Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trois Cent Six Jours Dans Sceaux (306 Days in Sceaux)

Oh my! What a beautiful week we had! The clouds came back for the weekend, but it was a cloudless week, nonetheless! It is amazing what a good dose of sunshine can do for one's outlook (not the program, Outlook, that requires much more help).

I took a "test flight" with my colleague at work who owns a plane. He had just gotten the plane back from its annual maintenance, and wanted to see how well it performed, especially since it was a cloudless day. Besides, he said, it is better to crash in daylight...(a little British flying humor; very little!). It was a great time, and having flown with him before, I noticed the added pep and responsiveness of the plane, too.

I finally got the heating fixed in the apartment, just in time for spring. When the heating technician came 3 weeks ago, he discovered I needed about 50% m0re capacity from my units. We doubled the size of one of the units in the main room, and took the removed unit and moved it to the kitchen, and then threw the kitchen unit out. Now you can feel the chill being knocked off immediately. I hope for one more descent to freezing to test it, but I will be ready for next year!

The team that came to do the replacements came on time, were very friendly, encountered an unexpected issue (and with my drill resolved it), and finished on time, even sweeping the floors before they left. Overall, a very good service experience without any hassle whatsoever.

I went into the marche' de Sceaux on Saturday, around noon. I had already picked up a few items at Monoprix on the other side of town, using my backpack to carry them. I went to my favorite bread shop, and got my bread for the week and a sandwich. I finished the rest of my stops in the marche' and decided it was too nice a day to eat the sandwich on the go or back at the apartment. So, when I got to the end of the marche', I kept walking to the entrance to the Parc de Sceaux, found myself a bench, and enjoyed the sun, the view, and the sandwich. Tres jolie!

Now for the cheese report. Below is the list of cheeses I have tried.

Les Fromages de France
  • Babybel (encased in red wax)
  • Vache qui Rit (smiling cow, cream of gruyere)
  • Kiri (soft white cheese)
  • St. Agur (blue cheese, but soft and mild)
  • Reblochon
  • Brie
  • Compte
  • Emmental (French version of Swiss cheese)
  • Chevre frais
  • Chevre vieille: too strong and smelly
  • Camembert
  • Merzer: too strong and smelly
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Chausee aux Moines: boring
  • Cousteron: boring
  • Morbier
  • Bougon: boring
  • Crottin de Chevre
  • Crottin de Chavignol: though this is the original Crottin, other versions taste the same
  • Brouere
  • Mimolette
  • Edam
  • Cantal
  • Saint Nectaire
  • Fromage pur chevre: boring
I will continue to sample and report every few months.

ESPN America carries the NCAA March Madness via a license with CBS, so I am enjoying the season of hoops: GO BIG BLUE!

Speaking of "enjoying", my French teacher told me, after bid her adieu with "Enjoy your weekend", said they had no such phrase in French (they say to "pass through a good weekend"), and they do not have the verb "to enjoy", so we made one up. For you francophiles, the new word is:

infinitive: enjoyer, passe' compose': enjoye'

tu enjoies
on/il/elle enjoie
nous enjoyons
vous enjoyez
ils/elles enjoient

Enjoyez le voyage!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deux cent quatre vingt dix neuf jours dans Sceaux (299 days in Sceaux, and I think I might post tomorrow just to have an easy title)

Just got back from a week in Cambridge, England, visiting our research center there (sometimes it is hard to even pretend to be smart enough to grasp what they are talking about: "...the phase of birefringent shear waves changes at rates higher than normal spectral sampling might suggest..." OK, then to buy time while my mind is trying to visualize what I have been told, I throw in a question that leaves them dumbfounded most of the time: "And how are we going to make use of that information in reservoir characterization?". While they wrestle with that, I am thinking, with my mind bending to its elastic limit and hopefully before exceeding yield strength, "Is not the time rate of change of the phase expressed as frequency, or is it the derivative of frequency itself..."

Great visit, fun to be a part of such things, and on my page you will note the "American Cemetery runs". These are runs from my hotel to the cemetery for the Americans who flew from England in WWII. It is in a beautiful and tranquil area, at the "spur" of my running loop. You should be able to click on the image, zoom it up, and see the cemetery (N 52.2162 E 0.0541). I also visited the Eagle Pub, where in the back room, American WWII fliers burned their names into the ceiling with cigarette lighters. The ceiling has been preserved by varnish, rather than paint, ever since.

