Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A day at Potato Creek Park

On the way up from Indy, the clouds were looking thick and dull, but they cleared off by the time we got there, leaving just enough to be pretty.
We rented a canoe for a first look around the lake.
Some people went swimming.

Some people were ready to go eat.
Some people went canoeing.
We saw ducklings.
We saw a swan.

The June-birthday crowd.
And the other parts of the year crowd.
A great day was had be all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Diving

A portrait of the abandoned Girls and Boys Club in Speedway, Indiana.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer of 10: Getting there

Air travel is rarely as simple as it should be. Today's flights, for example. I had an hour and forty minutes between arrival and redeparture at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. Just time enough to get off the plane, appreciate the latest changes underway at the airport, and the labyrinthine system of very long hallways, busses, escalators, trams and suchlike necessary to get passengers to their connections. You'd think things would get easier with experience in making airports.
Barely arrived at my new gate and it's already time to board.
But boarding would take ages, so I do have time for a brief tour through the duty-free area, and confirm that Azzaro's Elixer (in the men's section) will indeed be my next perfume, and enough to log on and check my email. Last now in the diminishing line, I notice my name on the list of passengers requested to present themselves at the Air France desk.
What could it possibly be?
My ticket is a reschedule of a trip cancelled for volcano problems back in April. Perhaps there's a problem with it. That could be bad.
No, they just want to let me know that the video at my seat doesn't work.
Oh. Is that all!
Beh... okay. I never use the video anyway: I hate wearing earphones. Thanks for the adrenalin rush.
Then I really am the last one to hand my ticket to the boarding agent, who mentions the same thing. By now, however, I've had a minute to wonder - if they find this a defect worth mentioning, what may be in it for me if I really wanted video? An upgrade, if I insist?
No, there are a few seats left in coach.
A window is available, in an exit row with its extra leg room.
I don't give a whit for a working video, but a window...and leg room...and having my own little standing area when my butt gets sore...well!
One thing I should have remembered about exit-rows: there is no window.
In fact, the side of the airplane is right up next to you. No spilling over the armrest at all.
A shame for a flight entirely in daylight. I'll miss the views of Ireland, and Greenland, and I won't be able to play what's that town/highway/lake down the eastern seaboard. On the upside, the middleseat next to me is empty. I can spill over that way.

In one way, thank goodness Air France hasn't 'caught up' with airlines in America, with the extra $25 to cough up at checking just for having luggage (I'm actually in favor of people paying according to the bags they bring or don't - it's not being able to pay the whole sum up front, or even conveniently compare what the eventual charge will be when reserving on line.) Not only is lunch still included in the ticket price, but drinking wine is so normal there's no surcharge for that, either. Yes I do think I'll have a glass of champagne for starters, thank you. Yes, I do think I'll have that little bottle of merlot with my lasagna (almost all of which stays in the bottle, but it's the principle!)
Comfortably airborne, I think back on my short connection time and wonder if my luggage has kept up with me. Usually I refuse connections of less than two hours if I'll be travelling with checked bags, but that would have meant waiting for hours at CDG and an extra connection in Newark or Detroit, so it seemed worth the risk. My luggage has often been delayed (up to four days!), but they've never actually lost it.

Landing at Dulles, we're treated to that new airport fashion: taking a bus to the terminal. Only this time with a twist. We actually deplane at a terminal gate, a pane of plexiglass away from being inside, and are shunted down a stairway to a bus, which takes us to a different terminal altogether. The adventure of modern air travel.
Happily, my luggage is waiting for me when I make it through customs. It's not even broken this time.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Absolute Pandemonium

June's Cat of the Month is a particular treat. It's time for The Best Cat of All Time! I've been thinking all month of writing about my favorite cat, of getting his book out of the cabinet and taking pictures of it (if not actually going through my printed photo archives to scan them) to show that I really did write the biography of my cat. But life intervened, as it usually does, and I never did get around to all that.
The first of the French cats, Pandemonium arrived one day in my studio apartment in a small cardboard box, delivered by a scratched and bleeding (slightly) friend, fresh from that friend's grandmother's barn.
One of the first things he did was discover the box of cat litter in the bathroom. He had no problem with the litterbox, that's not what I mean. The litter I bought at the store came in a box, with a handy pour-spout that sometimes ripped off when you struggled to get it open for the first time. Well, Pan discovered this box. With a hole in it. So he stuck his paw in, and discovered catsand, which he then proceeded to empty from the box. That must have been hours of fun.
Then he fell down the lightwell between my building and the next. We lived on the second floor (third by American counting), and there was no exit from the bottom of the 5 x 7 foot shaft except through the bookstore on the ground floor. And since it was Sunday, poor little Pan had to stay there, in the rain, until Monday morning. He wasn't hurt.

