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?