Monday, March 5, 2012
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Went to church this morning, and as usual at church here, I was distracted, wishing I were still at home, and not 100% into the service. In fact, the only reason I went was because it was my turn to count/record the money from the collection plate. I figured as it was the 1st Sunday of the new year, I’d go to the service (often when I have to count, I just skip the service and show up just before the closing hymn).
I know that the ACP is no Old South Church (in Boston) ... there, I always leave the service uplifted, happy, bursting at the seams - wanting to tell whoever I see for brunch after, or talk on the phone, about the service / message / music / joy / fellowship. I very rarely get that feeling at the ACP, and I try, I really do. Obviously I either (a) do not try hard enough ; (b) am trying too much, and thus miss something ; (c) need to go to the American Cathedral instead.
Anyway, here are the bright points in what was otherwise a long 90 minute service (25 min sermon) today at the ACP (in a week or so, you can read/listen to the sermon here) :
1/One of my all-time top favorite hymns was the closing hymn, “Here I Am Lord.” I love love love this hymn - the words, the melody, and the peace it gives me. This is on my list of “funeral songs” for whenever that time comes for me and if a traditional funeral service is held for me. Listen here, and watch a UCC video! (this version is a bit slower than I prefer, but you get the drift.)
2/Sermon : was titled “A Genuinely New Year.” Two of Pastor Laurie’s thoughts in the beginning were good, and definitely food for thought for the week --
-->Are you making new year’s resolutions/commitments/promises, or are you just rearranging all the old things from 2010?
-->‘We cannot reclaim what time and decay have usurped.’
3/Sermon : focus was that we should not create new year’s resolutions, in that we cannot create anything new (i.e. something cannot be both ‘new and improved’), instead, we should have New Covenant Resolutions, and use these three :
3.1/Begin with God : It is not about you, about what you will do, or how you will be.
--nothing you can do will make anything new
--for example, if your resolution is ‘to spend more time at home with family’, your New Covenant Resolution’ would be ‘to get involved in the spiritual [or other type] growth of my family’
--or, for example, if your resolution is to ‘loose weight’, then your New Covenant Resolution is along the lines of sharing more and knowing that God provided yesterday, and today, and therefore God will provide tomorrow, so don’t be gluttonous today.
3.2/Know God : Get over your delusional ideas about God and get to know God through Jesus.
--Christianity is not true/false, but a relationship
--for example, when you ask someone to marry you, you don’t expect a response of ‘true’, but rather ‘yes’. The ‘yes’ implies a relationship, a commitment, a future of growth/struggle/searching that is entered into together. So it is with religion. Faith is not a true/false endeavor, but rather one that is a future of growth/struggle/searching that is entered into together, between you and God.
3.3/Live Forgiving : Get over your own failures and the failures of others.
--nothing [good] ever comes from holding grudges, it only comes from forgiveness
--God entrusts the ministry, the task, of reconciliation to us
So, I'm not sure what I'm doing this year ... resolutions or covenants (or nothing). For NY resolutions (which I never keep), Lenten sojourns, or other times of commitment, I try to focus on one thing from each category : Healthy, Wealth, and Wise, for from Heart, Mind, Body and Soul. I haven't thought/committed to anything for 2011 yet, and based upon this sermon, I think I need to refocus! Hopefully by the end of January I'll have it figured out.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
What I realised is that I (a) am becoming a hoarder ; (b) cannot leave my apartment for way more than 2 years ; (c) have amnesia when in US and shopping at Kroger’s which then induces ; (d) panic buying.
What does a single woman need with 800 Q-Tips? Or about 200 each Advil and Tylenol? Or 4 toothbrushes? Or 325 calcium pills? Or 2 giant (aka US sized) bottles of bath soap, not counting what Marissa just gave me)?
Granted, I do feel that the 1 extra deodorant and 1 extra tube of toothpaste are not enough. And even right now in my mind I’m thinking that having 3 jars of peanut butter is ‘risky’ and I should buy 1 or 2 more, and same goes for having ‘only’ 180 multi-vitamins left. Cripes! Sure, some of the panic buying is because I fear the next time I’ll be back in familiar shopping land (Cincinnati) will be Christmas 2011, so I have to “make it through” the year, but still.
I don’t think I need a glass of wine, I need to be hit over the head with the bottle!!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Today was a “boring” day in that it consisted of running errands, cleaning, and dinner with friends/coworkers (the same 2-3 I always socialise with). Well, “boring” is not the right word - perhaps “usual” or “not-forecasted-to-be-eventful.”
