29 May 2011

The (Really) Big Project

SPENDING A LOT of time thinking/pondering/deliberating/analyzing/stressing about this lately. More to come in later posts, but for today, a little thinking/ pondering/ deliberating/ analyzing/ stressing outside on a beautiful day netted a bit of progress. So I snapped a few photos to go along with some of the others I've snapped a long the way (larger version comes up with a double-click).

After settling on an outline (and after several meetings with my adviser in Geneva) I mapped out the road ahead.
Ordered and read lots of books.
Materials and sources arranged by chapter. Good start, no?

More of the same, plus some books.
But to put it all together...Oye.
Just get to it and keep plodding.

As I said to a friend when he asked how the thesis was going; I've reached the end of the beginning stage and I can't wait to get to the beginning of the ending stage.

28 May 2011

Saturday Night Football

EURO-STYLE FOOTBALL, that is. The Champion's League Final is tonight and both my sons are sitting on the couch wearing Barcelona jerseys -- purchases from our last trip to the great Spanish city.

Late May/Early June Holiday

WE DON'T GET Memorial Day on Monday like back in the US, but we get Ascension AND Pentecost coming up. That would be Ascension on Thursday June 2 and Pentecost Monday June 13. I just love how an overtly secular country like France takes every religious holiday off.

25 May 2011

Final Day for Fake Exams

EACH MAY MY department holds the Bac Blanc oral exams -- a 'practice' test to help the students prepare for the oral exams they will have in late June. We hold them each Wednesday afternoon for 3 weeks and it is a tiring process that includes giving exams and taking careful notes on responses for 3 straight hours.

The process is also stressful for the students. When they arrive they pick ONE question from a hat that holds 50 questions covering all parts of the academic program. They then get 20 minutes to prepare their answer to the question -- during which time they may not have any notes or texts. When the 20 minutes are up, the students come into a room with a teacher and present their question for 5 minutes, followed by a 15 minute period of 'give-and-take' on any other subjects covered during the year.

So far no one has cried in the exam. I mention this because it has happened in two of the last three years -- not in the blanc, but during the real orals that I have conducted in Paris. I remember one girl in particular who teared-up and began to cry right after drawing her question, which was, 'Analyze and discuss the presidencey of Jimmy Carter'. (There's a joke there, I'm sure, but I'll let you come up with it). When I told her to try to remain calm and do her best to prepare, her response was, 'I don't know who this is.'

Ouch. The exam did not go all that well, as you might imagine.

22 May 2011

The French Face

TRANSLATION IS OFTEN needed, and this post provides details. A taste:
The French face is what hands are to the Italians. It stretches and twists to express a wide range of expressions and emotions with the same elasticity of a rubber band. From disbelief to discontent, it can convey a message just as clearly as any grouping of words.
So what do these faces mean? (more at the above link)

21 May 2011

J'aime Bien Les Cerises

I'LL JUST MAKE a note to myself: when we move back to the States, get a cherry tree. I'm not sure if they'll work in DC, but I'm going to try. We've had more cherries in our house than we can eat over the past couple of days -- mainly because of very nice friends who bring them over by the sack. Today we spent the entire afternoon eat lunch at the home of Jean-Luc and Valerie (SDA friends who live just down the road) and I think our little party of 8 adults and a few children easily devoured more than 5 kg of cherries that Jean-Luc picked from his tree last night.

The 'harvest' window on cherries is quite small in this part of France -- about 3 weeks, max -- but during that time they grow almost faster than you can pick them. Before walking home this evening the kids went back to Jean-Luc's tree and picked about a kilo for us to take home. I'm going to have a few right now while I watch some sport I don't like very much on television.

20 May 2011

Y'all Enjoy

IF THIS DOESN'T put a smile on your face this weekend, nothing will. And look for the stuffed fox in the background about half way through -- so perfect!

16 May 2011

My (sort of) Connection to the IMF Chief

MY FIRST JOB out of college was an internship arranged for me by a family friend at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. The year was 1993 and I was placed in the Russia Division where I served as a staff assistant, which basically meant I did a lot of photocopying, distributing of material, and a bit of research for the 20 or so economists who were working on Russia policy at the time. It was a pretty exciting place to be when you consider what was happening in Russia at the time. I have forgotten the name of my boss, but she was the a very nice woman who was the administrative assistant for the division. After a few weeks I remember she assisgned me to a small group of the staff economists and it was my job to make sure they had all the basic support they needed. The two economists I worked most closely with were Michael Maresse, an former professor from Northwestern University and Piroska Nagy, a highly regarded economist from Hungary.

What does this have to do with anything?

Well, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Khan (or, DSK, as he is know in France) was arrested over the weekend on sexual assault charges stemming from an incident that allegedly took place in a hotel room in New York. In reading about the story, I came across an intersting bit of information: this is not the first time Strauss-Khan has been involved in a sexual scandal (shocker!!). In fact, he has had several issues in the past that one might consider 'inappropriate'. One of them included an extra-marrital affair with a subordinate in 2008 -- for which he was roundly criticized. But of interest to me is that the affair was with...Piroska Nagy! The story can be found here and here.

This connection with the current head of the IMF is a stretch, I know, but if we're playing the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, I can now get to DSK in under three.

Of course, there is a French angle to this story that goes beyond the fact that Strauss-Khan is French. He was (and I assume 'was' is the correct tense to use here, but you never know) considered a favorite to win the nomination of the Socialist Party and take on President Sarkozy in next year's elections. In nearly all recent polls he was running ahead of Sarkozy -- sometimes confortably ahead. Now the left will have to scramble to find another candidate to take on Sarko.

Family Fun

THE POSTS ARE few and far between lately, but that will change this summer. For now, a few posts every once in a while will have to suffice.

BUT...I did just want to mention how much fun we had having my dad and my uncle (and their wives, of course) over for10 days. They left on Sunday and we are a little sad. It was loads and loads of fun.

Photos coming.