mercredi 24 décembre 2008
I did it, I passed the United States Patent and Trademark Office Registration Exam. This is the exam for which I have been studying for six months. It was darn expensive too. All in all, it cost me about 1000$, though most of that was for the study materials, which I plan on re-selling.

I could only take the exam while in the US, so there was a quite a bit of pressure to pass it this time, since I wouldn't be able to re-take it again for another 1.5 or 2 years.

I could either take it at the USPTO office in Virginia in the summer, or at a company called Prometric all year round. This company has testing centers all over the US and administers hundreds of exams for different companies. I scheduled it with Prometric for the beginning of our vacation, mainly so that I could get it over with right away, and not be worrying about it our entire vacation. I would have felt guilty the moments that I wasn't studying.

Yesterday morning Dad drove me down to the testing center, and I checked in around 8:30. Had to show my passport and get my fingerprints and picture taken. The morning session of the test was 3 hours for 50 multiple choice questions. It doesn't sound hard, but believe me it was. It was harder than I had expected, so after the morning session I wasn't feeling too confident. I ate my lunch (1.5 peanut butter sandwiches on wheat bread, a small can of Rootbeer, and a clementine) and went back in for the afternoon session.
The afternoon session seemed to go a bit better, but it still took me the entire three hours (for another 50 questions).

The questions are multiple choice, A-E. They aren't technical in nature, but you really have to know the patent law. The questions are very particular, and you have to be very careful with the wording, dates, etc.

Here are some example questions; see how you do:
1. Assuming that a rejection has been properly made final, which of the following statements is not in accordance with the patent laws, rules and procedures as related in the MPEP?
(A) An objection and requirement to delete new matter from the specification is subject to supervisory review by petition under 37 CFR 1.181.

(B) A rejection of claims for lack of support by the specification (new matter) is reviewable by appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.

(C) If both the claims and the specification contain the same new matter, and there has been both a rejection and objection by the primary examiner, the new matter issue should be decided by petition, and is not appealable.
(D) If both the claims and the specification contain the same new matter, and there has been both a rejection and objection by the examiner, the new matter issue is appealable, and should not be decided by petition.

(E) None of the above.

2. In accordance with the patent laws, rules and procedures as related in the MPEP, which of the following does not constitute prior art upon which a primary examiner could properly rely
upon in making an obviousness rejection under 35 USC 103?
(A) A U.S. patent in the applicant’s field of endeavor which was issued two years before the filing date of applicant’s patent application.
(B) A non-patent printed publication in a field unrelated to the applicant’s field of endeavor but relevant to the particular problem with which the inventor-applicant was concerned, which was published the day after the filing date of applicant’s application.
(C) A printed publication published more than 1 year before the filing date of applicant’s patent application, which publication comes from a field outside the applicant’s field of endeavor but concerns the same problem with which the applicant-inventor was concerned.
(D) A printed publication in the applicant’s field of endeavor published 3 years before the filing date of applicant’s patent application.
(E) A U.S. patent which issued more than 1 year before the filing date of applicant’s patent application, which the Office placed in a different class than the applicant’s patent application, but which concerns the same problem with which the applicant-inventor was concerned, and which shows the same structure and function as in the applicant’s patent application.

3. In a reexamination proceeding a non-final Office action dated November 8, 2001 set a shortened statutory period of 2 months to reply. The patent owner, represented by a registered practitioner, filed a response on March 7, 2002, which included an amendment of the claims. No request for an extension of time was received. As of May 8, 2002, which of the following actions would be in accord with the patent laws, rules and procedures as related in the MPEP?
(A) The registered practitioner should file a request and fee for an extension of time of
two months.
(B) The registered practitioner should file a petition for revival of a terminated reexamination proceeding showing the delay was unavoidable or unintentional, and the appropriate petition fee for entry of late papers.
(C) The primary examiner responsible for the reexamination should mail a Notice of Allowance and grant a new patent. The patent owner’s failure to timely respond to the outstanding Office action does not affect the allowability of the claims in the patent.

(D) The examiner should provide an Office action based upon the claims in existence prior to the patent owner’s late amendment, and mail a Final Office action.
(E) The registered practitioner should request an extension of time of four months, and file a Notice of Appeal.

Of the 100 questions, 10 are beta questions that are being tested for possible inclusion on future exams. You don't know which ones they are, and they don't count towards your score, but they might be the ones that you have absolutely no clue on. So of the 90 questions that count, you have to get 70% correct.

Anyway, at the end of the 3-hour afternoon session, I was able to get my results. I was quite nervous, because I didn't have a strong feeling either way, that I failed or that I passed with flying colors. The results came up on the screen, saying "Preliminary results show that you have passed the United States Patent and Trademark Office Registration Exam".
I read it over several times, just to be sure of what I was seeing.
The results will now be sent to the USPTO, then they will mail me the official results, then I have to fill out a form, and pay more money. Then they will post my name on their website under the heading:
The following list contains the names of persons seeking for registration to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Final approval for registration is subject to establishing to the satisfaction of the Director of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline that the person seeking registration is of good moral character and repute. 37 CFR § 11.7 Accordingly, any information tending to affect the eligibility of any of the following persons on moral, ethical, or other grounds should be furnished to the Director of Enrollment and Discipline on or before (date)
at the following address: Mail Stop OED, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-145

Basically, if someone sees my name and knows of some great moral transgression that I have committed, they are supposed to contact the office and tell them. The office then does an investigation to decide whether it is true and whether it should bar me from becoming a patent agent.

Speaking of which, some of you are maybe wondering what the heck a patent agent actually is.
A patent agent is someone who has a math/science/engineering background who can write patents and file them with the USPTO. Then you "work" (more like argue and fight) with the office, trying to get your patents approved. It is a very technical and meticulous line of work.
A patent attorney is the same as a patent agent, but someone that has also passed the bar exam for a state, but also must have a technical background.

Foreigners can pass the USPTO exam if they are living in the US and also have a patent certification from another country, but if they go back to a foreign country, they cannot continue to practice in front of the USPTO. As I am American, I can pass the test and continue to practice even from a foreign country. Therefore, I will be the only one in my office in France who can do this. I did not tell my boss that I was going to take the exam. I wanted it to be a surprise if I passed, and if I didn't pass, well, I didn't want him to think the less of me.

Now that the exam is over, I can relax and enjoy my vacation.
Well, except for the Killer Cold From Toronto.
lundi 22 décembre 2008
Last night, my parents, Alain, and I went to go see a local theater production of a play called "The Lying Kind".

Here is the description from the website:
On Christmas Eve, two English constables have the unpleasant task of telling an elderly couple their daughter has been killed in a motor accident. While they dither and delay, the stage fills with complications and eccentric characters, including a very aggressive huntress of pedophiles and a vicar who wears fishnets. The Rocky Mountain premiere of the play that had us rolling with laughter in London – a diabolical comedy full of very bad news and holiday cheer.

It doesn't sound like great comedy material, but it was absolutely hilarious. The entire theater was in an uproar.

It wasn't a long play, only 1:45 minutes, no intermission.
It helped to fill my 101 things item
#79 See 5 plays, operas, or live performances.

Here is a link to the website, with a movie preview
(sorry, can't figure out how to embed it).
One thing that I love about the US is the breakfast food.
Let's do an objective comparison table between the breakfast foods of the US and of France, to see which country has the best breakfast food.
bagels with cream cheese
waffles with maple syrup, fruit, whipped cream, chocolate chips
english muffins
French toast


Am I forgetting something? What is your favorite breakfast food?

Alain concedes that waffles are "quite OK" but still holds out that croissants are the best and that nothing more is needed.
True that Americans cannot make croissants even if their life depends upon it, but there is such a plethora of other yummy stuff to eat.
I mean honestly, there is no contest.
When Alain and I first started dating, we would go to Sunday brunch together at the UVA dining halls. It was one of the highlights of my week.
dimanche 21 décembre 2008
Arrived in Denver, safe and sound, one day later than expected. Some of you may have heard that there was an accident in Denver, and it happened about an hour after we landed.

