Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Who are you?

It dawned on me that the photo above and the previous photo of the Chrysler Building are no longer "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" American. Anheuser-Busch has been sold to a Belgian company and the Chrysler Building is now owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Who owns Chevrolet these days??

This slow sell-off of America is scary. As an American living overseas, I have gotten used to questions about who am I going to vote for, where am I from, what do I miss most... but these days, I have to wonder about the stability of my native country. I'll be very honest and say if given a choice, I don't think I could move back to the US. That has more to do with the way I was raised and how I grew up than anything else. If I had family roots in one area, I don't think there would be an issue, but I grew up on military bases, spent most of my life moving and I don't really have anywhere I would call "home" in the US. In fact, after living overseas for 16 years, I don't have anywhere in the world that I would call home right now. The transitions I am currently going through will result in another move at some point in the not-to-distant future. Where that takes me, who knows?

Right now, I wonder about my friends and family here in the US. Some have spouses who have lost their jobs through cut backs or bankruptcies. No one (yet) has lost their home, but there is a cautious holding back of spending that I am seeing. Even for me, although I have the advantage of the exchange rate right now, it's still expensive. I went to D'Agostino's this morning, spent $65 and walked away with 2 bags of groceries. (Okay, so I bought a six-pack of Coronas for $7.99) but still... 2 bags?

The other thing that floored me was the size of the portions of food served in restaurants and the amount of those portions that gets thrown away. After we dropped my son off at his camp, Brad and I went to a diner for lunch. I got a Reuben and iced tea. The order arrived... I almost fell out of the booth at the size of the portion. The Reuben came with a pickle, potato salad and a side of cole slaw on an over-sized plate and the food was hanging off the edges. The side of cole slaw came in a separate bowl. The refillable iced tea kept coming and then the waiter asked if we wanted desert. No thanks. I watched a couple next to us get their order. French fries with melted cheese on top, gigantic cheeseburger with all the fixings and endless glasses of DIET soda!! Where does the excess go? When the busboy cleared the table next to us half the food was left behind and got tossed into a plastic bin along with the dishes, obviously not to be reused anywhere. You could have fed a family of 4 on what was thrown away.

Where am I going with all this? I'm not sure. I go through this feeling every time I come back to the states. Reverse culture shock... the huge portions, feeling rushed through every meal in a restaurant, one person's plate is whisked away even though the other guests are still eating, no pause between courses... have I assimilated into French dining rituals? If I have, amen for that. Each course is sized to please the palate, knowing the next will do the same. There is time between the courses to enjoy your company and your dining experience. Even in the smallest cafes, the pace is slower and the portions smaller. Bite-sized... if you will allow me that comparison.

I guess what is hitting me on this trip is the abject consumerism in the US. The gluttony and need for bigger and more of it... I came with a shopping list of things I wanted to bring back (shoes, a few things I can't get in France, a book or two...) but I watch as people buy for no particular reason except that it is there and why not?

Life is simpler in France. Sunday is family day, the stores are closed. The average living space is smaller, no need to amass a lot of junk. Five weeks of vacation so you can actually take some time off and recharge your inner soul... I'm scaring myself with this post. I have no borders or cultural identity anymore. I've become a citizen of the world and the world is hurting. It's time to start healing it.

Tell me, who are you?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I can see clearly now...

It's been a few days since the last post. We made it to NY and have been busy gearing up (literally) for my son's summer camp. We spent the first morning in Sam Ash Music picking up equipment and the afternoon was Bed, Bath & Beyond for the rest of the stuff on "the list".

He's enrolled with Power Chord Academy and will be spending the next two weeks absorbed in all things rock and roll... lessons, stage, recording, a concert... all organized on a university campus. My son will have two weeks of exposure to American kids his age and all the English slang currently in vogue. I'll pass along any choice expressions.

A friend, Brad, whom I have known since I was 12 came in and gave us a ride to the university. After we got him registered we brought his stuff up to the dorm room. We couldn't find his suite at first but there was a lot of "noise" coming from down the hall. After searching a bit and checking suite numbers, we walked right into the middle of the music source. Three of the suite mates were already jamming in the common room and his roommate was pulling his bass out. Good timing. We did the exit, stage left and hightailed it out of there.

I had my little mom moment of, will he be okay, he didn't eat lunch, etc... it was just funny that after all these years this little rite would be shared with Brad. Fitting as he has always been "the fifth brother".

