Friday, September 30, 2011

the trials of being Natalie

The cat, she is Out
she was out all night
and out this morning
early when I left to catch my ride.
She likes to be out.
She is well-served today
because I'm not coming home tonight
I'm even now on a train to Paris.
The cat is out.
She was out all day yesterday,
coming in for just a snack in the evening,
and all day today,
and she'll be out all day tomorrow
until at last I arrive
on foot from the station
too late for the last bus.
She will be so happy to see me
and to rediscover the Others
who judiciously stayed In with the catfood
She will shiver with joy
and shake her tail
and demand caresses
until it's time to go Out again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How’s that for teamwork ?

Or, why my life is too full for blogging these days.

The new law of the land dictates that all medical biology labs should fuse into these huge, centralized structures, and that these superlabs must obtain ISO accreditation by 2016.
Errrr, uhhhh.
But, the government is still undecided as to whether it will allow ‘reference laboratories’ to exist. These would be specialized laboratories doing very specific and onerous tasks requiring particular expertise, such as genetic analysis.
Accreditation is still required, but the domain of expertise is much more limited.
Well, we can handle that.
But the gov still wants us to regroup as much as possible, so my cancer genetics department will still have to fuse with the general genetics lab across the way, and also with the path department that’s started doing somatic genetic analysis.
Errr, well, just tell us what the perimeter is, and who to work with, and what the general structure is going to be.
That last part is still a black box, but highly placed people are apparently considering the subject.
Oh, and don’t let things slide until 2016. A dossier with a part of our activity ready to accredit on the spot as well as a detailed plan for the rest is due by next October.
Oof !

This isn’t news just today. We’ve been pondering for a while now.
In the meantime, the path guys have been doing their somatic mutation work on my guys’ machines, sharing lab space and all, and we get along pretty well. We’ve set up a common Quality Group to develop the necessary documentation of our methods and etc. At the detail level, the merge is already beginning.
But at the department head level and above, no news.
So it was with some surprise that we learned that our path head was part of some committee put together at the national level to assess how different hospitals were dealing with the whole thing. We weren’t invited to know what that group was all about. We weren’t sure what was expected of us when a trio of auditors showed up to look us all over for a day. But, great ! we’re happy to address the subject and maybe get somewhere.
Everybody says that it’s clear that Genetics and Pathology are going to merge into a Bio-pathology superdepartment. It’s clear we will have lots of overlap in our daily work. But the organizer of the day fully expected the genetics people to get up and leave after the introduction to the meeting when it was time for the path presentation. ?? here I am at the table, and I'm still not invited to see what's going on?? I hope I was polite enough in begging to stay (at any rate, I did, and so did my colleagues, and I can tell you we learned some things). And none of the path people came back after the lunch break for the genetics presentation.

Um. If we're a single team, why the walls of silence between the diverse parts? Some ideas of who should know what need to change here. At least that’s my opinion.

Friday, September 23, 2011

bitching & moaning

Sometimes things just don’t grow in the directions you hoped they would.

Take the Poetry Jam. Back in the days when TFE was hosting the Poetry Bus on his blog, I really liked the group of people who would come around every week with a poem. Eventually I felt a part of the gang, and proud to be so.

Then TFE gave up organizing a weekly thing, and the Poetry Bus blog is just a site with news about the next issue of the P-Bus magazine - it isn’t a place for poems. I was one of the people who didn’t want the Bus to die, and the first to offer to administer a new place for us to gather for a weekly prompt. I still don’t understand why it was forbidden to have any sort of Poetry Bus reference in the name. A state secret, apparently. TFE said he could not be involved with any new blog that was obviously a derivative of the Poetry Bus. (Although, naturally, just such a derivative was exactly what the rest of us wanted.) (And you know what ? TFE has not once participated in the Jam. So why did I bother to accomodate him ?)

At any rate, Poetry Jam was born, and at first many of the Bus riders came over, and it was kind of like the Bus, only Jam.

