27 September 2011

My Letter from YouTube

IT'S NOT EXACTLY a 'cease and disist' letter, but I got this email from YouTube today:

Cher/Chère frenchforawhile,

Votre vidéo The Office -- A little French for a While version comporte peut-être du contenu sous licence ou appartenant à NBC Universal.

Aucune action ne vous est demandée. Toutefois, si vous souhaitez connaître les effets produits sur votre vidéo, consultez la rubrique ID de contenu correspondants de votre compte pour obtenir plus d'informations.

- L'équipe YouTube

So our little video that we made two years ago and has, at last check, been viewed by about 13 people worldwide, has garnered enough interest over at YouTube to have them send me what is probably a self-generating email.

Cool! I gotta get started on our 'Mad Men' rip-off video.

25 September 2011

Americans in France

SO, THOSE GUYS over at La Vie est Belle are fun --all six of them. Spent a very enjoyable afternoon with them today.

24 September 2011

Memories of Lyon

HOCKEY HAS STARTED again in Nice (yes, they have an ice hockey team here!) and we're headed to the game tonight. They will be playing against Lyon, who reached the 1st Division after winning the 2nd division last year. The last time Lyon and Nice played it was for the 2008 2nd Division championship. The match was in Lyon...and we were there!! We even made a little video about it.

The trip to Lyon was also our first time enjoying Starbucks coffee in France. And yes, we made a little video about it...

18 September 2011

Lead Story Worth a Read

MY BROTHER HAS the lead story over at a website called Hockey Independent -- a site that focuses on the National Hockey League in the U.S. (screen shot below). He is one of two people at the site who cover our hometown team - the Washington Capitals - and with training camp now underway the site is preparing for its third year in existence (I think I have that right). Each year the site grows exponentially.

So here's a little love for my little brother. Those of you who are hockey-inclined (there must be at least 7 of you) can follow Jeremy all year at his page on Hockey Independent. Neither of us can wait for the new season to start!

[Note: in order to make sure this post is at least a little bit about me, let me share a quick story from last week at school. As I was picking up a sandwich at the place when I saw a student wearing a bright red Washington Capitals t-shirt with the name 'Ovechkin' on the back (except that it was written in Russian -- Овечкин). I couldn't pass it up so I went up to him and asked him about the shirt (and also showed him the front photo on my phone, which is a photo of center ice at the Verizon Center in DC). Turns out he was Russian, in the Russian section at our school, and a huge Ovechkin/Capitals fan. When I told him I was from DC and I, too, loved hockey and the Caps, he was very pleased. Too bad I didn't have this photo of me wearing Patrick's Ovechkin jersey at last years Carnival at school.]

13 September 2011

Enough with the Harry Potter

ACTUALLY, I DON'T mean that at all -- though I must say this summer has been the Summer of Harry. Perhaps I should have expected this since there are 12 year-old twins living in the house, but the lengths to which Patrick and Julia will go to read Harry Potter books is incredible. Just this summer, Julia started and finished the entire 7 book series -- concluding the final book last night in bed. Patrick is about a book-and-a-half behind -- though he is quick to point out that he is "getting more exercise" than Julia and also reading quite a few sports-related books by John Feinstein and Mike Lupica. Fair point.

On several occasions this summer I went to bed at more normal time -- about 11:00 or 11:30 -- only to find the lights on in the P and J's room. Sometimes they were still reading, but more often they were fast asleep, head comfortably resting on the open pages of one of the Potter books. During our trip to England they didn't even pull out the portable DVD players because the books were too good to put down. One afternoon a couple weeks ago, Julia reclined on the couch with one of the books for more than 5 hours, remaining motionless the entire time -- except for the right hand that would extend every couple of minutes to turn the page. That same day, Patrick nearly collapsed as he exited the bathroom, having not realized that his legs were completely asleep after nearly 45 minutes of reading while on the toilet.

By how can we complain? It is really hard to tell a child to stop reading. Both kids are fairly good readers on the whole -- meaning that they seem to enjoy reading Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc. -- but we've never seen the kind of passionate reading that the Harry Potter books brought out. That's something new. I know the books have been around for over 10 years and many parents have experienced the 'Potter Effect', but this was our first encounter and it was truly amazing.

School has started now and the first book they are reading is the Diary of Anne Frank. I hope they like it, but somehow I don't think it's going to meet their now very loft standards.

11 September 2011

Sunday Night Lights

ONE LAPTOP COMPUTER. One overhead projector. One subscription to NFL Game Pass.

One great Sunday evening.

(Julia is even watching...for about 2 minutes)

Remembering, Not Reliving

I WAS SITTING in my office, 15 miles from the Pentagon when the events of 9/11 began. Kerri was at Baltimore-Washington International Airport dropping off her parents for a planned flight to California. My friend Kevin was in downtown Washington, where he said it sounded like explosions where going off -- probably super-sonic blasts from the scrambling jets. We all know where we were, much like previous generations know where they were when they heard about John F. Kennedy's death or Pearl Harbor. It's hard to imagine that it was 10 years ago.

As I have expressed to several friends in recent days, I have conflicting thoughts how the media is covering this important anniversary. On the one hand, I recognize the importance of honoring all those who died that autumn morning -- especially the first-responders who acted like heroes in their attempt to save others. I recognize that 9/11 shook America in a very meaningful way and those few moments when the planes hit the World Trade Center will be frozen in time forever. I recognize that America was perhaps at its best in the days and weeks after 9/11 as we put aside petty differences and came together as one nation, determined to get through the worst terrorist act in our history. I recognize that the global community did the same -- offering incredible amounts of sympathy and support for their American friends.

