29 November 2009

Sick Sick Sick

SEEMS LIKE AT least one person has been sick in our house for about a month. Right now three of us are still feeling pretty bad. At times it feels like we're living on a petri dish -- just a house full of germs mutating into new germs mutating in new germs mutating into new germs.

At the local school there was one class that had eleven students missing due to sickness last Friday. Three of those are now confirmed Swine Flu so I assume they'll keep that class home for the required seven days. Patrick and Julia are not in that class, but many of their friends have siblings who are. At my own school we've had a huge number of students calling in sick. Two students were recently hospitalized with Swine Flu (although both are now fine and back in school).

I read that the Alps-Maritimes (where we live) has had the the highest number of people with Swine Flue and the highest rate of school closures in all of France. Anyone know why? Kerri is sitting next to me and just suggested it might have something to do with the amount of traveling done by people who live here (keep in mind that a relatively high percentage of people live here but work elsewhere -- like in Paris, London, Geneva, and Zurich, for example -- so there are a lot of people cramped on planes every week).

Well, in some ways it might be a long winter.

Julia's Turn cont...

WE'RE BACK FROM a very successful birthday party for Julia. Despite the cancellations (see previous post) about 10 of us had a great time ice-skating in Nice. Even the adults had fun -- right, Jerome? (On a very selfish note, it was amazing to get back on the ice for the first time in a long while. So much fun).

As part of the Party Package we got a little party during the skating and Kerri and I were quite impressed by the quality of the cake that was served. There is a photo below but I'm sure it won't do it justice. We're talking super super good. Expensive, but really good. We should have known that the French would take dessert seriously. Anyway, the kids all had fun -- despite the fact that a few were missing because of various illnesses.

Laurine and Sarah hit the ice.

Laurine, Julia, and Deborah

See, doesn't that cake look good. It was!

Who's that guy hogging all the Cool?

Henry was skating on his own within about 10 minutes.

Why does everyone love the Zamboni?

Gifts!!

All done for another year of birthdays for the twins. We learned a long time ago that the key to great birthday parties is not to have them at your house!! This year we once again had a great time celebrating with Patrick, Julia and their friends.

Julia's Turn

LAST SUNDAY WE had a party for Patrick and his friends (see below) and today's it Julia's turn. We're headed to Nice to go ice-skating with about 3 or 4 of her friends. It was supposed to be 5 or six of her friends, but several have come down with Swine Flu or some other sickness so we'll have to make it up to them some other time.

(Kerri literally just walked in to tell me that another friend won't be coming because...you guessed it. Sick! So it may just be a family outing to the skating rink by the time this thing gets going. Too bad for Julia though, she's feeling a bit sad).

Photos coming -- especially of me since I'll be Rockin' the Red on the rink in my Ovechkin t-shirt.

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

KERRI AND I have always maintained that Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday so it's always difficult to be away from family and friends on the fourth Thursday of November. We've celebrated the holiday with friends here in France (last weekend) and we'll have our own family Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow evening...

...but we all know that it's not quite the same.

Our immediate family used to share the day together almost every year at Kerri's parents house. This year our family will be spread out throughout the US -- Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, California...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Or as a colleague said to me yesterday: "Appy Zanksgiving".

CJS

24 November 2009

One One

HARD TO BELIEVE, but we have kids that are 11 years old. Twins, no less. Patrick and Julia were born on the day before Thanksgiving in 1998. This year they'll celebrate their birthday the same way -- on the day before Thanksgiving. (Note: Kerri and I are celebrating today too-- it's been about 11 years since we've been to a movie; about 11 years since we've taken a Saturday afternoon nap; about 11 years since we've relaxed together on a weekday evening; and about 11 years since we've slept-in in the morning). Ah, but these pictures remind us it's mostly totally worth it:
Giens, France 2007
First visit to Cannes, Sept 2007A 'revisit' to Paris, 2009 (with their favorite drinks)Jardin du Luxembourg, 2009
Sharing a banana split at a Paris cafe, 2009
Cowboy Logic - 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GUYS! Mommy and Daddy (and Henry) love you very much.
CJS

Getting Cozy with Sarkozy

WHILE WATCHING THE news a couple days ago I saw a segment on, of all things, The Simpsons. Apparently, all of France is excited about this clip -- it's a huge hit on YouTube. It's worth it for the Sarkozy line near the end.