Thursday night we drove to my in-laws, and then they took us to the airport on Friday morning. Checked in with no problems, got on our plane to Frankfurt, and were told that take-off would be delayed due to high wind in Frankfurt. We had about 2 hours before our next flight, so were a little concerned, but not overly. We finally took off about 40 minutes late, got in to Frankfurt at 12:30. We quick hurried to our next gate, because boarding was supposed to start at about 1. And we sat there until 4 pm. Technical difficulties this time.
We were finally able to board and take off at 5 pm. The pilot announced that an oil leak onto one of the engines had been fixed. Gee, maybe there is some stuff people who are about to ride in your airplane don't need to know?
By this time, it was sure that we would miss our connecting flight to Denver, unless that flight was delayed too. There just happened to be a snowstorm in Toronto. Oh why is traveling never easy?
The flight to Toronto was extremely long- nine hours. I managed to sleep about two hour's worth.
We landed in Toronto at around 7:30 pm Toronto time. We got off, went through Canadian customs, then asked about our bags- it was obvious we would spending the night. We were told to just leave our bags, they wouldn't even come to the carousel. We then went on a Treasure Hunt to find the Lufthansa representative to find out about hotel accommodations and our next flight. There were about 8 people in front of us, two people working the desk, and it literally took us 2 hours to get to the front of the line.
You would think that the airline could have figured all this out in the 9 hours it took to arrive at our destination, but NOOOOO....
Most of them were going to Mexico City, and were told they wouldn't be able to leave until Sunday. We were slightly luckier- our itinerary was changed: Toronto-Vancouver-Denver. Hey, how about throw in a free tour of all of Canada's airports while you are it?
But at this point, we were informed we were lucky just to be able to have seats somewhere. Of course it is the busiest travel day of the year and everything was booked to the gills.
We got our hotel and meal vouchers and went to the hotel shuttle. It was -11 degrees.

Canada is a concept I have trouble with.
It is an entire country NORTH of Minnesota!
Where people live!
All year round!
And don't freeze to death!

How, and more importantly why, do they do this?
Will some Canadian please explain this to me?

So we finally got to our hotel around midnight, checked in, took badly-needed showers, and went down to the restaurant to eat something. There was a table of businessmen well into their cups who were causing a ruckus a few tables over.
We ordered, ate quickly, and went to sleep at 1 am Toronto time, 7 am Marseille time.
Slept for three hours, got up, got back to the airport at 4:45 am. The Lufthansa rep told us to be sure to get there extra early, and we did.
A good thing too because it took us an hour to check in, and then we went in search of our bags.
We looked down in the lost baggage area, but the guys there told us to go up to the US customs side.
A unique thing about Canada is that you can pass through US customs before getting on the plane, and then when you arrive in the US you don't have to go through customs. It was something I didn't know before.
We went up to the US customs bag area, and our bags weren't there either. A nice Canadian man helped us, and found our bags (coincidentally in the lost baggage area where we had been told our bags weren't). Then we had to pass through Canadian customs AGAIN because we had technically been in the "USA" section (trick question: how can you enter a country twice without having left it?).
Went through security, almost got on the wrong flight to Vancouver, then finally got on our flight at 8:30 am. It was a five hour flight but there was the in-flight in-seat entertainment system, so I got to watch Big Love, Bones, and Six Feet Under.
Landed in Vancouver, went through US customs this time, and waited for our bags. One arrived, but the other (mine with all the presents- natch) did not. It was at this point less than an hour before our next flight, and I knew that if we missed this one, I was going to have an all-out screaming, yelling, get-taken-away-by-airport-security fit. I preferred to actually get to Denver and (hopefully) get my bag a day or two later, then wait for the bag, miss the flight, and have to spend another night in some airport. We went through security, and I guess I was complaining a bit too loudly because I "randomly" got selected for the extra-special security search.
Our flight from Vancouver to Denver had the worst turbulence I have experienced in a long time. Landed at around 5:30 pm Denver time, got our one bag, filled out the missing bag report, and met my parents.
That evening we found out about the plane accident. We had been in the airport when it happened, but I didn't notice anything unusual.
All in all, glad to be home safe and sound, but I think this is it for our Christmas traveling. Never again. It is way too expensive, too crowded, and if something happens (blizzard in Denver, technical problems, etc) there are almost no other options.
I think Christmas in March sounds like a good idea. Just think- cheaper airfare, better weather, January sales, and less all-around holiday craziness. I am not even kidding this time.
Hope everyone else has arrived safe and sound.
jeudi 18 décembre 2008
Here we come.
Leaving tomorrow from Marseille, arriving (hopefully) in Denver Friday evening. Passing by Frankfurt and Toronto.
Praying that there are no huge snowstorms that strand us somewhere en route, à la December 2006 when we spent an unexpected overnight in Chicago and weren't sure we would get to Colorado before Christmas.
Thank goodness we had family nearby.
This time, not so much.
Got my medium suitcase filled with presents and packed inside the big suitcase, and taking the small one on the plane, filled with my clothes. Alain has another large black suitcase with a duffel bag inside- we plan on leaving that large suitcase at mom and dad's and bringing the duffel bag back, and then I will have the large and medium suitcases available to fill with presents, new clothes, makeup, candy, and other essentials.
Just have to survive my last day of work for 2008, then this evening we will finish up packing, close up the apartment (turn off the water, take out the trash, etc) and go to Alain's parents for the night. That way we can leave the car and motorcycle there and they will take us to the airport tomorrow. Our flight leaves at 10 am.
(Oh, and "Ok USA" is an Alainism)
Wish us non-snowstorm travels!
mercredi 10 décembre 2008
This is something that I have been having trouble with lately. More specifically, keeping myself decently dressed.

Case in point #1: Shoes
I basically have two pairs of black shoes that I wear to work. Both date from at least 2004 and are starting to show it. One is a pair of low boots. A few months ago, the zipper fell off the left boot. Since then I have been using a paperclip. The insole came unglued and was getting all bunched up. I finally had to superglue it back in place. Both of the heels are getting unstable, which doesn't help when walking on the cobblestones of Aix.

The right shoe of the other pair has a huge crack in the sole. This doesn't normally cause a problem, but if it is raining out my foot gets soaking wet. Thought about taking off my socks and placing them over the radiators to dry, but I am not sure everyone else in my office would appreciate that. Yesterday morning the entire heel came undone except for a small piece of rubber that was holding it on. When I walked it was flopping around. What did I do? Yep, superglue.

It would be easier if I could just bring a pair of slippers to work.
I could get both pairs re-soled and the zipper replaced, but don't know when I will be able to do that and if it is worth it financially. Plus, I would have no shoes to wear to work besides high heels and my pink boots.
At this point I am just hoping that they will hold out until Les Soldes in January because I am not in the mood to spend 50+ euros for a pair of shoes that will be half as much in a month.

Case in point #2: Buttons
Buttons seem to be popping off all over, and I can't be bothered to sew them back on.
I bought two coats this fall, one grey one and one cream-colored one. A button came off the shoulder of the grey coat. I haven't yet had the energy to sew it back on. My scarf usually covers up the missing spot, so it is okay for now.
I also have a sweater that I keep at work (because it is freezing in this old building!). One of the buttons in the middle came off. Yep, still haven't replaced that one either.

Case in point #3: Pants
This isn't the worst problem to have, but all of my pants are falling off. Plus, at least two need to be hemmed.

Case in point #4: Forgetfulness
Yesterday I was sitting on the bus with my jacket on, and could not for the life of me remember what shirt I was wearing. And this was 7 pm at night. I had spent all day wearing the same shirt, but could not tell you which one it was.
It took me a good 30 seconds to remember. And it isn't like I have 50 different shirts. I have about 6 tops that I wear in the winter, so the fact that I couldn't remember which one out of six goes to show you something.

Head to toe: Forgetful, hair in need of a haircut (last time was June), sweater missing a button, broken belt, baggy un-hemmed pants (slightly wrinkled as well), holey socks, and superglued shoes with paperclips for zippers. Super!
dimanche 7 décembre 2008
We have finally decided on what new light switches and plugs to buy to replace the World's Ugliest Light Switches. Honestly, who EVER thought that these cream and brown monstrosities would be nice? Well, I mean who living after the 1970's? (never mind the wall, we haven't yet gotten around to painting it. We are leaving the old plugs up until after the wall is finished so that we don't get paint all over the new ones.)

We decided on these light switches and corresponding plugs, in white and grey.

As I watched the cashier ringing them up, all I could think of was "One hour of work. Two hours of work. Three hours of work.." as the little buggers went by. Not hours of work to put them up, hours of work to pay for them.

I have worked out approximately how much I make per hour, after taxes. It helps when deciding whether or not to buy something. Is this shirt really worth 4 hours of work? Nah. Is this cute dress really worth 2 days of work? Totally! etc.

You would think something like replacing light switches and plugs to be fairly simple- unscrew the old one, unclip the old wires, re-attach them in the correct places to the new switch, screw back into wall, and put faceplate on to cover the screws.

Yeah, that would be how it works in a non-Alain and Megan household.

In an Alain and Megan household (which happens to have ancient wiring and everything non-standard sizes) a simple task such as changing a light switch can take an hour.

Why you ask?

Because the space in the wall is too small for light switches made after 1970.