Well, my shopping excursion took me to BHV (where else), for which I followed my usual BHV routine : (1) wake up way earlier than I would like to on a Saturday ; (2) bus 69 to Hotel de Ville ; (3) treat myself to Starbucks ; (4) be standing outside the doors just before 9:30, waiting for BHV to open.
As for point (4), I realise this is as close as I will ever come to the excitement one must feel when waiting for a store to open on “Black Friday.”
As for the shopping .... (a) I wanted to buy sheets for the guest bed I finally bought. Granted, I don’t have any visitors forecasted until the last week of March, and that’s still tentative ; but, I want to be prepared. I’m still in shock, and still doing the math in my head ... how can a top sheet, or a fitted sheet, be 70-100 Euros???? NOT the set, no pillow cases included. Even with the sales of 20-40% off, it was still ludicrous. (Remember, you have to multiply the Euro amount by about 1.35 to get the USD amount!) For that price, they should come with a special service where someone comes and makes your bed every day and washes/irons/folds the sheets. Bed Bath & Beyond, here I come in December!
(b) I am always amused in the bathroom fixture section, where they have all the sets of matching toothbrush holders, soap holders, cups, etc., there is also a section with some nice, shiny, gold and/or silver trash bins and such. But 493 Euros for a trash bin????? That had better be gold, and it had better come with someone who empties it, or better yet, who sits there with their hands over it so that no trash touches the bin. (And, just around the corner from this craziness is the magnifying mirror section ... prices from 50-200 Euros. For.A.Magnifying.Mirror. No joke.)
(c) I wanted to get box cutters because of all the boxes from IKEA from my recent purchases. Previously I had used one of my Swiss Army knives, but that kills the blade I think, and isn’t as easy. Yes, I know, I should never utter the phrase “I bought box cutters and will use them”, but I did and I did. But does there really need to be this many choices?? (sorry it's sideways!)
(d) One of the whole points of my trip was to get a lightbulb to replace the one that went out in the ceiling (recessed bulb (is “recessed” the correct word here?). Anyway. I had taken the bulb in to work two weeks ago thinking I would go to the hardware-esque store (Castorama) in La Defense at lunch or after work. Nope, not yet. Of course, I left the light bulb at work, and light bulbs are so different here (shape, size, plug base, etc.), that you really have to have it before you buy. And, also, because there is no way, if I bought the wrong one, that I would do this whole routine next Saturday morning!
On the way home, I stopped on Rue de Bac at the store Au Nom de la Rose to get another rose scented candle. I had received one from a coworker/friend for my birthday and I loved it (and I usually hate all frilly smelling things like that). But when I went to get back on the bus, the “next bus arrives in” board said 30 minutes. So I walked a few blocks to catch another bus.
I was standing behind Le Bon Marche and saw :
1/a Bentley drive by
2/a car leave a parking space directly across from me, and then a Smart Car came up, drove in front of the space to back in and parallel park. It took the Smart Car driver about 3 adjustments to get in the space. Granted, this space was so big that both in front of and behind the car, two people could stand side-by-side and not touch the bumper of the Smart Car or the car in front / behind.
3/a Ferrari drive by
4/a car with California license plates drive by
After I deposited my purchases at home, I met Sybil and we went to Rue Cherche Midi to the consignment ships, Chercheminippes. Cheap DVDs, French books, random jewelry, handbags, clothes, shoes, accessories, sheets, towels, furniture, etc. Sybil said the merchandise changes daily so one never knows what one will find! I bought a few DVDs ... now, if I could just find the time to watch them!!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The series is “A Night at the Movies”, but ‘series’ isn’t the right word. Last year (Sept-June) it met monthly ; this year just Sept and May. It is led by Judith Merians. The focus is supposed to be : “How does story telling in words differ creatively from story telling in films? A Night at the Movies will compare excerpts from books and plays with scenes from the film versions of the literary works. Once a month scenes from a different and popular book/play and its film version will be featured and each selection will exemplify a different aspect of filmic story telling. Discover why films require their own creative conventions and how filmmakers employ visual and aural techniques to enhance and deepen the tale with as few words as possible. And to add to the enjoyment get the scoop on some of the behind-the-scenes history of the evening's film.”
Back in June, the movie was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the subject was “How do you make an unlikable character likable: the art of casting & the right actors.” This month’s focus was To Kill a Mockingbird and the lecture on “what makes a movie a classic, a universal theme embodied in the perfect cast with the deft director's touch”.
