Wednesday, December 31, 2008

French Food Classics

The quality and quantity of food Claire's family has prepared for this vacation is truly phenomenal. There are a few foods that I look forward to eating exclusively in France. Below are les escargots--snails--which are made palatable by drenching them in garlic butter, which is a good strategy.

Every Christmas we also eat les huitres--oysters. Also pictured are the traditional "salty" bread eaten with the oysters as well as a squirt of lemon (which, if the oysters are still alive as they should be, will demonstrate a visible muscle contraction upon contact with the acidic lemon juice).
In addition I've enjoyed lobsters, crepes, sole, coquilles St. Jacque (scallops), crusted ham, and some butter cookies I thoroughly enjoy as they are comprised of 45% butter. Yum. Everybody have a happy New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the Love Forest

We went to a park in La Baule--the city we have been staying in for the bulk of this Christmas vacation in France--and we came across this statue commemorating Louis Lajarrige, a figure important in the history of the town. He was the owner of the plot of land he termed "le Bois d'Amour"--literally "the Forest of Love"--which he turned into something of a tourist attraction and helped get the train system to find its way to La Baule in the 1920s. The city is now a popular tourist destination, particularly in the summertime, as it is home to the longest contiguous sand beach in Europe. It is also sometimes called "La Baule-les Pins"--famous for the pine trees which are frequent to the area.

Monday, December 29, 2008

French Game Shows

The French love their game shows, or perhaps it's just that I watch a lot of them when I come visit Claire's parents house because they are on all the time and I have some free time. The one I like the most now is called "Tout le monde veut prendre sa place" (literally: "All the world wants to take its place"), mostly because there is a guy Nicolas who has been the returning champion for 59 straight games and it's fun to root against him. Interestingly, his total winning are thus far about 75,000 euros---a far cry from the $3 million plus earnings of Ken Jennings, the well-known multi-winner of the American TV show Jeopardy.

A few more Christmas pics featuring Sophie and...

Maman et Mamie.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

French Terms of Endearment

Do blondes really have more fun? It doesn't seem that way based on this picture of Sophie trying on a blonde princess wig we had bought for Christmas.

A Day at the Market: we went to the Market at Pornichet--the town bordering La Baule and easily within walking distance of Claire's parents--a few days ago to pick up some seafood for dinner. I really like it a lot. Here are some pictures.

Sole--a big fat pancake of a fish.
The nearby city hall of Pornichet.
French terms of endearment: the ones that we tend to use for Sophie are "ma pouce" (literally: "my flea", which seems to be pretty standard), "ma cherie" or "mon chou" (which is like saying "dear"), "ma princesse" (my princess, obviously), or "choupette" (I don't know what it means, but it sounds cute). I recently have been turned on to a new one I've been trying out on Maxime lately: "mon petit petouillard", which literally means "my little farter". Which is quite accurate.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting There Is Half the Fun?

Whoever invented this phrase--"getting there is half the fun"--obviously did not have traveling with two kids under the age of 2 in mind.

We made it to France in one piece--minus an infant car seat somehow lost on the way through no fault of our own--and I defy anybody to have a relaxing meal on the airplane with a very grabby 18-month-old eager to snatch all manner of food and silverware from the tray sitting in any proximity.

Here's a photo of the Hellmans waiting in the Boston airport for our flight.

We took the TGV (train a grande vitesse, which means literally "train of great speed") from Paris to La Baule.

I haven't shown a picture of Max in awhile--here is our little 1-month-old after taking a bath.
French for the Day: "Soufflez, vous saurez" means "Breathe, you'll know." It's the ad campaign I saw on T.V. recently for the alcohol breathalizer test you can buy to make sure it's okay to drive home. Interestingly, despite an overall more frequent alcohol consumption compared to the U.S., France has a lower permissable blood alcohol level than the U.S. (U.S. = .08%; France = .05%).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Card Update

As many of you may know, every year I take a moment of creativity to compose a witty and mirthful Holidays Greetings card and send it out to my friends & colleagues.

So far, that moment has yet to arrive. The reasons for this are two-fold: the first is named Sophie, and the second one Max. These kids are relentless. My current plan is to hand-off the children to my mother-in-law within moments of our arrival in France; once I catch up on my sleep, I fully intend to devote time to creating this year's card, albeit late.

'Til then, you'll just have to have a happy holidays without me...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

French-Fried Vacation

Happy Hannukah (first night was tonight, but we filled up the menorah since I don't think we'll be able to do it in France)!

We leave tomorrow for our French-Fried Vacation. It's the first time that I will have been back since living there from '06-'07 and I'm very excited to be back. We will be staying most of the time in LaBaule (where Claire's family lives) and also spending about 5 days or so in Paris. I'll be blogging as time & internet access permit...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

First Big Snow of the Year

We got dumped on last night and more is coming. It still didn't stop me from biking around, though, and it was a lot of fun introducing Sophie and Max to the wonderful world of snow. Here's a few pics:

Sophie's First Snowball
Nate shows Sophie the difference between snow (right hand) and ice (left hand).
Claire, Max, Sophie in front of our house.
Back porch

Friday, December 19, 2008

Turkey in the Straw & Celtics Victories

Sophie sings "Turkey in the Straw"...a few parts, at least.

