Friday, November 30, 2007

No doggie bag for you

We went to a restaurant and couldn't finished what we had ordered. We asked for a doggie bag but was told that the restaurant was not allowed to do that due to hygiene issue. Since we didn't want to waste the food, we were forced to wrap the leftover with tissue paper.

In Malaysia it is quite easy to ask to bring home the leftover (tapau). In the USA it was very common practice too. Some people just settle a meal by eating the leftover from the restaurant. It is called doggie bag because the original idea was to feed the dog at home with whatever is left.

I thought France was too much in implementing this law, but looking through internet, Australia and England are starting to ban restaurants from giving out doggie bag too.

"March 20-21 -- No more restaurant doggie bags. In Australia, the restaurant doggie bag is in decline because of fears that patrons will store food at improper temperatures, allowing the growth of food-poisoning bacteria. "The Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which has 142 hotel restaurants across the country, has banned patrons from taking home leftovers. Victoria has already brought in anti-doggie-bag legislation, with other states tipped to follow before the end of the year, Mr Deakin said. 'If we are the cooker of the food we are liable,' he said." ("Restaurants ban doggie bags", The Advertiser (Adelaide), Mar. 18). Meanwhile, in the U.K.: "Some restaurants in Britain are forcing customers who like their meat rare to sign a disclaimer form before eating due to fears of the risk of E. coli and salmonella poisoning, the Sunday Times newspaper reported." ("British Eaters Who Like Rare Meat Sign Disclaimers", Reuters/Yahoo, Mar. 18). "

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Presentation skills


In my class I have to do quite some presentation and I observed how very different the way each of us in expressing ourself.

From the Malaysian education system of teacher talking students listening, I was forced to speak up and participate during my studies in the USA. Not everyone is gifted in talking, you would be amazed how many professional went speechless in front of the audience. One of my classmate who was a working professional actually said "gosh, I can't believe this is happening..." in front of us because he was not able to continue what he was saying; another classmate was laughing non stop in the middle of the presentation. It was a very awkward moment for her.

The fact that I lived 5 years in the USA gives me advantage for English presentation. I have feedback from time to time from my French classmates about how they had never thought of presenting something this way or that way. For me, I don't like to listen to theoretical points without a concrete example. To catch the audience attention, a good way is to say something that they can relate. For example, I was presenting a paper about how employees across continent coordinate their work. I gave my personal experience on how I had to coordinate with the offices in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, France, Scotland and USA, and how the French guy was giving me headache as he was on vacation all the times. Suddenly everyone laughed. I caught their attention. From time to time I would make up an example and use my classmate's name. This obliged the classmate who's name got mentioned to listen to what I have to say. Even the professor raised his head (from reading the article instead of paying attention to us)and look enthusiastic and laughed with us.

A presentation without an example is bla blah blah blah for me. :-)

One thing I regret is that I'm a very petite woman so I can't point to the chart or the power point slide like everyone else. We don't have a laser pointer in class. It was a bit hard to explain a diagram or model. I basically have to give very clear indication about which part of the diagram I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can you kiss your friend?

In France we air kiss people when we see them in the morning. Basically it's just cheek touching cheek and both site make the sound of kissing, at least this was how I was taught.

These days I noticed that some of my classmates actually peck my cheeks and I sense the "wet" lips. It kind of disgusted me, but I can't tell the French to change their way of greeting, can I? It just that I won't reciprocate. In fact I try to avoid air kisses as much as possible by simple say good morning and smile at everyone in the class when I arrive. But when the others arrive some of them will go kiss everyone in the class, and it would be weird to refuse this nice gesture.

Another phenomenon is that I saw a classmate (guy) pecking the cheek of another classmate (girl) during a conversation, when he was happy or just wanted to show friendship. He would sometimes massage the shoulders of some girl classmates. Us the foreigners were a bit disturbed and we told him to not do that, but he said this is the French tradition.

This map shows how many air kisses you need to do in each region, represent by the circle. Four circles mean four air kisses for one person. As for me, I let people do two kisses no matter where I'm and just apologize that I didn't know they do four kisses.