Sounds great, eh? Well, to be Megative (as usual) ....
Things I found off-putting about the lecture:
--she started off by asking “what makes a book/movie/story a ‘classic’.” That question just bugs me – in one way it’s so subjective, but in other ways it’s obvious that the answer is because the story resonates through the ages, it has a moral lesson, it’s a good story, and some of it is just due to marketing. (Or, as my friend Howard recently posted, it’s a movie that has at least two women, who talk to each other, not about men.)
--much of the information Ms. Merians presented is easily found on IMDB.
--Ms. Merians, and others in the audience, were commenting like the movie was the good story, and that the movie was the classic, and on-and-on about the movie ... but it is Harper Lee’s story. Her novel was first. Her novel won the Pulitzer and is required reading for most all school children.
--I was hoping for more of a discussion / lecture on the differences between the book and the movie, about how one turns a book into a movie and what might be sacrificed but what could also be improved. This was more a lecture of the movie itself with Ms. Merians reading the “IMDB fun facts” and basically having the movie fast-forwarding next to her and giving a synopsis of the plot, with a few points thrown in about lighting or facial expressions.
Things I liked about the lecture :
--pointing out that the movie doesn’t have big action scenes, no love scenes, no close-ups of “faces in anguish” but that it has so much inherent action, angst, relationships, etc.
--Boo Radley only appears at the end, and he doesn’t even speak (Robert Duvall in his first movie appearance)
--seeing bits of the movie again, and being reminded of the story – it truly is a classic, and one I must reread!
The library itself :
Con : very, very, extremely, unassuming facade
Pro : but HUGE inside! Two floors even. I didn’t explore the whole thing
Con : you have to join (100€/year for an individual, non discounted)
Pro : events such as the one I attended are free, no membership required
Pro : has several book groups that each have amazing reading lists
Con : all book groups meet during the day
Con : you have to be a member of the library to be in one of the book groups
Pro : website is very well done, with lots of information, including a history with inspiring vignettes and a who’s who of Americans-in-Paris literary geniuses
The library has many great events. I’ll try to get to a few more this season. Will keep you posted.
There are so many great, interesting, tidbits about To Kill a Mockingbird on IMDB, but it was this quotation from Brock Peters (who played Tom Robinson, the man accused of rape in the movie) that has stuck with me all day. (Mr. Peters said this while giving the eulogy at Gregory Peck’s funeral (most of the cast members stayed friends for life)) :
"In art there is compassion," said Peters, "in compassion there is humanity, with humanity there is generosity and love. Gregory Peck gave us these attributes in full measure."
But couldn’t the AP have found someone better to interview??? There are no ‘woods’ around the Eiffel (clumps of trees / park, yes. Woods, no.) And that scene with her holding the bag of cookies or chips? Oy vay. And she’s complaining because the police were forceful about everyone leaving? Umm.... if someone calls in a credible threat, I do NOT want the police holding a Q&A session, asking for my opinion and group consensus before we all sing Kum Bah Ya while skipping down the stairs! It’s clips like this that make me consider staying in France for a long time, and make me shudder when I think of the phrase “a jury of your peers.”
And I think many expect there to be more threats, especially considering the recent decisions made by Sarkozy and the government.
For a “crazy Megan random thought “, I started thinking that if somehow the structure of the Eiffel were compromised, could it topple over? And could it topple on top of me (physics wise, is it possible based upon where the legs/bases of the tower are)?
Friday, September 24, 2010
*my comments to the original text are in green
1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong. *LOL, so true!!!
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font. *AMEN!
5. How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? * I finally figured this out about 6 months ago
6. Was learning cursive really necessary? * I hear some schools are no longer teaching cursive!
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day. *Hits me about 14:30 – 15:30, then a burst of productivity comes at 17:15
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again. *Is Blue Ray really going to over take DVD completely? And is it by Zones too? (can I buy Blue Ray here and will it work in US?)
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
*Just happened to me yesterday morning! I stop after 2.
20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is. *All the time I do this
23. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
How is it that my work laptop can be plugged in all day and yet only have 95% power – shouldn’t it be 100%?
Before moving to our new office building, we were able to take a tour of a sample floor and vote on office furniture samples. In this tour, it was said that we would not have trash bins and that instead, we would have to take our trash to common trash bins in the copy rooms – thus, reducing the amount of trash and the cost of removing it. Fine. I’m all for saving the environment and reducing costs. But, when we moved in to the building, low and behold, we had trash bins. Yippee!! They were smaller than the old office and not emptied every day, so I figure a compromise was made (or unions chimed in). Then, after 2-3 months, one day our individual bins were gone. Poof. Magic. Instead, we have this little brown bag (imagine 1/3 the size of the brown lunch bag you carried to school) in this plastic thing that hooks on to the half partitions between desks. Of course, the desk is deep enough and the partition far enough away that my arm cannot reach. And the bag is ludicrously small. So, instead, I just bring in small brown bags (like the ones from Starbucks) and use that all week. Fine. We’ve adapted. We all have less trash. But now I really do not understand this ... two weeks ago someone started coming by to empty the brown bag in the little plastic thing and replace it with a new little brown bag. And the person came again last week. So doesn’t that defeat some of the purpose of cost savings?
Two weeks ago, we got an email to indicate which 2011 calendar/planner we wanted – and we had to have our choice submitted by 10 September. Cripes. Then again, I’ve already planned my Christmas holidays, so 2011 isn’t that far off.
You know it’s not good when the building maintenance guy bugs out his eyes, scratches his chin, and says ‘wow’. (When looking at a cracked tile under the cheap carpeting on the floor of our new (new in 2009) building.)
Why is the cleaning guy trying to figure out why the copy machine has a blinking red light? This is the same cleaning guy who completely disorganizes your desk when ‘cleaning’ it – meaning he beats the dust rag on top of all your stuff, picks up papers and ‘shakes’ the dust off (usually shaking out papers), moving around your keyboard etc. ! And this is the same guy who using the same swatting technique when cleaning the tables in the conference rooms, thus hitting the telephone buttons and turning them on so then you hear music on hold after a while.
And speaking of conference rooms and cost savings ... in our brand.new.building, we still have flip charts in the conference rooms. Yes, the giant tableau of paper. No white board. No smart white board. And the video conference rooms are set up so the screen is at the ‘head of the table’ – so everyone sitting at the table is facing each other, but not the screen. But, to face the screen, and thus the participants in another location, you have to turn and then you really cannot write notes on your paper on the table. I think this is a result of one of the two companies pre-merger (not mine) who was government-run, France focused, and didn’t even have conference call capable phones in the old building, let alone video!
Oh, and last point, speaking of conference rooms ... I asked a PA to arrange a series of meetings for us to discuss current operations, finance, etc. The meeting attendees number about 20, but I expect 10-15 to show up. The PA replied to my email asking if I would need meeting rooms reserved for the meetings. Seriously? Isn’t that a given, or am I just expecting too much?
So much for eating outside and enjoying the summer ... I did a few weeks ago with a friend/colleague and a friend of hers who was in town on a one-day layover. Great dinner, great view (Eiffel), great conversation. Horrible because 1-2 days later I realised that the French-super-mosquito-noseeum-bug-things attacked me. At least 7 bites on my right leg and 2 on my left. They not only itched, they hurt.
I had several work colleagues over to my place for an end-of-summer party (or Rentree, for ‘re-entry’ into the city). As the French love fruit for dessert (pineapple and melons), I decided to buy some. And I was yet again amazed at people in the grocery smelling, squeezing, examining them. Like they really have any idea?
Ok, back to Starbucks ... I’ve now decided to ‘boycott’ it for 3 reasons (1) cost ... paying 4.50€ for a grande chai latte is not the best use of my money (2) calories ... not the best for health (3) rudeness ... on two occasions in August I was at the door about 7:45 or 8, and even though it opens at 7:30, it was still closed. Last week I went at 8 and a worker was setting up the chairs outside and the doors were open and so I start to walk in. The woman stops me saying (all French) the store isn’t open yet. I look at her with a confused/are-you-kidding-me look, and reply (in French) that it is 8 and the store opens at 7:30. She says, yes, but she is the only person there .... seriously??? And there is a new woman working there who is rude (too long/petty to write, but just know that I don’t enjoy being told ‘Non!’ with a finger shake before 8 a.m. when I’m there paying an exorbitant amount for a tea). Oh, and a carry-over annoyance of Starbucks from (1) Boston : the store on State Street opened at 6:30 but across the street Au Bon Pain was open at 6, Dunkin Donuts at the next corner was 5:30 or 6, and the independent coffee shop in Faneuil Hall was 6. Seriously? Starbucks couldn’t open at 6? Nothing worse than getting there at 6:20 and wanting Starbucks they are closed ... at least the rest of the competition was open! And (2) Cincinnati : now, I’m thrilled there are Starbucks’ on the west side of town, but certainly they could’ve hired people with better math skills?