But on the other hand I don't want 9/11 to define America. The bastards who attacked us must understand that their mission failed and the United States will not be held hostage by the memories of that day. Images of planes hitting towers, people jumping from buildings, and smoke billowing into the air is understandable -- and perhaps appropriate -- in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. But at the same time there is a sensationalistic component -- playing on emotions -- that makes me uncomfortable. It's as if some media outlets see the anniversary not as a time to remember and reflect, but as an opportunity for some huge ratings. Perhaps that is merely a byproduct of the 24-hour news/internet era, I don't know. What I do know is that there is a balance, and we should strive for it. I hope Americans spend today remembering 9/11, not reliving it.

Whatever happens, we certainly will never forget it.

07 September 2011

Tour d'Argent and (Almost) Me

FRANCE 24, THE 24-hour news channel that broadcasts in both French and English has a special behind-the-scenes look at the famous restaurant Tour d'Argent up on their website at the moment. With spectacular views and a world-famous wine list, Tour d'Argent has been a hot spot since the mid 16th century. The audio slideshow on the France 24 website includes an interesting interview with chef Laurent Delarbre.

18 months ago while in Paris for meetings, I tried to get in to the restaurant as a single diner with no reservation. I didn't get in -- but I did take this photo of the nice gentleman who laughed in my face when I asked if I could get a table-for-one overlooking the Notre Dame.

06 September 2011

How Do You Say 'Sailing' in Latin?

TWINS GOT THEIR schedules today for the new year -- 5eme here in France, 7th grade for those of you back in the States. I'll resist the temptation to write a short analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the French educational system (and believe me, both exist) and instead just run through what a typical 12 year old is doing in school in the south east region of France. I'd be curious to hear how this compares with other parts of the world. Here are the subjects our kids have this year (with weekly number of hours).
  • French (4 hours)
  • English (5 hours)
  • Theater (1 hour)
  • Physics and Science (4 hours)
  • Math (4 hours)
  • History (4 hours: 2 hours in English, 2 hours in French)
  • Latin (2 hours)
  • Music and Art (2 hours)
  • Sport (4 hours)
  • I.D.O (2 hours...and no, I don't know what this is)
Latin is optional and P and J signed up for it this year (and by that I mean that Kerri and I forced them to sign up for it this year) so that should be an interesting challenge. But the part of their schedule that got me most excited was the fact that one of their sport activities is...sailing. They will take four hours each Monday afternoon to go down to Antibes and learn how to sail. Patrick is thrilled about this. Julia, not quite as much.

How Many de's Are in Your Name?

I JUST FINISHED typing up all my class lists for the upcoming year and noticed that I have an unusually high number of students this year with hyphenated or multiple-word last names. I've always had a fascination with French family names, so I pay close attention to the ones my students have. My favorite so far is 'de Vanssay de Blavous', which I swear, is one last name (Hi Pauline, if you happen to read this). How great would it be to have a last name with four words in it. Some other favorites include 'Mazars de Mazarin', 'Pichot-Nussel', 'de Montjoye', 'de Beauregard', 'Ledoux-Vanex', 'Le Mont Beauquis', and a new one for this year: 'St Gal de Pons.'

All are just family names. Add a Jean-Marc, Pierre-Antoine or Sophie-Ann to the front of those names and you've got a name that would score pretty well in Scrabble.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck with my boring last name. Maybe I should be 'de' in front of it.

[Note: Yes, I know proper names aren't allowed in Scrabble -- it was a cheap reference].

04 September 2011

Are We Back Home?

WELL, THAT DEPENDS on the definition of 'home.' It isn't likely that we will ever call this part of the world home in the traditional sense, but after spending each summer 'on the road', it is always good to be back. Settling back in to our house seems to get a bit tougher each year (more things? more going on? kids getting older? us getting older?) and the first few days are pretty chaotic as we are simultaneously unpacking from our summer trips and unpacking from the storage in the house. This year we had a slight advantage in that we spent the last few nights at our neighbor's house, rather than in some apartment in the village nearby. The house is vacant most of the year since our neighbor lives in the U.S. We're very happy he let us crash for a few nights.

On the way home from the Massif Central we did manage to squeeze in a couple more fun things:

The Viaduc du Millau, the tallest bridge in the world (not to be confused with
the 'highest' bridge, which is something different. By the way, it's the 12th highest bridge in the world).
Yes, there is a rest stop and souvenir shop.

Then my favorite part -- a trip to the famous Combalou caves in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, home of one of France's most famous cheeses.
Thousands of rounds of cheese aging for 3-12 months.

The tour in Roquefort was really great. There are several companies who run these free tours and we chose the Societe tour. They are a giant industrial manufacturer (which has some downsides, I know) but their tour was the most comprehensive. And the tasting at the end was terrific -- although Henry took one bite and spit it on the floor. The only people in our house who like blue cheeses like Roquefort and Bleu d'Auvergne are Patrick and me, but Kerri even found a few varieties that she liked during the tour so I consider it a success.

Anyway, summer is over. We're back to our (still) temporary home. Classes for Henry start tomorrow and the twins start Wednesday. Here we go...