Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Update

It's no surprise; I don't feel like writing much these days. Looking back, though, over the past 3 or 4 months, I haven't been sitting, watching the world go by.
We went to the UK at the end of February for a lovely visit with the family, there. No, we didn't do much -- just appreciated the family! That's enough for us. On my birthday, the very day, at the beginning of February, I found just the knitting machine I'd been on the lookout for -- a brother "bulky" machine with its ribber. It was my birthday. I figured it was meant for me, so I arranged to buy it from the very nice lady in Bedford -- not far from Northampton, really. I asked G. if he could pick it up for me, pay the lady in cash.... And he did. So, when we arrived at the end of the month, by car, it was waiting for me and all I had to do was pay G. back.
I managed to set the machine up just before leaving for the US in mid-March. I even managed to make a scarf for T. for his birthday! There were a few sloppy patches -- dropped stitches in the Fisherman's Rib -- that I had to repair by hand, but nothing catastrophic. I also made a scarf for my high school friend in Florida, T.
This leads to the trip to the US -- first a night in Philly with M. T. and her husband. Very enjoyable evening with these old, old family friends (our grandparents were close friends, already) and then into Philly in the morning for an agreeable meeting with the Commissioner for Elections at the Election Board to discuss some of the glitches in the absentee system -- between the Board of Elections and the pavoter site.
After the meeting, I took the train to the airport and caught my flight down to DC, where I got a new metro card and hopped onto the metro to go out to T. and B.'s. Friday evening was T' 90th birthday party! Earlier that day, I had a cup of coffee with K. and talked about what was happening as far as our overseas Americans issues were concerned. He's been working with the Republicans Overseas on their tax proposal, which promotes territorial taxation. He's also been involved with setting up a Congressional hearing on FATCA, to be held later this month. He's also very homesick for France. When I got back to the house, I saw my cousin T. and R. for a little while, before we all went off to get ready for the party. It was a wonderful family reunion. Cousins not seen for a long, long time. Family never met before. My brother, J., and T, of course, down from Pittsburgh. Lively conversation. A successful party!
Sunday, I moved out of their house to go to the airbnb room I had rented in DC. It was simply a room this time, not a whole apartment, as I had no one to share with. The apartment belongs to a charming young engineer. We didn't run into each other very much. The only complaint I could have was the spotty wifi connection. I could connect if I was in the living room sitting in front of the box, but as soon as I went back to my room, the connection was gone. It was not far from the U-street station and just a little farther to the Dupont Circle station.
On a map, nothing looks far. I got off the metro at Dupont Circle and walked down to the Staples at 19th and L to pick up the printing of our position papers that I had ordered on line. It was a bit longer walk than I had thought it would be, but since I stopped for lunch on the way, it was a nice walk. On the way to my room though, it was a much longer walk, even if I didn't go back up to Dupont Circle, and dragging my suitcase and the printing was not pleasant. The room was on 15th, between R and S.
Early in the evening, I walked over to Dupont Circle -- the others were staying close by. We met at the Cosmos Club, which is just behind the Phillips Collection. I arrived early enough to spend a little while at the Phillips. They had a Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit on. My back gave out after only half an hour, so I wandered off to the Cosmos and ran into N. just as I entered the building. I distributed our position papers to the others.
We had some interesting meetings both on and off the Hill. I've written my reports and talked about it since coming back and do not want to dwell on it, here. For me, the week was over after the meeting at the State Department on Friday. I went back to my room to collect my suitcase and then took the metro to the airport.
There was a big P family gathering in Orlando to celebrate Roger. BIG. On Saturday, 18 of us went to the New Smyrna for a day at the beach. I fell asleep and the back of my legs got a bit burnt. In the evening, there was a big dinner party for family and then more people came as dessert time for the celebration of his life. G. has published a wonderful book of his musings, poetry, and artwork, which I was able to pick up before leaving. Sunday morning, we all gathered at the house for brunch. It was ever so pleasant to be with the clan. The day went on and we had scrumptious leftovers and not just leftovers. After the week in DC, I felt relaxed, at last.
