what happens when you leave the extra quilt out

Friday, April 17, 2015

Short tour of obscure parts of France

So Thursday it was Marseille, by train. They've cut back service terribly, so we had to go through Lyon. That isn't too bad, since the Lyon-Marseille leg is by TGV, whereas the old 'direct' route took its time down the Allier gorge and stopped all over the place. Probably we got there just as fast.
I will say about the cutbacks, though, that they're nonsense - you have to go through Paris to get from Clermont to Bordeaux. Just look that up on a map!
Saw nothing of Marseille - just station to meeting venue to hotel to station.
Had a really early train from there to Lyon on Friday. I hate being late, but did they have to reserve the 6:44 when the 7:10 would have gotten me there in time? And then, a 6am taxi to the station for a 7 minute ride? I did have a leisurely breakfast once in Lyon. Once at the meeting site, however, it was wait wait wait for the others who were also coming up from Marseille, but on later trains, sometimes significantly later trains that did not get them to the CLB until nearly 11.
Later, I hop into Mariette's Alfa as she pulls up to our agreed rendez-vous spot and it's on to Grenoble. The Mercure near the bridge club has a jacuzzi and a sauna. The jacuzzi is too cold and the jets too weak, then the sauna we fail to find the dial to turn up the heat but spend a pleasant moment in the warm. Pasta. I crave pasta for dinner. Right there at the hotel, tagliatelle carbonara on the menu. Heavier than I'd hoped but delicious.
Saturday, a stroll around the city to confirm that, really, there is nothing much to see in Grenoble. Pff. Time to play bridge!
We are cursed.
We start off on a bad foot, forgetting a conventional call that means I actually have zero to three cards of the suit named, but plenty plenty in the red suits. Our opponents pass quickly. They can tell we have screwed up, and I play 3 clubs with a singleton in my hand and just three little ones on the board. All our glorious diamonds get ruffed by the bad guys.
Alright. A fiasco like that is not worth getting mad about. It's just too extreme. A story to tell. (see? I'm telling it again!) The only good thing about it is that it's clearly M's fault, and this cuts short her usual way of explaining over and again what I have done wrong. Not that she doesn't have some occasion for that later, but there is a clear reduction in volume.
But we do not recover from the poor start. One hand we are too timid to bid game, the next we try to be more assertive and get stung going too far. The hands we do right, it's our adversaries who do something right on their side. Hard to fathom we come out of the day 21st out of 40 pairs.
Scored big for dinner, though, with friends who did about as well as we did.
Sunday we take the small roads over to Hauterives, to see the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval. A rural postman at the turn of the 20th century dreamt up this crazy palace.
(photo picked from the internet) Today it's an historical monument, with the middle third covered in scaffolding as they make some repairs. Curious thing. M says it used to be quite colorful, but the shells have all lost their luster and even the different colors of stone are subdued by cement dust.
Love the mention "Defense de rien toucher" built into it (on the very right of the photo). So much so that I picked up the t-shirt. Gotta get a t-shirt now and then. Especially as it was about 77°F out, and I had packed for much cooler weather (it's barely April!).
From there down to Romans sur Isère, where we find nothing of interest except the wonderful Jacquemart