Geeky Browser Information

THIS IS JUST random, moderately interesting information. A few years ago Internet Explorer dominated the web. Now there is stiff competition from the likes of Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, etc. So I was doing a quick search regarding this site and found the following information regarding people who read this blog. Looking at the last 500 unique hits to this site, the following browsers were used the most often:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 7 - 26%
  • Mozilla Firefox 3.5.5 - 15.6%
  • Mozilla Firefox 3.0.1 - 14.8%
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 6 - 13%
  • Safari 4.0.4 - 9.6%
  • Safari 4.0.3 - 5.4%
  • Google Chrome - 1%
There, wasn't that interesting? Personally, I almost always use Firefox.
CJS

23 November 2009

TV Tonight

MAN VS. WILD is on French television. Fantastic news! I love this show. It's a show produced by the Discovery Channel and I feel some loyalty to that channel since their headquarters is in Silver Spring, MD -- about 1 mile from the house we own in the US.
CJS

Birthday Party: Take One

WHEN YOU HAVE twins, sooner or later it becomes evident that one birthday party simply will not due. The 'joint party' works great for about 7 or 8 years -- but by the 11th there is no thought given to having a party together. With that established, we had Patrick's birthday party on Sunday afternoon down in a beautiful section of Sophia Antipolis/Biot near the Pont de Tamarin -- a great wooded section in the forêt des Brague with hiking trails and a very pleasant stream. Of course, the kids immediately got soaked trying to cross the stream and catch fish. One of the boys actually fell completely into the water, soaking his entire body. Jeez. Luckily, we played some American football to help everyone dry off. A couple of the kids really, really liked football and wanted to play and play and play. We finally had to take a break so that Patrick could open his gifts -- which were Legos. And what I mean by that is...everyone bought him Legos. And he could not have been happier! A few photos: (odd lighting for these photos: flash made it too light, no flash a bit dark. That's what happens on a cloudy day in the woods I guess.)





Let's see if I can remember all the names. From left to right is: Clement, Nicholas, another Nicholas (in tree), Patrick, Xavier, Sebastien, Quentin, Luc, and Henry.

Next weekend it's ice-skating with Julia's friends.
CJS

Some dinner photos

JUST A COUPLE of photos from our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday night.

The kid's table (and the chef)
The pride of central Michigan: the chef with his first turkey.
A little stuffing.
Getting ready for some Pumpkin pie.

And that was just part of our 'American' evening.
CJS

22 November 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

HAD IT LAST night with a group of American colleagues. The works: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, various pies, cake, and the list goes on. I took lots of photos which will have to go up later.

But a big thanks to Sean for doing almost all the cooking and to Kristi for opening up her house.

Out taste buds were very much satisfied.
CJS

18 November 2009

'France Has Their Ticket in Hand'

GREAT HEADLINE AT the French national sports newspaper, Lequipe:

LA FRANCE A SON TICKET EN MAIN


To understand why this is great, you need to understand that France just qualified for the World Cup (see next post) and did so thanks in part to a horrible non-call by the officials. In overtime, Theirry Henry clearly played the ball with his left hand in the box just before setting up the equalizing goal -- a goal which put France up 2-1 on aggregate. That's the way the game ended and France is going to South Africa.

Everyone seems to have seen it except the officials. Ireland probably deserved better.
CJS

Settling In For Some Football

AND THIS TIME I don't mean American football. I've just poured a cup of coffee and am about to watch the biggest soccer game France has played since the 2006 World Cup Final. If France can beat or draw Ireland tonight, they will qualify for the 2010 World Cup. If Ireland can win, they will claim the spot and France will miss the tournament. While France is not the dominate team they were a few years ago, they are still clear favorites against Ireland -- especially after winning the first leg of the match 1-0 last Saturday evening in Dublin. Tonight's game is being played in Paris.