Monday, I took off, on my own, to visit T and her husband on the west coast of Florida. First, I left the road to go to a yarn shop in Winter Haven, Four Purls. They couldn't have been nicer, but they did not have the kind of inexpensive cotton I was looking for. They had plenty of other beautiful yarns and if any Floridians who knit or crochet are reading this, I recommend the place. Then it was back roads through rural Florida -- horse farms, mostly -- to T's. And we gabbed and gabbed and gabbed and watched a movie (Lion) and gabbed and gabbed. I must compliment her husband on his patience with us. They treated me to a great buffet style restaurant -- nothing special, just plain good food.
I guess I wasn't as relaxed and back to my normal state as I thought I was. I managed to convince myself that my flight back was on Tuesday, so instead of spending the day and another night at T's, I ended up rushing back to Orlando, picked up the book from G., and rushed to the airport. There, I discovered I didn't have my passports and French wallet. I had left them in the safe at the hotel in Orlando on Monday morning! Panic. Calls to the hotel and finally the receptionist on the phone with me got into her car to bring them to me. Then, the realization that my ticket was for Wednesday, not Tuesday. I was so upset. I gave the receptionist a nice tip and thanked her but did not mention the date mixup! I couldn't. All this had taken quite some time. I would have missed my flight had it really been for Tuesday. I was still upset at having gotten all mixed up. I went to find an inexpensive hotel near the airport with shuttle service (I had turned in the car, of course.), ordered a pizza, and watched TV until I fell asleep. The next morning, I spent about an hour by the pool and took the shuttle back to the airport with lots and lots of time before my flight, so I managed to get off my thank you notes and have a nice lunch.
Back to France and departure almost immediately for four days in Valencia with our Pierwige friends. Not all of them. This time we were a group of 3 couples. Valencia is a beautiful city. The architecture is grandiose and each building is different. It's a change from the Haussmann uniformity of Paris. Different colors, different styles. This was a pleasant break. M. had done all the organizing, so kudos to her, and I just relaxed and got over my jetlag.
Upon return to France, this time, we had the AARO annual general meeting on March 31, which I had had the responsibility of organizing. It went off well. A. had gotten us our guest speaker, Jim Bittermann, who was exceptional. He spoke on the state of the media. It was a refreshing subject -- not American-centric, not Paris or French-centric. The following week, it was the Tax 202 seminar (Tax 101 was on March 6) and I had had the responsibility of that one, too. During that week, we also had a 5-year-old grandson staying with us. We had done some gardening in the gorgeous Spring weather and my back was killing me on Thursday. It still is, in fact.
The first week of Spring break, then, we had S. with us and this past week, he and sister and mother have been at her parents'. It was A's birthday, this week. We went to the Al Thani jewel exhibit at the Grand Palais.
I've done some knitting, but can't sit for long periods because of my back. Writing this has taken me to the limit, today.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Happy New Year!

The month is not over, so in the French tradition, I can still wish everyone a Happy New Year. Since I haven't written in a long time, I've managed to wish the a happy new year to friends and family personally over the phone.
There's not much to say. The US election is about to enter into effect. The new Congress has already started. Their busy confirming Trump's cabinet nominations. What strange nominations, too. It seems to me that each one is in opposition to the post he or she has been assigned. For education, someone opposed to public education. For housing, someone opposed to housing. For energy, someone who couldn't even remember the name of the department back when he was a candidate, and who doesn't believe climate change is caused by human activity. For the State Department, someone who has had close business interests in Russia. The list goes on like that. The hearings are interesting, but it's not as though the Democrats will be able to stop the confirmations.
The president-elect, himself, is still in candidate mode. He doesn't believe anything the FBI, CIA, or NSA have to report to him. He seems to get his information from twitter and deliver his thoughts via twitter. His behavior is childish. He's easily angered and reacts immediately to anything that disturbs him with insults. As far as the intelligence reports are concerned, well, he finally concedes that, yes, the Russians were behind much of the campaign havoc, the hacking of the DNC emails, for example. There's a rumor of his being subject to blackmail because of a sex tape the Russians made a few years ago, but it's a rumor and every legitimate news organization is saying it's an unconfirmed report, yet he treats the media as being the source of it and treating it as news. Of course, without the recording, it will remain a rumor - unconfirmed.
There's a campaign to boycott the inauguration coverage. That's easy for me. I won't go to the American Library in Paris to watch. They always show the inauguration, so it's not a big thing that they are doing it, but I won't go. I won't watch any channel, here, that might be covering it. Of course, here, it doesn't matter. It is not something that will enter the ratings. But in the US, the boycott is more difficult because for it to have any meaning, people will have to turn on their TVs in order to be counted, but tune in to a channel that will not be covering the inauguration. The next day, there is a women's march in Washington, protesting the president, protesting the Republican schemes to overturn the Roe vs Wade decision, to do away with legal abortions, planned parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, and more. There are sister marches all over the country and in major cities around the world. I'll be going to the one in Paris. I accept the election. I don't like it, but I accept it. That said, I'll support whatever possible to let the President know it was not a popular or landslide victory and whatever possible to make sure all the progress made in the past 50 years is not swept aside.
Meanwhile, I'm knitting away.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Still knitting

About the knitting -- it's at the bottom of the post!
Well, the election is past. I'm as mad as hell that the pavoter site still claims my absentee ballot hasn't been received. I put the ballot in a mail box on Oct. 2, so it got picked up on Oct. 3. When I checked 10 days before the election, I saw there was a problem because it hadn't been received. I downloaded a new ballot and sent it in on Nov. 2, adding tracking to it. Well, it's arrived, but not yet registered on the site as having been received. I shall call the in Philadelphia Election Board, again, on Monday. I called them on Tuesday, election day, and was assured there were bags and bags of absentee ballots waiting to be scanned into the system. I'm hopeful. I don't think the number of absentee votes will swing PA in the other direction, but I do want to know that my vote was received and counted.
Now, about the election result. I'm disappointed. I'm not shocked. Somehow, I was convinced this was possible once the Brexit vote came as a true shock in June. I'm now just as concerned about the upcoming French Presidential election. A couple of weeks ago, I read Paul Theroux's Deep South on the recommendation of a fellow overseas American (in Brazil). It is another eye-opener. The way the rest of the United States has neglected the South is horrifying. The thing is, I bet there are, maybe smaller, pockets of such neglect all over. Look at the water in Flint. The economy has improved during Obama's presidency, but too many people are not really feeling it. So, that explains one part of the electorate, who believe that they've lost and others (minorities, women) have gained too much. Then, there are those who have, have a lot, and will always vote for the traditional Republican promises of lower taxes and eliminating the estate and gift taxes. Now, Trump, in his victory speech, says he'll get to work on the infrastructure as a first priority. Good. I think everyone agrees US infrastructure needs to be repaired or rebuilt. But, any bill that calls for an expense has to have a "pay for" element. That's a rule the Republicans put into place. So, how are they going to pay for this infrastructure if they cut taxes?
The Republicans have also promised residence-based-taxation. That's my thing. I will work to hold them to this promise. They have also vowed to repeal FATCA. If we have residence-based-taxation, I really have no problem left with FATCA. All my reporting will be done to France and I would have no reporting left for the US. The OECD has come up with its own automatic information exchange formula, requiring financial institutions to report the accounts of account-holders who do not reside in the country of the institution to their country of tax residence. That suits me fine. The thing is, the US won't sign on to that. They are only interested in inbound reporting, and are not at all desirous of outbound reporting - just think  of all the NRA (non-resident aliens) who have US accounts, who are either government officials or in the opposition at home and add the US citizens who live abroad who maintain accounts in the US. Personally, it's not a problem for me if my US accounts were reported directly to the French. I do it, myself, already. But it would be expensive for banks to put such reporting in place. Now, the IRS and US banks had no qualms about imposing that on foreign institutions, but the US banks do not want to bear such an expense. It has been terribly expensive for foreign institutions to comply with FATCA, but since that expense didn't cost the IRS, the US doesn't care. Institutions that have found compliance with FATCA to be just too expensive have preferred to eliminate the US-tainted customers. The Democrats finally came to realize that FATCA was flawed and their promise was to allow us a "same country exclusion" which would have helped us in our home countries on the condition that it did not require more expense for the banks.
