jeudi 27 mai 2010
Whenever I come up to Strasbourg, I eat the strangest combination of meals in a week's time.
I usually bring with me in my suitcase: Special K cereal, a chocolate bar or two, some sandwich bread, a packet of spaghetti, a jar of peanut butter, and a few cans of tuna fish.

When I arrive on Sunday evenings, I go and buy:
another chocolate bar or two
some fruits (apples, oranges) and tomatos

For some reason, I always buy way too many tomatos. I keep forgetting that Alain is not here, and I have to eat all the tomatos I buy in a week's time.

Mondays: several peanut butter sandwiches in a row
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: spaghetti and tuna fish (Alain's favorite combination)

By the time Thursday/Friday come around, I am out of tuna fish and haven't eaten any of the fruits and tomatos, so I usually eat just apples and tomatos for a day or two, then it's back to Marseille. All that combined with one or two pretzels per day and the chocolate bars dispersed throughout the week.

In my defense, the kitchen is miniscule, and I can't do much more than boil something on the two hot plates. There is also a microwave and a mini refrigerator.

On the menu today:
Breakfast: yogurt, cereal
During the exam: two pretzels
Lunch: three tomatos with pepper (and there are still five left in the refrigerator)
While studying: Half a liter of grapefruit juice and the four remaining chocolate squares
Dinner: two bowls of tomato soup and soda

Sigh. And I wonder why my digestive system is in an uproar.
mercredi 26 mai 2010

A very important wedding anniversary for me- now I can finally file my papers to start the process of obtaining French nationality!

And here I am, stuck in a 6-hour technical exam...
Well, maybe it will bring me luck for my exam.

(for anyone wondering, also shown are Alain's sister, her husband, and their daughter)
mardi 25 mai 2010
"Come on, shake off the covers of this sloth,"
the master said, "for sitting softly cushioned,
or tucked in bed, is no way to win fame;

and without it man must waste his life away,
leaving such traces of what he was on earth
as smoke in wind and foam upon the water.

Stand up! Dominate this weariness of yours
with the strength of soul that wins in every battle
if it does not sink beneath the body's weight."

- Dante
vendredi 21 mai 2010
In a desperate attempt to find something, anything to talk about, I have been going through my unpublished blog posts, trying to find something to keep readers entertained (or at least, not give up on me for good) while I am busy with studying for my exams next week.

I found these pictures, taken last October. Apparently, for one weekend a year, nearby farmers bring in some of their animals to the different neighborhoods, so that city children can see what an actual cow looks (and smells) like.
I was quite surprised, on my Saturday morning trip to the grocery store, to come across cows, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and donkeys in the square right next to the tramway.

It was "La Ferme en Fête"! complete with, of course, a lunch. Au mênu: Roasted pig., potatos, 1 glass of wine, and a piece of apple pie for 10€.

Hey kids, not only can you see a pig, you can eat one too!

I found it slightly disturbing.

The animals seemed to take it well, perhaps they are the ones specially trained to be poked and prodded by 5 year olds, I don't know.

By the way, for anyone who doesn't get the reference in the title, it is a joke acronymn for PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals).
mardi 18 mai 2010
Am off from work this week, studying for my big exams next week. On Wednesday, our four year wedding anniversary, I have the most important test, the Technical Exam. I won't bore you (too much with details) but basically we are given a patent to study (French or European), as well as two to four prior art documents, so then we have to say whether the patent is valid with respect to the prior art documents, and then evaluate a supposed infringing product or process, as well as answer some legal questions, such as estimate the amount of damages the patentee can collect, whether the seizure of conterfeit goods was legal, etc.

As part of my studying, I am reviewing the previous year's exams. The test, either Chemistry or Mechanical depending on your speciality (I chose Mechanical as I abhor Chemistry) is 5-hours long, but I get an extra hour because I am not French. It takes me forever to go through these documents. Sometimes I get one or two prior art documents in English, which helps. $

Anyway, on to the Ironic part.

Today I am studying the 2006 exam, entitled "Tuyau pour canalisations du type a double enveloppe d'isolation thermique" (Pipe for piping systems with a double thermal insulation enveloppe)
Basically, the patent is all about protecting pipes for underwater oil pipelines, to protect them from the temperature differences between the hot petrol and the cold seawater.