So for you guys, can you accept to be kissed on the cheeks? Would you kiss everyone in your class/workplace? How do you greet your friends?

Monday, November 26, 2007

An eye opener: school canteen on strike

I don't know what say. The school canteen is on strike. I had never heard of this in my life. In my whole life I had never thought of canteen can also go on strike.

Whenever we have class in the afternoon, me and a group of classmates would go to eat in one of the two University canteens. They serve good food with cheap price: 2.80 euros for an appetizer, main plate and dessert. Of course the canteen operation is heavily subsidized by the government. We always have good time there.

Today, I was so disappointed and shocked. I had to buy a sandwich for lunch. Unthinkable.


Went to dinner last Saturday night. It was a gathering with people I don't know, so the only motivation for me to participate was the food. :-)

This is the entrée. Delicious, brittle, the veggies under were very tasty.

The sauce was good but the fish was not cook. We were not sure whether it was on purpose or the chef just messed up.

Cheeses and salad. I ate only one kind of cheese and the salad,didn't really like the two other cheeses.

Dessert was very disappointing too. It is a dessert for big group. It's called Norwegian omelet in French, but it's actually cake with ice cream and rum.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Having class in secret!

Apparently our faculty was the only one "allowed" to have class last week. The others faculties were ordered to close down since their students voted to continue blocking the University.

We had our technical class this morning, which was held in one of the faculties that was ordered to close down. The professor was kind enough, he arranged the guard to come open the door for us and closed it after. We could not get out of the building during the course else we would not be able to come back in. We were like having class in secret, hoping the union won't spot us as they might give us trouble if seeing us having class.

Well, no one spotted us so everything went well. We managed to talk to the professor, who appearantly didn't support this strike, and still teach his students by distant courses. He said the program goes on as planned and those on strike should be responsible to catch up with the syllabus.

Pray hard we could finish this semester as planned!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Short cut to Georgia State MBA program

"Robinson's Flexible MBA Program was ranked #8 in the nation in the US News and World Report's 2008 survey published in March 2007." This is what I read in Georgia State MBA program website.

So, why am I telling you guys this here? In fact, the course I'm doing now has an exchange agreement with Georgia State Robinson College. Two of my classmates are actually going to study one semester there.

This is just a nice short cut to enter Georgia State MBA program. If you apply from the USA, you need to have super high GMAT score, and it cost USD64,000 to foreign student. But if you go from my University, you don't even have to take GMAT exam. A good TOEFL score is sufficient, plus you pay only the living expenses (USD5k), as the school fees were supposed to be covered by the students or professors who would come to study in my University.

Of course this is just for one semester, but it seems that if you managed to study one semester there, you will have very high chance to be accepted to complete the whole MBA program next time.

A nice short cut hah?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

How life just changed...

I was going to an internship fair so I asked Hubby about his experience in landing an offer. He reminisced how the whole internship had changed his life.

He was in Paris for an internship fair mainly for English speaking positions and most of the companies were from UK. While submitting his CV to a British company, he spotted the poor guy (his recruiter) in the next booth who had no visitors and who looked very bored. So he decided to talk to that guy and this instant decision had changed his whole life, and mine.

He didn't know this American company, he didn't even know that it was in USA. When he got a call for the interview, he thought Austin was in UK! But no, in fact he was going to USA!

If he had not spotted that guy and went to talk to him, he would had never gone to USA and met me and married me!!! Amazing how destiny played us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Met the nice French civil servants

Due to one of my project assignments, we had an interview with the big IT guys in the City Hall. They were so helpful! I mean we are just students, they didn't have to devote so many time to us. They didn't go for the strike too.

I don't know whether this could happen in Malaysia. Contact and interview the civil servant in say the Transportation Department, I'm sure they will pass us like a ball or be entertained by the small guy.