For these two in our kitchen, we hooked everything up, then tried to fit them back into the wall space. Nope, they are too big. We had to take the power drill and drill out some of the brick behind, without breaking the tile. However, in order to be able to work the power drill, we needed electricity.

Can I get a hip hip hooray for power tools and live wires?
Hip hip? Hooray!
Hip hip? Hooray!

Actually, that didn't happen. We both survived and got the plugs installed.

Yet for a week afterwards, I had light switch amnesia.

Apparently, all of the light switches in our apartment had been orientated in different directions. Some you had to push the part on top to turn on the light, some you had to push the part on the bottom. I guess we had just gotten used to it and pushed the correct part in each room, but now we are installing them all in the same direction, push on the top to turn on the light. The light switch in the kitchen must have originally been installed the opposite way. For a good week, I kept trying to push the bottom part to turn on the light.
Maybe if I just push it harder.... Why won't this turn on? Oh yeah, have to push the top part. There we go. Finally got it figured out now. I guess it didn't help that my brain has been MIA since mid-November.
samedi 6 décembre 2008
Today, I finally managed to drag Alain out to Rue St. Ferreol (walking street downtown Marseille) to get our Christmas shopping over and done with.
I really really hate Christmas shopping- too many people. I normally like to have all my shopping done by the end of November- I gather ideas all year long, pick things up as I go and squirrel them away.
But this year, I had no idea.
Last year was easy- I just brought back some porcelain and stuff from Korea. (Which, now that I think about, I haven't seen in his relatives' houses since Christmas.)
We went to Virgin Megastore (absolutely stuffed with people). Right before we got to the front of the line, the computers started going down. Couldn't scan the items, couldn't charge the credit cards. Yikes.
Finally managed to make it out of there alive, and went for some hot chocolate at La Folle Epoque.
Alain bought himself a watch, which he feels a bit guilty about now. He isn't the type to buy non-essential stuff for himself. But he deserves it.
Now, everything is wrapped and ready to be distributed.
Still need to do my Christmas cards, but I will wait until we get to the US to send the ones to everyone I know in the US, and for the French, I will send them New Year's postcards (the French don't do Christmas cards, they send New Year's cards).
Didn't buy a santon this year- the past years we have been going to the Marché de Santons and picking out a new one. So far we have Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, and a donkey. The Donkey was our latest addition. It was a struggle between us whether to get the donkey (him) or an elephant (me). Next year, I'm getting my elephant darn it. Because I am certain that an elephant was there for the birth of Jesus.
jeudi 4 décembre 2008
Her Royal Crabiness.
A bad case of the crabs.
No, not THOSE kind of crabs.
The kind of crabs where basically you don't want to be around anyone, and more importantly, nobody wants to be around you.
Less than 3 weeks until my big USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) exam and I am stressed.
Putting in 50 hour work weeks, plus trying to get ready for Christmas.
Hoping that we do not get stuck in an airport somewhere like Christmas 2006 when we got stuck in Chicago due to a blizzard in Colorado.
For the first time I absolutely cannot think of what Christmas presents to get for Alain's family, and he is no help either.
Plus beyond the point of caring of what state the apartment is in.
Sigh. This too shall pass.
In the meantime, a friendly warning: Stay off the roads between Aix and Marseille, especially between 5-7:30 pm.
Because you might see some blond woman screaming her head off because some guy cut in front of her in the line to get over the overpass, then burst into tears, then say "Why the hell am I crying?" while listening to her Patent Bar course on her Ipod.
I'm just sayin'.
mardi 2 décembre 2008

Sunday evening Alain and I made the trek to Célony, right next to Aix, for the Anglo-American Group of Provence's Thanksgiving dinner.

I had reserved our spots at the beginning of November, finally got around to sending in the check (23€ each, ouch). We debated about whether or not to invite Alain's family to come along too, but finally decided that they probably wouldn't be comfortable with everyone speakin' 'Merican.

The aperitif began at 4, but because of some dilly dallying and traffic jams, we didn't get there until almost 5, when the meal was supposed to start. Yep, eating at 5 pm, another cherished American tradition.
All the way there in the car we had a discussion about which country's dessert was the worst:
Alain: Why do you Americans eat pumpkin pie? It is terrible!
Megan: Yeah, well why do you French have to eat clafoutis? They are terrible!
Alain: No they are not!
Megan: Yes they are!
Alain: I don't see why I have to go to this thing. I'm not American!
Megan: Well tough! When you signed the papers you agreed to go to Thanksgiving and eat pumpkin pie!
Alain: It didn't say that in our Contrat de Mariage!
Megan: Yes it did, you just didn't read it closely enough!
Alain: There was nothing about having to eat pumpkin pie in it!

As you can see, he quite dislikes pumpkin pie.
We got to the banquet hall and it was quite crowded. It came time for everyone to take their seats, and only single seats at different tables were left.
They finally pushed over and put another chair at one of the tables, so we were able to sit together. None of the younger couples that we met at the welcome dinner were there. At our table was a couple from Texas, a couple from Colorado, an Irish guy (what was he doing there?), a woman from Minnesota, and women with two little girls.

The turkeys were brought out, along with the green beans, mashed potatoes, yams, bread, red wine, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

The food was good, but afterwards I wasn't stuffed like normal after Thanksgiving dinner.

The girls had a fabulous time taking the napkin rings and putting them on everyone's heads. It's a crown! It's a headband! It's a ponytail holder! It's an earring!
This got old after an hour.

By this time, I was well into my third glass of wine. We were done with the main meal when the hostess came to our table, gathered us together and said "One of you lucky people is going to be able to take the turkey carcass home."

I said, a bit too loudly, OH BOY!

I couldn't imagine what in the world anyone would want the turkey carcass for, unless to feed a dog. (which would most likely result in cleaning up after the dog afterwards. no thanks)

She seemed a bit offended and said that they make excellent soups. Nobody at our table jumped on the chance, so some other lucky person at a different table got to take our turkey carcass home.

Pumpkin pie was served, to Alain's ENORMOUS delight, but they forgot the whipped cream. Even pumpkin pie lover that I am, I have had better. The pumpkin pie was obviously made from scratch. A good attempt, but I like the canned stuff better. Alain took one bite and gave me a pleading look that said "Do I have to eat this?" I took his piece and he took a piece of apple pie (à la française, not an American Apple Pie).

After the dessert, an announcement was made that a special surprise was in store. A group of traditional Masai dancers was in the area, doing performances, and one of them had agreed to come to the meal and then afterwards do a short presentation of some dances.

The dance floor was cleared, everyone gathered round, he changed into his costume, and the lights were dimmed. The performance lasted about 15 minutes. He was an excellent dancer and very fit. All of the women were surely thinking "What is he wearing under the lioncloth?" and all the men were thinking "He isn't THAT much more muscled than I am."

It ended before 8 and we headed home.
It was a good time and we will probably go again in the future. Though I know now not to try and force Alain to eat the pumpkin pie, not say anything when the turkey carcasses are being offered, arrive before 5 pm, and bring my own whipped cream.
vendredi 28 novembre 2008
Is 5 years old.
Yep, there is another female totally smitten with my husband.

When these drawings started showing up on a regular basis, I started to get suspicious.

-How old is she? Five.

- How did you meet her? She's in my twice-weekly karate class.

She is, apparently, "folle de lui".
While I don't exactly blame her, I made it quite clear to him that 5 was my other-girlfriend age limit.
We now have a growing collection of pictures of: hearts with eyelashes; flowers; princesses; and princesses along with hearts with eyelashes.
Little girls seem to adore Alain- Manon (who is also five, hmmm...) adores her uncle.
jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Woke up this cold Thanksgiving morning, got dressed, went to my car (which I had parked illegally last night- hey, no choice sometimes). As I passed all the other illegally-parked cars, I got a bad feeling- each of them had a ticket tucked merrily under their windshield wiper.
Uh oh.... I guess the cops came by last night.
Got to my car- yeppers. Happy Thanksgiving!\

The most annoying thing is that I would LOVE to be able to buy a parking spot or garage but there JUST AREN'T ANY FOR SALE. Talk about supply and demand.
A parking spot can go for as much as 15,000 €, and a garage for twice that. Those that have them hang on to them like gold.
It is a strange feeling to have the money to buy something, but not be able to because there are none on the market.