This is about as good as it gets for me -- qualifiying matches for the World Cup. I'd rather be watching baseball, American football, or hockey, but I'll take this -- mainly because games like the one tonight have something that American sports rarely get: important games that pit country against country. For France this is a moment of national unity; for Ireland it's probably something even great than that, if that's possible.

America doesn't get this very often. Rare is the moment when the United States can rally around a national team in a sport they really care about. There are no moments like this in Football, baseball, or basketball. It just doesn't happen, and that's too bad. Sure, American's will root their hearts out for the US soccer team during big matches, but can you imagine if there was a meaningful tournament like that in a sport we really cared about.

Anthem just played. Allez les Bleus!

Oh, and if you haven't been following the Egypt-Algeria rivalry, you can catch-up here. Algeria finally claimed the spot for the World Cup, but this might be an example of when country vs. country sports get carried away. I was happy for Algeria and glad they won, partly because of the violence against them when they played last weekend in Cairo.

Update:
France and Ireland draw 1-1 giving France the win 2-1 on aggregate. But the game-tying goal by France (in overtime) comes on a terrible, terrible non-call by the officials. Theirry Henry clearly plays the ball with his left hand in the box and sets up the goal -- everyone seemed to see it except the officials.

16 November 2009

Speeding Tickets (Updates)

A COUPLE MONTHS back I wrote about getting two speeding tickets during our stay in Strasbourg last summer. The complicating part is that we didn't receive them until we returned to our 'regular' house and by that time we had already incurred a late fee which nearly doubled the fee. Kerri wrote a letter trying to explain the situation and offering to pay the original amount of the ticket but we failed to realize that the letter needed to be sent as a Registered piece of mail – which prompted a letter from the police that they would not and could not accept the letter. That letter was followed closely by a third warning about the tickets letting us know that we were now past due AGAIN and now owed 375 Euros per ticket.

We checked with some friends and asked what to do -- our friend Candide even called the number for us to inquire and/or explain our situation. She was told that we should send two checks for 375 Euros to the police along with our letter explaining the situation; the police would then make a decision on our appeal and if they accepted it, would reimburse us the money.

Yeah, I don't think so. I wasn't about to send 700 Euros to the French police with the hope that they might find it in their hearts to give us some of the money back.

Some other friends and colleagues suggested we just resend our letter of explanation (this time with the Registered stamp) and two checks for 90 Euros, the original fine for the tickets. The theory was that the police would either accept the checks or write us back and officially explain why they were not accepting the checks. If they took the money, great. If they didn't, at least we would extend the process by several weeks or months. So Kerri re-wrote the letter and sent it with two checks.

Yesterday as I was looking at our bank account on line I noticed the two checks have been cashed. Seems to me this means the ordeal is over.

Of course, I'm not betting on that.
CJS

Toward Health (cont.)

I MEASURE MY relative health in some unique ways. For example, one measure is 'Do I Feel Like a Cup of Coffee This Morning.' If my desire for coffee is even remotely reduced, I know I'm not at 100%. (Note: Another test I used a lot in the States was 'Am I Too Sick To Play Hockey?' However, that became a flawed method for determining health because the answer was always no. And the result was that I usually got sicker because of playing. Kerri used to love that.)

This morning Kerri made coffee (normally my job, but I've been slacking during this sickness) and when I walked into the kitchen I craved it for the first time in 8 days. That's a good sign. It may have helped that it was Dunkin Donuts coffee.
CJS

Toward Health

FEELING MUCH BETTER after what I will refer to as a big-time flu. The doctor isn't sure if it was H1N1 and I don't really care. I'm still recovering and have actually developed a slight case of bronchitis, but the fevers are over. As usual, I was taken care of very well by my able staff family. We tried not to have too much contact in case it was H1N1 and that seems to have worked because no one else is showing any similar signs.
CJS

11 November 2009

The DC Sniper

I WOKE UP this morning to read that John Allan Muhammad was executed by the state of Virgina last night. Here's how the Washington Post opened their story today:

JARRATT, Va. -- John Allen Muhammad, the sniper who kept the Washington region paralyzed by fear for three weeks as he and a young accomplice gunned down people at random, was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection.

