Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yet another minute of fame

This actually happened a few days ago but the show was broadcast today. As many of you may already know I am a big fan of Tech Podcasts in general and Digital Planet in particular. I generally download this to my iPod and listen to it in the car when travelling back and forth to clients'. When I started playing around with Facebook, about a year ago, I noticed they had a system for creating discussion groups and there weren't any dedicated to my favourite show. I therefore created the Digital Planet Listeners' Group on Facebook. This was mostly an experiment to see how these groups worked on Facebook in comparison to electronic groups I already work with and managed on Yahoo and Google. It actually turned out to be quite fun and caught on quite quickly.

One of the really fun aspects of this group is that the presenter of the programme,
Gareth Mitchell, joined and even uploaded his photo. It was actually quite a strange experience to finally see what he looked like. I had been listening to his programme regularly for about a year by then and had developed a blurry idea in my head as to what he looks like. Of course he looks nothing like my idea. This was driven home even more strongly when his co-presenter, Bill Thomson joined the group and put his photo up as well. He looks nothing like I imagined!

Just last week, all of a sudden and from out of nowhere, I get an e-mail from Gareth Mitchell. They're doing a story on the programme which he thinks is relevant to our Facebook group and he wants to interview me for the programme. Luckily it was an e-mail and not a phone conversation as I probably would have fainted. I was a bit leary remembering my last experience with BBC radio and how my replies were taken completely out of context and with new voiceovers. But I felt almost as though I know Gareth and could trust him. We wrote back and forth for a while and finally set up the interview using Skype. I was first impressed with the quality of the sound over Skype and then realised just how strange it was to hear Gareth Mitchell's voice coming through my telephone. It's like listening to the radio in the telephone. It was very strange. The interview itself was absolutely perfect and went very well. I then had to wait several days for the programme to be broadcast and then uploaded as a podcast.

Finally it was released and there was a mention on their web site. I immediately downloaded the Podcast, listened through and was actually quite pleased. He used our interview exactly as it happened. No extra comments, no out of context mixing, no superfluous editing. It sounded just like our conversation. Agree or don't agree with what I have to say... that's not important. Let me express myself frankly and honestly without modification is. I played around with the MP3 file and came up with a smaller (1 minute) version you can download.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Rack

Several weeks ago I bought a new computer rack (off of eBay for only 50 Euros!) to reorganise all my equipment in the computer room / laundry room. As I was going to be taking all of the equipment out to put the rack in, and then filling the rack, Desney decided that the room had to be redone (cracks filled; frames cemented; floor, walls and ceiling painted, ...). For weeks now Desney's been working evenings, holidays, weekends and even taking some time off work to finish the room. It's finished and it looks great!

Last weekend we were finally ready to put the rack in the room. The end result was quite painful!. I've been paying the price in pain ever since.

The last part of the installation was to rewire all of the Ethernet cables for the new placement of all of the equipment in the rack. Everything fits in nicely now and I'm very pleased with, and actually quite proud of, the end result.

For those of you who are interested in this sort of thing here's the inventory from the top shelf down:

  • 16-socket Cat6 RJ45 wiring frame

  • 16-socket Cat6 RJ45 wiring frame

  • NetGear GS724T 24-port Gigabit managed switch

  • NetGear GS724T 24-port Gigabit managed switch

  • Cable modems for cable Internet connection and cable telephone connection

  • Buffalo Terastation II Pro
    1 terabyte network disk
    All of our music is on this disk and accessed through our Sonos players throughout the house

  • Iomega NetDisk
    250 gigabyte network disk
    The onsite backup of our server is on this disk

  • Dell PowerEdge 400SC
    Our home file server
    (getting old --- to be replaced sometime soon)

  • Seagate 500 GB external disk
    This is connected to the music server and holds the other copy of our music collection

  • Dell OptiPlex GX520
    This is our music server and distributes music to the Squeezeboxes in the girls' bedrooms

  • APC BackUPS ES 700 & APC BackUPS ES 500
    Uninterruptible Power Supplies
    These protect our peripherals from power cuts

  • APC SmartUPS 1500 RM
    Uninterruptible Power Supply
    This is connected to the file server, the Terastation and the Switches to keep everything running during a power cut and with remote management

  • Hidden on the top of the rack is the Siemens wireless phone which distributes the cable phone to the other 5 telephone handsets around the house and a NetGear DG834N wireless router which distributes the cable Internet connection to the network (the ADSL Internet connection is distributed via the router in my office).

What can I say? A Geek's paradise!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A pain in the back...

Desney's been working on the laundry/computer room for weeks. She's been repairing walls, floors, filling-in holes and painting days and nights for weeks to get it up and running and ready.

All this because I got a new computer rack, off of eBay, and I took all of the computer equipment out of the room to put the rack in. I got the rack several weeks ago. Photos and info later once it's fully up and running.

Desney finally finished the room on Saturday night and I knew Sunday morning we were finally going to be able to put the rack in and I was going to be able to start putting all of my equipment back in to one place. During the waiting period I had purchased a new rack-mounted Smart Gigabit switch and a new rack-mounted UPS both of which I have been dying to put in to place.

Desney helped me get the rack down the outside stairs and we relatively soon realised that even though it fit between the walls it wasn't going to fit down the stairs with the angles it had to go through. We then tried taking it upstairs, through the front door and down the back kitchen stairs. We had the same problem. It got stuck about half way down the stairs. I then had to accept that I was going to have to take it apart, take it downstairs in pieces and put it back together again in the computer room.

Sometime during all of this process my back started hurting. During one of these upstairs, downstairs, downstairs, upstairs manouvers I had pulled something in my lower back and it was getting worse and worse as time went by. But I had disconnected all of the network in the house and I knew I had to at least get everything plugged back in even if it was only temporary. I spent a few hours building the rack again as there were no directions and the pieces all got mixed up. I finally got it back together and it was time to start putting the equipment in it. By this time I couldn't even bend down let alone pick things up. I get Alexandra to come and help and I was able to get everything connected and up and running... I spent the rest of the evening in agony as I could no longer straighten up. I could only lift my back to a position whereby my back was parallel to the floor... no higher.

After a very uncomfortable evening of restless sleep I crawled out of bed, screaming in pain all by myself, and had a huddled-over shower and breakfast and headed down to my office. I knew that if I could just get in to my chair, and in front of my screens, I would be able to work. I couldn't go anywhere as we were expecting a delivery of a compost bin for the garden and I had to be here to receive it. The delivery arrived relatively early and I crawled up the stairs, let the man drop it off in the front yard and crawled back to my office.

I desperately called my chiropractor and was lucky to get an appointment for 16:30. I worked in my office, without moving, for the rest of the afternoon and took a taxi to the chiropractor's. He was more shocked by my new moustache and goatee than by my position. He can still remember seeing my like this years ago. We went through the symptoms and I was glad to learn that it wasn't my sciatica come back to haunt me. It was "only" a pulled ligament and classic lumbago. I couldn't move without yelping in pain so he gave me an injection of anti-inflammatories so he could at least do some placement work. He put everything back in place and I could miraculously stand up and walk. I was still hurting and sore. But I was upright again. I felt as though Ernest Angley had miraculously smacked my forehead and I was healed. He put a back belt on me, the same as I have at home but couldn't get on in the morning as I couldn't move, which held me in place. He prescribed a bunch of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and pain killers and sent me home. He warned me that this wasn't over. I would need to wear the belt for a fortnight no matter how good I felt and I was going to feel worse before I felt better again. I have to avoid all "brusk" movements, can't lift anything, should stay horizontal or immobile as often as possible and on and on. The painful aspects are no alcohol for while I'm taking the anti-inflammatories and muscle (about 10 days) and no sex for about 5 days. Boring...

When I walked through the door I was in pain again. This was mostly due to sitting in bump and go traffic, in a taxi, for about an hour. I lied down, with a pillow between my legs, and was "ok" for dinner.

