Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Mushroom Hunt

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

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

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

Ron Carter... Live!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Another long day

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

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

I got home absolutely exhausted...

NetGear Skype WiFi Phone

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

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

Lots of fun!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another long trip

Three days in London (again)...

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn't find any.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A rough throat day

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

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

And then the phone rang...

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

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Day at the Arc

What a wonderful day!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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