dimanche 29 avril 2007

Anyone but Sarkozy

There is a new Anyone But Sarkozy movement afoot in France, particularly among the multiracial banlieue residents he once called 'racaille', or 'scum'. Sarkozy has also said he would clean out those neighborhoods with a type of high-powered hose used to clean graffitti off of buildings, a image so disturbing that the company that makes the hoses tried to distance itself from the comments. For me, and probably for most Americans, it recalls images from the civil rights movement of marchers and fire hoses. Sarkozy was described this week by Bayrou as a man "with a taste for intimidation and threats."

Nonetheless, Sarkozy is ahead in the polls, most recently 53% to 47%. It is alarming to think that someone so racially polarizing could take power. It seems like a given that if Sarkozy wins there will be rioting.

There also was a debate yesterday between Royal and Bayrou, even though Bayrou just lost in the first round of voting. Huh? I am not sure why. I guess it is a PR exercise. Royal seems to be leading slightly among Bayrou supporters (35% compared to 29% for Sarkozy) and is making a bid towards the political center. Meanwhile, Sarkozy had spent the previous weeks wooing the supporters of right-wing nutcase Le Pen, so he has less time to soften his image and try to capture centrists.

Turnout in the first round was at record highs, the highest in 30 years.

samedi 28 avril 2007

Labor day weekend

Tuesday is Labor Day and I have heard that absolutely everything will be closed. Even the metro won't be running!

Speaking of labor, things at work are pretty good. My first Bangladesh paper is finally coming out on May 1st. This wasn't from my dissertation, but was another thing I did with Habib. I recently submitted a paper from my dissertation to a journal and will soon have to undergo the agony of revisiting it again when it gets back from the reviewers. Nothing is more excruciating for me at this point than spending one minute thinking about my dissertation.

My next work project will be a paper on kidney cancer and gene-environment interaction, looking at xenobiotic metabolizing genes. Dad, you had better start reading up on NAT1, NAT2, and CYP so we can talk about them!

jeudi 26 avril 2007

Its Ségo-Sarko

For all of you who flipped past the international news in the paper, or who changed the radio station when the news came on: it is official. Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate, will face Nicolas Sarkozy, the right-wing candidate, in the runoff, which is on May 6th, I believe. Although François Bayrou isn't exactly hurting either, because both sides will be courting him for his supporters; and whoever wins will probably need to collaborate with him to form the government. I am a little unclear on when the person takes over, but my French teacher says that once the final is over, all they do is form a new government, which can be done in a matter of weeks, and then they assume the office. It all seems pretty quick.

In other news, the newspaper said yesterday that this April was the hottest ever on record in Lyon, ever since they began keeping records in 1922. Whew! Hopefully this summer will not be too much of a roaster.

lundi 23 avril 2007


Madrid hadn't been totally on my radar before, but Zoe wanted to go, so I thought, why not? I remember going there once when I was 20 and spending only a day, but I had only vaguely remembered walking around a large city park--it hadn't made much of an impression. But it turned out to be a very cool city! I think that Barcelona is more elegant, and Madrid is more hip. It has fantastic restaurants and nightlife, lots of groovy (and cheap) shopping and excellent museums. We shopped for shoes, ate a lot of tapas, and walked all over the place for 2 days. My feet are still aching.

It reminded me of the USA. I decided this was because 1) seeing signs in Spanish reminds me of Washington Heights; 2) Unlike those in France, Spain has people wearing loud, unflattering clothing; 3) Also unlike France, the Spanish are not all thin.

Unfortunately, I also realized that whatever Spanish I once spoke has now been completely and absolutely crushed by my focus on French. Why can't I keep more than one language in my head?

On the first night we had tapas along the Calle de Cava Baja. Here are some examples of the restaurants there. Remember, no eating dinner before 10 PM! It was el cheapo-- dinner came to about 8 euros, including drinks!
This little mural is outside a restaurant. I just liked it so I took a picture.
Madrid has elegant architecture.And lots of statuary-- this is in the Plaza Mayor.
Madrid also has the most amazing elaborate street signs. Each one pictures whatever the street is named for. We stayed in a pension on this street, Calle de Zorrilla. And another one, outside a place we had stopped for sangria.
I bought some zapatos that seemed straight out of Almodovar.Here is Zoe with the delicious spread we had at a restaurant called La Taperia. We had a cheese plate, a dish with marinated wild mushrooms, and an omelette. And here, enjoying some sangria.Can you tell we spent a lot of time in outdoor cafes-- along with everyone else in Madrid? The weather was perfect.

We also soaked up lots of Picasso, Velázquez, Dalí , Goya, and Miró, among others. Here I am outside of the Reina Sofia museum, where we saw Guernica, which is about the horrors of war. Interestingly, the museum also has a room of artwork that was a response to Guernica.
Here is a Miró sculpture in the courtyard of the Reina Sofia.I think you could spend a lifetime at the Prado museum, but I only had an afternoon there. My mind was spinning with all of the portraits of Felipe III, Felipe IV, Carlos X, Reina this, Marquesa that, etc. The stuff there is just stunning. This statue of Goya stands outside.

lundi 16 avril 2007

Movies and concerts

Tonight I went to see Midlake perform. It was a good show! According to Jon, they occupy the terrain where Pavement meets Fleetwood Mac. I had bought the tix weeks ago, otherwise I might have just stayed home and tended to my cold.