The apartment was a bit small for Pandemonium, whom I would find at the top of the curtains, or trip over as he tore after phantoms from one end of our living quarters to the other, so we moved to a larger place after a year. I found us a nice, ground-level apartment with a tiny garden. He'd never been Out, and was really interested in what Out was all about. The very first time I opened the sliding glass door to the garden, he was out like a shot. He looked back once and I didn't see him again for four days. I spent hours walking around, up and down the streets, poking around into neighbors yards, calling. No Pan. Then one night, about four in the morning, a faint, plaintive meowing: Pan was back!
He was back. Scrawny and dirty and scratched and contrite, he was back. First thing: purr up a storm. Second thing: EAT.

After that, Pan was allowed out in the yard on a leash, which he took to very well and patiently, until the day a really tempting bird flew close. Pan was up in a tree after it as if he'd never had a leash at all. The metal attachment to his collar had simply given way.

After that, Pan was allowed out in the yard on a small harness, which he took to very well and patiently, until the day I went inside to refill my iced tea, leaving the lead attached to my chair. When I closed the refridgerator door, there he was, no harness in sight. Cats are far too flexible to be retained by a dog harness, no matter how small a dog it's made for.
After that I just had to trust him.

A perfect gentleman, Pandemonium was very happy to have visitors, both people and cats. Even if they stayed for a while. We hosted Fofa and Kika for five months and when they left to rejoin their family in Cambridge I realized that that's what Pan really needed: Company. He was a cat overflowing with energy, and very intelligent, and while I played with him whenever I was home, I spent a lot of each day at work and he just got bored. He knew all about door handles, too, and if he was looking for something to do, a door had better be locked. Once we got Yersinia he was happier and didn't get into stuff as much, or chew on books, or tear up the carpet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Water Shootout

This week's My Town Shootout theme is water. Lakes, streams, water of all sorts. Have a glass of nice, cold San Pellegrino. I know, I know, I'm against bottled water too, with all the waste of bottling and transportation when the stuff on tap is perfectly good. I never, ever buy water in bottles unless - it's for taking hiking (and then I usually reuse one of the bottles hanging around the house), - I'm in a place where the tap is not reliable (Algeria...), or it's bubbly San Pel standing in for a soft drink.
While you're enjoying your refreshment, I'm going to go back to two weeks ago, to Public Art, which I missed due to too much work and too much rain. Monday I had a free afternoon in Paris, so I went to hunt the Monsieur Chats (or would that be Monsieurs Chat, like Attorneys General...?) that furtively decorate the skyline, with their happy yellow and broad toothy grins, of an otherwise grey and dull town.
The view from the park in front of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. There are at least 2 M Chats in this picture!
A quick lens change reveals one. And the other one.

Just two doors down from my hotel was the only M Chat in the 17 arrondisement, at 277 Blvd Pereire. Graffiti'd over! Just a peek of ears and a twitch of tail left. Alas, a good many of Monsieur's images have been painted over by rivals, or removed by the city, so it is quite a treasure hunt to find them.

Time for a refill?
34 rue Damesnil, between the Bastille Opera and Gare de Lyon. An ordinary Paris street?
With a lurking guest.
An ordinary view of rue du Roi d'Algers...with Monsieur!
Some Paris graffiti is not as cheerful as our yellow friend.

Rue Drevet in Montmartre.
It is a bit strange to copyright a graffiti, and only half of them have their c.

Finished? I've got more...
... but I'll leave them for another time. For the next two weeks I'm on vacation, taking a tour of family and friends in the southeastern quarter of the US, so I might miss the Shootout (especially Urban Macro shots, which requires new photos), but do stop by to see non-shootout adventures. Maurice will be along for the fun. In fact, I'll be in Charleston/Mt Pleasant SC, Mark, around July 4-5-6!
For more on the story of Monsieur Chat, and more of his perches in Paris, click here!
To see more Water Shootouts, click here!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Just some random notes since I've been away for a few days, to Paris for the annual "EuroCancer" meeting. This was my first time at this meeting. My boss was invited to give a talk, and since he was busy that day he turned the invite over to me. Genetic Determinism in Breast Cancer. Oooh, big title! Then I saw I would be speaking not at a breast cancer session, but at a Mediterranean cancer session. Ah, that's something I can really talk about for 20 minutes. A chance to present the comparisons we've done between our central-France population and those in Tunisia, Algeria, & Morocco.