When I came back to the hotel there was an emptiness that hit me that I really didn't expect to feel. This is the first time he's been on his own (without a parent) for this amount of time. I know he's probably overjoyed at the freedom, and I am thrilled for him. But I know it won't be long before he'll be going off on his own and I will be an empty-nester.

I have a lot on my agenda this week, too. The highlight being three days of one-on-one tutoring time with an instructor I met last summer. I'll be covering FileMaker and Adobe programs. I have all day Tuesday to catch up with some skill refreshing and will take advantage of my 30 days of!

It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright sun shiny day...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Feelin’ alright...

To get you in the mood... an excellent rendition of one of my most favorite songs by Dave Mason. [YouTube has since taken it down! 20 Aug 2008. Here's Joe Cocker's rendition.]

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was contacted by a publisher in New York to review a book... "Petite Anglaise" arrived via FedEx practically on the day it was released in the US. I finished reading it on Friday and I have been thinking about how to write this review.

First, my ground rules. I had not heard of Petite Anglaise (henceforth to be known as PA), nor her blog before I got the book. I did not go to her site until after I finished reading the book. I took notes as I read the book and I have a few questions myself, but I'll give you my honest opinion first. PA's blog gets mega hits per month and mega comments to every stroke of the keyboard. If I had that volume of readership, I'd quit my day job... (wait, I already did! ... merde!).

Seriously. As an expat living in Paris since 1992, I can say we all come here for different reasons. Hers was a lifelong dream. Mine was happenstance. We're both still here... there's just something about Paris. We came here at about the same time. She was a college student, I was married with an infant. She's a Brit, I'm American. My son was born in the US. She had "Tadpole" in Paris during the summer of the canicule (the heatwave, 2003). I remodeled my kitchen and bathroom that summer. Anyone who has been through remodeling can understand that it is the equivalent of childbirth. Anyone who lived through the canicule in Paris, will agree with me... DRUG ME NOW!

PA's book was mostly a synopsis of her blog, so the story line needed to follow. She takes us through the beginning moments of her blog, the meeting of "Lover" and the breakup with "Mr. Frog" (the father of her daughter, "Tadpole"), and then, the eventual breakup with "Lover"... She ends on a positive note by purchasing her own apartment in Paris and looking forward to life as a single mother. Something I know a lot about.

On page 172 she said, "write what you want when you have something to say". I can relate to that and have given myself the freedom of not feeling like I have to post here everyday. She poured her heart into her writing and it obviously paid off.

But PA put herself out there like I never would. As she said back then, she blogged "as a persona". She spilled her guts when life sucked and she shared her happiness when it didn't. She detailed events in her life along with her feelings. The people around her, although never named, didn't always seem too happy to have their histoire out on the net... and she acknowledges that. She even questions pushing the publish button on some occasions.

She didn't have her name on her site until after she was "dooced". (Yes, I learned a few expressions along the way... although this was not included in the book. I had to go back in her archives about two years because the book leaves off in the summer of 2006.) She has an intimate relationship with her readership and sometimes used her blog to send someone "an open letter hoping for some response". But that's how she started out. More power to her. Here's a link to her blog, Petite Anglaise. You can order her book online, details on her site.

A few things I learned... there are Parisian Blogger Soirées... I'd be interested in attending one. It would be nice to get to know some of the other blogging folks out there. I may already know some of you! She gave Meetic a try. This bit is on the blog. At least her experience had a happy ending... mine ended up with a restraining order. She mentions a good organization that I wish I knew of a few months ago... Check it out. If you are moving and/or have good stuff that you don't want to put on the sidewalk, sign up and post it... Someone will come and take it off your hands *pronto* and give it a good home.

Follow your passion, and success will follow you.
~Arthur Buddhold

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Miracles, the B-side...

This is a follow up to a few things. The photo is of the same fountain as the last Miracles post, but it was taken this morning, with the b-side. Get it?

Here we go:

Miracle 1: I love They picked up on the problem I had with Adobe and made an offer I couldn't refuse. I'll be happily watching training tutorials on a VAST number of subjects. If you thought was just for Adobe products, think again. Amorphium Pro?? Never heard of it myself, but I can learn all about if I wanted to! I think I'll be spending my time with Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. Gotta hone those skills, baby! While I'm at it, hey Lynda, how about 'mashup for morons'?? :-)

My thanks and gratitude to Steve at There are still some good people in this world.

