Saturday, February 27, 2010

War, what is it good for?

It's been nearly a year since I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy pictured above, but I was recently watching a WW2 movie and it made me remember this trip. There are nearly 10,000 Americans buried in this cemetery, all but 1 of them casualties of WW2 (with the one remaining a soldier who died in the first world war). The cemetery is huge, as one would expect to hold 10,000 graves, which makes it even more astounding that these 10,000 represent a tiny portion of the 400,000 Americans, more than 20 million Russians, and countless other casualties of the war that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

Visiting the various war memorials around Europe you get to read stories of various events in the wars, or stories of the lives of various people. Soldiers who died storming the beach, or trying to save their friends, and soldiers who didn't even make it to battle, as bad weather, operator error, or just plain bad luck ended their lives early. These stories highlight the heroism and tragedy of war, but also the absurdity.

Living in Europe now, it is actually very hard for me to imagine the events that led up to these conflicts. I have been to Italy and Germany, and other than speaking a slightly different language, there doesn't seem to be any battle-worthy differences between them and France or other parts of Europe (other than perhaps amongst the soccer fans). Just an example of this, the game I am working on now is produced by an American company with development split between us (a French company) and a German company in the former East-Berlin. Germany and France are perhaps the best of allies these days and the two countries at the front of the push for a united European Union. What were all these old battles about?

Much better use of a canon

Human beings in general seem pretty bad at conflict resolution, but when you add missiles and tanks and ships, you really magnify the problem. Now only if I had a way to force everyone to believe the same way I do...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cold, cold, cold

It has been really cold in Lyon this winter. As I write this blog, it has been 5 days since the temperature got above freezing, and we have had 3 snow storms that actually left enough snow on the ground to cause trouble on the roads and leave the grocery stores lacking of fresh products. It's been so wintery here that the skateboard park near my house has looked more like a snowboard park lately.

I need a small park board so I can try this half next time it snows

Everyone tells me that this is the worst winter they have ever seen in Lyon. This is only my second winter here, and it didn't snow once last winter or hardly ever drop below freezing, so it is certainly colder than last year. Even after the snow came back and melted the snow, it remained really cold. And cold here is cold! Probably because I do not have a car, and spend more time outside walking, biking, waiting for a bus, etc., but I am wearing my warmest jacket and many layers of clothes and still feel like my toes are about to fall off. Even the farm animals are trying to cover up more to stay warm.

nice hat

However, while the cold weather and frequent snow has made life a little more difficult here in the city, it has made the weekend trips to the alps AMAZING! After riding in the Alps last winter I was honestly a little bit disappointed. The resorts are cool, huge, numerous, and the food is great, but the mountains just didn't have enough snow on them. Most of the good resorts were way up in the mountains, way above the tree lines to maximize the possibility of snow and cold, and I really like to ride deep snow, through the trees, off-piste as much as possible. So last year was a little bit meh for me.

Those fresh tracks there are ours

This year, however, has been awesome. Tons of fresh snow, and we have been able to go to some of the close, and lower elevation, resorts and hit the off-piste tree-runs all the time. And surprisingly--to me anyway--many french people do not like to ride/ski (or drive) in this type of weather. They prefer the clear, sunny skies and groomed pistes, so the resorts have been half empty. I have to admit, it is nice to ride in warm sunny weather with clear, awe-inspiring vistas of the Alps around you, but I'll take cloudy skies and falling snow over that any day.

My friend Michel gives the snow conditions the thumbs up

Riding in the deep stuff is a lot more work than just sliding down the groomed pistes too. I love leaving the resort totally exhausted (and a little bit in pain) every day, after really pushing it to hit every little jump, drop, fresh powder bank, etc. You really have to lean, push, and sometimes jump into your turns when the snow can easily cover your board, and of course when you fall (which I do a lot occasionally), it takes a bit more energy to dig yourself out and get back up. I usually end these types of days like this:

Exhaustion has gotten the best of me

I know many parts of the US are experiencing unusually cold and snowy weather as well. My parents have had quite a bit of snow in Dallas, and Washington, DC now seems a better city to host the winter Olympics than unseasonably warm Vancouver, Canada. Many of my friends back in Seattle are ambiguously happy with the warmer weather in the city and sad that there isn't a lot of snow in the mountains this year. For me, I just cannot wait to get back up to the mountains.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Best Superbowl commercial ever!

No it wasn't the Bud Light beer house commercial, or one of the e-trade talking baby commercials. We have neither Bud Light nor E-trade in France, and therefore no need to show advertisements from either of them. In fact, not one of the commercials that you (you in the U.S.) saw during the Superbowl was even shown here.

This commercial--the best one ever--was actually a commercial that I have seen before in the U.S., and while the commercials are entertaining it was not the content of the commercial that so impressed me, but the product the commercial was advertising. I first thought that maybe the French re-broadcasters had made an editing error and forgot to edit out this commercial for something I have been solely missing, but it was no error and my life will soon be more complete (again).

No it wasn't a commercial for Dr. Pepper or Taco Bell or Maui Sweet Onion chips, but something more essential to a happy life.

Duh duh duh. Duh duh duh.

Sportscenter! The best show on American TV, and probably the show most watched at the Stradley home when we lived in the states. I have cable tv solely for one channel--ESPN America (the oddly named version of ESPN we get in France), and while this channel is the only option for enjoying American sports in France, it is not the same EPSN you get in the U.S. The most important difference being NO SPORTSCENTER!

Well my suffering ends in just a few short weeks. Starting March 1st, EPSN America will begin showing the best show in sports and I will be just a little bit closer to heaven.

I leave you with a shot of the good old days when Dan Patrick was still with ESPN and before Keith Olbermann became a pompous, bizzaro-world-Bill-O'Reilly, jackass.

Nice mustache Keith!