Saturday, May 5, 2018

Meetings, meetings, meetings

My nature is to volunteer. I do. I left the AARO board, but not the committees and I'm still organizing most of the Paris events, but I insist that others find the topic and the speakers and let me just handle the logistics.
Nothing was scheduled in April. That didn't bother me after a busy March. But then, an urgent meeting came up -- to present the new repatriation (transition) and GILTI taxes imposed on U.S. shareholders of foreign corporations. The motivation for those was the money hoarded abroad by U.S. corporations in their foreign subsidiaries. It also affects the Americans who live abroad and has a (small) company, like a restaurant, hair salon, or a service company, who have no intention of "repatriating" the profits to the U.S. because they don't live in the U.S. No more about that. I'll post the link to the report when available for anyone really interested.
The meeting was decided just as we were on our way to the south of France, in the second week of April. Paul was driving and I was trying to reserve a conference venue by phone. As soon as we would go over a hill, I'd lose the signal and have to start over. The meeting was scheduled for May 2. The month of May, in France, is a difficult month. May 1 and May 8 are fixed holidays; Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Monday are floating holidays. When these days are close to one another or close to weekends (Tuesday or Thursday) you get what are called "ponts". People bridge over the workday (Monday or Friday) to create a 4-day weekend. When they are all close together, people manage to get a whole 10 vacation with only a few work days in the count. Now, add in the two days of train strikes in every 5-day period! May 2 was not a strike day, but May 3 was and that could have impeded people needing to leave on May 3 from coming, at all. There was no availability at Reid Hall, so we held the meeting at FIAP Jean Monnet, which is, in my opinion, a fine conference center. The speakers agreed.
All of the May mess makes any hope of people showing up for a hastily scheduled meeting a risky hope. May 1 was Tuesday, so many for many of the expected professional audience, May 2 would be the start of their week. I was overly optimistic, but we were not too far from breaking even. oof.
The next meeting, coming up, is May 7 -- yikes! That's the Monday before May 8, in the bridge! It's the meeting dealing with how to declare your French taxes -- generally speaking and your U.S. income, specifically. We couldn't get the big room at Reid Hall for this, so we settled for a smaller room and it's sold out. The original date for this meeting was May 23, but people who are filing in France for the first time have a May 17 deadline, so we had to push it up. The deadlines for filing online are different, depending on what "département" you live in. In the Parisian area, we are lucky, having until mid-June.
There have also been committee meetings: a communications project and further advocacy on this repatriation and GILTI tax issue. But at least I had nothing to do with the scheduling.
Once the French tax meeting is over, Paul and I will be off on another excursion. More about that, later.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A busy month of April

After the weekend in Ouistreham, I came back home with two passengers who found themselves stranded by the train strike. Well, almost. They found out it was going to be a strike day beforehand and we organized the return in advance. They were dear friends of Carrie's. It made the drive back to Paris much more interesting and I now have new friends. That's something I remarked during that weekend -- when I asked how someone knew Carrie or they asked me, the answers were so different: classmates from college in California, from grad school in Wisconsin, from the companies where she worked, from the STC (technical communicators), from travels, from common interests. I met her through the STC connection and Janet, another STC friend came to the celebration from her island off the coast of Washington state. Janine knew Carrie through the University of Wisconsin, but I know Janine through the AAWE and we were surprised to see each other visiting Carrie at the hospital last year. Also, during those visits, I met Mary and I think we are now going to remain friends. This was Carrie's gift -- connecting people.
One night at home and then we were off to visit Emma. While there, we went for a day's excursion to Conques. It's a charming village. The abbey and church were in the center of the town. The story of how they got the relic of Sainte Foy is fairly common for the time. A monk from the Conques abbey spent a year at the abbey where the relic was, then. After his year with them, the brothers trusted him enough to spend a night guarding the relic and, you guessed it, he quickly left, with the relic, to return to Conques. The brothers could not bring themselves to accuse another brother of theft, so they decided that it was a simple transfer, the saint's will to move and this put Conques on the Compostelle pilgrimage path. It's a big 12th century church and the abbey hostel is still in use. The church's treasure of triptychs and relic chests are no longer in the church, but in a part of the cloister that has set aside for it, well worth the visit.
In the fictional Cadfaël books, The Holy Thief is about a very similar event. The action takes place in Shrewsbury. There's a spring flood and the relic of St. Winifred is moved in case the water should enter the church. There happens to be visitors from another abbey and they leave as soon as the water starts receding. When it's time to bring the relic back from where it was safely stored, lo and behold, they bring it back and unwrap it, but lo and behold, it's not the relic!
I'm now reading the last, the twentieth, of the series. I've had a good time visiting the 12th century.
My visit to the 12th century was interrupted by James Comey's book. He presents himself well.