The trip to England and on to Cambridge was totally by train: I took the RER B line from Robinson (I walk to that station) to Gare du Nord (30 minutes); took the Eurostar from Gare du Nord to Saint Pancras in London (2.5 hours); crossed the street to Kings Cross station in London and caught the regional to Cambridge (1 hour).

I need to catch up on the cheese report, by making notes the next time I go to market. I have tried some new ones, with varying success, but I cannot remember their names. This will be a good project going forward into the next blog

I explored the twice-weekly open market in Sceaux on Saturday (yesterday). The market is available Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I have never really explored it. There are many items, mostly foods -- vegetables, cheeses, and meats -- and dry goods as well, such as shoes, clothing, kitchenware, and other odds and ends -- even blankets made the old way (could be a good souvenir, which is the French word for "remember" or "memory"). It was nice, and perhaps another aspect of life in Sceaux for me to explore.

It is almost time to break out the bicycle again, adding another dimension to my workouts, and perhaps as a commuting vehicle. The challenge I face is the 300 feet (100 meters) climb between my apartment and my office. I will have to build up to that one. Everyone who cycles to my workplace faces such an uphill challenge, and they say it just takes time...

The NCAA tournament is on, and even though CBS has the contract, ESPN America is carrying the games via CBS. I got to watch Kentucky defeat WVU live; it was all good...

I am signing off for now, thanks for coming along,


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deux cent quatre vingt douze jours dans Sceaux (292 days in Sceaux)

Yesterday was a good day in Sceaux. As I stated in my last blog entry, this has been especially dreary winter. There have not been very many days of sunshine, even less than usual for this part of the world. As a result, the general mood of the people has been somewhat down, as has been verified to me by some of my French friends. It is amazing what a little bit of sunshine can do for one's spirit. Yesterday morning, when I went into the marche' de Sceaux, the pedestrian areas were full of people, most of them not walking. What is so unusual about this, you ask? People were not trying to hide from the weather, or move quickly in and out of the stores and shops to quickly return home. People were visiting one another, enjoying the partly cloudy skies above them. I will not say that spring has arrived, as there are no flower baskets hanging in the marketplace -- I take that as a sign that spring has truly arrived -- and thour our flirtation with sunshine yesterday was brief, we settled into an afternoon rain, the buds on the trees tell us that spring is near. And that fact lightens my steps.

My running has picked up again, after significant layoffs due to colds, nursing a heel injury, and business travel. I have learned to listen to my body somewhat, and manage my expectations. I knew that I would not pick up where I left off, and a concentration on form would be far more important than time or distance. I am in the process of building my way back to a 10 mile weekend run, but as of today, I sent some might be as much as two weeks away from achieving that goal. I share my running stories with you for two reasons: it is an activity in which I spend a great deal of time, since it can be done without the need of translation; and as an encouragement to my friends who follow along on my blog who are also runners, and we take encouragement from each other's stories of struggle and success.

My business travels have taken me to Scotland and Norway, both places more cloudy than Paris, and they see even less blue sky than this area of northern France in addition to being colder. These are obviously summertime places to visit, and I'm quite certain I would not want to live there. The people I met were absolutely wonderful, very open, receptive, and looking forward to warmer weather as well. My business trips really do not allow the opportunity to do any sightseeing, especially trips involving more than one location. But traveling to these places and talking to the people, gives me incentive for weekend journeys, as these places are within a two hour flight of Paris.

Next week I am traveling to Cambridge, England. We have a research center there, and some colleagues and I from headquarters are visiting to discuss longer-term trends in research and development, as well as kick around some new ideas. When one has an idea that seems a little crazy, out of touch, certainly out-of-the-box, but plausible enough that it just might work, it is good to take a trip to visit the boys and girls in research to make sure that you are not in violation of the laws of physics. And that will be a part of what we will be doing. This is the fun stuff.

I have saved the best for last. On March 5, 2011, my granddaughter Anna Belle was born. The proud parents are my daughter Michelle and her husband Taylor Bacot. Anna Belle's proud older brother is Brady Bacot, age 2 1/2 years. Michelle and Anna Belle are both healthy and doing well. I look forward to meeting her as soon as I can get a break in my business travels.

And with that bit of news, I will sign off for this week.

a bientot,