29 September 2008
France24 has a lot of interesting French perpective in you're interested (and it's in English).
Here's the set-up to the clip. A reporter is asking Nancy Pelosi about reports by Republican members of Congress that it was her speech --deemed highly partisan by some -- that led to the failure of the legislation. Barney Frank decides to answer the question:
Oh no he didn't!
The figure on the left looks like a profile map from a mountain stage of the Tour de France.
Late Update: Final damage: -777.68. Whew! Can't wait till 9:30am tomorrow!
Later Update: During my final year of university I had to write a thesis-type paper on a topic I chose in consultation with my academic advisor. As a major in history with a minor in economics I chose to write a paper that bridged the two disciplines. The title of my paper: "Prelude to Depression: The Stock Market Crash of 1929". I think I'm going to look for that paper and give it a re-read.
28 September 2008
BULLET-POINTS LOOK at the weekend's activities:
- Friends gave us tickets to the Monoco Yacht Show. Incredible. Lots of freebies that the kids loved, and huge, huge, boats. The kids' favorite (and by favorite I mean so ostentatious that it almost made you sick) was a 75-meter beaut that required a full-time staff of 16! The helecopter pad on top was the icing on the cake for little Henry. I couldn't even pretend to want to buy this one.
- Dinner at Stars & Bars. Loads of fun, but over-rated if you want the truth. (see photo)
- Rugby match on TV for me after everyone else went to bed (nothing else was on). Truth is I was catching up on US politics on-line while the rugby match was on. Couldn't even tell you who won.
- All homework was done by 9:30am (!)Sunday morning so we went to a huge vide grenier in Villeneuve-Loubet. In other words: a big flea market. The French love their 'vides'. I was looking for a second bike. Didn't find one.
- Went to the beach with bikes (I had to rent one from a little stand) and we rode along the sea for an hour in Cagnes-sur-Mer (near Nice). It was beautiful and relaxing. Then spend a couple hours at a new beach area we found right near the Nice Airport -- which was a great fun for Henry because he got to see the planes landing and taking off. (It's not Gravelly Point in DC, but it wasn't bad).
- 30 minutes of Hanah Montana on French Disney Channel. [Note: Billy Ray Cirus acts no better than he sings].
- Now I'm going to 'watch' the first half of the Redskins-Cowboys game on the internet. Not holding my breath for a Skins win, however.
Count me as undecided. I like the boldness of the idea, but I'm sure it fits in a city like Paris. Of course, that's what they said about the Eiffel Tower and that's worked out OK.
25 September 2008
Count me as skeptical. I love this part of France, but it seems to me that winter Olympic games should be held in more traditionally 'winter' cities. I know that Torino doesn't really fit that bill (nor does Vancouver, for that matter), but I've just got a thing for small snowy villages -- I just think they make better backdrops for Olympic events (think Albertville or Lillehammer).
The other cities in France that expressed official interest are Grenoble and Annecy. My early pick would be Annecy (wonder what our friends there think about it). France will announce it's choice in March of next year.
23 September 2008
The two students -- Clément Rouveyrol and Sophie Partarrieu -- finished 1st and 2nd, respectively, in all of France and were rewarded with a paid trip to Paris to take part in a ceremony held in the main amphitheatre of the Sorbonne University, where they, along with the other category winners, were given a diploma and congratulated by the French Minister of Education. You can see a full list of all the winners at the official website. (Clement and Sophie are right near the top). The CIV has had winners before, but it has been a few years since we have had any students finish in the top 3 for a category (the highest honor).
Clément just began his first year at the prestigious SciencesPo Univeristy in Paris.
Sophie just began her first year at Cambridge.
Our local paper, the Nice-Matin, had a nice write-up about this with some photos of Clement and Sophie -- but I couldn't find the link. Too bad.
They might read this post, so you can send congrats!
The big boys in the banking sector ruled the world just a few short months ago and now the US Government is debating whether to bail them out -- to the tune of over $700 Billion!
