for the week of 2/21/16. Sun, 02/14/16. Happy Valentine's Day.
Today we took it easy again and celebrated Valentine's Day at home,
sleeping in and eating pancakes. Ewelina very nicely invited us to go to
lunch with them and to the Chinese New Years parade, but we were too
sleepy and Max and Gems are still getting over colds a little bit. Max and
Gemma made us terrific Valentines and Jean got them little gifts,
including Gemma's nail and makeup kit she went wild with. Gemma even made
Max a Valentine, unprodded by Jean and me! Max did not return the favor,
though he offered Gemma some of his money he is accumulating. At night Jean
made this amazing sole recipe she read on Ina Garten's website and it was
so good. I taught the kids how to do various numbers times 3, and it went
pretty well. I think they got it.
Tonight Jean and I got a babysitter, Jayne, and went out to celebrate
Valentine's Day at this thing called A Taste of Paris at the Grand Palais,
where you get to taste these little hors d'oeuvres they send around, for
like 8 Euros each. It was amazing, and definitely one of the best meals
we've ever had. It got kind of redundant because we just kept saying "You
have to try this. It's incredible."
I had a minty lamb thing that was fantastic, Jean had one with crackers
and fish that was incredible, and there was a beef one with sardines,
which probably sounds gross but it was delicious, and then the eclairs,
one with mocha and licorice and the other with blackcurrants, were just
other worldly. We made a very smart move and shared a hamburger at home before
going so we weren't starving. This paid off bigtime because the lines were
really long, so you had to wait like 30-45 min for each hors d'oeuvre. To
our surprise and delight the French people there were all pleasantly
actually waiting in lines nicely rather than mobbing and cutting. However,
one woman smashed into Jean and spilled her wine and another woman fell
really hard down the stairs right next to us. But all in all it was a
really great night. By the way, it's me giving a thumbs up to the desserts
in the photo above, and the last photo is of an exercise bicycle connected
to a blender so the faster you pedal the faster it mixes.
Fri, 02/12/16. A look back on another rainy day in Paris.
Today the lunchworkers are on strike at
Max and Gemma's school, so we had
to pick them up at 11:30am. It's kind of amazing how almost every
stereotype about Paris is turning out to be true. We've been here 6 months
now, and it's interesting to look back on it a little bit. I guess the
most notable part was being here during the terrorist attacks in Nov, and
seeing how Paris responded by completely and utterly shutting down for 5
days and then subsequently completely going back to business as usual.
It has also been interesting being here for some of the kids' milestones,
like turning 5, going on a plane for the first time since they were 0,
Max reuniting with his best
friend Elijah, roller skating for the first time, going on a train and
riding the Metro, Max hitting 4 feet tall,
learning to ride a scooter, not to mention learning another
language, eating all the French food, and going to so many museums. It was
also interesting to see Gemma bond with her best friends here, Auri from
Finland and Clara who is French. The kids got their Austrian citizenship
while we were here, and got passports with these cute photos of them
looking very serious on them. Gemma lost her first tooth, and in France
instead of the tooth fairy, they have The Little Mouse who takes your
tooth and leaves you a little present. We spent lots of holidays here,
including Halloween which they don't really celebrate here so we went to
the American library which had a huge party, Thanksgiving which also is
not celebrated here at all, and Christmas which is huge here as the whole
city gets all lit up. We also went on some great trips, one to the South
of France, one to London, and one to Vienna. The kids developed a really
profound interest in art, and seem quite talented at it which they
obviously got straight from me. They also are learning to do the Rubik's
cube, and Max has been nurturing a deep and kind of disturbing interest in
coins and money. French food was supposed to be good, and did not
disappoint the kids and us at all. The kids get a 4 course hot lunch every
day at school and love it. They also have discovered crepes, gauffres, and
so many pastries but especially our favorite, la buchette de framboise de bois et
Not everything has been great though. We had trouble renting our house
out, as 3 or 4 different renters said they wanted it and then later pulled
out, so it took 3 months to rent out and we almost couldn't afford to stay
here any longer. Thankfully we got a renter in the last minute.
