Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sceaux 152 ( that a YGM reference?)

OK, today is the day you get the cheese appraisal.  I warned you it was coming.  Keep in mind that there are 240+ kinds of cheeses in France, and I have tackled less than 5% of them.  I do not intend to go much further on my own.  I will likely not even reach 10% of the cheeses.  I am cheesed out, for now.  In the listing which follows, rather than rank the cheeses numerically, which would be impossible to do accurately beyond the first three, I have created three groups: Group I, cheeses I would buy for my own consumption; Group II, cheeses I would eat in a social setting (in addition to Group I), i.e., someone else served them; Group III, cheeses to avoid no matter who serves them or what is on the line.

Group 0 
(I did not count this group above, as these are the children cheeses, though adults also buy them for their "inner child")
Babybel (encased in red wax)
Vache qui Rit (smiling cow, cream of gruyere)
Kiri (soft white cheese)

Group I
Chevre frais

Group II
Emmental (French version of Swiss cheese)

Group III
Chevre affines (ripened goat cheese)
St. Agur (blue cheese)

The cheeses of Group III either stink, or are strong, or both.  The ripened goat cheese (chevre affines) will knock you to your knees with its smell.  Honestly, I am so cheesed out I cannot even buy the Group I cheeses at the moment.  There is nothing wrong with the Group II cheeses, they just don't do much for me.  I am not an expert, I am only declaring what I like, which, when in a store or at a dinner, is the only thing that matters.

Enough on cheeses, and lets move on.  Autumn is here in its cold, wet, rainy manifestation.  I do not like it.  Ile-de-France, I am surprised, does not have brilliant foliage in autumn.  Leaves on the trees turn yellow and brown, and fall off.  Spring is spectacular, so at least there is something to which one can look forward.  Walking almost half a mile (0.8 km) to a bus stop exposes me more than I am used to back in Houston, so a coat from REI Outlet, Thinsulate gloves from Monoprix keep me warm during my treks.

I found out something great this week, on my way to get my "titre de sejour", which is a card that says I can legally live here.  France now reciprocates with Texas on the driver's license.  France makes a deal with each state, on what criteria I do not know, but until recently, there was no reciprocation agreement with Texas.  This would mean a relatively long and painful process to get a driver's license to drive anything.

But now, it is like a swap; really, I do not know the full details yet, and I can drive.  Moreover, with the same license, I can ride up to a 125cc motorbike/scooter without  additional licensing.  I know 125cc is not much, but for darting around here, it could be WAY convenient.  Now, I am thinking...

a bientot, mes amis,


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twelve Dozen Days in Sceaux

As I write to you, the warmer days of autumn are fading. Even in the forecast for next week, we are inching closer to the freezing. I have not lived in this type of climate for many years, and I've grown accustomed to sunshine and warmth throughout the year. The French people at the office tell me to enjoy what little sunshine I see now, because when November comes, I will not see the sun until April. I spoke with some other French people outside of my office about this, and I told them that my colleagues must be exaggerating. The French to whom I was speaking looked away, then down, then back up and said, "I'm afraid they are speaking the truth". I must admit, my heart sank a little bit. But then I remembered something, Paris knows how to do Christmas lights, and they do it big, and early.

I was able to take a business trip to Milan, Italy. As I was visiting a client, the travel was approved. I thought to myself, I'll take a little extra time and spend the night (traveling to Milan can be a one-day trip very easily from Paris). After all, if I'm going to Milan I just as well see something. But as it is true so often, business trips and tourism do not mix. Businesses have moved away from the old and interesting centers of these European cities, and placed themselves in modern office buildings closer to the edges of town where their people live. While I did see some very attractive modern architecture, and dinner that night was in an old area of town, I did not get to see the center of town with its cathedral and plaza.

I have a business trip scheduled for the first week of November, this time to the south of France. They tell me the sun will still be shining there, though I am already looking forward to visiting Montpellier. We have a technology center there that produces software for analyzing the data we acquire, and I'm going there to learn the software, and to discuss expanding the portfolio into my domain of interest and expertise. It is purely investigative at this point, as no one person really makes the decision anymore. We can study, evaluate, discuss, and make recommendations, but then someone higher and somewhere else actually pulls the trigger and makes something happen. That something may be very similar to your recommendations, may be a partial set of your recommendations, it may not look like your recommendations at all. One must accept the outcomes, and do their best to support them. There are many more factors and priorities that affect such decisions, and my input is but one part.