I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand
22 September 2008
First, I was informed that I will have to pass a French language test in May. This test is fairly basic, but just to make sure I can pass it the Conseil General has informed me that I must take 150 hours of French lessons which will be provided by the local agencies. The language courses are not optional -- which is particularly fun because the classes meet on the weekends (how do you say 'do I really have to do this?' in French)? To be fair, it's exactly what I need (Kerri too) and I'll do my best to make the most of it.
But the most interesting part of this process occured a couple of weekends ago when I had to attend a full-day seminar on the topic of my rights as a resident of France. The seminar was conducted in French (although translators were available) and began with a brief history of France, which I found quite interesting. We then moved on to the pillars of French society: liberté, égalité, fraternité. Our group listened for an hour or so about our rights and then we took a practice True/False test together. This test was incredibly insightful.
The first few questions were fairly straight forward and went along these lines:
- 'French citizens can vote for members of their government. True or False (Vrais ou Faux)?'
- 'French citizens can be arrested for no reason. True or False?'
But about 5 questions into this 20 question practice test the questions began to change in terms of their content. Most of the next 10 or so questions went like this (I am not making this up):
- In France the husband is the head (chef) of the household. True or False?
- In France a husband may beat his wife. True or False?
- In France a woman must get written permission from the Marie before taking contraceptives. True or False?
- In France woman have the same rights as men. True or False?
I've told quite a few of our French friends about this seminar and they all are 1) amazed at the new requirements -- most have never heard of this kind of thing before, and 2) even more amazed when I tell them about the practice test questions. I'm not sure what to make of it either. Of course, in the end, I'm just hoping to get my new carte de sejour without too many trips to the prefecture.
21 September 2008
We eat a lot of peanut butter in this family and when we first arrived it didn't take long to realize that the French don't share our love of brurre de cachuete. In this part of France it is possible to find peanut butter in local stores and big supermarkets, but the price is quite high. A small jar can set you back nearly 5 Euros. For the first couple of months we relied on friends and family to send us large jars Skippy in the mail (or in their suitcases when they visited) and bit the bullet when we ran out and bought the small jars from our local stores. But several months ago Kerri finally suggested that we just try to make some ourselves. How hard could it be.
Julia, our 9 year old daughter, decided she wanted to be the one to try to make the first batch. We went to the store and purchased several bags of peanuts and some vegetable oil. Julia and Kerri then whizzed-up the peanuts and oil in a small blender until it was a nice peanut buttery consistency. The first couple of batches were good, not great. But after Julia perfected her recipe we are now at the point where we prefer our homemade peanut butter to anything you can buy in the store. ulia usually makes at least one batch every week. And considering how cheap we can get peanuts, it's a financial positive as well -- you can make enough to fill one of those small jars for about €1.50.
Give it a shot -- here's our recipe (you should even try this if you live in the US -- it's better and healthier than what you buy in the stores!)
- 500g peanuts (salted)
- 6-8 T oil (this is really up to you -- more or less depending on how you like it)
- pinch of brown sugar (optional -- you could also use another sweetener)
That's it. Start by blending the peanuts; then add the oil in small amounts until you have the creaminess you desire. If you like crunch peanut butter begin adding the oil before the peanuts are too blended. Since the peanuts are salted, there is no reason to add more salt.
We've been making our own 'American foie gras' for about 6 months now. I don't know why I haven't mentioned it before.
Henry skippering his first yacht
Lounging on a motor boat at the Cannes Yacht show.
The yacht I pretended to be interested in.
18 September 2008
Stock (% of Portfolio)
Bear Stearns (15%)
Lehman Bros. (18%)
American Insurance Group (AIG) (16%)
Merrill Lynch (17%)
Halifax Bank of Scotland (21%)
Thigh Master, Inc. (17%)
That's why diversification is so important. We should be fine.
