Tuesday, March 20, 2018

WTF France

As in, "Welcome To France", silly. But I stole it, first from David Lebovitz - former pâtissier of Chez Panisse, author of My Paris Kitchen and fellow expat - who introduced us to the concept of WTF days in his blog. Then there was that Taylor guy and his WTF, France show...what they have in common is this really interesting annoyance blended with forgivable fondness for their adopted country.
Putting the old flat up for sale (child not included)



Five years ago this week we bought our flat in Sweden. That was after two full years in the country, and one permanent work contract, and a pretty rough level of svenska. It was awesome. So awesome we hope to wallpaper some future kitchen the same way someday. But ... when?



In France - year four - I've just finally had our car licensed here (and that was simply replacing Swedish plates with French plates, theoretically simple in the EU!). But it feels like we're as far as ever from buying our own space. And that - maybe more so for an American - goes a long way to making a community feel like a home.

Am I blaming France? No, others have managed it. But listing our obstacles up to now might include:
  1. Les titres de séjour - until last year I was officially a visitor according to my French ID card, forcing an annual renewal, and making it illegal for me to receive a salary in France ... because 
  2. ... our applications to live under the same visa statute here, one reunited famille in France, were finally denied (after waiting three years) since we'd gotten married in Sweden;
  3. Our French: so we've been here since 2014, I finished a Masters in my field in French at a French university, but contracts in French are still as frightening to us as US healthcare must be for un expatrié français;
  4. Work - see #3. Since obtaining the right to work, I've interviewed around ... but posts either require more travel than we're comfortable with, or they need better written French than I have today ... so for the moment I continue as bike delivery guy (and studying).
  5. Prices are rising, due to: 1) the 2024 Olympics !!! (and airbnb), and 2) very active development of a new metro line and gare about 400 meters from our current flat.
And so we're in the same ground floor 1960s place, as strong a contrast as possible to our Swedish flat: peeling wallpaper, bad natural light, questionable mold and paint for young'uns. But we have an awesome gardien next door, the building has decent heat, and a basement parking that only floods a couple times each winter. And the school district rocks.

L'arrivée: how we spent Christmas, 2013

But I think we're actually ready to pack it all up again, move into a bigger shell. Hopefully before I can't sling wallpaper.


 Further reading

Some more Lebovitz - his "first", 2008 - includes a cautionary tale for those coming for the Paris marathon...

About Paul Taylor: A couple years back I found this Brit doing colorful youtube videos called "WTF France?" ... but with less wordplay. He changed to What's Up, France? (owned by Canal+) last year, and more recently has stopped to focus on standup, here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"What have I got in my pocket?" (expat version)

In sum:

  • about $3.63 in Euro coins, ou des pièces (de 50, 10 cents, et même €2 !)
  • fifty pence ($0.66)
  • a Swedish crown ($0.12)
  • ...and a fake plastic euro 'coin' for borrowing shopping carts at our local hypermarché.
  • Oh, and the ever-present tissue, biding its time 'till the washing machine.
I must've picked up some of the guys' coin "collection" and mixed it with whatever was left from a boulangerie run. 

So ... why the inane, hobbit-y blog post? I'm looking for a new rhythm, posting one new (ideally interesting) thing weekly. (Having a sick kid at home limits a repertoire.)

Since finally receiving my work visa at the end of summer 2017, I've restarted French lessons; moonlighted as bike messenger for friends at Ma Petite Couche; and participated on a project with the CFH to translate the famous hydrogeology text Groundwater (Freeze & Cherry, 1979) into French. But I'm still looking for the right full-time post.

Till next week!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Tomorrow will be 2 minutes and 15 seconds shorter than today where I grew up in the central valley of California; here in our Parisian suburb it'll be 3 minutes 33 seconds shorter.

L'hiver arrive. Vintern kommer.

Where our kids were born, tomorrow will be 5 minutes 21 seconds shorter than today; but then the Swedes are well on their annual pilgrimage to winter, with "höstmörk", candles and ... well, darkness.

