crawled out of bed at about 10:00. Just to truly frustrate us the weather became absolutely beautiful for the rest of the day as of 10:30!

It was obviously time for Plan B. Unfortunately I had not prepared a Plan B.

We sat around having breakfast while I opened by birthday presents. Everyone bought me exactly what I had asked for. Jessica, as usual, had gone her own way. She made me a beautiful card and she bought me a couple of posters including a great, and hard-to-find, Bruce Lee Nanchuku poster. We also watched Desney's one regular television experience: 2 BBC gardening shows every Sunday morning at 11:00: Garden Rivals and Alan Titmarsh's How To Be A Gardener.

We then had to make a decision. The weather outside was beautiful. But it was now afternoon. Do we rush off to Disney for a half-day or do something else? We decided to reschedule Disney for a full day sometime later during the Easter Holidays and I came up with something else.

I had not been bowling in many, many years. Those rare few who knew me way back when in my early days in Paris would remember that I used to bowl quite regularly. I was even captain of the OECD's bowling team in the International Bowling League in Paris. I thought bowling would therefore be an interesting idea as it would work no matter what the weather outside. The kids and I had gone bowling once in Montparnasse as well and it went quite well.

I found my bowling ball and shoes downstairs in the basement, wiped off the dust, and we all headed out to Bowling Champerret. We had to wait just a bit to get our lanes but once we got started we had a great time. I actually played right at my old level of 20 years ago (about 140 average) and Desney got better each game. Alexandra gets very, very frustrated when sports don't go quite as well as she'd like and therefore was not overly pleased. Jessica... Well let's just say that bowling is just not Jessica's sport. We played 2 games and then headed back home for tea.

After tea we headed down to the cellar for a few games of pool. The four of us played for a couple of hours until dinner time. Desney played better than we expected and actually much too well from the point of view of those of us who were playing against her. It was just warm enough to really enjoy the temperature of the cellar and the new Harman Kardon Soundsticks II speakers really made the tiny iPod sound great. Desney and I listened to old songs from the late 70s and The Big Chill Soundtrack to the great regret of our children.

Mission: Impossible IIFor dinner we ordered sushi and watched a movie. I wanted something fun and I had just received Mission Impossible II as part of the Amazon DVD sale order. I put it on and within about 15 minutes the kids realised we had actually rented and seen it before! They were both able to recite certain scenes frame by frame. At least it had made an impression on them. We watched the rest of the movie anyway and enjoyed dinner and each other's company. Desney prepared my favourite dessert again, this time with more ice cream and less chocolate which went down much better, and after tea we headed off to bed.

Next year's birthday is going to be soooooo better!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Birthday Dinner

The kids were off to school this morning and Desney was out shopping. I then spent most of the day programming. I actually released yet another (minor) version of my programming project. I wanted to get as much done today to be able to truly enjoy tomorrow. Desney spent all afternoon cooking (dinner and various apple desserts to use up the apples which were originally destined for the International Meal).

As we are going out tomorrow Desney decided to make my birthday dinner for this evening. I actually got to pick everything. She had asked me on Thursday what I wanted. I came up with asparagus (good strong flavour while still fine) with hollandaise sauce; lamb chops (the other bits of lamb are either too thin and dry or too big and chewy) with her now famous garlic sauce (good strong flavour which sticks to my throat); broccoli (goes well with the garlic sauce) and steamed potatoes (even steamed, potatoes are just dried chalk in my mouth). Desney prepared perfect green asparagus steamed just right... not over not under... Delicious! Unfortunately I'm the only member of the family who actually enjoys asparagus. But, of course, that meant all the more for me! The lamb was perfect as well and Desney's garlic cream sauce was... how do I say it? Perfect. As we had lots of asparagus she didn't prepare any other veg. Everyone liked the potatoes. I ate a couple but I just can't enjoy potatoes anymore...

For dessert Desney made my favourite which I generally only get on my birthday. I assume it's a lot of work. Although I never actually sit around and watch her prepare things. The dessert is a sort of chocolate pudding or moelleux, served hot, with lots of Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream. It was quite good. But certainly not as good as usual.

With dinner I opened a very nice Burgundy (Beaune 1er Cru 2002). I didn't open anything really wonderful as it's just not worth it.

Taste (or lack thereof): My abilities to eat and drink more and more substances are almost more frustrating than satisfying. My taste buds are still pretty much shot to hell and nothing really tastes good. Wine stings ever so slightly but becomes more acidic than fruity way too quickly (within 20 minutes of opening a bottle). Sweets just don't taste sweet. The sweet tastes are probably what come through the least. Salty things taste salty and they seem to stimulate the saliva a bit. But certainly not at a normal level. Spicy flavours come through as spicy but mostly come through as painful in the throat. Any sort of powdery textures (chocolate powder, flour on top of things, ...) just irritates my throat and makes me cough.

The most frustrating of all was probably this evening's dessert. The gastronomic joys of eating involves many aspects of sensual pleasures: sights, tastes, smells, sometimes touch and definitely sensory memory. I can see and feel just fine. My nose seems to work even better than before. This too is quite frustrating. I can tell quite well what something should taste like by what it smells like. What things actually taste like are nothing like what they smell like for me at the moment. Then there's sensory memory. During my acting training, throughout a good portion of my childhood, we worked quite a lot on sensory memory and did so many of those method acting exercises that non-actors find quite funny: slow-motion teeth-brushing while contemplating every aspect; still-frame-by-frame chewing and eating while analysing every aspect; atempting to analyse and describe what everything in life FEELS like down to the most ridiculously minute details. I therefore am actually quite good and remembering what things smelled like, felt like and tasted like. My wife's birthday dessert almost made me cry. I remember perfectly well the combination of sensual pleasures there are in that dessert. The hot and cold mixture. The liquidy yet thick texture of the pudding. The creaminess of the ice cream as it melts and mixes in with the crumbs of the pudding. The chocolate in the pudding which becomes a fudge sauce on the ice cream. The sweet and creamy taste combination. I could look at her dessert, inhale her dessert, close my eyes and remember almost every time she's made it for me. There are so many reasons I fell so deeply in love with this woman and her culinary skills are certainly one of them. Almost none of those sensual pleasures were there in that dessert tonight. The chocolate becomes pasty, the pudding/cake part dries out so quickly in my mouth; the ice cream is creamy without being sweet, ...

It's very frustrating, and sometimes quite depressing, to be able to partake in so much food and drink, while remembering how enjoyable each one of them were, and not be able to actually enjoy it.

Desney worked hard on my birthday dinner, as she always does, and I felt embarassed as to how little I could enjoy it.

I headed off to bed relatively early as we're all getting up early tomorrow morning.