samedi 26 mai 2012
Six years of wedded bliss, as of today. The above picture was for our thank-you cards.
vendredi 25 mai 2012
Happy birthday to the best dad ever!

Here is a picture of us, I must have been about 16 (the date on the photo is wrong). They brought me out East to visit some colleges, but I was dead set on the Naval Academy and barely wanted to consider any other options. Go figure.

Anyway, Happy Birthday dad!
samedi 19 mai 2012
One of my more embarrassing moments from High School was when I decided to take part in a regional spelling contest. I think I was a Sophomore, or maybe a Junior.

I spent a couple of weeks reviewing lists of words, and one Saturday, my Civics teacher drove me and another girl Erin down to another High School in Colorado Springs where the competition was being held. We formed a team, so first one of us would spell a word, then the next round the other one would.

We got there, and there weren't many people. Spelling contests aren't the most popular thing in town I guess. There were maybe five other teams.

We sat up on stage, with our teacher in the audience. The person in charge explained the rules. You could repeat the word out loud, but once you started to spell, if you made a mistake you couldn't go back and fix it.

I went first. The word I received was seedling.

I repeated it a few times.

"Seedling. Seedling. See - I mean Ess -e -e -d -l- -i -n -g"

Nope. It was over. Just like that. We were finished. First word, first round. I was so embarrassed. Poor Erin never even got a chance.

The winning word was something like "spinach". Give me a break.

Sigh. So that was my brief attempt at spelling contests.

The end.
dimanche 13 mai 2012
On Thursday, the garage informed me that my car was finished.
(The other garagist never even bothered to call)

I picked it up after work, 775€ poorer. Ouch. Hopefully, she will hang on for another couple of years.
I then drove it over to the parking garage, where I have a monthly pass, and had parked my in-law's car that morning. I parked our car outside, went in, fetched the other car, drove it out of the garage, parked it, then drove in our car and parked it.

I then drove the other car to my in-law's, taking the expressway, 1.80€, rather than the windy evening-commute clogged roads. I filled it up with gas, and parked it at my in-law's.
Alain met me there on his motorcyle straight from work. We stayed for a few minutes discussing with his parents, then left on his motorcycle. I had brought my motorcycle jacket and helmet in the car with me that morning. We drove back to Aix on the expressway, and I directed him to the parking garage. I then went in and got our car, then I drove home from Aix in our car, and Alain drove home on his motorcycle.

So now we have our car back, and are out about 900€ taking into account the parking, gas for my in-law's car, and the repairs.
I took it out of my Renault Mégane savings.
dimanche 6 mai 2012
I should have stayed in bed Thursday.

Our car has been making noise for awhile now, and we haven't been able to take to the garage. Well, in our defense, it has been a perma-vacation for the mechanics in the South of France for the past month.

Anyway, we took it in for a Contrôle Technique, which is a review of the car that is obligatory every two years. We actually didn't need to take it yet, but we wanted a rather unbiased opinion of what was wrong from someone who makes no money in forcing expensive repairs on you. We were told nothing major, but perhaps the power steering needed some work. Indeed, whenever I turned the steering wheel sharply, like to park, it made noise.

Anyway, the mechanic near my work finally opened back up two weeks ago, so I had him look over the car. He said he would call me when he had an opening, surely by the end of the week. Stupid me, I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, this last Wednesday I called to see what was up. He had lost my number and said to bring it in this morning. Okay, great.

Before leaving for work Thursday morning, I got a call. He said he couldn't take it that morning, could I come in tomorrow (Friday)? Okay, fine for tomorrow.
Except, when driving to work on the highway, not okay!
The battery light kept coming on and off, and then for awhile the exhaust pipe started smoking. The electricity seemed to be coming in and out (trouble opening and closing the windows). I went slowly, and when I got near Aix, a knocking sound started.

I called the mechanic again, begging him to fit me in today. He kept asking "tomorrow isn't okay?" NO tomorrow is not okay. I waited for a week for you to call, and now look at the situation I am in.
He said to call back around noon.

The power steering went out, and I could barely park it in the parking garage. As I was backing in to a spot, I heard a bang!
I managed to park, raised the hood, and looked inside.
But who am I kidding? I have no idea what could be wrong, unless some tube starts spurting liquid.
I then noticed a big round metal circle on the floor, right where the car had been before I had backed up. This is not good.

I picked it up and put it in the car, getting extremely dirty in the process. I managed to stain my white fuzzy shrug (and also got mashed banana in the lining of my purse - not a good day).

I went to work and called again around noon. No answer. I decided to try and move the car, as well as to take a picture of the mysterious part and get my parking pass, as I knew we would have to borrow my in-law's car.
I managed to move the car out of the parking garage, at a slow pace, and park it across from the garage; (Nine euros a day, thanks so much).

I called again, leaving a message that the car was now across from the garage, and I would bring it in Friday morning.

