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BAD NEWS, FRENCH MORTGAGE, SAUSAGE, AND BITS AND BOBS: #13

  CONTENT The news ain’t what it used to be.  I’m retired. I have wifi. I have Reuters and Google News and Flipboard and The New York Times and more sources for ‘content’ on my phone than I could ever need.  Not so long ago, scanning through those sources was enjoyable, might even have evoked a chuckle or two.  Remember the Chris Christie meme? How many ways could an obese governor lounging in a beach chair be photoshopped into wildly inappropriate current events stories? As it turned out, lots of ways, lots of very funny ways. Where are the memes featuring the politicians of today that evoke laughter and not disgust?  COVID. Trump. Boris. Putin. Ukraine. China. Climate. Supply chain. The price of energy. The price of food.  The world is too much with us... ON THE OTHER HAND UPI reports that a chicken walked up to a security area in the Pentagon, unaccompanied and unarmed. Yes. A chicken. Not a Bird Colonel. An actual chicken. With feathers. When I was in college, we stole
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FRESH FLOWERS, FREE SPEECH, A PISSED OFF CAT, AND OTHER BITS AND BOBS: #12

  FRESH FLOWERS  Joni always gets it right. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. For something like 30 years and a bit more, we bought, packaged for resale, and distributed thousands of cut flowers every week. Roses, carnations, mums, and more slipped through our hands, primarily viewed as a commodity. It was how we made our living. Oh, every once in a while, a particularly fine specimen would catch our eye and wind up in a bud vase on the kitchen table. But in general, I just became accustomed to having fresh flowers in the house without really noticing them.  In retirement, Cathey has taken to container gardening on the terrace. No veggies. Just stuff that looks pretty, smells good, or might spice up a stew. So we have sprigs and blossoms of several different sorts on the table as summer begins on through the middle of autumn. But the winters, as far from eastern Pennsylvania as we are, still can be pretty sparse. And, because I am a man, I hadn’t noticed that the vases had

FIRE IS RITUAL AND NOVELTY: #11

  Our new house has a fireplace with an insert. I haven't lived in a house with a fireplace for over fifty years. I’m ready. Impatient. I've started fires in the insert every day for the past few days. Here’s what I’ve learned. Fire starting involves ritual, repeated adherence to certain personalized rules to accomplish the desired outcome. Do you sweep the hearth clean or build on a bed of ashes? Do you use one of those little fire-starter cubes? If you do, organic or petrochemical? What sort of kindling do you use and how do you arrange it? What size log(s) of what type of wood do you use? How do you arrange them? How do you set the draft? Once you have your fire going, how often do you poke and prod it? These are all serious questions requiring serious answers. As you learn your particular fireplace, you settle on the answers that seem to produce the best result. There’s little profit in changing the ritual once you have settled on a formula that builds the fire that you wan

GETTING A FRENCH MORTGAGE: PART DEUX #10

    To recap: You have a banker, not a bank. Bring every piece of paper that you own. French bankers don't negotiate like American bankers. You don't actually apply for a mortgage until you've been approved. You are not approved until the regional office signs off. There's a waiting period.  And don't forget, the banker can get COVID and let your paperwork sit on his desk for a couple of extra weeks. That's where we were the last time that I posted. It gets better. After satisfying Frederick's request for updated French tax info, I thought that we might be home free. Silly me. Out of the blue, more requests for documents. Statements for the past three months for our Belgian account. Proof that we had paid off the mortgage on our current house. And how about the deed to the new house? You know, the one that the mortgage is for. Let's take them one at a time. BELGIAN ACCOUNT We don't have any accounts in Belgium. Frederick said that we did, that we had

MACRON, 1/6, PIZZA, AND OTHER BITS AND PIECES: #9

  MACRON IS PISSED OFF. SO AM I. I don't care if it was political calculation, a slip of the tongue, or simply an uncharacteristic burst of honest feelings from a politician. But I am not pissed off that Macron is pissing off the people who piss me off by not getting vaccinated. As the controversy over Macron's statement concerning the last 10% of the French who are holding out against the jab plays out, anti-vaxxers are being interviewed by the media. And what those interviews bring to light, admittedly as anecdotal evidence, is that the anti-vaxxers have no problem purchasing fake vaccine passes or borrowing the passes of friends and family in order to go to restaurants and cinemas while unvaccinated. In other words, they have no problem breaking the law and endangering other people's lives, demonstrating that they are not merely criminals. They are sociopaths.  Yes, such rants are becoming more and more common. Given that anti-vaxxers are such a small minority - in numbe

STUFF TO KNOW ABOUT FRENCH MORTGAGES: #8

  Every interaction with a French institution teaches valuable lessons. Usually, those lessons involve learning patience. The French bureaucrat/fonctionnaire has a list and loves to check the boxes. Here are a few boxes that you need to be checking.   You have a banker, not a bank. I don't know how it is for folks with abundant resources, but we are just average folks with an income close to the French national average. That means that there's one person at the bank that handles our account, our banker. Frederick. It's a small branch with just a few employees, so there's no hand off. Frederick works on our dossier and, if he's not around, the dossier sits. (More about that later.) Get to know your banker. Bring every piece of paper that you own when meeting with your banker to discuss your request for a mortgage. If you have been living in France, five years worth of tax returns. French tax returns. (If you live in France, you have to file whether you have to pay F

CURRENCY TRANSFERS AND PNC BANK: #7

    PNC BANK I’ve had no problem with PNC Bank for nearly forty years. Free checking. Online banking. Overdraft protection. Hardly a hiccup. But today, if I found myself back in the USofA (besides wondering why the heck I wasted my time, money, and health by returning), one of the first things that I would do would be to get my money out of PNC Bank and into a bank that was dedicated to customer service in the 21st Century and sufficiently competent to provide it. Although Social Security direct deposits our retirement benefits to our French bank account, the companies handling our IRA investments are based in the US and my retirement package from work can deposit only in an American bank account. And so, we retained our PNC account as our focus moved abroad. There’s one problem, though. One MAJOR problem. We live in France and PNC is reluctant to give us our money when we want it.  You see, we've bought a new house and we're selling our current one. If we had sold the old one