I will be home here in Sceaux for the rest of the month, and I'm looking forward to getting back into routine. I need to get back to my running, regular guitar practice, reading, and communicating with family and friends. All of these things are more difficult to do when traveling, so I confess, the travel restrictions under which we have been laboring have not been all that terrible.

The blog is a little short for this week, but I thank you for coming along.

Until next time,


Saturday, October 9, 2010

DayOneHundredThirtySeven from Sceaux

Well, it has been 20 days since I have blogged. I am surprised. I have been busy, there have been lots of long hours at work. I finally got to travel again, going to the Hague in the Netherlands, and to London on business. Life in Sceaux continues at its beautiful and easy pace. I look forward to coming back to my apartment each evening, because I know that it will be quiet, peaceful, beautiful, and restful.

Since I last wrote, I have been nursing a running injury. Apparently the muscles in the upper thigh, above the quadriceps, are strenuously engaged when running hills. Had I known this, I would have not charged up the hills as if I was Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders. To further complicate things, I did a little sightseeing in Paris, and a pair of shoes I thought would be good for walking. But they seemed to force my feet to pronate, especially my left foot. This puts a great deal of strain on the interior tendon of the left knee. Thanks to the Internet of course, I could give you the scientific names of all these muscles and tendons that have been affected the last two weeks, but I will spare you. I finally got to run again today. Not quite 100%, in neither stamina nor strain, but it was a good run nonetheless.

I have two long-term goals for my running: to run from my apartment along the Coulee Verte, to the beginning of the Coulee Verte in Montparnasse; the second goal is to run from my apartment to the Hotel de Ville of Paris, which is considered the heart of Paris and is just beyond Notre Dame from me. I hope that by the time I leave for Christmas vacation I will have achieved one of those goals. Such a distance run would not be a routine workout, but it would be a Saturday run, where I have the time to make the run, return to the apartment, recuperate, and cleanup for the day.

I have used many means to travel throughout the world: automobile, horseback, ships, small boats of all sizes, even a rickshaw van. But it was not until I got to Europe that I traveled by train. I have now made three trips by train, and had the good fortune of traveling first class on all of them. I found traveling by train to be very comfortable, not that much cheaper than flying, and certainly takes longer and is less predictable than flying. If you plan your travels to accommodate the differences, I find traveling by train to be a very comfortable experience. On two of my trips, I got to experience high speed trains. They move at over 200 mph, run on new rails, and is generally quite smooth. It seems; however, that when the engineer decides to kick up to speed a little bit, you do feel more motion than you would feel on a plane. As Schlumberger has many offices, and centers in Europe, and her clients likewise have offices and centers in Europe, traveling by train to these locations is not only common, but often preferred by our management. One of the nice advantages of traveling by train is that you remain connected for the duration of your trip. Most trains have wireless freely available to the passengers, that even in the case when it is not available, you have your smartphone, which remains connected via its network throughout the traverse of your journey. The amazing thing today, is that I can be traveling at over 200 mph in a train, and orchestrate a conference call between myself, Paris, Houston, and Tokyo. Of course, we take such ideas and notions for granted anymore, but it is amazing nonetheless. I once conducted a conference call to the same locations while walking to the office. Of course, the disadvantages of traveling by train are the same as the advantages of traveling by train.

The Great Cheese Experiment continues. I sampled some new cheeses since I last wrote, but honestly, I am growing weary of cheeses. I think at the next writing in this blog I will give you my report. I am all cheesed out. :-)

Something interesting happened while I was touring Montmartre. I went into the area where the artists are displaying their works, and I found the artist who painted the pictures hanging above me now. The picture above me now is a watercolor of Sacré Coeur from the Montmartre Village perspective. It is a subtle watercolor, with pale greens, oranges, gray, and a hint of purple. Her colors are bolder now, and she now incorporates pen and ink, a combination I enjoy very much. I bought the picture above me in 1990, and she says she has been painting there since 1980. I think I'll make a trip back, and take a photograph from my cell phone with me, of the picture hanging above me, and perhaps buy two more of her works to add a splash of color to the living room walls. I will put that on my action list.

I will sign off for now, thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you are enjoying the trip and my perspectives. Do not be afraid to leave me a note, I find them encouraging.

Au revoir,