samedi 26 septembre 2009

So, anybody want to guess what mystery city I am in? First one to guess (one guess per person)

gets a postcard from where I am. (Please try to contain your excitement.)

If nobody gets it this time, I will post another picture the next time I come here.
samedi 19 septembre 2009
The World's Happiest Dog lives in our building during the summers.
It is true.
This dog, a yellow labish sort of gal, makes me smile every time I see her.

Apparently, she belongs to my neighbor's son, who has a restaurant on the beach here in Marseille. I call her "Bonjour" to myself, but I don't think that is her name. I call her this because once I asked her owner what his name is, and he said "Bonjour". During the off-season, Bonjour lives with him on the beach, but I guess during the tourist season there is just way too much excitement (kids! frisbees! kites! ice cream cones! doggy brain overload!) that she is sent to stay with his dad.

I usually only see her when she is being taken out for her walk, but you can tell that every furry fiber on her body is just vibrating with excitement, and that she is thinking something pretty much along the lines of "Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy.............." And that's about it.

Sometimes I feel like asking my neighbor if I can keep her for a few days. It would be nice to have someone around who thinks I am the world's greatest human being just for giving her some water to drink. Strangely, Alain doesn't seem to think that.

It must be nice to be a dog. Don't have to worry about passing an International Law Class in French, that's for sure.
vendredi 18 septembre 2009
It seems to me that most people, as a general rule, don't like hearing about other people's dreams. Let's face it- your dreams are only really interesting and make sense to you.

Ex-boyfriend showed up at your work in a chicken suit?
Yeah, that means absolutely nothing to me.

But I think I probably have the most boring dreams in the world.

I dream about Patents.

Like I don't get enough of it from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm five to six days a week.
I really like my job, but it's like my brain is continuing to churn to try and figure out how all the laws and stuff fit together. At any one time I have a mixture of French, European, International, and US law bouncing around in my head, sometimes colliding into each other.

For example, what is the only country in the world that has a first-to-invent system instead of a first-to-file system? (ie the invention belongs to the first person to conceive of it instead of the first one to file for a patent)
No, for once France isn't being different just to be different. It's the United States (way to go USA. Like the whole imperial system vs. metric system isn't screwy enough)
So all these different systems have different laws, and how they mesh together can really do your head in.

And NO there is no such thing as a worldwide patent. Doesn't exist people. I'm still trying to convince my father-in-law of this. You can file an international patent application, but then it gets divided up into individual patent applications for the countries that you want. And just because you get a patent in one country, it doesn't mean squat in all the other countries.
And you haven't really lived until you have cried due to frustration over a patent for goodness sake.
All of this gets worse before exams.

Okay, first a little background before I explain a dream I had before the USPTO exam:
Once a patent application has been filed, it is (in most countries) examined in order to determine whether it is a) properly described and claimed b) new c) non-obvious and d) industrially applicable.

With me so far?
Okay, it gets more complicated. Actually, a lot more complicated, but I am trying not to bore all my readers away.

In the US, there are different statutes of prior-art material that can be used to show that the invention of the application is not new or obvious. For example, if it was published by another before the application was filed by the inventor. One of these is the

MPEP (Manual of Patent Examining Procedure) 102e:
If the invention was described in (1) an application for patent, published under section 122(b), by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent or (2) a patent granted on an application for patent by another filed in the United States before the invention by the applicant for patent, except that an international application filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) shall have the effects for the purposes of this subsection of an application filed in the United States only if the international application designated the United States and was published under Article 21(2) of such treaty in the English language.
for some examples, see
The Official Link

Asleep yet?

Okay, here is an actual dream of mine:
I was dreaming about different dates and different priority claims for a patent application, filed in various countries and languages, and trying to work out the applicable 102e date.
- Was it filed in the US before or after November 29, 2000 (the critical date)?
- Was it published in English by the World Intellectual Property Organization?
- Does it claim the priority of a foreign application filed before Nov. 29th?
- What is the earliest effective date?

That's it. Just dates and different facts and figures. Woohoo! Actually, it was studying the examples in the link above that got this into my head, so my subconscious was in overdrive with all the different options, published in English before Nov. 29th, not published in English and not designating the United States, etc.

So here is a challenge for anyone interested:

- An international patent application is filed in France in French on Nov. 6th 2000

- The patent application is published by the international bureau in French on May 6th 2002

- The patent application enters the US National Phase on May 6th 2003

- The patent application is granted on December 6th 2004

By what date is it applicable as prior art against another US patent application? Whoever gets it correctly will get their name in big glittery letters on my blog. And in order to win, you can't just pick a date and hope to get lucky. You have to say which example it is based on of the examples in the link above.

Pretty exciting huh? You too could be a super-cool Patent Agent!

jeudi 17 septembre 2009
I have made an amazing scientific discovery. I call it: "Megan's Time-Energy Discontinuum"

T = E^-1
wherein T = Time and E = Energy
In short, time is the inverse of energy, and energy is the inverse of time.

Ever hear of the time-space continuum?
Here is the wikipedia site:

What does all this mean you wonder?

