Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Just not enough time in the day, weekend, week...

In case anyone's interested... I'm fine.

I'm just working like crazy trying to keep up... Trying to work as much professionally as possible as I definitely need the money... Also trying to keep up with the administration... have sent a lot of time at the French tax office recently as they try and suck out every last drop from me wherever possible. I've worked out a payment plan with them but it's a lot per month and for quite some time to come now... ;-(

Since our anniversary:

I spent an entire morning at the American embassy with the girls getting their American passports renewed. Jessica's was easy as she's over 14 now and can sign most papers herself. Jessica's was the urgent one as she'll need it next Saturday. Alexandra's was more difficult as Desney has to sign an approval, which she did, and that approval has to be notarised! I went through every other aspect of the procedures (childrens' interviews "Have you committed any expatriating act since your passport expired?", ..., all of the forms and the payment (US$ 80 per passport)). I just have to get the form notarised, send it to them and they'll send us Alexandra's passport.

I spent a looong day back in Normandy trying to get my client's home/office up and running before this week. The Internet had been cut off, the satellite dish had been blocked by a hedge which had overgrown, the WiFi access wasn't working, the printer wouldn't connect properly, there was traffic on the road all over, no one to have lunch with, a mad house! I left there quite late, around 20:30 and then the 3 hour drive home. I'll be back soon as it ain't over yet!

The next morning was my meeting with the French tax office at Asnières. Frustrating, depressing, amazingly incomprehensible how one office does not talk to the other office on the same floor or in the building next door, and quite expensive...

Friday night however was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I hope I'll have time to write more about this later. We had a couple of friends over from the OECD who I literally haven't seen for over 10 years if not 15. Neither of them have changed!!! It was a lot of fun!

The next morning was the Annual General Meeting of the parents' associations at Jessica's school. I was elected President again... 5 years in a row...

But now I go in to overdrive...

Tonight's the Fête de la Musique

Tomorrow morning I'm back in Normandy for two days... everything has to work perfectly by Friday afternoon... time for the magician to pull some rabbits out of the hats...

Back here for late Friday night and then Saturday is Alexandra's end-of-the-year school party. I've (sillily [sic]) volunteered to help set up in the morning as well as running a stand during the day...

Sunday I have to get Jessica to the airport as she's going to the States for the first time in her life, and she's going on her own, and she's going for five weeks!!!

Then I have to get back in time to see Alexandra's end-of-the-year dance class performance.

Monday morning I think I'll probably be heading back to Normandy to finish off anything that needed changing since Friday... although I'm really hoping I don't have to.

Tuesday morning it's off to London for a 4-day trip with lots of new installations and training to do...

Friday night I get back late...

Saturday morning I sleep as much as possible and then Saturday night it's off to a friend's place for dinner...

Sunday I pass out...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

And they said it wouldn't last!

Today is our 18th wedding anniversary! We've been through hell and heaven together over the years (a lot more hell recently) and we're still together. I love this woman more and more each year and she still continues to surprise and amaze me.

Unfortunately this is definitely our most uneventful anniversary yet. Desney has an awful lot of work on at the moment and is struggling against deadlines. She's brought proofreading work home for several days now and has been at it all weekend. We didn't go out tonight as we didn't know if she'd be finished.

We're havin' a heat wave! It's incredibly hot here at the moment. It's 31C (81F for the Americans in the audience) today and the sun is shining non-stop. It's supposed to be 33C (91F) tomorrow. We had a very simple dinner of several different salads, and a couple of chilled half-bottles of Beaujolais (Moulin-Vent and Fleurie), out on the terrasse.

The vampire (aka Jessica) got home from her sleepover party just after noon and got out of bed late in the afternoon. She was tired and cranky for the rest of the day. Alexandra had dance rehearsal in the afternoon and she too was tired and cranky in the evening. The heat didn't help either.

After dinner, once the kids were in their bedrooms and Desney was proofreading in her room, I went down to the cellar. I cranked up the sound system, set the genre to Blues, and played myself a few games of pool. The cellar is probably one of the coolest places in the house at the moment and it's a hot night. Ah the simple pleasures...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Comédie Française

Desney managed to get us all tickets to the Comédie Française to see the (classic) Cyrano de Bergerac.

Desney went directly from work to the theatre. The kids and I got ready and left home after work and school. We were going to grab a sandwich before going but we found out that all of our local bakeries don't do sandwiches in the evening. It turned out to be a good thing as the girls weren't ready until 18:45 even without eating. With eating we would definitely have arrived for the intermission. We left at 18:45 and spent a little over an hour in mindboggingly frustrating traffic. With a combination of my trusty Tom Tom Go and a little bit of Parisian knowhow we were able to at least move forward and we arrived in front of the theatre at 20:00 on the dot. I circled around a few times and parked in the parking lot. I got out of the car, ran up 3 flights of stairs and desperately started looking for a public toilet. After running a couple of blocks, with my teeth swimming, I decided I'd go at the theatre. Desney and the kids were waiting in front of the theatre for me with a sandwich which I didn't have time to eat and a bottle of water. I (stupidly) just can't seem to remember to always leave the car with a bottle of water. We got in to the theatre and I found the toilet before getting to our seats... whew!