I know I’m definitely going to miss the food here when I leave in 2 years. And already I find it easier to read a menu in French instead of English. I’ll know intuitively what something is in French, but when you ask me the equivalent in English, I blank – but it just makes sense to me in French, and the choices all sound more appetizing!
And, I know I’ve been here too long because I was out with my new friend and her husband, and another American couple who just moved over, and they couldn’t fathom eating a cheeseburger with a knife and fork. Well, I can. In fact, I think eating one w/o a knife and fork, when in France, is disgusting. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in the US, I’m eating with my hands and making a mess, but here, that just seems so uncivilised, whereas in the US a knife & fork is too pretentious. Random.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Portfolio Management (Valuation & Risk Management)
--optimize the value of the supply chain and assets (portfolio) by monitoring the business portfolio and commercial environment
--increase financial margin while reducing costs and risks
--ensure that commodity and foreign exchange risks are measured and managed in a portfolio context
--provide deal and project valuation services in a portfolio context
--ensure Portfolio’s models, tools, and processes evolve as needed
--provide annual budget forecasts for the supply chain (operational business), monthly updates, and explanations of variances in budgeted figures versus actual results
Business Control (Finance, Accounting and Risk Control teams)
Finance & Accounting
--management control (budget, medium term plan)
--performance monitoring (results and cash flow)
--financial and fiscal monitoring of commitments (acquisitions, disposals, reorganisations, investments, guarantees)
--validate transactions to ensure economic & market risks are captured accurately and are in compliance with Risk Policy
--monitor and perform control actions on the commodity and currency risks ; report exceptions and troubleshoot and repair immediately
--document all financial deals and prepare reports as required by IAS and IFRS
--follow internal control procedures to ensure proper documentation and information accuracy on transaction modelling, trade capture and deal maintenance. Create, modify, and standardise controls (processes & procedures) as needed
--audit and control inputs into and calculation methodologies within the business unit
Ok, maybe that’s not so clear? Or, it is clear from a conceptual view, but I don’t think it’s clear what I’m giving up and what I’m taking on. Basically, I no longer do the calculation of the hedge requirements or deal transactions. Instead, I validate the calculations once they are done to make sure accurate & consistent assumptions were used, that a calculation was actually done, and that the deal does not add risk to the group. I’ve basically moved from the “Front Office” to the “Middle Office”. Not really a “creator” but a “monitorer”. And, I know, that doesn’t sound interesting ; and, it sounds more bureaucratic. But, it is a much better fit for me. When I first started in Portfolio with the company 6 years ago, it was a great fit. Now, it’s more technical and high-strung than I prefer.
Also, I put “officially” in quotes because I technically made the change effective July 1, but due to my being on holiday, and other co-workers (including my new boss) being on holiday, I was still doing my old job functions until last week. Well, I’m still doing some, to be honest. And, well, ok, the major reason I am now in my new job function is because I finally changed desks.
And what does changing desks entail ...
It seems it means you ask your assistant to make the request to ‘the people’ in the building and your request sits there a week or two or three and finally you get so fed up you bring in your own screwdriver to remove the “security” lock on your laptop, and you move yourself.
I used to have a ‘room with a view’ – a gorgeous view of Paris/Montmartre, the clouds, sun, etc. Now, I have a hotel. My new area is much quieter, but also darker. The lights are on a sensor, so they often go out. And you can sit in your chair and wave your arms like a goof, but that doesn’t activate the lights. In my old space that was fine because there was all sunlight. I’m not even thinking about how dark it’ll be when winter comes.
I was sitting in an area that was much noisier / active (stands to reason as it operations & trading) and in closest proximity to 3 French men & a Belgian. So it was 90% French all the time, and I found that as every day passed, I was less a part of the group than the day before. (Sure, I didn’t make much effort to stop that from happening ; I think such effort would’ve been futile.) But, I didn’t mind their talking – conversations were business focused, to the point, and short.
Now, I’m in a super quiet part of the floor, in one of the corners, so people don’t really walk by. It’ll be quiet, which I like, but then when people do talk it seems intrusive rather than a part of business. The two women behind me seem to like to talk, and they think they’re being helpful by whispering, but it makes it worse! Instead of blocking out regular talking, all I hear is the high pitch frequency that accompanies a whisper. Nails on a chalkboard. I’m hoping that when the other 2 people in the desk area return from holiday next week that the whispering will stop.