17 September 2008
After being rejected by three or four yachts (they literally told us we could not go on board to look around) we finally found a 29 meter beauty made by Marquis Yachts (based in Wisconsin!) that allowed the whole family on board. After filling out a brief questionaire that tried to gauge my interest in buying a new boat (I checked 'very interested') we boarded and met our sales representative, a very nice man from Switzerland named Mark. From that moment on I was in full bull***t mode -- asking questions about the captain's bridge, water displacement stats, fabrication materials, and (my favorite) financing options. Throughout the tour I took special interest in the details of both the interior and exterior of the vessle.
The kids weren't paying attention because they were exploring the 5 cabins, 4 bedrooms, and watching the 52-inch flatscreen television in the living room (it's not called a living room is it?) But Kerri heard most of my conversation with Mark and was doing all she could to suppress her the horror and embarrassment. When I asked about details of their 10-year lease program she had to leave the room.
But it was so worth it. I think they would have let us board even if I didn't pretend to be really interested -- and there were several super yachts that seemed willing to let a family poke around. But it was so much more fun to pretend like I was really interested. I'm sure Mark was on to me from the very beginning, but I give him high marks for playing along. He gave me the full Serious Buyer tour and, if nothing else, that was kind of fun.
By the way, total cost for this particular yacht: $5.5-$6 million. I thought about asking if they had anything in the $10-$20 thousand range, but decided against it.
Update: can't find the cord for my camera at the moment. Our photos are coming. Meanwhile you can see the yacht we toured above. Image from Marquis Yachts.
12 September 2008
Augh. Parents. So many questions about every little thing -- and so many questions that are poorly veiled indications that they think the teachers are complete morons. Even with my limited French I could understand that most of the questions were actually suggestions of how to do things better. Just what teachers want to hear 2 weeks into the year. This evening reminded me of one of the main reasons why public (and private, for that mater) education has so many problems: the PTA!!
Oh, settle down, I'm (partly) joking. Parents are a critical part of a good education -- but they serve the needs of children best when they are working with the school, not against it. Believe it or not, teachers and administrators often think things through and have fairly good reasons for their teaching methods and policies. Not always, but most of the time. I understand the need to ask questions, but parent-teacher night should turn into an inquisition. This evening there was one parent who must have asked 25 questions, most of them with an aire of superiority. After the meeting I was so irritated with her I wanted to go up and snap the elastic waistband of her jeans.
[Note: full disclosure forces me to remind you that I am a teacher. It also forces me to remind you that Sarah Palin is a risky pick for VP not because she has no experience, distorts the truth, or is facing ethics charges in her home state. No, she's risky because her political career started in the PTA.
Simmer down...still (mostly) joking.]
But this short video clip gave me all the cheering up I needed. You'll have to tell me if this is satarizing athletes, sports reports, or sports anchors. (You don't really need to know American football to get it). I think it's pretty good bit:
Pre-Game Coin Toss Makes Jacksonville Jaguars Realize Randomness Of Life
11 September 2008
- It was a beautiful, cool morning with virtually no clouds in the sky
- I heard the news while sitting at my desk. A colleague came and asked if I had heard that a plan hit the World Trade Center. I assumed it was a small private plane or something like that, but I wasn't sure so I went to the library where a few other teachers were huddled around a small television. We saw the second plan hit and instinctively knew something was terrible wrong.
- I've got to call Kerri.
- The planes hit around 9:00am and my first class (Freshman!) was at 9:30. We had televisions in every room so I briefly explained the situation and we began to watch.
- The televisions were all set to Fox News.
- My dear friend Kevin called sometime before 10:00. He was travelling into DC from Northern Virginia. Our call was cut off.
- Moments later Fox News reported that smoke was billowing up from the Pentagon.
- I was sitting in a classroom about 15km from the Pentagon. Kevin had just driven past the Pentagon.
- When the first tower collapsed (the unthinkable had happened) I turned off the television, turned to my students, and asked if someone wanted to pray. At that moment I thought the death toll was going to be in the 10s of thousands.
- My students began to get scared when the news reported that some planes were still unaccounted for and that it was believed some might headed to Washington.
