mercredi 28 mars 2007

Deux ans

Well, it is looking more or less official that IARC is offering me the second year of the postdoc. And similarly, it is looking more or less official that I am taking it. What can I say. I like it here, and I have no real desire to go back to the US and deal with 80-hour workweeks. It is just a more pleasant working environment here.

In other excitement, I won 11 euros at poker tonight. YAY!!

Spring has sprung. After the bizarre weather of last week, where it got chilly and we had at least 2 hailstorms, it has been sunny and in the 60s for the last 2 days.

I am getting ready for my next houseguest. Mark arrives on Saturday. I am not sure what exactly we will be doing while he is here next week?? He seems to have purchased an enormous Rhône-Alpes guidebook and perhaps hasn't quite managed to fight his way through it. But I am hoping to hit some nightclubs on Saturday. Lyon is not exactly known for its clubbing scene, but I am hoping we can make the best of it.

lundi 26 mars 2007


Jon sent me this joke today--

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666 which left London in rubble.

Also, the French government announced yesterday in Brussels that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides."

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance" to "Dress in Excellent Uniforms and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Bite Off more than you can chew."

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual, and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

dimanche 25 mars 2007

French elections

I am having some trouble keeping up with the news about the French elections. My French is still not good enough to peruse Le Monde, and coverage is skant in English-language newspapers. But here is a primer.

The elections are on April 22. Without a majority on that date, which is highly likely, there will later be a runoff election of the top 2 candidates. There are 12 people running, although there are really only 3 major candidates.

Leading in the polls with about 30% of the vote is the center-right's Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister to current president Jacques Chirac. Chirac finally gave a tepid endorsement to Sarkozy, who on his part is the kind of insider candidate who claims to be an outsider, claiming that he will provide a break from current policies. Most recently he has been quoting Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech to talk about bringing hope to the impoverished Muslim communities outside of Paris where all the rioting happened a year ago; this is probably to soften his image, because he is seen as too aggressive and is typically compared to Stalin.

Ségolène Royal, the socialist candidate and the first female candidate of a major party in France, has around 25%. Royal has gotten caught up in Socialist party infighting and has run a campaign full of gaffes. There are also 6 people to the left of her who are running, and they are expected to siphon off some of her support.

In the last month the fortunes of a centrist, H. Ross Perot type-- except that he is a serious person, a farmer, schoolteacher and former education minister-- named François Bayrou have risen, and he now has about 20%. With the problems of the other major candidates, Bayrou has been advancing in the polls. Besides, the French view themselves as a rural country and they like electing people who know their way around a farm. But it isn't clear how he would put together a coalition if he wins.

No one has run a particularly inspiring campaign. Also running is the frightening right-wing nutcase Jean Marie Le Pen, who has about 10% of the vote.The French people that I work with grumble when I ask them about the election. They think that Sarkozy is going to win. The main issue on people's minds is France's economic malaise-- including talk of raising the minimum wage, various issues around EU requirements such as ending France's generous farm subsidies, etc. People seem to think Royal wouldnt do enough to help the economy, but on the other hand they think Sarkozy would be too harsh in implimenting new policies.

samedi 24 mars 2007

Carnaval de Saint Georges

This afternoon was the annual Carnaval de Saint Georges, and Amy asked me if I wanted to go check it out. Saint Georges is one of the three cathedrals in Vieux Lyon. I haven't been in it before; outside Saint Georges is a construction site where they are building a park, and I have just never poked around. Unfortunately today was cool and drizzly, so the festival doings were pretty much a non-event, but they did still hold the parade. It was fun. We marched along with the group for a while. People in the parade and the spectators threw confetti on each other.

The theme of this year's festival was 'Neighborhood and Construction Site'. So some parents dressed their children up as traffic signs.
Here are some children dressed as traffic cones along with a Guignol character.
The marching band dressed as construction workers.

Straight flush

It was ladies night at poker this week, with Rayjean, Amy and I cleaning out the guys. I actually had lousy hands all night until the end, when I got a straight flush. Beautiful! With that I cleaned out poor Julien and went home with a profit.

Yesterday everyone at work was talking about the Cricket World Cup and how the Pakistani coach was strangled. Here is an article about it. Crazy.

mercredi 21 mars 2007

French efficiency

My home phone number just started working 2 days ago. When I signed up for the plan I was supposed to get free calls to the US, but Amir, who uses the same company, FreeBox, said he is being charged-- it crossed my mind that maybe we would be charged for calls to cell phones? I don't really get it. When I figure it out, I will start making many calls! My number is country code (33) 9 54 09 20 97.