Another big feature of our time here
has been sickness. We were exposed to so many new germs and temperatures
much lower than what we're used to, and the kids spent about half the
winter with colds. Jean was sick about half the time during our first two
months here, and in late Jan I got bronchitis and maybe the highest fever
I've ever had. There were also the bureaucratic hurdles that few seem
surprised about, but they have been pretty disturbing to us, especially
things like having 3 family members send presents for Christmas and having
them never arrive, or repeatedly spending 3-4 hours waiting in a police
station to get residency status updated, only to have the officer ask for
absolutely ridiculous things not on any list of required documents, such
as a receipt from the school lunch program.
We have generally been impressed with French culture. Parisians are very
nice and surprisingly friendly to Americans, despite the stereotype of the
opposite. Most of the rude behavior we have seen has been on the part of
American tourists rudely demanding special treatment in English.
On the other hand, some French attitudes, especially those toward
children, have taken some getting used to. A friend told us that for
Parisians, "children should be seen and not heard, and preferably not even
seen." This seems true from what we've observed, and it's kind of
disturbing. In 6 months here, we have still hardly ever seen a child at a
restaurant here, even in casual places. Parisians seem to have an
annoyingly strong sense of strict order and quiet, which is surprising as it
seems in contrast with the culture that produced Monet and Debussy.
As soon as we moved in to our apartment in August, we quickly got driven
out by a crazy neighbor who constantly was yelling at us for making too
much noise, so we ended up moving to a different apartment in the noisiest
part of the city.
We've grown accustomed to living in a very small apartment, and have loved
not driving at all and instead walking everywhere. I've joined a French
basketball league where I'm the only American, and have gone from being
underrated to overrated and lately back down to being deservedly lowly
I feel like I am hardly ever working here, but maybe clearing out my brain
has been good for me because actually my productivity has exceeded all
expectations. I am almost done writing up an idea I got last year
for analytically deriving nonparametric estimates for Hawkes models when
p=n, and this Fall I came up with what I think is a good idea for a new
way of modeling disease epidemics. I've been meeting and working with Marc
Hoffmann here at Universite Paris-Dauphine, and he has been great to work
with and is really excited about my model idea. It looks like I will soon
be achieving my goal of giving a seminar here at Dauphine in French, and
next month I'll be keynote speaker at a conference in Amsterdam. I'm also
working on a new edition of my undergrad probability book.
I guess the main thing that's happened though is we actually settled
in to life here. I think there was a transition after about 6 weeks where
we stopped feeling like tourists and living out of suitcases, and then
another transition came after around 4 or 5 months where we genuinely
started feeling like we actually live here. The excitement of going to
museums and eating at French restaurants started wearing off, but on the
other hand, we feel like we really understand what it is to call Paris
home, and walking around and seeing all the beautiful sights still has not
lost its luster with us.
Thu, 02/11/16. Performance art.
Today Max and Gems went to school, and after Jean's French class, Jean and
I went to see this performance art by an American named Daniel Linehan at
the Musee Picasso. It was good, and very strange. Linehan looked about 20
years old but I guess he's 34. He would go through the museum, have us look at a particular
Picasso artwork, and then play music on his iphone and do a dance inspired by the art. He was pretty
good actually. The audience was kind of annoying but otherwise it was
good. I'm always surprised by how people feel the need to cough during
quiet musical things. In fact sometimes it seems like the more
interesting, novel, and inspiring the work is, the more people need to
cough at it. I really think "at it" is the appropriate word, because it
really is a rude and aggressive act. I had frickin bronchitis a couple
weeks ago and I could easy go an hour without coughing. Anyway, after the
show we had lunch in the Picasso cafe and were talking about politics, and
how this hilarious woman on Larry Wilmore was explaining the Trump
phenomenon, saying how America is like a high school girl who is attacted
to the jerk bully in the class. The guy at the table next to us started
talking to us and he turned out to be an American mediator here for a
mediator conference, and we talked politics with him for a while.
Banque Paribas, who has been pretty terrible to work with so far, nicely
apologized by setting up accounts for Max and Gemma with 10 Euros each in
them. When I picked up Max and Gems from school, we learned that their
school break doesn't start this Fri but the next Fri. We had talked about
going to Disneyland with them this coming week so now that will have to be
delayed, which they're not too happy about.
Jean introduced me to the show Mozart in the Jungle, and I was just
telling Jean how I like almost all the scenes on the show except for those
involving the main character, Rodrigo, because the actor totally overacts
like he's doing a bad impression of Tom
Hulce in Amadeus. Today I found out that actor won the Emmy for best actor
in a tv show.
