Monday, September 30, 2013

Jurassic Parc

One of the joys of sojourning in Geneva is the daily view of the Jura Mountains on the opposite side of Lac Leman from Corsier Port.

The 'mood' of the mountains changes, not only each day, but sometimes by the minute. It might be blue skies and wispy clouds, below which you can seem to see every ridge and crevace of the range - which stretches for 360 km from Germany to France, from the Rhine River to the Rhone. Then on some mornings, you cannot see the mountains through the overcast skies. Perhaps you can glimpse portions of the town of Versoix at the base, though sometimes the fog is too heavy even for that.
Yesterday afternoon, as D-L and I were taking it in from a bench on the beach, a sort of 'portal' opened in the clouds, revealing just a faint outline of mountains, as if beckoning us to come through the portal into another world. (I think I've already done that, so Harry Potterland can wait for another time.)

And then there are the magnificent developing storms from the west, usually signalled initially by a splatter of rain on the skylight over the attic office desk.
The Jura give their name to the geological timescale known as the Jurassic period, but this Jurassic Parc has no dinosaurs (that I've heard of). It is a great place for hiking, cycling, and skiing. And in the towns along its foothills, the Swiss watchmaking industry developed. At high altitude (some peaks exceed 1700 meters / 5600 feet), you might even visit Sainte-Croix, renowned for music boxes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Minecraft, Moshi Monsters, Christopher Columbus, Kryptonese, Robots, and Perfume Pills

We are all aware of the technology leaps that keep changing the communications landscape - laptops, tablets, smartphones, Google glasses, 3D movies and TV, 3D printing ... and who knows what's next. I've been fortunate to witness the continuous evolutions of recent decades from the development side as part of the simulation and telecom worlds, as a communicator, and as a consumer.

One thing that never changes: the need for a narrative, a story, a message that connects the reader/viewer/participant with the world you are describing (whether real, fiction, or fantasy) and what's relevant in that world to them.

Yesterday, Donna-Lane and I attended a "Transmedia" conference in Lausanne: http://www.xmedialab.com/events/2013/xml-switzerland-2013. It was an inspirational and informative experience.
Transmedia, or cross-media, as it is sometimes phrased, is essentially applying a story across multiple media. Ideally, engaging the audience as participants. It can be as simple as having TV viewers use the phone to cast their votes for the Idol winner. Or as complex as using social media and the web to enable the audience to not only learn more about a story on TV but to actually shape the story outcome through their participation. (Much easier to explain with graphics and video.)
A key message for communicators - aside from the need for a compelling narrative to begin with - is the importance of thinking cross-platform from the beginning of a project. Don't just think video or TV programme; consider from the get-go that elements of your story will apply to the web, to the 140-character world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., to smartphone apps, and perhaps someday to a multi-layered display fed directly to your eye through a smart contact lens (the concept presented by the winner of a student contest).
It was also a reminder of how communicators need to be versatile and capable of creating with different media and delivery channels. It's no longer sufficient to attend a conference, take a few interview notes, and leisurely write for a bimonthly magazine. Today you also need to be able to creatively shoot and edit photographs, video, and audio - and turn around news and features quickly to feed the voracious appetite of websites, blogs, tweets, etc. 
Many of the examples were consumer and entertainment oriented: Angry Birds, the UK Moshi Monsters franchise, the recent Man of Steel movie - in which they created an entire 'Kryptonese' language after asking the question, 'Why does Superman - who is from Krypton - wear an English-language 'S' on his chest?' (Their answer: it's not English; it's a character from the alphabet of leap-tall-building-man's home planet.) There was a presentation on how human-like robots are being used as greeters and other purveyors of information. How Christopher Columbus used an egg to respond to skeptics who thought - after that fact - that anyone could have discovered the Indies as he did. References to my grandson's favorite interactive game, Minecraft, which enables you to build worlds out of your imagination. And a perfume pill that supposedly enables each person to have a unique individual aroma (already have that, thanks, and a bit concerned about the unknown long-term effects of swallowing something that interacts with fat cells).
Regardless of technology, communications still comes down to engaging with an audience of one. Convey something that catches  person's attention to want to know more. Not easy with the constant, increasing bombardment of information flowing today ... and it will only get worse. But for those who understand how to apply the various tools ... and can craft an interesting, relevant story ... your skills will continue to be in demand.

No Phubbing

Phubbing is the term for ignoring the people around you by focusing your attention on your phone.

I don't consider myself a phubber, and I use my smartphone a whole lot less than I used to when I had a day job and traveled more. However, phones (of all types - smart, dumb, house) are pretty much anathema to D-L. She considers an incoming phone call to her an intrusion, and a phone call from her as an intrusion on someone else's time. Email, Facebook, etc. - send me messages all day long. Just don't call her.

And don't pull out your smartphone in the lunch line right after one of the morning speakers put up a graphic about phubbing.

Fortunately I had to go to the bathroom after lunch, where I can multi-task. (Unfortunately, I could not get a signal, so had to wait until we got home to check 'urgent' emails.)

Oh, it didn't help either that my phone rang right in the middle of one of the morning speakers (wow, does it sound loud in a roomful of 300 people!) Or that during an afternoon speaker, my backup phone rang too (didn't know it was even on, and the ring was for the battery getting low). Too bad phones are not 'smart' enough to know when they should be silent.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Sardine Cans

Now I know what sardines in a can feel like. (Except the being dead part.)

Rode the London Underground (aka The Tube) a couple of times today during morning and evening rush hours, and the people were packed so tight at times that no one else could get in the car ... and the last guy in had to lean his head forward so the door would shut!

Every age range, income bracket (well, below a million), and sexual orientation was represented (or so it seemed). Wish I'd gotten a photo of the gothic punk girl with the bright vermillion hair, tank top, and multiple tattoos. 
I continue to marvel at the public transportation systems in Europe. I traveled from the outskirts of Geneva to the heart of London without benefit of a car: walk up the hill from the house to the bus stop, bus to downtown Geneva, change to bus to the aeroport, walk through security, moving sidewalks to customs, bus to the airplane, airstairs, fly GVA to LGW, jetport into the terminal at Gatwick, shuttle train from North terminal to South terminal, buy an Oyster prepaid magnetic card for easier train/Tube access, through turnstiles and down escalators to the train platform, Southern Rail to East Croydon, walk up the ramp to the 'Way Out' (never realized that, not only do the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road, they tend to walk on the left side too), through the exit turnstile, and walk two blocks to the hotel. Next morning, train to London Bridge, Tube to Canning Town, Docklands Light Rail to Customs House stop for the ExCel convention centre. Reverse in the evening.

It was perfect foggy London weather this morning.
One other thing I marvel at - the Brits slap a name on everything they can. This one names a space about 5 metres square which connects a walkway from the river to the street.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Will It Fit?


Flying over to London for three aviation conferences and two publisher meetings in four days. Taking EasyJet, and got a great fare. And, unlike some airlines, EasyJet does not yet charge for carry-on luggage.

So this is perhaps the first business trip I've taken of more than two days in which I will try to carry everything I need with me. D-L is used to this drill, but I argue that her clothes are smaller and lighter weight than mine.

The maximum size for a carry-on is 50 cm (about 20 in) x 40 (16) x 20 (8) - if you want to guarantee that the bag stays with you and doesn't get relegated to the hold.

Let's see: two pair of slacks, plus the pair I wear; blazer; four shirts; one tie should suffice; computer (and power cord - forgot that one time when I went to Dubai); camera (and power cord - download files so there's plenty of available memory); audio recorder (and spare batteries); smartphone (and charger); electrical converters; one pound coins and a 5-GBP note left over from the last UK pass-through; a novel to read on the flight or during those lonely nights in the hotel; business cards; boarding pass; hotel confirmation; directions here and there ... oh, and don't forget the mini-Oreos (the little blue packet with the red triangle in the corner).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Walk, Write, Walk, Write

Writers sharing about writing. What a pleasant and inspiring way to spend a Saturday morning.
The Geneva Writers Group met at Webster University, where Donna-Lane used to teach creative writing (so she knew how to get there - walk, bus, bus, breakfast, walk, bus, walk ... not having a car is great exercise ... and less stress when you consider the Bentley-Audi accident we witnessed on the way home). 
After a two-hour workshop by Susan T on creative non-fiction, including travel writing (good prep for resurrecting my GolfPerspectives website/blog) and op-ed (draft letter to the DMN editor on the unfairness of FATCA), D-L did a reading from her recently published Murder in Paris (Hardcover or Kindle via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Paris-Five-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00EUGGOBE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379779729&sr=1-1&keywords=d-l+nelson+murder+in+paris). She also described the key characters in her Third Culture Kid mystery series - of which MIP is the 4th - and her approach to writing, marketing to publishers, agents, and a laugh or three ... 
Arriving back in downtown Geneva, we paused at the Starbucks on Rue du Mont-Blanc (and it was clear enough to see the snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc in the distance).

A year and a summer ago, after not seeing her for 24 years, I had invited D-L to meet me at Starbucks for a cup of coffee. At the time, it was one of the few places in Geneva I knew how to get to for sure. We rendezvoused there, but did not stay, as she whisked me away for dinner at Cafe du Soleil. So today, finally, we actually had beverages at S'bucks. And did a little re-enactment of that first reunion.
It was such a beautiful Fall day, we walked across the bridge to the Rive bus stop, pausing to take in the always amazing Jet D'Eau, which today featured a rainbow over the sailboats moored along the quai and cloud formations that could have been rendered by an artist's strokes.

Now back home, it's time to apply some of that writing advice.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Statuesque

The Plainpalais area of Geneva is located close to Old Town on the southwest side of the city, and is home to the largest marche /  flea market in the area (operated since 1848). It also has a lively arts community with numerous bookstore-cafes, music shoppes, and galleries. 

D-L and I were invited by a former work colleague of hers to attend a jazz jam session by a band of young men. So we caught the bus to Rive, then the tram heading toward Carouge. 

It was a nice evening, no rain and not too cool, so she suggested we hop off at Plainpalais and walk the rest of the way. She assured me she knew where the jazz / gallery was located (I’ve learned to be suspect of her navigation abilities, but I had not printed out the directions, so was at the mercy of her memory). 

At the Plainpalais tram stop, there are three life-size statues of what appear to be fellow travelers. In fact, the first time we walked through there I almost bumped into one and started to say, “Pardon moi” before realizing it was not real. 
One of the wonderful features about many cities in Europe is the public art – even the small villages have erected statues, sculptures, photo exhibits, and decorate with an abundance of flowers. 
Yes, we found the jam session - Donna-Lane's description is on her blog, The ExPat Writer: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2013/09/jamming-in-carouge.html.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yes, It Arrived

My golf game has been restored. I now have a broomstick putter to use in Europe.

Couldn't fit my other two 48-inch long putters in my travel golf bag, and I am quite pathetic with a shorter stick, so I set out on a quest to find a relatively inexpensive club over here.

The solution was eBay, and only 39.99 GBP, including shipping from the UK to Switzerland. But the wait was almost interminable.

Finally, today, the package arrived at the Corsier post office (perhaps the only golf club ever received at the little PO), and I trekked up the hill to pick it up.

It's some off-brand called Palm Springs 2-EZ, but the name doesn't matter. Nor the design. At least now my putting won't look like an out-of-body experience.

Time to look for some tournaments to enter.

You Skylight Up My Life

This is the view from the attic ' office' in Corsier Port, looking over Lake Geneva to the Jura Mountains, when I stand up and open the skylight window. (Okay, I also have to stand on a chair to see this much, but nonetheless.)

When I am seated at the desk, I can be treated to a day-long multi-media show: clouds of all hues and varieties, the contrails of a military jet streaking across the blue, raindrops, the wind rippling through the oak tree which is another 20 feet above the roof, and an intermittent acorn.

I'll often shut the shade on the skylight, at least partway, because when I see the bright skies (like today, after a week of on-and-off rain), I'm tempted to go for a leisurely walk by the lake.

There's a skylight in the bedroom which faces the rising sun (great for morning reading), and the one in the office faces the west. What a marvelous vantage point to watch the sunset.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Joyeux anniversaire

I met Donna-Lane 35 years ago, 8000 kilometres and a lot of life experiences from where we are now. She's even more vivacious and full of life today than she was then. Glad I re-found her.

D-L describes our anniversary lunch at: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2013/09/35th-anniversary.html.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The End of American Ex-Pat Influence in the World

As the economy becomes more global, fewer and fewer Americans will be participants on the international scene. Why? The US government, in its infinite pursuit of more tax revenue, is making it almost impossible for America citizens to work overseas.

First, the US is the only country in the world that taxes its citizens no matter where they live. Even if you've not lived in the US for decades and earn no income from US sources. Even if you are a US citizen by virtue of being born to an American parent -- and you've never ever set foot on American soil. No other country has such audacity.

Now, in an effort to ostensibly track down wealthy tax cheats hiding their money in foreign banks, the US Congress has passed FATCA - the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Beginning in 2014, foreign banks are required to report the financial information for any American customers ... or the banks can face stiff fines.

But rather than comply with the paperwork required by the US, foreign banks are making life easier for themselves -- by arbitrarily closing the accounts of Americans (especially smaller accounts, ie non-wealthy American citizens).

This, of course, makes life much more difficult for the non-wealthy American ex-pats. They have no bank account for making simple deposits and withdrawals. They cannot apply for a mortgage or a car loan. In short, it is almost impossible to do normal day-to-day things in a foreign country.

Many Americans living overseas are voluntarily giving up their US citizenship and passport - record numbers, in fact. (Note: they can only do this if they have secured citizenship in another country - a process that typically takes 5 to 12 years.)

It's not an easy choice to make ... but it is a choice being forced on them by a hostile US government which demands more and more money to feed its voracious spending appetite.

This will also affect American-based multi-national companies. They will have more difficulty sending key employees overseas, even for short-term assignments, because those employees will not be able to open basic bank accounts. In effect, American presence and influence will diminish outside the US itself.

Is this what Congress and the President intended? If they are pursuing wealthy cheats, why not limit the reporting requirements to accounts above a certain threshold?

As always, it's the little guys who get hurt by the unintended consequences.

The photo above is of D-L being interviewed by Swiss TV station RTS Un for the program Mise au Point, which aired last night and focused on FATCA. It's mostly in French, though you can hear some of D-L's English remarks. You can view the program at http://www.rts.ch/emissions/mise-au-point/5131227-mise-au-point.html. The FATCA segment runs from about 09:53 to 22:17.

I'm proud of her speaking out. Maybe if enough Americans contact their Congressman and Senators, FATCA can be revised and people can live their lives wherever they wish to pursue happiness.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Went to France for Chinese

The first time I heard Donna-Lane say, "Julia and I went to France for Chinese for lunch," the remark struck me funny.

Now I can say it myself. The three of us drove from Switzerland to France to the Royal Asiatic buffet in St. Cergues.

A long way to go? Not really ... well, at least not normally. Only about 5 kilometers, as we're pretty close to the border. However, today we seemed to get there by a rather circuitous route which may have gone through Germany, Sweden, and Liechtenstein!

We couldn't use the normal route, straight up the hill through Corsier village, as they were staging a soap box derby. Then there was the unexpected construction at the turn-around interchange at the highway exit. 

When we finally arrived, the food and service was well worth the detours. Ailes poulet and poulet Thai, canard laque, boeuf Sichuan, calamari a l'ail ... and some superb mango sherbet to finish.
After the meal, the weather was transitioning from multi shades of grey skies to brilliant blue breaking through bright white clouds. D-L and I decided to walk down the hill through the village, so Julia dropped us off at the roundabout. The soapbox derby was still on - postponed, no doubt, because of the morning rain.
The mid-September weather is starting to cool, much to D-L's delight. And it's nearing time for the grape harvest in the many fields that line the hillsides.
Next time we come up to Switzerland, there will likely be snow, most certainly on the mountains. Hopefully there will be few occasions to call on the Swiss national dog ... though he's pretty smart - he can even read directional signs!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Timestyles

I'm researching an article on the history of pilot watches, and thinking what a global, mobile, time-challenged lifestyle we live in now.
 
One of the best things about working for yourself is that, for the most part, you don't have to jump out of bed in the morning, rush through a shower, throw on a suit and tie, scarf down a quick breakfast, and jump in the car or on a commuter train. (My sympathies for those of you who still do so.)

I have the luxury of easing into the day.

It especially helps that, being in Europe and 6-7 hours ahead of many of my contacts in North America, they don't even get to the office until 2-3 pm in my afternoon.

Moreover, I'm not a morning person. Since working at a newspaper my senior year in high school, my body clock has been more Noon to Midnight rather than 8 to 8. I've been known to write until 3 or 4 am, especially when I lived in Texas and the publisher was in the UK - when I finished and emailed the draft, they were just arriving at work.

That went all topsy-turvy the past year when I was in the States and Donna-Lane was in Europe. By the time I got up at 7 or 8 am in Dallas, it was already afternoon for her in Switzerland or France, and she'd often be out and about ... leaving little or no window for a Skype call. So I completely reversed my pattern: I went to bed by 9 or 10 pm (or intended to do so) and set the alarm for 1 or 2 am, which was 8-9 am for her. That way we had all of her day to find a time to talk - sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours.

An added benefit, as I still had a day job at the time, was the 5-6 hours available to work uninterrupted - no emails, no phone calls - before my colleagues in Montreal started their day.

The new schedule made a huge difference when I moved to Europe; my body clock was already in sync with the new time. Now I often wake up around 530 or 6 am, just about the time some of my friends in North America are going to bed.

Quite often when I awake, D-L has the lamp on and is intently reading a book. We'll end up talking about an endless variety of subjects - politics, projects, personal, and playful - sometimes spending an hour or more in bed with no pressure to get up other than hunger.

I'm still basically a Noon to Midnight guy - my mind doesn't fully function in the a.m. And I still occasionally work until 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. I just shifted everything by 7 timezones.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Great Global Nose Blow

Two months ago, Donna-Lane fainted, fell, and cracked some bones in her face, requiring surgery. A by-product of the healing process was that she could NOT blow her nose or cover her nose/mouth if she sneezed ... lest she jar loose the titanium plates and pins the surgeons inserted to hold her cheekbones in place.

How often do we each blow our nose without thinking twice about it?

So after receiving a clean bill of health this afternoon, and joined by friends from around the world all blowing in unison, D-L was once again able to clear her sinuses.

You can read about Donna-Lane's relief - and see the video - on her blog: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch.

Or view the video on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/yMiZf_3nS3U.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Author! Author! Author! Author!

Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel or non-fiction book understands how very difficult it can be. Long hours plotting, crafting characters and scenes, research trips, double-checking facts, re-writing, marketing to publishers (sometimes dozens, even hundreds before acceptance), and then promoting sales of the book itself.

As someone who has attempted (sufficient to grasp the process) but not yet succeeded in completing and publishing a novel, I have utmost respect for those who have.

Donna-Lane has published eight novels, a ninth is due out in March, she's editing the completed draft of the 10th, and she's already writing sections of her 11th. She is without question a very successful author. (http://donnalanenelson.com/) This is all since she allegedly 'retired.'

Today - as part of a major 3-day literary festival in Switzerland - D-L was on a panel with three other writers at the invitation of the Geneva Writers Group. They discussed the craft of how they work, the challenges of trying to fit writing (and reading) in among other jobs and family responsibilities, and the value of the GWG in encouraging their literary efforts in the 20 years since the group was formed. Each author also read a passage from their latest published work.
You can read D-L's perspective of the event on her blog: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2013/09/sometimes-it-humbling-is-good.html.

The event would have been informative and fun in any setting, but as a bonus this one was on a cruise ship which lazily steamed up Lac Leman from Geneva to Morges, where the main portion of the festival was set up. We drifted past the luxury hotels, the famous jet d'eau fountain, Corsier Port where we live when in Switzerland, groups of sailboats, a water skier, the outer marker radio beacon for landing airplanes, several magnificent lakefront chateaus, and innumerable swans, ducks, and seagulls.
It had rained all night, and the forecast for the day was for light rain, then heavier rain, then thunderstorms. However, when we arrived downtown at the boat quai, the rain had disappeared, blue skies were breaking through, and the moisture held off until we were ready to catch the train from Morges back to Geneva.

I'm obviously quite proud of my wife, the author. And of all the other authors who persevere to tell the world the story and message they feel compelled to write.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Can You Bail Me Out of Jail, Part Deux

I've been shooting some videos the past couple weeks to show family and friends a bit of our lifestyle in Argeles-sur-mer and Geneva. The village. The beach. The places we live.

Today, enroute from ASM to Geneva, I shot footage of the train rides, starting with the little station in Argeles.

But when I pulled out my camera in Nimes, waiting for the arrival of the high-speed TGV to Lyon, the nice young lady you see in the gray-and-red SNCF uniform approached me and said, "No cameras in the station," or something to that effect. Much the same way the gendarmarie had lectured me a few days ago for filming the police station (http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.ch/2013/08/hi-honey-can-you-bail-me-out-of-jail.html)

I feigned ignorance to the young lady, which wasn't difficult, and she seemed satisfied that I put the camera away (I'd already gotten the shots I wanted).

It's understandable that authorities might be nervous about terrorist types shooting photos and video and otherwise scoping out train stations and rail lines for attack. There was a warning last week that Al Qaeda types were threatening to blow up European trains.

But let's face it. There's next to no security in the rail system. Yes, there are police and security personnel walking around, probably profiling possible troublemakers. But people who ride the trains tend to be a more motley-looking lot than airplane passengers, So how would you pick out a potential bomber -- someone like me with longish hair? The girl with tattoos over most of her body? The mother with the toddler in the stroller and several shopping bags?

When you buy a ticket, there's no name on it - so there's no record of who is riding the train. There's no screening of people or baggage. And even the TGV makes multiple stops. It would be rather easy to bring a bomb onboard in luggage, set a timer, and step off the train at the station before the planned explosion.

Not advocating a TSA-style system for the trains. No one's going to fly a train into a skyscraper. Just noting that banning photos is hardly going to deter someone bent on destruction. As for no photos in station, how do you know if someone with a smart phone is making a call, playing a game, or shooting an HD video?

Nonetheless, the day started wonderfully with a beautiful sunrise over the Med. And it ended even better, reunited with D-L in Geneva (and not at a French jail) after several days apart.
 
 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time to say 'Au revoir, bientot'

Summer is over. And so is my five-week sojourn in Argeles by the sea.

It's been wonderful seeing all our friends from around Europe and even a few from the States, and our wedding ceremony was a magical time.

Donna-Lane is in Geneva, having just watched her daughter fly to the US to start a new chapter in her life. (http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2013/09/cryptoquotes-partings-endings-and.html)

By Friday, I'll be with D-L in Geneva, inshallah. (If I can manage not to lose my train ticket again - http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.ch/2013/09/expensive-lesson.html)

We have places to go, people to see. D-L's readings from her novels to writer groups. Friends arriving from Paris. Aviation conferences in London, Las Vegas, and Berlin. Visit the kiddos in Texas. A leading-edge media event in Lausanne. The Evian women's pro golf tournament. Bern to watch the cows parade down from the mountains.

Then back to Argeles in November and again in December for Christmas.

Til then, gonna miss the narrow streets, the familiar faces, the beach, the church bells, the misty mountains, D-L's Nest ...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Expensive Lesson


Quelqu'un tourner dans le billet de train ?

Always said I'd lose my head if it weren't stapled on.

Purchased my train ticket to go up to Geneva the end of the week. Then decided to check out the hours at the post office since I needed to get a stamp to mail a card (didn't have the card with me, though).

At the post office, they have self-service machines, but you need to weigh the card/letter on the scale on top so the machine knows what to charge you.

Not having the card with me, I used a substitute of about the same weight - the train ticket (actually two tickets for the three legs of the trip).

Paid for the stamp, retrieved the stamp and receipt from the basin at the front of the machine ... and walked out of the post office, leaving my train tickets sitting on top of the machine.

Hoped some Samaratin might turn them in, so I went back to the post office when they opened this morning, and in my best Franglais inquired as to whether the tickets might be there. Three nice ladies all looked around counters and in drawers, but to no avail.

So I trekked back to the train station, and repurchased the ticket - for another 70 Euros (about US$90).

Que puis-je dire ? Parfois, je suis un idiot.

To console myself, I stopped at the boulangerie and got a religieuse chocolat - kind of a small custard cream puff on top of a larger chocolate cream puff.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Time to Fly

This week, I made the quarterly payments on my life insurance policies and I stopped in at the Aero Club du Roussillon to inquire about taking flying lessons. I'm hoping the two events are not related.

I've wanted to learn to fly for a long time, but have heretofore deferred to family members who were convinced my flying would be as aggressive and occasionally dangereuse as my driving, and I'd surely kill myself.

Perhaps so, but I doubt it.

So when I return to Argeles-sur-mer in November, I will take a medical exam (no reason I should not pass - had my first completely clean physical in recent memory this spring), obtain a French FFA license, and sign up with an instructor for my 2nd time ever in a real cockpit.

The first time was last September when I flew upside down - on purpose - with APS upset recovery instructor Randy Brooks. I didn't takeoff nor land the Excel 300 aerobatic airplane, but I did have my hand on the stick and was in control for awhile ... and it was exhilerating.

I've always said flying was in my DNA. My great uncle, from whom I get the name Richard, was a pioneering aviator in the 1920s and 30s, a colleague of Charles Lindbergh. Richard Bennett served in the American Expeditionary Forces in France in WWI, started the first airport in Binghamton NY, competed in the air races of the day which helped popularize aviation, and taught parachute jumping (something else I plan to do - just over the border in Spain.) My dad was part of the 'Fabled Fifteen' Navy Helldiver squadron in WWII.

I'm looking forward to soaring over the south of France, looking down on the village and the beach from a few thousand feet, and gaining confidence in handling the controls and reading the instruments. The Aero Club leader said after about 10 hours, I'd be able to solo. Wonder how soon I can take passengers? Any volunteers?