Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dr. Who

I'm hooked. It only took one edisode, and now I'm completely hooked on the adventures of a time travelling alien who looks like you'd imagine Ichabod Crane would, and who travels the galaxy in a blue police call box.

It's whacky and scary and smart - and the decor reminds me of the old Star Trek episodes (before they started taking themselves too seriously).

It's a terrifying look at human nature, and yet it's uplifting too. It's got great actors and great scripts.

In short, you have to see Dr. Who.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Financial Scandal News

(For those who wanted to see if the French rogue trader was suave - I think so, although a bit serious. He's described as quite handsome in nearly all the reports I've read. The directors at the Societe Generale must be rolling their eyes at and there is already talk of a film!)

So I went to the bank today to see if I could get a better interest rate for my debt, and I couldn't help needling the director a bit. I mean, the biggest financial scandal in history happens in my bank, and I'm supposed to ignore it?
Moi: I see you're busy this morning (phone ringing off the hook, people rushing everywhere with big files.)
Director: Yes, it's a bit of
Moi: Shock?
D: Er...yes. A bit of a shock.
Moi: Did you know the guy?
D: Of course not!
Moi: He did it on purpose, is that it? To sink the ship so to speak, right? Was he mad at someone in the bank do you think? Was he on his own?
D: He must have really hated someone in the bank to do such a thing. (wipes his forehead with a tissue)
Moi: So, are interest rates going down?
D: No, actually, president Trichet of the European bank has announced they'll probably go up to fight inflation.
Moi: Oh, that's stupid. When the price of oil, corn and wheat shoot up, you're going to have inflation anyway. So, what are your fixed rates like?
D: They're low now.
Moi: Do you know the guy's name? Have they released a photo of him yet?
D: They released his name, I haven't seen a photo yet.
Moi: I just can't believe he did it by himself.
D: Er...That seems to be the case though.
Moi: I mean, how could such a thing happen? And no one saw it coming? It sort of shakes your confidence in the banking system.
D: We have lower interest rates over here. Look at this chart.

(notice how he changed the subject...)
Anyhow, I was wondering if I shouldn't change banks, just to be contrary, but it's quite the pain to change everything.

I did find out that:
The bank knew about it DAYS before it was announced.
The trader probably did NOT act alone.
SOMEONE made a HELL of a lot of money. I wonder if they will ever trace it.
President Sarkozy has ordered the bank to give a FULL report to the minister of finance before the week is out.
I kindof would like to be a rogue trader. It's the idea that's cool. But Who would trust their money with Moi?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The car down the hill

Someone abandoned their old, useless car at the bottom of the hill leading out of the village. The person simply parked the car on a spot of grass and left it there. The problem is, it's on private property, and therefor is the responsibility of the person who owns the land, even though he had nothing to do with the vagrant car.
The police were called and noted that the car wazs not listed as stolen. They also noted that they could not seem to locate the owner.
The farmer who owns the land (being a stubborn fellow) declared that he wasn't about to pay for having the car towed away and junked, as the police suggested he do. So, he left the car where it was. On his property, about twenty feet from the road.
Today, some kids sacked the car - wrecked it, broke it, and scattered the pieces far and wide. So now it's going to be a real pain to pick up.
Before, it would have been easy to tow. Now it's going to be necessary to put the car on the back of a truck.
What the farmer should have done:
(This I learned today after talking to the mayor about the problem)
He should have pushed the car onto the road. The car, once on public property, becomes a municipal problem. The police would have come and towed it away.
Set fire to it. (Strange but true - burnt out cars are immediatly towed away.)
So, if someone leaves a junked car on your property, the thing to do it get it Off your property (preferrably when no one is looking...)
And voila.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I've been Pimped!

Kate R. has pimped me over at her blog.
Thank you Kate!
I am officially a Thursday Thirteen.
And I'm still promoting my Zombie Jack book, so if you haven't read it, trot over to Loose Id and grab a copy!

Some clarification:
A reader has expressed doubt about my eating habits. I honestly think I was one of the most difficult children to feed (if you ran out of peanut butter) in the state of NY. Just ask my mother how long I had to sit at the table, staring at cold green beans. (I cannot, to this day, enjoy eating green beans, hot or cold.) I became a master at hiding food in my napkin. When I saw the Mr. Bean sketch of Mr. Bean and the steak tartare, I instantly recognized myself.