Simple: if I have the time to do something, then I don't have the energy. Likewise, if I have the energy to do something, then I don't have the time.

Concrete examples:
I have the energy to mop my floor around 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. However, I am at work when this happens, so I don't have the time.
I have the time to mop my floor around 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon. However, after a 45-50 hour workweek + spending all Saturday morning shopping for groceries, running errands, waiting in line at La Poste, etc. I don't have the energy. All I have the energy for is a three-hour PASSED OUT ON THE COUCH major nap session.
See? Time-Energy discontinuum.

I don't think this time-energy discontinuum will go away in the near future. Maybe once we retire. At which point, there will most likely be a (time*energy) - health discontinuum. Yay for the rat race!

Found out, in true French Bureaucratic fashion, that I have been accepted to the program and will be starting next week. Still haven't received the official papers and it starts less than a week.

I demand to be cited as the original discoverer of this Time-Energy Discontinuum for all future scientific articles.

vendredi 11 septembre 2009
On day two of our stay in Bretagne, after rolling out of bed around 9:30 or so (a first for me, I usually wake up much earlier than that, even on vacation) Alain's parents, Alain and I hit the road to drive to Lorient to see his cousin B. and his girlfriend S. who had a baby boy in March. He was quite cute, and is just starting to "eat". (see picture)
We hadn't seen them since our wedding, so it was good to be able to see them again. They have a great duplex apartment, and I turn green with envy everytime I think about how much they paid for it (about 2/3rds of what we paid for ours in Marseille).

We had a late lunch then went for a walk along the seashore, then it was late so we stayed for dinner, then left around 10 pm, getting back to Alain's grandmother's house a little before midnight.

Don't have much to say about Lorient, but it seems like a cute little city. My guidebook says that it has a little over 60,000 inhabitants and that it was almost completely destroyed during WWII. The books says that Lorient is the second biggest port of France for fishing, merchandise, and for pleasure cruises, but I don't really know how they came to this conclusion. Oh, and every year there is an Interceltic Festival for two weeks in August, which seems like it would be fun to go to. Once.

mardi 8 septembre 2009
Moi for a day!
I interrupt my Bretagne series to tell you about my trip to Paris yesterday.
I had to go up for my work, for an Entretien d'admission for a program I am hoping to get into.
I took the TGV from Marseille, leaving at 7:30 am. The TGV was rather full, I guess all those people who do weekly commutes up to Paris- leaving Monday morning and coming back Friday night.
Tried to sleep/study/read on the train but couldn't manage to do any of it.

Arrived in Paris a little before 11, and managed to figure out how to get a Metro ticket. I decided to just buy a one-day zone 1-2 pass for 5€ and not have to worry about it. It probably would have been cheaper to buy a one-use ticket each time, but such a hassle. Plus, I didn't know if I would be pressed for time later.

I got on the RER A line and got off at Aubers, where I was going to be meeting one of my colleagues for lunch. He hadn't arrived yet, was taking the train in from St. Cloud, so I decided to walk around a bit, and walked towards the Gare St. Lazare. On the way, I passed a Printemps Paris store, so I went in and looked for a bit at all the expensive displays.

I was a bit offended actually because in their window displays they had stuffed animals (and no, not like teddy bears, like tigers and lions that had been shot and stuffed) and they were dressed up with accessories, like had a purse hanging from their neck and hair clips attached to their ears. I thought it was rather disrespectful to the animals. I didn't have my camera with me- I thought about bringing it, but had enough stuff to carry/worry about. Anyway, in the Printemps store there was a new display for the Yves Saint Laurent perfume Parisienne that is all over the magazines now. Qui est Parisienne? I guess the idea is that every woman can be a Parisienne if you wear this perfume! I toyed with the idea of buying a bottle to commemorate my trip, but I didn't really like the scent that much and for goodness sake I have enough perfumes already, so I didn't.

Walked over to Gare St. Lazare and still had some time to kill, so I found a Starbucks and went in. This is the first Starbucks I have been in France. I found their menu a bit more subdued than in the US, but still managed to have a Caramel Macchiato or something like that. It was good but very expensive- 4.50€ for a small size. Or perhaps I am just out of touch with current US Starbuck's prices.

Met my colleague (well, that is rather pretentious of me- he is a partner of my company) and we went to lunch at Hippopotamus, a steak restaurant. I wasn't very hungry, I had had some McDonald's breakfast on the train (not that great, I might add) and nervous, so I just ordered a salad, most of which I wasn't able to finish.
At 1 we said goodbye and he took the train to return to St. Cloud, and I got back on the Metro to head for my entretien.

I think an advanced degree in Paris Transportation must be required to figure out the Paris public transportation system. My goodness. Tons of different lines going every which way, plus the trains, tramways, buses, subway, and then the different zones...

I got off at my stop, Marx Dormoy at the Rue de la Chapelle in the 18th arrondisement. Not the best part of town I imagine. I walked to the meeting site and went in. There were about 40 other candidates for this program, and I am guessing about 40 more the next day. It was mostly men; I would say 30 men and 10 women or so. I didn't mingle much; I am not a good mingler, even in English. Plus I know the minute I open my mouth I'm going to get "Oh where are you from?" "Why are you here?" etc. I don't mind per se, but at the time I was nervous and just wanted to think about the interview.