Today has been OK as I haven't had to move much... It's going to a long couple of weeks...

It ain't cancer but it's certainly a pain!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Our Alexandra the Journalist

Back in April Alexandra wrote to a magazine that she reads all the time, Geo Ado, to let them know that she is bilingual and would be interested in interviewing for their magazine. The magazine runs a monthly interview carried out by an adolescent. Of course who she really wanted to interview was Tokio Hotel. But apparently they had already been interviewed. Alexandra received an e-mail from the magazine at the end of the month and it was a bit of a shock for all of us. Apparently filming was on for a new movie with an adolescent lead and the journalist wanted Alexandra to come with her to Romania for a couple of days for the filming of The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Needless to say Desney and I needed to check a few things out first. We met with the journalist personally at the magazine office and saw that everything was well organised and this was going to be an amazing opportunity for Alex. We ran out and got her the book, first in a series of 5 books, for her to read on the trip and off she went.

This was the first few days of May. I was in New York while she was away. When I got back I got to hear all of her wonderful stories about her adventure. We then started our months of waiting for the magazine to come out with her interview. On November 1st, yesterday, the magazine hit the newstands.

The magazine had already sent us an electronic copy of Alex' pages, so as to see exactly what her pages look like in the magazine, a couple of weeks ago and we had to keep quiet about it. It's a 2 megabyte Acrobat file but it shows everything.

Then we received our subscriber's copy of the magazine last Thursday and Alex was able to bring it to school to show everyone on Friday just before the holidays started. Now it's on the streets!

As of yesterday, and until the end of the month, the Geo Ado web site has the interview, and Alex' photo, right on the home page. As the site will only last a month I've captured everything to an Acrobat file for permanent storage.

As you can imagine we'll be buying a few copies of the magazine today and we'll all be gloating and kvelling around the world for quite some time.

Bravo Alexandra!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Still cancer free after all these years!

As my loyal readers may remember I went in for my second annual PET Scan on October 2nd.

Here in France the results take about 10 days and they send them directly to the doctor who prescribed the scan. Therefore the results should have been sent to my ENT (ORL in French) specialist around October 14th. I therefore start getting nervous around October 16th.

The way things work in the doctors' minds is radically different than how it works in us cancer patients' minds. In the doctor's mind he will call the patient if the results show a problem which needs immediate treatment or verifying as something needs to be done. However if the results show everything's clear well... then... there's no need calling the patient right? On the other side the cancer patient, me, is sitting here nervously waiting confirmation and reassurance that the cancer has not come back somewhere else in my body. The doctor has no idea how important that tiny bit of reassurance is. He has no idea that, as a survivor, I live with the constant, not quite omnipresent but regular, abject fear that the cancer is going to come back. It was such a surprise in the first place that I am constantly suspicious that it will come back and I will not know about it. Probably the most debilitating handicap cancer survivors have to live with is psychological and emotional: we live with the eternal fear that it may come back.

After quite a few days of waiting and getting more and more anxious I finally called his office two days ago (25/10) and left a message asking if he had received the results. He has a new assistant so I had to explain what a PET scan was, that it involved cancer, and how important it was that I get a reply. I then called again yesterday (26/10) and left a message. I hoped that my annoying persistence would get through to the receptionist that this was important to me. I sent an e-mail to my (wonderful) general practitioner last night.

At 20:30 last night my ENT called me and faintly apologised with the standard explanation that if there was any problem he would have called me immediately. He told me all of the results were negative. Just like last year I had that momentary heart skip of negative... that's not positive... that's not good. Then I asked for confirmation and he reassured me that they found nothing and everything is fine. He offered to fax me the results. I explained I don't need to see the medical information, this time, I simply needed those simple words: "there is no cancer anywhere in your body at this time".

TOUT va bien. I can relax a bit with the reassurance that my body is cancer free and I can make some plans longer than a couple of weeks ahead with the notion that I will not be stopping everything to start long and obligatory cancer treatments again any time real soon.


Life is good.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Kiva - loans that change lives


THIS is what the Internet should be about: one-to-one assistance.

Kiva is microfinancing and microloaning. An entrepreneur or tiny business in need of money, generally in an underdeveloped country, requests a loan. We lenders each loan a portion of that amount directly. Once the necessary amount is raised the loan is sent to the recipient who uses it to develop their business or activity and they pay it back in installments to Kiva. Kiva then distributes the money back to the lenders.

Absolutely everyone wins in this situation: tiny businesses and individuals who would generally not be able to obtain this sort of loan from a "normal" financial institution get the money they need and they pay back in reasonable installments; lenders participate in helping individuals and businesses around the world AND lenders get their money back over time; Kiva, who do not take a cut or a percentage on the actual loan, receive donations from the lenders throughout the process.

Microloans and microfinancing: A win-win way of doing business and feeling good about business at the same time.

Big banks beware!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cancer Vixen

I was watching LCI this morning while having breakfast and they were interviewing Marisa Acocella Marchetto for her book Cancer Vixen which was translated to "Cancer in the City" as I'm sure the French had difficulty with the word vixen. The story behind the book and the author herself was quite interesting and I went Googling through the Net to find out more. A successful New York fashion victim cartoon artist, about to get married for the first time at the age of 43, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her outtake and outlook on the entire experience is excellent and I can relate.

I ordered the book immediately from Amazon. But I was amazed to find what I believe to be a large part of the book, if not all of the book itself, published on the web on the The First Post site. I'm not sure why but one can read a large portion of the book directly on the site with all of the artwork and such. For whatever reason I appreciate it and it's wonderful!

I highly recommend what I've read so far to just about anyone. I particularly appreciate the comments on her web site where she mentions her next book which is, as she says "thankfully", NOT about cancer. We all move on...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sell A Band

I found this one while listening to one of my regular podcasts of Digital Planet: What a brilliant idea! Yet another excellent use of the Internet and microfunding. Musicians and performers (Artists) present their stuff on the site (songs and sometimes videos) in the hope of earning $50,000 to go in to the studio and record. Once they're reached the magic amount they are provided with an A&R person and a producer and a recording studio and they make their CD. Afterwards the CD is sold online, 3 songs are available for free downloads and the rest of the individual songs are also sold as downloadable files. The profits for the sales of the CDs and the sales of the song downloads are split amongst the Artists, SellABand and the Believers.

Believers (you and I) purchase "parts" of the $50,000 fund for an artists at a rate of $10 per part (therefore 5,000 parts). In return the believer will receive a limited edition copy of the CD, a portion of the sales profits based on their number of parts and, most importantly, participates in the development, marketing and discovery of new artists. In most cases the Artists actually send some form of existing CD or demo CD to their believers as soon as they buy some parts so the believer doesn't have to wait until the Artist reaches the magic amount.

Sell A Band provides all sorts of tools for promoting the artists on believers' web sites, e-mails and such.

I became a believer right away and you can find my believer's page. After spending some time listening to various artists on the site, which I must say was both a lot of fun and quite enlightening, I became a believer of the group Equation which I quite enjoy. I then went to their web site and downloaded lots of their live music as MP3 files. I uploaded those music files on to our home music server and have been listening to them over and over again for quite some time know. Hypnotic. They then sent me a demo CD with a few live tracks and even a few videos of their live performances which I have also uploaded on to our server so we can watch them on the living room television and on the other computers in the house. I have become a big fan.

I must say it's a wonderful and unique opportunity to be able to communicate directly with the musicians themselves about their music, their performances, their goals, their message, their dreams and to feel like an active part in the experience. In some ways it's similar to the Salon des Vignerons Indépendants, which we attend regularly and loyally, where one gets to communicate directly with the winemaker bypassing all of the various levels of the distribution process.