The other point of contention will be the air conditioning. The two women don’t like it because it makes noise. But when we turn it off (each area of 4-8 desks has a remote to control the a/c, lights, window blinds), it gets warm and stuffy. However, most French seem to be cold all the time (e.g. when temperatures dropped from upper 80s into upper 60s two weeks ago, scarves, sweaters, turtlenecks, etc. were making appearances).
This should be interesting. But, I’d better learn to adapt as this is my space for 28 more months!
My new space
Monday, August 23, 2010
In my mind, I have grand plans of leading an organised life in which I : blog frequently ; organise and post all my pictures ; am caught up at work ; am caught up in emails ; send birthday cards before your birthday, instead of mailing it a few days after ; have time during the week to go the gym ; have time/energy during the week to actually cook instead of heating prepared meals or just having crackers & cheese or cereal for dinner ; have time to do jigsaw puzzles (which implies having the time to file/sort/toss all the papers covering my dining table which prevents me from doing any puzzles) ; you get the idea ....
I kind of feel like life is snowballing forward and I have no time to catch up with it, or that I’m trapped inside the snowball and I can’t grab hold of a branch to slow it down. And then what makes me feel even worse is that there are people (most of you) who are way busier than I am, with way more commitments (spouses, houses, children, families, volunteering, etc) and who are way more productive and organised than I am. What is your secret?
In my defense, there are two big reasons for my lack of posting : (1) internet (2) travel.
#1 Internet : Since April, my internet has been loopy at home. I’d say it works about 25% of the time, and not reliably when it is working. I know, I know. I need to call to have it fixed (well, have a co-worker call as my French is not good enough to deal with someone in a call center). So having little to no internet makes it a bit difficult to post a blog, and much more difficult to post pictures.
#2 Travel : I’ve been travelling a lot, so much so that in April through July this year I was away 3 out of 4 weekends every month. I had great fun on all these trips, but that meant my time in Paris during the week was super hectic trying to cram in all personal chores into Mon-Thurs after work. Sorry, but laundry took precedence over blogging.
To recap a year of travel, and much of what I hope to blog about ......
August 2009 @ Belfast
September 2009 @ London : Saturday day trip to tour Houses of Parliament
September 2009 @ Boston / Maine / Cincinnati for 1.5 weeks / 2 weekends
October 2009 @ Mont Saint Michel
October 2009 @ Bordeaux
October 2009 @ London for NFL game (Patriots v/s Tampa)
November 2009 @ Friends visit for 4 days
November 2009 @ London for 2 days work
December 2009 @ Cincinnati for 11 days / 2 weekends
January 2010 @ Marrakech for 4-day weekend
February 2010 @ London for 3 days work
February 2010 @ Rome – supposed to go for a weekend, but that’s another post
March 2010 @ London for 3 days work
March 2010 @ Friends of friends visiting for a week
April 2010 @ Easter : bells at church Saturday & 2 Sundays
April 2010 @ Cincinnati for 8 days / 1 weekend
May 2010 @ Netherlands
May 2010 @ Marseille
May 2010 @ Houston : work for a week
May 2010 @ Cincinnati : 1 week / 2 weekends
June 2010 @ Normandy
June 2010 @ Reims
June 2010 @ Florence
July 2010 @ Canada : 2 weeks / 3 weekends
July 2010 @ Friends visiting for 4 days
July 2010 @ Vienna
And now, August 2010, I’m finally in Paris and I have no trips planned until October for NFL UK (Denver & SF) and November to Jordan.
(Yes, I do know where I was every day of the year – if you had to complete taxes for 3 countries, you too would be able to verify your whereabouts whenever asked. Taxes ... now there’s a whole new post ...)
Friday, March 26, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Two Fridays ago I went to listen to a speaker that was sponsored by Leaders, Life and Purpose (I went to an event sponsored by LLP back in October). The main draw of the speech was that it was being held at the US Ambassador’s residence - of course I wanted to see the inside!
The lesser draw was that I have been craving ‘deep, meaningful’ conversation that is NOT about work. I had such a great community in Boston through church, friends, and other social organisations, that I was never lacking for challenging thought, questioning beliefs, and social interaction outside the office. Paris is a different story. I basically live work 100% as my social network consists of only a few colleagues and bell choir rehearsal two hours per week.
