dimanche 31 janvier 2010
I've been here in France for over four and a half years now, and I have yet to find a French deodorant that works for me.
Anybody else have this problem?

A lot of people seem to have the idea that the French smell bad and don't wear deodorant, but they don't seem to smell any worse than any other random sampling of a population. Sure, sometimes on the Metro you will be squished up against someone that you wish you weren't, but that can happen anywhere.

French deodorants just DO NOT WORK on me. I don't know why.
First of all, the French seem to use a lot more deodorant sprays than sticks, and a lot more scented deodorants, and not so much anti-persperants.
Really, I don't want my underarms smelling like Vanille Gourmand, nor Vanille de Polynesie, nor anything at all really.

Every time we go back to the US, I buy about 15 deodorants- regular, plain sticks like Secret or Dove to bring back.
When they run out, I'm left with desperately searching for something that will work.
I think that French body chemistry must be different than American body chemistry, so French deodorants will not work for non-French.

If you are an American living in France and have found a French deodorant that works, what is it?
If you are an American living in the US, won't you please send your favorite ex-pat some deodorant so that she doesn't get kicked out of the country?
Thank you.

- Looks like deodorant in France is hot-button topic.
- Thank you to those who have offered to send deodorant care packages.
- Also, I don't care if it is deodorant or anti-perseperant or a ham sandwich, as long as it works.
- As I don't want to post my personal address on the internet, I guess I will have to do without your kind offers, unless I have your email addresses.
- Also, I find it rather funny when deodorants advertize things like "48 heures efficacité!"
Um, I was kinda hoping to take a shower or two in that time period, and unless I am going camping for a weekend, I don't need 48 hours of deodorant protection, and if I am going camping, I don't think one layer of deodorant will do it. Just saying.
mardi 19 janvier 2010
Yes, this is going to be another post about everyone's favorite topic- earwax.
(at least no pictures. Be thankful)

After about a week of putting the eardrops in my ears the situation wasn't improving. Alain's comment- why are you walking around the apartment with your 'ead on one side and kleenex coming out of your hear? (in French-American "you 'ear with your hears" and "you put your harms over your 'ead")

This past weekend it got particularly bad- seriously couldn't hear anything. Which proves useful when say, someone is yelling "Can you bring me a beer?" from the other room (Nope, sorry, didn't hear a thing) but can get rather taxing and quickly.
I kept telling Alain "It's practice for when we get older". He wondered whether I would be able to hear my courses okay- oh sure, no problem, I sit in the front row anyway.
Monday morning, first five minutes of class,
Couldn't hear a thing that the teacher was saying.
Not good.

It was like my own custom-made Megan-purgatory. Trapped in the silence in my head, while some teacher rambles on interminably in French, catching only tidbits like "action en contrefaçon mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble propriété intellectuelle mumble mumble mumble très important pour l'examen mumble mumble mumble mumble".
Throw in a full bladder and some faint strains of accordion music and there you have it-
Might as well bundle me into a straightjacket tout de suite.

At lunch time I ran to the nearest pharmacy and asked for something for my ears. She offered the eardrops I already had, but I said I needed something more. Something Industrial Strength. She gave me a spray to be sprayed directly into the ear. I came home for lunch and tried it. Good grief! I've heard of foaming at the mouth but have never heard of foaming at the ears!

back to class. Not much better. Was determined to wage an all-out war Me vs. My Earwax that evening. Spent a good hour in the bathtub with the drops, the spray, some q-tips and the shower sprayer, doing what I could.
Checked out the internet to see if I could get any other helpful hints. Wikipedia suggests olive oil, among other things. Yeah, I can just see that:
Throw some olive oil in there, plus maybe some flaxseed and white vinegar...
Hey I've got a salad dressing going on here. Instead of Paul Newman's Own, we've got Megan's Own with a secret ingredient!

Looked for other solutions, one of which is called "ear candling". Basically, you buy some special candles at shops such as healthfood stores or yoga stores (wondering what kind of wax these candles are made out of), lie down on one side, stick one end in your ear canal, and light the other. Now generally, I try to live my life by the latin motto:

which, roughly translated is:
"Don't attach burning things to thy body"
but when you are about to become Madame Tussaud's next supplier, believe me, you'll consider anything.