Kate says my house is elegant. It is not at all elegant. The garden is interesting, the village is spectacular, but the house is old, drafty, and, well, run down. It's a nice little house, and I love it, but it has one bathroom, only three closets, and the outbuildings are bigger than the house itself. It also only has two bedrooms; we've squeezed our daughter into what would qualify as a walk-in closet in most houses.
She doesn't mind. I let her paper the walls with posters of horses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A broken frame

It's not a big deal. My daughter broke the frame that held a photo of her great-grandfather on a polo pony. But because it was broken, I decided to take the photo out and scan it.
Here is Great-Grandfather Jules Macaire on a bob-tail polo pony around 1930.

I never met him. He died at a relatively young age. A polo accident when he was only 35 left him paralysed on one side, and it affected his health.
He ran a riding academy out of a small stables in Neuilly. During the war, the academy and horses were confiscated. When the war finished, he went back to teaching riding and polo. His son took over when his health failed, but never really made a success of the riding school. When Jules died, his son (my husband's father) moved the ponies to the Bagatelle club in Paris, then sold the stables for a pittance to a developer for apartment buildings.
Family fortunes move up and down. I can follow my husband's family fortune as it slowly sank. War, health problems, and financial mismanagement depleted the fortune, and today, of the riding stables and farm they once owned, there is nothing left. It's sad. Only a few pieces of furniture remain that speak of bygone days. A bronze statue of two horses, an ebony table inlaid with ivory, a few knick-knacks. And a photgraph with a broken frame.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rainy Winter, and where I nearly get squashed

It's still rainy out. After the one weeks of cold, sunny, frosty weather, the rain came back and has drenched the countryside. I go for walks in my slicker and boots, and the dogs are perpectually muddy. (Let's not talk about my floors...) I am off to a lunch with friends today, so that will brighten up the day a bit.

We went for a lovely walk in a nearby woods. We saw deer bounding through the trees, and Auguste and Rusty were tied together so Auguste wouldn't go running after the deer. We were in a public domain forest, which means the paths and sandy roads through it are kept up, and the trees are constantly being pruned and checked. As we rounded a corner, we saw a lumberjack's truck, heard the whine of a chainsaw, and saw a lumberjack crouched at the base of a huge tree. We were about to go forward, but prudence held us back. Which way was the tree going to fall? We called out, but the lumberjack was wearing ear-muffs and couldn't hear us.
We decided the best thing would be to wait near the truck. He wouldn't make the tree fall and crush his truck, would he? Just as we reached the truck, the tree gave a huge crack and fell - right across the path we'd been standing upon.
I'd never seen a tree that size fall. It fell in slow motion at first, then suddenly swooshed down. The sound was incredible, and the ground shook as it hit, or perhaps it was just my imagination. But it seemed as that giant fell, the forest held its breath and then let it out with a rush of whipping branches and crackling wood.
The lumberjack looked up, saw us, and gave a start. He turned a bit pale, poor guy. I don't think he expected to see anyone that day. He told us it was a good thing we had our dogs on the leads, as there was a family of wild boar with small babies nearby. He'd seen them as he'd driven up. If the dogs had chased them, the mother would have attacked the dogs.
We clambored over the fallen tree on our way back home. It was dead - pocked with holes, and soggy with the rain.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why religion?

I just read a very interesting article by a socialogist on the rise of extremist religious groups in the world. His theory is that as people lose control of their lives (the economy, war, healthcare...) they inevitably try to control some part by turning to morality.Taking control of their personal morals helps them feel more secure in a world where their savings are dwindling, their jobs are on the line, and their prospects are getting bleaker. If that control stayed in their own home, it wouldn't be such a bad thing, but controlling morality means controlling others, starting with women.

It's an interesting theory, which explains a lot, really. It explains the way women are treated in places where religion has become a theocracy. Women are punished for acting in an amoral way - the punishments ranging from flogging to death - for simply making love with the wrong person. The control extends to dictating what a woman can wear and how she must act. In the most extreme societies, she is a prisoner of her own family, unable to even be in a room with a television set. (Recently in Saudi Arabia a man asked for divorce on the grounds that his wife had been in a room alone while a male newscaster read the news on TV.)