But now most of our participants are new people I don’t know and whose writing doesn’t grab me. Some use cutesy pseudonyms and probably dot their i’s with little hearts.

I’m one of those curmudgeonly people with a special button in my pocket for the vaporisation of people who dot their i’s with little hearts once high school is behind them.

The Jam just doesn’t have the group-of-friends feel to it that it had at the beginning. It’s cool to have 80+ followers, but when we had 20 I knew them all. I find I’m only posting a poem now and then, not because I don’t have time to get one out, but because I just don’t care. And I’m cherry-picking the links I visit, favoring certain names I know, skipping others, judging new names by their names and how many lines they take up when all I want is their name and not a novel on the Linky.
I suspect, with no particular reason to than a glance at who's linking up each week, that some of my favorite fellow former Bus poets may feel the same. Because they're not there either.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the creative outlet of Poetry has let out all the accumulated stuff that needed to be said in poems, and it’s time to close the taps and let the pool fill up again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

image vs flesh

the impact of sunlight on my bare skin
the wind messing my hair
sand between my toes
I want to be there.
No flat photo will do.

This for the Poetry Jam. Join the jelly here!

Friday, September 16, 2011

a clue is left on the doorstep

Well, I wrote that about the gas on Tuesday, in the gap between swimming and bridge, relaxing with a glass of kir on Clermont’s main square. This lounging at a sidewalk table with a cold one and some peanuts, watching the people go by and musing on whatever, is surely the reason why philosophy is such a Big Thing here. To the point of having Celebrity Philosophers (as the Economist referred to Bernard-Henri Levi not long ago. Even so, I wouldn’t recognise BHL if he was sitting at the next table.)
But anyway.
Wednesday night I got home early and my evening guest arrived later than expected, and so I was messing around thinning the weeds in the front yard. At one point I went far enough to the right side of the house (where my unused driveway is. I go over there, what, once a month ? not even ?) to look up the steps to my official front door. Which I never use, seeing as it’s far more direct to open the pedestrian gate next to the mailbox, get the mail, and go straight up the steps to the kitchen door.
But what was on my front steps ? Some paper. Now, how did that get there.
I’m used to having bits of trash in my front yard, blown there from the passing trash pickup or littered courtesy of my neighbors who park in front of my house. But whole sheets of paper, and up over the low wall that screens the steps ?
Aha ! It’s a notice from the gas people that they were here and they changed the meter, and here was a booklet explaining how to relight the gas. Rather worse for the weather, having spent more than 3 weeks outside, but still readable. It would have been nice of them to stick it in the mailbox instead!
I’ll try it tonight.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

the latest thing

I could be classed with the strange people.
Those of you who’ve known me for a while, in person, know this already, naturally. Writing on the children. Locking the boss in his office. Segregating the peanut butter from the jelly.
I should really figure out how to turn the gas back on at the house.
They came around the other day to change the meters in the neighborhood, and when I got home, no gas. Not that I noticed for a couple of days. I rarely use my gas stove in the summer months, and I sometimes go swimming and take my shower at the pool. Summer --- Pool?
So another shower at the pool, and then it was the weekend, and then I went away for a week. And then I came back but discovered that not having hot water at the house meant lots of good exercise at the pool. I can do my 2000m without stopping now.
At any rate, it’s hard to believe it’s been 24 days already.
Yeah, 3 weeks without a major utility.

Reminds me of the time I went a month without electricity. It was early summer of my first year here, and I hadn’t paid my electric bill and I thought I’d been cut off. It was too embarrassing to run to Olivier and ask him to help me (my french was pretty rudimentary in those days), and what with it being light out so late in the evenings in June, and not really needing my fridge (being too poor also to fill it properly), I just let it go for a while.
So I paid the electric bill, and I hadn’t been cut off - O explained they give you quite a lot of slack. But I still had no electricity until finally I discovered the fuse box way at the top of the stairs where I didn’t think I should ever be looking for one. But yeah. Tripped during a thunderstorm.

Honestly, there must be a valve somewhere, something to light, a matter of a few seconds work. I might look into it tonight when I get back from the pool.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The comfort of pillows

This weekend's Poetry Jam theme concerned Pharmacology, and just around the same time I read the suggestion that we do a 9/11 theme. So. Normally I wouldn't do either of these, feeling I had nothing to say, or nothing adequate, or just not wanting to go there at all.
Aw, get some courage!
All is not sweetness and light in the world of poetry!
Wasn't I just thinking after the Always Looking Up, and Humor weeks, that that was enough of that?
Just can't be pleased, can I? (reminds me of somebody here at work... the advice is for me to stop trying so hard to accommodate...Might write about that, but some colleagues are readers...) So I've been thinking, in busses and between tasks and suchlike, and here's the (somewhat premature, but it's late Monday already and look what happened to my Looking Up poem - still simmering) result.

The Blue Comforter

The fog is going out
The morning is getting on
and finally the mist starts to disperse
Already the near branches of the oak tree reach out
and become real.
I can see the leaves,
one by one.
Come, Sun!
come shine
come warm the earth from its long night
burn off this thick haze
and let me see my city.

I stretch and yawn and the day makes progress
while I brush my teeth
up & down 100 strokes
and pour my coffee in its usual mug
and pull on my clothes
undies, socks, pants, t-shirt in order.
It's going to be a nice one.
Nice and sunny and I'll take a walk around the park and down to the library.

I look outside
Miraculously! the sky is clear,
the birds are singing.
And a plane
so clearly,
clearly visible
in the light blue of the morning,
streaks by and I must have I must have Where is the fog? Where? where bring the fog the merciful fog where is the bottle with its packaged mist to hide everything to help to block out the sky and let me cope get through the day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More wandering about Stockholm

Things are still crazy-busy at the lab, so I'm just going to post pictures, not some long-winded story like I like to do. We were walking along one of the many waterfronts when we came across these mailboxes for the houseboats moored just behind me here.
 A bird. Yep, lots of birds in Stockholm. The water is pretty clean, and there are lots of green spaces, so there are lots of birds.

This one island was pretty much all park, with a few museums and some historical homes that were sort-of museum, sort-of somebody's home.
What self-respecting park would be without a swingset?
As you know, I must swing whenever I see one. Makes me think, if I get out the door early enough I should stop by the park in Romagnat tonight...
 Lighthouse boat!
 Luis went over to check out the motorized thingy randomly crisscrossing somebody's yard. It's an automatic mower! Like those self-guided vacuum cleaners for the house, only this one cuts the grass for you. It had so much territory to cover, though, that the result was kind of patchy. And you can see its tracks all over.
 Here's Luis kindly setting up a Maurice Moment for us.
And then it was about time to go back to our hosts for dinner.
I had just the one full day in the city, and we never did go out for a proper meal (only lunch in a sandwich shop), so there will be no going on about the food. Though I will say that the Peruvian fare in different people's homes was a treat.
The next day was a nice, quiet one: five hours on the train to Copenhagen watching the countryside go by and thinking about nothing much. Then a leisurely lunch at the airport. Once in Paris I decided again to take it slow and not rush to make the last train home to Clermont (which I had a 50-50 chance of missing even if I tried). The cats were under Marc's care for another day anyway. So I splurged on a nice hotel just down the street from my favorite Paris bookstores and savored my night in.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stockholm boat tour

Downtown waterfront
In Stockholm last week we had just one full day to see the city. What you get when you arrive at midnight one day and have to leave on the 8 am train the next! My friends stayed on for the whole weekend, but I had to get to my flight in Copenhagen, stop in Paris, and then get back to my kittybits. They miss me so.

Old sailing ship now a youth hostel. Interesting digs!
Other friends had recommended taking one of the many boat tours around the many islands that the city is built on, and that turned out to be a great idea. We took a 2-hour tour of the principal sights, which had very nice commentary broadcast. Sometimes I hate that because the sound is awful or the talk just lame or boring or annoying, but this one was really good. Not too much, not too little. And the guy didn't try to crack bad jokes.