Muhammad, a man who directed what many law enforcement officials consider one of the worst outbursts of crime in the nation's history, died in Virginia's death chamber while relatives of his victims looked on.

Unlike his victims, Muhammad knew when and how he was going to die. He and Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people in the Washington area during a terrifying rampage in October 2002; they also have been linked to shootings in several other states.

We were living in Silver Spring, Maryland at the time and four of the shootings took place in Silver Spring -- the first ended the life of a member of our church, a cab driver who was gunned down while putting gas into his taxicab. What made the rampage so frightening to DC area residents was that Muhammad and Malvo struck when people were doing their mundane, ordinary activities: mowing their lawn, shopping, filling their cars with gas, walking to school, or going to a restaurant. To give you an idea of how fearful we were, when Kerri or I would get gas we would put the pump into the tank then get into the car an lean the seat back as far as possible and wait there until the fueling was complete. Some gas stations even erected massive canvass tarps to shield their stations from view. Crazy. Read more about the storyhere.

I haven't thought about those three weeks in 2002 in quite a while, but I sure was reminded when I read the news this morning. I'm a fairly strong opponent of the death penalty so I wasn't happy to read that Muhammad had been executed -- seems to me his death does little more than provide a sense of retribution or revenge.

But maybe I'm wrong.
CJS

06 November 2009

Breakin' in Down

I DIDN'T HAVE a camera on the quick trip back to DC, so I couldn't document all the 'stuff' I managed to sqeeze' in while I was there. I mentioned a few of these things earlier, but here's the details -- details which will make sense to very few people:

Deep breath...

Chipotle, Sportscenter, World Series, grapes with no seeds, Today Show, Old Navy, Marshall's, Border's, Taco Bell, Best Buy, Target, Capitals games on TV, Capitals game in person, church, Life cereal, Ledo's, Moby Dick, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, more Sportscenter, Trick or Treating, X-box, Sierra's, In-laws, mom, brother, Kevin, Lynn, Eliot, Sophia, my brother's new (first!) house, excavators, Monday Night Football, more World Series, Baja Fresh, lots of banks, Root Beer, cable news, talking to some French guys at Fuddrucker's, Christmas shopping for the kids, packing, phone calls to Kerri, Wal-Mart (for children's medicine), driving on big and straight roads, The Office, The Washington Post, Uncle Mik in the hospital, middle-eastern food, more middle eastern food, chats with friends and family, and two really nice flights on British Airways.

All this plus a little hint of missing France.

Interesting.

CJS

Very Cute Fairy Tale

I MAY HAVE posted this before, but it's adorable (and not a bad short French lesson).

That's One Way to Do It

THIS SHORT CLIP is being played all over France right now -- thousands of internet hits, all over the news. The guy kind of looks like an idiot, but what he does with this bottle of wine is pretty amazing.



Ouuaaaaay!
CJS

04 November 2009

What Did I Bring Back?

I KNOW WHAT expect by now: when I return from a trip the only thing that matters to the kids is what I brought back for them. I'll get to that.

It's great to be back with Kerri and the kids. Sure, I'd love to be watching game 6 of the World Series tonight, but I'll have to settle for Champion's League action. (Liverpool/Lyon). The quick trip was successful in the sense that I got done what I needed to get done. It was also great because I got to spend time with family and friends and take care of some of my All Things American withdrawals.

But the kids were mainly interested in what I had in my suitcases. I can't show them everything since half of the stuff is for their upcoming birthdays and/or Christmas (and a lot of it is from grandparents). But there were some choice items that I pulled out for them: Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, Graham Crackers, regular Cheerios, Captain Crunch, Peanut Butter, Fruit Roll-Ups, Cinnamon-Raisin bagels, and a few other treats. I had a few things for Kerri as well -- mainly coffees from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

CJS