Yesterday morning at work we had a fire drill. Of course, nearly the entire 3rd floor was up in the cafeteria on the 12th floor having our morning coffee break. Apparently they only have one every 2 years, because after walking downstairs and shuffling into the auditorium-- not exactly the safest place to be during a fire as it has only one exit-- we ended up standing around for an hour. The pompiers (firemen) arrived in their splendiferous, spotless outfits and chit-chatted with the IARC fire marshals over a map of fire exits. I was unclear why we needed to be there for an hour, but mostly was a little bit sad I hadn't gotten my coffee 5 minutes earlier.

lundi 19 mars 2007

More boarding, bien sur

Yes, I went boarding on Sunday-- again! I figured it was one of the last weekends of the season. Of all of the places that the Lyon daytrip buses go to, we picked the spot that was the highest elevation, which was Tignes, in the Val d'Isere region. It was a long drive though, over 3 hours. However, there was actual, genuine non-manmade snow there, even ambient snow sitting on the sides of the road and everything. Mon dieu! Here are some pics.

This picture was from the summit. I went up in the funiculaire to take pictures. it was extremely windy up there.

On the way out of town, we drove by Tignes' lake, the Lac du Chevril. Lake of Parsley? Say what?

samedi 17 mars 2007

Radis noire

After pooh-poohing the radis noire as strange and unappetizing looking in a previous post, I decided to try it after reading this review on They recommend eating it sliced thinly on a baguette with butter and salt. So I gave it a shot.

Here it is, in all of its large, black, and hairy glory. Hungry yet? For size comparison, the baguette and a pen.

And here it is sliced and on a little piece of baguette. It certainly doesn't look like a radish, but it tastes like one. It has a cool, tart flavor that goes well with the butter. Who knew?

Rampaging prudes

I read a news report yesterday that said that the Vigeland sculpture park that Mark and I visited in Oslo was struck by vandals. These were vandals of the morality police variety, as what they did was to cover up the genitals of the statues with black pieces of paper. They left a note saying "There is too much nudity in newspapers and magazines, so here on the bridge the limit has been reached!" How strange and un-scandanavian!

Here is a picture of the statues that Mark took. As you can see, the statues are extremely tame, generally shown just standing around in different poses, and there are many of children playing together. I just don't get it.

mercredi 14 mars 2007


I lost big at at this week's poker game: I ended down 6 euros. Everything that I had was beat. I had a pair of aces and someone else had 3 of a kind.... I had 2 pair and someone else had a flush... there was no winning tonight. For me, that is. For everyone else, plenty of winning. Oh well. Cyril won 3 euros, Sean 1, Amy 2. Although Amy always wins something.

It was at my house too, so at least the pizza was good. Pizza is generally crap in Lyon but I happen to live across the street from a place that won the "best pizza in Lyon" award. Which is to say that it still isnt great, but it is at least edible. I didn't try the pizza at this place, Baduila, for months, because I thought it was a sports bar, as there are always people sitting out front shouting at the televison during some Olympic Lyonnais game or other such event of "le foot". I didnt realize for a long time that they actually served food.

This week at work we have had a tobacco meeting, regarding putting together a monograph on measurement of tobacco use, policies, and dependence. I have been sitting in because my boss assigned me to work on a survey of women's views of smoking and health across 5 European countries that are in different stages of passing smoke-free legislation in restaurants and bars. Anyhow, I have been noticing that the meeting participants have been sneaking peeks at their brackets instead of listening to speakers. Tarheels all the way, people!

Amy sent me some pics of me boarding, when we went a few weeks back. Here they are:

lundi 12 mars 2007


I got back last night from our ski trip to Bardonecchia! It was beautiful there. We stayed in the tiny mountainside town of Chateau, which is just across the border from France. The place that we stayed had been described as a B and B, but I would describe it more as a camp. It was not exactly luxurious. I shared a room of 8 bunk beds with the other women in the department. What you learn about your coworkers up close and personal: Amy shouts in Taiwanese in her sleep.

It was a fun weekend. We ate lots of delicious pizza and pasta. I only fell hard once although the conditions were not great. There is hardly any snow in the Alps this year due to global warming.

Here is the whole group:

Left to right: Farhad, his son Farzad, Farideh, Kasia (in the back), Amy, Amir, Rim, Sandrine, Frank, Rim's husband (I never caught his name), James, Manuella's son (name?), Cyril (with the hat) and Rayjean in front of him, me, Ellie, Jon, and Zoe, Paolo, Manuella's daughter Maria, Toni Boffetta, Manuella, and Amy.

Nationalities represented: Iranian, Polish, American, Nepali, Armenian, Dutch, Aussie, French, German, British, Canadian, Taiwanese, and Italian.

The town of Chateau, which at 1800 meters elevation should normally be full of snow this time of year.