Some of the other passengers on the tour.

 It was nice being in the boat for the few minutes that it rained, but shooting photos through the only moderately clean windows was a drawback. And you could only really see one side of the channel or the other at any time, but fortunately there were so few passengers you could go back and forth at will. The ten outdoor seats at the back of the boat were firmly taken by a bunch of beer-drinkers, but I did stand out there a few times.
Reclaiming more land for Stockholm

A bit of passing graffiti. I didn't get many graffiti pix this trip, but there was some awesome stuff out there.

One of the many many many marinas around town. Waterfront apartment blocks have their own docks.

Some of Stockholm's thousands of boats float no more...

BAD! That means indoor swimming pool.

The superhuge cruiser dwarfed anything else we saw.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

just a peek

I was in Sweden for a few days last week, visiting friends. No time to blog since getting back, but I'll give you this preview...
Mev with her companion Luis and her Mom welcoming me to Lund

A walk around the university campus showed just how beautiful non-french schools can be!

One of the main shopping streets

These groups of yellow chairs were everywhere, in preparation for the Humor Festival

Train to Stockholm coming! Time to go.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A day in Dieppe

Not quite the promised Mostly Sunny, but the patches of blue over the seapass for a pretty nice day here on the Normand coast. It isn't raining! What more could I ask for?

I arrive a bit after one, having been delayed half an hour by a broken rail near Paris. The connecting train from Rouen to Dieppe patiently waited for us (happily, or most of us on the train to the coast would have had to cool our heels in Rouen for two or three hours - enough to wreck any day-trip)

So it's time for lunch. Past time. The pleasure port here is conveniently lined with restaurants, however. Half of them are open, though whether the closures are due to the end of the high season and the Tuesdayness of the day, or to some general economic depression is unclear. At any rate, I am here to do my part to help out, and am looking for a fixed-price menu with as many different sea creatures on it as possible.

Aha. Here at the place with the bright yellow awnings I can have both a fresh seafood platter (4 species) and a sort of fish stew (4 more) at a reasonable rate. And they're still seating new tables for lunch. Just my day.

The bigorneaux are my favorites. This is perhaps partially because you have to actually go to the coast to get these black-shelled sea snails. They're fresh from this morning's low tide, nutty tasting, and not at all gross, even raw. Oysters are on offer, naturally, but they're really not my thing and they're happily absent from my plate, which is completed with salmon, shrimp and a spiny langoustine. The Dieppe-style stew isn't one, in fact, but a collection of small pieces of fish in a creamy butter-lemon sauce, all very fresh and divine.

Straight off the boat fresh seafood is one of the things I've been craving. The other is a nice walk along the coast. Time to get on with it!

The tide is way up. The beach curving away west toward Fecamp and Le Havre is steep and stony, and the white cliffs dull under the heavy cloud cover. It isn't easy to walk along the beach - the rocks are smooth and range from pebbles to the size of a child's fist, but they're deep and with the slope you keep sliding down at every step.

Families and couples are scattered up and down the waterfront, laying out on their towels fully clothed, insisting on a last day of summer. Every fourth souvenir stand is open, catching passersby with their gaudy wares. A beachfront bar is open but has just two tables occupied with people sipping hot tea and coffee.

I walk past the edge of the town past where the cliffs begin, but not too far, thinking I just might see something of the town before train time back to Paris. But there's nothing like strolling along a mostly deserted coasline, wondering at the cliffs on one side, the receding sea on the other, this narrow strip of land in between full of colorful and intruiging shapes, a sailboat going past close. After an n-ieme photo of seagulls on some emerging rocks I turn back and discover that the tide is uncovering sand at last. Such a pleasure! Much smoother to walk on than the rocks.

Even so, once back at the secured swimming areas (yes, a pair of lifeguards on duty at each one, despite the utter absence of swimmers) it's time for a rapid glance at the quaint old town with its new shops same as every other town's, and to the station.