There are some wondefully positive things the Internet can provide to the world and this is one of them!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Second Viddler video

This is my second Viddler video and certainly last for the day. I really should be working...

This one was recorded through my MacBook Pro just for testing and playing around with a bit of tech.

Does anyone know what the verb is for video blogging? Vlogging? Vidogging? V-Blogging?


I found the Viddler site through my following iJustine in my regular visits through Twitter. I actually visit both Twitter and Facebook several times throughout the day as well as updating them both through the web or through my phone.

Viddler looks like fun and it was incredibly easy to start using. Below is my first Viddler video and I'm going to now try and record another one from my Mac to test out how it works on another platform.

Do I really have time for this? No way. Is it fun? Definitely. Should I be doing this right now? That's debatable. But technological exploration is my life!

Does this have anything whatsoever to do with Cancer? No.

Is there more to life than Cancer? Damn straight!


My first Viddler video. We'll see if, and how, this thing works....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Scarface - 2 years later

I had scheduled myself to do this on September 26th, 2006... but I had computer problems and then network problems and then my webcam broke and ...

This shot is to show off my scar 2 years after the surgery. The goal is to show the evolution of the scar which is especially of interest to others who may, unfortunately, have to go through the same type of procedure.

This photo shows my scar on my neck as of today (October 8th, 2006).

This photo, on the right, shows my scar from 2 years ago just after taking the bandages off. It comes from my blog entry of September 26th, 2005. Quite a few things have changed since that photo not least of which is that I have aged 2 years; I have changed webcams which shows a noticeable difference in quality (I now have a Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision which I am quite pleased with); I have changed spectacles which is not quite as noticeable although the news ones have progressive lens thanks to a combination of age and (mostly) the effects of high neck radiation thereapy on the back of the eyes... add to all of this the fact that I need a haircut and a shave and you can still analyse the difference between the 2 photos and the 2 periods.

I am quite pleased to see that the scar has significantly faded since the beginning and the colouring has changed from a rather noticeable brownish red to a hopefully more subtle redish brown. It's certainly still noticeable but I feel it is a lot less "in your face". The other difference I notice, both visually and physically, is that the scar has receded in to my throat/neck over time and it pulls on the skin surrounding the scar as I move. This causes a sort of pull every now and then, and extremely rarely a slight spasm of pain, but it rarely bothers me and throat pain has become quite relative to me in the past 2 years.

It's interesting to follow the evolution of the scar as this is certainly the most noticeable aspect of my cancer. I like to think that if the scar wasn't up on my throat and ears that most people would not even know that there was anything different about me in comparison to most people... disregarding my other personal excenticitries and unique quirks of fashion and expression.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Second Annual PET Scan

Having scheduled it several weeks ago I knew that today was going to be my second annual PET scan. I can still remember my first PET Scan quite well.

I woke up late as I knew I wasn't going to be able in the morning. But I made this appointment much earlier than the previous one (09:45 this time) so that I could basically get up, shower and go.

I plugged the address in Sarcelles in to my GPS and headed off. Last year I left myself an hour to get there and it only took 20 minutes. This year I left myself a half an hour and there was, of course, an accident on the autoroute and then road construction on the side streets. I arrived about 15 minutes late having been stuck for about 10 minutes only 400 metres away from the centre.

The rest was now ordinary: a bit of paperwork, a 5-minute visit with a doctor who this time only asked if anything had changed since last time, sit in the waiting room for about a half an hour and then off for the procedure. As I walked in to the examining room I realised how much I do not miss these medical centres which I now only have to go to rarely in comparison to going daily just a couple of years ago. The nurse was very kind to remind me to go to the toilet beforehand, which made me feel like a 6-year old boy, as I would be lying down for over an hour and a half without moving. She then took some blood from my finger and put in the intravenous distributor in my elbow.

I was then put in a bed to lie down. The nurse comes back in, this time with a lead protection jacket on, and injects the "product" in to me while saying "this won't hurt or feel hot" and such niceties and I'm saying to myself "If this is so inocuous why are you wearing a lead protection jacket and I'm half naked being shot up with whatever it is you're being protected from?". I'm then told to remain horizontal for at least an hour. Things started going a bit downhill for the centre from this point forward. For me it was easy as I basically drifted off in to sleep as I had only slept about 4 or 5 hours the night before. But I could still hear the discussions around me. One woman was just plain being difficult and then started crying about how no one cares about her and on and on. I could relate but didn't really want to hear about it when we were all trying to relax and prepare for our turn. Then it turns out that they were having problems with the scanner itself. They stopped injecting new patients. But those of us who had already been injected were going to have to wait. Each scan normally takes about 20 minutes but they were now taking about an hour. I lay there just waiting.

Finally it was my turn. Off with the watch, eyeglasses, trousers and earring. I was then placed in the, now all to familiar, scan tunnel and had my arms put in to position (above my head) and my neck and hip placed. I was then told to not move during the procedure which "should normally" last 20 minutes. I asked "normally?" and the nurse explained they were having issues with the equipment this morning and that it may take longer. Laying in one position without moving at all for over 20 minutes is not fun. As I was slowly rolled out from the tunnel I was told I was one of the lucky ones as my scan "only" took 30 minutes. I thought to myself: "you should lie down in there without moving for 'only' 30 minutes and see how 'lucky' you feel!"

For an exam that was supposed to cut out about 3 or 4 hours of my day I didn't get out of there until well past 3 and headed home to eat and drink a bit.

Now comes the hard part... they send the results to my doctor in about 10 days and I spend the interim period waiting, waiting and waiting...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Incandescent vs CFL vs LED lights

I haven't written in a while... but this is just a little something that struck me today:

a comparison between incandescent, CFL and LED light bulbs.

Although the LED bulbs use 94% less electricity than the incandescent bulb they also give off 93% less light. But those CFL bulbs look pretty amazing in these tests. I'm willing to give up 5% to 6% of light (800 lumens instead of 850) to use 78% less electricity (13.94 watts instead of 62.87)!

We hope to start testing the CFL bulbs around our house sometime soon... I'm sure I'll mention it here...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Yet another medical exam

The morning I left for Switzerland (last Wednesday) I went in for blood and urine tests. I had also booked my appointment for today's "echography" (sonography?) of my bladder and prostate. As I mentioned in my entry as regards my doctor's appointment I lately have moments when I have to go pee right away and can't hold it in very well. Dr. Girard therefore sent me off for "la totale" of tests to see if it was a chemical problem, an organ problem or, God forbid, the cancer coming back somewhere else. As he said we will always have to be on the look out for that. I therefore have spent the days since our appointment with yet another worry...

The blood and urine results looked good so it's not a chemical problem. Unfortunately, in my medically ignorant mind, that made me believe it was more likely a problem with the actual organs and more likely the dreaded cancer coming back.

I loved the conflict of the exam... I was having this exam because I have difficulty holding my water. When I made the appointment for the exam they knew this and their response was that I need to not urinate for an hour before the exam. At all. I explained how difficult that was going to be... anyway I made it...

The bladder echography was easy and he let me pee right afterwards. He said everything was fine with my bladder from what he could see. So now I'm extra worried I've got prostate cancer or something. To top it off he puts on the rubber gloves and hits me with "Mr. Erb you were informed that the prostate echography is done internally n'est-ce pas ?" Um... for some reason no one had mentioned that to me. So now I go from having cameras shoved up my nose and down my throat to having a camera, within a rod which looked to me like a male homosexual's large vibrator, shoved up my ass. Oh well...

In the end, and this is truly the moment to use that term, the results were perfectly fine. My prostate's fine as well.

Basically the problem, at the moment, appears to be that I just drink too much water and too regularly. I wonder if other throat cancer survivors have the same problem. It's a standard cause and effect relationship: drink lots of liquids and you're gonna pee alot and often.

I guess that it was all good news...

