Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back in Action

Okay, so I've been delinquent in my blogging duties over the past few days. Just haven't had a lot to say and have been busy in the lab. By the way, I recently bought a one-way ticket to the 'States that's good for July 30th. So my French-themed blogging ways will be coming to an end in the near future. I wonder what I will write about then? Kidneys? Do you people really want to hear about kidneys every day?

Back to the Battle of my 2 Favorite Countries. Next topic: Public Transportation. Although I've been ridiculed by many Frenchies for saying that one of the things I'll miss the most about Paris is the Metro, I stand by my statement. In Philadelphia--the 5th largest city in the U.S.--every time I tried to take the subway, I ended up waiting for the train longer than it would have taken me to bike or walk to my destination. The Paris Metro is so sweet because it arrives every 3 to 5 minutes. The convenience alone is more than enough to compensate for sweaty, packed Metro cars and bad accordion music. Not to mention that France's train system is vastly superior to America's. The frogs tie things up at 6.5 points apeice.
Link for the Day: Celebrity Facial Hair.

French for the Day: A rhyme for children to sing when it's raining outside: "Il pleut, il mouille; c'est la fête à la grenouilles". (It's raining, it's pouring; it's the party of the frogs).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Few Movies

A few movies I've seen recently and my two-sentence reviews:

Saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3 yesterday night: I enjoyed the original, but both sequels were poorly written and confusing. The guy with the octopus head is pretty cool though.
Zodiac: a long movie (2 1/2 hours) which keeps you entertained from start to finish but the ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Since it was based on a real-life story, I guess that's not the director's fault.
Shrek le Troisième: I'm looking forward to this coming out soon, though since it's a kid's movie I'll most likely end up watching it in the "versione française" (French kids understandably wouldn't be so keen to read subtitles for a cartoon movie). This could be problematic for me, since I could hardly stand a word of the French spoken by the Gingerbread Man in the preview.
Topic of Battle for today: cash money. Which country's system of money is more convenient? The Frenchies with this battle with ease. I really enjoy the 1 and 2 euro coins; they're really handy and large enough to be useful. The U.S. really needs to figure out what to do with its nickels and pennies. Think about it: pennies have been the lowest denomination coin in circulation for a long time, and due to increasing inflation it's been increasingly devalued to the point where it's hardly worth anything at all. And nickels are just plain annoying; they've always been my least favorite coin. The U.S. has introduced 1-dollar coins at various intervals but they really haven't taken off for whatever reason. I think they should try again.
The score so far: US 6.5, France 5.5.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Le Général Leclerc

The apartment we're living in is on 52, avenue du Général Leclerc. Anyways, I finally found out more about the dude our street is named after at the Musée de l'Armée last week. Turns out his name was not originally "Leclerc" at all, but he adopted the name as his alias as a member of the French Resistance during World War II and later had his name officially changed to Leclerc. He was later instrumental during the war campaign in northern Africa and also personally received the German surrender of the city of Paris not far from where we live at Gare Montparnasse. There is also apparently a French tank named after the guy as well. So there you have it.
Topic of the Day: MEAT. Which country has the better meat? This is to some degree a matter of personal preference--I'm sure you'd be able to find no shortage of Frenchies which would declare the superiority of their cuts of beef, and certainly I've had some fine entrecôtes while here--but I'm going to have to extoll the virtues of the American cow on this one. A big, hearty American T-bone on the grill sizzled to perfection? I'm making myself hungry! Factor in the lack of mad cow disease in the New World and we will declare l'Amerique the victorious.

The score: U.S. 6.5, France 4.5.

French Vocab for the Day: "mad cow disease" = "la vache folle".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Organic Museum

At the beginning of the Nuit des Musées (see previous post) last weekend, we tried to catch some contortionists, jugglers, trapeze artists, and other circus artists perform in the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly, which is just next to the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, there was a ridiculously long line and we were told the situation was hopeless. Fortunately, this did not prevent us from viewing the museum's outside wall which faces the Seine, which is covered with thick vegetation from top to bottom. Really, really cool. Kind of like a modern-day "Hanging Towers of Babylon".

Today's Franco-American debate is sure to be a nail-biter. We shall be discussing the merits of The Pancake versus The Crèpe. This is tough. Because how can you choose between maple syrup-covered goodness and nutella-smothered perfection? I spent a good ten minutes on the Metro ride home thinking about which one should win, and I have decided that it's a draw. Nil-nil. A tie. I simply can't choose one over the other, I would feel like I'm betraying one or the other. I could flip a coin, but that would hardly be fair. A half-point each for each country.
U.S. 5.5, France 4.5.

French Vocab of the Day: one of my favorite dishes in France is the "poulet rôti" (roasted chicken), which simmers in its own juices as it turns on the rotisserie. The butcher shop near our apartment recently informed us that they sell between 200-300 poulet rôti each day. I, for one, am impressed.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A History of Cystoscopy

The hospital where I work, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, is known for its excellent pediatrics care. In addition, the hospital has some other claims to fame. For instance, the physician credited with the invention of the stethoscope, Laennec, was a Neckerite. (note: I don't think the word "Neckerite" really exists until now). In addition, every time I walk up the stairs in the building with the real-time PCR machine, as I pass the 4th floor I see the plaque on the left commemorating the birth of "les opérations uretroscopiques et cystoscopiques"! For those of us who aren't kidney specialists, this is when a doctor sticks a camera on the end of a flexible scope up your urethra to take pictures of the bladder and ureters, often helpful in the treatment of kidney stones, bladder cancers, and a bunch of other stuff. Hmmm---I don't think I would have been the one volunteering to be the first person to try out the ureteroscope...

The U.S. versus France Topic of the Day is the category "old shit." You know, stuff that's really historic and old and shit. This category is really a gimme for the French: the sense of history in Europe is shifted several centuries earlier than that in the New Country. But can't help it; I'm a sucker for old buildings and artifacts. Everywhere you turn in this country you bump into an important church from the Middle Ages, or a tapestry from the Norman Invasion, or millions of skeletal corpses stored beneath the streets in the Catacombs. Tell me that's not cool.

U.S. 5, France 4.

French Vocab For the Day: "Man Overboard!" in French is "Un homme à la mer!" (lit: "A man in the sea!")

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cereal Variety

Next up to bat in our Franco-American grudge match is another topic near and dear to my heart: that of cereal variety. Does this even need to be debated? The U.S. wins hands down. The French's idea of breakfast is, at best, yogurt and a croissant (not that I hold anything against croissants). The Americans have options of pancakes, waffles, sausages, ham, hashbrowns, and plenty of other artery-clogging foods to choose from. On top of this already impressive superiority in the realm of breakfast foods, you can add a nearly endless array of breakfast cereal varieties. Try as I might, I have not been able to locate nary a box of Cap'n Crunch or Froot Loops anywhere in this country. This round we'll be singing a hearty round of the Star-Spangled Banner, and not le Marseilles. All the French super markets I've been to have a depressingly similar and paltry selection of breakfast cereals, the best of which I've found is probably Miel Pops (Honey Pops), a far cry from the Cap'n's roof-of-your-mouth-grating pleasure. The tally: U.S. 5, France 3.

Link of the Day: Bill Maher has done an interesting U.S. versus France analysis of his own...check out the link, it's pretty funny.

