30 March 2011

11 Marcel Marceaus

I DON'T KNOW if anyone else noticed or commented (I was watching with the sound turned down last night) but the new jerseys that Nike has created for the French national team makes the players look like they are going to a Halloween party dressed as Marcel Marceau. The sleeves are even a bit longer than normal giving it the real mime look. I'll admit I haven't been paying much attention recently so perhaps this is deliberate on the part of Nike.

That said, I kind of like them -- in an odd sort of way.

26 March 2011

Earth Hour?

NEVER HEARD OF it until today. It seems that thousands of cities around the world encourage people to turn off non-essential lights for one hour to help raise awareness about climate change. In Paris they turn off the lights at the Eiffel Tower (and other places). I may run over to take a look this evening.

Earth hour takes place this year between 8:30pm and 9:30pm local time.

Couple Days in Paris

I'M IN PARIS for a couple of days on one of the work related trips that brings me here 3 or 4 times a year. Once again the meetings I was attending were out in St. German-en-Laye at the Lycee International, but as usual I choose to stay in Paris rather than out in the suburbs. I'm staying an extra 24 hours because I've arranged to meet with a friend of a friend of a friend who works at the OECD and he has agreed to meet with me over coffee to dicuss my thesis (he's worked quite a bit on EU-Russia issues).

While I spent most of the morning studying in a small corner of the Starbucks on the Boulevard de Sébastopol, I've spent the last hour just walking around the city and enjoying the weather that was beautiful until the downpour that started about 15 minutes ago. I told Kerri that I finally have actual pages of my thesis written. First drafts, to be sure, but actual words on paper. After months of researching, reading, note-taking, outline-writing, and frustration-overcoming, I'll count this as progress.

21 March 2011

My New Favorite Place in All of Italy

IT'S IN THE town of San Remo. We've seen this baseball field before (you can't miss it on the drive down to the sea from the A-10) but this time we got up close.

The field is in pretty rough shape, but that makes no difference to a sentimental baseball fan like myself. It's spring. It's sunny. And this is the only baseball field I have seen in Europe. Next time we're bringing our mitts.

Coffee with Pozzato, Thanks to my OV Shirt

AS MY STUDENTS will readily tell you, I have been known to exaggerate for effect at times. A good example of this can be seen in the title of this post. I'm trying to make you think I had coffee with current Italian cycling champion Filippo Pozzato -- but depending on how loosely you interpret the word 'with', I did.

After the Milan-San Remo race last weekend the kids a I were milling about the team busses and we came to the Katusha Team bus and watched as Pozzato was interviewed by the main Italian sports channel RAI. When I turned to walk away a guy stopped me and said, 'Go Capitals!', a reference to the red Washington Capitals shirt I was wearing. He went on to tell me that he used to play in Slovakia in the city were former Capital superstar Peter Bondra has a home. During the offseasons, he'd train with Bondra so he developed a liking for the Caps. We chatted a few minutes and that was that.

About 1 hour later -- after Kerri and the kids and I had enjoyed a nice pizza -- I went to a small cafe next door to get an espresso before the hour or so trip home. When I walked in I noticed a crowd of about 12 people gathered around some tables and they were all wearing Katusha cycling team gear. Upon further inspection I recognized that most of them were guys from the team who had just finished the race -- including Filippo Pozzato. But it was a guy at the far end of the table that caught my eye: the dude I had talked to earlier about hockey.

He stood up and called me over so I took my coffee to the table and we talked a bit about hockey and then he introduced me to the people at the table saying, 'Hey, this guy's wearing an Alexandre Ovechkin shirt.' When he said that the whole table threw up their glasses and gave a cheer. Why? Well (and thank you for bearing with me through this rather circuitous anecdote), Katusha Team is a Russian-based cycling team and many of the riders are from Russia. Ovechkin is one of the most popular athletes from their country so they were happy to see him 'represented' in San Remo, Italy.

It was at that point that I sat down on a chair for a brief moment and finished my conversation with the guy I had met at the bus. He told me he was Italian but had gone to Slovakia to play hockey when he was younger. I asked why he was now having drinks with the Katusha cycling team and he pointed to the guy sitting next to me and said, 'Filippo Pozzato is one of my best friends.' Since my coffee was now finished I briefly shook hands with Pozzato, told him he had a great race (5th overall) and stood to leave. Just then Kerri and the kids appeared in the doorway, ready to head back home.

So you see, while it may be a slight exaggeration, it would very hard to dispute my claim that last Saturday evening I had coffee with Filippo Pozzato.