Now it's back to the doctor to see if there's anything to do knowing that it isn't a major problem...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter VII

Got up relatively early for me on a Saturday and I was out of the house by about 9:45 and off to La Défense.

I got there at 10:05 just after the opening of the stores...

I was heading for FNAC as I knew they would have what I had come looking for. However when I got to the top of the escalator out of the parking lot right in front of me was Virgin Megastore and their entire entrance was devoted to the new release...

I ran in and took 3 copies of the shelves (1 for me, 1 for Alexandra and 1 for Jessica) and then got sucked in to the store... it's absolutely enormous! I strolled around for a while. I had the books in my hands so I had nothing to worry about. I ended up buying a whole bunch of magazines (digital stuff, computer stuff, stereo and audiofile sutff, ...) and by the time I got to the cash registers there were queues everywhere.

But it was really funny to see so many people with the book in their hands... some adults were literally trying to hide the book while they were in the queue hoping no one would notice what they were buying...

I left the stored with 3 copies, got to the car and back home by 11:00.

At 11:15 I started reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (aka Harry Potter VII). Please leave me alone for a few days as it's going to take me a while to get through over 600 pages...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another doctor's appointment

This evening we went for a family doctor appointment. All four of us went back to our old neighbourhood (Paris XVth) to see Dr. Girard who we've known for years.

Jessica went first as she was then heading off to Brittany for a bit of holiday with a friend. Alexandra followed, then Desney and then me. I take the longest...

Most of his comments were how pleased he was that I had regained my original weight and I was looking healthy. We started by going over the results of my last visits with Dr. Hagège and he was pleased. We went over how the visits should be twice-yearly as of next year, rather than quarterly, depending on my CAT scans and then perhaps annually after 5 years. I had mentioned that my goal was to reach the magic figure of 5 years when I would be considered "clean". He smiled and then got very serious. "We used to consider that after 5 years the cancer had been eliminated. We no longer make that declaration. It could come back in 7 years, in 10 years, in 15 years or at any point. Every year you go without cancer the less likely it is to come back. But it is always a possibility and we will have to be extremely careful and vigilant for the rest of your life however long that may be."

Well that host my hopes down and was pretty much an emotional shot to my optimism...

I then brought up what has been bothering me and which I did/do not know is related to the cancer or not. Often, not every time but often, when I need to pee I have to go then and there. I can't wait long. I will not go in to too many details but it's a definite urgency. He went in to great details in his question (flow rates, in the night or not?, timing before and after, ...). I had always thought that it was just because I drink so much water and so constantly now. He is now sending me off for sonographies of that whole area (bladder and prostate), blood tests, urine tests... the works. I'm really looking forward to it... not!

He then examined me fully... when he looked in my throat he immediately said my tongue was still very "hairy". I told him that it basically always has been since the treatment. He said we had to continue to treating it so as to avoid fungus (mushrooms), infection and such. As my mouth is dry, and lacks saliva, it is much more susceptible to infection and problems. He now is going to have me gargling with bicarbonate of soda after every meal and then brushing my tongue with Fungizone twice a day. Something else to look forward to...

I then asked him when we could remove the catheter port in my chest. He said that normally they would think of removing it 2 years after the end of treatment. For me that would be December 9th, 2007. He also said that often people just leave it in for the rest of their lives. *IF* the cancer ever comes back it's one less intervention to not have to put the catheter port back in. I told him I would prefer to have it out as it bothers me both psychologically and physcially to have it there. He said we'll go over the possibility again after my next PET scan results (October) and before the Christmas holiday period.

I explained that my allergies had come back and he gave me a new prescription for the same old tablets.

Next step is to go through all of the various tests (sonographies, blood and urine tests, ...) and to go back to see him to go over the results. There is always a risk of prostate cancer or bladder cancer... but I should't worry...

Yeah... right... me worry?


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nothing but good news

Very busy day today. An installation and a meeting in the morning where I showed up ready to install 2 or 3 things and there were 3 more things waiting for me. I was quite impressed with myself that when I left, on time, everything worked. I was impressed not just because of my usual technological prowess but because I was able to keep my mind on what I was doing. Off to a second meeting, without lunch, where just about everything went wrong. This is for the installation of a new telephone system (IP-based) which I'm overseeing. The telephone company delivered the wrong rack (too big); the telephone installer had just left on holiday; the telephone company (France Télécom) were supposed to be there between 14:00 and 15:00 did not show; the telephone company claimed that they would not have some of the parts in time and on and on.

No matter what at 15:00 I took my Xanax, brushed my teeth and started to prepare myself for the event of the day which my mind kept wandering back to. At 15:20 I left and headed off for my quarterly checkup with Dr. Hagège.

I was just reading my Blog Entry for my last visit in March. The experience was basically exactly the same. All of the same comments apply and even the same subjects of discussion.

The important point for me was that throughout the grueling exam he kept saying "parfaitement normal" or "très bien" or "souple et sans odème" all the sorts of things I wanted to hear. Of course my eyes were closed so I could not see on the huge screen whatever he was referring too and tears tend to run down my face during the exam which blurs my vision as well. But it was still a psychologically great feeling to hear an endless flow of positive statements while he was doing these things to me.

In the end when we sat down for our discussion his first words were "rien que des bonnes nouvelles" (nothing but good news). He then summarised with the same things he had said in March:
  • A PET scan in October

  • Quarterly exam with him in October with the results

  • If the PET scan results are good then I will start seeing him every 6 months rather than every 4 months

  • Visit with my general practitioner in October, if the PET scan results are good, to discuss removing the catheter from my chest and the rest of the evolution of my situation

I left there feeing physically awful as usual but psychologically quite uplifted. Another four months have gone by and I still do not have any cancer they can find and my throat is healing fine and my vocal chords are still intact and functioning.

I went home and put myself to bed as usual. I got up around 19:45. My nose and throat felt pretty bad. We ordered out Japanese (easy to swallow) and sat back and watched a movie.

After the movie was over I took the girls out to the Seine for the Asnières fireworks and July 14th party. The fireworks themselves were pretty unimpressive and disappointing in comparison to previous years. The dance scene was fun and we danced in the heat with hundreds of other Asnièrois for a while. The music wasn't that great and we finally headed home about half past midnight.

Home and to sleep... dreams of a healthy body, my future PET scan, getting the catheter ripped out of my chest, the day when I no longer have to go through these exams, the doctor saying "rien que des bonnes nouvelles" over and over in my head...

And... preparing myself with childish excitement for the arrival of the 7th, and final, Harry Potter book next Saturday!

I am going to be around, and healthy, to read and thoroughly enjoy it!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

iTunes Plus = Same old rubbish in new package

When I heard about iTunes Plus I was all excited. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry I had spent quite a lot of time and money on iTunes songs for my iPods over the years only to come to the sad realisation that my songs were being held hostage by Apple and their DRM rules. At the same time I had ripped all of my CDs, about 10,000 songs, to completely DRM-free and industry-standard high-quality (320 kbps) MP3 files which could be used on iPods, any other MP3 player and (of course) on our digital music library systems such as Squeezebox and Sonos. I had stopped buying and downloading songs from the iTunes stores long ago after experiencing the sour aftertaste of being ripped off.

I was all excited to learn that Apple was now going to be offering DRM-free higher-quality (256 kbps instead of their usual 128 kbps) music for sale. I was even willing to pay the higher price for what I feel I should have been sold in the first place. Although 256 kbps is still a little lower than my 320 kbps MP3 files it was certainly a quality level I was willing to live with for permanent places in our digital libraries.

