28 November 2008


THE LOCAL ENGLISH radio station was offering a prize this morning for the best limerick to be sent in via email. The prize was a good one (150 Euro gift certificate for a great little restaurant in Tourettes-sur-Loup called Le Relais des Coches) so I hopped on the internet and made a submission. In the email I mentioned that I'd be in the car with my kids around 8:25 and could they read it then.

At about 8:28 the morning host mentioned that I had sent in a limerick and that I was driving my kids to school. Then he said, 'Unfortunately, I can't read the limerick over the air. But it is pretty good.' This didn't bother Patrick and Julia at all, they were just excited to hear their names on the radio.

So here's the limerick I sent in. What do you think?
There once was a man named Lancelot
At whom his friends would glance-a-lot
For whenever would pass
A wee little lass
The front of his pants would advance-a-lot.
Too much? Come on, you're telling me Howard Stern or Don Imus or Opie and Anthony wouldn't read that? I'd love to blame French radio, but the station in question is actually based out of Monaco. They're so uptight in Monaco.


Thanks for sending all your comments and gifts. It was very nice of everyone to take the time to do it! Once again thanks,
Patrick and Julia

27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Abroad (and Hand Turkeys)

IT'S NEVER EASY to celebrate Thanksgiving abroad. To ease my pain a little I spent a bit of time telling my (mostly) French students about the history of Thanksgiving and why many Americans consider it their favorite holiday. They seemed to sort of 'get' the idea by the time I was done. But just to make sure they really understood the concept, I forced them all to make a hand turkey. That's right, I made 16 and 17 year old French kids make hand turkeys -- like this one:
I wish I could explain to you how much they loved this! It just goes to show that no child should be able to complete 12 years of schooling without making at least one hand turkey. In America we do when we're 6; at the school where I teach we do when we're 16!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends. We really miss spending the day with you. And a special Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans who don't get to spend today in the United States! We didn't have much of a feast tonight (leftover pasta and salad), but we're going to eat a more traditional meal tomorrow night (Kerri's making the sweet potatoes right now!). I can't wait.

24 November 2008

10 Years Old!

NOVEMBER 25, 1998 is the day Patrick (9:19 pm) and Julia (9:24 pm) were born, making them now a whopping 10 years old. Wow! Happy Birthday guys. Here are a few photos from the past year.
Bold With younger brother Henry.

Looking sexy in Giens, France
A few weeks ago in Monaco.
Photo Shoot!
Exactly 1 year ago.
The birthday go me wondering where I was on my 10th birthday. The answer is living in Walla Walla, WA. I asked Kerri and she said was living on Kings House Dr. in Silver Spring, MD.
What about you? Leave a comment. (Grandparents invited to participate as well).

Beautiful Weekend

...THAT'S WHY IT'S too bad that I spent my entire weekend here.

20 November 2008

How's My French? Well, Read For Yourself In This French Magazine!

IT'S TRUE. I'VE been published in a French magazine -- in French! I have the photo to prove it (left). How do you like me now?

OK, it's not quite that simple. Here's the full truth.

I owe it all to our friends over at Les Masson -- a great little blog that chronicles the experiences of an American couple in Lyon (who are also named Jonathan and Kerri, by the way -- but with some slightly different spellings I think). It turns out that Ms. 'Les Masson' works for a company that publishes a variety of magazines in France (I think I'm at least close on this point). One day last summer I got an email asking if I'd be willing to contribute a short little piece for a magazine called Bien Dire, which was running some articles about the 200th anniversary of the baccalauréat. Les Masson reads this blog from time to time and read some of my thoughts about grading le bac for the first time last June. I said it sounded like fun but that I wouldn't be able to write anything in French. Turns out that wasn't going to be a problem because Bien Dire is a magazine geared toward people who live in France who are trying to learn French -- so they have plenty of professional translators on staff.

Terrific. So I wrote a short blub in English and it came out in this month's issue of the magazine in French. How fun. In case you're interested (and I'm fully aware that you're probably not), here is my little blub as it appears in Bien Dire.
Il y a douze mois, je n’avais jamais entendu parler du bac. C’était avant que j’accepte un travail d’enseignant dans une école française Internationale à Valbonne. Après un an d’expérience, je dois dire que, pour moi, la chose la plus surprenante, au sujet du bac, c’est la façon dont les élèves de notre école ont reçu leurs résultats.

Partout en France, les résultats étaient donnés le vendredi 4 juillet. Cet après-midi-là, notre école avait un rassemblement près de la salle des professeurs, où les résultats, pour tous nos étudiants de terminale, étaient annoncés publiquement par haut-parleur. Ceci m’a semblé un peu exagéré. Sérieusement ? Un haut-parleur ? N’oublions pas que pour la plupart de ces étudiants, ces résultats font ou défont leur avenir immédiat. Cela fait beaucoup de pression de partager ceci avec deux cents autres personnes.