Miracle 2: Right after I emailed with Steve this morning, I got an automated reminder from

Dear Dianne,
We want to remind you that you have not yet selected your complimentary registration benefit. Please take this opportunity to select now... I did. Another month with! Amorphium, here I come! Mind you, my Adobe support ticket is still "Open - pending Adobe response". At this point a response would be a courtesy. May I point out that this was an automated reminder?

Miracle 3: Do you remember the blind man who makes his daily treks around the block? My neighbor invited me over for an impromptu happy hour yesterday. I asked her about him (she KNOWS everybody/everything!). Turns out he's the organist at the local church! Well, smite me down! She said he's very good, has been playing there for years and that I should go give him a listen. I think I will. The hardest part of living in France is integrating into society. I've lived in this apartment since 1999. I know 2 of my neighbors on a less formal basis. One is British and the other is Moroccan. Go figure.

Miracle 4: Duly inspired by a friend in the UK and my blind man (I will learn his name!), who both make AND take the time for a daily run/walk, I walked to the sport store yesterday and bought some comfy sneakers. Mind you, I have huge feet and it's just my luck to live in a country where women's sizes in normal shoe stores only go to a 40. I'm a 42. Tant pis. I stock up on regular shoes when I am in the US, but, for sneakers, I go directly to the men's department at GoSport. (Why waste time having the assistant running back and forth saying, "Je suis désolé madame, nous n'avons pas ce modèle dans votre taille." It ain't easy.) Anyway, I found a pair and tried them on. It was like Heaven on my soles. I said, I'll take them.... and off we went to the cash register. Cha-ching. Little did I know I bought a pair of Nike Zoom Vomero 3's... but I am one happy camper with those babies on my feet!

Miracle 5: With those new babies on my feet and camera in hand, this morning I did the tour around the lake. Might as well combine work with pleasure! What I wanted to do was take photos to map my position on Google Earth. I'm learning a lot! One day I'll post a link so you can see what it all does. The walk felt good and I am now more motivated to carry on with it.

Miracle 6: Well, maybe not a miracle, but a follow-up nonetheless. Remember Hobbes, recently risen from the dead?? Well, dem bones ain't gonna rise again... I had news from UB that Hobbes is really up in kitty heaven. He was 19 and truly made the most of his nine lives. RIP, Hobbes.

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
~Buddhist saying

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

They did the mash...

For those of you following the previous post, I haven't written because I was waiting to hear back from Steve at (no reply just yet). I also submitted a ticket on Adobe's support forum with a link to the "An inconvenient truth..." post. The status there is "Open - Pending Adobe Response". I will keep you informed.

Just a side note here: I signed up for Layers Magazine's Tip of the Day. I got my first "tip" and at the bottom of the email was a big, fat link that said, "Upgrade to Adobe CS3.3 at CDW and get one free month of online training at". Uh-huh.

In the meantime, I have taken my own words to heart and ordered my first e-book. I don't know if you have ever read an e-book before. It's a bit different from your regular paperback or hardcover, it's onscreen which means nothing to hold and I am chained to the laptop to read it. But, because of the topic of said book, it's actually much easier to click on links than to type them in. I am learning about mashups. If you haven't heard of them, you have probably seen them in action and weren't even aware that this is the future of Web 2.0. I've spent the last two days reading, learning and experimenting with mashup APIs. I'm getting it, but I haven't had my "ah-hah" moment yet. Yesterday I was actually wishing I had a third screen just to keep track of what was where. If anyone out there has a bit of advice to offer, please, by all means, pipe up! I could sure use it!

Still living virtually, I also did a bunch of online banking tasks. It is so much easier than having to go in person or making a phone call. I clicked on the live chat window and went to town. Sure, some of the replies are stock answers, but they are clear and why reinvent the wheel? I was done in ten minutes and it didn't leave a footprint!

My next big adventure might be ordering groceries online. I need to get a grip on my time management and I'm trying find ways to put my available time to better use. Aside from giving up the daily NYT crossword puzzle (no way!) I figure I can buy about 2 hours each week by having the victuals delivered to my door. (Maybe I could then apply that time to the daily walk/workout session?)

The mind boggles at what can be done online these days. If you haven't downloaded Firefox 3, here's a link. Then sign-up with iGoogle and start adding widgets to your homepage... fly yourself around the world with Google earth...

You'll catch on in a flash...