Category Archives: Life

Nous sommes ici

After a relatively painless flight from SFO > CDG > MPL, Simon and I are settling in to our apartment in Montpellier. Well, Simon’s hiding somewhere, as usual in such circumstances.

He did remarkably little complaining considering the indignity of being lugged through airports and stuffed under seats. The biggest challenge for both of us was getting through security, since one has to carry the animal through the metal detector while the carrier goes through the x-ray machine.  In Paris, a security inspector actually helped get Simon back into the carrier with a hearty “Allen, Minou !” (He said he has two cats of his own.)

Dennelle, my connection in Languedoc, met us at the airport, took us to a garden store that also has pet supplies, so Simon now has a new litter box, litter, and food. And I have plans for tomorrow with Dennelle to finish off banking tasks, mail the OFII form, and get a phone plan.

Adventures in international shipping

Today’s tasks entailed making final backups of files on both the iMac and the external drives, disconnecting the iMac from the internet, and clearing it off before recycling.

And. . . More shipping. I packed up the external drives and USB-3 hubs and took them to the UPS Store for packing and shipping. I plan to buy a new iMac in Montpellier; this one is nearly six years old, and not worth the cost to ship.

Then, it was off to the Aptos post office with two suitcases and a box. The box has five jackets to get me through my first winter in France. The suitcases (one carry-on size, the other a smallish not-so-carry-on) are crammed with books and assorted files that I’ll need long before I have a place to unload Monday’s container into. Yes, USPS will take your suitcase and send it Priority Express International, 6-10 days delivery, for less than UPS will charge, or even the specialty luggage shipping companies. File that for reference!

Also: A shout-out to Sylvia at the Aptos post office, for her cheerful assistance today.

Pet passport – check!

Used to be that bringing a pet into another country frequently meant a multi-month quarantine. No more. Now one can get a “pet passport,” which consists of a certification first from a qualified vet that the pet is healthy and up-to-date on rabies shots and such, and second an endorsement from the USDA that said certificate is valid.

One of the requirements is that the pet have a microchip ID in place. Simon had one, but it was an older non-ISO-compliant 10-digit model. So we placed a second chip, the 15-digit model, a few weeks ago. Simon is now truly bionic.

The next requirement is that the health certificate has to be completed by the vet within 10 days of travel (arrival in country). We had that appointment yesterday. Then the USDA endorsement. . . which can be done via FedEx, but when time is short, well, one drives to the nearest USDA office. In Sacramento. That was today’s adventure. So I’m now home with a duly stamped and embossed health certificate, Simon’s pet passport.

P.S., dated 17 October 2018: Turns out no one in France cares. But if anyone ever asks, I have the paperwork.


The movers are here, packing up books, CDs, DVDs/Blu-rays, magazines, kitchen and clothes. No furniture, no lamps, no chairs. Packing today, loading the container tomorrow.

The sound of packing tape as it tears off a roll is intense enough that I put on headphones and am listening too Michael Gandolfi’s From The Institutes of Groove. I’ve seen and heard Gandolfi at Cabrillo Festival several times, and I’m growing to enjoy his work.

Yesterday I packed and repacked the suitcases and carry-on, weighing each to ensure they’ll be under 50 pounds, checking and rechecking that I have all the right documents in the right places, especially passport & visa with the tickets in the carry-on (LL Bean messenger bag).

P.S. — Six hours later, and the major part of my life is in a moving truck heading toward Fremont, where it will be unloaded into the container that will transport my life to France.  Mixed emotions.

Bon voyage !

Son Warren put on a nice bon-voyage dinner at Cilantro’s in Watsonville Saturday night. All my kids were there, plus daughter-in-law and her parents and petite-fille Simon. Also attending were my French language and cultural consultant Maryon and husband Antoine. Miranda captured us for posterity:

Lists, and lists of lists

Over the last 10 or so days, since my last cautiously optimistic post, here’s a taste of what I’ve been dealing with:

  • Prescription drugs. New insurance for Medicare Part D means that the nice mail-order auto-ship/auto-refill plan (CVS/Caremark) that took so long to get right is out the window, replaced by another mail-order auto-ship/auto-refill plan (ExpressScripts) that I won’t be here long enough to establish, much less fine-tune. So I go to the local CVS (a participating ExpressScripts pharmacy), and beg for 90-day refills on all the meds I currently take, to last until I can connect with a French doctor to prescribe the same or similar meds that I can get on the French insurance plan, and it’s taken more than two weeks now to get the doctors and the pharmacy to start syncing up . . .
  • Oh, yeh, because Medicare, and all its various Medigap Part B/Part D bits, only works in the U.S. Where I plan to be for another 12 or so days. So why did I sign up for those extra bits? Because if I don’t do it now, I can be denied coverage and pay punitive rates later on. So I take it, and pay for it, now in the off chance that I might be back some day, and don’t want to be hit with exorbitant premiums just when I need coverage. So there’s that.
  • Then there’s the matter of shipping my stuff to France. The shipping company needs an inventory. If I want all-risk insurance, the insurance application needs an inventory. And customs needs an inventory. Even though I have the papers that say I plan to live in France for a considerable time so I don’t have to pay duties on importing my stuff. So creating an inventory means going through the stuff, in most cases making estimates (there are about 40 books on a bookcase shelf, which about fill a small heavy-duty HomeDepot box), and there are this many bookcase shelves and boxes and equivalents and multiply and add it all up comes to about 3000 books. Sounds plausible. On to the CDs, and DVDs, same drill. Then on to the Hawaiian shirts. Start with 120, less the ones I haven’t worn for ages and won’t wear again and will therefore recycle. But some of the remainder are going in my checked bag, and some I’ll ship separately, so how many do I count for the shipping inventory? Yeh, that’s where it gets dicey, and that sort of thing I really agonize over, even though no one else, I expect, really cares.
  • Then there are the absolutely crucial documents that need to travel with me, and the less crucial but important documents that could lag a little, and the good-to-have-but-not-right-away documents; which bags do they go into? Same for the digital documents, and music, and videos. Copy the crucial docs to a portable hard drive and bring that with. And make sure the cloud backup service doesn’t interpret non-connected as deleted. . .
  • Is it any wonder my head is spinning at all hours of day and night? And I know it’s probably really all under control, and will all work out, and I shouldn’t stress, but this is how I work.
  • Oh, right, lists and lists of lists, mostly on Evernote, but some also on smallish paper pads that I scribble daily goals and phone numbers, and the day will come very very soon when it all either goes into my carry-on bag, or suitcase, or gets shipped, or gets shredded or recycled.
  • And then I’ll find myself in France, and the deed will be done.

Unexpected progress

As anxious as I’ve been about bringing Simon the cat with me to France, we had a pleasant surprise today.

I ordered a well-reviewed cat carrier from Amazon (Priority Pets TSA Airline Approved Travel Pet Carrier with Mesh Top, Soft Mat and Sides | Tote Bag for Dogs and Cats), which arrived today. I opened it up and left it on the floor, without even trying to introduce Simon to it.

Two hours later, he had moved in and settled down for a nap.

Simon meets his travel home.

Color me grateful for small victories.

Part trois

The other thing that needed to happen? Reconnaissance. I had never seen France outside of Paris. I needed to investigate the south of France, where the Mediterranean climate might match what I was used to in Santa Cruz.

An opportunity arose in 2016. The SIGCHI Executive Committee was planning a meeting mid-summer. In Europe. My airfare was covered.

The meeting took place in Edinburgh in late July, bleeding into August and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I scheduled a tour of southern France for the week or so before. Fly into Bordeaux, drive to Toulouse (visit friends there), Beziers, Montpellier, Arles, Avignon, Nice. Then fly from Nice to Edinburgh. AirBnB would be my guide.

Adjustments were made; my friends in Toulouse, Philippe Palanque and Regina Bernhaupt, were committed to a PhD defense in Spain, so I skipped Montpellier for a detour back to Toulouse. An Air France strike (surprise surprise!) forced me to book Nice to Edinburgh on Easy Jet, but also allowed me to better connect with my hostess in NIce, Catherine Audirac. Staying on canal boats in Avignon and Arles were highlights.

I liked what I saw.

Next, friends who visit France regularly — Elizabeth and Leon Olsen, Marjorie Yasueda and Dale Knutsen — made suggestions. Leon suggested I give Montpellier a closer look; I had skipped it in 2016. So in 2017 I visited Montpellier for a week, again via AirBnB, in a nice little unit just outside Montpellier proper, Lattes. I checked out the town, the Comédie plaza, the Polygone mall, the antique fair on Friday and Saturday (had a nice chat with one of the book vendors), the Musée Fabre, the public transport Tram (the subway there is above ground). I cruised into the Camargue, and took in the Parc Ornithologique‘s flamingos and other wildlife.

Again, I liked what I saw.

I took the tram from one end of town to the other, and back again. I never saw anything that looked like a slum, or looked unsafe or rundown. I thought, “I could live here. I could totally do this.”