No reponse. I called my in-laws, explained the problem, and as luck would have it, they were coming to Aix that afternoon for a doctor's appointment. After work, I walked over to the clinic and met them. They drove me back to their house, and I took their second vehicle, a Fiat Panda (like a car, only smaller).

Otherwise, I would have had to take the train back to Marseille, the subway home, then Alain and I would have to go out to their house on Alain's motorcycle, then I drive back in the car and he on his motorcycle.
I showed Jacques and Josée the picture, and they had no idea what it was. They also described it to Nicolas, my brother-in-law, who is a mechanic for the Army. He had no idea either. I would publish it here but can't seem to get it off my phone.

Anyway, Friday morning, I parked Josée's car in the parking garage, and went to wait for the mechanic at 7:45 a.m. like he said. And waited. And waited.

I left a not so nice message on his machine, paid another 9€ for Friday's parking, and went to work. I called another garage nearby and got an appointment for Wednesday morning. The other garage seems more professional, asking what type of car, what seems to be the problem. Um, parts falling off? Everyone keeps asking if I am sure that the part came from the car, and whether I picked it up and kept it.
1) Fairly certain due to the loud bang and that it was exactly where the car was
2) Do I really look that dumb? No, I decided to just leave it there in the middle of the floor as it obviously is unimportant and inexpensive.

Anyway, Friday night before leaving work, I again paid for Saturday's parking. Hopefully I will only have to pay for one more day, Monday, as Tuesday is a holiday.

Also, here's hoping that I can get it the 500 meters to the other garage, that they are open and haven't just decided to take vacation, and that the repairs aren't more expensive than the car is worth. It is over ten years old, and has 218K kilometers, so I am leaning towards getting a less-old car if it will cost us more than 500€ or so, but Alain disagrees.
mardi 1 mai 2012
When I was going up to Strasbourg (2009-2010) on a regular basis, Alain bought a poker chip set and hosted several poker nights while I was away. Since then, the guys from his lab get together every few months or so. I have gone a few times, but it is usually on a work night, so we leave around 10:30 or so.

As it was our turn to host again, I suggested either Saturday night or Monday night, as today, May Day, is off. I wanted some time to straighten up the apartment, and not have work the next day, as I knew they wouldn't be leaving at 10:30.
(Let's go to bed so these nice people can go home)

We spent Saturday and Sunday straightening up, and bought chips, pretzels, sodas, beers, the works. About half of the guys who come are Muslim, so they don't drink beer.

Monday night I arrived home from work a bit before 7, so I prepared the tables, got out the extra chairs and cushions, and waited for their arrival.
Khalid, Alain's colleague, was the first to arrive. Alain's cousin Jérome then arrived and bought some PhD students from Alain's lab with him.
Khalid then realized he forgot to bring the poker chips and cards (last time, poker night was at his house). Whoops. Kinda hard to play without all that.
He didn't want to lose his parking spot, so he managed to convince Alain to go to his apartment on motorcycle, get the poker set, and bring it back.
So Alain took off, leaving me to entertain. We ordered pizzas, also not so easy in France in the company of Muslims, as they don't eat ham which includes about half of all pizza varieties. We finally settled on Norvegienne (salmon), Tartiflette (potatoes, onions, reblochon cheese, and normally ham but we asked that to be left off), provençale (mozzarella, tomatoes, Parmesan, garlic, and parsley), and Spécial Cissou (mushrooms, Roquefort, mozzarella, and egg).

Alain returned with the poker set, and we started to play. We don't play for money, just chips. The entire set of chips was divided out evenly amongst us. I won a few hands, which is rare for me.
About an hour later, everyone was wondering where the pizza was. I called, and they said they were running behind. Perfect. I've got 7 hungry guys playing poker in my apartment.

Another 30 minutes, and the pizzas arrived. Alain opened them up and starting cutting. When he got to the Spécial Cissou, he said "oh no! Look what they did to our pizza!" It was all crumpled up, like it got tipped over during the transport. In fact, it was a chausson (calçone). We started doling out the pizza slices, using the plastic plates left over from Alain's habilitation in March. This was actually an improvement over previous poker nights, when they just ripped up the covers of the pizza boxes to use as plates.

We kept playing and around 11:30 our buzzer rang. We looked in the hallway, but there was nobody. I guess it was someone down in the street. Either it was a passer bye who was just causing trouble ringing doorbells late at night, or more likely one of our neighbors complaining about the noise. Seriously?
Sure, the guys were talking loud, but
1) it isn't like we have people over every week
2) there was no music playing, and

most of all:

Don't even have the courage to knock on our door and say "can you please keep it down"? Then screw you.

Anyway, we continued playing. Some people started getting large piles of chips, as others slowly dropped out. I was the fifth to drop out, followed by Alain. It was then between Khalid and Frédérico, with higher and higher stakes. Khalid finally won it all and everyone left, a bit before 1 a.m.

it was fun, but I was glad to not have to get up at 6 to go to work.

Happy May Day!

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