French for the Day: the expression for "to wear the pants" (as in, "Who wears the pants in this family?") is "porter la culotte"--literally, "to wear the women's underwear", although "culotte" also referred to an older form of pants worn by Frenchmen around the 18th century.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Comic Book

Tackling a subject that is very near and dear to my own heart: the comic book. Both France and the U.S. have a great history of comic books. The current format of the French and American comic book are quite different, in fact. In France, the comic book, also called "B.D." (for bande-dessiné), are quite popular, and I often see people (more often adults than young people in fact) reading them on the metro. They are almost always published in hard-cover format and contain a longer story than their American counterparts. However, the publishing schedule is very artist-dependent and one often has to wait several months between installments. The topic of the French B.D. covers a wide range and includes police stories, science fiction tales, real-life dramas, and also humorous subject matter (such as "the funnies"). This is in contrast to the American comic book, the dominating theme of which is still the super-hero (although this is changing somewhat). The American comic, especially those published through the major publishing houses Marvel and DC, generally come out at regular one-month intervals.

Which do I like better, French or American comics? Although I'm coming to enjoy the French comic book more and more (my current favorite author/artist is a French person, Joanne Sfar, see "le Chat du Rabbin" on the right) my allegiances still lie with the American comic book. The predictability of the schedule is preferable--you can "get into" the story a lot easier if the book comes out more frequently. And furthermore American comic books have given rise to a large number of internationally-recognized characters: Spider-Man, the Hulk, Superman, Batman, etc.
The score: U.S. 4, France 3.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Today France and the U.S. vie for superiority in the realm of dog temperament: which country's dogs are more friendly? The answer to this debate is a very straightforward one: the U.S. dogs bring home victory for their American owners. Why? French dogs, in my experience, come in two different varieties: city dogs (which are small and rat-like) and country dogs (which are often mean and bark at you from behind the fence in a menacing fashion). In contrast, American dogs--as demonstrated by our very own Zeus Hellman (left)--not only are warm and friendly, but are also eager to hear banjo tunes. So all you Americans out there give your dog an extra milkbone today...they deserve it.

All tied up at 3 apiece. Game 7 scheduled for tomorrow.

French for the Day: the word for "dog biscuit" is "gateau pour chien".

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Nuit des Musées

Yesterday night was something called "la Nuit des Musées": an event located not just in France but in fact all over Europe. All the museums are open at night, usually until 1 or 2am. And often there is some special concert, performance, or exhibit that's going on as well. Last night Claire and I went to les Invalides, the tomb of Napoleon which also serves as la Musée de l'Armée along with my friends Victor, John, and Allison. The ambiance was pretty amazing--the Dome of les Invalides was all lit up in red and blue inside, and they had several live musical numbers also. The pic below with the coffin is Napoleon's final resting place.
Next topic of battle: Food carts. You know, the little stands on the side of the road in most major cities which sell lunch items? Philadelphia, where we lived for three years, had an outstanding selection of food carts, ranging from places to buy hot n' greasy Philly cheese steaks and 35-cent hot pretzels to hot dogs to any variety of Asian food you could imagine--most of which were a bargain as well. Paris has an equally impressive list of food items that can be bought from small food stands on the street, with the main headliners including crèpes, paninis (grilled sandwiches), and gaufres (waffles, usually with a healthy helping of Nutella smothered on top). Again, this is another tough choice, but due to my sweet tooth I'm going to have to declare France the winner in this particular battle. France 3, U.S. 2.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Freedom Fries

Today will address the eagerly-awaiting question: Which country makes the better fries? And it is indeed curious that weAmericans call them "French fries": first off, the French refer to them simply as "frites", and furthermore many French classically view the fry as being of Belgian origin. However, according to the article on french fries in wikipedia, some of the earliest references to fried potatoes occur in French cookbooks, including a citation by Thomas Jefferson himself in describing a dish cooked up by his personal chef, the Frenchman Honoré Julian. I swear I'm not making this up.

