31 October 2008

Polling the World

THERE'S AN INTERESTING article on the Foreign Policy magazine website regarding worldwide reactions to the US presidential elections. FP teamed up with Gallup to poll people from 70 country around the world to find out their preference in the elections. But the more interesting poll asked the following question: 'Do you think who's elected president of the United States makes a difference to your country or not?' The results of some of the polls are listed below. France makes two of the lists!

Top 10 Pro-Obama Countries
1. Kenya (+86)
2. Uganda (+77)
3. Ethiopia (+70)
4. Tanzania (+67)
5. Mauritania (+65)
6. Netherlands (+64)
7. Denmark (+61)
8. France (+60)
9. Norway (+58)
10. Belgium (+58)

Top 10 Pro-McCain Countries
1. Georgia (+8)
2. Philippines (+8)
3. Cambodia (+5)
4. Laos (+1)
5. Lithuania (0)
6. Pakistan (0)
7. India (-5)
8. Estonia (-5)
9. China (-7)
10. Latvia (-8)

US Elections Do Make a Difference for Your Country (top 5)
1. South Korea (+67)
2. U.K. (+63)
3. France (+56)
4. Ireland (+56)
5. Australia (+55)

US Elections Don't Make a Difference for Your Country (top 5)
1. Palestine (+56)
2. Estonia (+34)
3. Kuwait (+21)
4. Burundi (+18)
5. Saudi Arabia (+13)

Did you notice that only 4 countries in the world prefer McCain to Obama? I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in my family who is at all interested in this, so I'll stop now.

30 October 2008


THAT'S ALL I can muster after today at the préfecture. I arrived 1 1/2 hours early (7:20am) thinking that would make for an easy day. Wrong. My number (51) was called at 3:20pm.

Kerri and Henry joined me at 9:15. Luckily, Kerri's brother is here and Patrick and Julia stayed with them all day.

At least we have a Carte de Séjour for another year.

'Yes We Can' Video

I REALIZE THIS is blatantly partisan -- but several of you have asked to see this video. It's a video produced by one of the members of the Black Eyed Peas that takes a speech Obama gave after the New Hampshire primary and puts it to music. It registers slightly on the 'cheesy' meter for some, but I think it registers higher on the 'inspiring' meter. It's very well done, particularly if you like Obama. When the video first hit Youtube it did more than you might imagine to boost Obama's popularity.

It's worth a watch (and look for cameo's from other celebs -- both in and out of the music industry). I'm curious what you think.


27 October 2008

Monday Matinee

I HAVEN'T BEEN to a movie in a theater in almost 18 months (that's what three kids can do a social life). But today that changed. Patrick, Julia, and I went to Cannes to see...High School Musical 3.

A colleague of mine suggested the idea a couple weeks ago (she has 3 kids as well) and we thought it would be fun. Kerri and Henry didn't come -- partly because her brother and his family are visiting and they weren't too excited about seeing any movie in French, let alone High School Musical 3.

The movie was lots of fun; Troy and Gabriella were as cute as ever; Sharpay was her evil-little self; the music was catchy; the choreography was energizing; and the plot was exactly like High School Musical 1 and 2. The last point is critical because it meant that I understood the entire movie even though it was completely in French.

But the most important part is that Patrick and Julia loved it (Patrick still won't admit it yet, but he loved it).

23 October 2008

(Civic) Duty Calls

KERRI AND I did our civic duty and voted in the US Presidential elections via absentee ballots. Just as I was about to put my ballot in the envelope, Kerri showed up with the camera to document the occasion:

I won't tell you we voted for for. (OK, I'll give you a little hint: it rhymes with Osama!)