I finally got around to trying it out. I went to the iTunes Plus portion of the store and I purchased the Corinne Bailey Rae album in the new iTunes Plus format. I eagerly stared at iTunes while it downloaded the files. As soon as it was done I closed iTunes and went looking for the files in my iTunes folders on the server. I naively was looking for MP3 files. Don't ask why I made this naive and, with hindsight, rather silly assumption. But I had actually assumed, for a short period of time, that I was going to be buying DRM-free higher-quality MP3 files. I found the files. They were not what I expected. They are selling what they now refer to as "Purchased AAC files" instead of the previous "Protected AAC files". Although the files are supposedly DRM-free they are in a proprietary format which is not usable by most MP3 players (portable or distributed).

Before in order to be able to properly use the files I bought from the iTunes store I would have to burn the files to an audio CD and then rip the audio CD, as I would any other audio CD, to create MP3 files. Although I would rip them at 320 kbps I was obviously not getting any better quality than my original files (128 kbps). I still had to go through a 2-stage process, as well as the cost of a blank CD, just to get the MP3 files I could use of the music I had legally purchased. The revolution of the iTunes Plus system? I still have to burn the files to an audio CD and I still have to rip that audio CD to create the MP3 files to be able to properly use them universally. I end up with a better quality file in the end (256 kbps). But this is still not as good, nor as easy, as when I rip directly from an audio CD I purchase or borrow. Again I feel as though I, the paying client, am being unjustly handicapped and I still get a better digital experience by ripping directly from audio CDs. Purchasing an audio CD and ripping it to MP3 files is supposedly illegal. Borrowing a CD and ripping it to MP3 files is certainly illegal. However, yet again, the music companies themselves have created and maintained a system whereby piracy still produces the better quality musical experience with a greater ease no matter how much the client is willing to spend to purchase music online.

Lesson learned: I have now stopped buying from iTunes again...

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Shoes From Hell

Some of you may remember my entry as regards my new shoes: Daddy Needs A New Pair of Shoes. A loyal reader of this blog, who I see every now and then, mentioned them the last time I saw her and how she would like to see what they looked like. I then realised I hadn't ever tried them on and it would be a good time to try them out. I had a 16:00 meeting yesterday and then a parents' association meeting in the evening and reckoned now would be a good time. I slipped in to them just before driving to my meeting in Paris. By the time I got to the parking lot near the meeting it had become obvious that the shoes were at least a half a size too small. They are 8 and a half D which is precisely my American shoe size right down to the D width. But, from this manufacturer, that size just is too small. By the time I left my client meeting and was driving to my parents' association meeting I was literally screaming in pain in the car. No one could hear me as I was still driving around with The Who at absolutely blaring volume with the sun roof open. People who turned their head and stared at the obnoxiously loud car going by all thought I was singing at the top of my lungs. In actual fact I was bellowing my pain to the world. I pulled in to the parking lot and wondered if I was going to be able to walk to my meeting. I got there and spent the rest of the evening downing red wine to try and numb my feet. I knew perfectly well that if I ever I took these shoes off I was never going to put them on again. I finally took them off in the parking lot and drove home in my stocking feet. I woke up this morning with two enormous blisters on my heels and my toes feeling crunched in to one big toe. Now I get a bit of a feeling of what women who wear tiny pointed-toe shoes must feel like.

I've never had any problems buying my saddle shoes on the web and I stupidly did not even try this on in America before leaving. They will now spend the rest of their shoe life in my wardrobe...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Who - (a)Live!

Through a wonderful set of circumstances I ended up with tickets to last night's concert of The Who!!!

Basically it sort of worked out like this. I'm on the phone with my favourite client on Tuesday and we're discussing plans for the rest of the week:

I don't know if we can see each other on Wednesday... I don't know if you heard but I'm going to The Who concert.

"I heard... and I want you to know I'm really jealous. I hope you have a great time... I know you're going to have a great time. Enjoy it!"

Oh yeah? Well I've got 2 extra tickets you want to come?

A certain amount of ums and ahs on my part as I'm trying to imagine Desney at a Who concert: "I'll have to check with my wife... but no matter what have a great time. You deserve it. Enjoy it!"

Have a great time? Forget that... I'll see you tomorrow!

At that point she hung up the phone and I knew I was going. I spoke to her assistant and the tickets had already been arranged.

I knew there was no way I could convince Desney to go to a Who concert. But I asked anyway just in case. Desney's reply was obvious. I next thought of my neighbour who is also a big Who fan. But I did not think her husband would appreciate my taking his wife out to a Who concert... it would also be sort of difficult to explain to "the gang" at the concert when I showed up with a beautiful woman who was not my wife. Next choice was Jessica. Jess is certainly not a Who fan by any means. But she likes lots of different types of music and she loves going to concerts. She ever so reluctantly agreed. I got her listening to The Who tracks on our music system between then and the concert. I have just about everything The Who recorded so she had a good foundation by the time we left.

I had not bought tickets myself for this particular tour as I have to admit I was a bit worried as to what a Who concert would be like with only half of The Who. Would it be half a concert? The last time I had seen The Who, which was also my first time, was in 1981 or 1982 at The Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. This was the very end of what was supposed to be their "farewell" tour. I was so psyched to finally be seeing The Who live and as well to be one of the last to see them perform live. At the time Keith Moon had already been dead for a few years and he had been replaced by Kenny Jones. But that still left the Power Trio of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend (one of rock's greatest guitarists ever and probably it's greatest power guitarist) and John Entwistle who I believe to be rock's all-time greatest bassist. That concert started with an opening performance by a little-known UK band called The Clash. Needless to say they absolutely blew the stadium wide open and we were all primed and ready for The Who. The Who's concert was absolutely amazing, one I have never forgotten, and just seemed to last forever. I was extremely pleased to have kept my various natural chemical mixtures to a minimum that night and I remember just about everything of the experience!

Well I needn't have worried. Yes... The opening band was rather mediocre and uninspiring, everyone was certainly there for The Who and no one else, relatively few people got up out of their seats and they had replaced the faussé with seats. But the concert was amazing from the second they started. Daltrey and Townshend came out first to roaring applause and it went on from there. I spent forever screaming, shouting, screaming all the words to all the old songs as they played. They did quite a lot of the old songs from all of their earlier periods as well as from their latest album. I didn't know the words to any of the latest album songs but I was amazed I still new absolutely all the words from all of the older songs. There were a few obvious points when I just bounded out of my seat, screamed along and generally bounced along. After the first 2 or 3 notes of "Who Are You" I knew what was coming and I was up. After two notes of "Baba O'Reilly" I was ready. After two notes of "Won't Get Fooled Again" I was already in a frenzy. When "Who Are You" started I was up and dancing. Unfortunately we were in a seated area and I fear I kneed the face of the guy sitting in front of me... rather fiercely I might add. I apologised and kept going... all the time trying to avoid his head throughout the rest of the performance. These "old" guys were just downright amazing. I was worried that Townshend's partial deafness might impede upon his playing. He was tremendous. Still rocking the house and with power chords which shook the walls. Daltrey's voice is amazingly still as powerful and yet smooth as ever. It's all still there. But the real discovery for me this evening was The Who now have the best drummer they've ever had since Keith Moon. His name is Zak Starkey and he is just plain wonderful. Playing drums for The Who has got to be one of the toughest drum jobs in rock. The drums are such an integral part of so many of their songs. Starkey is the first to maintain Keith Moon's participation, without actually copying him, and especially the energy level. He made the night. He is unfortunately more known by the older crowd as Ringo Starr's son. He should just be known as Zak Starkey: Excellent rock drummer! When he's not playing with The Who you can find him playing drums for Oasis. The concert just seemed to go on forever! They played and played and I was lost in a sincerely severe case of nostalgic pleasure. I felt exactly like I was 22 years old again. It was a truly energizing experience. In the end they did 3 encores and finished with a beautiful duo with just Daltrey singing his guts out and Townshend showing how powerful an accoustic guitar can be. They had performed non-stop for two and a half hours and left the stage as champions and heros.