Peut-être que c’est la façon française de rester en contact avec leur propre histoire, car je sais que, pour certains, le 4 juillet était comme une exécution publique (la version 2008 de la guillotine). J’espère que ce n’était pas le cas pour trop d’entre eux
Thanks Les Masson!

Beaujolais Nouveau Gifts

WE'RE NOT FRENCH. We're not wine experts. This combination means our French friends love to give us bottles of wine. Especailly today, and especially if the friends are from Burgundy (yes, you know who you are). Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Today's take (all gifts): 1 Beaujolais Sain Bel, 1 Fernard Larouch (cuvée non filtrée), and 1 other bottle from some place in Beaujeu.

Nothing quite like making a bit of profit while at the same time clearing lots of vin ordinaire.


My 'Regular' Bike

IT WAS HARD for me, but I had to do it. I'm a 'roadie' all the way and I've never been interested in mountain biking (or VTT -- vélo tout terrain -- as they say over here). But since P & J are so into riding their bikes, and because Kerri has a hybrid bike, it seemed like a good idea to get a bike that can be ridden in more casual situations. After all, our family would look pretty silly riding down the Promenade des Anglais with the 'dad' decked out in cycling gear on a Bianchi road bike. So a couple weeks ago I broke down and went to Decathlon and bought this bike (left). Nothing too fancy.

And I've got to admit it's kind of fun. Actually, it's really fun to ride on the dirt bike trails. We've taken a couple of nice rides -- one along the bike paths in Villeneuve Loubet and one along the caost in Nice. Both were loads of fun. Now Kerri and the kids just have to decide which is worse: their dad riding with them on a road bike in full cycling gear, or their dad riding with them on a 'regular' bike popping wheelies and looking for all the puddles and jumps like he's 12 year old.
Late Update: I have since taken the reflectors off the wheels. Ditto for the plastic toe clips.

19 November 2008


I KNOW WHAT hijacking means. I also know what carjacking means. But now I'm getting familiar with shipjacking. I know, it's what pirates have been doing for hundreds of years, but can anyone tell me how a group of 7-8 men can hijack this ship (left) which is the size of the Chrysler Building in New York? It's all of the news and it's becoming a bigger and bigger problem off the coasts of Yemin and Somalia.

But how does it happen? On the wide open seas, how do you acheive the element of surprise? And if you have a $148 million ship carrying $200 million worth of oil, why don't you have a security crew...I don't know...ON THE SHIP? You know, brandishing large(ish) weapons that might deter potential shipjackers? I need answers!

Not Really a Day Off

THERE IS NO school for our kids on Wednesdays in this part of France. That, of course, means Wednesdays are the business days of the week -- not only for the kids, but for the parents (Kerri!) as well. That's why I posted the photo in the previous post. Typically, for us:
  • Pottery class in Roquefort-les-Pins: 10:30
  • Music lessons in Antibes beginning at 1:00
  • Tennis lessons in Le Rouret beginning at 4:30

Throw in homework and music practicing (and, of course, the occasional 'play date' with friends) and you have the makings of a busy day. Ah yes, and at some point we try to throw in three adequate meals.


18 November 2008

Serenity Now

I TOOK THIS photo in Monaco a couple of weeks back and thought, wow, that guy is lucky! Then I added my own text.

Yes, it's a Seinfeld reference.


15 November 2008

Hollywood Meets Wikipedia

THIS EVENING WE settled down for a family movie night at watched Finding Neverland, the story of how British playwrite James Barrie came up with the story for Peter Pan. Johnny Depp plays the role of Barrie (brilliantly, again -- more on that later) and the film details how Barrie got to know four children who had no father (they were the sons of a family friend) and used his time with the kids as the inspiration for the classic children's story. The film was terrific and the relationship between Barrie and the four boys was very touching.

Well, when the film was over I thought it would be fun to jump onto the internet to see whatever happened to those cute little boys. I gathered the kids around the computer for a quick lesson in how practical the internet can be when looking for information.

It went downhill from there. A quick look on wikipedia revealed a fairly troubled life for the Davies boys. They lost their father and mother within three years; one of the brothers was killed in World War I, another drowned at the age of 20 -- possibly in a suicide pact with his gay lover; and the boy who was the inspiration for the character Peter Pan -- his real name was Peter Davies -- grew up to resent his conncection to 'that terrible masterpiece' and died at the age of 63 when he threw himself under a train.

And I read that to Patrick and Julia. I think I ruined the movie for them.

Just goes to show you how unpractical the internet can be sometimes.

