French Days

Living in France is pretty great, but not having a good grasp on the language can be very frustrating. Today I had to make a phone call to Chronopost to arrange delivery of a package, and the conversation was totally in French. Interestingly, I am getting better and better at speaking French, but comprehending the speech of someone else I find very difficult, a difficulty that is only magnified by the lack of face-to-face contact. I got through the conversation, but it was frustrating for me, and most likely annoying for the person on the other end of the phone.

I must work on my French.

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A New Post?

I haven’t posted here in quite a while. I guess I just got hung up doing other things. Travel, work, family, etc. Maybe this blog isn’t that important to me. Yet lately I have been feeling an urge to write, or at least to something creative. I’m not sure why, since I rarely have something interesting to say. But at any rate, here I am. Maybe I am repurposing this blog as more of a daily journal or something. But let’s face it, probably not daily.

So for now I will try to write something when I can, about God-knows-what. Probably won’t be very interesting to you-all, but hey, at least it will be interesting to me!

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My wife and I have discovered a salon de thé in Grenoble, and we are hooked: It is called Jardin de Thé, and it is home to some mighty tasty teas. I have really fallen for the St. Sylvestre, a black tea with hints of cinnamon and cherry, and my wife is partial to the Promenade des Anglais, another black tea with plum and almond flavors. I had never really bothered with loose leaf tea before this, but we are now well on our way to becoming tea snobs: We have stocked up on loose leaf tea from Jardin de Thé, and have supplemented that with additional teas from Harrods during our last trip to London. We bought a tea kettle to brew, and a nice hourglass (four-minuteglass?) to time the brewing. I even have a strainer at work, so I can make my favorite teas there too. If anyone has any suggestions on good teas, brewing techniques, or tasty treats to accompany the tea, let us know!

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Let me talk to you about one of the things I miss most about living in America: Breakfast. French breakfast is different. Very different. The average French breakfast consists of a croissant and an espresso. Maybe a pain aux chocolate instead. Or a piece of a baguette with a little Nutella or jam. On Sundays you can enjoy a brunch which consists of croissants, pain aux chocolate, baguettes with Nutella and jam, and a single boiled egg. No bacon. No sausage. No sign of potatoes, corned beef hash, omelets, scrambled or fried eggs, nothing.

Do you want to live in a world without bacon? I sure don’t!

Oh sure, these other foods exist, but are never served at breakfast. French breakfast is the home of the small, sweet food. The whole point of breakfast (or, in French, petit-déjeuner, which means “little lunch”) is to give you just enough food to tide you over until your lunch, which is often the biggest meal of the day.

And to be fair, the croissants, pain aux chocolate, and baguettes are amazingly good. The French know their pastries. Still, there are days when I would kill for some bacon and eggs, with some nicely crisped hash browns on the side.

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Recent Reads

I just finished the superb The Subterranean Railway by Christian Wolmar, a thorough history of the London Underground. It looks at both the history of the lines themselves, and their social impact on London. Well worth a read if you have any interest in subways or railroads!

Friday on the tram to work I started Scotland: The Autobiography edited by Rosemary Goring . Very interesting, basically a compilation of short writings from Roman times to the present day, chronicling both the major events in Scottish history, along with the day-to-day lives of the people. Some really great stories, really makes the history come alive.

And finally, up next will be Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. I got a signed copy from him at the Edinburgh Book Festival last weekend, and I’m looking forward to reading it!

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Review: The Amazon Kindle – A library in your hand?

I consider myself a reader. I like to read. Blogs, newspapers, books, whatever. Mind you, if you ask my wife, she will say I read junk. And it is true that in my library you will find very few classics like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, or any sort of Greek tragedy (for quality literature, please see my wife’s library). But you will find around 100 Star Trek novels, a smattering of Doctor Who programme guides, and most of the James Bond books. This is not to say that I don’t read literature or quality non-fiction – I do, in fact I consider P.G Wodehouse and A.C. Doyle to be amongst my favorite writers,and I adore David McCullough – but that my day-to-day reading tends to fall in the media tie-in arena.

Since moving to France though, feeding my Star Trek novel addiction has proven more difficult. The bookstores in Grenoble have only a very limited Engilsh-language selection, if they have one at all. I am therefore forced to rely on, with shipping taking three to four weeks. In order to expedite this, I began purchasing ebooks through Amazon, and reading them with the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad. While the reading app is excellent, the experience of reading on the iPhone or iPad is somewhat un-optimal. The iPhone, while having an excellent quality screen, is quite small. The iPad, on the other hand, is larger, but the screen quality is lower, and the weight of the device much higher.

My birthday was last week, but my wife, knowing of my love of both reading and gadgets, and unable to contain the surprise any longer,  gifted me an Amazon Kindle Wifi+3G in graphite three weeks ago upon her return from America, along with $100 in Amazon cash for books. What my wife discovered shortly thereafter is that I got her a Kindle (in white!) as well! I’ve spent the past three weeks using the Kindle, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the device in this review. I’ll also give my thoughts on the Amazon Kindle Leather Case, which my wife got me to complement the device! Just click below to read my thoughts!

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Your Future in Guided Missiles

I’m posting an old ad from the Bendix Corporation, seeking engineers to help design guided missiles. Well, I suppose a bunch of NASA engineers are now out of a job, so…

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