It turns out Jessica quite enjoyed the concert. She appeared to have a great time. We bought our obligatory T-shirts and stopped off at a brasserie across the street for a drink before heading home. I had no voice left and my throat was absolutely scorched and burning with pain. But I barely noticed it. This was an entirely new, and somewhat reminiscent, type of throat pain that did not bother me. I was actually rather pleased to have gotten to that level of experience. This pain was purely and simply from screaming, supposedly singing, my lungs out in pure happiness and pleasure for over 2 hours. This pain I could live with. I also knew that a nice cold beer or two would help soothe the immediate symptoms and in a day or two I would be back to my normal level of pain and dryness.

I discovered an interesting phenomenon at the brasserie when having our after-concert drink. We kept hearing bits of the concert popping up around us. One after the other people all around us were looking at their cell phones and watching the small videos they had recorded during the concert. It wasn't just one or two or three. We were sitting at a table on the outside terrasse. Practically every single table had at least one cell phone checking out a tiny video clip they had just recorded. Even Jessica had her 30 seconds of souvenir in her pocket. I felt extremely disappointed with my, oh so business-oriented, Blackberry, and even quite jealous that others would be going home with a few seconds of the concert in their pocket. I also quite enjoyed the feeling of somehow extending the concert up feeling for a few minutes more by sitting in a café and watching a few seconds of the experience we had all just shared.

In prepartion for the concert I had spent Tuesday night and most of the day yesterday listening to The Who blaring through my music system. I had also gone around to the various Who web sites. On The Who Tour web site they had some press interviews with Daltrey and Townshend announcing the tour. I watched a couple of these. In one of them they mentioned how they were fighting back against bootlegged copies of their concerts. They were recording and producing their own bootleg CDs and DVDs of every one of their concert tour performances and selling them on their bootleg concert web site. All profits from these sales go to charities chosen by Daltrey and Townshend. It also means that all of us can get CDs and DVDs of the concerts. I went their this morning and ordered my copy of last night's performance. I can't wait to relive the moments with Jessica at home on the TV and music system.

A night I will not forget for quite some time... I rarely feel my age... But I actually felt well and truly young again for a few hours and that is just simply priceless!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cirque du Soleil - Alegría

Today was my birthday present. Desney had bought us tickets for Cirque du Soleil for all of the family for my birthday. Tonight was the night.

We had all gone to see Saltimbanco a few years ago, also for my birthday I believe, and we all found it to be one of the greatest theatrical experiences of our lives. The circus aspect is, of course, breathtaking. But the lighting, the costumes, the makeup, the characters, the language and the simple level of quality throughout were all remarkable. We loved it.

I was a bit worried that tonight's performance of Alegría wasn't going to live up to our rather high expectations. Memories of a good show tend to make that show seem even better in hindsight and I was worried tonight would be a disappointment. Needlessly so. Tonight's show was just as breathtaking, just as amazingly perfect and just as impressive. We all left feeling like we had just lived through something special and I got a wonderful evening out sharing a special experience with my family. What better birthday present could there be?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Daddy needs a new pair of shoes

Most people who know me personally have seen me walking around in my saddle shoes. These are my favourite shoes and the ones I wear most often. They're not easy to find and I have to keep ordering more and more to replace them as they wear out. They don't reshine that well so as they get really dirty they get replaced. I think they last me about 6 months or so. I order them from a specialty store which specialises in saddle shoes: Muffy's. I get them shipped to my mother in Brooklyn who then either ships them to me or brings them on her next visit to France.

For a long time now I have been looking for two-toned wing tips. I wish I can say it was entirely my idea, although it is to a certain extent, it actually comes from seeing Johnny Depp wearing them at some event. I tend to quite like the guy's style. I couldn't find them anywhere in Europe and finally I found some of them online in the States. But I was not willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes. I just am not that much of a fashion victim.

While I was here in America I thought I'd check out Amazon, amongst others, to see if I needed anything that I could have delivered here and take back with me. There they were on the Amazon site and on sale. I had to get 'em! I ordered the shoes last week and had them shipped to my mother with the faint hope that they might be delivered before I left. If not I would have to wait until she could ship them or come back to France. I got the phone call today. Arlene called me to tell me the shoes had arrived. Although I had obviously been planning on somehow seeing her this evening that synched it. We had to have dinner! I am now the proud owner of a pair of two-toned wing tips which I will be wearing in France. This, as usual, will be to the great embarassment of my wife and kids.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Michel Camilo Live at the Blue Note

Just got back from my first night at a jazz club in New York for over 20 years...

My mother and her friend, Hilary, got tickets for the Michel Camilo trio at the Blue Note downtown in the West Village.

The concert was just plain amazing. The kind of night when you come out of the club feeling uplifted. Just plain excellent. The combination of latin jazz, classic foundations and origins, an amazing rhythm section and a pianist that just doesn't stop made for an incredible evening.

The strangest aspect of the evening was there was absolutely no smoking in the club. I have never been in a jazz club without smoke. It was actually quite strange. The lighting was just all wrong and everything was just all too clean. It doesn't go along with jazz...

But it was a wonderful night of great music and great company and an enthralling performance. I left with a Blue Note t-shirt, a Blue Note torch (flashlight) and Michel Camilo's latest disc: Spirit of the Moment.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

3D Printer

I was reading on of my favourite blogs (Life of Dave) and found an entry about the 3D Printer.

This is something I have dreamed about for over 30 years and had even started designing the possibilities of such a device back in the mid-80s (along with the PostScript Sewing Machine --- I think someone actually created that one). It's a tad bit science-fiction and to see it actually work is one of those paradigm leaping moments I so love about technology.

In this article from The New York Times they describe the machine which can create three-dimensional physical objects via the computer. The article focuses mostly on the price aspect and the concept that this will one day be affordable to families and homes. I personally am just amazed that the thing exists and works. I especially like the concept that you can replace that little bit of your machine (coffee, toaster, skateboard, ...) by downloading the print output for it and the 3D printer creates an exact replica in plastic.

I so want one!!!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Another double feature

We have so many movies to watch and only one night left so tonight became a double feature.

We started with The Last King of Scotland which is probably one of the best acted movies I have seen in a very long time. Excellent!

We then topped that off with 21 Grams which was directed by the same guy (Alejandro González Iñárritu) who directed Babel which we had seen and loved the other night. This was an earlier film of his and it's easy to see how he evolved and made his flashback, present, flashback style much smoother in Babel than in this film. This was another actor's movie but again with beautiful cinematography.

Not exactly an "upbeat" evening but excellent movies.

I ended the evening by finally hooking up my mother's DVD Recorder in the kitchen. I only did the cabling part, as it was already about 1 AM, before heading off to bed. I'm sure everything will work tomorrow...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shop till you drop!

I knew today was going to be my only real shopping day. After a very leisure morning I took the subway in to 34th Street and started at Macy's. This major department store on a Saturday when the weather is nice was obviously going to be a mad house and it certainly was. It took me hours to get jeans, polo shirts, knickers and belts. At one point I had to wait 40 minutes to try on a pair of jeans and 20 minutes to try on one polo shirt. I finally gave up after the belts and got out of there.

I decided to head uptown to see if I could find somewhere I could get the necessary cables for my mother's DVD Recorder. Her TV is HD but is old enough to not have an HDMI input so I needed component cables.

I walked from 34th and 6th up and around to 45th and Broadway and back again. I had forgotten how touristy the neighbourhood was and how many "attractions" there were around. 34th Street is full of 'em: Madison Square Garden, Penn Station and, of course, The Empire State Building. Heading uptown was, of course, Times Square and the Broadway Theatre District which felt very much like home. I stopped off and had a Sabrett's hot dog at a stand and about 10 minutes later stopped at another Sabrett's stand for another hot dog (mustard and sauerkraut as always). Although I found hundreds of stores open, and crowds in the stores and on the streets, I could not find a store which sold televisions and audio equipment and such. Eventually, when I had just about given up, I found the Manhattan Mall and in there I found a Radio Shack where I could get my cables.

