Wednesday, July 20, 2016


We have an email ID that we use when we are in an insecure environment.  On this trip, it proved its worth.  We have received about four hundred emails to multiple organizations, all with different user names but all allegedly coming fom our email ID.

Very glad we did not use one of our primary IDs....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Three Weeks Is a Long Time

Yesterday we returned from a trip to France.  Much of it was lovely.  I had the best bowl of strawberries I have ever eaten, while I was visiting a friend at her farm in southern France (the strawberries actually came from a neighboring farm, but who's counting).  Driving to the Jura region of France to see the girl who had stayed with us was prettty delightful, though having to go up a windy mountain road, dodging bicyclists in packs, was a little scary. (They are likely always there, but I suspect that their numbers were augmented by people pushing to be able to say they had biked on the same road as the Tour de France, which is starting soon.)  I could see several white-capped mountains in the distance, including Mount Blanc, which my wife refused to believe was named after the pen.  Go figure. Northern France, in the almost-Belgium part where Lille resides, was fun, especially when we encountered happy-but-not-rowdy groups of Belgian fans on the Lille metro, heading for the stadium and the Euro2016 football matches.  (France did pretty well, getting to the final, before being knocked off by Portugal.)  We were in Nice, thinking about how terrible the traffic was, two days before other events there led to Solidaire avec Nice signs on the highway.  Paris was good, even with the weather.  My wife fnally got to see the Musee D'Orsay, which I thought was pretty, and we both spent time chilling in the Luxumbourg gardens.  So that was fun.

The trip was not without incident -- mostly, nasty surprises as the European GSM phones we'd gotten failed to just work - turned out one phone was incapable of using a new SIM, while the other worked okay in Paris but only intermittantly in the countryside.  We swore a mighty oath not to look at our credit card charges -- at least, at the part that shows how much we were paying for connectivity that was inadequate at best and non-functional at worst.  Frequently, it was just irritating. I don't know how people get those awesome photographs from cell phones -- ours ended up looking as if it was raining or foggy, even in bright light.

The best part of the trip was seeing my friends.  Their awesomeness cannot be overstated.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Travel talk

I wonder how often you have to go overseas before you actually understand how to buy and use their mobile phones? I thought i did, but apparently i was wrong. Before we left the US, we bought 2 SIMs with french phone numbers, only 1 works. Could be the phone. Could be the sim. Could be sunspots.

Friday, June 24, 2016


There is nothing like packing for a trip that makes one realize just how much stuff one uses on a daily basis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


I'm sitting in the kitchen with one foot on the table, watching Star Trek videos.  It's a little hard to believe that in a little less than four days, we will be in France.  Paris, Lille, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Nice, and a small town in Bourgogne.  Three and a half weeks, what with travel time between here and there, not to mention within the country.  Things are not calm, per se, but apparently the French government has decided to clamp down on some of the protests and marches.  You can imagine how well that's gone over.

I'm really looking forward to seeing my friends again, and introducing some of them to Joan for the first time.  Paris, I don't care so much about, but Lille is lovely, and Bourgogne is delightful, as is Toulouse and Aix-en-Provence.  Rainy and cloudy in the north, slightly rainy but also brilliantly bright in the south.  Gonna be tough to handle. Somehow, we'll manage.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


In a series of vignettes in the comic movie Airplane!, Leslie Nielson''s character says "Guess I picked the wrong time to stop smoking. stop stop taking methamphetamines..." Well, apparently, I picked the wrong time to return to France.

In the last month, they have had multiple strikes, bad weather, flooding in Paris, and hooligans at their international soccer games. The strikes included airlines, and future strikes are projected to include train service in Paris.

Still, I was optimistic. They got it out of their system, I thought. The flooding will recede, people will relax - hey, its summer!, the weather has to improve!  I'll be able to get there, get around. By then, things will calm down.

Wrong. Another 4 day airline strike called for this weekend, by the fine pilots of Air France - neatly bracketing when my flight is scheduled to occur - and that strike was bracketed by 2 more national strikes. No Air France for YOU, this weekend. Or, possibly, other services. And it's still wet in Paris.

And later? Will SNCF, the rail system, have a strike? The hotel in Paris? The car rental? My French friends say Don't worry. There are always alternatives. We know how to deal with it. I'm not so sanguine. When you've got a schedule, one thing can throw the whole thing off. You find yourself stuck someplace, thinking what do I do now?  Where can I go? When you live in that area already, its an inconvenience.  When you don't.... 

A perky column in The Local (French news, in English) written 'by an American' (I say 'an American' because the author calls herself that - and mentions that she's lived in France for the last several years) implores Americans  to come to Paris.    We will go again, probably.  Though not soon..  And when we do, almost certainly not with Air France.

We're probably not going to go. (Though we might.  Don't you love the precision?)  Fortunately, we should be able to get our money back -- though how long it will take, who knows.  I don't feel badly for Air France and SNCF, but I do feel badly for the small businesses that aren't going to have our money.  I don't think that we will be the difference between success and failure for them.  But if enough tourists think as we do?  Then maybe, yeah. 

Fun fact:  due to the United States' antiquated rail and airline system, it takes as long to get from Pennsylvania to Montreal as it does to get from Washington DC to Paris. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016


The sister of my daughter's boyfriend just returned from an overseas study program.  She said that several times people came up to her and said a variant of this:

"I don't speak English very well.  Please do not vote for Trump."

Friday, June 17, 2016