- Kevin finally got out of downtown DC and met me at my school where we watched the coverage together with my students.
- Parents began arriving to pick up their kids.
- One student wondered if the day's events meant we wouldn't have homework.
- Kerri and the kids had just dropped-off her parents at the airport -- they were scheduled to fly to California that morning. They never got on the plane.
- An incredibly lound noise briefly got my heart-rate up, until I realized it was fighter jets patrolling the skies.
- My goodnes, I have friends who live in New York!
- The television footage that afternoon was stunning. I remember the doctor who almost got smothered by the debris.
- The firemen. The police. The rescue workers. The slight humming sound (which I later learned were the alarms that firemen wore that go off if they remain motionless for a long period of time)
- The looks on the faces of New Yorkers are they fled the south part of Manhattan island.
- This photograph of a NY fireman walking up one of the towers as others were walking down. The fireman had walked up nearly 50 floors when this photo was taken
I could go on and on. Even as I write I think of other things. As the day stretched to a week there are other things that stick out in my head: the very quite skies (my in-laws live fairly close to an airport so there normally a lot of air traffic -- but for a week there was nothing); the lack of commercials on television (I think the first station that went to commercial break took that break nearly 5 days after the attacks); the worry that it might happen again; wanting to get a newspaper that I could keep forever.
09 September 2008
That's actually not that bad when you pronounce it in French. But I had a classlist generated in English and therefore it did not have the accent over the last 'e'. That made for a rather awkward moment during the first day of class.
Trust me, the accent really helps.
06 September 2008
05 September 2008
Kerri went to pick up the kids from school for lunch as she usually does when one of Patrick's friends came running saying that Patrick had fallen. Kerri wasn't too worried -- it's not like kids don't fall from time to time. When she arrived at the scene Patrick was been helped by a couple of teachers who had managed to put some bandages around his right knee had the bleeding under control (although there was quite a bit blood running down his leg). The teachers suggested a trip to the doctor to check it out.
I'll make this longish story short by cutting to the chase. The docter sent Kerri and all the kids to a hospital in Cagnes-sur-Mer where Patrick received 5 stiches to close the wound. And he wouldn't be happy with this post unless I mention that he also received 2 larges doses of iodine ('worst pain ever,' were his exact words) and a numbing shot directly into the wound -- with no laughing gas ('worst pain ever, except for the iodine', were his exact words). But he did great in the hospital and dealt with the whole situation very well. He was also thrilled to learn that his dad has never received a stich in his life.
Since this is our first real brush with French health-care system I must point out that Kerri was pretty impressed with the whole ordeal. The trip to the doctor was great; the trip to the hospital was great; the paperwork was minimal (virtually none); and the cost was 105 Euros -- which we'll get back via direct deposit into our bank. That Michael Moore might be on to something.
We are American, however, so we're checking with some attorneys to see if we can sue anyone!
04 September 2008
I know it's not just the right-wing guys. When are people going to realize that paying these blowhards to talk on TV is a waste of money. Oh wait. I forgot. There's the entertainment value.
Here's Vanity Fair's estimate:
Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000This just makes me wish even more that Obama wasn't so elitist!
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000-$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100
03 September 2008
01 September 2008
But the whole 'buyingclothes' thing reminds me of what my brother-in -law John and I used to do in high school (yes, we knew each other in high school). Because we were very smart, we thought it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of new clothes (Generra when possible) but not wear them until the second week! You see, all the other kids would bust out their new threads during the first week of school, forcing them to revert to their old clothes (or--gasp--re-wear the new ones) during the second week. Meanwhile, John and I would strut through the hall on week two wearing all new digs. And, as you have guessed by now, this made us look incredible cool and made the other kids envious. Did we know how to 'do' high school or what?
Oh, we did have one exception to the rule: we could break out the Sperry's during the first week.
I tried to convice P&J to hold off on the new clothes until next week, but no luck. I guess they don't want to be cool.
I just took one. Man, I can't wait to get back into our house.