Also, the Boston Celtics, in the midst of an impressive Boston Blizzard, tonight won their 17th consecutive NBA basketball game! It's quite possible that they would enter the anticipated Christmas matchup against the Lakers gunning for their 20th straight victory. This is a fun team to watch, in part because each of the five starters brings a lot to the table: Kevin Garnett has always been one of my all-time faves as the Minnesota Timberwolves best player of all-time, Paul Pierce won me over during last year's NBA Finals, Ray Allen's got serious game, I can't say enough about young, energetic point guard Rajon Rondo, and even their big man in the center, Kendrick Perkins, has shown a steady improvement.

How does this compare to my favorite team of youth, the '86 Celtics? This was a Hall-of-Fame team: Dennis Johnson & Danny Ainge as the back court (neither of whom are in the HOF, but DJ should be), the incomparable Larry Bird at forward, Kevin McHale (the best native Minnesotan NBA player of all time) at the power forward spot, and an impressive Robert Parish anchoring the center spot.

I'd have to give a slight edge to the '86 team, though if this present team keeps up their current pace and wins another title, I might have to re-evaluate...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back in Action!

I know I've taken some time off from blogging over the past few weeks, but I have two very good excuses:

(1) Our camera's ability to transfer photos to the computer mysteriously broke, and we had to wait until we got an SD card reader to upload any new photos.

(2) I'm having flashbacks to getting woken up by random pages during my residency years everytime Max wakes up at 1am, 4am, and 6:30am requesting food.

Here's some pics of Maxime & Sophie from the past few weeks!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Go Bulldogs!

Congrats to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who won the Division II College Football championship this weekend!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I kid you not...Flatworm Penis Fencing

In our lab, there is somebody who is considering using planaria to do some experiments involving motility.  These are a type of flatworm (diagram on the left) which many of you may find familiar as it is often used to practice dissecting simple organisms in an introductory biology lab/course.  
Anyways, somebody asked about planaria procreate, and after doing some searching on the web, the answer is too bizarre to be believed:  PENIS-FENCING.  That's right, according to this video, when two flatworms want to get it on, they each whip out their schlong and begin an epic duel of the penises.  Whichever gets punctured by the penis first (they are apparently rather sharp) becomes the childbearer.  This is possible as planarians are hermaphrodites, possessing both male and female sexual organs.  I highly recommend this video below, if only to marvel at the fact that the narrator says things like "it's known as penis-fencing...and the worms are the swordsmen" without cracking up, as I definitely would. 

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monkey Waiters & Robot Chickens

Hey it's my 35th Birthday Day, everyone.

Links for your viewing pleasure:

#1: Monkey Waiters. I need to get one of these guys to carry out some of my more tedious lab work.

#2: Robot Chicken Star Wars Clip, in case you haven't seen this before (I just recently did):

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mysterious Song Topics

Somehow the topic of the song "Whip-It" by DEVO (you know, that video where guys in black turtlenecks wearing flower pot-like hats are whipping the clothes off a woman in pioneer clothes, popular in, you guessed it, the 1980s) came up in discussion the other day.

What's it about? According to this insightful wikipedia entry, interpretations have ranged from sadomasochism to masturbation to inhaling nitrous oxide from canned, pressurized whipped cream cans. A perusal of the lyrics provides few clues.
Other mysterious songs I would like to know: What is the "pompetus of love" featured in Steve Miller Band's "The Joker"? What are the Kingsmen really saying in "Louie Louie" (which was investigated by the FBI out of concerns that the indecipherable lyrics might be obscene)? Who was Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughtta Know?" (one of the top revenge songs of all time) directed towards and how did he feel everytime he heard it on the radio? What is the meaning of the Doors' song "Five-To-One" (when asked by one of his fellow band members, Jim Morrisson allegedly replied, "That's for me to know and you to find out." There are lots of other examples of mystery songs out there I bet somebody could (or maybe already has) written a book about...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Renal Fellow Network Stock is Rising...

Check it out--within the past month, readership of my "other blog" (the Renal Fellow Network--a blog intended for other nephrology fellows and nephrologists to read about current nephrology-related research, which I started this past April) has overtaken my "main blog" (this one).  It's at about 100 hits/day, which I'll admit is not huge numbers, but given (a) the relatively small target audience, and (b) the ever-increasing readership, I'll take it.  

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Did I mention that she can dance, too?

Sophie dancing to one of her favorite tunes, the Wiggles' "Dr. Knickerbocker #9", which I found myself guilty of humming to myself at work today. Aagh!