So you have to expect a parking ticket every now and then.
Actually, it isn't too bad. In the two years we have lived here, we have only gotten about 5.
As long as I get less than three a month, it is worth it not to rent a parking spot, which is 100€ or more per month.
A few months ago we had an opportunity to rent a spot- back in February I had put our name on a waiting list for a nearby garage. Months went by and we hadn't heard anything, so we pretty much forgot about it until one day they called and said a spot was available if we wanted it. We hemmed and hawed for a weekend, and finally decided not to take it. It wasn't particularly close by and I am usually able to find a not-so illegal parking spot. I have classified parking spots into three categories:
1) an actual legal spot
2) an illegal spot (on the sidewalk, on a crosswalk, etc) that the cops will usually overlook unless they are looking to raise some cash for the city
3) totally illegal which will most likely get you towed- in front of a garage, double-parked etc.

I am usually able to find at least a Category 2 parking spot. It is strange because only a few streets over is a Category 3 area- almost all the cars are double parked. The owners usually leave a piece of paper on their dashboard with their phone number. Supposedly, if you are blocked in, you are supposed to call them and ask them to come move your car. Which is usually faster than calling a tow truck.

If we lived in a Category 3 area I would definitely have gone with the parking garage.
Alain has it somewhat easy, since he can put his motorcycle anywhere he wants. Of course, he is freezing cold in the winter and soaking wet when it rains, but hey, he wanted the motorcycle.
The city really needs to do something about the parking situation, yet when they come around for opinion polls, all the elderly people (who do not have cars and do everything by foot) vote against new parking garages, underground parking, etc.
samedi 22 novembre 2008
Today, while doing my weekly grocery shopping at Casino, the first thing I saw was the big conspicuous Beajolais Nouveau stand. I have been trying to learn about wines, and bought an Eyewitness Companions "French Wines" book. It is part of my 101 things to do list.

Well, I am still pretty much at the "A wine is a wine is a wine" phase, where pretty much all I can taste is "um, I'm going to with grape here?"

There was an embarrassing moment when I exclaimed to Alain "Guess what!? There are different TYPES of grapes!" Uh, yeah, didn't you know that? Well, no, I thought it was pretty much limited to red grapes and white grapes.

And Cabernet and Merlot are actually, get this, THE NAMES OF THE GRAPES.

Amazing how much we can learn when we read.
So really, when you think about it, I have come a long way in my wine education.
Being pretty much a wine novice, when faced with the large number of different Beaujoulais Nouveau bottles to choose from, I did what any self-respecting woman would do when faced with such a dilemma,
and after a careful reading of the descriptions, chose the one with.....

The pinkest, prettiest label.

Wine aficionados everywhere are screaming in pain upon reading this blog entry I am sure.

The wine itself you ask? Very purply-red and best drunk after about 3 glass of some other wine.
In other news, today is my 3 year blog anniversary. You poor people.
mercredi 19 novembre 2008
If there is one thing I cannot stand, it is listening to other Anglophones speaking french. Argh! I know I sound like that (more or less) and it is awful.
At least the english-speaker's accent in French is considered by the French to be rather charming/upper class, but sometimes I just want to blend in. I suppose I can get away with mono-syllabels - "oui" "non" - but anything more involved than that and Bam! they know I ain't french.

The worst is the Rs. I just cannot pronounce them correctly for the life of me. I have sometimes had to resort to spelling the word I want to convey the meaning of.

Once, I was speaking on the phone at work and was saying four. (think I was ordering four of something)
Un, doo, twa, catruh!
He finally understood. My officemates just laughed.

When I was taking my french courses, I tried to record myself reading texts in French, then listen to myself. That lasted all of once. I just could not bear it. Ah! Turn it off! Turn it off!

Other Things I Have Learned:
1) Thou, as a foreigner, shalt not use slang terms. Ya just sound silly.
Imagine someone with a heavy German accent saying
"Yo man, I'ma gonna go rollin in my bangin' ride to hit on some chicks."
Doesn't work right? Makes you just want to laugh right?
well, same for Americans speaking in French- mec, truc, bagnole, flic, etc.
Stick to the normal words.

2) Thou, as a foreigner, shalt not swear.
You can be upset, but Putain merde! just doesn't quite have the same effect.
You can maybe get away with a "mince" or "bon sang" but that's about it.

3) Thou, as a foreigner, shalt not get overly angry and yell in foreign language.
Getting red in face, searching for your words, combined with accent and slang terms?
Doesn't work. You can have disagreements, but that is it. Otherwise, nobody will take your little temper tantrum seriously.
"Aww, look at the funny American. They are so cute when they get angry and try to yell in French."
Putain merde!
mardi 11 novembre 2008
Question- why is "toilet" always used in the plural sense in France?

Où sont les toilettes?
Well, what if there is only one?
And I only want to use one at a time.

People use the plural sense even when they are at someone's house, when it is certain that they only have one toilet.

Anyway, I repainted the toilet room (another question- how many times can I repaint the same 5 m2 area?) with blue stripes. This decision was taken after yet another try of matching the paint to the tiles- I went to Castorama with one of the extra tiles, and the guy in the paint department custom mixed some paint that was supposed to match. I bought the smallest size, about a liter I guess. Nope, too purpely this time.

Turns out that the pre-mixed paint that I had originally picked matched the closest. Go figure. Anyway, Alain didn't want to repaint the bedroom and throw out all the paint we had bought, and didn't want to have the toilet room a different blue than the bedrooms and the hallway, so we settled on painting it blue stripes, using the blue that was already there, the blue I had bought, and white paint. It took me several days- marking the lines with pencil and using a level, using masking tape to cover the areas I didn't want to paint, painting a few stripes, letting it dry, removing and replacing the tape, painting with different shades of blue.
So voila. It is definitely unique. I feel like I should paint a blue frame around the white window above, to make it stand out. Or maybe there is enough blue already. Opinions?
As we have sortof a blue stripe theme (my painting below, blue striped pillows, tablecloth, etc), it isn't too out there. If we get tired of it we can always just repaint in white. For now, it is okay. That and I can't be bothered to care anymore.
For the first week I was surprised each time I went in. "Oh yeah, I forgot that I spent a week painting these blue stripes."
(before ->)
Still need to do: replace light switch (ugly brown and cream colored switch in picture above)
replace the light
buy some boxes or something to hide the cleaning supplies and toilet paper in.
redo the door (sand, paint white, replace handle).

lundi 10 novembre 2008
I always know that winter has arrived here once the first Marrons Grillés stands start going up. These are roasted chestnuts, which I had never tasted before coming to France. They are great in winter, to buy a cornet to share with someone while Christmas shopping...

Should we ever move back to the US, I will have to start doing this in the winters.

Sorry for the blurry picture.

Picture below on the Canebiere in Marseille. It is a small stand shaped like a train. There are numerous stands in Aix, but I haven't yet stopped for roasted chestnuts because the weather has been rainy and terrible.

Alain loves chestnut cream.

I haven't actually started Christmas shopping yet, these pictures are from last year.

dimanche 9 novembre 2008
This past weekend, we began working on constructing the closet in our bedroom.
Alain had already built the supporting walls in August, and we painted them blue when we painted the walls (oh that was fun!)

After some discussion about what kinds of boards to use and how to arrange the space (ie 2/3rds for me, 1/3rd for him naturally) we finally bought white particle board, 2.5 meters long.

It was suprisingly easy to mount the vertical boards. Well, except for the fact that while the bottom of the board touches at the floor, up at the top there is a 5 cm gap due to our walls being incredibly not straight. We discussed whether we should cut the edges at an angle so that they fit, but then decided we would only loose space and would never be able to get it to match exactly. Sigh.

Only had to do two extra trips to the hardware store on Saturday (thank goodness there is one fairly close by). On Sunday we went again to buy more 2.5 m boards, this time for the shelves. We need 7 total, and were only able to fit four in the car, so next Saturday we will have to go back and buy the rest, as well as additional supports to hold the shelves.

We still haven't decided on what type of doors we want. We need three doors, and they will have to be custom-made to the tune of an arm and a leg, because the standard height of 2.5 meters isn't enough- our ceilings are 2.90 meters. Why did we have to buy an apartment made before things were standardized? Even the highest custom-made ones will not be high enough- they only go up to 2.80 meters. We will have to use an extension kit that fixes to the ceiling. Super!

Anyway, I will be glad just to have a closet- keeping all our clothes in the living room is getting rather old.
jeudi 6 novembre 2008
Today I am going to talk about something very important and historic, that is very close to my heart....
A momentous occasion that just happened that has worldwide ramifications.
No, not the election.
I am talking about:
Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, today is my 29th birthday. Goodness, I am getting up there.

Today is the saint day Sainte Bertille. Yuck. Thank goodness I wasn't named for the saint upon whose day I was born. Actually, I don't really have a Saint Day. I guess the closest would have to be Sainte Marguerite, November 16th. Close enough.