The speech Failure in Success? Success in Failure? that was being given by Jonathan Aitken seemed like a good way to have a bit of a life outside the office, even if the title didn’t really ‘capture’ me. But this line in the invitation email did : ‘... with glimpses from his own colorful career as a U.K. Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament, and ex-prisoner and his experience rebuilding a life after prison, bankruptcy, and divorce.’
As we sat down to the dining table that comfortably fit 30, having a light breakfast, Aitken began his remarks. At first I thought I’d be able to remember the 2-3 points that struck me, soon I had pen and paper out writing down all sorts of things and have been thinking about all he said since then.
Such as :
--CS Lewis said Pride is the greatest sin ; Aitken agrees. ... So then I started thinking about pride, if I have it, who else has it, what I think of it, etc. I have no answers yet, but welcome discussion.
--and that pride is not the same thing as ambition, being driven or having energy
--Denial : Aitken said people do not want to admit they are the cause of their own, or other peoples, problems. That a parent will admit the faults of the children are all due to society, or their children, and not recognising that they could be part of the problem ; and in opposite that parents will not admit their own problems, instead blaming society, unruly children, the economy, etc. ... This is more difficult because it means turning the pointing finger of blame back to myself, and helping others do the same.
--Being rooted : He asked what our roots are, what roots us, in terms of values. ...I have started to think, well what is a list of values? Which do I think are most important? Which do I have and are these different from those I want to have? This has been an interesting inner discussion as I realised I couldn’t name what values I cherish most. More posts to come on this as I discover my answers. Again, welcome discussion.
--Failure : he said he likes to ask people what is their greatest failure. ... And in my first internal reaction, I first thought of things work related. Then I was shocked as I realised I did not first think of a failure I had done to myself on a personal level ; nor how I may have failed my family, my friends, my faith, or society.
--’Pluses of pain’ : when he said this, I really liked it. ... Because so many of us wallow in our own self-pity whenever something goes wrong, and we rarely take the time to look at what good can come from it. And then it made me think about the title of the speech again : Failure in Success? Success in Failure? And how both of these statements can be true - if only we took the time to realise it. And that some success is just like a Pyrrhic Victory.
--He mentioned that one way to get closer to one’s faith, or if not faith, then personal growth, is through small groups - that the personal touch of these, the implied accountability, are important. ... So I’ve begun to search out a small group or two that I can join (book club, social event, etc.) Will keep you posted!
--Other things he mentioned, which I want to check out are : Psalms 130, 51 and 131 (during his time in jail, he devoured all he could on the Psalms and then went into Seminary and focused on them) and the Tom Houston book Public and Private Morality.
--His anecdotes of his time in prison were great - murderers and thieves, and him there on perjury. But that how he learned so much from these men, and they from him. And how a small group prayer/faith study formed almost accidentally. How all this shaped and changed him. It was great in contrast to Jeffrey Archer - another famous UK man who spent time in jail. Archer and Aitken were acquaintances and met after both were released from prison. Archer told Aitken that he learned nothing in jail, indignant that anyone could think he was guilty. ... Hmph!
--In the Q&A portion, one man said he had a similar ‘change in heart’ as Aitken had when he himself was in his 50s/60s, when he asked himself : ‘who will I be when I’m no longer driven by my insecurities and fear, and the need to please other people, and the need for recognition?’ ... Um, ok, wow. Lots to think about there - and I’m hoping my answers to this will come from my self-discovery on my own values.
What was refreshing was that Aitken went to jail at age 57 and then changed his entire outlook on life as a result. Now he uses his time and talents fighting for prison reform and social justice, advocating faith, and enabling positive change. So if he can change at 57, it’s not too late for any of us!
Looking back, this was exactly the type of thing I’ve been craving. Discussion on faith, values, business and politics. And Aitken is certainly good at speaking, quoting scripture, Shakespeare, Kissinger, CS Lewis, etc. A mental workout definitely.
I am glad I did not do research on Jonathan Aitken before going to hear him speak. I think if I had, I would not have respected him as much, or perhaps not listened with an open mind. The articles and his story/actions paint a pretty bleak picture of him. And I realise this is a failing on my part - that I likely would have pre-judged him, despite all the amazing work he has done since. If you do want to know more about him, you can find various articles on The Guardian’s website, or BBC, and of course Wikipedia.