(another image picked from the internet) that was just about the strike the hour, literally. A sort of Uhr-Hammer.
Monday morning started with a stroll to a chapel overlooking Tain-L'Hermitage. Not really in the mood for wine-tasting. We just took a short walk and left.
Then a blip on the map, the hamlet of St Cyr. There's a nicely kept-up medieval church that we admired driving by, and just by chance caught a glimpse of a cloister-like area. Gotta stop for that. Seems it was a convent at one time, and the tiny courtyard is quite nice. The interior of the church still has its frescoes all up most of the walls and ceiling, sadly in need of restoration.
Outside, M railed against all the badly-done restoration work on the older buildings (as she had been doing since Grenoble). Personally, I find most of the restoration quite decent; and adapted to people's lives today. We no longer want tiny windows, or doorways even short people have to stoop to enter. If a wall giving onto the street is smooth and harmonious, should I be outraged that the windows used to be different? No. Things change. Let them.
From there to St Etienne. St Etienne is one of the ugliest towns in the country. I have to come here occasionally to get a visa at the Algerian consulate, but this time M gets sort of lost in parts of town I hadn't seen before. Feh. Oh, yes, that is the School of Mining. Very impressive. (yeah, not.)
As an architect, M appreciates architecture. So we're off to Firminy to see the celebrated works of Le Corbusier there.
Oh. Such concrete. Pity concrete ages so badly.
Hey, I didn't say it was pretty architecture! Just look at the way that concrete structure all hangs on a single support, freeing up the space underneath!
Uh, yeah.
Le Corbusier, master of cement. Leonardo of concrete. Genius of reinforcement rods.
May I go now?
We have to see the church. It's a whole city he set up here - apartment blocks, stadium, sports facility, indoor pool, and matching church. Unique among churches (aside from it looking like an ugly concrete blob from the outside. Which I admit is not unique among churches elsewhere, but it's not usually the thing in France.), this one you have to pay to visit. Because it's an historical site, and there are informative displays inside. (Now, how is that unique among churches here?!) So we go in, and yeah, it's better on the inside than on the outside. Not at all warm or welcoming or inspiring adoration. But better. The painted light wells are kind of cool.
Having paid to see what should be free, we walk the few yards over to the pool, which has a row of windows high up that might be quite nice from inside.
There's an employee just going in as we approach and see the sign that the place is closed. So M asks if we can go in and see the building.
No, we can't. It's closed.
We understand it's closed for swimming. We just want a look at the windows. We've paid our ticket, and the guy didn't say anything about the pool being closed! (of course, this same guy insisted that the church was not a consecrated, working church, and thus not subject to the law about being open to the public - which he was wrong about because everywhere inside are indications of it being a currently active parish church, vestments in the back room and all.) So M starts haranguing this poor woman to let us in, and she won't, not even for visitors from far, far away who have come here to this pit of a town for the express purpose of seeing Le Corbusier's oeuvre in person and who cannot come back another day for the next million years.
In a snit, we leave.
It's time to go home.
Please may we go home?
Good idea.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


‘maybe tomorrow’, and two weeks go by, like magic.
Just how it is these days.
The weekend was great. Saturday : gardening, then bridge. Sunday : gardening, Easter lunch, then more gardening. Monday : shopping for gardening stuff, then gardening.

My manual lawnmower officially died. It probably would have lasted a lot longer if I’d only taken care of the thing, cleaning off the grass wrapped around its parts, tightening any loose screws… But I’m far too lazy for that sort of boring stuff, and when something finally worked itself loose and got lost in the too-high weeds, it was the end of the mower.
Repairing the thing would be more trouble than it was worth so I let myself be convinced of the virtues of an electric mower. Which is not as quiet as hoped. But it does cut the lawn efficiently.
JP gave it quite a workout for its inaugural mow, going out to the farther trees that have not been mowed under for about 5 years now. Apparently my cherries and apples could have fewer worms in them if only I would not let the weeds grow under the trees. We’ll see if that works.
Even a shiny new mower cannot get everything right in a single pass, so at my next opportunity I’ll re-mow and get all the stuff that simply flattened against the ground last time.
Though, the next opportunity may well be three weeks from now, by which time the next mow will be overdue anyway.

It’s a bit cold in the mornings still for planting the veg patch. We did put in some stuff. Can’t resist that sunny afternoon sky. Potatos, onions, garlic, carrots, radishes. Some garlic has already come back from last year, and the celery has sprouted from the freeze-thawed ruins of last year’s plants. Strawberries cleared of their invading weeds.

The veg patch might get more elaborate every season, but the real work this year will be out front. Gone, the scraggly rose bushes. Gone, the weeds and the infesting ivy. The irises and tulips and azaleas will be moved to temporary quarters while the soil is thoroughly turned over and freed of blackberry brambles and other unwanteds. In will come a variety of flowering shrubs, in different colors and seasons. Lilacs of all colors, a butterfly bush, forsythia, lots of stuff.

It’s almost too bad I get to play the League final of the Open Pairs this weekend in Grenoble. Almost a shame to play the League final of the Mixed by Four next weekend (though that one we get to play ‘at home’). All that bridge keeps me out of the yard and under artificial lighting! Sitting on my butt.

And the camillia got replanted. It's much happier out there than in the kitchen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

toot toot toot!

no, still no Spring photos.
Got home yesterday and drank nearly half a bottle of champagne. I think M was disappointed I wouldn't accompany her to the end of the bottle, but I had reached my limit & I really don't like having a headache for a whole day afterward, and she's the kind who will not refill her glass unless you do too so there is a bit left in the fridge. 
By the time this little celebration was over, it was way too dark to go out and do any gardening. Even with the time change.
Maybe tonight.
Er, unless I stick around here to run the MSI samples, and then stop to get catfood and catlitter. It depends on how busy the sequencer is. If I have to interrupt something to load the MSI, I should really stop back later and reload whatever was put on pause. All that running around sucks up a lot of daylight.
Oh, keeping you in suspense, am I?
What's the point? You didn't even know I was playing the Mixed Promo x4 this weekend.
Yes, that's bridge.
Our theoretical rank was 11th (out of 16), and they pair you up to play against the team closest to you in rank that you have not already played. So we started off with relatively easy opponents. We beat them soundly, and the next team, and then the third team we came off just a hair better than a draw. The next day we had another nice victory before playing the favorites, whom we trounced, and then finished off whoever was left with a good drubbing.
The next round is in 3 weeks, then the final is in Paris in June.
Next year I won't be allowed to do this sort of thing. Just 600-odd points to go this season, and I'll be kicked up to the Honors level.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maybe tomorrow

yes, I know, spring is in the air, and all I'm posting is boring, work-related gunk.
I'd love to get out there in it. The sun is up now when I have breakfast. I'm wondering what happened to all my pairs of sunglasses. My jacket is too cold for the morning, but my coat is too warm for the evening. And the lawn.
When will I ever get to the lawn?
I mowed about a third of it last Wednesday evening, and since then it's been waiting. And growing. Growing really fast. My mower will be useless against it if the grass gets too long - the stalks just fold down and go under the blades. Perhaps I'll get out there tomorrow, if I can get out of here early.
I'll get out there, and mow the lawn, and turn over bits of the veg patch, get some seeds in there, maybe the potatos & garlic that have been hanging out in the basement so long. And the camellia. Get it out of the kitchen and into the dirt. It is not happy in the kitchen; it is losing its leaves.
What of the weekend, you say?
The weekend is taken up with the mixed pairs x4, in Issoire. I'll have just time Saturday morning to go down to the store for catfood and milk and something to grill for lunch, before it's time to grill something up for lunch and head off to play cards. Then Sunday it's an all-day thing. We'll be home by late afternoon, but knackered.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I must have posted some time ago about the circus of getting the little electronic passes set up to control who comes through the lab doors.
What I haven't been letting you in on is all the fun of moving half the lab into some recently vacated space in the main building. It's been quite a hassle, and certainly contributed to the ambient stress. My part of the lab was pretty much at a standstill for the month of February because of the move, but it's over now. Or nearly.
One thing required of us is to restrict access to our spaces to authorized persons only. So we added electronic locks to the main lab last year, and little chips to our ID tags to let us in. The new space was already equipped with the kind of lock you punch a code to open. Well, once you give the code to someone, you can't take it back. And we have a fair number of temporary personnel, plus even if we didn't, a code can just get spread around totally out of your control with just one leak. Then you have to change the code, which is a huge pain in the ass because there are a lot of people who -do- get to know the code, and they don't all come around every day, and so some bright thing will just stick it on a post-it next to the door...
No, we will have our little chip system, please.
Only, there's only one person in the hospital who can program the little controller thing, and the controller wouldn't hold a charge, and there's no electrical outlet anywhere near the door, and it was vacation time, and...
Four weeks, we just blocked the door open with a bit of plastic.
And now it has come to light that all the difficulty with the controller was just a lack of information on how to use the thing properly.
So now it works.
That's one of the doors.
There's another door, not equipped with anything more than a handle and a key-operated lock that nobody has the key to. We're supposed to not use that door at all, and in fact they're supposed to come and make it unusable. In the meantime, instead of being permanently locked, it's permanently open.