[Note: I am in the tank for Johnny Depp; and I admit that I was wrong about him. Look, I liked 21 Jump Street as much as the next guy teen, but I though Depp was a punk and was sure his career would mirror that of Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson. Again, I admit I was wrong. I now think of Depp as one of Hollywood's very best. Plus, he spends a good deal of his time living here in Provence.]

14 November 2008

Nice 2018

I MENTIONED BEFORE that Nice is hoping to land the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. As I also mentioned before, I'm not convinced! The new website and logo don't get me excited about the idea either. Just barely average if you ask me.

I will say, however, that the masthead photo for the official website is pretty stunning. Too bad the resolution quality is so low. Quickly click on the website to get a better image than the one I have here. (We live a bit west of the top of the two).


KERRI AND THE kids have already started with the Christmas music.

I may have to hurt them. I'm sticking to my no-Christmas-music-until-after-Thanksgiving policy.

Did Nicolas Sarkozy save the President of Georgia from being hanged “by the balls”

HE MAY HAVE, according to a report in the Times of London. Here's the key exchange between Sarkozy and Putin according to reporter Charles Bremner:

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia, Mr Levitte said.

"I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls," Mr Putin replied.

Mr Sarkozy responded: "Hang him?"

"Why not? The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein," said Mr Putin.

Mr Sarkozy replied, using the familiar "tu": "Yes but do you want to end up like (President) Bush?"

Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: "Ah, you have scored a point there."

Gotta love tu/toi-ing Putin. Now that American politics is over, I'm trying to catch up on European politics. With anecdotes like this, it may end up being more fun than I thought.

11 November 2008

A New Day

WILL.I.AM SORT OF got the ball rolling with his 'Yes We Can video and he is back with a new single called 'A New Day'. It's a catchy toon and you can always play spot-the-celebrity-cameo (keep you eye out for Kevin Bacon) during the video. (Yes, it's a little over-the-top and a hair annoying to have muscicians take themselves this seriously -- but I suppose the alternative is Ludacris or Lil' Wayne). Watch the video:

Now, try to listen to it just once. Catchy isn't it?

10 November 2008

1st Nice Marathon (Marathon 06)

SUNDAY WAS THE first '06 Marathon', a run from Nice to Cannes. The Promanade des Anglais was where the 12,000 runners started. It finished in Cannes just in front of the Palais de Festival. The weather yesterday could not have been better. -- and if I had any guts at all I would have participated in the race (next year, Kevin?).

Kenyan Kitur Jacob won in a time of 2:11:12. [Note: I'm so happy for Kenya -- it's nice to see them finally winning long distance races].

Post Election Downtime

I SPENT WAY too much time scouring the internet for political news in the past few months. I was like a cheap addict -- it really was pathetic. I suppose it's tempting to think I'm just being self-depricating or invoking some sort of blogosphere hyperbole. But I'm not. I was up way to late and up way to early on most days -- mainly because I was worried about the information I might have missed in the 5-6 hours since I last logged-on. I guess this is what happens when you don't have 24-hour news channels. I realized I was now in 'de-tox' last night when Kerri looked at me (during an episode of CSI) and asked why I didn't have the computer on my lap. 'What's the matter' she asked in a rather obviously mocking tone. 'Nothing to look at on the internet anymore?" And she was right. I didn't have any sites to check and recheck; no poll numbers to pour over; no videos to watch.

So I guess that's it. The election is over. What am I supposed to do now?


Spend time with my family?


Late Update: In response to a comment, here are the 5 sites I checked (and in this order) everytime I got onto the computer:

Oops, that's six.

08 November 2008

Documenting our Visitors

KERRI AND THE kids spent the better part of Friday evening uploading photos onto PicasaWeb. Most of the photos were from her brother's visit with his family. We had a great Toussaints break, even if the weather was a bit, uh, volitile. You'll notice that Kerri got a little excited by the 'effects' tool!!

You can see the photos by clicking the photo box at the top of the page. It's the first album on the page. (And yes, we realize these photos probably only hold interest for immediate members of our family -- but it's the easiest way to share photos, no?)

07 November 2008

Le Figaro


This is the headline from an editorial in Le Figaro, a daily French newspaper.

Money quote (props)
"Is there another country in the world capable of surpassing prejudice, stereotypes and racism to hand power to the equivalent of what is represented in the United States by Barack Obama?"
Yes, I said French newspaper.

Post-Election. Now What?

A LOT OF interesting things have happened to me since Tuesday night. Because I'm American and because most of my students and colleagues know of my past involvement in politics in Washington (and my continued nerdish-love of it today), a lot of people have been asking me about the elections. Of course, my first response is usually, 'What elections?' (ba-da bah!)