To answer K's question.... most foreign movies are dubbed, but there is usually a smattering of showings of the "Version Originale" at a handful of art-house theaters. It seems strange to me that France dubs its movies, because they simultaneously celebrate the artistry of movies and give a lot of attention to movie directors, whose work, it seems to me, is obviously best appreciated in the original. It doesn't really make any sense. Anyhow, the US movies that make it here and are shown in V.O. are usually independent movies, so I have seen a lot o' artsy flicks this year. I've seen Bobby, Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine, Borat, Babel, The Good German, the Departed... I've been lazy and haven't gone to see an all in-French movie, although I did watch Volver the other day with French subtitles. I was following OK until the big secret was revealed, which unfortunately I couldn't get... I had to google it later!

dimanche 15 avril 2007

still sniffly

I spent much of the weekend sneezing and sniffling, and generally took it easy.

I did go see a movie on Friday. There was a Sandra Bullock movie playing, and I vaguely knew she was in some thriller that is out right now, so I thought, "Ah yes, I'll just put the ol' brain on cruise control and go see a Sandra Bullock movie." But it turned out to be a completely different movie than the one I thought-- it turned out to be the second movie about Truman Capote and the writing of 'In Cold Blood.' Good heavens! It was intense too. At the end, there he is watching the killers be hung to death. Not what I was expecting at all!

Zoe asked me if I wanted to go to Madrid this coming weekend, so we decided to get last minute tickets on Easyjet. Looking forward to it. Hopefully this cold will be gone by then.

vendredi 13 avril 2007

Lazy week

Mark left last weekend. I've had a cold that has waxed and waned since then so I haven't done too much this week other than take it easy. I was feeling better on Easter and went for a walk with some friends. Spring has definitely arrived.

The fleurs are blooming!
And the election posters are blooming as well.

dimanche 8 avril 2007


On Friday we took the train to Montpellier and then headed down to the decidedly unpretentious beach town of Palavas-Les-Flots. En route we spotted some pink flamingos hanging out in the marshes. Mark had some ice cream.
The boardwalk.


Mark and I headed down to Nîmes on Thursday. It is a town in the Languedoc region, known for Roman ruins, bullfighting, and its 300+ days of sunshine per year.
Look, we're in the Mediterranean!

This symbol, a crocodile chained to a palm tree, was on every manhole cover and signpost in Nîmes. Apparently the town printed (a slightly less stylized version of) it on its own coins centuries ago, so it is the symbol of the city. It is meant to represent Augustus's conquering of Egypt.
Here is the Roman ampitheater, supposedly one of the best preserved ones around.
The inside of the ampitheater, which is now used for bullfighting.
We listened to the audioguide tour, which detailed the gruesome fights between gladiators. When one surrendered, the crowd would shout 'Jugular' to indicate he should be killed. They could also be spared; if the official in charge chose to have him killed he then had to pay a large fee to the school that had trained him. Other entertainments involved wild animals eating prisoners that had been condemned to death. Fun.

Here I am on the steps of the Maison Carrée. After careful consideration, we decided to skip going inside and watching their 3-D movie about gladiators.
Here is the Temple de Diane. It is in the elegant Fountain Gardens, where we wandered around.
The sign outside the Temple.
Here is a fountain in the Fountain Gardens.
On a hilltop in the Fountain Gardens is the Tour Magne, where they used to post sentries to watch for marauding armies. We hiked up the hill and hauled ourselves up to the top of the tower, and while we didn't see any bands of Celts coming, we did have nice views of the city.

mercredi 4 avril 2007

Bienvenue, Mark!

Mark arrived on Saturday. Sorry Leah, he is my first visitor from Alabama! Alabama by way of Philly, anyway.
We have been keeping busy, eating out and going for drinks and generally seeing the town. We walked around the city on Sunday and I saw some sights that were new for me-- Mark's Rhone-Alpes guidebook is quite thorough. I learned that the Cathedral St Jean has a lot of statues that the Protestants knocked the heads off of, back in the day. Those naughty Protestants! And it has a medieval clock that I hadn't noticed before which toots on the hour and a little statue of Jesus sticks his head out and waves. Also, the figurines dance and the rooster on top waves its' wings.Here is a worm's eye view of the Fourviere Cathedral.

Here I am on my stairs. All my visitors are amazed by the stairs. They are pretty steep, I have to admit.
Mark's guidebook also knows about a long traboule in my neighborhood which connects 4 houses. A traboule is a passageway that goes through the old buildings in Lyon, often connecting 2 streets. They were originally built to provide walkways to carry the silk around while keeping it out of the rain, but I believe were later used for more nefarious purposes, and supposedly used during the Resistance. Here is a traboule. They often open up into courtyards that are on the inside of buildings.