I can just picture it now, at the specialist's office, whom I'm paying 60€/minute to be poked and prodded;
Doctor: This looks like... olive oil in your ears?
Me: Um, yeah?
Doctor: And candle wax?
Me: Um, yeah?
Doctor: Why in heaven's name did you do that?
Me: Um, the internet told me to?
Doctor: You mean like a scientifically peer-reviewed medical journal?
Me: Um, no, like an anyone-can-edit compiliation of random articles on everything from A (Jethro Tull album), 1980 album by progressive rock band Jethro Tull to the Z Nassau Street Express, a rapid transit service of the New York City Subway?
Doctor: (to himself) Thank god I get paid this much to deal with wackos.

Tuesday, after more deafness and now pain in the ears, started to worry about ear infections and permanent deafness. Sure, the earwax jokes are funny up to a point, the point being permanently reduced hearing at the age of 30. I could just see the tabloid headlines:
Deaf from excess earwax at the age of 30!
Growth of mold in non-aerated inner ears!
Earwax-induced infection spreads to brain!

Went back to the Pharmacy to beg for something, anything. He recommended a nearby generalist doctor that was still open, so I went over and waited. She took one look in my ears, confirmed that yes, they were indeed-y completely blocked, that she couldn't do anything, I would have to go a specialist. She gave me a letter (woe betide you if you go in France to a specialist doctor without a recommendation from a generalist doctor), I called, and got an appointment for the next day, which is something in and of itself.

The next day during lunch, right after yet another class on mute, I hightailed it over to the doctor's office, waited about half an hour (reasonable for a last-minute appointment. Heck, reasonable even for an appointment that you have had scheduled for the past 6 months) and was called in. Yep, ears still completely blocked. Thank you. Amazing how hard it is to talk when you can only hear about 50%.

Only thing to be done was to take a fire hose to my ear canals, leaving me quite drenched, off-balance (go ahead, blast your inner ears with water for a few minutes and then walk across the room and see how many walls you bang in to- I almost fell out of the chair) and amazingly clear.
Which made me wonder how long I had unwittingly been a part of the hearing impaired. I wanted to ask the doctor to please lower his voice. Actually, he probably was shouting because not 5 minutes before I had asked him 3 times to repeat himself.
Doctor: You might want to take off your jacket.
Me: what?
Doctor: You might want to take off your jacket!
Me: what?!
Doctor: You might want to take off your jacket!
Me: what?!
Doctor: Take off your jacket!
Me: Oh. Yeah. I'm having trouble hearing you because of the
Doctor: Earwax. (nods) Got it.

(Which brings me to another side note- how much would you like to clean earwax out of people's ears for a living?)

I began noticing all sorts of sounds that I hadn't noticed in a long time- the sound of a hairbrush through my hair, the noise of the movement of my bag against my leg, etc.

Got back to class in time to take a two-hour practice exam on the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Not sure which was worse- ten minutes of getting my ear blasted or two hours of writing legal essays in French. Opinions?
At least with the first I get squeeky clean auris interna and only slight nausea, while with the second I get a headache, cramp in my hand, and a sinking feeling that I'm going to have to do it all over again, for real this time, in a few short months.

Couldn't quite decide on the best title for this post. Here are some others that I thought of:
Earwax- no laughing matter.
Earwax- it can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Earwax Emergencies
Earwax 101
Return of the Earwax
Earwax Alert Level: Yellow

So here concludes the
Exiciting but Extremely Exhausting Earwax Epic.
Now go clean your ears.
dimanche 17 janvier 2010
Another 7-hour train trip, this time in first class.
When I ordered my tickets for this month, I thought I would check and see what the price difference between first and second class is.
Round-trip ticket first class for the same price (109€) that I usually pay for second.

Cost for second class (same trains, same dates)?
Hmmm.... let me think about this.....
First class for less, or second class for more?
Is there a third option, third class for a lot more?

First class on the TGV was practically empty and definitely worth it.
Super-wide reclinable seats, bathrooms with no urine on the floor, plugs for electronics (like laptops), and no screaming children. I guess they aren't allowed in first class.

First class on the Corail system- still good, but not TGV good.
Wider seats, no plugs, and bathrooms not any better than second class.