Enough of all that. Here's that dress I knitted. I haven't dyed it yet. I don't know what color I want it. It fits, but I think if I made it again, I'd lengthen the bust about 2 or 3 cm. and maybe the skirt, too. The sleeves come just to the below the elbow. The neckline is okay. That's about it.
Now, I'm working on an intarsia picture. It's difficult for me, and I can already feel underneath that there are some dropped stitches here and there that will need repair. The intarsia is 96 stitches wide and 114 rows longs. I've made the entire piece a bit wider, so it will make a rather large pillow or a wall hanging. I can only concentrate on a few rows a day, so I figure it'll take me another 10 days to 2 weeks to complete.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Mostly Knitting

Yesterday, I went for a walk in the Bois de Vincennes.  First stop was at Stade Pershing to see some of the game between the PUC and the Wallabies. PUC I get; it stands for Paris Université Club and the baseball section has been around for more than a hundred years. It might not sound great in English, but we speak French, here. This is the club I belonged to when I was a scorekeeper and this was Louis' club when he played. Wallabies? They are from Normandy, from Louviers, not far from Rouen. Why did they choose an Australian animal?
Back to the game. I don't know what the score was when I strolled in, but I think I watched 2 innings, maybe it was only an inning and a half. There were so many errors on the part of the PUC defense, I couldn't keep track of how many runs were scored. Then, when the PUC finally came up to bat, without hearing the slightest clink of the aluminum bats, I saw too many walked in runs. The bleachers, if that's what you can call them, have been condemned, already, for several years. The city replaced the old splintered wood with plastic that melted out of shape, almost immediately. So, you climb over the barriers and sit, sort of, for as long as you can stand it. It was warm and sunny, but after losing all interest in the game, I got up and continued my walk.
The fall colors are starting to show up nicely. Lots of people were out rowing on the Lac des Minimes. I finished going around the lake and had, what I assume will be, my last ice cream cone of the year from the stand. I turned towards Fontenay-sous-Bois and came home that way. According to MapMyWalk, that was a 5.67 km. walk.
I got home and picked up my crochet work. I'm adding a scallop edge to the skirt hem of a dress I knitted on the machine last week. It's an Anne Lavene design. I'll add the same edge to the sleeves and to the waist, when I join the bodice to the skirt. I made it with a fully closed skirt, seam on the side. I used Yeomans 100% Cotton Slub CK2, which, I have decided, I don't like. The idea is to dye this once it's all assembled. That's why I chose it, but the yarn kept getting all knotted up, coming off the cone, and I found it tedious to work with. Even crocheting, it gets all knotted up, so it's not because of the speed in machine knitting that made it do that. Also, it knitted up slanted, so it's awfully hard to block and get straight, again. I'm still not sure the center of the bodice will find itself in the center. One think I can say in favor of the yarn is that it is economical. I bought 2 cones and have not even used half of the first, even though I made 2 bodices! I thought I had made a mistake, when the first one looked so off-balance, so I made a second one, paying extra special attention not to make any mistakes -- and I didn't -- but it came out just as skewed. I'm going to finish this thing and see what it's like all put together.
Before that, I had tried to make a sweater for Paul, a double-knit. It looks all knit on the wrong side and on the right side, it looks like vertical stripes. It looks all stretched out in the picture. Doing the 5-stitch crossed cables every two rows turned out to be too much for me. There were some dropped stitches; I had to start over; again, dropped stitches, again, start over. When I discovered the dropped stitches, again, I gave up. The color doesn't show well, here. It's a dark, inky blue. Beautiful, fine, merino wool, also from Yeoman's. I had the yarn shipped to France. Yes, it was a bit expensive to do that, but still cheaper than a trip by car to England. (I ordered a lot of yarn!)
For anyone still interested, AARO had its own presidential election debate on October 19. We invited all four parties, but the Green party did not respond to our invitation. We posted the video the next day. It was a good evening. Cordial. Nothing like what we see going on in the US.