Category Archives: Life

WTF ‘bucket lists’ ???

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” So said Mark Twain.

One doesn’t travel just to change one’s views of other people and countries, although I’ve long said that one does learn that Santa Cruz (or wherever) is not the center of the universe. But, in that same way, the experience of reading a book or watching a play or movie can change our perspective.

That said, I don’t get the attraction of “bucket lists” or 100 places to see or places to sail or books to read before I die. The value of such experiences lies in the person I become as a result, not in checking items off a list. Once I’m dead, what’s the point? Unless I’m convinced (and I’m not) that I will bring my accomplishments into a next life — for instance, how karma affects rebirth — the benefit comes only in this life, and one’s interactions with other people.

Hence the thought that comes to mind when I choose not to watch the evening news to avoid being angered: “To what end? Who benefits?”

International finance

Or, paying bills from France.

OK, I started writing this post, and it got longer and longer and more convoluted, so here’s the short version:

  • PayPal requires that one open a new account in whatever non-U.S. country your address is in. Can’t add a ‘foreign’ address to one’s U.S. account.
  • Having done that, and added a credit card to that new account, said credit card account having the same address and phone number as the new PayPal account, and despite the issuing bank for said credit card being notified of one’s travel plans, still flags the account for unusual activity, blocks a PayPal transaction, and locks said account.
  • And finally getting a notification of said blockage via the bank’s mobile application, and acknowledging that all of the pending are indeed valid, said account is unblocked, and the desired transaction goes through.

 

R.I.P. FilmStruck

Very disappointed to see news yesterday that FilmStruck is shutting down as of 29 November. Bummer. Really, bummer. I was just getting ready to re-subscribe. Now who’s going to pick up the slack of all those classic movies?

Revisited

Two cogent articles on the demise of FilmStruck have me revisiting one of the principles I’ve put to work in the last few years. Partly in anticipation of retiring and cutting expenses, I decided it was prudent to purchase in physical form (i.e., DVD or Blu-ray) the movies and TV shows that I really enjoy and want to watch again. But along with the goal of future expense-cutting was distrust of streaming services. For exactly the reasons that FilmStruck’s demise illustrate: I can’t count on streaming services to provide quality content. I can count on streaming services to provide  90% crap (Sturgeon’s Law at work), and to pull the good content for no good reason.

Cf., for example: Washington Post and New Yorker articles that validate my choices. Ergo, I want to own physical versions of the videos and books that I want to experience again. And to own a region-free DVD/Blu-ray player, which is on my wish-list for the apartment I’ll acquire some time next year for the long term.

Meanwhile, Amazon via Roku tells me that most of the content on my wishlist is “not available in your current location.” Which means, apparently, I’ll have to watch on the iPad via VPN, at least until the end of the year (that is, end of my US Amazon Prime subscription), and then see what’s included with Prime on Amazon.fr. Of course, I’ll keep you informed.

CEST > CET

That’s Central European Summer Time > Central European Time, the standard time for France. We change from Daylight Saving Time (CEST) tonight, a week ahead of the U.S., so for one week there will be only 8 hours difference between here and the Pacific time zone.

And I just realized I don’t have any clocks that need to be reset tonight. Every timekeeping device I have is an electronic, internet-connected device: Smartphones, iPad, Roku, television. No car, no analog timepieces; OK, I ordered up an analog wrist watch, but it won’t be here until maybe Tuesday.

Leisurely lunch

For lunch today I visited the little “pizza” joint downstairs, A L’R du Goût. Proprietors Claude et Richard remembered and greeted me warmly, which was nice. I selected the steak de thon (tuna):

And I opted for dessert, too, a moelleux au chocolat:

Cost? 15.50€.

I could get used to this.

TaM Tram

In Montpellier, the subway is all above-ground (<< joke, ha ha). It’s known as the Tram, and is run by an agency known as TaM: Transport Agglomération Montpellier, which refers to the Montpellier metropolitan area (“métropole Montpellier”).

Of course they offer discounts to students and seniors (defined as over 60). Cost for a full year card, 321€, or about $365. A buck a day to ride wherever the Tram goes.

I got mine today. Made an appointment online for 10:00 today, showed up early, was called up early; card, complete with photo, created and I was out the door at 9:59, a minute before my appointment was scheduled. Tried it out on the Tram back to Antigone, worked immediately. A satisfied customer.

Observations

A few observations after nearly a week here:

  • French “loyalty cards” come with an up-front cost, but then earn not only discounts but cash value that can be spent later. For example, the Nostrum restaurants charge 5€ for the card, but then might discount a 4.50€ Item down to 3.50€; so it takes a very few purchases to make back the initial charge.
  • Prime membership on Amazon.com (U.S.) now runs $119. Prime on Amazon.fr costs 49€ (about $56). No doubt the U.S. version comes with more benefits and perks, but that’s a substantial price difference.
  • Similarly, FilmStruck, the current incarnation of Turner Movie Channel plus The Criterion Collection, ergo a terrific collection of classic movies, including foreign, runs 59.99€ for an annual subscription in France, about $69. Annual cost in the U.S., including Criterion Collection, $99. Again, available content may vary, but still. . .  Update 27/10/18
  • Between nearly universal shop and restaurant closings on Sunday and/or Monday, it pays to plan ahead lest I go hungry. With this weekend forecast to be cold and wet, stocking up on Friday is my current plan.
  • It’s not uncommon for a French apartment to have a washing machine (i.e., laundry) in the kitchen, even when there’s no dishwasher. And, while combination washing machine/dryers exist, they’re not as common as a “lave linge” and a drying rack to place near a window on a warm day, one hopes.
  • (Side note: I took on the lave linge challenge here — it didn’t complete the assigned cycle — and won through native problem-solving skills (that is, pushing buttons and twisting dials until something happens). Small victories can be so satisfying!)

None of these are complaints, mind you, just observations. I’m adaptable. I learn through observation, experiment, and sometimes just looking it up in Google Translate. The challenge I set for myself in the next few weeks is to learn the lingo of the market.

Books, part une

If you know me at all, you know that books are my life, and loom large in retirement. So you won’t be surprised to learn that one factor in my choice of retirement locations is the weekly marché des livres in Place de la Comédie near the tourist information office. Nor that said marché would be my destination for Saturday afternoon.

Since my French reading vocabulary is not huge at this point, I opt for the less challenging volumes. Today’s acquisitions are Jacques Tardi’s Le Savant  Fou, one of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, and a 52-week Calendrier Les Shadocks, Shadocks being French cartoon characters satirizing contemporary politics (try YouTube; see, Maryon, I did watch them !).

Bonus: The bookseller with whom I chatted last year — who told me he was happy to have moved from Lyon where it’s always overcast and gloomy to Montpellier where there’s more sun — remembered me when I walked up and said “Bonjour.”

Final stop for today: The tourist office, where I collected a few brochures and a couple of postcards to mail home.

P.S. (Sunday) A pic of the books that I shipped over to keep me occupied until the larger shipment arrives, and I have a place to put those.

First Saturday in Montpellier

One of my goals for today was to acquire a shopping trolley/caddy/cart (see examples, know as “poussettes de marché,” here Galeries Lafayette poussettes). I credit Linda Oestereich with alerting me to their existence and utility, additional nod to the Oui In France blog  https://www.ouiinfrance.com/grocery-cart-on-wheels-old-lady-style-or-chic/). After lugging the 15-pound-bowling-ball equivalent cat through several airports, the utility of a rolling shopping bag is obvious.

Additionally, my cursory reconnaissance of the nearby markets suggested I would more likely find some kitchen necessities (measuring cup, for example) at the huge Carrefour store near Lattes. Which is a relatively easy tram ride from here (Line 1 from Leon Blum to Gare St. Roche, transfer to Line 3 to Boirargues).

So, out I ventured (after the suitcase delivery, see preceding post).

First task checked off the growing list by finding a Photomaton booth, which takes passport-quality photos, five for 5€. I need one for my TAM senior card, so that’s out of the way.

Next, into the Carrefour. Found the poussettes aisle, checked the features, and opted for the grey 40€ unit with bonus cold-keeping compartment over the red 25€ option. Another task checked off. Then selected a measuring cup, trio of scissors, and inexpensive teflon-lined sauce pan the right size for morning oatmeal (the apartment comes with rather largish pans). Added some bottled fizzy water (Badoit) and headed for checkout. Where the cashier didn’t understand at first that I was holding up the poussette for him to scan my purchase. . . He thought I was demonstrating that it was empty, I had to insist I was buying it. We all laughed.

Then back to Antigone via tram, feeling Saturday was off to a good start.