Hmm, current affairs anyone?

I admit I haven't really been following the recent developments in the oil spill? disaster?
It is being covered in the media, but I've been in a study time and space warp lately. I can't wait until the end of May.

Well, that is until I begin studying for the oral exams at the end of June, for which I won't know whether I am accepted until about a day or two before, but hey, that's the French Education System.
mercredi 5 mai 2010
One thing I have come across a lot lately is the image "Big Bad America". And no, I'm not talking about war or other politics.

These past few months, during my law course in Strasbourg, every week there are comments from the teachers about those "money-hungry, all business, lawsuit happy Americans"

I have been close to walking out a few times. Pretty much the only things stopping me is that
1) you never know who will be grading your paper/giving you the oral exam, and
2) it is a small professional community.

I guess in a field like Law, the comparisons with the US are more pointed that in others fields. Europeans, and French in particular, seem to portray themselves as little angels next to the terrible Americans. Like Americans are only interested in money, whereas the French are filing patents for the good of humanity only. Guess what? The whole patent system is FOR making money. If you really want to help humanity with your great invention, you DON'T file a patent. You publish your "car that runs on water, sunlight and wind only" or "miracle drug that cures AIDS" online, which means that nobody can get a patent for it, and it is free for all.

If you obtain a patent, then that means that you are planning on exploiting or else prohibiting others from exploiting it.

I just get so fed up with the comments. I think most French people either
a) don't know I am American, or
b) don't care.

I think Americans are, in general, much more sensitive about saying stuff against someone's country. Like some inner filter that says "Hey, my friend's new boyfriend is Chinese. Maybe when they come over for dinner I shouldn't rant and rave about cheap counterfeit products coming from China and how all the Chinese are stealing jobs from the rest of the world."

Whereas the French don't seem to have this inner filter. They'll say what they want to say, and who cares where you are from, or that it might make you uncomfortable?
lundi 3 mai 2010
It's May. Finally. Oh my god my exams are in less than a month. On our wedding anniversary no less.

Managed to get back to Marseille in one piece. Actually managed to take the scheduled flight. So much quicker than the train! From my class, I took the tramway right to the train station in Strasbourg, hopped on a 10-minute commuter train to the airport, checked in (after they fixed the problem with my ticket), went through security, got on my flight (a puddle jumper), an hour later landed in Marseille, got my luggage, and decided I was way too exhausted to deal with taking the shuttle bus to Marseille, then the subway, then hauling my suitcase up a flight or two of stairs (yay for handicap-unfriendly public transportation!), then lugging it several blocks to our apartment, so I sprung for a taxi. As the counter rapidly made its way to 70, started to wonder if it was really a good idea or not. Arrived in front of our apartment building and was informed that the total was actually 55€. Um, okay. Talk about transparent pricing. Was too tired to really care though so I paid him and was very happy to be back. Wanted to take a nap but was too wound up.

Spent the next day doing load after load of laundry, as well as trips to the hardware store and grocery store, and watching mindless television all day long. Hey, I really really needed it.

Went back to work on Friday and spent most of the day just catching up and organizing my papers, as usual.

On Saturday we were invited to dinner. Yes, we do still have friends!

It was a colleague of mine from my previous job in Aubagne. He and his wife are Argentinian, and are expecting their first baby end of May/beginning of June. Actually, it will be easier for me to list our married childless friends:

It was strange being back in Aubagne.
There's the train station where I waited for trains for hours due to the strike!
There's the cafe where I had a café au lait every morning to pass time until it was time to go to work due to arriving in Aubagne about an hour and a half too early due to the strike!
Good memories, I tell ya.

We left a little after 1 a.m., which must be a record. South Americans are known for not even starting the night until midnight. I chalk it up to the fact that she is pregnant. Arrived back in Marseille and were in bed by 2.

Sunday morning I cooked muffins, banana chocolate. Alain took one bite and said "Ahh! Banana!!" Sigh. I guess no more snot muffins in this household.

I brought the rest in to my work, and they were gone in a few hours, even the batch left in the oven about five minutes too long.

Another week and a half of work before my week off to study for the exams.

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