And tomorrow is Alain's and my 5 year dating anniversary.
We were office mates in graduate school (he was doing his postdoc) at the University of Virginia. When I arrived in the office, he was up in New York- he went every other month to IBM to do some experiments. Another student (playing matchmaker I know, she confessed) put me in his office.
I thought "I hope he is either really cute, or if he isn't really cute, that he isn't around much." Well, unfortunately he was both: cute and not around very much.
Anyway, I told him that my birthday was Nov. 6th and he invited me out for drinks the day after to celebrate. Wasn't sure if it was a date or not, but I tried my hardest and even if it wasn't a date to start with, it ended up one!
Five years later, here we are: five years older for one thing.
But also married, living in France, and owning an apartment (even if I want to firebomb it from time to time).
Also quite sick of questions of when little tadpoles are going to arrive, so don't even start.
mardi 28 octobre 2008

Oh what miracles can arrive if you just pray hard enough.....

This is a new store (opened in September) near the Palais de Justice in Aix.

People are just starting to become aware of it, because it is getting more and more crowded at lunch time.

Their bagels are more for sandwiches than for take-out (1.50 a piece otherwise, yikes). Have not yet tried the cream cheese nor the hummus, it will be remedied soon I predict.

Every day they offer sides (such as salad, couscous, etc) and deserts (carrot cake, cheese cake, cookies).

The lines are quite long, but I think it is mostly because the workers have not yet figured out how to do things efficiently- it is a small space and they mostly get in each others way.

However, I predict that they will soon iron out all the bugs.

The bagels are very good, much better than these poor things..
dimanche 26 octobre 2008
Three times in the past week I have had strangers either correct my pronunciation of French words, grammar, or just plain mock my accent.

The first time was when I went with my ten French coworkers to lunch. We ordered drinks and I said (in French) "I would just like some water please."

The waiter made fun of my accent, repeating back to me with what he seemed to think was an imitation of my accent in French. Haha not funny.

The second time was when I went to buy some bread. I couldn't think of the word for a fixed price menu (sandwich and drink). So I asked if they had any menus. Men-you?

No it's men-eww. Yeah well just give me my baguette or else I am going elsewhere.

The last time was yesterday, again at a restaurant (different). I said I would like a waffle (un gauffre). The waiter corrected me, no it's une guaffre.

He saw I was displeased so he winked and tried to get me to smile, but by the third time in a week I had had enough. No tip for you buddy. I'm paying you for food, not for a french lesson, you very well could understand what I wanted.

You would think that people in the service industry, especially in a town such as Aix, would be quite used to foreigners butchering their language and would just let it go.

But no.

Honestly, I think that when French people get their national ID card they have to take an Oath of Citizenship as follows:

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will support and defend the language of la Republique Française against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the pompousness on which I am about to enter. So help me Nicolas Sarkozy."

Honestly. Even to become a French citizen you have to pass a language test. Which I am not particularly against and not afraid that I will fail, but come on.

This is particularly funny coming from a country which simultaneously tries to block the adoption of any anglified words and yet loves them "le parking" "le week-end".

In the future, if I don't know you, don't correct my spelling, pronunciation, grammar, or make fun of my accent, or I WILL give you an English lesson.
samedi 25 octobre 2008
My favorite online community is for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a company that makes perfume oils and other related items such as soaps, shirts, etc.

This past year I have gotten quite addicted, I love trying all of their perfumes, especially since they come out with different themes, etc.

But more than that it is a place where people can chat about other things too, life, politics, everything.

Four times a year they have a "Switch Witch", rather like a secret santa. You sign up and then get the name of someone else to send presents to, and someone else sends you presents for a few months.

This Fall was the first time I participated.

It was so much fun picking out things for my secret witch, and receiving items from someone unknown. Throughout the past two months, I sent and received ecards, postcards, and small gifts. At the end of the round, people send out "reveal" packages. Here is what I received (don't mind the crazy French who stuck his head in.)

So let's see, here is what I received: one small carrying case for perfume samples, with perfume samples inside, book "Map of Bones" by James Rollins, two large glass hair clips (guess I won't have any excuses for not doing something other than a ponytail with my hair), chocolate powder, caramels, and molasses, along with recipes to make Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and Caramel Apples (which is good because otherwise I would have no clue), a ton of starburst and Swedish Fish, small glass pumpkin earrings, a bunch of tea, Jelly Belly, the audio book "The Constant Princess" by Phillipa Gregory (which I great because I loved "The Other Boleyn Girl"), candy corn, Halloween window decorations, small soaps etc., notepad, orange and black sprinkles, and other candies. There is a card that says "Open me last" which I am guessing reveals who it was, but I want to guess first.
Alain can't really understand why I want to send and receive stuff from people I don't know. I am not sure, I guess I just want to feel connected. I guess I do feel a bit cut-off living here. Also really miss stuff like Halloween, it isn't really celebrated here.
Thank you witch!
jeudi 23 octobre 2008
I think every woman has a pair of pants somewhere (hanging in her closet, stored in the attic, somewhere) of a certain size, let's call it size X.

The X can be any number, but it is representative of a time in her life (high school homecoming queen? cheerleader? newlywed?) when she could actually fit into the size X. She keeps it, partly for the memories but mainly to see if she can ever fit back into the Size X again.

While getting dressed for work the other day, I noticed that my size X+2 pants were pretty much hanging off me. I checked to see if they were accidentally my size x+4 pants
(yes, I bought two of the same pair of pants, just different sizes).
Nope, they were actually the size X+2 so I decided: oh what the heck? I'll try my size X's
Lo and behold! they fit.
Wow. I think I am the thinnest I have been in my adult life (adult> 18).

Want to know what the secret it?
The secret is: nothing.
And not nothing as in eating nothing, nothing as in "There is no secret". Just live.
I eat one chocolate bar a week, which is great. I don't feel guilty about it, which is even greater.
I don't beat myself up if one night I just want to eat cheese and bread.
I take the stairs most of the time but if I am tired I take the elevator.
I exercise on Sunday mornings when I don't feel like lying in bed and having a croissant and a cappucino.
And sometimes I exercise on Sunday mornings after lying in bed and having a croissant and a cappucino.
And sometimes I don't exercise on Sunday mornings and just lie in bed and have a croissant and a cappucino.
Et Voila.

The only problem is that now I can't find pants that fit. Perhaps French women have different waist/hip ratios because everything that fits me in the waist is too tight in the hips, and everything that fits in the hips is way too big around the waist.
I like to think that I have a really small waist, instead of the other way around.
I also don't really like the styles of pants that they have here. I won't go into it, but let's just say that I can't wear most of them to work.

So I guess I am going to have to wait until we go back to the US to buy pants, which after two weeks of eating all my favorite foods that I have missed (pretzels and bagels and pie and peppermint patties and grape soda oh my!) I may not even need more Size X's. Such is life. But you know what? I probably won't feel bad about THAT either.
lundi 20 octobre 2008
Stage 1: (0-6 months)
Goal: It has to be perfect.
Budget: Minimum possible. This should work out to about 500€ per room.
Objective: Get to spend lots of quality time with my sweetie.
Things to be done: Absolutely everything. Re-do the walls, tear up the floor and install hardwood floors, consider knocking out a wall or two.
Projected timeline: It should be done in 6 months.

Stage 2: (6 months to one year)
Goal: Well, maybe it won't be perfect but at least it will be how we want it (colors, wallpaper, bathroom tiles, etc)
Budget: Okay, perhaps this will be more expensive than we planned. But we will spend the money for the stuff that is important to us, and cut back in other areas.
Objective: Learning about how to renovate a home- paint, tile, etc.
Things to be done: All the major stuff- walls, kitichen, bathroom, etc. Decide that you can live with the ugly floor tile and will just cover it up with a rug.
Projected timeline: This should be done 1 year-1.5 years

Stage 3: (1 year to 2 years)
Goal: Well; maybe it won't be perfect but it at least it will be done.
Color of blue paint not exactly what we expected? Oh well. We can live with it.
Budget: Yikes, 1500€ for three closet doors? What are they on crack?
Objective: Just want the damn thing done.
Things to be done: Well, let's just do the basics- repaint, etc.
Projected timeline: This can't possibly take much longer.

