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Showing posts from February, 2016

FRANCE - BIG SKY COUNTRY

Texans talk about Big Sky. The flat, monotonous landscape lends itself to far seeing, to eyes lifted to points above the horizon. But just as the land is monotonous, the sky is ever changing, a vast roiling palette. Impressive.

I had no idea that the sky in the south of France would display the same attention-grabbing variety. Frankly, the realization snuck up on me. One day, months into our stay, driving with wife Cathey along a familiar roadway, I realized that I looked forward to a point where the road opened up to the sky, to looking up, to seeing what the Languedoc sky had to offer.

And so, I began to take better note of the sky outside my office window. I had chosen the top-floor room for my office specifically because of the view. But once ensconced, I took that view for granted. No more. You see a sample of those views below. Pictures worth a thousand words...













APPLE, BREXIT & TRUMP

APPLE
Unlock the damn phone.

The phone's user was a terrorist. Undisputed. The owner of the phone, the terrorist's unwitting employer, has given permission for the phone to be unlocked. There's a court order that is specific to that one phone and does not require that phone-hacking software be provided to the FBI for their future use.

With a court order, the Feds can get into my bank account. With a court order, they can paw through my underwear drawer. And I'm this side of certain that, with or without a court order, there are a bunch of coders at Apple who already know how to unlock a phone.

Apple's argument seems to be that a search warrant should apply to all the rooms in a house except the loo because what goes on in the loo should remain private forever.

That dog won't hunt.

Unlock the damn phone.

BREXIT
Some time ago, the nervousness over the possibility that the Greeks would be forced out of the EU led to a 20% devaluation of the Euro against the US Dol…

CAR REPAIRS - PART 2

The clutch had been making a slight whirring noise for a while. Slowly but surely it became more noticeable. No oily spots under the parking space or other signs and portents. Just a little bit of a noise.

(For the children in the audience, the clutch is the device that you use to change gears in a car with a manual transmission.)

And then the noise took a quantifiable leap in intensity on the way out of town one day.

And then on the way back into town that day, the clutch went all the way down to the floor and wouldn't come back up.

As we left our 1999 Citroen Xantia named Xandy in Part 1 of our story, she was on a rollback headed for Garage Bernard & Fils in the town of St. Chinian. This was on a Friday. I had been promised that the work would begin the following Wednesday, important to keep in mind because the reason that Xandy was in St. Chinian in the first place was because the garage at La Croissade had said that the work could not be scheduled for 15 days. I take som…

LE PTIT JARDIN, NARBONNE - RESTAURANT REVIEW

Our car spent extended time in the shop due to a busted clutch and we needed to get out of the house. The first day that the car came back, shopping - Lidl, Carrefour, Tridome, and Grand Frais. The second day, a restaurant lunch. Somebody else's cooking. I chose a new place for us, Le Ptit Jardin in Narbonne.

The restaurant is tucked inside a quiet courtyard close to the busy Boulevard Gambetta and Cours de la Republique, on the other side of the Canal from Les Halles. It's a sedate, comfortable, well-appointed space with light jazz playing in the background and a little waterfall tinkling in an alcove near our table. Not too modern, very color coordinated (lime green). We shared the room with a handful of other diners on a quiet February noontime. I would imagine that things pick up considerably as the weather warms and folks dine in the courtyard.

The simple menu touts fresh ingredients; choices are limited but the descriptions suggest interesting executions. We went for th…

CAR REPAIRS THE FRENCH WAY - PART 1

My working theory concerning private personal vehicular transportation of the four-wheeled variety is that cars are composed of bodywork surrounding disposable drive trains. Specifically, if the body parts of a car are in good order, without rust or corrosion, you can always replace the mechanical parts. Think about it. A rebuilt engine and transmission might cost a considerable wad of money to purchase and install but usually less than buying new and you come away with warranties and extra years of hassle-free driving.

It's the way I've rolled for years. Seldom have I given up on a vehicle that had less than 250,000 miles (400,000 km) on the clock. But that's in the United States. That's where I had a mechanic in my home town that I knew and trusted on speed dial. That's when both Cathey and I worked, so we had two cars...plus my scooter.

This is France. There isn't a mechanic in our little village and I have yet to form a relationship with one anywhere else…

US PRESIDENTIAL PREDICTIONS - FEBRUARY 2016

THE VOTING BEGINS
Iowa: This year, the Dems fought to a draw and the Pubs went with Cruz, the man that Pubs love to hate almost as much as Trump. So nothing was really settled. Bernie's insurgency appears real but this is Iowa, remember. Rubio's third place finish looked good until the next debate, but...Rubio's third place finish looked good until the next debate, but...Rubio's

New Hampshire: No surprise on the Democratic side. Comparing Bernie's win this year with Hillary's save against Obama eight years ago is just silly. Aren't Vermont and New Hampshire really the same state spelled differently? A Bernie loss would have been much more predictive than his win is. The Republicans made things interesting, though. The Donald got his one-third of the vote and it was enough to win. I still maintain that's his ceiling. Kasich was the one who took advantage of Rubio's missteps in the debate. Can he carry the mantle of sanity against the likes of Donald an…

HOW FRENCH BUREAUCRACY WORKS...REALLY

I am fond of saying that the French didn't invent bureaucracy but they did refine bureaucracy to a high art. And indeed, although the French economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay is credited with having coined the word, pejoratively at the very outset, there is convincing proof that bureaucracies predated the current French version by millennia. Why are our most common examples of ancient scratchings on clay tablets lists of mercantile goods or stockpiles in royal coffers if not for the overriding need of humankind to keep official records as though they had value in and of themselves?

We all hate paperwork. I get it. Damn those bureaucrats, keeping us buried in piles of paper so that they can draw a pay check. Petty. They find reasons to deny our most reasonable requests. Their rules are arcane, defying understanding. How wonderful life would be without those officious paper pushers.

You are wrong. Bureaucrats are your friends. Yes. I repeat. Bureaucrats are your fri…

I AM OLD

Quiet.

Peace and quiet.

Our little town of Quarante, with its 1,500 or so inhabitants, typifies serenity and tranquility almost to the point of narcolepsy. And in truth, I like it that way.

That's not to say that folks in Quarante don't know how to have fun. On Bastille Day, they rev up the municipal band in front of the Town Hall, we march through the village to the school's soccer stadium, and we enjoy a quite respectable fireworks display.

We run the bulls in Quarante. The boys run behind, exhibiting their bravery by grabbing a tail or a horn. (Sorry, PETA. They do.) The girls stand on the sidelines, giggling and applauding. (Sorry, Gloria Steinem. They do.) And the rest of us shake our heads, smile, and head for the bar for another glass of wine. (Not sorry in the least...)

No, when it's time for a fete, the folks in Quarante know how to party. But in the main, day to day
and week to week, with the exception of the occasional bothersome, waspish sounding two-stro…