I'm cool with most religions as long as they don't try to make me believe in what they do or conform to their moral standards. I'm a woman. I think women are great. I write about sex, and I love it. I am comfortable (most of the time) with my own body. Nudity doesn't bother or shock me. I think that whatever consenting adults do together is their business. Two poeple in love should be able to get married and celebrate their marriage. A woman should be able to decide what to do with her own body.

Children should be able to choose their own religions and not be brain washed into a religion at an early age. I'd say educate children in all the religions of the world and let them choose when they want to, and if they want to. (Wouldn't that be nice?) I think most poeple would eventually choose their parents' religion, but imagine not having any pressure and just being able to choose? What religion, if any, would you choose? I haven't actually decided yet which one I want to choose. I think I'd like to try them all and see which one, if any, fits me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Three Kings Day

Today is Three Kings Day. In France, it's traditional to buy (or bake) a 'galette des rois', which is a puff pastry tart with a fragipane (almond cream) and a 'fève' inside. The féve is a small ceramic figurine placed in the tart, and whoever gets the part with the fève inside, is the king (or queen).

So today my neighbor Patricia invited my daughter and I to her house for the galette. We were 7, so cutting the tart was tricky. You have to give out all the pieces, because you don't want the fève to be left in the last piece! The youngest child hides under the table and says who each piece is for as it's cut.
And you can't peek to see if you have the fève, it brings bad luck.
Once you find the fève, you choose someone to be your king or queen, and give them a gold crown (cardboard - very silly looking) to wear. You also get to keep the fève. Today Patricia got the fève, so she gave the crown to her husband to wear.
Afterwards we sat around talking politics (the French Love talking politics) and I tried to explain the primaries and why Obama wasn't president yet. Explaining politics is hard. Explaining the US voting system is nearly impossible.
Side note: In France, Huckabee is pronounced 'Yuck-abee' and Obama 'Ho-bama'.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Argh argh!

First of all, a publicity announcement from our sponsor (me):
If you have read Zombie Jack and loved it, would you go vote for it here?
It's just for fun, but if you liked Zombie Jack, you might want to cast your vote for it at Preditors and Editors.
You can also vote for Calderwood Books as a publisher,
and Joy Calderwood gets my vote as editor!
(Again, it's just for fun - no prizes - but it's good publicity!)

I'm making monster noises because my son has gotten bad grades in his first semester and I don't know if he can keep his financial aid. It's a big ARGH because college in the US is so expensive and it's not reimbursed like when you pay for the doctor here in France you get reimbursed by social security. It's not like that. You pay, and I guess what you get is a college degree.

The US system is beyond me, actually. I've grasped the French system - you want to study law, for example, you go to law school and you study law. It's free (you have to pay for books, and if you live on campus, you have to pay room and board, but it's fairly cheap) so most people can send their kids to college. You have to get good grades to stay in though (you have to get very good grades, actually.) But in the US, if you get bad grades, you get put on probation and lose your perks. My son was tutoring French, but he's probably lost that job, and he will have to get his grades Way Way up in order to get a degree now (if I've understood anything).

In the US, you go to college and you study...everything. It's a mass of choices and required classes. If you want to study law, for example, you have to pass history, and to study biology you are required to take English classes. In France, all the basics: French, science, philosophy, math, etc. are taken care of before the baccalaureate. Afterwards, they study only law, or psychology, or science. Some colleges are hard to get into (there is an entrance exam for medicine that requires 2 years of prep studies.) But mostly, you just enroll in the closest college to your home, and that's it. Why did my son decide to study in the US? I think he was afraid he wouldn't be able to pass the vet school exam here. But if his grades this semester are anything to go by, he won't be able to pass any exam anywhere.

What he says is that he couldn't concentrate. This from the kid who would sit for 5 hours without moving or making noise watching an ant's nest. I think he just got distracted by too many things to do. Another thing I noticed was that college was like a social club, like Club Med, and there was tons of stuff going on that has nothing to do with studies. (If I'd have gone to college in the US, I think I would have been distracted too...) I'm hoping he can change his room mate (an aspiring opera singer) and get someone quiet to share a room with.
I am hoping he studies hard and gets good grades.

But ultimately, what I know is this: he's a young man who has to make his own decisions and own mistakes. What he'll do now, and how he will react to this set-back, will tell volumes about the man he will become. I wish him well.
And I wish he can keep his financial aid.
Anyone want to put a kid through college?