Stage 4: (2+ years)
Goal: Hope we are still married by the time this renovation is finished.
Budget: Don't care, just pay. Too sick and tired of comparing paint samples, visiting 4 home improvement stores to find a doodad that is 5€ cheaper. Don't even feel like going back to the store to return the wrong item. At this point, what is another 15€?
Objective: Don't kill each other.
Things to be done: Can we go back in time to how it was before we started the renovations and just live with it?
Projected timeline: The renovations are finished or I chew off my arm, whichever comes first.
jeudi 9 octobre 2008
Well, here is a recap a week later. After the protective lenses were taken out, my eyesight seemed to worsen. The weekend was okay, we didn't do much. Monday morning I went to the doctor's again and he said it seems to be coming along okay. He gave me a prescription for different drops (yay! no more Eyedrops O' Fire!) and told me to come in three weeks. I managed to drive to work (scary thought huh) and got there a bit before 10. Wore my sunglasses the first day, but since then I don't seem to need them except when outside. Driving in the dark is a bit scary as there are halos around all the lights. Which didn't help yesterday when I was driving in the dark, in the rain.
Still having trouble seeing far and near, but middle distance is okay. My right eye seems a bit better than my left. Having some headaches, I guess because I am forcing myself to read. One thing is for sure is that my profession is not eye-friendly! I have the word documents zoomed in in order to have the text as large as possible but still the contrast is killing me.
Sigh. I hope it doesn't take a whole month as some people say it might.

Speaking of which, is my blog hard to read? I have read somewhere that white text on dark backgrounds is easier to read on computers, but people have trouble sometimes with it because they are not used to it. Is the white text on purple background difficult? I can change it. can also increase font sizes.
Please let me know.
dimanche 5 octobre 2008
Friday morning I woke up and decided that I would be able to make it to my doctor's appointment on my own- it was closer for one thing, and I could actually open my eyes! I put on my sunglasses and headed off.

Once there, I almost fell asleep in the waiting room. My vision is slowly improving, and the doc removed the protective lenses he had put in. I was afraid this was going to be painful, like it is when I have to peel off my eyeballs contacts that I have mistakenly left on overnight, but it wasn't.

Came back home and was rather restless. This is probably the time when you can cause the most damage- bored from several days of feeling terrible, sleeping, and not doing anything you feel well enough to do SOMETHING and will most likely strain/overexpose your eyes.

This restlessness still didn't stop me from taking two naps though, but it was more of the "I'm bored, nothing to do, might as well sleep" kind of nap.

In the afternoon I went to the doctor who did my back surgery (I was supposed to go on Wednesday, but that was not happening). He said everything looked good and gave me a perscription for more stuff not covered by medical insurance to the tune of 86€. What is this, America?

Moped around and listened to TV until Alain came home at 9:30 after his karate class.

Overall, feeling better and tired of putting the Eyedrops O' Fire into my eyes.
samedi 4 octobre 2008
After one fun night of crying into my pillow, Alain and I went, by Metro, to the doctor's office. I didn't bother taking a shower- between not getting my back wet and not wanting to get soap nor water into my eyes, I figured it was an acrobatic feat I didn't want to attempt. Better just to be dirty.
So, we took the Metro. Anyone looking at us would have thought I was blind. Which, for all intents and purposes, I was. Still didn't cause them to offer up their seats, or not crowd me on the escalator, etc. This must be a really tough city for blind people. I can't even imagine how many dog poops they step in per day. Anyway, back to the appointment.
We arrived and an assistant checked my view. Open right eye for two seconds, umm F N. Close eye. Open again. Umm, P K. Close eye. Open again. Umm, maybe a T. Repeat with left eye. Could not hold both eyes open at the same time.
Then went to see the doctor, who said I was healing well. Then he put some magic drops in my eyes, so that I could actually open my eyes! Wow!
Came back home, picking up the eye drops we had ordered, 100 of these little buggers for 25€, not covered by health insurance. Too bad I only need 25 of them. Anyone want 75 pain-causing specialized eye drops? I'll give you a really good deal.
Came home, and Alain went to work.

I had thought that during my recuperation period I would be able to:
1) read my Phillipa Gregory book
2) Watch my favorite series
3) do some small jobs around the house (like touching up the paint in the bedroom)
4) study
5) play on the internet
6) maybe do some crosstitching

Here is my fun list of activities:
1) Sit on the couch in the dark
2) lie on the couch in the dark (which usually leads to sleeping on the couch in the dark)
3) shuffle to the bedroom and lie on the bed in the dark (which usually leads to sleeping on the bed in the dark)
4) take my eye drops and medication in the dark

Here was my schedule yesterday:
9:30-10:30 sleep on couch
10:35-1:00 sleep in bed
1:05-1:45 take medicine and eat
1:50-4:30 sleep in bed
4:35-6:00 take medcine, attempt to make dinner (sorry dear if there are eggshells in the quiche), putter around
6:00-9:30 eat dinner, listen to tv program
9:35 go to sleep (in bed)
Wow. Exciting

Alain's father stopped by. Every year he loves to go to the Marseille fair and stops by to see us on his way home. (he parks near here and takes the metro).
He was quite surprised to find us sitting in the dark. We explained about my operation (we had told them I was going to have it done, just not when I guess).
Surprisingly, he didn't stay long.
vendredi 3 octobre 2008
I did it peoples.
I had my eyes LASIKed on Wednesday.
Please excuse any spelling erros, I can barely see to type.
This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time and finally did to the tune of 1950€. I don't actually mind wearing contacts and glasses, but lately have been having touble with infections and stuff. So when I made my list of 101 things in 1001 days, number 23 was have LASIK done, if I am good candidate. My eye doctor, (the one who likes to torture me regulary) said that I was a good candidate, took all the measurements, and I scheduled my appointment at the Laser System downtown in Marseille. Alain came home from work and we took the metro downtown for my appointment at 13:45. The doctor arrived, we went in, I wrote the two checks, then changed into a hospital gown with booties, and went into the laser room. The technician put about a hundred drops of something in each eye to clean them. Once that was done, my left eye was covered up, and anesthesia drops xere put in my right eye. Doc says to me that he is going to "peler votre cornée" which sounds suspiciously like "peel your cornea" which is something I know I don't want.
There are some medical proceedures that you should find out all you can about so that you know excactly what will happen. This isn't one of them. It is better to not know anything, then when the doctor says that he is going to "peler votre cornée" thre is nothing you can do about it, and you can't go screaming back into the waiting room.
Also, when will doctors learn that sometimes the patient doesn't need to know exactly what is being done to them? I would have been fine with "I am going to do something to your something and it might (hurt, feel strange, etc)"
So he brought something like one of those tools at the dentist's office that spins round and round to polish your teeth and put it right on my eyeball. Another bad thing- most operations you can just close yorus eyes and not have to look at what is being done. Not with this one.
After that he removed the part that had been pele-ed, then turns off the light and tells me to not move. Trust me doc, I will do my best. The laser turned on and it was like flashes of blue light for 30 seconds.
Then that eye was done, repeat on left. Which was worse because now I KNEW what he was going to do.
When finally it was over (Alain was able to watch on a TV screen in the waiting room- I don't think he particularly wanted to. He said there were parts that he couldn't watch. Lucky! I had no choice.) I went out into the holding room and they offered something to drink. Not sure why. Anyway, I had a little tartlette and and orange juice, then changed back into my clothes and went back out. The doctor gave me a prescription for some pain killers and eye drops, and we were on our way.
Luckily Alain was with me, because I would have been still lost in the metros of Marseille.
On our way back, we went to the first pharmacy to get my eye drops. They had all but one. Great. Went to the se'cond. They didn't have it either. Went to a third. Non plus.
We finally just ordered it for the next day, but I was not a happy camper at this time. Really, they couldn't have given me the prescription ahead of time so I could get it filled before the day of the operation so that I wouldn't have to spend half an hour stumbling blindly from phamacy to pharmacy? Turns out that the drops that were missing were for the pain. Great.
Went back home, Alain closed all the shutters and left me there in the dark as he went back to work.
I had heard from someone that after about 2 hours it was all better and she was able to return to work. I am not sure if she was talking two hours Neptune time, but back here on Earth, there is no way it was all fine after two hours of Earth time. After two hours of earth time, my eyes were waking up from the anesthesia and saying "Good god woman, what DID you do to us.?!"
I felt like a lovesick teenager crying buckets of tears into my pillow in the dark.
They weren't tears of pain, though it did hurt, but just my eyes were watering watering watering.Which made my nose run. Which gave me sinus pressure.
I used an entire box of kleenex.
Not fun.
When Alain came home I put on a sleep mask in order to naviaget about our lighted apartment. I swear, our apartment is like a blind person's obstacle course. Go past the sack of cement, step over the pile of weights on the floor, go around the box of crown moulding, shuffle through the small corridor between th ecouch and the building supplies.
Really, I need to work on honing my sonar skills. Wandering around the apartment screeching Eeeee! eeee!! doesn't help and only seems to annoy Alain for some reason.
samedi 27 septembre 2008
On Wednesday night I took my pre-op shower with the Betadine solution. Rather like pouring iodine on your body. Not sure if I did a good job.
The next morning I couldn't eat or drink and had to take another Betadine shower. Alain drove me to the clinic in Vitrolles around 9:30. We checked in, which was quite easy since I had done a pre-check in the week before when I went for my anesthesiology appointment. We went upstairs and I got settled into my shared room. Changed into the gown and waited. Around 11 they took me down in my bed into the operating area. I was brought into one operating room (salmon colored). Put on a cap and booties, then they hooked me up to the heart-rate monitor, put the iv tube in, and waited. Then was told that I was being kicked out of there because of an emergency c-section and it was the only room where they could do it. Hey, it was her choice to have a baby in the first place, she's waited nine months, she can't wait another 30 minutes? Grumble. So they wheeled me back out and placed me in the post-op room where everyone still drugged up from surgery goes to wake up.