I practically crawled back to the Subway to take the Q back to Brooklyn where I could finally lie down...

Monday, April 30, 2007

DVD extravaganza

After getting home from the park Arlene started with the DVDs... she'd prepared an entire day's worth!

First was The Departed... which was absolutely excellent... a bit depressing and violent...

Next was Little Miss Sunshine which was a bit quirky...

Finally was Babel which was simply the best movie I've seen this year and probably for quite some time. The story was brilliant; the photography simply breathtaking while still maintaining the over-the-shoulder documentary look-and-feel; the acting was impeccable (underplayed and repertory without any stars); the style independant and just plain wonderful. I'm sure I'll be remembering and thinking about this one for a while...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday in Prospect Park

We spent most of the morning just puttering around and having breakfast...

It was an absolutely beautiful day outside so we went for a stroll in Prospect Park.

I think we were actually both pleasantly surprised with the park. It went on forever and ever with great paths, big lakes, museums, zoo, botanic gardens, meadows and even a special performance of the Universoul Circus (the first all-black circus). We didn't actually go to the circus but it was certainly interesting to walk around it.

Eventually we strolled back to the flat...

Safely arrived in Brooklyn

The trip was wonderful...

I got to travel Business class. I already decided sometime after cancer that life is too short to travel economy for anything over 4 hours. However I am obviously a Business class virgin. I got to the airport and went through the "normal" queue for about 45 minutes to get to checkin. When I got to the counter the woman said to me "You're travelling Business" (in French obviously) and I proudly replied "Yes". She then told me that Business class has a totally separate queue, or lack thereof, at gate 3 instead of gate 5 and I could have avoided all of what I just went through. I laughed and asked if I could still check in here. She giggled and said she'd see what she could do. Off to the Air France Salon where I could get some water for before and during the trip putting some in bag "just in case". The Salon was very relaxing and comfortable.

The extra water was completely unnecessary as the service was excellent. Wonderful seat which reclines fully, 10.4" screen running 6 movies over and over again, good wine (very light Champagne starter and a nice and creamy Burgundy white for the rest), a good meal (foie gras starter; chicken in fennel cream sauce and finally a lovely orange iced sherbert) and sunshine the whole way. It was strange travelling for 8 hours, having left at a little before 16:00 and never seeing the sun go down at all during the flight. I watched La Mome (French movie about Edith Piaf) and a bit of The Holiday (a movie which looks like it was made for TV but made me cry a couple of times which is not a difficult feat these days).

When I got to the airport there was the car waiting for me and off we drove to Brooklyn. I'm sure the driver was a bit surprised as regards the neighbourhood we drove through and to. Mom's neighbourhood in Brooklyn is pretty similar to our neighbourhood in Asnières. We both have a tendency to live where the foreigners live...

As usual mom had food waiting practically when I arrived. Smoked (Scottish) salmon, tomato and mozzarella salad, tortellini with peas and cream sauce... almost enough to make me forget I'm in America.

We sat around watching American television (over 600 or 700 channels!!!) for a while. She's got some amazing televisions (big HD flat screen in the living room and smaller HD flat screen in the kitchen)...

I had purposely not slept on the plane and I actually stayed up until about 23:30 here (05:30 my time) and slept like a baby.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Leavin' on a jet plane

Sunday morning... sleep in a bit... long breakfast...

Then packing and last minute preparations...

Taxi arrived on time at 13:00 and off I go to Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport... next stop New York City!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back to dance class

Tonight was our first Bebop dance class in many weeks. There was the two weeks of school holidays during which there weren't any classes and then there were at least 2 classes before that which we missed either because I was working or absent or because we had things to do on the house or whatever. I used to miss a class a month due to my monthly London business trip. Now we seem to miss one or two a month for other reasons...

I felt like a complete beginner for about the first 15 minutes trying to remember the steps and everything. Then it started coming back and we progressed nicely. Desney on the other hand appeared to not only have remembered the steps but is rapidly improving upon them developing her own very stylish footwork and legwork. Normally I would be jealous and competitively work twice as hard to dance better than her. But for the moment I just look on in awe and silent appreciation. Tonight's routine involved several new moves we hadn't learned yet but which the others seemed to already know. We picked them up relatively quickly and were running smooth through the routine by the end of class. It was a hot night and we had all worked up a pretty good sweat by the end of the class.

I notice that more and more I desperately need my water bottle around me when making any sort of physical effort. In addition to sweating, which is nothing new for me, my mouth appears to dry out very quickly and completely right down my throat. The coughing gets a bit emabarassing at times.

It was good to be back dancing again and great to be going out just the two of us again. I'm very disappointed we're going to have to miss next week's class as I will not be in the country [work, work, work...]


I don't even remember how I found this one. I was clicking on someone's blog and there was this widget in the right-hand bar with a "search this blog" function. I thought to myself: "that's exactly what I want for MY blog". I clicked through and got started.

I created my account, entered my blog config info, created my widget, updated my blog template, tested it out and Voilà!

You'll find Technorati as a widget in the lower right-hand bar in my Blog. I don't fully understand all of the other functions yet. But I like the ability to be able to search my blog directly as well as for others to be able to search and find entries in my blog from elsewhere.

With all of the latest widget editions you may find my blog taking longer and longer to load... my apologies... technology requires patience but I certainly feel my blog is worth waiting for!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I was standing at the café bar (Le Madrigal) having my late lunch (sandwich, a couple of panachés and a coffee). I almost always end up eating late, around 13:30 or 14:00, as I have great difficulty tearing myself away from my desk and finishing things up in time for lunch. I inevitably end up going out late and I often go to the bakery around the café to buy the bread for my sandwich, which I bring with me, as they are often out of bread by the time I arrive.

When there aren't any horse races on the television while I'm eating, and even sometimes when there are (especially obstacles or sand races) I tend to read on my Blackberry and eventually play poker on my Blackberry when I run out of the news. My first stop in the morning and then again at lunch is always Engadget which ahs a great mobile edition which I've been reading loyally for over a year now. After I've flipped through the headlines and articles there I head over to my true loyalty stop: Palm 24/7. I've been reading Palm 24/7 daily for years now from back in the days when it was a site dedicated to Sony Cliés. I wish I can say what one element it is that has me coming back so regularly but I can't. I don't even own a Palm any more having replaced it with my Blackberry over 6 months ago. I obviously still work with Palms as my clients use them and I am still a big Palm fan having owned a Palm, and almost every model at one time or another, since the original Palm Pilot. After I've gone through all of the Palm 24/7 articles, who also have an excellent Mobile edition as well, I head over to the International Herald Tribune. I normally am not a big fan of the newspaper itself as it is basically the equivalent of reading the American news elsewhere. I travelled thousands of miles to get away from the American news and the American opinions and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay to read it. However they have a really good mobile edition which reads well on my Blackberry and a pretty reasonable Technology section. Once I've been through that it's generally coffee time and I play a bit of Texas Hold 'Em poker on the Blackberry before leaving.

It was actually while browsing through the IHT Tech section that I found an article on Twitter which looked quite interesting. Anything with technology and "to an extreme" in its title certainly peaks my interest. I flagged this and made note to look it up when I got back to the office. I then spent quite some time in the afternoon setting up my Twitter account to be able to send/receive Tweets through the web, through IM using my GTalk account via Meebo and through texting (SMS) on my mobile phone (Blackberry). It was actually quite fun. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon Tweeting every now and than and adding what I was doing... I agree that it gets quite addictive.

