30 November 2010

Email Chit Chat

CAN WE PLEASE stop with the email chit-chatting!

I admit that my conduct is not entirely unblemished in this area of e-communication, but I am making strides to correct my errors and I want everyone else to do the same. I could provide a multitude of examples of times where I have erred, but let must just highlight one recent email exchange with a colleague at work -- a colleague who will remain Rob nameless.
Me: Hi, blah blah blah blah it doesn't really matter, just pretend I had a question. 8:20pm
Nameless: Here's the answer to your question. Blah blah blah. 9:10pm
Me: That seems to clear it up. Thanks. 9:22pm
Nameless: No problem, always happy to help a colleague. 9:27pm
Me: That's very kind of you. 9:33pm
Nameless: Thanks. 9:42pm
Me: No problem. 9:43pm
Nameless: See you tomorrow. 9:44pm
Me: You bet. 9:45pm
Nameless: I have nothing else to say, but I'm replying to your email anyway. 9:46pm
Me: Great, now piss-off already. 9:47pm
OK, so the last two bits of dialogue are made up, but the rest is pretty accurate.

Why do we do this? Why do we waste time and space with idle chit chat that is of virtually no value? Here's why: because communicating with each other has become too easy. Gone are the days when we could find simple ways to avoid communicating with people. Gone are the days when we had walk over the the phone on the kitchen wall, pick it up, dial a number, worry that our friend's spouse will answer and we'll have to endure 30-45 seconds off excruciatingly painful pleasantries before we get to talk to the person we called to talk to (Hey Tracy, it's Jonathan. How's it going? Uh-huh. Oh, that's great. Ha! You're kidding. That's pretty funny. The kids are well? Really? Oh, that's too bad. So, it's some kind of stomach virus? Uh-huh. Really? Uh-huh. Well, I sure hope he gets better soon. Anyway, hey, is Steve there?), or fret about whether or not to leave a message. I used to create ways to avoid communicating just so I wouldn't have to use the phone!

But now it's so easy. Too easy. We just sit on the couch and type away while we watch TV or listen to our favorite songs on iTunes. It's almost as if we can do it without paying attention at all -- just a few quick keystrokes and we've created a whole new email, cluttering someone else's in-box in the process. Because it is so easy we just get carried away. Perhaps.

But it is time to stop. From now on I will fight the urge to hit the 'reply' button when there is nothing that needs to be replied to; I will resist the temptation to get one more joke in before I go to bed; and I will not succumb to the desire to show my gratitude by throwing around that extra 'thank you'.

If I want to chit-chat, I'll pick up the phone and call you.

The Twin Advantage

PATRICK AND JULIA have a big math test tomorrow and a good portion of this evening was spent reviewing geometry, multiplication, word problems and other things kids generally dislike. They have recently started doing more of their homework in their own rooms (rather than at the dining room table) and I welcome this development because it means that 1) the table isn't chock-full of papers, pens and books, 2) Henry stays out of their hair, and 3) I can watch sports on TV without them knowing that I'm relaxing while they are working.

This evening they were reviewing for the test in their rooms and I was working on my computer (not watching sports). While working on a few emails it occurred to me that it was suspiciously quite downstairs. What were they doing? Were they studying or playing with toys very quietly. I went downstairs to check on the situation and found them each furiously writing at their desks. When I asked what is was, exactly, that they were doing they making: making a test.

They were making a practice test for each other to take. 4 word problems, 1 geometry problem, and two bonus questions.

This is one of those times when being a twin is a really cool thing.

27 November 2010

Snow and Olives

FOR THE PAST couple of weeks we have had about 100 kilos of olives sitting in our garage. We've collected them from the trees in our yard and today was the day to take them to the Moulin Baussy in Spéracèdes, a small village in the mountains just west of Grasse. The Moulin Baussy is where the owners of our house have been having their olives pressed into oil for literally decades. But this is the first time we have been there because this is the first year that we are taking care of the olives at the house. The process is not easy and we've probably spent a good 12-14 hours shaking, sorting, raking, picking, shaking-again, spreading, drying, and finally transporting the olives.

We decided to go today because today was the sixth annual Journée Portes Ouvertes des Moulins à Huile des Alpes-Maritimes, a great day where 15 of the biggest olive mills open their doors to the public -- giving everyone a chance to actually see the olive making process from start to finish. At the Moulin Baussy -- which is not a particularly big mill -- we watched all four of the major stages of the oil-making process and learned that in any given day the mill can process 8 tons of olives (I checked, I did not type that wrong!) At a much larger mill in the village right next to ours they process over 1000 tones of olives every year!

But I haven't even mentioned the best part of the day: it snowed! Snow in November! It wasn't much and it certainly didn't stick to the ground, but snow was falling for about 2 hours and it was great. Just before we left for the mill I took some coffee out to Patrick (the guy who looks after the garden, not our son) who was tending a fire in the back yard and we spent about 15 minutes chatting about weather and olives and watched as the snow fell into our mugs of coffee.