Wed, 02/10/16. Book club.
Today the kids stayed home to try to get over their colds, and it seemed
to work as they are feeling better now. Jean went to her first book club
meeting today with her American women in Paris group, and said it went
well though nobody liked the book except Jean. Meanwhile I took Max and
Gems to this storytime reading right down the street, and they loved it.
There were only 5 kids there including them, and the British woman named
Kate read some books in English and sang songs. Tonight I played
basketball for the first time in 3 weeks and played the worst I've played
all year I think. I made so many turnovers and missed almost all my shots.
I also think I sprained my finger but it's pretty mild. Above are some of
Maxie's art works from his school folder.
We still haven't received any of the 3 packages we know were sent to us by
family members in early December, more than 2 months ago. I've gone to the
post office several times to ask about it but they don't seem to know
anything about them.
Tue, 02/09/16. Conferences.
Today the kids still had runny nosies so they stayed home in the
and ate burgers and watched Tayo
the Bus. Jean went to this meeting of American women in Paris right near
where we live and apparently was by far the youngest there. One woman from
San Diego has been living in Paris for 10 years and is going back to San
Diego this summer. Jean asked if she will miss Paris and she said "Not at
all." She couldn't wait to go back. We both feel like it will be very
bittersweet to go back home.
I went to the conference with Max's teacher, Madame Laurent, and
it went great. She said he doesn't speak much but he loves to sing and
even gets the words right when he sings, and she said he's amazing at art
and math, and has his own unique style of art. She was confused why lately
he has been making sketches where he very carefully writes what look like
scribbles going vertically down the page. She thought maybe it was
supposed to be Korean, and I said I didn't think so but it turns out she
might have been right. Apparently Jean told him that sometimes in Korean they write
things vertically and Max seems to have been very intrigued by the idea.
When I asked Max about it he said it was "Maxie language".
Madame Laurent said Max is behind in writing and reading but is great otherwise. I
asked if he's lonely because every day after school when I ask him who he
played with, he says "nobody", but she said he's very popular in the
class, and is especially friends with Nathan, Timothe, Siriuse, and Joseph
Kail. We don't know any of them. She also showed me this binder with Max's
drawings and stuff and she showed me a couple she said she was shocked by,
where he made these pictures all in dots. On one the assignment was just
to draw a man, and nobody else in the class did it anything like Max's
pointilism creation. He especially loves to make circles or other shapes
outlined in one color and then he colors them in a different color. Today
Max drew these curves shown above which he says is the song "Little Bastard" by the
Assponys and told us to sing it. The bumps represent when the song is
supposed to go up or down.
Gems had to miss her field trip today because she was sick, but we told her we
will make it up to her with our own special field trip next week when
they're off school.
Maybe we'll go to Disneyland again. I also had the PTA meeting with Gems's class tonight
but there wasn't much to report from it. I'm gonna be the
keynote speaker at a conference in Amsterdam in Apr and we're gonna make a
little Dutch trip out of it.
Mon, 02/08/16. Snoring, Dauphine, and Colds.
Max and Gems still had runny noses last
night so we weren't sure whether they were gonna go to school today. Last
night I was snoring so Jean couldn't sleep at all. The kids woke up
feeling pretty good so I got them ready for school and took them, and then
went to meet Marc Hoffmann at Dauphine. He's always so nice and we had a
really good meeting. He might set up a talk for me to give there. Anyway,
when I got back there was a message from the school that Gems is tired and
sick, so I picked her and Max up a little early and they're just resting
and watching Peg Plus Cat now. I'm not sure what is gonna happen tomorrow.
It was supposed to be the field trip day for Gemma's class, and we were
gonna go and be chaperones on the way to the Picasso exhibit at the Grand
Palais. But, if they're not feeling well, obviously we can't go. Tomorrow
is also ballet day as well as the day of Max's conference with the teacher
in the afternoon, and the PTA meeting at night in Gemma's class. By the
way, when I went to pick up the kids, I had to sign in and right before me
was a signature from Julien who had apparently picked up Clara from
Gemma's class, also due to sickness.
for the week of 02/07/16.
for the Paris journal from 2015.