Being a "Euro-" meeting, with other speakers from the UK and the USA, I thought that presenting in English would be fine. It is easier for me, because in spite of a certain fluency after 14 years here, I get nervous and tongue-tied in front of an audience. Then the morning of, I see this is a special session for the inauguration of a Francophone pan-Mediterranean club. Ah, francophony. This definitely means they want it in French, but too bad! Too late. I've done all my practicing in English and changing now could be disastrous.

It went fine, at least for me!
You could tell it was a doctors' meeting by the selection of commercial stands hawking their products. All pharmaceutical companies, all bored out of their skulls because nobody wanted their stuff. All anybody wanted from the stands was munchies - for breakfast there were croissants and fruit, all day long espresso and soft drinks, and at lunch we all made the rounds to see who had the best catering. The sushi got my vote. And what I've never seen at a meeting of scientists - champagne. Yep, every third stand was serving up bubbly for lunch. Since my talk was at 2, I resisted the first day.
This WW2 memorial sculpture is right across from the convention center. From a distance the bushes hide the bottom part, and it looks like a big metal hedgehog or something.

It being the solstice and all, there was plenty of light in the evening to go walking about, taking pictures. I was on the hunt for Monsieur Chat. More about that tomorrow.

The sign on the fence around this long, empty park-ish space says 'no ball playing and no bicycles'. No wonder there's nobody around. Let's enjoy this concrete plain, yeah.

Further down the same parkway there are some bits of adventurous landscaping that just didn't quite make it. This bushy arrangement might be better if it were alive.

The convention center is at the corner of the gigantic Bois du Boulogne park, convenient for a lunchtime stroll. People were out in droves, picnicing and hanging around. The family belonging to this stroller is just around the bush; it's the fearless rabbit that caught my attention, right at the edge of the shadow on the lawn. Here we are zoomed in and cropped. Just hanging around. There was a fat black one too, by the fence to the kids' play area, that hopped under a hedge when I approached, but not in a hurry or anything.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Photo Shoot Out: Rocks

Rocks this week for the My Town Shootout, chosen by Chef E. There are plenty of rocks around, lots of buildings made of rocks, but I just didn’t get around for a tour of them these past weeks. So here’s a little tour of my bookcase instead.
I like to bring something back when I travel, something small and not heavy. Often it’s a small glass bottle or vase, of which I have a good dozen now. Occasionally rocks, so here are my rocks.
These two are from Iceland, my northernmost rocks (see here). Nice bits of smoothened lava picked off the southern beaches. I really like the feel of them, and they’re so lightweight! It would be neat to go back to that part of Iceland now. I’m sure the beach looks quite different with the new layer of ash and rocklets laid down courtesy of the volcano erupting quite nearby. My previously northernmost rock was from Skye, off of Scotland, but it got lost.
This one is from my favorite beach (see here)(sshhhh! You’re not supposed to make off with bits of state parks! Though one time I was there I saw a couple with a pickup just filling it with beach stones. Alas, there was nobody around to report them to. Damned thieves.). When I had an apartment I could put nails in the wall of, it used to hang in the kitchen along with all my little framed photos. It’s shrinking over the years. Every time I move it, it leaves a little sand behind.
. Another one from San Diego, this from the desert in the eastern part of the county.
This one’s from Oran, in Algeria. Yes, Sheldon, Americans can go to Algeria. The Algerians don’t mind, as long as you have a visa. I’ve been there twice, to Algiers and Oran, and we’ve talked of arranging a camping trip into the desert, with camels and servants and big tents, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Then there are two pebbles from the beaches in Northern France. Most of the beach stones are white there, but there are black ones and reddish ones mixed in. This one is from Fecamp, on one of my solo trips (see here). They make Benedictine liqueur there, and splash it on crepes for dessert. It was a cold, cloudy, windy weekend in the fall when I was there. The town was all but empty and closed. I like that sometimes. A different kind of getaway.
The other is from Dieppe. That was a stressful day. I went with a friend and her husband and dog, and everybody had a different idea of what would be fun to do. Which is just normal, but we didn’t always do a great job at appreciating each other’s interests, or think the dog should have such a big vote. Plus there was a mountain of tension between them, and a third person always ends up acting like a buffer or trying to stay out of the way. The seafood was fabulous, though. It was the first time I tried a platter of Stuff that Lives between the Rocks, and it was so fresh and I was so hungry I just loved it. An excellent glass of white wine didn’t hurt, either.

This is the only rock I ever bought. From a skinny kid in Tunisia. My friend Kamel took me on a week-long road trip, and we stopped in touristy places like Matmara (where the underground homes in Star Wars were filmed), and the desert oasis of Tozer, but my favorite place was always in-between. We stopped once at a smaller oasis, for orange soda and some lunch, and it was quite a place for geodes. Any car that stopped would be swarmed by kids selling them. No need to get out and go to the geode shops. Kamel thought I should disdain the semi-beggars and their wares, but I did actually want one.

And now.... Putting Rocks on Top of Other Rocks! It was the Icelandic ones that insisted, I swear. They love that kind of thing. They don’t feel at home if they’re not stacked. The Fecamp pebble was a splitter. Just didn’t want to go. I would have fiddled with it more, but the Torrey Pines sandstone was shedding all over the table and the cats wanted in (or was it out?)(there may have been a cat going each way), so I let it go.
So that's my Shootout. Join in the fun here!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One person's platitude is another's...

Is it my brain that doesn't work like other people's?
A friend posted on facebook the other day not to get discouraged, to take heart because tomorrow is another day and you can start all over again.
Start over?!
No way.
I worked my butt off to get through yesterday; no way am I going to restart from scratch. Tomorrow builds on today, just as today builds on yesterday. It's being Sisyphus that would discourage me, not give me heart. Even if today has not been great, it has something to contribute.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Progress report

..............................Construction continues apace here at the Centre Jean Perrin.The ambulance entrance makes me laugh. The doctor's parking lot is just to the right and it too has a arm to limit access. Only, the other entrance is wider, and they seem to have confused the two barrier arms. The other one is too short: it looks silly and you can just drive around it. This one is too long. But instead of switching them around, they just moved the wire dividing fence to accommodate the too-long arm!
And doesn't that paving look nice? That was a couple of months ago, and now that it's rained a few times, and again a few times, the whole thing is a potholed mess. It's not real asphalt, just
a sort of half-baked, temporary surface that will have to be redone soon. These photos are from just two weeks ago. The new radiotherapy wing got very close to done on the outside, before things seemed to come to a stop. I was hoping they'd just go on and finish it quickly, so that this side would be done and the site could be cleaned up and parking restored, and all the workers shifted over to the larger building going up on the other side. But that's not the plan, it seems.
What do I know about building, though? With construction teams being so specialized these days, maybe the guys who pour concrete don't do anything else, or we're waiting for electricians to arrive. Or something.
Opening 2012!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sun time vs clock time

An interesting tidbit I have done absolutely nothing to follow up on:
It's the season again to re-live de Gaulle's call for the French to resist the Nazis, an annual week of reminiscence and reviewing of newsreels. In last night's news footage they showed the Germans resetting clocks all over occupied Paris. France had been on the same time as England; now they changed to the same time as Germany.
And they never changed back.
It's kind of anomalous, to be directly south of Greenwich and yet not to be in the same time zone. It's nice - the summer evenings stretch out until after 10, and even in winter night is staved off until after 5 (at the expense of morning light, but it's a good trade). But it's strange to think of it as a bit of the Occupation that stayed on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hammering the Hour

This week's Flying Poetry Bus is driven by Jeanne.
and one of the themes is What's in a Name. Here we go.


Toiling in the fields backs straining,

hands calloused
cutting hay
planting beets
the sun weak on the midsummer plain not far from Hamburg
and the cold sea
They bent to their work
the unending work
their bodies strained automatically in the long-known rhythm
their minds wandered, focused on nothing
they were at one with the oxen pulling the plow
at one with the ponies turning the thresher
And then
A bell rang out
and the people stood
put aside their tools
became human again
and smiled at each other as they headed for dinner

happy the Ringer of the Hour had released them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


To zebra or not to zebra
that is the question
whether t'is nobler in the mind
to keep one's regular appointment
and blog about blather because it's that day of the week
or to take arms against conformity and lack of imagination
and by opposing them regain our freedom.

What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid,
the Shootout and the Bus approacheth.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A diversity of activities.

Have you ever wondered what it is cats do when it rains on Sunday?
So many things!

Lounging on the chair.
Lounging on the couch.
Lounging on the bed.