About 30 minutes later they brought me into another room (green). Got hooked up again. I said that I would prefer not to be put completely under, so the anesthesiologist gave me a shot of something (he joked and said it was like Jack Daniels whisky. Oh those funny anesthesiologists. What if I hate whisky?!) I guess it did the trick because though I was awake I was rather unaware until about the middle of the surgery when I *woke up* and found myself under a sheet on my side with the doctor working on my back. The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes, then I was wheeled into the post-op room.

Around 1:30 I was taken back up to my room. Alain was still waiting for me. He left aruond 2, and I was stuck with my room-mate and her parents who would NOT SHUT UP. Hey you over there, I am trying to concentrate on not throwing up, can you please shut your traps?
At around 3 they brought in my *food* which was a bottle of water, a piece of ham, a roll, a container of applesauce, and some cheese. I took a sip of water and then ran to the bathroom to throw up.

As I was throwing up someone kept knocking on the door. Can't you hear that I am busy in here? Can you please just let me throw up in peace? That is really all I ask when throwing up- not having to yell "Occupé!" in between hurls and not worrying about someone coming in and seeing my bare rear in the hospital gown while I am throwing up into the toilet. I mean honestly. I thought maybe it was my room-mate needing to use the bathroom (um, can you please wait a few minutes?!) but I guess it was the nurse asking whether I was ok. No I'm not ok, can't you hear that I am not ok?

Came out and the nurse gave me a pill which was supposed to help with the nausea. I am wary of these "this is supposed to help with that" pills because after an operation a few years ago a nurse gave me something to help with the pain. Which gave me terrible nausea so much so that I would have rather have had the pain.

Anyway, my room-mate and her parents finally checked out (perhaps because of the projectile vomiting? I don't know) and I could finally rest. I had thought that my recovery period would consist of reading my book and eating gummy bears, not concnetrating on not throwing up and having a raging headache. I was able to sleep for about an hour, then woke up at 4:30. The nurse told me I had to eat something before I could check out, so I managed to force down the bread and applesauce. Wasn't touching dairy or the ham. I got dressed and went down to meet my father-in-law who came to pick me up and drive me home.
Was in too much pain to go to work the next day. I have to go in next Wednesday for a check up, which is also the day of my laser eye surgery. Gulp. I am more worried about that then I was about this operation.

All in all, the care was very good even if I did get booted from the operation room. Would have liked a bit more instruction in what to do after the surgery though, as far as caring for my stiches. The doctor came in and sorta explained it to me but I was feeling rather icky at the time, and I don't know about you but I like complicated medical things in French to be written down.
Was informed that I cannot drink alcohol or smoke for 24 hours. Are you kidding? I can barely look at a glass of water and you think I am going to be sitting down to a good red bordeaux?

The doctors and nurses were nice and seemed to get a kick out of my being American.
Whatever keeps you from not killing me doctor is fine by me.
jeudi 25 septembre 2008
I sent in my absentee voter registration a few months ago and have been waiting to receive the ballot in the mail. So I was surprised when I received an email from the County Clerk with the ballot and instructions to be printed out. It was pretty simple- President/Vice-President, Representative, and Senator.Then had to sign and date the "security envelope" and have an adult witness and sign the security envelope so I made Alain sign it. I suppose he counts.

Put my ballot in the security envelope, taped it up, and sent it in.
Woohoo! I have done my civic duty.
For the 2004 election I stopped at the voting place early in the morning before going to work. I came out to my car and cried.
I felt so stupid. It was just the first time that I had ever voted in person and I was just overwhelmed for some reason. All the previous elections I had voted by absentee ballot for Colorado while I was away at college. Also, the other elections were not Presidential elections.
I have heard that they don't even bother counting the absentee ballots unless the margin of difference between the two candidates is less than the number of absentee ballots received; ie. if Candidate A is leading Candidate B by 500 votes and there are 501 absentee ballots, then they count the absentee ballots, but if there are only 499 absentee ballots, then they don't even bother.
Don't know if that is true, and I suppose it rather makes sense, but-
Nice to know that every vote counts and is counted!
mercredi 24 septembre 2008
About a year ago, when we got ready to re-do our toilet room, I bought some blue tiles from Leroi Merlin to tile behind the toilet seat.

"The exact color we needed... What a deal!"

So the two huge buckets of paint have been sitting in the smallest bedroom for about a year now, waiting to be used. Alain was afraid that they would go bad. I doubted it.

After the previous week's hilarities of trying to paint the wall white when it doesn't want to be painted white, I started painting the blue portion this weekend. We put a piece of crown molding (chair rail?) around to separate the blue and white sections. We were originally going to paint the entire wall blue, but then came across the same problem as the other rooms- how to separate between the wall and the ceiling when it is rounded? We could have put crown molding along the top, but it would have looked funny in such a small room in our opinion.

Anyway, I painted the first layer- not the same color as the tiles.

Well, maybe the second layer will be darker.

Nope, still different.

And I don't think it is because the paint went bad.

When I bought the paint, there was no computer-matching, or at least, not that they offered. I thought that a different color would be better, but the paint "expert" said no, that this color would be the same once applied.

I am quickly learning never to trust the people who work in home improvement stores. Most of the time, they know as much as you do about painting/tiling/electrical work, etc.

So everyone, here are the results.

Please vote for one of the following options:

A) Leave as is and move on to one of the 177 other things that need to be done in the apartment.
B) Get a computer-matched paint and repaint just the toilet room.
C) Get a computer-matched paint and get rid of somehow the other two buckets of unused paint (about 100€ worth)
D) paint the bottom half white and leave the chair rail as is or paint other color
E) other (please explain).

The difference in color isn't a huge deal, but we did choose that blue to match with the tiles.
I like the blue paint, but would like it better if it matched.
Re-painting the toilet room isn't a big deal- small surface, easy to paint. However, if we are going to change all the blue, it should be done before we paint our bedroom, the smallest bedroom, and the hallway.

mardi 23 septembre 2008
I have had a bump on my back for at least 4 years now. It doesn't bother me, isn't painful, and hasn't changed in size, but I have decided to get it removed. I asked my general doctor about it, hoping that he could do it. Nope. He referred me to another doctor.
I felt quite vain going to a plastic surgeon. Again, I hoped it was just something he could quickly remove in his office. Nope. He has me scheduled for surgery on Thursday. I had to go to an anesthesiologist.
I was hoping they could just do a local anesthetic, so that I wouldn't have to be put under (which is really the part that scares me the most about surgeries- it seems like that is more dangerous than the actual surgery). I was hoping that it could be quickly done and that I could go back to work in the afternoon. Nope, have to stay in the clinic for the whole afternoon after the surgery. I guess I am just used to the US where it is in and out, less time for the insurance the better. When I had my appendix removed, I left the same evening- less than 24 hours after I entered. (Though to be fair, I wanted to go home- I didn't want to stay longer in the hospital.)
I asked how much this would cost- Free.
Well, I guess there are some good things about French health care.
lundi 22 septembre 2008
I have been known to kill plants in my time.
But this beats all.
One week from healthy green Basil plant with leaves to an un-recoverable brown stick.
There goes my "101 things" resolution of:

# 68 get some herbal plants and not kill them

Guess I will have to try again. Hear that? It is a whole bunch of plants screaming "Don't pick me!! Don't pick me!!" as I walk by.
Guess if the plant actually had instructions on how to take care of it rather than a recipe for pesto on the side, that would help. Though who am I kidding? I would still forget. Sigh.

dimanche 21 septembre 2008
We spent several weekends putting up the crown molding - THAT was certainly a task that I thought would be easier than it was. I thought, how hard can it be? Cut the pieces so that they form 90° angles, glue to wall, voila!

Except, I forgot- our walls are not straight! which left us with huge gaps in the corners. Alain put some of a cementy-type glue, let it dry, then had the task of sanding them in order to shape them into the shape of the actual crown molding.