Now, in addition to Stumble Upon which already takes up too much of my online time, I have a new time-eating addiction: Twitter. By the end of the afternoon I had added a Twitter widget to the bottom right of my Blog so that everyone reading my blog can watch me waste my time elsewhere as well as read whatever Twitterer I am following. As that's the next interest of Twitter. Following other Twitterers as they tweet throughout the day. I hit unpon their Public Timeline section and watched the tweets go by and hit upon Justine's visit to the Apple Store (where I hope to go to soon) and clicked through her profile to her blog which I found even more interesting and added her as my first followee. Now in addition to wasting my time tweeting I am following Justine which I have to admit makes me feel more like a stalker than a follower. Oh... I also have to admit the obvious: her photo was not too difficult to look at in the list of public timeline entries either.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rollerblading in the sunshine

An absolutely beautiful day yet again...

This afternoon I put Jessica's old rollerblades on to Alexandra's feet and off we went to Parc des Chanteraines. It took us forever to park as, obviously, we were not the only ones to come up with the idea of going out to the park on a day like today.

We rollered around for about an hour and a half, including getting lost for half an hour; stopped and had an ice-cream and then headed back home. It was a great break for the day...

I still have my cycler's water bottle system in my backpack which I use(d) for the Friday Night Roller Rando. Although I haven't done the Friday night since I was sick the water system definitely came in handy. Obviously my mouth dries up much faster than before and outside in the hot sunshine is definitely the maximum my mouth and throat can take and requires constant irrigation. The system works wonderfully and I look oh so cool sucking away at the blue tube as I roller by.

Back home and time to prepare for this evening's barbecue out on the terrasse...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Erik Truffaz - Yuri's Choice

This is a pretty good example of the style of last night's concert...

Erik Truffaz - Live at the Salle Pleyel

A night out listening to jazz with a couple of friends... something I've been looking forward to for a long time... Desney even scheduled our holidays so as to allow me to be back in time to go to the concert. Was it worth it? Difficult to say.

The Salle Pleyel is an absolutely beautiful concert hall. It is generally used for classical concerts and it has recently been completely renovated. The décor is quite nice with a certain Art Nouveau feel to it with some very modern touches. However, unfortunately, the seating feels like it has been redesigned by the same people who do the seating on cheap airlines. Where we were seated, although quite well-placed visually (2nd balcony - front row - looking directly over the stage), there was enough leg room for Billy Barty. It was really quite unbearable by the end of the 2-hour performance. The acoustics were surprisingly bad for a concert hall meant for... well... concerts.

The Erik Truffaz Quartet was pretty much as I expected. I have 4 or 5 of his discs and I've listened to them often. I knew what I was in for. The music can probably be referred to as "Space Jazz" although many would call it "Noo Jazz" or "New Jazz". It's a mixture of a lot of different styles, involves a reasonable amount of elecontrica and sampling and mixes jazz backgrounds with hip-hop and pop vocals. I thought I would be asleep by the end of the second song. Fortunately it got a bit better from there on...

The Salle Pleyel has got to be one of the worst placed for a jazz quartet, electronic or accoustic, to perform. The sound was just plain unbalanced and annoying and from where we were the musicians were dots on a blue stage. This turned out to be probably one of the more boring jazz concerts I've been to in a while. But it was still enjoyable. Truffaz mimics Miles' later days in many ways including his stance (head bowed low when playing) and his balladic playing. His breathiness reminds me of Ben Webster. But it doesn't play as well on the trumpet as it did on the sax. When he played he was nice to listen to; nothing overly impressive and his solos didn't get much applause; nice but seemingly lacking for the headliner. The worst part of the evening, for me personally, was the new English singer he's hooked up with, Ed Harcourt, who every time he performed really brought the mood down to a bizarre combination of sleepiness and annoyance. Unfortunately he performed on a quite a few songs. It was great to finally see Nya perform live. I've heard him on several of Truffaz' discs and it was fun to see him performing. He's wonderfully smooth and passionate.

But the real discovery of the evening for me, and what made the whole concert worthwhile (in addition to the company), was the drummer: Marc Erbetta. He was absolutely excellent: kept the night moving; varied his rhythms and styles wonderfully; had solos which didn't sound like drum solos and were not intrusive; just simply a pleasure!


However the real purpose of the evening, for me, was to actually go out and listen to some live jazz with a couple who actually enjoy this sort of thing. Desney stayed home as she would have been beyond bored at the sort of music and instead of just falling asleep would probably have gotten up and left so as to spare herself such pain. It's been a really long time since I've met a couple who enjoy jazz and music and it was just simply a great feeling to go out and be with people who enjoyed the same experience as me. They appeared to have enjoyed it even more than I did so it made it even better! I hope they didn't find me too annoying aftewards, as we all know how long my post-event conversation can be after anything let alone music, and that we can repeat the experience some time soon!


A bit of after-concert sushi and a a lot of talking (mostly me as usual) made for an excellent dessert of the evening...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Our first barbecue of the year

The weather was amazingly beautiful today and nice and hot. We therefore had our first barbecue of the year up on the terrasse.

I think we're starting at least a couple of weeks earlier than last year. Yet another sign of global warming?

The Wii is in da house!

After sleeping in a bit, having a leisurely long breakfast and getting used to being back home I got to work. I realised I had to install the Wii before I turned on any computers or I would be lost in my computer universe as always.

I took the Wii out of the box, in all it's various pieces, and started plugging in. Within about 15 minutes I was up and running and it looked great on the big flat screen in the living room. The graphics are certainly ridiculously cartoon-like in comparison to an XBox 360 or PS3. But the revolution is in the hands. I played with all the settings, created a Mii for each member of the family, set my firewall to allow the Wii to connect to the Internet, checked out the news, the weather forecasts and the Internet channel (Opera browser) before finally breaking open the Wii Sports game and starting to play. I tweaked the Wiimote so as to be properly recognised by the set and started playing. This was one of those "Wow" moments I so look forward to in what's left of my life. I've played with joysticks for many years (embarassingly too long to specify) and love 'em. I especially remember the release of the Microsoft Sidewinder joystick which vibrated as I ran the cars and trucks off the road or crashed (constantly) my planes in Flight Simulator. But the revolution here is for the first time I found myself getting out of my seat to play in front of a screen.

I played tennis first. There I was leaning left and right and swinging fully at the ball. Wow! Next came bowling. A bit of a let down as it required more precision than I was ready to come up with at that moment. But it still had me leaning down and bowling each time. Next came baseball. This has turned out to be my favourite. There I am in my proper batting stand, which for some odd reason I still remember from my early childhood, and I'm swinging that bat (Wiimote in my hand) for all it's worth. I hit several home runs and the crowd went wild... I almost did as well. Wow!! Finally I tried boxing. This involved using the additional Nunchuck which comes with the Wii and allows one to play with both hands. There I was bobbing and weaving, jabbing and punching with both hands and blocking where I could. I actually worked up quite a sweat! This was just plain physical fun and I felt like a boy again (not that the juvenile feeling is particularly foreign to me {g}) going out to play after school. Wow!!!

I had bought an additional Wiimote and an additional Nunchuck so I could play with at least one of the kids at the same time. I plugged in and set up the second one and I had it working in less than 5 minutes. After playing around with the other Internet options, downloading stuff from the Wii Shopping Channel (including a couple of very old Nintendo games) I eventually decided to play with Alexandra. Alex had already played a Wii elsewhere so she had a bit of an advantage on me. She kicked my ass in boxing and the two of us were hot and sweaty by the time Desney yelled the classic "A table!" which is probably the only phrase known to man which can get me away from a screen at any time.

A great time was had by all!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Home again

We have decided we’ve had enough of English meals, English food, English prices and have accepted the fact that there isn’t really anywhere we particularly want to see or anything we particular want to do here. We therefore drove off for Dover to take the Shuttle home. It was an absolutely beautiful day out and we found a lovely village pub and had what was probably my favourite meal of the entire trip.

Back in France we stopped off at a services stop on the autoroute and had what has got to have been the worst meal of the entire trip. We were very pleased to get home!