The reactions to the election from the people I know have been predictable -- most people here are thrilled that Obama was elected president Bush will no longer be President. I have had some very interesting moments in the past couple of days.

  • the owner of the cafe I go to most days refused to let me pay for my coffee on Thursday morning (my first day back at work after the Toussaint break). We've talked politics quite a bit over the past few months and he told me this was 'for America' (consider this is my shout out to Le Petit Cafe on the Place Bermond in Valbonne)
  • when I walked into the Salle de Prof Thursday, three teachers from the German section began asking about the US election process. Specifically, they wanted to know about something called the electoral college. I set my things down and began to explain the process -- starting with the ever popular, 'no one has technically been elected yet' (that always gets their attention). By the time my mini-lesson on the American Constitution was finished, no fewer than 12 teachers were huddled around the table peppering me with questions: 'so what's the point in having people vote?'; 'only the states vote?'; 'why was this system set up?'; 'you mean the elected people have to go back to college?' (hey -- I never said all the teachers were bright).
  • a 6th grader who I don't know walked past me in the hall and said, in a very think French accent, 'Yeah Obama. I love zee black people.'
  • One of the German teachers (see above) asked if I could come to her class to talk about the election. Since I've never turned down an offer to talk politics (Roy Branson will know what I'm talking about) I said yes. It was a lot of fun.
  • A complete stranger -- and I'm not making this up -- approached me at a cafe and began talking about the election. He wanted to know what Sarah Palin's chances were in 2012. Now, I mention this little story because I have been shocked at the level in which the French (and, I think, the world) has been following this election. Am I wrong about this? Has Europe been this invested in other elections?
  • At least four students brought me newspapers! I love newspapers (see previous post) and they thought I might like to have a copy of French papers to mark the occasion. I now have two copies of Le Monde, one Le Figaro, and one Liberation. Those should go nicely with the copies of the Washington Post that various family members are saving for me.

More may come. We'll see.


05 November 2008

Who Needs Sleep: Hometown Newspaper Edition

11:09am. I'll read the Washington Post online, but what I would really like to do this morning is sit inside 'my' Starbucks (4 Corners in Silver Spring) and read the Post from cover to cover.

[You'll have to pardon the next few posts -- just a little documentation of last night. John (my brother-in-law) and I stayed up all night and I think I can say that we won't forget this night for a long time.]

Late Update: The Post's editorial cartoon from today's paper:

Who Needs Sleep 5

5:02am. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA. It's official, the United States has elected Barack Obama as President. They're going crazy in Grant Park.
A colleague who is French asked me the other day if the United States was really going to elect an African American president. I told her that it looked like we would. 'How does America do it?' she asked. 'We love to make fun of you guys for a lot of things, but you really are amazing.'

It is amazing in many ways. The last country in the 'western' world to make slavery illegal has become the first 'western' country to elect a black man as it's President. I recognize a truely historic moment when I see it, and I just saw it.

Who Needs Sleep 4

3:56am. THIS IS THE final pre-election projection map from Fivethirtyeight.com.

So far the results are following this map 100%. That's quite a change from the past couple of election cycles. In the last two elections ('00, '04) the projections and exit polls proved to be flawed, creating a 'self-evaluation' moment for polling firms and political prognosticators.

Did they learn their lesson?

Note: John (my b-in-law) is still up -- we're going strong.

Who Needs Sleep 3

3:31am. THIS IS A really 'inside politics' couple of posts -- just skip the next few posts if you're a bit bored.

But the first Red-to-Blue state in this election just occurred: Ohio. This state was critical for Obama and the road to the White House for McCain now seems completely blocked.

(My dad lives in Ohio and I'm sure he did his part to turn the state blue).

Who Needs Sleep 2

IT'S 2:17 IN the morning and my brother-in-law and I are up watching the election returns. I got a bit of sleep before waking up -- he's been up the whole night.

At this moment we have CNN International on TV, MSNBC streaming live on the internet (I have headphones in one ear), and I'm clicking around between any number of websites.


A bit.

Who Needs Sleep?

I TRIED TO get a bit a sleep because I knew I'd be waking up around 1:00am. I got to sleep at about 11:20 and just woke up at 12:55.

Of course, those who know me know I'm a junkie (the campaigns in 2002 and 2004 cemented that). If I was up for all four debates you know I'd be up all night for this. I'm sensing a historic evening.

04 November 2008

Nov. 4, 2008

IF YOU LIVE in the States: Vote. If you know someone who lives in the States: tell them to vote!


Cousins are Here

A COUPLE OF quick photos with cousins Toby and Seth. They are visiting from Florida.

03 November 2008


PATRICK AND JULIA have been asked by their teacher to learn (memorize) the lyrics to this French song. This is the verzion by Laurent Voulzy: