Sunday, May 7, 2023

I Am Afraid of America


I am afraid for America.

As I write this, I am hoping for news that my daughter, SIL and grandchildren were not among those killed or wounded in the mall massacre in Allen, Texas. They live near the mall and go there often.

We learned of the killings when we woke early morning in France, but Texas is several time zones away, still middle of the night. Have not seen any messages on the internet - from anyone in the area - that they are 'marked safe.'

Maybe the mass shootings have become too commonplace. Allen did not even make the Drudge Report. After all, there have already been nearly 200 mass shootings in the US this year alone.

The Republican puppet who represents the district pushed back against gun control, saying 'God is in control.' If God is truly in control, he must love the NRA. Either that, or he is allowing the gun nuts and the fascist religious fanatics to hasten Armageddon. (Why should God do all the work when his 'people' will self-destruct the planet for him?)

I wonder if Republicans would take comfort in 'thoughts and prayers' if it was their children being shredded with an AR15?

Where is the outrage? Over killings of children. Over corrupt Supreme Court justices. Over the Dobbs decision. Over Citizens United that allows dark money to control elections. Over eejits like Trump, DeSantis, Pence, McCarthy, McConnell, Greene, Gaetz, Lake, Cruz, Abbott, Romney... too many to count.

I have been out of the US for 10 years now. I typically go back once or twice a year to visit family or for conferences. I am seriously considering not ever setting foot in the United States of AmeriKKKa again. I don't want to get shot. I don't want my wife to worry while I am there that I might get shot.

Even if I learn that my family are okay, it will not change the fact that loved ones from other families are dying every day because of the abject greed - that's all it is, payoffs from the gun lobby - to politicians with no spine, no balls, no moral compass. What's another dozen deaths today compared with millions in their pockets?

F*** RepubliKKKans.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Change the World


Dueling blog - see Donna-Lane's Expat Writer - The ExPat Writer: The Saudi Woman

More than one exhibitor at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva this week claimed their brainchild would "change the world."

Despite the hyperbole, you had to be impressed with the enthusiasm.

Sponsored in part by WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation), which is based in here, the mostly young entrepreneurs came from dozens of countries around the world. Heavy on China and other parts of Asia, but also Saudi and the Middle East and Africa, a few from Eastern Europe, not many from Western Europe, two from Canada and only one from the US - which we missed as we admired the large solar-powered hydrofoil (pictured) designed to clean ocean oil spills.

We expected an exhibition hall full of robots, but there were rather few and those were a bit boring. What we had not expected was the presentations focused on improving healthcare, agriculture, firefighting chemicals, an apparatus for cleaning graffiti, educational toys, a no-animal testing method, and even a kit for testing dogs for allergies (Sherlock's key problem).

There were a couple of aviation-related exhibits, which is what I was hoping to find and will follow up. One was a 'smart hat' for training policeman which analysed their brain waves for stressful situations; I'd like to explore whether it could be adapted to airline pilots.

The most interesting exhibits were from Iran and Ukraine. Iran because the West tends to treat all Iranians as pariahs because of their leadership, and yet here were people trying to create things to improve people's lives. Ukraine because, in the midst of being bombed regularly and fighting for their very survival, these young people were inventing things for the future.

Gives me some hope that the world can indeed be changed through optimism.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

My European Decade

Ten years ago, I moved to Europe. Permanently.

I was asked recently, was the transition difficult? I responded, "I was in love. Nothing else mattered."

The main difference is the lifestyle. Much more laid back. No mad commuter rush to work everyday. People are civil to each other. No one is carrying an assault rifle in the grocery store. You can get food that is grown at nearby farms, not ultra-processed with chemicals. In our small village in France, everything is less expensive - rent, clothing, food, and certainly wine. I especially love the café sits on marché days where we re-connect with friends from the village and those passing through from multiple far-flung places.

Being married to a fellow writer, we can support each other's work. Being semi-retired, we can set our own hours, and often ease into the day by reading in bed, waiting for Sherlock to emerge from beneath the duvet.

Donna-Lane also understands the language of golf and my passion for the game, though she has not played since her teen years. When I re-located, I assumed my competitive playing days were over, partly because of age and partly for the paucity of golf courses near where we lived. Then, on a trip to Scotland, I discovered hickory golf, and have gotten very involved in this part of the game's subculture, including the 1920's-era knickers and flat caps.

The decade has not been without challenges. Mostly caused by bureaucrats - both in Europe and the United States - whose role in life seems to be to frustrate Americans who try to live abroad. US laws since 2014 have made 'US persons' toxic to foreign banks, making it nigh impossible to obtain a bank account, a mortgage, a car loan... Had I not been entering my post-career years with no need to own property, the transition might have been radically different. Fortunately, I was joining someone who had already been here 20+ years and knew the various pitfalls.

The critical goal was securing residence, and I wasted two years trying to do so through the French system. The solution then became Switzerland, and being married to a Swiss saved about five years off the process. I needed to become fluent in French, of course, which I did, though my severe hearing loss was a stumbling block.

We have had opportunity to travel throughout Europe - Sweden, Germany, Czech, Austria, Italy, Spain, the UK, Scotland... plus our extended honeymoon to the sovereign principalities: Andorra, Monaca, Liechtenstein, and (next year) San Marino.

We do get back to the States once a year or so, and the contrasts are stark. The ubiquity of guns - open carry, no permit, no training - is the most frightening. When we were there last week, there were three more mass shootings in the US, plus shootings of kids chasing a ball, cheerleaders turning around in a driveway, and a young man who rang a doorbell at the wrong house. I do not recognize the country in which I grew up. I fear for family and friends who are stuck living in the increasingly polarized environment, and wish they could move as I have. 

In the stores, there is a bewildering array of choices, but also the aisles are littered with clothes and other merchandise strewn about. It seems people no longer care to be courteous, and they certainly don't care what anyone else thinks.

Europe is not perfect. There are frequent strikes, sometimes for good cause, but disruptive to peoples' lives. The healthcare systems in Switzerland and France have been excellent (and not bankrupting), though we have used them more than we would care to for various illnesses and falls. The drive between Geneva and Argelès sur Mer is rather long, but that's our choice, and the option of living in two marvelous places is wonderful.

Perhaps most significant, having lived outside the US bubble for 10 years, I now see the world very, very differently. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The $385 Windshield Wipers

We bought a new (used) car in January in France before driving up to Geneva. It was an emergency purchase. lovinglifeineurope: Something Borrowed, Something Blue

I hate the car more each day.

A couple of weeks ago, we started having trouble getting the car started. Orange warning lights were coming on. Green lights were flashing to call attention to the orange warning lights.

Almost always, the car finally started. Sometimes after 2-3 minutes of frustration.

When the dealer had explained the functions of the car to me, he had mentioned some "auto diagnostic" system that kicked in whenever the car was stopped. I thought he had said I could disable it if I wished.

When the car started not starting, I assumed it was the auto diagnostics going through its processes before allowing me to begin the ignition process. But it didn't always seem to work that way, and the starting problem was getting worse. I tried contacting the dealer in France, who seemed confused what I was talking about. He also was not clear that the additional warranty coverage I had purchase was valid in Switzerland. And, BTW, he was going away for a few days and not be back til the next week; I was told I'd hear about the warranty coverage from his colleague.

Finally, the car would not start at all. It was dead in the driveway. The Renault dealer across the border in France said they were not authorized to tow from Switzerland, and even if I had the car towed to their lot they could take up to 15 days to look at it. Unacceptable. I called the Renault garage down the road in Hermance that I had dealt with on our previous car.

They showed up, not with a tow truck, but a small car and jumper cables. The mechanic jumped into the driver's seat, turned the key, and the car started immediately! No jump required. Of course.

They drove it to the dealership, and I caught a bus there later that day. Since they were checking out the car's problems anyway, I asked them to change the windshield wipers - the passenger-side wiper coverage was quite bad.

The dealer got in the car and explained to me how to properly start it. Apparently, all that is necessary is to fully depress the clutch. The times it wouldn't start for me, I must not have had the clutch all the way down. I had not known that. I've never had a car where that was an issue.

I paid 355.40 Swiss francs (about US $385) when all I needed was one windshield wiper.

Did I mention I hate this car?

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Ultimate Selfie Stick

I read my current novel (Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra - brilliant writing!). I watched a couple episodes of the Netflix documentary on the missing MH370 aircraft (disturbing). I read several articles in recent issues of The Atlantic. I played classical music (the 1812 Overture would have been appropriate). I drank a lot of water... and got rid of it.

The preparation for a colonoscopy is always far worse than the procedure itself. In fact, once the nurse administered the anaesthetic, I didn't know a thing had happened until they woke me up. (Yes, I am proudly woke.)

It had been 15-17 years since my first roto-rooter in Texas, and I recall the doctor mentioning have snipped some small polyps while he was in there taking Instagram videos. I probably put it off so long having it again out of fear that my intestines were now surely worse and I might have raging Stage 4 colorectal cancer and have to drop everything in our lives to start strength-sapping chemo treatments.

Donna-Lane had been steered to an excellent doctor a few years back, Dr. Scevola, an Italian practicing in Geneva and New York, who also teaches university, and has excellent English... and a great gurney-side manner.

Yes, I know it's the Ides of March. What could go wrong. The operation had been moved up a day because of a death in the doctor's family. The other option was to wait til he got back next week. No, let's get it over with.

We took the TPG bus system, parking in the underground in our new village. Twenty minutes on the 33 to Rive, a short walk (and a pit stop for D-L to get a blueberry muffin), then the 8 up the hill to practically in front of the doctor's door. One reason for the bus was in case I was too woozy to drive after. But frankly, the more often we take the bus the more we want to use it in the future. No traffic. No searching for scarce street parking. No worries about time left on the meter. And you can get just about anywhere you want in the city. Last week I went to an early morning appointment in the Grottes to adjust my Snortec, then rolled up to Palexpo (near the airport, it all the way across town) for an air traffic management conference, back to the train station (where I picked up some special bread D-L loves), over to Rive (where I picked up some Middle Eastern foods she likes from Les Halles), then back to Vandoeuvres and a short walk down the hill to home.

Oh, Dr. Scevola said he didn't find any significant problems. Guess I'm good for another... X years.

Seriously, don't wait as I did. Get checked every 5 years or so once you've reached 55 years of ago. It's the only way to know what's going on with your innards... and to catch things early if there is a problem.

I'm relieved at my results. And it only took an afternoon and evening sitting on the commode - reading and...

Colonoscopy - Mayo Clinic