Snow. Coffee. A big fire burning off some of the branches and leaves from the yard. Then a trip to the moulin with a car full of olives with the whole family. That's a good late-autumn afternoon.

Burning off some tree clippings, leaves, etc.

Olives loaded in the car.

In to the mill with the snow falling.

The olive pit spitting area. I crushed Patrick in this competition (notice the sign). By the way, the world record is over 21 meters.

Best part of the Open Door day: tasting.

Beautiful. Two hours ago this was olives.

20 November 2010

Sharia In Our Home?

THE OTHER EVENING Henry and I were playing with legos and I told him to build something that we could show Kerri and the twins. 15 minutes he produced what appears to be the facade of a mosque:

Great. How am I ever supposed to taken serious as a future US presidential candidate if it becomes known that my 5 year old son is secretly a Muslim? I hope Fox News doesn't get wind of this.

Dad, Brother, Nice

17 November 2010

Monday Lunch

WITH THE TWINS now at my school one would think we'd see a lot more of each other. But the reality is that I rarely see them. Because our schedules are so different and because the campus of the school is so vast, we seldom get more than a quick hello in the hallway or fleeting head-nod from across the courtyard.

Except on Mondays.

Each Monday Patrick and Julia meet me at the Salle des Profs and we go up to the local square for lunch. And it has quickly become one of my favorite times of the week. Monday is the only day that we share a lunch hour so we started taking advantage of it at the beginning of the year and it's now part of our weekly routine. We typically head up to the Petit Café for a quick sandwich or plat du jour, but this week we tried a little pizza place instead and shared a couple of 'pies' and some coke. The pizza place has a real 'high school' feel to it since the place is littered with lycée students from the school (most of whom I have in class) all eating and frantically studying -- and I think the twins kind of liked that atmosphere. With popular music filtering through the sound system there was almost a 'High School Musical' feel to the place. And who wouldn't like that.

I love the Monday lunches!

07 November 2010

Two-Man Luge

I MENTIONED EARLIER that my brother I decided to dress-up as a two-man luge team this Halloween season. Now we have the pictures (a few days late) to prove it. Enjoy, and please feel free to pass along these gems to your friends:

A quick photo before our first run.

It's always important to warm-up.

Great positioning during the first run.

It's this kind of aerodynamic form that leads to Olympic gold.

05 November 2010

The Promise of What?

MY DAD RECENTLY had a book published called The Promise of Peace and like most books it is available on Amazon's website. Though I already have a copy (my dad sent me one and basically forced me to read it!) I was browsing the amazon.com website and looked up the book to see if it had made it to the Top 10 in terms of sales (just short!). While poking around I found the following review from an anonymous reviewer (I am not making this up -- hit the above link and you can read it for yourself):
From the moment I picked up this book, I felt it's raw power. My hand shook, and sweat dripped down my brow. I KNEW I had to have it! So I bought it and took it home and DEVOURED IT! Never have I read a book with such voracity! When I finally when to sleep that night I felt good...no great, almost as if I was born again, yet entirely drained as if my body was experiencing a transformation. So I slept, and slept for days, until I awoke a week later, with perfect vision and hearing, I had lost 200lb pounds and grew 12in! I was now 5' 6" and ready to take on the world. With the promise of peace in my hand I stepped out of my house and headed to work. I was expecting to get written up for missing so much time, but I was met with a smile and hug from my boss and a pay raise! I found out then that my latent homosexuality was cured as well! No Ted haggard for me now! Armed with this new found knowledge I hit the beach! I didn't need sunglasses or sunblock! I was impervious to cancer and the blinding sun! I pulled the book out and started to read it again and immediately found myself surround with women, drooling over my body... [the next day] I called up my doctor and asked him if everything was alright. He immediately asked if I had read Charles Scriven's book and I said yes. He then said this was a normal side effect! Wow! This was all in the first 2 days after reading!!! The possibilities are endless! Read this book! experience the power! 5 stars is not enough!
Wow! Not bad for a book about the principles of Christian theology.

02 November 2010

Halloween, Gambling, and Football

THE FRENCH ARE starting to catch on to the idea of Halloween, but the concept of going from house to house in search of candy is not yet 'the norm.' -- especially in this part of the country. So we just did it at home (again). Scavenger hunt, bobbing for apples, caramel apples, pumpkin drawing/carving, trick-or-treating, the whole works. My brother an I even had the great idea to go as a two-man luge team (photos to come).

But in between the torrents of rain we also had time to play a little football and teach the kids how to gamble (leave it to Uncle Jeremy to teach all three kids how to play Blackjack).

A witch, a 'baller', and Santana Moss

Jeremy teaching the kids all they need to get ready to pay for their college education.

Taking a break from the football game near Gordon, France.

Me and my dad getting into the Halloween spirit.

This is how we Rock the Red

WHEN A GRANDPA and an uncle come to the Cote d'Azur, the obvious thing to do on a Saturday night is...go to a French League Division I hockey game. We like/love hockey around here so we took my dad and brother to the Nice game against Neuilly. Nice got crushed, but we Rocked the Red (a reference to a marketing campaign launched by the Washington Capitals a couple years ago).