What a relief, finally find something good to write about the French. :-) I'm praying no more blockage for our faculty. There were a group of students still gathered in front of the faculty just next to our building, it seemed that they are not happy that we started the classes again. :-(

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Change my domain name

If you have noticed, I have changed my domain name to, but blogger remains as my host. Actually blogger host it for free, so I won't change the layout and the visual design until I have time to really learn how to change these things.

When you type my blogspot address it will directly you to my new domain, but change the URL if you can.

Oh between, my Page Rank dropped from 3 to 0, so I figure it's time to start over to a new domain. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dont be jealous

See what hubby cooked for lunch yesterday? It was so delicious. Don't be jealous yah!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vending Machine for book

Photo source:

My favorite Chinese author is releasing her new book, and they have one vending machine specifically selling her books!! Wow, I didn't know that beside selling beverages and junk foods, people can sell books like this. This machine is placed in a metro station in Hong Kong. I wish I could be the first one to buy it, she signed all the 200 books here in the machine.

I love this author so much, she has her own blog now, sharing with the readers some foods she cook, some dress she like... overall she is just an ordinary people, but through her blog we get to know her better.

Anyone knows of any online bookstore selling Chinese book in Europe? It's just too expensive to have someone send it from Malaysia.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Can you shut your heart?

My best friend in Nantes is leaving soon to the US. I was not very keen for the "say good bye" moment but we did it tonight. I'm sad to say that these days my feelings have been very numb. I don't feel anymore. People leave and come and I have to constantly dealing with it. I have learn to shut my heart.

When I arrived in France I wanted a fresh start. I tried to make friends in the French class. Very quickly I was pampered with the fact that it is very hard to get a good friend. You have to constantly invest in it. Here in France, either you go to restaurant, go to night club, or you have a party at home. Going to restaurant is expensive and not everyone can afford it. I tried to go to night club but I'm at a point that too much is too much. I tried to change myself to adapt to the western life, but I just can't. I felt bored in a night club while people just keep getting drunk and doing stupid things. I don't like cooking much, so having party at home is extremely painful, all the clean up, arrangement, people stay overnight, it's just too much work.

On the other hand, I have very very friendly classmates in my master class. They know I don't speak good French so they try to help me at their best. A classmate is simply my tutor, available to me whenever I have problem with the French language. Yet, I have shut my heart. With the internship, these people are just going to go away in a few months.

I used to be a very cheerful people, laughing at all times with so many friends around. Now I'm still laughing, but to myself. Friendship is too fragile, it is broken when it is separated by distance.

Friday, November 16, 2007

So angry! They closed the University!

The President of University of Nantes decided to close the campus from 16 November until 20 November. It means that I won't have class until next Wednesday. I'm so pissed!!! We just finished a team work and we are supposed to have our presentation on Monday. We are very motivated for that and I really don't want to wait for another week.

I know the President is right to be cautious. Yesterday night there were about 150 students blocked the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Literature, and this brought worry that these people will become violent and start destroying the precious school properties. The University has to use force, by calling the police, to chase away the students.

I was so disappointed. Our faculty (Economic and Management) usually is not effected by any students demonstration. But the whole campus in the area is ordered to close. This morning I went to the faculty, and had to go home bcos everything is closed, including the library.

I personally think that this law is good, that the University should have right to fund their own expenses. Won't it be good to do some researches that would be used by the enterprises and in return get some sponsorship instead of relaying on the government?

These students, if they don't want to have class, they can just get their asses out of the campus. Isn't it so selfish to try to achieve something by preventing other to conduct their day to day activities?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Class cancelled due to strike

Remember I told you that November is the month of strike in France? Well, this will be the first time the strike directly impact me. Our professor from the Faculty of Science Information just informed us that the class on Saturday will be canceled as 600 students out of 4000 decided to blog the school.

Why the students want to blog the faculty? Sincerely I don't know much, it's something against the new regulation, that the University will have more autonomy in terms of fund raising. The students are scared the private companies will control the University and less populars courses will be threaten to be eliminated.

Most of the students who participated are in the first or second year, they are not out in the working world, so they don't care about the classes. People in the final year like me and the others, just hope to graduate and find a job.

So after all it might not be a bad idea to forbid students from participating in the politic and just concentrate on their studies. This has been implemented for ages in Malaysia, at least all of us won't go on strike so that don't have to go to class.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Theoretical Vs Practical

These days I have been busied studying a topic about "organizational knowing" which I need to present with my group next week. There were so many theoretical words: embedded, enacted, tacit knowledge, epistemology. In quite some part of the courses we need to read articles like this. I found it painful and meaningless. The researches like to use big words and I was so confused after reading. It always request repeat reading just to understand a point. Why can't they just use very simple words to express what they want to say? Sometimes after reading an article I didn't feel like learning anything.

On the other hand, we have professors from the different companies who give classes about very practical information, such as ERP system, how to implement SAP in a company, how to conduct a project, how to apply Business Intelligence in a company. They share their experiences and tell us what's happening in the current IT industry. I found it a lot useful, and none of them actually talk about those theories we had to learn. These professors always challenge us in a very practical way. It was very interactive, and most of the time we manage to come out with some ideas, but at the end they would give us some perspective in real life business which we missed or would have never guessed. At the end of the class I always feel that I learn a lot.

Real life professor, who has first hand experience in the field we are studying, bring a lot of values to the course. At least this is what I think. How about you?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Conflict with the professor

We have an American professor who would like us to conduct a research paper. We work in group and these days he has been asking us to submit and present to him the research outline.

The first time, we passed three hours presenting and watching others present. He commented on each group and we were asked to correct our outline and resubmit to him.

Two weeks later, a day before the class he asked us to present again the outline. Some classmates disagreed as they think that it took too much time to have every group present and it was very boring while others are presenting. We took this issue to the professor who is responsible for the whole Master program. He asked us to write down the good and bad points of that professor, and he would talk to him so that we don't have to do the presentation openly in class.

However, when the professor came in the class, we were asked to do what he had asked, as like nothing has happened. We all felt very reluctant, and felt upset that he didn't respect our opinion, instead imposed us to do what he wanted. According to my classmates, his teaching method might work in the USA but not in France.

Personally I prefer to have open discussion with the professor in class so that he is clear about what we are thinking, instead of passing through another professor. But, it seems that he is quite stubborn that nobody will be able to change his mind.

Do you guys have the same experience of professor who would not change his way of teaching?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A quarter to five

"Bee, I'm coming to pick you up at quarter to five." said a friend.
"Ok, see you then." I replied.
"What time your friend is coming to pick us up?" Asked hubby.
"Ah, we have plenty of time then." He then continue to play his games and me watching TV.

At 4.45pm, someone knocked on the door, and of course it was my friend! Quarter to five is 4.45pm, and I thought she meant 5.15pm.

I don't know why people need to get complicated with the way they express about time. Why don't just say it directly at the exact time instead of having to think about 5pm minus a quarter = 4.45pm. I found it very confusing and each time I have to think about what it really means. This way of expressing time was uncommon around my network in Malaysia. When I was in Austin I didn't have much problem accept for one or two friends who would said the time in a different way.

In France, everyone is using the quarter system:
45 minutes = 3 quarter hour (3 quart d'heure)
2.15 = 2 hours quarter (deux heures et quart)
2.45 = 3 hours minus a quarter (trois heures moins quart)

Worst, they are using the 24 hours clock system. Sometimes when someone said 18 hours (dix huit heures) immediately I would thought about 8pm, but instead it's 6pm.

Living in a foreign country really need a lot of adjustment.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Good mood bad mood

Looking out the windows, these are the scenery we are seeing everyday. One of the advantages of living in an apartment is that you can see things from very high perspective, this time I think see the frees instead of only seeing the bough. Sometimes we see a squirrel resting somewhere, a bird standing and looking area, the leaves waving and dancing... it really make my day and upraise my mood.

But, these moments could be interrupted when you are seeing the amount of taxes you have to pay. Remember I was saying that we got tax exemption since we got married in the middle of the year? Well, actually hubby has to pay his income tax for the day before the wedding, and we just received the "tax d'habitation", something I have never seen in USA or Malaysia. Basically if you live in an apartment or house on 1 January on that particular year, you need to pay "tax of staying" there. And if you are the owner of the propriety, you need to pay the property tax on top of the staying tax. The French government just know to get tax from everywhere.

My mood was totally broken down when I see that we have to pay almost 1k euros for taxes. Sorry, in France you seldom get year end bonuses, so don't hope to use that for taxes. I really don't know how the French can survive in the land of taxes, they don't earn much and they need to pay variety of taxes. The pay slip has like 20 items there where they legally subtract from your salary.

Another thing, by having a TV, we have to pay 116 euros a year. You pay this so that when you watch the public TV channels you won't get any advertisement.

I'm feeling poor in France.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Study nightmare

Our visiting professor from the USA arrived this week, and we will have class with him tomorrow. The person in charge of our course just sent out an email, asking us to go download some articles and prepare for the class. The preparation involves reading materials of 50 pages.

This person in charge is also our professor for one of the classes, and he requested us to read 3 articles as well.

Conclusion: I have like 6 articles to read and I started only at 11pm. I was in the school whole day for other group assignments, then got invited to hubby's friend's place for dinner.

Life as a student could be very tiring. I missed the time where I went to work, came home 6pm, spent the whole night doing nothing, and at the end of the month money appeared in my account. Those sweet old times.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

We got a nutcracker, yeah!

My MIL came by and gave us a lot of stuffs, one of them is this nutcracker. Of course she bought us the nuts too. I found the nutcracker very useful and it cracks easily.

While looking at wikipedia why there is a Ballet show calls "The Nutcracker", I found this picture. According to wikipedia:
  • These nutcrackers portray a person with a large mouth which the operator opens by lifting a lever in the back of the figurine. Originally one could insert a nut in the big-toothed mouth, press down and thereby crack the nut.
  • The ballet The Nutcracker derives its name from this festive holiday decoration.
Can you imagine opening the mouth of these status and crack a nut? I don't know how it would work actually.

Monday, November 05, 2007

When your teammate didn't do her/his work...

What do you do in this situation?

The assignment was given two weeks ago. I sent out an email to my teammate last Wednesday and the due date was today. My teammate agreed to do the part. However yesterday, a day before the due date, I still didn't get the part, so I sent out an email. I got a reply, saying that there was no time for the job to be done. The latest available time for this person would be 1 hour before the due date.

Me, what did I do? I covered the part yesterday night. Submitted today, with that person's name. I didn't eat lunch as I was told those who wanted to present should prepare a Power Point Presentation.

We did a good presentation, I did most of the work.

What would you do if you were me?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

For your health, avoid snacking between the meals

The minister of health has been sending messages to the French to take care of their health. Usually you see these messages on TV, at the bottom of every advertisements.

- «Pour votre santé, mangez au moins cinq fruits et légumes par jour » ;
(For your health, eat at least give fruits and vegetables per day)
- « Pour votre santé, pratiquez une activité physique régulière » ;
(For your health, practice a physical sport regularly)
- « Pour votre santé, évitez de manger trop gras, trop sucré, trop salé » ;
(For your health, avoid eating too oily, too sweet, too salty)
- « Pour votre santé, évitez de grignoter entre les repas ».
(For your health, avoid snacking between the meals)

We all know very well the first three messages and me myself agree and try to do the same. But for the fourth, have you ever heard of that? Its just that I nibble junk food/dessert/cookies all the times in my life and I didn't know it was bad. In Malaysia, cakes, kuihs, cookies, biscuits, confectionery, fruit, chocolate are to be nibbled between meals, do you think this has bad influence on the health? Here's what I found on the internet to response to this question:

  • Although snacking has been thought to contribute to weight gain, this will only happen if one regularly consumes more energy than one needs.
  • Furthermore, as long as energy intake is maintained, snacking may even help some individuals improve their weight control because eating more frequently may promote satiety, favours eating earlier in the day, and may increase carbohydrate intake while decreasing fat consumption.
  • In addition, snacking seems to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease due to a lower level of both total and LDL cholesterol. It does not interfere with blood sugar control in patients with diabetes. As far as oral health is concerned, if teeth are cleaned regularly (at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste), eating up to 6 meals per day should not create problems.
  • There is evidence that eating three meals and two or three snacks per day(nibbling) might be better for you than eating fewer, larger meals (gorging) as long as the total caloric intake remains the same.
Reviewed by Dr. France Bellisle, Centre National de Recherche Humaine Île de France, France

From this report, it seems that nibbling between meals was not so bad afterall. It has been in my habit for years, my mouth itches between meals. As for hubby, he is very resistant to this habit. He does snake between meals, but very little compare to me. I remember when I first arrived in France, his family felt shocked that I would eat junk food between meals. Then I release those junk foods they bought were meant for appetizer. Sometimes for big celebrations like Christmas, family gathering and wedding, people eat so much which I think its not healthy at all. What's the point of respecting 3 meals a day but eat like a pig for big gathering!

The Malaysian eat chocolate between meals, the French eat chocolate after the meal (after dessert while taking their coffee), which one is healthier?

Friday, November 02, 2007

November: Month for strike in France

The October 18 strike for the SNCF (national railway worker) didn't bear any constructive result; 4 days strike cost Air France 60 million in the revenues (reimbursement for the air ticket and etc), pissing off a lot of French who were going on vacation...imaging some had to take bus from Paris to Frankfurt to be able to go to Bangkok...

And, all these are not enough to wake up the workers, mainly the civil servant...they are declaring that November will be the month of strike.

Comic: The cows spend most of their time watching the train passing by. Since the railway strike, they no longer see the train. These cows are complaining and demand to be reimbursed of losing their sole entertainment. :-)

November 13: Start the unlimited transport strike for state-owned rail operator SNCF
November 14: The energy firms EDF and GDF backed calls for a one-day strike
November 20: Civil servants work stoppage

Guy in red: My wife run away with a cop, my car got burned, I can't go to work with train anymore, so what do I do now?
SNCF worker: You can be in sick leave, or try to get yourself fired. You will get help from the unemployment funding.

The unions are trying to defense their "special" pensions schemes of half a million public employees, one of them to allow some workers to retire as early as 50.

Currently, some 1.1 million people draw pensions under the scheme, funded by contributions from 500,000 workers. Since the contributions from workers fall far short of payments, the state have to bail out the special pensions fund to the tune of some five billion euros (6.9 billion dollars) a year.

Strikes and mass protests forced a previous government to back down on the reform of the so-called "special regimes" in 1995.

My comment:
The French wanted some revolution to their system, that's why they elected the new president. But one part of French are afraid to change too. They don't want to lose their entitlement to the early retirement (50 years old? Comment, some people have to work until 66), lots of benefits (first class free train tickets, vacation facilities for free...). Basically, the French don't want to lose their benefits they have been enjoying, even though they know that these benefits are dragging them now in terms of economy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I love kaki!

Autumn is my favorite season since a lot of fruits are available at this time. One of them is "kaki", the French name for persimmon. Isn't it amazing how a word can mean completely different stuff in different language? Kaki = foot in Malay and persimmon in French. It also mean one type of color, kind of dark green like shown in the photo, in French.

When I was living in Austin, across my apartment there was a shopping center. They actually planted some persimmon trees there. I found it so weird to plant fruit trees in a shopping district, but was aiming to steal some of the persimmons when they got ripen. Unfortunately I never had the chance since I moved to France before autumn.

Another case of same word different meaning. The word "patron" means boss in French. So when hubby first arrived in the USA, one day he wanted to park in front of a cinema, but he saw a signboard saying that "reserve to patron only". He thought oh the parking spots were reserved for the "boss" only. Eventually he parked somewhere else. Later only he realized that patron = customer who pay visit to the business, and since then he dared to park in the "boss" area. :-)