Like the Spotify playlist I'm listening to ... "Mörk ... höst":

But - surprisingly - I find I'm in an optimistic frame of mind, in spite of the season and mostly ephemeral illnesses: after years of little administrative wounds, I can legally accept a job here. The gap "cost" some productive years -- but then you can't price an education, and I've got more than when we arrived. And - importantly - the other 3/4 of the family are quite productive, everyone growing in their domain.

Now maybe I'll try to make these rare entries more frequent, shorter, and perhaps put a little pressure on self with some entries en français. I have to push written French along after all, and why not do it before I'm writing technical reports? Apologies in advance.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Mises-à-jour ... some updates

In brief, last week we finally got our visa renewals - and our application for the carte de séjour pluriannuel was approved, which specifies a "passeport talent autorise son titulaire à travailler".

This is huge news for us, as we moved here from Sweden for my wife's work just at the end of 2013 - with the understanding that within 30 - 36 months I'd have the right to work as well (as I always had in Sweden). So I enrolled in a French immersion program; took a Master's degree in my field; and within a month of being diplômé, our application was refused. Which confused our attorneys, depressed us, and threw a serious wrench in our plans.

After we got the notice from the sous-préfecture that new cartes de séjour were available, we rushed over, waited in the interminable line which looks like this:

...and ended with champagne !

Okay, actually that was the next day ... since we didn't actually believe it's work out and hadn't chilled the bottle.

And we enjoyed Bastille Day 2017 more than we have since moving here. But the next move isn't trivial either ... of the graduates in my cohort, only a couple of the dozen have found their travaille de rêve - but at least now it's possible.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"old school" hydrological models

During my Masters internship I'm looking at a lot of surface water models, setting up a "scoreboard" to assess what types "perform" best under different conditions (peak flood events, long droughts), for different latitudes and regions ... and this taking place at IRSTEA in Antony (near Paris), a research organization with an extremely long history of excellent numerical models, including these:

This morning a friend sent me a podcast (99percentinvisible clearly has roots in public radio) called America's Last Top Model which I listened to on the way to work, and which is perfectly awesome -- it introduces a scale physical model of the Mississippi River basin, an amazing effort for anyone into train models, Legos, or generally playing with water in dirt...

Note - the Mississippi Basin (besides being a fun spelling test for 3rd graders) is 1 250 000 miles² (yes, 1.25 million square miles) in area -- about 3 240 000 km². Even at a 1:2000 scale, this is a BIG undertaking, which is why I imagine photos don't really do it justice... this one's not bad:

Original caption says it all! (vert scale: 1:100, horiz: 1:2000)

The Army Corps of Engineers (CoE) project was motivated by the devastating floods of 1927, and construction finally started in the early 40s -- since the US ACoE was a bit tied up at that time, they used German and Italian POW labor from Rommel's N African campaign...

Some more links:
And this student project to open up access to the public:
Now I gotta get back to work.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Weekly report, end of June (week 17!) (of 25!!)

Rapport d’étape - Juin

Week 26, 2016

Welcome to week 17 of 25. This document updated 30 juin 2016.

thesis.duration <- 25
this.week <- 17
double.yikes <- c(this.week, thesis.duration - this.week) / thesis.duration
barplot(as.matrix(double.yikes), horiz=TRUE, beside=FALSE)

# library(ggplot2)
# ggplot(double.yikes, aes(x = "time", y = thesis.duration))

Note that I have been making a gross over-assumtion of my remaining time – this isn’t a 34-week internship, but about 26 (or 25 with vacation). The 34th week of the year (beginning August 22) will be my last week, but since my 2nd week was week 10, my plot has been quite wrong.

