Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not a bad view

This is the view I expect to see a lot of over the next week (the mountains are the Apuan Alps, a longtime source of Italian marble used by Romans, Michelangelo, and many more). The weeks of work in Paris andFlorence are over and we, after some map fiascos and some interesting roadside encounters (more on that later) have finally relocated ourselves to a Tuscany beach town along the Mediterannean sea. Sadly, the cute villa we rented isn't walking distance to the beach but KT can handle the short drive there without hitting too many Italians on motocyles. We got in late Saturday and took a quick look at the private beach club in which we have an umbrella, chairs and lounger reserved--the folks running it were very nice and we can't wait to do nothing for at least a few days (if not the whole wee). Maybe today we'll actually take a picture of the sea. Or just read in the shade til we fall asleep!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Making the Most of Telecommuting

Hi from Paris! Why are we here? Why not! A colleague graciously offered us his place while he's on vacation. (Funny enough, they're in England -- but not at our house. But there are other people staying at our house. Nevermind. Long story.) We had planned to take a vacation the last week in August and the first week of September, but this was a bit earlier than we planned.

So, we've brought the office with us! Both of us have our laptops with us, and so far we've both put in (mostly) full workdays, with JT working from the desk in the bedroom and KT from the dining room table. We even have a rabbit to take care of, who is, as I type, hopping round the living room carpet. (He seems to be afraid of the hardwood floor, so it's like he's in a 4' x 6' playpen.) We've been to two of the big weekly outdoor French markets, eaten untold numbers of baguettes, walked along the Seine, had a crepe, and embarrassed ourselves speaking French. The pressure was really off when, on the trainride here, I pulled out my "Top 10 Paris" book and realized we've already seen 8 of the 10 things, and don't really care about the other 2. So, nothing to do but enjoy the fact that we can telecommute from anywhere. And, nothing to do but eat cheese.

(To be explained later.... Also, here are photos so far, with no captions yet, so use your imagination. The rabbit is the pet, not dinner.)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Are we there yet?

As KT noted in an earlier post, we recently did the London-Cambridge bike ride. I was in surprisingly decent shape the next day but became much sorer the days after--likely due to sitting around the office. The ride was probably the hardest physical challenge I've undertaken, although playing a summer soccer game in DC's 100 degree, 100% humidity exhausted me and left me delirious in a much shorter time. In case you're interested, some kind person charted the course on a biking site--I've embedded a version of the map below, but if you look at the original map you can also chart the elevation (click the tab for "Show" and pick "elevation profile"). First, the map makes clear the 50 mile ride we expected, which became a 55 mile ride, was actually 58 mile. Throw in the rides to train stations, starting line: 60! And as the elevation chart makes clear, it wasn't flat. We steadily rose throughout the first half of the route, eventually ending up almost 400 feet above the starting elevation. Not much of a climb for Tour de France riders, but enough to get us walking up a few of the steeper hills.

The day was sunny and hot for England--low 80s--so that added to the challenge. I must admit, there were several points where I didn't think we would finish the ride. We stopped at all the rest stops, many of which were located at pubs, and made sure to drink enough liquids--water, not beer! Okay, we actually did stop for lunch about halfway at a pub and perhaps had a pint. Yea, that's the reason we took so long to finish--not because I was so slow!

We fortunately had no flats or major mishaps, though others did. One woman took a tumble off her bike trying to avoid a car towing a boat. We helped clean up her scrapes and calm her down. She soon sped ahead us and likely beat us by hours to the finish line. Another woman cracked her old bike's frame in half straining up a hill--she too finished before us, but because she hitched a ride on the race marshall's van.

Toward the end, we clustered with a small group of similarly slow riders. At the last pub stop, we talked to some of them and learned one was a microbiologist at a nearby lab. She was excited to get our cards. One can't avoid science in Cambridge.

As we entered downtown Cambridge, one of my legs started to cramp up. I had the agonizing thought that I would have to stop mere yards from the finish line. But I couldn't allow that to happen, could I? Of course not.

KT has put together a photoalbum of the ride, including my favorite picture of the guys who did the bike ride in pink tutus:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Here Come the Girls

KT will fill you in more on the rain-soaked but fun-filled 4-day Cambridge Folk Festival she attended but one highlight from Saturday, the day I attended, was hearing New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. The producer-singer-songwriter is in the rock-and-roll hall of fame and puts on a great show (Here's a NPR story on him and an interesting bio from his label). He might be best know for writing "Working in the Coalmine", which he sang at the show, but his latest claim to fame is that he's the writer for song that Boots, a UK pharmacy company, used to sell makeup in a TV commercial. The ad was fueled by a catchy song, "Here Come the Girls", that subsequently shot up the British charts, which is amusing since the song barely made a ripple when Ernie K-Doe released it in the 1940s. A New Orleans paper tells the tale of how the song was resurrected, years after his death. Sadly, Toussaint did not sing the belated hit (perhaps because he doesn't own the rights?). --jt

Here's the Boots ad:

And here's the full Ernie K Doe version: