Sunday, October 25, 2009

Copenhagen, here we come!

I (Bobby) have received unofficial word that I will be an assistant professor starting in January! That means Carla and I have about 8 weeks left to live in Paris... which is sad considering we were starting to make some real progress in speaking French. We hear Danish is an extremely difficult language to learn, but fortunately my work and teaching will be in English, and nearly all the people there speak English perfectly with American accents (thanks to the numerous US television programs they watch).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nous avons nettoyagé nos dents

Yesterday Carla and I had our first teeth cleaning experience in France. I was able to make the appointment over the phone without any problem a few days in advance. When we arrived I was called into the office and told to sit in the chair. Then the dentist asked what I needed, is there any pain? I said, "It has been one year since my last cleaning and check-up, so it is time!"

He peered into my mouth, turned on a machine, and started drilling! No scraping with miniature stainless steel sickles, but drilling. All around the sensitive soft parts of my teeth. Each time I winced and jerked in the chair he would say, "Pardon!" When he finished three minutes later he told me to spit. There was no blood, or anything else that looked like tartar. I said, "I have never had my teeth cleaned with a drill before!" He said, "No, not a drill. It is ultrasound. They no use in US?" I made a crook with my finger in simulated scraping against my teeth making crunching noises. "Oh no! We have not done that for 10 years!"

So there I remained sitting, ready for the next step in the process. "You need something else?" he asked. "Don't you polish now?" "Yes, I can do that for you." So he took the little rubber nozzle, filled it with pumice and whirred away at five of my front teeth. "Spit," he said. "Yes, anything else?" "Well, yeah, I have this big filling here that I was told two years ago would need to be replaced." He said, "Good filling. It is big, but it is good. No need to replace. Anything else?" "Do I have any cavities?" He took another look and said, "No. Good teeth."

At this point I did not want to over-extend my stay by asking him to inspect my tongue for any unusual spots or lumps, feel the lymph nodes in my neck, or ask if I get a free tooth brush and demonstration of proper brushing technique, so I got up and laughed as Carla passed me for her turn. "Bonne chance!" I said, "Enjoy the drill."

When we finally got our bill, about 10 minutes after walking in, my cleaning cost 5 euros, and Carla's was 28 euros, but will be 8 once we get reimbursed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caitlin est arrivé!

This past long weekend we were graced with the presence of my (Carla's) good friend from UCSB, Caitlin. Caitlin is a fellow flutist. She did her Masters at UCSB while I was an undergrad. She arrived on Wednesday afternoon and was able to get from the airport to our apartment on her own! I had to work all day Wednesday, but Bobby came home early to help Caitlin settle in. They walked to Montmartre together, and made sure to stop at our favorite tea shop, Bonthés. Bobby also showed her our local fruit, vegetable, meat, and cheese vendors. I came home in the evening and we all enjoyed dinner together.

On Thursday, Caitlin and I walked from the apartment to the area around the Opéra. We walked around the Japanese area, where we had some delicious ramen which was a perfect antidote to the 50 degree weather outside. After filling our bellies, we continued walking towards the Les Halles area to do some shopping. One of the best parts about hanging out with Caitlin is that she gives me courage to go into some of the more chic clothing stores that I'm too intimidated to visit on my own. After spending the day walking around, we headed back home. Before having dinner, we played some flute duets together, which was a lot of fun.

On Friday, Caitlin and I headed off to Bobby's lab, even though Bobby was in Copenhagen for his interview. After dropping off our flutes at the lab, we headed to the famous university cantine. We love taking our friends and family to the cantine because it is such good food and is really cheap. Caitlin had a large salad with salmon on it, a fish main dish, and a delicious Nutella crème brûlée (chocolate and hazelnut). I had a green salad, pasta, and a lemon meringue. As expected, Caitlin was amazed at both the quality and the price of the food. It sure is a lot different from American university food! After the cantine, we headed back to Bobby's lab, where we me with fellow flutist and Bob's lab mate Claudia. The three of us played flute trios for over two hours! After our fun flute time, Caitlin and I headed back home, where Caitlin made a delicious pasta for dinner. I love friends that cook!

On Saturday, Caitlin and I took the metro to Notre Dame, where we had a great lunch of French onion soup. We then walked around the Hôtel de Ville, where there was some kind of convention for service dogs. Caitlin, who is a big dog lover, went kind of crazy at the sight of some many cute dogs. We also walked into the Louvre-authorized antique dealers bazaar, located right across the street from the famed museum. We saw some beautiful statues and paintings, a huge harpsichord decorated with pastoral scenes, and some beautiful jewelery. I've never seen so many emeralds in one place! I'll have to remember to take Bobby there one of these days... We continued walking and window shopping all the way to Opéra, where we entered the Printemps department store. We went there in order to buy some Ladurée macaroons, of which I am fairly certain are made in Heaven. We purchase 15 differently-flavored pieces of Heaven, then headed back home to await Bobby's triumphant return.

On Sunday, Bobby made crêpes for Caitlin and me. When Bobby had his interview in Rennes the other week, he purchased some Bretagne caramel. We put some of this caramel on the fresh crêpes, which I now also consider to be made in Heaven. the three of us then headed off to the Musée Marmotton Monet, which has a very large collection of Monet paintings. The museum is located in a lovely old home in the 16th arrondissement, one block away from the infamous Bois de Boulogne. The museum is a bit small, but is ws a very nice collection of impressionistic works. After the museum, Caitlin treated us to dinner, which was very generous of her. We took her to a pasta place a few blocks away from our apartment (if you have stayed with us, you have probably been to the restaurant. We love it!), where we enjoyed a last meal together.

We had a great time with Caitlin and I already miss her. She is our last guest (that we know of) until some my Mother returns in December. Now if Bobby and I could only stay warm in this cold fall weather...


From Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon, I (Bobby) traveled to Copenhagen to interview for my first assistant professorship position! While I was extremely unprepared for the cold weather, I was comfortably confident for my interview on Friday afternoon. My seminar went well, and the following interview was more like a pleasant intellectual discussion than a test. (I don't know when I will hear about their decision, but Carla and I are hoping for the best since I was extremely impressed with their program.)

What is more, I ran into two friends from my Stanford days (1998-1999). Hopefully we will end up teaching and collaborating together until we are very, very old.

After the interview the department took us to have a traditional Danish dinner. The dish above was essentially fried side pork with mustard and potatoes, and some pickled beats.

And here is some roast beef with more potatoes, some cranberry sauce, and pickled pear. Both of these dishes were excellent, and combined with Danish beer the whole experience screamed satisfaction.

My friend Nick Collins --- who we have written about in previous posts during his visit to chez nous --- has his new book coming out very soon. The book cover above contains an image I created from my dissertation research! You can see above the superposition of the Wigner-Ville distributions of the atoms in a sparse approximation of an 80 ms segment of an electronic composition of my previous professor Curtis Roads. Congratulations Nick!

A postscript

Tonight in my (Bobby's) French class the teacher asked us about instances of civilité and incivilité that we have observed in Paris. In general, I have found the Parisiens to be very civil, from men helping women with strollers up and down stairs, and people giving up their seats on the metro to older people.

The teacher looked at me, signaling that it was my turn to tell a story about some civilité or incivilité I have seen. When he puts me on the spot I try to just think as I go instead of waiting until I perfect some French answer. Comme si, comme ça. So I decided to tell the story about how on the Fourteenth of July on a crowded metro after the fireworks, a man threw another man out of the metro to make room for himself. So I said, "J'ai vu une personne prends une autre et lui jets sous le metro!" Everyone gasped, and I said, "Je sais. Ce été fou!" (I know. It was crazy!)

The teacher said (in French), "That is not incivilité, that is ." (Didn't quite get it.) He then told us about an organization that has recently been formed to investigate and deal with such matters. Then he asked me if the man died. I said, "Bien sûr que non! Il été juste jetté sous le metro." (Of course not! He was just thrown ... ) Then I realized I had said that the man was thrown under the metro instead of thrown out of the metro! Everyone breathed a heavy sigh of relief when I corrected this small detail, to which the teacher said, "Attention tout le monde," the teacher said, "les prepositions sont très importantes." (Attention everyone, prepositions are very important.)

Je réponds à mon ami

Here is my (Bobby) third French assignment. Write a thank-you letter to your Belgian friend who invited you to come stay at his place for two weeks, and explain why you cannot come. Then propose an alternative. The mangled Google translate version is here.

Cher Guillaume,

J'écris pour te remercier de ton invitation à venir chez toi en Belgique. C'est très gentil. Malheureusement, je ne peux pas te rendre visite à ce moment. Tu sais que je n'ai plus de pieds depuis l'accident bizarre. Je n'ai trouvé personne pour m'aider à aller en Belgique. Je ne me souviens plus de ce jour, mais ils m'ont dit que je suis un veinard d'être en vie, mais pas bien portant, manifestement. Aussi, je te propose que tu me rendes visite chez moi en France! Ainsi, pendant deux semains, tu vas m'aider à faire des courses, et me doucher, etc. Ce sera super chouette.

A bientôt! Porte_toi bien.

Ta vieille branche sans pieds,

Guy Dudeuxmains

Thursday, October 15, 2009

With rapt attention

On Saturday Carla presented the flute at the American Library in Paris to a roomfull of children, some of whom had brought their little recorders. For an entire hour, she held the attention of every last one of them, playing not only the flute and piccolo, but also discussing the history of the flute from its 30,000 year origins in drilled animal bones, to its modern inception in France in the 19th century, as well as the four major epochs of music (baroque, classical, romantic, and modern), and finally the differences between the musical criticism of Theodore Adorno and Virgil Thompson. The children were hanging on every word, and when it came time for questions there were a lot of them! One kid asked, "What was the last period called again? Modern?" Another asked, "Do you know humming birds don't hum!?" And when it was over one child ran up and said he wanted to take up the flute now with the mother reminding him that he has already gone through four other instruments! Well done Carla!

For my birthday I got a new pair of house shoes! Thanks Dale! I also received a nice care package from Sharon with coarse ground coffee from Jordan, some framed pictures from their trip here, and soap named "South of France" but is made in North Carolina! Still smells real nice. Thanks Sharon and Jordan.

Then on Friday Carla and I went out with some friends from the lab. Ethiopian food!

As if that wasn't enough celebration, Katie and Olivier held OctoBobby Fest at their house on Saturday night, for which she made "Ohma's Red Cabbage" and it was AWESOME! We had a little accordion music from me, Carla joined in and really made it musical, and then we had the most delicate silky cake! What a great four day birthday!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bobby's French Essay Assignment: Un Coin Spécial

Here is my second small essay for French class, mangled translation here.

Le coin que j’aime particulièrement est le bois de Boulogne, un grand bois qui est juste à l’ouest de Paris. Nos amis vivent près de là, dans la banlieue qui s’appelle Puteaux. Cet été, mon amie et son mari, ma femme et moi, nous avons fait du jogging au bois de Boulogne peut-être six fois. Ce bois est très beau, avec ses arbres, ses chemins, ses lacs, et ses prostituées. Il y a beaucoup de lapins aussi, et deux hippodromes pour les chevaux. Pour ces raisons, nous devons regarder où nous marchons. Quand nous faisons du jogging à travers le bois de Boulogne, nous voyons des familles qui font pique-niques, et des gens qui pèchent au bord du lac, et des oiseaux qui ont plusieurs couleurs et qui chantent. Nous pouvons aussi entendre les ressorts des camionnettes blanches en stationnement qui oscillent. Même si je deteste faire du jogging, le bois de Boulogne est un bois que j’aime traverser parce que c’est très divers et spécial.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Joyeux anniversaire, Bobby!

Today is Bobby's 34th birthday. Happy birthday, Bobby!

I would like to take a minute to reflect on the many accomplishments Bobby had during his 33rd year. The two major events were the completion of his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of California, Santa Barbara, and the start of a post-doc in France through Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Bobby also attended and presented his work at a number of conferences: in Alisomar, CA, SPARS in St. Malo, France, SMC in Porto, Portugal, and a conference in Madrid, Spain. Bobby has also given talks at universities and research labs around the world: UCLA in Los Angeles, Stanford in Palo Alto, Barelona, Spain, Berlin, Germany, Cambridge and University of Queen Mary in the UK, France TeleCom in Paris, and in Rennes, France.

Happy birthday Bobby! I can't wait to see what your 34th year bring you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bobby's French Essay Assignment: Chez Nous

(For a garbled English translation by Google, click here.)

Nous habitons à Paris dans le 17ème arrondisement, qui est très ancien et divers. Notre immeuble a six étages, et nous nous habitons au dernier. Dans le rez-de-chaussée, il y a les boîtes aux lettres, où on prends les courriers. Il y a un ascenseur qui est plus grand que le standard Parisien, mais aussi il y a l'escalier bien sûr pour échapper de feu. Il n'y a pas d'interphone, donc quand on veux avoir une soirée on doit donner les codes d'entrée. Notre loyer est très acceptable car nous avons trouvé l'appartement par la mère d'un ami qui connaît quelqu'un, qui connaît quelqu'un, qui connaît quelqu'un, etc. Nous avons apprendis que, à Paris, connaitre quelqu'un c'est la seule façon pour faire n'importe quoi. L'appartement est très étrange pour quelqu'un qui vient des États-Unis parce que notre douche est dans notre cuisine! C'est un peu fou, mais c'est practique car toute la plomberie est là. Aussi, la toilette est à l'extérieur de l'appartement, donc la nuit, on doit sortir de l'appartement pour faire de pipi. C'est pour cette raison que nos parents logent à l'hôtel en face quand ils nous rendent visite. En fait, chez nous c'est petit et quand il y a quatre personnes c'est encore plus petit.

Chez nous, il y a deux pièces: une chambre, et une salle de séjour --- que nous avons repeintes: les couleurs sont bleu de piscine dans la chambre, et citron vert dans la salle de séjour. Nous avons aussi un petit débarras pour nos vêtements d'hiver, et nos combinaisons (costumes pour faire du surf). L'appartement est très vieux, donc sur le sol, il y a de parquet en bois, qui est dangereux à cause de échardes --- on doit toujours mettre nos chassures. La cuisine --- où il y a la douche --- a une plaque chauffante, un petit frigo avec un plus petit congélaeur qui ne marche pas, et un évier. Il n'y a pas de four, donc on doit toujours faire des pasta. En fait, nous faisons beaucoup repas different, comme sandwiches, curry, soupe, etc. Et, pendant qu'on nettoie les légumes, on peux se doucher. Dans la chambre, il y a un grand lit que nous avons acheté à IKEA. Il y a aussi une penderie, une armoire, et un évier où on se brosse les dents, laves les mains, etc. Nous avons un miroir sur l'évier aussi. Nos valises sont sur la penderie, laquelle est contre l'évier. À côte du lit, il y a une petite table de chevet, où plusieurs livres sont posés. C'est comme un étagère, mais moins poussiéreux parce que nous lisons chaque nuit. Dans la salle de séjour, il y a un tapis, une table, et une vieille cheminée que ne marche pas. Dans cette salle, nous mangeons nos repas, jouons aux cartes, et téléphonons. Il n'y a pas de télévision, mais nous avons internet.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nick et Clare sont arrivés!

Our good friends from Brighton, U.K., arrived in Paris for a fun filled weekend à chez nous. We made sure to prepare them for the shower in the kitchen, and toilet outside the front door, but we did not prepare them for the eventuality that their train would loose power just outside of Lille, and they would sit there for several hours and finally arrive in Paris nearly eight hours after they were supposed to arrive! Lucky for them though, the Cross Rouge showed up to help and passed out food kits to the passengers --- which included a little jar of terrine! No baguette however.

After letting them sleep in, we got up, had coffee, and then began our accordion lessons. And of course we insisted on a baguette photo!

Then we went to the Cimetière Montmartre, to the graveside of Hector Berlioz where we debated the proper way to pose for a photo.

Finally, we made a picnic in the cemetery. The English word picnic comes from the French word pique-nique, which made its first appearance in 17th century France to refer to a gathering of people where each person brings something to eat. It wasn't until later that we thought, "Hey, maybe having a picnic in a cemetery is not very respectful." We made sure to have our picnic the next day in front of Messaien's church. This time, however, a beggar kept coming over to ask for some money, but eventually settled on some cheese. Then a bird pooped on Nick.

Then we got some ice cream and all was better.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Speed the Plough!

While we were in Lille a few weekends ago, it just so happened that we happened across a great music store filled with accordions of many different stripes, and it just so happened that I (Bobby) with Carla's blessings, walked out with a new diato that is much better than my first one. And to celebrate this purchase, here we are playing "Speed the Plough."


For a brief few days, I (Bobby) visited Madrid, Spain, where I attended at a workshop --- in addition to finding no soap in my room. The small workshop was all about adaptive multimedia retrieval, and I presented some of my post-doctoral research results in using sparse approximations for similarity search in audio databases. The workshop took place at one of Madrid's five universities, and in the psychology building.

An amusing aspect of this place is that in the main hallway there was an historical exhibit of various tools used in the study of behavior, and among the glass cases of mazes for mice, and electrified cages, was this Commodore 64 computer. The only thing missing was the tape drive. Nearly 25 years ago I would go over to my friend Tosh Nealand's house and we would try to program games on his Commodore 64.

For the social dinner we all met at a fine restaurant down some street I cannot remember. On the menu was beef cheeks, young goat, and five different types of fish. Several great appetizers were served, and after dessert the staff brought out about six different types of spirits, all of which were great. At my left was a fellow I met who is from the French island Reunion (off the coast of Madagascar), but who has lived in Paris for several years, and is now a researcher with Xerox in Grenoble. I was only one of three people doing music-related work. One of the others can be seen above scorning the camera.

The final day of the workshop I had time to go to the famous Prado museum before my flight back to Paris. This museum has an enormous collection of Francisco Goya, in addition to Velazquez, El Greco, and many other famous Spanish painters. Also included are many medieval works, such as "The Anunciation" above by Angelico from 1426.

Here is one of my favorites, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" (1505) by El Bosco (which is the Spanish name for the Netherlander Hieronymus Bosch, who was a favorite painter of Spanish king Charles 2). Soon after I took this picture a tour guide gasped and said, "NO FOTOS!" One person in the Spanish speaking tour group looked at me and said, "Si voo play!" He thought I was French!