Tour, meet Le Rouret. Le Rouret, meet the Tour

THE OFFICIAL ROUTE for the 2009 Tour de France was released yesterday and there are a few interesting things to note from our perspective -- most noteably is that the 2nd Stage will roll through our village of Le Rouret. More after the map:

The second stage (July 5) will go from Monaco to Brignoles and will travel along the main road through our town -- the Rue de Nice. The stage will pass along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and continue on the coast until heading toward the hills just after Cagnes-sur-Mer. The stage will also pass through Grasse, the perfume capital of France.

Other things to notice about the '09 Tour:
  • Two days in Spain -- including Gerona and Barcelona. Perhaps this is a tribute to the Spanish cyclists who have been dominating the sport in recent years
  • A couple of days in Switzerland too
  • Even a day or two in Andorra
  • And the opening time trial (contre la montre) and stage 1 start in Monoca and that makes 5 'countries' in this year's Tour.
  • A second-to-last day stop on the famed Mont Ventoux. That should be amazing.

We'll have a hard time beating the experience we had watching the Tour this year but it will be fun to have the event in this part of the country.


21 October 2008

Why I Fired My Secretary

OUR GOOD FRIENDS Kevin and Lynn just had their second child. Instead of sending us a photo, Kevin sent this email that was forwarded to him. It's worth a read. The subject of the email was, 'Why I fired my secretary':

Yesterday was my birthday and I didn't feel very well waking up on that morning. I went downstairs for breakfast hoping my wife would be pleasant and say, 'Happy Birthday!' and possibly have a small present for me. As it turned out, she barely said good morning let alone' Happy Birthday.' I thought...well, that's marriage for you, but the kids -- they will remember. My kids came bounding down stairs to breakfast and didn't say a word. So when I left for the office I felt pretty low and somewhat despondent.

As I walked into my office my secretary Jane said, 'Good Morning Boss ,and by the way, Happy Birthday ! It felt a little better that at least someone had remembered.
I worked until one o'clock when Jane knocked on my door and said, 'You know, it's such a beautiful day outside and it is your birthday, what do you say we go out to lunch, just you and me.'

I said, 'Thanks, Jane. That's the greatest thing I've heard all day. Let's go !'

We went to lunch but we didn't go where we normally would go. Instead, she suggested at a quiet bistro with a private table. We had two martinis each and I enjoyed the meal tremendously. On the way back to the office Jane said, 'You know,It's such a beautiful day....We don't need to go straight back to the office do We ?'

'I guess not,' I responded. 'What do you have in mind ?'

'Let's drop by my apartment,it's just around the corner,' was her reply.

After arriving at her apartment,Jane turned to me and said, 'Boss, if you don't mind I'm going to step into the bedroom for just a moment. I'll be right back.''

'Ok.' I nervously replied.

She went into the bedroom and after a couple of minutes she came out carrying a huge birthday cake ... followed by my wife, my kids, and dozens of my friends and co-workers, all singing 'Happy Birthday'.

And I just sat there...
On the couch...

Did you see that coming? (We still want photos!)

19 October 2008

Autumn in Provence

I NORMALLY DON'T just reprint posts for other blogs, but Poppy in Provence put up a short post about fall arriving in Provence. It just seemed like a good example of a typical autumn evening in the South of France.

Last night, we went to a wine tasting in a local « cave »…wine cellar. There was a small, but very good jazz band playing background music and tempting snacks (cheese, bread, paté, sausage, olives, chips, etc…) to nibble while tasting the “vin primeur”…I think that translates by first wine, the first taste of this year’s wine after fall harvest.The first wine is not famous for being great, nor can it be saved and aged. It’s more meant to be tasted as a way of celebrating the fall harvest.

We took the girls with us and they ran and played hide and seek behind the big “cuves”…the storage units with the other kids present, while we tasted and talked with neighbors and friends.You know what? It’s cold in a wine cellar. I knew that, but I got surprised by the cold anyway, and have come down with a case of what seems to be laryngitis. My voice is gone. I can’t talk. Looks like I’ll be sipping hot tea with honey and lemon all weekend. I should have worn a scarf in that fashionable way so many French women do. Too late now, but it looks like I need to get out my cold weather clothes, the season is definitely changing.

As for us last night? We went out for Chinese.

Chow Hound

OUR FRIEND MICHEL sent a comment reminding me of a website he loves: it's called Chow Hound and it gives lots of 'foodie' information about good places to eat all around the world. He commented in response to my post about eating Indian food in Paris a few days ago. A couple quick reasons why Michel likes chowhound.com : 1) he found a great restaurant in Nice on the site -- and took our whole family there last November, and 2) his own restaurant -- Bistro des Copains -- has a couple of entries on the site.

But Chow Hound really is fun to look at if you really, really like food -- or as the site say, if you 'live to eat.' Check it out.

Oh, and when you visit Bistro des Copains (in Northern California) make sure he gives you a free glass of wine because you read about the place here.

18 October 2008

Louis-le-Grand and Indian Food

I SPENT ALL day Friday in Paris meeting with representative from other French OIB schools. The meetings weren't all that interesting -- but the venue was: we met at the famous Lycée Louis-le-Grand, the most prestigious public high school in Paris which was founded in 1593 in the heart of the Quartier Latin, just down the road from the Sorbonne.

It's stunning! This photo doesn't really show much except the door where I walked in.

Just to give you and idea of the kinds of people who have gone through this lycée, take a look at some of it's most famous students: Molière, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Robespierre, and all the presidents of the French Fifth Republic.

Not a shabby list.

I stayed (again) at the Hotel Agora in the 1st Arrondissement which I love because it's in a real vibrant part of the city and only a 10-15 minute walk from Rue Rivoli, the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, the Seine, and the Latin Quarter. I should add the it's only a few minutes from two Indian restaurants that I now go to whenever I am there (hey -- it's hard to get good Indian food down here in the South): Akash Restaurant and Safran. The food is very good at both of these places, but my one complaint would be that I always end up wishing the fooding was spicier. I cut them some slack, though, because they are located in France and the French are a bit on the wimpy side when it somes to spicey foods. Am I allowed to say that? At the end of my meal last night I actually told the waiter I liked it with a bit more heat. His response, and I'm paraphrasing: 'Why didn't you tell me? If you want heat we'll give you heat'. Next time!


Best Web Page Ever?

IF YOU'RE ADDICTED to the American presidential race (it's not just me is it?) then this page over at Real Clear Politics will be like heroin for you. It lets you play around with any and every possible electoral college possibility with just the click of your mouse.

If you're not familiar with the US electoral process, with it's complicated Electoral College system, then it won't make much sense. In a quick nutshell: it's all about how many States you win, not how many total votes you get.

Make your predictions.

New Baby!

NOT FOR US, but for our dear friends Kevin and Lynn!
Photos when we get some (hint!)

15 October 2008

Visitors for the Weekend

LAST WEEKEND WE had a nice treat when some friends from DC stopped by for a couple of days. Derek and Keri were on a touring trip around Europe (plus a quick stop in Africa) and they wanted to spend some time in the South of France -- one of the few parts of the world where they have never been. Since they also wanted to see a friend who is working in Monaco, our house was a good place to use as a base -- and it was great to have them! We've known Derek and Keri for quite a while, going back to our college days (and even earlier!). And Keri was Patrick's first violin teacher! (I think Patrick and Julia were as excited as anyone to have her here!).

We met their friend Tara (those of you who know CUC might recognize all these people in the photos) and the 8 of us spent a great day eating (socca, pizza, gelato), walking around vieux Nice, and hanging out at the beach (temps were about 80 degrees!). We even managed to sqeeze in a church service. You'll enjoy the photo of the avacado flavored gelato -- which is at the best little gelato shop in all of Nice; one that we didn't know about until Tara told us. It features over 93 flavors -- including tomato basil, black olive, and olive oil. I went with rhubarb and it might have been the best single scoop of ice cream I have ever had! The kids also ventured out with some new flavors (Patrick had almond and Julia had bubble gum). But let me once again plug the rhubarb -- incredible.