For Jessica and I the performance was wonderful. I found the set quite amazing and later learned that it was designed by the actor playing Christian. The costumes were all by Christian Lacroix and were (obviously) excellent. Our seats were wonderful as well. We were in the "Presidential box"... centre... one level up. The acting was above average. But in this type of huge audience situation one can really tell the difference between those with a properly trained voice and those without. One of the small bit parts, for example, was easily heard much more so than the actor playing Cyrano's confidente who I couldn't hear throughout. The "cadre" itself, of course, is always impressive. It's about as close as going to the Opera as I can think of. The walls, the statutes, the stairs... history and class all the way.

At the intermission I ate half of my sandwich out on the balcony overlooking a pretty amazing fountain. I'm sure that the "old" me would have finished the whole sandwich in less than 10 minutes. But the "new" me could only manage a half in the alloted 30 minutes and that required copious amounts of water to wash it all down.

Unfortunately Alexandra found the whole experience quite boring. As we all know Cyrano is a five-act play and can go on a bit. It finished just after midnight and Alex was definitely tired. She also had to get up for school the next morning. Traffic going home was wonderful and I think we got there in less than 20 minutes.

A wonderful night out....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


NabaztagI read about this thing in one of my technical magazines and soon realised I just had to get one.

I hadn't realised that it's actually a French product (Cocoricco!).

Basically it's a medium-sized white plastic rabbit which sits nicely on a desk or a shelf or a table or something like that. It plugs in to the electricity and that's it. It then automatically connects via WiFi to the Internet. You have to have a broadband WiFi Internet connection somewhere nearby of course. Then the fun starts.

You "register" the rabbit on the Nabaztag Web Site with the MAC address. I registered mine as "DerekErb", which is incredibly boring but I plead ignorance, and I am already trying to find out how to change its name. Once that's up and running you can set it up to do all sorts of things such as:

  • It's a talking clock and tells the time every hour on the hour

  • I have it do random exercises every now and then whereby it moves its ears around a bit and flashes different coloured lights

  • It tells me the Air Quality in Paris at 10:45

  • It gives me the current weather in Paris at 10:30 and tomorrow's forecast at 15:10.

  • It tells me the traffic situation in Paris at the Porte of my choice at 11:40

  • Particularly fun: It reads me the news headlines from

But of course the most interesting part is the interactivity part. If you send an e-mail to my bunny will read me the Subject of the message right away. The system then automatically creates a free account for the sender who can then go to the Nabaztag Web Site at any time and send my rabbit full-length messages in different voices, MP3 files, pre-recorded messages and such along with a unique music and lights combination so I know who it's from.

Is it an indispensable professional productivity tool? Probably not.

Is it an adorably cute robot-like and addictively fun Internet-based office toy? Definitely!

Oral Cancer Foundation

I was going through the messages on the Throat Cancer Support eGroup and I found a quick mention of a site that looked particularly interesting and had just opened up.

The Oral Cancer Foundation appears to have either just opened or just redesigned their web site. It's very nicely, and tastefully, done. From a technical point of view I quite like the moving menu on the left-hand side (JavaScript). But the most important aspect is that it is just plain chock full of valuable information presented in a reasonably layman-like language about so many aspects of this specific type of cancer. It is really the type of site I was looking for, and would have loved to have found, when I was first diagnosed and going through treatments. It certainly ain't over yet and the followup information is greatly appreciated.

I obviously checked out the People section and the Arts & Entertainment page to see what other famous people have either survived through or died of throat cancer. I'm in very good company!

Blythe DannerI then checked out their multimedia page and found some excellent television spots they are apparently running in the States these days. The spots are very well done and get the point accross very quickly. Blythe Danner talking about losing her husband, Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth's dad), to the disease was painful to watch.

Jack KlugmanJack Klugman, who I've always liked, talking about how he survived was obviously much more of a pleaseure to watch. In the second clip I noticed he was constantly holding on to a bottle of water, just like I do now, throughout his presentation. The quote that "1 out of 2 throat cancer victims don't survive the first five years" was obviously not exactly what I wanted to hear. But I believe the figure is 1 out of 3 here in France. Not that it's an incredible difference in the odds if it turns out you are the "one". I personally count on figuring on the other side of the equation just like Klugman.

I plan on being one of the survivors this site talks about and one day my story will be on their survivor's page... you'll see...