Anyways, fries are a tough topic to tackle, given the large variety of fry quality that's out there. You've got your steak fries, your McDonald's fries, your curly fries, your Boardwalk fries....a huge variety in both France and in the United States, so how do you choose which ones to compare? But if I am allowed to making sweeping generalizations (and indeed I am, as this is MY blog), I have to say that the fries on the European side of the Atlantic are, on average, more potato-ey and filling than those skinny little fellers in America. Coupled with the fact that we embarrasingly changed their name to "Freedom Fries" for a brief period of time during the Iraq War, the edge goes to the French: they make the superior fry, though this one could have gone either way. The score, at the end of four days of intense competition: deux partout.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Street Signs: Function over Form

On the left is a graph, courtesy of Site Meter (the web site whose icon is on the very bottom of my blog), is the graph for how many hits per month Nathan Hellman's Blog has received. Interestingly, something happened around March which resulted in a dramatic augmentation in my blog traffic. I'm really not sure what it is that happened--my guess is that my blog was listed in some directory or as a "favorite" somewhere without my knowledge--but regardless I'm up to about 300 hits per day.

Which calculates out to approximately .000314% of visitors who leave comments each day (hint).
Topic Three in the U.S.-France Slugfest: street signs. By this, I refer to the signs which specifically indicate the identity of a particular street, not things like stop or yield signs. Both the U.S. and the French systems have their advantages: The French street signs (Avenue des Champs Elysées) are in a much more pleasing artistic format than our ugly green rectangles suspended from a post. However, the U.S. street signs trumps their French counterparts from a functional standpoint: while the U.S. signs are logically located at an intersection in plain view of passersby, the French street signs are posted in a haphazard fashion against the wall of a nearby building, making it extremely difficult to locate, especially while driving. As street signs exist primarily as navigation devices, I give the edge to the American system.

Stars N' Stripes 2, Frogs 1. Stay tuned.

French Vocab for the Day: the onomotopeia "prout" in French is evidently the noise that we make when we fart.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Boob Tube

Today, the United States and France joust in the topic of television. Interestingly, I've watched a lot more of the boob tube in France than in the U.S.--a function of both how much more free time I have this year as well as my classification of T.V. as an "educational experience" when I watch it in French. Things going for French T.V.: the commercials are more concentrated and therefore interrupt your shows a lot less often (in fact, sometimes you can watch a full-length movie without any interruptions), not to mention the fact that you can occasionally see glimpses of nudity (oo-la-la!). However, even the occasional nude woman on network T.V. is not enough to compensate for the overall crappiness of French T.V. There are a few decent programs--I really like Nicholas Hulot's Ushuaia Nature (a cool nature show featuring the current version of Jacques Costeau) for instance--but overall their dramas and sitcoms are a far cry from those in the U.S. In fact, the most popular programs on French T.V. currently are translations of American shows (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Prison Break, Grey's Anatomy), and for many of these you need cable to see them. So this is another lopsided decision: The U.S. wins easily and knots up the score at 1 apeice.

French for the Day: The French word for "free throw" is "un lancer franc"

Link of the Day: A veritable smorgasbord of Star Wars fan movies. Some of them are quite professionally done. "

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

France versus the U.S.: Part Deux

Back in February on this very blog, I carried out a makeshift contest between the countries of the U.S. and France, comparing the two countries in three vital areas: food, sports, and women. The result was France 2, America 1, and I can sense that the Americans are itching for a rematch.

As such, it's time for Round 2. For the next days to weeks (translation: for as long as I feel like it) we will carry out an in-depth analysis of the two countries addressing the key issues facing both of our great societies. Which country makes the better fries? Who has better supermarkets? Are the commericals better in the U.S. or in France? Whose celebrities are hotter? These are just some of the fascinating topics I intend to address during the course of this little contest. With each topic I'll deem one country the winner and the other a big, fat LOSER. All decisions will be approved personally by recently-sworn-in president Nicolas Sarkozy (above), a purported friend of both the U.S. and France, and are final.

Topic 1: The Presidential Election. This is easy: the French win, hands down. Call me crazy, but the U.S. electoral system which can permit a situation in which the candidate who wins the popular vote actually loses the election flies in the face of common sense. It's like the Phoenix Suns being punished for a fight the San Antonio Spurs started. In addition, the French presidential debates, the lack of negative campaign ads, and a third thing I can't remember all make for a superior overall product.

The score at the end of Day 1: France 1, U.S. 0.

Link of the Day: Final episode of Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager, Season 1!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I experienced another French first yesterday night: my first game of "Tarot"!!! I know what many of you Americans may be thinking: has Nate flipped his lid? Has he renounced the ways of science in exchange for black magic and the occult?

Not at all. It turns out there are two types of tarot decks: there is the one most Americans think of which is associated with gypsy fortune tellers who predict the future, and there is an entirely different tarot deck which is a very popular game of cards in France. We played the card game last night with our neighbors Scott and Enrique.

Link of the Day: My sister Susie belting out a tune at a JC Penny's somewhere in upstate New York as part of her new job with the Glimmerglass Opera.

French for the Day: the French word for the Milky Way is "la Voie Lactée".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Doudou Shopping

One of the words I really like in the French language, of which we don't really have an equivalent in English, is "le doudou". Le doudou is the name for that specific stuffed animal or blanket that a baby becomes strongly emotionally attached to and often sleeps with. In France, it's typically a square-shaped soft handkerchief (probably so it can double as a snot rag) with the head of an elephant or other animal attached. Anyways, Claire (34 weeks pregnant) and her mom went "doudou shopping" last week and we're now all set in the doudou department. We even got a duplicate doudou should the 1st one get lost or for when doudou laundering must take place.

In other news, this movie, Balls of Fury, probably falls into the category of movies that are so bad they actually might be worth watching. It's about ping-pong, or, as the Chinese say, ping-pong.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chirac's Mouse

First things first: the answer to the "Mystery Photo of the Day" is a shot sent to me by my friend Ann-Marie Rosland. She is seen here sporting full bee-keeping garb during a course she took in which she learned the mysterious ways of apiculture. I wonder if she had the opportunity to wear a "bee beard" like you always see in the Guiness Book of World Records ?

A funny story regarding President Jacques Chirac and computers my French prof told us in class this week. Apparently in 1996 Chirac took a series of classes on computer technology, designed to bring him up to speed on the internet, personal computers, and the like since he did not use them personally. The French word for "mouse" --like the mouse you use on a computer to move the cursor around--is also the French word for mouse, "un souris." During an interview, however, Chirac mistakenly referred to the computer mouse as "un mulot"--a related member of the rodent family (see below). As a result of this gaffe he was often ridiculed for being out-of-touch and technologically incompetent.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mystery Photo!

Mystery Photo: What is going on in this photo? Answer tomorrow!

Favorite French song of the Moment: "Desolé Pour Hier Soir" (Sorry About Last Night) by the group Tryo. As best as I can tell from the lyrics, it's about a guy who swears he is going to stop drinking after suffering a massive hangover the next day. Here's a link to a music video made by a fan (not featuring any of the Tryo members)

French for the Day:
The expression for "Mister Know-It-All" in French is "Monsieur Je-Sais-Tout"(literally: Mister-I-Know-Everything).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

French News Items

Items in the French News we've noticed recently:

Au revoir, Grégory: The 24-year old winner of a previous edition of "Star Academy" (the French version of "American Idol", which I can proudly say I've never watched a complete episode of, in either language) unfortunately died recently. His name is Grégory Lamarchal and he was afflicted with cystic fibrosis.
Sarko's First Presidential Scandal: Immediately after winning the election, Nicolas Sarkozy took a vacation to "rest up" before taking office (scheduled for May 16th). His choice of vacation, a cruise on some rich businessman's luxury yacht, was criticized by many as inappropriate and an indication of the nepotism suspected in his future administration. More Monkey Business?

Paris' Crappy Football Team: Despite being the cultural and industrial capital of France, Paris has a football (aka soccer) team which has historically sucked. The situation nearly reached epic proportions this year when the team (PSG = Paris St-Germain) was nearly demoted from the "Ligue 1" due to a bad record. Interestingly, the membership in "Ligue 1" (the premier league in France) fluctutates--the bottom few teams each year are demoted to "Ligue 2" while the top few teams from "Ligue 2" are allowed entry into "Ligue 1". Can you imagine what it would be like if the New York Knicks were forced to play in the CBA because they sucked so badly? Anyways, PSG narrowly escaped this shameful demotion thanks to a strong month of March. By the way, the main sponsor for PSG is "Emirates Airlines", the international airline originating in Dubai; their game jerseys actually read in big letters, "Fly Emirates". Isn't that weird?

French For the Day: The word for "cystic fibrosis" is actually "mucoviscidose".

Monday, May 07, 2007

Arts et Metiers

One of my goals during my remaining 3 months in Paris...fill in the gaps of some of the museums that I haven't yet seen! I don't know how many musées this town has, but if I had to guess, it has more museums than McDonald's. Anyways, during Nir's visit we hit the Musée des Arts et Metiers, which I had never been to. It's pretty cool. It reminded me some of the Smithsonian in DC. In one wing, they have a bunch of original scientific inventions--like the first calculating machine (invented by Blaise Pascal at the age of 16--doesn't that just make my sorry 33-year-old ass feel like shit?) and the original apparatus Lavoisier used for proving the existence of oxygen (on your right). They also have some neat exhibits on the history of common every day items--tracing the evolution of the computer, the television set, and the DVD for instance, during which I pondered the fact that my kid will never know what a VCR will look like. Other highlights included some early attempt at airplanes, a Foucault's pendulum, and Western Europe's first particle accelerator (bottom).
French for the Day: at a Pecqueur family event last week, one of her relatives told me a story where she kept on referring to the police hauling off somebody who was arreseted in "le panier salade" (literally: "the salad basket"). I'm pretty sure this is the French version for "the paddy wagon" (bonus points for the referenced Wikipedia article because it contains a photo of a paddywagon from Duluth, MN), as in, "My buddies and I got busted by the police smoking up at the reservoir Friday night and hauled us away in the paddy wagon". I'll have to ask somebody to make sure I got the translation correctly...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ensemble Tout Devient Possible

The election results have been tallied and the results are in. The 6th president of the 5th Republic of France will be: (drum roll, please)---
Nicolas Sarkozy! There are a lot of people in my lab who will be disappointed. I can't really say that it's a surprise, however--he had led virtually every poll since the campaign started. 53% Sarko, 47% Sego. He takes office on May 16th--none of this "lame duck" business we have back in the 'States. Word on the street is that he will take as his Prime Minister a guy named François Fillon. Interestingly, there is yet another important election coming up in about 3 weeks: that for the Assembly National (which is kind of like Congress).
In my French class last week,as an exercise in speaking each person was required to describe the current political situation in their country. The class is made up of people from all over the world: off the top of my head, we have representatives from the U.S., Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, South Korea, China, Thailand, Poland, and even Kazakhstan (making her the only Kazakhstanian not named Borat that I know). Anyways, one of the interesting factoids I came away with is that Poland currently has identical twin brothers (Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski) serving as its President and Primer Minister respectively.

French political vocabulary:
un sondage = a poll
le mandat = term (in France, the Presidential term is 5 years--it used to be 7, but changed a few years ago).
le scrutin = ballot
une urne = ballot box
unkept promises = les promesses non-tenues

Good luck to France. We'll see over the next few years if they made the right choice...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Suzanne Eating a Corn Dog

Okay, I realize I'm backtracking quite a bit--my friends Dave and Lisa's wedding was actually at the end of March--but I realized that I still hadn't posted a photo of a very monumental and indeed historic occasion: namely, the very first corn dog ever eaten by my friend Suzanne Zentko. The event took place on Beale Street at about 2 in the morning.

How can one go so long in life without experiencing the joys of the corn dog? Quite frankly, I'm not sure I could have survived my adolescence without them. In Suzanne's case, I suppose we can blame it on her childhood in Slovakia, which during the Communist era was evidently a corndog-less country.

French for the Day: the French word for corn dog is......just kidding, I'm sure there is no French word for corn dog, they would be far too sophisticated to even consider eating a food that can be summed up as processed meat coated in cornmeal batter and then attached to a stick.

Furthermore, this backtracking blog entry also allows me to post a photo of my favorite Jewish wedding tradition: the part where the bride and groom (Lisa and Dave) are lifted up and down on chairs. It's just plain festive. I didn't get any pics of the even as I was on chair duty at the time, but these are from the official wedding photographer.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Okay, we get the idea, Sarkozy's short.

The debates between Sarkozy and Ségolène went down last Wednesday night. I was able to watch a decent amount of it, though it was at Claire's uncle's birthday party in the midst of several loud conversations and rude insults hollered at Ségolène Royal by her overwhelmingly Sarkoziste family and thus my understanding was far from complete.

I have to say, however, that the debate seemed pretty exciting and more animated than most American debates I have seen. Candidates aren't given time limits on questions, and I felt it was more like a discussion/argument between the candidates than just an interview by the journalist mediating the affair, like it sometimes feels like in the U.S. Anyways, there was some lively interchange. Ségolène held her own and probably did more attacking than Sarkozy, but overall the day-after spin was that neither candidate gained a lot of ground. If anybody is interested in seeing the highlights, you can check out this video from

Which means that if the polls hold, Sarkozy should be the next president of France. I've received a bunch of joke Emails like this one (subject: "voici ce qui va bientot être dans toutes les mairies!" = Here's what's going to soon be in all of our city halls) poking fun at Sarko's height. Much like government buildings and VA hospitals in the U.S., the French always put up a picture of their leader and president to greet passersby.

But who knows...perhaps Ségo stands a fighting chance. We'll know the answers by Sunday night.

French for the Day: an expression I learned today (since somebody in the lab is getting married tomorrow, and it started pouring down torrential rain ever since this afternoon): "mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux". It is translated as "rainy marriage, happy marriage", similar to the way we say in English that it's good luck if it rains on your wedding day.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Doin' The Robot

When we visited the Louvre last week during Nir's visit, one of my favorite parts was, believe it or not, the robot which cleans the windows on the giant glass pyramid controversionally commissioned by François Mitterand in 1989. It's operated by remote control (or at least I think it is, I saw one worker fiddling with a joystick-type contraption next to the robot), and I took pictures of it from both the inside and the outside of the pyramid.

Incidentally, while it suggests in The DaVinci Code that the pyramid is comprised of 666 triangles--the number of the Beast, as we all know--it actually consists of 672 triangles.

And if you really want to see somebody "doin' the robot", check this out.

French for the Day: something which confused the hell out of me during my first few weeks in France: the word "un crayon" actually means "a pencil." Go figure.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

La Côte de Granit Rose

The coast off of Perros-Guirec is known as "La Côte de Granit Rose", or "The Coast of Pink Granite." And aptly named it is. There are huge pink boulders everwhere which are ideal for climbing and exploring. Although we did get mercilessly hailed on for about a half-hour, we did manage to benefit from a good couple hours of sun during our walk on Saturday which helped capture some of the rock's natural color.

A few other pics of the pink rocks, including one which famously resembles a Coke bottle:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Only a Minnesotan...

The water was a balmy 12 degrees centigrade, it was the heart of springtime, and my Minnesotan tolerance to cold was up for the challenge. On waking up Sunday morning I took it upon myself to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. And when I say "swimming," I really mean "running as fast as I can into the water, submerging my body to make it official, and jumping out of the water as fast as possible". The water was as numbing as Lake Superior in April (provided it has thawed by that time). But it puts hair on your chest.
Speaking of furry chests, we also saw several seals (French: "les phoques") during our boat trip on Sunday afternoon.

French for the Day: "le muguet" is the name for the flower "lily of the valley". For some reason, it is traditional to buy un muguet for good luck on the 1er May (La Fête du Travail), and there were a ton of people outside selling them today.