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!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Oxford to Brighton

Although the hotel was supposed to have WiFi Internet access in the rooms themselves their entire Internet access system was not working. I had to go for a long walk last night, to a cyber café, to connect to the Internet. Luckily I can carry just about everything I need on my USB key.

Today we walked around Oxford and Jessica decided that she didn’t want to go to Oxford or Cambridge either… too posh, too classical and too traditional. Again it was worth the trip even if only to eliminate!

We had decided in the morning where we were going next and had booked a hotel through at the Internet café. We therefore took a relatively long drive down to Brighton. We stopped off along the way at has to be one of the most amazing garden centres we’ve ever seen (Shoots). It was at least four to eight times bigger than anything of the same type in France! We spent quite some time browsing around and then back on the road. It turns out the hotel wasn’t in Brighton itself but rather a 45-minute walk away. We strolled down the Brighton boardwalk (or cement walk as the case should be) and walked through what has to be the most touristy town I’ve seen in the UK. We had a rather mediocre, but still over-priced, meal at a fish restaurant and visited the Brighton pier simply to be able to say “Been there… done that.”

Thursday, April 12, 2007


We headed off to Loughborough University for our first ever visit to a university as parents. Jessica is interested in reading International Relations at a university in the UK. Although she doesn’t have to apply until next year we thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we were in England to start the looking process. Loughborough is a very highly-rated university and with a big international relations department. It’s in a relatively small town but the campus is quite big. We met with the head of the department and had a great meeting. We learned quite a lot about the international relations course structure in their university as well as what it’s like in many of the other universities. The entire trip was worth it even if only to determine that this is probably not the university that Jessica wants to go for. The relatively isolated small-town location didn’t help. But the fact that their international relations department is very European-oriented rather than global or truly foreign made it much less interesting to Jessica. She'll be looking at international relations and politics and possibly African studies... elsewhere in the UK.

We left there with no idea where we were headed. Eventually we decided, in the car and on the road, to head for Oxford. We got to Oxford, got a hotel room through the tourist office, and headed in to town to walk around. Of course the girls went shopping in the various women’s departments of the many shops. I tagged along…

We eventually had a very early but yet another over-priced and rather mediocre meal in an Italian restaurant.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shopping... again...

Shopping again today. This time in (Royal) Leamington (Spa). Just for the hell of it I also asked in shop after shop to see if they had a Wii… same story everywhere. Sold out! I felt so pleased with the Wii which was waiting for me in the bedroom…

We finished the evening with what was one of the best meals I've had in England. All of us went out to a lovely little Italian restaurant in Leamington itself. The food was delicious. The service was a bit slow, even for French standards, but the meal was worth it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In search of the Wii

We went shopping in Coventry. My 3 ladies were doing girlie shopping so I was left to my own. I went searching for a Wii console. I had already tried to buy one in France and couldn’t find anyone in stock anywhere. I was told they were simply sold out for the whole country and would not be available again until May. I therefore was determined to get on in England. I soon heard the same story there as well. I went from store to store: game console specialty shops, electronics shops, megastores and such and they all had the same response. None in stock. After my 13th store I had basically given up and was on my way back to meet the girls when I found yet another game console store aptly named Game. I went in my 14th store as it was on my way back and there they were… there were 3 consoles behind the counter! I jumped on the queue at the register assuming that the people in front of me had to be buying something else. Otherwise I would have done the French thing and just cut the queue. I saw one of the three be sold. There were 2 consoles left and one person in front of me. He couldn’t possibly be buying a Wii console as well. This place sells XBox 360s, PS2s and they even had the new PS3s in stock. He asked for the Wii console… he actually asked for two of them! I interrupted and asked if he would be kind enough to allow me to purchase one of them and pumped him with my long sob story (over from France, impossible to find, been through 14 stores already, family desperate and counting on me, …). Nothing worked. Finally the clerk behind the counter very kindly interjected “We have a very limited supply. Limit to one per family.”. I eventually walked out with the Wii in the bag and literally skipped up the street!


We went to see my brother in-law today. His family seems to get bigger each time we go and he works like a mad man to keep them all fed, housed and dressed. When we left his place I remembered how I’ve always found it interesting how different the accents are of Desney and her siblings. Her brother’s accent, and his wife’s accent, are completely different than hers. Her sister’s accent, although somewhat similar to her brother’s, is completely different than hers. Their father’s and mother’s accent are completely different from each other, which is normal as they come from two different countries, and completely different from those of their children.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Monday?

Although I got up late I actually spent most of the day in front of my computer and on the phone. I had brought a long Ethernet cable with me so I could plug in from the dining room. Not as restful an Easter Monday as I would have hoped for as it’s not a holiday Monday in the States amongst other places where my clients and suppliers lurk.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jolly ole England

We spent Easter Sunday travelling… We left reasonably late and were on the road by about noon. We stopped for lunch along the way, our last French meal for a while, and then Calais, put the car on the Shuttle, under the Chunnel and off to England. When we got to Calais we had practically no petrol left, the light on the dashboard was blinking and we were actually at the beeping stage when we got to the Shuttle ticket booth. We had two surprises: there was no where to get petrol once at the ticket booth until the other side of the channel and the ticket price was much more expensive than it was when pre-purchased on the Internet. We had no choice in both matters and just crossed our fingers…

We got petrol on the other side and drove up, around London and up towards Leamington. We stopped off at the first services wee could but that was hours from Ashford. We finally arrived at the family home in Whitnash at around 23:00. Long trip…

Monday, April 02, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday dear me,
Happy Birthday to me

and many more!

I've made it this far! WHEN I make it to my next birthday (45) I will be well past the "2 years after treatment" hurdle and will have already beaten a good portion of the odds. Of course when I turn 48 I'll be well past the "5 years after treatment" hurdle and many of the medical profession will consider me cured.

Another year gone by... onwards and upwards!