Oh, and the Ambassador’s residence? WOW. The 2 rooms we saw were fantastic. Amazing artwork. The curtains were fabulous. The tassels holding them back were amazing works of art themselves. Originally built for a baroness in the mid 1800s, it was acquired by a Rothschild in 1876 and then sold to the US Government in 1948.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Previous Values :
Sense of partnership
Respect for the environment
New Values of the combined Group:
Drive / Exigence
Comittment / Engagement
Daring / Audace
Cohesion / Cohésion
These were released 6 months ago and I still cannot help feeling it was a step backwards. Something is definitely lost in translation. Daring? What does that mean? The further definition gives us :
Drive / Exigence : guarantee performance over the long term, for all stakeholders ; efficiency ; innovation. Seriously? You get all of that from ‘drive’?
Commitment / Engagement : development with respect for the planet ; provide essential services for people. Ok, but why not keep it ‘respect for the environment’? From ‘commitment’ I certainly do not think about the trees.
Daring / Audace : live with optimism and build a future with creativity. Huh?
Cohesion / Cohésion : shared spirit of teamwork ; sustainable sources of progress and development. Kind of seems like the catch-all value, the feel good one you have to have even if you don’t define it well.
And then the collateral used for this ... well, that’s an entirely separate story which cracks me up!!! See, the corporate communication group does a great job. But for this, the main image was a group of about 100 people walking in a triangle shape, like an arrow sort of. Of course, on the little postcard we all got, I noticed the details. And the details were that these were stock images! See that guy in the khaki pants and red shirt on the left? Well he’s in khaki pants and a blue shirt on the right! And further back in the same outfit! There are probably at least 10 ‘individuals’ who are repeated – either exactly as is, or just with in different colored shirt or trousers. Unbelievable. So much for creativity. At least originality is not one of the values.
Why do I bring up values that were released 6 months ago? Well, the whole ‘respect for the environment’ thing really gets to me. We’re moving office locations over a span of about 6 weeks (different floors/locations move on different weeks). In preparation there have been bins in the hallways for recycling non-sensitive paper material and other bins for shredding documents. Fine, good.
Well, in these clearly marked ‘paper recycle bins’ there was most definitely :
--non paper stuff
--perfectly good folders, binders, dividers, etc.
In fact, there were so many perfectly good things in the bin that I was doing my own ‘dumpster diving’ and got a nice new stack of office supplies. Several colleagues were trying to stop me, point me to the supply cabinets. So I said somewhat forcefully and in disbelief, ‘but these are perfectly fine! They are like brand new – this is so wasteful to throw all of this away, no respect for the environment. What values?’ And then I’d walk away with my head held high, basking in my saving of the environment one used folder at a time.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
First, updates from my Facebook posts this week :
Last Sunday, Feb 7 : If my BlackBerry had a camera, I could have posted a picture of the 17 blokes, all wearing helmets, in a single file line, in front of the Eiffel Tower, riding Segways.
Last Sunday, Feb 7 : Since the Patriots aren't playing, the Super Bowl doesn't exist for me. The Red Sox report for Spring Training in 10 days. (update - equipment trucks left for Florida!)
Friday, Feb 12 : So happy to be living in a place where it appears that no one cares much about (1) the Olympics ; (2) the We Are the World remake ; and (3) Valentines Day.
Friday, Feb 12 : Happy Birthday Cassie!!
I had yet another thrilling and exciting morning in the life of a single woman in Paris. I bought a vacuum. Since I bought 2 rugs in Marrakech, I figured I needed one. And my 2nd bedroom has carpet, which I have not vacuumed since I moved in, but as consolation I told myself that all I use it for is drying laundry so it couldn’t be that dirty.
Anyway, two weekends ago I looked at vacuums at Darty (electronics store) but there was too much choice, and I was shocked at the prices. So I went to a local store on Rue Cler today, which only sells vacuums, pretended I understood the woman’s French, and picked one. (Note : Rue Cler is one of the best pedestrian/market streets in Paris. Now overrun with tourists thanks to Rick Steves - but, he doesn’t include this vacuum store in his map!)
And, I’m surprisingly happy! The thing really cleans! And, I did some online research after the fact (a trait of mine ... buy something now, see if price decreases later or if better seats available ; or buy something now and then research to see if there was something better). Turns, out, the price I paid is comparable to what is on Amazon, and this little bit of German engineering gets great marks! Whew. I got the Miele S4212, but in the only color available, maroon (of course I would’ve preferred a shade of blue).
Now, I am procrastinating from doing my US taxes, a Health Assessment form, and balancing my bank statements.