It wasn't easy getting those suckers to stay glued to the walls either. We had glue everywhere, on the walls that Alain had spent weeks re-doing and sanding to make them smooth.
This afternoon we finally were able to start painting the ceiling and the crown molding. I bought some paint on Friday- plain white "large areas" paint.

Except that it was like water. The darn paint would not stay on the rollers or paintbrushes from the time it took between bucket and ceiling. Argh. The floor and other stuff in the bedroom was covered with cardboard boxes and plastic sheets, otherwise we would have had a heck of a time cleaning up the paint off of EVERYTHING.

We managed to finally get the ceiling covered, now have to do another layer. Alain's parents lent us an air-brush paint kit. I think we will try it. The paint is so watery, it shouldn't have any trouble passing through the nozzle.

Sigh. Nothing is easy.
lundi 15 septembre 2008
What is claimed is:

1) A method for painting a bathroom (a first surface) comprising the steps of:
- selecting at least one liquid material of a specified color (paint) in a container,
- purchasing said at least one paint as well as one or more paint application utensils from the group consisting of: paintbrush, roller, spraygun,
- applying the paint to at least one paint application utensil,
- utilizing the paint application utensil in order to transfer paint from container to the first surface, and
- repeating at least some of the above steps until the first surface is entirely covered with the paint.

2) A method according to claim 1, further comprising the step of getting a second surface, including but not limited to clothes, hair, skin (collectively known as "the painter"), or floor covered in said paint.

3) A method according to one of claims 1 or 2, including the step of yelling "Damn it, why doesn't this said paint stick to the first surface?!".

4) A method according to one of claims 1 to 3, wherein a further step includes being mad that said paint, which states on the container that only one layer of said paint is required on the first surface, actually requires at least two layers.

5) A method according to one of claims 2 to 4, comprising the steps of:
- trying to remove said paint from said painter (clothes, hair, and skin), and
- realizing that said paint is not water soluble as stated on said container.

6) A method according to one of claims 2 to 5, including the step of the painter going to work the next day covered in said paint.

7) A method according to one of claims 1 to 6, comprising the step of purchasing a further container of said paint due to the fact that said paint, though claiming to cover 20 m2 as stated on said container, is not sufficient to cover the first surface of 5 m2, which may or may not be related to claim 2 (getting said paint on a secondary surface), claim 3 (yellng "Damn it, why doesn't this said paint stick to the first surface?!"), or claim 4 (being mad that said paint actually requires at least two layers).

8) A method according to claims 1 to 7, comprising the step of repeating steps claimed in claims 1 to 7 until such a time as the first surface is actually covered by said paint.

Can you tell that I am training to become a patent lawyer?
Can you tell what I spent Sunday afternoon doing?

dimanche 7 septembre 2008
comfort food. American comfort food. American fall comfort food.

This time of the year, my thoughts turn to:

Banana bread
gingerbread cookies
pumpkin pie
apple pie
hot apple cider
halloween candy

Are you getting the general idea? It is all I can think about. Something about the weather, planning on going to Colorado for Christmas, etc etc.

I might even try my hand at making some of the above, if I can ever find all of the ingredients.
Questions for those living in France:
Is shortening Fruit d'or for example?
can brown sugar be found? (and not just sugar that is brown?)
Does pâte sablée really taste like pie crust to you (because to me it tastes different).

Fall is always the hardest time for me as far as homesickness is concerned. I never was a big Fall-lover back in the US. Yes, the leaves are pretty. Yes it is nice to have Halloween and Thanksgiving, blah blah blah.
I would have always have said that I was a Spring Gal.
But now I miss stuff like hot apple cider and knowing that football games are on (even if I don't give a flying patoie who is playing or why or when) and Halloween decorations, etc.
At least we are planning on going home for Christmas. (once I get over the price-shock and actually grit my teeth and order the tickets. Wow prices have gone up in 2 years!)
samedi 30 août 2008
Whether they are pregnant.

Yes folks, that is what I am subjected to lately.

Apparently everyone has decided that 2 years of being married without starting a family is quite enough and that we had better get going.

The worst is Alain's grandfather.
They really really really want a boy. Partly because they already have a (great) granddaughter, and partly because Alain is the last of his line.
So for the first couple of months, pepe asked me every single time we went to visit them..
"So, have you put on some weight?"
Okay, this is annoying on many levels.
1) No I haven't.
2) Is this a compliment where he comes from?
For the first couple of times I just smiled and said no while seriously wondering where he was coming from. Does he just like hearty Italian woman? Did I actually put on a half a kilo that only he can notice? Then I realized- oh, this is probably just his way, hoping I'll say "Why, yes actually. We are having a baby."
Finally I got fed up and told Alain to say something the next time.
So the next time my (non-existant) weight gain came up, Alain said "Il faut pas dire ça au femmes pepe quand même."

He has asked Alain if anything was "en cours". Kind-of like "brewing" or "baking".

But the absolute best was the following (when Alain was in the kitchen with Meme).
P: Anything on order?
Me: Huh?
P: Have you guys ordered anything yet?
Me: Ordered anything for what?
P: Parents.
Me: Ordered something for my parents?
P: Mama and papa.
Me: My parents have ordered something?
P: Alain papa you mama.
Me: Oh. No, not yet pepe.

Good grief. At some point you wish they would just come out and ask in a straight-forward way without hidden meanings and obscure ways of saying it from the 19th century.

Anyone else know other ways to ask someone if she is expecting in France?
Anyone have any good "none of your beeswax" responses?

Oh, and while we are on the subject of people who actually ARE having a baby, Alain's sister just announced that she is pregnant. Good. Maybe that will get the heat off me for a good 9 months or so.

Perhaps I should have a shirt made that says "Nothing on order yet" and just wear it every time we go see people. Then when I come over without that shirt on, then they can ask.
mardi 26 août 2008
As Alain is still on vacation until September 1st, he is working full-spead ahead on our apartment. He is finishing the wall he built in our bedroom for the closet, and now needs to finish re-doing the rest of the walls in the bedroom- fill up the holes with concrete, sand, and then put the MagicLiss on, and sand again. Then the walls will be smooth and ready to be painted. In order for him to access the walls and not get everything covered in dust, we had to move everything out of our bedroom. Now the old armoires are in the living room, all the tools are back in the smallest bedroom, and we had to remove the mattress on our bed. We didn't have any other free space, so we put it on the second bed that we bought, which is in the medium bedroom. It is a pull-out bed, and we have been sleeping on it for a few months now. So now we are sleeping on two mattresses, and are starting to get quite high off the ground. I guess we could also throw the
couch mattresses on there (the couch is technically a bed, and has another pull-out bed underneath). Also could borrow the inflatable bed from the in-laws, and throw some sleeping bags on top.
We have ordered the crown moulding, so hopefully it will arrive in another week or so. Then we can glue it around the ceilings, and start painting! Woohoo! Then we can move back into our bedroom, and clear out the other rooms, paint, finish the living room, and then GET RID OF the sacks of cement, pieces of brick, broken tiles, bits and pieces, etc. The kitchen won't be finished, we still need to install the new sink and the dishwasher, but that can wait. It has been almost two years now, and I think we have both had it. We just want to LIVE on the weekends a little. Go to movies and museums, actually clean the apartment instead of just figuring "well, I could dust, but really what's the point?"
And go back to sleeping on one mattress only.
samedi 23 août 2008
Yesterday, during my lunch break, I went to the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle in Aix. It is part of my 101 Things resolutions- visit one museum per month.

Marseille and Aix have the kinds of museums that I like- not too big, not too expensive, and with visiting expositions that change every three months or so. I prefer to go every few months, spend an agreeable hour or two max visiting a museum, reading everything there is, and then... leaving.

Not the kind of museum where you go and it is overwhelming but you start reading everything at the beginning but then by the end are fed up and just blow by barely glancing at the small print and then feel guilty about the 15€ you wasted.

No, I much prefer the 2.50-4€ to spend on the "little museums".

This exposition, "Parfums, Une Histoire Naturelle" is in town until the 28th of September. I had never been to the Natural History museum of Aix, so I decided to check it out. It was on the first floor of an old historical building. There were some old containers for perfumes from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, etc. and they spoke a little about the history of perfume, the different natural ingredients in perfumes, how the scents are extracted, etc. I would like to go visit the French city of Grasse some day, it is between here and Nice. It is a famous town for making perfumes.

It took me about 30 minutes to look at everything, then I went upstairs to the permanent collection, which is mostly fake dinosaur bones eggs, human skeletons, and stuffed wild animals. Overall, interesting, learned a few things, and spent an agreeable hour.

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