Here was the view from our B and B. On the hill in the foreground wild mountain goats were roaming-- they were called chamois.

Here is my friend Jon with his daughter Ellie.

Jon and I boarded together on Sunday. I stopped to tighten my boots and he stopped ahead to wait for me-- here is a shot of him with the mountains behind. The snow in the foreground is all manmade-- a bunch of the runs were closed and there were plenty of spots where rocks and dirt showed through the snow. They should have put signs up that said, "Keep off the grass."

On Sunday Paolo and his wife Toni prepared a little feast for us on our way out of town, of cheeses, prosciutto, and little Italian pastries. I'm in the back talking to Frank and James, undoubtedly discussing this week's poker game. By this point, I was completely exhausted.

jeudi 8 mars 2007


Last night I went to see a French singer, Vincent Delerm. He is a piano-playing pop chanteur. It was a fun show but the only thing that I didn't like was that he had 5 encores-- he may have had more, but I left during the 5th. Frankly, I believe in 2 encores only, maybe 3 max. I think even if the Beatles reunited and John and George came back from the dead, I would only want 2 encores. There ain't nobody I want to see come back 5 times.

Mot nouveau: épicée = spicy. Food here is not spicy. The French do richness instead of spices. Which is not a problem, except when enjoying Asian cuisines, which seem rather bland to me. This word should come in handy. Trés epicée, s'il vous plait.

Tonight I am packing for the annual Gene-Environment Epidemiology Group weekend ski trip to Bardonecchia, in the Italian Alps. I'm excited! Paolo made us a reservation at a pizza place on Saturday night which involves a 1-hour hike through the mountains in the dark. It is supposedly an easy walk, but pitch black, so hopefully someone will have an extra flashlight. I am excited to have some good Italian food too.

lundi 5 mars 2007


Lyon has a very cool program where there are public kiosks all over town where you can rent bikes by the hour. You can pick up a bike at any kiosk and drop it off at another. The first 1/2 hour is free, which makes it fairly convenient for commuting; afterwards they are 1 -2 euro an hour, depending on the length of time. Here is a pic of one of the kiosks:

Amy L., Priscila and I managed to figure the system out yesterday and we went for a bike ride along the Rhone up to the Parc de la Tête d'Or. It is a park where supposedly Christ's head is buried. Beats me how Christ's head might have ended up in France.

Considering I took this picture by holding the camera over my shoulder while biking along, I think it turned out pretty well!

Carolina hoops

Last night the Heels stomped all over Duke. Magnifique! Carolina has locked in the #1 seed for the ACC tourney.

Since it was the first game in weeks to occur at an hour where I might be able to tune in, I spent quite a while searching for a simulcast of the game... and there is nothing! No radio show, nada. Wherefore art thou, Woody Durham? Where are you when I need you?!?? The best I could do was a lousy "Gametracker" which updated every 5 minutes and said the plays: "Steal. Free Throw. Foul." Quite unsatisfying.

dimanche 4 mars 2007

Food markets

Every Sunday I get my groceries at the food market just on the other side of the Saone. It is a sight to behold. The market is big and crowded and everything that comes from the earth is for sale: besides fruits and veggies, they have cheeses, meat and sausage, bread and pastries, flowers, fruits de mer, spices, wine, oils, vinegar. Plus the proprietors are all shouting, "Mesdames Messieurs, Bonjour!" "Pains de la compagne! Allez! Allez! Allez!"

I got some salade and cilandre here today.
I got some amandes from this woman, who said I could take a picture but I guess didn't want to actually be in it.
A large chevre selection.

Mysterious black root vegetables. Does anyone know what they are?

There are always several people out roasting chicken.

And my fave stand is Senor Carlos's, who has been en vacances for 2 months in Chile-- que lastima!-- but has finally returned so I can have my weekly empanada. His happy customers were not waiting to get home but were chowing down immediately. Yum yum!

jeudi 1 mars 2007

The only good thing to ever come out of Leicester

I went to see Kasabian play last night. Isn't this guy pretty?

It was a great show! They played at Ninkasi, a tiny little club here in town, which is a great place to see a band because you are always so close to the stage. They were really energetic--they have taken to the role of rock stars like naturals, preening and strutting around, and holding the mike out to the audience so everyone would sing along. They're all set to become an arena rock band.

I was amused that they didnt even try to speak French, but just yapped at the audience in English. There was one mangled 'Merci Beaucoup' with such a heavy accent I could barely understand it. At any rate, it was fun. My friend Jon says that they are the only good thing to ever come out of Leicester, and he himself is from Leicester, so I guess he would know.

The excitement at my office this week is that we got a espresso machine. We got the brand that George Clooney is hawking in ads here, Nespresso. Well, if it is good enough for George Clooney, it is good enough for us.