Socca! See, I'm not making it up.
Nice, October 2008

It's always fun to have friends visit.

October Meetings

THAT'S WHAT OUR department head calls them. They are Thursday and Friday in Paris. That's where I will be.

12 October 2008

Presentation is the Key

IN RECENT WEEKS Patrick has started an interesting pre-meal routine. While the rest of of dish-up our plates and begin to eat, Patrick carefully surveys the table in order to determine how he going to design his plate. I think France is rubbing off on him because he now wants to make sure his dinner plate gets high 'presentation' marks before he begins to eat. Here are a few of his creations:
Vegetable Medley
We've been eating a lot of corn on the cob lately.
Indian Curry (isn't the fresh grape juice a nice touch?)
Rice with Tuna, Cilantro, and Lemon
Swedish Rice with berries (a family tradition)
Umm...I think this can best be described as a slice of pizza with salad on top -- not one of his better efforts.
We have a nice system working right now: Julia helps a lot in the kitchen (she made most of the food in these photos) and Patrick puts together the presentation. I sense a brother-sister bistro in the works. Investors?

10 October 2008

The Value of Marxism

NO, THIS IS not a political statement but rather a brief look inside one of my lessons at the CIV where I teach history/economy. I don't often write about my teaching but this past week I had lesson that was -- quite simply -- really fun!

In my Premier class (think junior year) we are studying Marxism as we prepare for a few weeks on the early history of the Soviet Union (no jokes about how long the French make us study Marxism and Communism). Because so much of our curriculum focuses on preparing students for the huge baccalauréat exam at the end of their terminal year, we often use class debate as a strategy to help the students feel as confident as possible speaking in public in English (keep in mind, part of the bac is a 20 minute oral exam in English covering the entire program -- and most of my students speak English as their second or third language). So on this day the students had prepared for a two-hour debate in which they role-played historical characters from the turn of the 20th century. We imagined we were in a cafe in London in 1900 discussing the merits of Marxism.

We had some playing historical figures like Marx himself (yes, I know, he had died by 1900), Lenin, Dreyfus, Teddy Roosevelt, Clemenceau, J.P Morgan, Queen Victoria, Emeline Pankhurst, Engels, etc. Then we had some role playing 'generic' historical figures: a Russian laborer, a German land owner, a Dutch communist, a Spanish peasant, a French Catholic priest, etc. Each student was given a week to research their character and when the entered the class they had to speak from that character's perspective. Each student was given 4 minutes to speak about their views on Marxism and then they answered questions posed by the other characters -- forcing them to, at times, defend their positions.

But what made this lesson fun was that the students really took to their parts. I had Marx talking with a thick German-Jewish accent, Lenin banging his fists on the desk, a Catholic priest defending the importance of Faith, American millionaires promoting capitalism, and a London dock-worker describing the exploitation he (played by a she) experiences every day at work.

Not everything I try in the classroom works. This seemed to work. At the end of the class the students asked if we could continue next week. I promised we could.

08 October 2008

03:00 - 04:30

WAKING-UP TO watch the debates is throwing my sleep pattern into circles. And as usual with presidential and vice-presidential debates, they're a bit disappointing -- in the sense that they have become far too predictable. Perhaps it's the 24-hour news channels and the internet, but I'm struck by the fact that these debates rarely (never?) reveal anything new. Instead it boils down to things like: why didn't McCain look directly at Obama? Why did Palin wink at the camera like a Hooters waitress? Why did McCain call Obama "that one"? Is Obama being disrespectful to McCain by calling him "John"?

Just under four weeks to go. My absentee ballot is coming soon and I can't wait to tick the box for Obama -- for a lot of reasons which I won't go into now. But you can bet I will before Nov. 4.

06 October 2008

Pierre Cardin and Bubble Houses

THE PHOTO YOU see here is of one of the 8 or 10 famous 'bubble houses' located in the beautiful village of Théoule sur Mer, just west of Cannes. We have driven past them on many occassions and wondered who lives in them and why they were designed the way they were. Well, one of those questions was answered this morning when I heard on the radio that designer Pierre Cardin will be unveiling his 2009 collection today at his ... bubble house in Théoule. He is flying 200 friends and media down from Paris for the big showing -- which will take place in his garden on a long catwalk. And in case you're wondering, the weather is absolutely perfect today.

Here are a few more photos of Cardin's house. You can read even more about his bubble house here.

I'll take it. Actually, we have friends who live in a bubble house here in Le Rouret. It's quite a bit smaller than the one you see above, but it is the most unique house I've ever been in. The walls and ceiling are all round and there are no right-angles in the entire house. Quite a difference from the typical house in this part of the world.


01 October 2008

Henry: Not Happy to See Me

THIS IS A photograph of all three kids on their first day of school last month. Patrick and Julia are now in CM1 (4th grade) and so far seem to be enjoying it ('it's OK' is the usual line we get), and Henry is in his first year of maternelle, a sort of pre-K/day care for 3 and 4 year-olds. He is only attending two mornings a week and that's probably a good thing because he hasn't been very...what's the word...enthusiastic about the experience so far. Oh, he loved the 'idea' of going to school (new clothes, backpack, etc.) but once he actually got there the novelty of the new clothes and backpack seemed to fade away. You can see from the above photo that he's all smiles. But if we'd taken a photo 10 minutes later you would have seen a completely different look on his face -- one more like...what's the word...terror!

But that was then. Now, thanks to some creative techniques by Kerri, Henry goes into his class without (much) incident. And he is comforted by the knowledge that his mother will pick him up for lunch in a few hours.

But this week we had to change the plans a little bit. Because Kerri now has a weekly appointment on Tuesday mornings, I pick up the kids and take them home for lunch on that day. Henry was told about this, but I'm not sure he processed it properly. I say this because when I arrived to pick him up this past Tuesday he wasn't very happy. When he saw me at the door at 11:30 he did his best to hold his emotions together but I could tell as soon as he saw me that he was hoping for someone else. With a quivering lower lip he said au revoir to his teacher, put his things into his backpack, and we left the room. As soon as we were a few feet away he looked at me and said, 'I didn't want you to pick me up. I wan't mommy to pick me up.' By this time the tears were coming down his face (but he was still trying hard not to cry) and I was doing my best to reassure him that mommy would be home very soon to join us for lunch. He wasn't buying it for a minute. He just kept repeating that he didn't want me to pick him up.

That's when Patrick and Julia saved me. They know on Tuesdays and Thursday to come to Henry's classroom to meet Kerri (me, on this day) and when they saw us they ran up to see how Henry's day was. Like seasoned parents they went overboard about how exciting it was that Henry was in school and how excited they were to see the paintings he had made that day. And wouldn't you know it -- it worked. Henry quickly forgot about me and began talking to his big brother and big sister about...school.

I've already decided that next Tuesday I'm just going to wait in the car and have P & J pick up Henry from the classroom.

Summer Isn't the Same Without...

AS WE HAVE metioned many times, we had a unbelievable summer -- one of the best we've ever shared as a family. But there were one or two things we really missed: baseball (OK, that's just me), Myrtle Beach, and corn on the cob. The French just don't eat much corn in general, let alone on the stalk. When we arrived in Puivert last July we were so excited to see all the acres and acres of corn growing in the countryside. It must have been feed corn because we couldn't find it anywhere -- even at great local markets.

But here in the Cote d'Azur we can get it at our local supermarket. It's not very fresh; it's not very sweet; it's not very cheap. But it's still oh so good. We've been having it quite a bit since we realize it will probably be gone from the stores in a few weeks.