What’s new:

  • Discussed conditional criteria for Scoreboard
  • Designated three documents for delivery at end of stage:
  1. short userguide (part of shiny app?) - English
  2. ultra-clear Database HOWTO guide (howto add data, DDL, etc) (so MHR can direct others setting up new DBs)
  3. longer write-up for data submitters
  • Got rid of summary() field
  • Added 2nd plot window
  • using DT better
  • not complete:
  • renderUI()
  • two plot regimes:
    • stats on daily values (se, ci)
    • direct score plots
  • goal is to view skill scores (comparable) in addition to raw scores (not so comparable)
  • “All Skill Score” plot which should show red, grey, green “improving or not” scores
  • Review EVS Documentation and datafile in / out

Modified database schema:

  • Renaming?
## Attaching package: 'dplyr'
## The following objects are masked from 'package:stats':
##     filter, lag
## The following objects are masked from 'package:base':
##     intersect, setdiff, setequal, union

play.data <- read.delim("~/R/shinysb1/play.data.txt")
play.data$locationID <- as.factor(play.data$locationID)
plot(play.data$leadtimeValue, play.data$scoreValue, col=play.data$locationID, 
     xlab = "Lead Times", ylab = "Score")

# get fancier
pd <- position_dodge(0.2)
min.LT <- min(play.data$leadtimeValue)
max.LT <- max(play.data$leadtimeValue)

ggplot(play.data, aes(color = locationID, x = leadtimeValue, y = scoreValue )) +
  geom_errorbar(aes(ymin=scoreValue-ci, ymax=scoreValue+ci), position = pd) + # , color="grey"
  geom_line() +
  geom_point(aes(color = locationID), position = pd) +
  geom_hline(aes(yintercept=0), color="blue", linetype="dashed") + 
  scale_y_continuous(breaks=c(min.LT:max.LT)) +
  xlab("Lead Times") + ylab("Score")

We also simplified the wording on the display again; I need to follow this with database logic to be sure names are clear and sensible (self-documenting).

I’m also adding a layer of reactivity BEFORE the filter function; now we have a box filled by database which lists which packages are available:

Images of current interface

CRPS for 2 locs, 10 LTs

CRPS for 2 locs, 10 LTs

This week I need to:

  • prep slides for 10 minute “wave peaks” presentation
    • less technic, more “qualitative” study
    • underscore the utility in comparing score types
    • examples of other scoreboards…?
  • Enhance data import definition
    • example file
    • user preview (?) before database import run
  • Change interface:
    • reduce “summary”;
    • reduce emphasis on conf interval plot (ci and se agglom function, summarySE);
    • add ability to post 2eme Score Type to same page (or more?)

Planning: * ggplot libraries + facet; + map (GDAL);

Old Notes (for my reference):

Got access to a 2013 netCDF [development branch for SOS DB] (https://svn.52north.org/svn/swe/main/SOS/Service/branches/52n-sos-netCDF/), so I’ll look into that this week to understand better our options for accomodating netCDF files (a soft requirement which we won’t implement without motivation!).

Keeps coming back up (particularly for multiple users in web app!) but not dealt with: + http://shiny.rstudio.com/reference/shiny/latest/session.html

NetCDF links: http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/software/netcdf/docs/faq.html#How-do-I-convert-netCDF-data-to-ASCII-or-text http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/software/netcdf/examples/files.html Discussion(s) of handling time using netCDF: http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/software/netcdf/time/ http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/software/netcdf/time/recs.html

Some NetCDF files from our friends at ECMWF: http://apps.ecmwf.int/datasets/

O’Reilly always publishes goodness, re-reminging myself to remember this later: http://www.cookbook-r.com/Graphs/

Something to look into on my time – confidence Intervals discussed in different context: http://learnbayes.org/papers/confidenceIntervalsFallacy/introduction.html …with nifty Shiny app to illustrate Figs 1 - 5 from article: https://richarddmorey.shinyapps.io/confidenceFallacy/ http://learnbayes.org/papers/confidenceIntervalsFallacy/

Tools for LaTeX: https://www.codecogs.com/latex/eqneditor.php