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.

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