My only complaint about 1st class on the Corail (well, besides the shocking lack of champagne, caviar, and a personal foot masseuse evidently) is the arm rests between the seats.
In second class, the armrests move up, so you can lie across the two seats and nap. In first class? No idea why but the armrests are fixed in place.
So yeah. It's the little things that make these monthly trips slightly less unbearable.

Next time you take the train in France, check out the prices for second class, you might be pleasantly surprised.

(Oh, and no trains canceled due to strikes, which you can never count on)
jeudi 14 janvier 2010
I went to the doctor's last Friday (which is NOT an easy thing to do, now that he is open for a whopping total of what, 6 hours a week? not including Saturdays, and closing before I get home from work)
I wanted to ask him about my persistent cough, which I have had since the end of October. It seems to happen to me every winter.
Alain kept suggesting that maybe it was the "coqueluche" which I had no idea what it was until I translated it online "Whooping cough". Oh man, hope it's not that.
Anyway, I went to the doctor, and when he called me in to his office, I saw that he had a young (male) intern with him, learning the ropes of exciting general practice.
How fun- Doc, my foot hurts. Doc, I think I have the flu. Doc, I'm a hypochondriac. All day long.

Anyway, in the US, whenever I have gone to see a doctor and they have an intern with them, the doctor has always offered me the possibility of saying that I didn't want the intern there during my examination. It never bothered me (hey, I guess they have to practice on poor schlups some way or another, right?) but it is at least nice to be offered the option, if you have something really embarrassing that you only want to disclose to your long-standing doctor.

Anyway, I told the doctor and mini-doctor about my cough, and he looked in his records and sure enough, I had come in for the exact same thing end of Jan. 2008 .
I went and sat on the examining table, and he started with my ears. He inserted the ear-thingy and said "Do you hear me okay?" Yeah, sure I hear you. Why?
"Because your ear is completely blocked." (ear wax)
He checked the other, and the other ear was almost completely blocked too.
He then asks mini-doc:

"Do you want to look at Madame's ear wax?"

well. That sure isn't a phrase I expected to be hearing about myself.
So sure enough mini-doc takes the ear-thingy and checks out my earwax.

I think most of us aren't used to the feeling of being scrutinized as modern medical marvels.

Actually, I had noticed my ears were a bit waxier. Ah well. Guess it is from shoving ear plugs in my ears all the time (to block out annoying people on their cellphones on the 6-hour train ride to Strasbourg, the traffic noise while trying to sleep, the darn accordion player).

Hey doctor, I have some bunions on my feet and a weird mole at the bottom of my back if you want to really impress him.....

The doctor gave me some drops to put in my ears at night. Oh, and for the cough, no clue what is causing it. I think it is just the climate here.

Move to France and get waxy ears and a permanent hacking cough in winter!

(At least the cheese is good.)
lundi 4 janvier 2010
I really enjoy my job and have been learning a lot about new, interesting technologies, which unfortunately calls upon knowledge I haven't used in about ten years.
(yay for Thermodynamics!)

However, while I must often refer to textbooks, other patents, scientific journal articles etc. to better understand the core of the technology, I can usually the words themselves. Except that today, I came across a word that I had no clue about.
Here you go:


Anybody? (No fair wikipediaing it)
Maybe some context will help:

"The bottom consists of two nurbs surfaces."

Still doesn't ring any bells?
Okay, go ahead (you know you want to) :

Turns out it is an acronym for (brace yourselves)

Non-Uniform Rational Basis Spline!

Geez, even the title is boring.

Your mission for the week is to use nurbs in a sentence as many times as possible, doesn't matter if it is scientifically correct.
For example:
"That guy really gets on my nurbs."
- You mean nerves?
"No. nurbs. Non-Uniform Rational Basis Spline. Geez, your english vocabulary is terrible!"

Or how about:
"The nurbs is always greener on the other side of the grass."

What is the most unusual word you have come across lately?

In order to leave a comment, you must:
1) either use "nurbs" in a sentence, or
2) make up a new thing for what N-U-R-B-S stands for.
Extra points to anyone who does both.
(And extra extra points to anyone who can give a summary, in a paragraph or less, of what a nurbs actually is)
If you leave a comment without doing either, then you cannot comment again for a week.*

* Which probably isn't a big punishment, because I probably won't be posting again for another week.



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