Category Archives: Life

Moving? to France!?

My fellow students in Maryon’s very-beginning-French class, via the Alliance Française Silicon Valley in Santa Cruz — which I can recommend — insisted that I make some record of how I go about moving to France in my impending retirement.

So here goes.

I will say at the outset that I intend (knowing that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions) to avoid becoming Yet Another Expatriate who has harrowing yet amusing adventures dealing with those funny French. Enough already. I will tell here what I did and how it went. That’s it. Let’s see how long that lasts.

For starters: How I got to here.

I first visited Paris in July 2010 for a meeting of the ACM SIGCHI executive committee. We were there to set the stage, as it were, for CHI 2013, the organization’s big annual conference that we’d committed to hold in Paris three years hence. Getting an expense-paid trip to Paris while doing voluntary but professionally related work seemed like a good deal. It was.

I enjoyed that trip. I found that waiters were able to understand my minimal French: At least one complimented me on my pronunciation. I learned how to navigate the Metro. I saw some sights in company of the wonderful Elizabeth Churchill (now VP of ACM when she’s not a design exec at Google). I saw enough to know I wanted to come back and see more.

So, come 2013, I was back in Paris for CHI 2013. But I planned ahead and booked something near to a week of pre-conference time to my self, to explore the City of Light and its many museums. I visited the Louvre, saw “Winged Victory” and the “Mona Lisa,” like a good tourist. I visited the Musée d’Orsay and was stunned at my first experience of Van Gogh’s work in person, especially the “Starry Night Over the Rhône.” I visited the Musée Montmartre and strolled by the Lapin Agile. And Espace Dali. The Centre Pompidou. The Guimet. The Galeries Lafayette — no, that was in 2010. The Musée Rodin, “The Thinker,” “The Gates of Hell,” and discovered, like everyone before me, Camille Claudel.

I also made friends with two lovely young ladies who were generous enough to engage in conversation despite my minimal grasp of their native tongue. Carmen at the Pomme de Pain helped me select a lunch combo — sandwich, dessert, beverage — smiled and called out “Ça va?” when I showed up later with a CHI lunch crowd. And Judy (Jeudi? I never asked), the hostess at the hotel’s dining room, who smiled and conversed briefly each morning. Because of these two I learned that the French are not really rude at all, if you’ll just try speaking their language. It is their country, after all.

So, I came home from that trip thinking that I liked France, that maybe it would make a suitable location for my retirement, and that five years was a good timeframe for planning: Long enough to be practical, soon enough to make it real, if I started taking the steps.


Patamodernism ducet

Before I fully absorb and understand, or more likely misunderstand, the theory of “metamodernism,” I declare the arrival of Patamodernism!

With all due disrespect to Alfred Jarry and his progeny, I assert that Patamodernism is to Modernism as Pataphysics is to Physics: a step far up and beyond that to which Metamodernism (and Metaphysics) might ever aspire. Patamodernism Ducet!


Farewell, jury duty!

Today I served my last day of jury duty.

On call all this week, I finally had to appear this afternoon, as part of a pool of prospective jurors for a gang murder trial expected to start in May and last for six weeks, into the end of June.

That schedule conflicts with my planned — and already paid for — trip to Paris with my daughters, which qualifies as a hardship under California law. So I was excused. And, since I expect to be living out of the U.S. in the very near future, I can anticipate being unavailable for future jury service.

Don’t get me wrong: I acknowledge the civic duty of jury service, and take it quite seriously. I have served on three juries since 1986, all of them drunk driving trials. If I was called for another such trial I would complain and disqualify myself, as I see them as a waste of time and money.

So, farewell jury duty! It’s been, well, interesting. I’ve done my time, thank you very much.

A book that changed my life?

From time to time, the question is asked: What book changed your life?

In a public forum, my answer might be:

  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind
  • Allen Ginsberg’s Howl
  • T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

But in private, my honest answer is: a little self-published book by a psychiatrist from Palo Alto whose name I forget (Gerald Hill, I Googled it), but the book was Divorced Father. It was published earlier in the year in which Warren’s mother left. At a time when I thought I might never see my son again, that I would have to give up my house and move somewhere, anywhere, else, that I would have to pick up the pieces and start my life over, this book convinced me that the most important thing for me to do was to commit to being father to my son. To suck it up, face the in-laws up and down the street, to hang on to the house and provide him a home, as much as it hurt, as difficult as it was, day by day.

It was the best decision I ever made, and that book helped me make it.


The final line of Bridge on the River Kwai – “Madness! Madness … madness!”

Hope is not a strategy.

Thoughts and prayers are not a solution.

Donny, Paul, Marco. . . what are you going to do about the madness?

P.S. Fuck the NRA.

Football Sunday

NYT has an opinion piece (published Friday) titled “The American Dilemma: Why Do We Still Watch Football?” We know it’s violent, we know the players are setting themselves up for years of brain damage, yet we still watch.

I’ll watch. If I do move as planned, this might be the last time. And here’s my take: if the NFL was truly dedicated to reducing CTE among its players, instead of giving them even more padding they would instead take away their helmets and shoulder pads. The players would figure out in a matter of days how to stop before hitting, how to not lead with their heads, how to avoid the worst collisions. Would the game be less interesting? We won’t know until we try; the results would be instructive.

Doing good

I have long said that the “meaning of life,” to the extent that there might be a meaning, is that life is hard, and we’re here to help each other. That’s it: We’re here to help each other. Which, it turns out, fits nicely with Buddhism in general, and Zen in particular, which might even be why I was drawn to Zen in the first place. It’s not that Zen somehow makes sense to me, but that it fits the way I live anyway.

Now it turns out that my philosophy was described in 432 pages by someone named T.M. Scanlon around 20 years ago in a tome entitled “What We Owe To Each Other.” Which found a life-changing place in the finale of season 2 to The Good Place. As summarized in a nice little  review in GQ,

We shouldn’t be good for the sake of a hypothetical cosmic reward [“moral dessert”]. We should be good because it’s good for other people. It’s difficult to be alive, and one of the only ways we can actually help other people is by doing what we can to improve and enrich their lives. . . [Quoting Chidi] “We choose to be good because of our bonds with other people, and our innate desire to treat them with dignity. Simply put, we are not in this alone.”

There it is. We are not in this alone; we are here to help each other. And I didn’t need to read Scanlon to learn that.

College foosball

  1. Is there any question that it is inordinately stupid to end a football game trying to duplicate Cal’s insane lateral play? It has not worked since 1982, come on guys!
  2. I’m starting to wonder if the PAC in PAC-12 stands for PAthetiC.
  3. I’m looking forward to the Georgia vs. Oklahoma game on Monday, but it’s not the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl was played last night in the AT&T Stadium, between USC and Ohio State. Someone mistakenly called it the Cotton Bowl.

Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte!

Back some time in November, Streetlight Records announced a contest to win Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s new album, Rest, in vinyl, along with a signed photo. I signed up, never expecting anything to come of it.

Well, today I got the call from Paige at the San Jose store: I won!

Why do I care? Well, for one, I’m listening to a lot of French pop music to augment my efforts to learn French, which means hearing Charlotte’s father, Serge Gainsbourg, and sometimes her mother, Jane Birkin. For another, I’ve seen her in a couple of films (Lars von Trier seems to like her), and find her intriguing. So this should be fun.