Saturday, April 7, 2018


Second World War buffs know about Ouistreham. It's a small town at the mouth of the Orne river on the English Channel, the port of Caen, the main city 14 kilometers inland. You cross the Pegasus Bridge to get here. The movie "The Longest Day" is supposedly about the liberation, here, but they didn't shoot it here, so the geography is wrong and so are some of the events.
Notice the thick columns
I'm in Ouistreham for the day because we are celebrating Carrie's life, today. I got here yesterday afternoon and walked into town to see what there was to see. Ouistreham is very small. There's a church, which used to be an abbey, called Saint Samson. It was built in the 12th century, Romanesque architecture and since I'm still reading the Cadfael books, it's good to see the architecture of the time -- mid-twelveth century. Of course all of the windows in the church are modern, but there are few of stained glass windows. There's one in particular which is a commemoration of the British liberation.  

Ouistreham was the eastern extremity of Sword Beach. It's not where they landed, but rather where there was (is, now a museum) six-storey German bunker. If you think that bunkers are small enterred structures along the beach, well, this one and others like it along the Atlantic front were enormous, six stories high and when you get to the top, you have a panoramic view of the beach. On D-Day, I'm sure they had a clear view. Now, there are so many houses and trees, you don't even see the beach right in front. The Germans had razed the whole seafront by 1942. There was a casino not far and it was razed in 1942, but somehow, in the movie, The Longest Day, it was decided to show its destruction on D-Day. I visited this bunker today and it's interesting -- not as interesting as that Arromanches museum, thought. It's in pretty bad condition at almost 80 years. I don't know if it will have a natural death when the iron reinforcements finally give way, or if they'll end up taking it down. It was not captured on D-Day, but rather on June 9th, as the troops progressed towards Caen
Now the beach is for sports. There's lots of wind on the beach for "sailing". I have no idea how far out the sea was. I didn't go that far.

From the port to the church

We took a boat out to international waters to disperse Carrie's ashes. It was a moving moment. There were so many of us that the boat had to make three trips out. I was in the first group. There are always moments of sadness at these celebrations of life but those moments are offset by the happiness of seeing old friends and some friends that we just recognize from our hospital visits. We're going out to dinner later this evening. I'm sure we'll have a celebration!

As we were coming back to port the ferry from Portsmouth caught up to us. The hotel I'm staying at is right across the street from the ferry terminal.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More this and that

I haven't felt like writing. I've been binge reading Ellis Peters' Cadfaël mystery novels. Several years ago, one of the French channels showed the British series starring Derek Jacobi as Cadfaël and I enjoyed it. Reading the novels, I'm enjoying the stories even more. It's a time (mid-12th century) I know little about, except, of course, the abbeys and churches all around France that are often pre-Gothic architecture, or with a Roman base and early to late Gothic add-ons. I'm learning a bit of Catholic liturgy and history, too.
I've been knitting, too. This t-shirt took me a long time to do. The cables are hand-manipulated on the machine and I could only manage one or two hours at a time. I had to remember to do cables at row numbers 6 times an odd multiple in x columns and at row numbers 6 times an even number in y columns. And remember where I left off after an interruption. I'm happy with the result. I had to do the neckline 3 times before I got it to lie flat. It fits. It could have been smaller, but that's okay, I can wear it.
That, and a pair of socks for S. He asked. The old socks are now in C's drawer. He also chose the yarn. Slowly but surely I'm working through my stash.
I've also got a promise to buy my bulky knitting machine from a young woman who lives in the southwest, in the Pyrenées. Since we are going that way, soon, to visit E, I'll take the machine down with me and meet her husband at the Montauban train station for the pick up. This is the machine I got in England last year for my birthday. It's a good machine, but I am not going to use it enough to warrant having it. I have discovered I don't really enjoy knitting thick yarn. And when I do, it's still not so thick I need the bulky gauge. I still have the simple mid-gauge machine, which is fine for the yarn I use. I've got two standard gauge machines, but I am tempted to rid myself of the electronic one. It's more than I need.
Last Saturday, there was a Paris version of the March for Our Lives. It was a standing demonstration -- no marching. We had a part of the Trocadero, across the Seine, facing the Eiffel Tower. The weather was perfect! I don't know how many of us there were -- a few hundred. We shared the place with other demonstrations: a group of Togolese -- a small group, but with drums, so very loud; a tiny group of people in support of Tariq Ramadan, the cleric accused of several sexual assaults, including rape; and a tinier group that looked like they were just dancing. Four groups competing for space. The photographers -- there were several photographers for our group -- spread out all over the place.
I went up to the Hague a couple of weeks ago for a day trip to see Barbara, one of my best friends from high school. She and I reminisced and talked of Erica, who died on March 1. (I posted about the trip with Erica two and a half years ago.)
I'm still trying to distance myself from the issues of Americans living abroad. I'm not disinterested, just not actively advocating these days. I needed to step back. At the AARO Annual General Meeting on March 21, I was honored to receive recognition for my years on the board.