The Sprint Pics

A COUPLE PHOTOS from Milan-San Remo 2001.

From where we were standing: the start of the final sprint. Cancellara, Gilbert, Pozzato, (eventual winner) Goss, are all getting out of the saddle. (Click to see a much better image. Come on, do it).
Just above our heads


Stuart O'Grady had a profile map attached to his frame. Got to know when the hills come, I guess.

Garmin Director Jonathan Vaughters saying Heinrich Haussler 'was good today, not great.'

Why is the Rock in my Backseat?

THIS IS THE rock I found on the backseat floor of my VW Golf III GTI (not as cool as it sounds -- it's a 1991 model) last Thursday evening. Why is was there is a bit of a mystery. Unfortunately, how it got there is not -- it obviously came through the massive hole in my back passenger side window.

So now I'm driving around the Cote d'Azur with a black plastic bag covering one window in a sporty little car that sounds like it's ready for a drag race -- you know, because the tailpipe fell off last week.

But no worries, the muffler is scheduled to be fixed on Wednesday and the window perhaps a bit later in the week. Thank goodness for the latest 5-day forecast: sun, sun, sun.

19 March 2011

Milan-San Remo, a Hockey Shirt, and Filippo Pozzato

WE JUST GOT back from San Remo where we spent a beautiful Saturday sitting around waiting for a bunch on bikers to ride by for about 20 seconds. But the kids did well in terms of securing free-bees -- the biggest score being a full feeding-station bag from the Saxo-Bank team with loads of energy bars, protein goo, and water bottles.

Then, about 1 1/2 hours after the race I found myself in a small cafe in downtown San Remo sharing a coffee with Filippo Pozzato and the rest of the rest of the Katusha Team riders. More on that later. Meanwhile, here's a peak at what the race looks like...this footage from last year. (The 'coffee with Filippo Pozzato' incident was all because of the Washington Capitals t-shirt I was wearing. Again, explanation and details to come).

Two Great Weekends

I THINK MY two favorite back-to-back weekends of the year are in early March when we go see the Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo cycling races. Last week we got to 2 stages of a very wet Paris-Nice (photos later) and today we are getting ready to drive over to San Remo, Italy to watch the finish of the first classic of the year.

And the weather today is beautiful! A little lunch on the beach, some shopping in Italy (where prices are significantly lower than in France), a mid-afternoon Italian expresso (which are significantly better than in France), then the final 500 meters of the race.

This is our fourth time to Milan-San Remo but our first by ourselves. It what was fun tradition/coincidence, we have gone to the previous three with friends who happened to be staying with us (Kevin/Lynn last year, Jim/Dana in '09, and Kamran/Gina in '08). We'll be a bit lonely this year.

Brackets Brackets

AMERICANS KNOW THAT late March is a great time of year for sports fans -- mainly because of what we call March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament that captivates the entire country for two weeks. The best part about the tournament is that people try to predict the outcome by filling out the brackets that are printed up on every newspaper website in the country. Even though we don't get to follow college basketball very carefully these days, we still fill out the brackets.

Here are the Final Four predictions for those who participated in our family:
  • Julia: Washington, Tennessee, Florida, Kansas
  • Henry: Hampton, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State
  • Patrick: Ohio State, UConn, Kansas, Kansas State
  • Mine: Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, Wisconsin
It's fun to pick when you don't really know anything about the teams. My knowledge of this year's field is basically that Jimmer Ferdette is pretty good and Ohio State has been the best all year. That being said, Patrick went 28-4 in the first round!!! How do you go 28-4?!?!

15 March 2011

Ides of March

HISTORY MIGHT HAVE been changed forever if, instead of telling Caesar 'Beware the Ides of March,' the soothsayer had simply said, 'Beware the knives of stabbers.' But we'll never know.

06 March 2011

The Swan

NOT 'THE BLACK Swan' (the Nathalie Portman film) but 'The Swan' as in the piece of music -- and now this incredible interpretation. Start at about the 1:40 mark and don't stop until you see the tear in the eye:

05 March 2011

From Home to 'Home'

DIDN'T PUT UP any posts during the 2 week winter break -- mainly because we were back in the States. A last-minute-decision trip to DC is coming to an end today and we had a great time connecting with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. As usual, we did the surprise routine with the kids: they didn't know we were heading to the US until we entered the US Airways gate for the flight from Frankfurt to Philadelphia. They thought we were only going to Frankfurt...

Now it's back to France just in time for Paris-Nice -- which starts Sunday.

But before we head to the airport today, we're making a stop at IHOP for breakfast. If you don't know what IHOP is...I'm so sorry.