At 2 the interview started, and they introduced the professors and explained a bit about the program, then gave us a little test (all in French) and 1 hour to complete it.
After the 1 hour, they collected the papers, and we were divided among the professors, who called us in, one by one, to discuss our papers.

Turns out I did so-so. I did a few things wrong, but then did some others well. I don't think anyone did it perfectly (if so, no real point in going to the program is there?) and I answered the questions that he posed me afterwards well. I think he was impressed by my professional/educational background and the fact that I passed the US exam. I think there is a bit of concern that the French might be too difficult for me, but we shall see.
I should know whether I am accepted or not by the end of the week. I was done with my interview around 4:15, so I walked back and took the metro back to Gare du Lyon, arriving around 5 pm. I was hoping that I would arrive in time to exchange my ticket (originally for 7:30) and catch the 5:15 TGV to Marseille. I was able to exchange it, and left Paris at 5:30. I went up to dining car (though calling it a "dining" car is a bit of a stretch- more like "Snacks, Coffee, Soda and Wine Car") and ordered a coke (3.40€ ouch). But it was worth it because I spent the next two hours looking out the panoramic window and enjoying the view.
Here is what I saw on the return trip:
1 Nuclear Power Plant
16 Windmills
510,564 cows
Got into Marseille at 8:30 and Alain came to meet me at the train station. Actually, he didn't really need to, but I originally thought I would be getting in at 10:30, at which time I wouldn't want to go back to our apartment by myself.
I was exhausted from my trip.

All in all, Paris: nice city, has its good parts and bad parts, but I wouldn't want to live there year-round or work there. Marseille, at about 1 million inhabitants, is large enough (even too large sometimes) for me. Maybe once we are retired I would like to have a small apartment in Paris and spend a few months per year there, go to all the museums and cultural events, then leave after a few months and return to the country.

But somehow, the catch phrase "Qui est Marseillaise?" probably wouldn't sell a lot of perfumes.
dimanche 6 septembre 2009
Alain and I decided to go to Bretagne for a week at the end of August. This is the first time we have gone in four years. The first time we went it was August 2005, a month after I had arrived. That time, we drove there and back, all 14-15 hours each way, completing the trip in one day.

This time, we decided to fly. Luckily, Ryanair now offers daily flights from Marseille to Brest, and we able to get round-trip tickets for 140€ each, which is about the price it would cost to drive there when you consider the cost of gas, tolls, meals, and especially if we decided to rent a hotel room, plus the extra milage on our 200K+ km car with not-so-good brakes.

So I booked the tickets in July, hoping that Alain would be done with the kitchen by the last week of August. (he was)

It was our first experience flying with low-cost airlines. Though definitely bare-bones, it turned out okay. His parents drove to Bretagne in July, so we were able to send a suitcase full of clothes with them, saving us from having to pay the checked-luggage fee. The only other fee was the cost of the shuttle from Gare St. Charles in Marseille to the airport in Marignane, a total of 34€ for both of us, round-trip.
I dutifully printed out our boarding passes ahead of time, but then neglected to actually read them.

Arrived at the airport, went through security, waited in the line to get on the plane and when we got to the front of the line, I was informed that I could not board because I didn't have the visa check stamp on my ticket. OH DRAT. Quick back through security, waited anxiously in the passport control line, got fed up after the woman in front of me took 5+ minutes to talk to the Ryanair person, then finally just accosted another man behind the counter who said "I don't do that" "I'm going to miss my flight unless you stamp my ticket." (grumble. Brief glance at passport. Stamp on ticket.) "Next time read the ticket." This very complicated process - look at passport, look at ticket to make sure names match, stamp - couldn't be done anywhere else? Heavens no!

Back through security and back to the end of the line of the people STILL waiting to get on board. As we were practically the last ones to board, there were no longer any seats together available, but it wasn't a big deal. I sat next to an elderly woman who kept turning on her cellphone (did you not hear the message 'turn OFF your cell phones'?!) who then swore loudly when we had a slightly rough landing. Managed to resist buying anything on the plane, though the flight attendants sure do peddle the goods hard.

After deboarding, we met Alain's parents and drove half an hour from the airport in Guipavas to where his grandmother lives. The temperature was about half that in Marseille- when we left it was 36°, and in Bretagne it was about 18°. Sure glad I packed tons of shorts and t-shirts! I lived in my jeans and long-sleeved shirts all week long, didn't once put on shorts.
I have a sort-of "If you build it, he will come" mentality to packing. If I pack only warm-weather clothes, it will be nice and sunny, right? Wrong.

Had a late lunch, then I was about to take a nap when Alain's aunt, uncle, and cousin arrived. We chatted for a few hours, then they left and we had dinner and went to bed. I was exhausted because I hadn't slept well the night before, plus we had gotten up early to leave for the airport, plus the stress of flying.

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