Was that Really My Life?

It’s hard to miss news about this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con International. I have to admit that it totally cracks me up whenever I see it.

JM and I used to go to Comic Con way, way back in the day when it was just a normal comic book convention. A GOOD comic book convention, but a normal comic book convention. It was held at the original convention center in downtown San Diego, and we didn’t even fill THAT to capacity the first year or two that we went.

It was a fun way to get together with old friends and meet new ones, and for newbies and wannabes in the biz, as we were then, it was a terrific opportunity to make connections and hopefully get a foot in the door. I’m talking about the early 80’s here and the entire world was a different place back then.

By the time we did our last Comic Con in 2004, we already had realized that we no longer fit into what was by then a massive media convention. Small publishers and writers like us and Black Coat Press were just lost amidst the major studios and film promos. Even in 2004 it was starting to get difficult to find comic books at the comic book convention.

So, yesterday morning, instead of struggling bleary-eyed to spend yet another day at a booth in a massive convention center, surrounded by hordes of zombies looking for freebies and swag what were JM and I doing? We got up at our usual 6:30, same time we would have gotten up in San Diego, but instead we took the dogs over to the gardens for a walk along the river. Peaches romped in the grass and chased the birds that she knew she  would never catch. Shmoo pulled JM into the field to sniff the alfalfa that is growing towards the sky.

Then, I looked into the misty morning river and saw a magnificent blue heron standing there fishing for his (or her) breakfast! It was a moment frozen in time; an instant as far away from Comic Con as it was possible to be. I saw the heron; the heron saw me and then spread its massive wings and flew into the dawn sky.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the comic book conventions that ever were or ever will be.

Ciao for now.


Tour de Chalabre

Yesterday was the big day and I have to admit it was a blast.

First, we staked out a much better position than we had two years ago. Instead of standing right at the end of Cours Colbert watching as they came over the bridge, we were on Cours Sully so we saw them as they took the turn. It enabled us to see them a little better and it allowed us to sit in the shade, which is a major consideration when you’re outside in July for a couple of hours.

The majority of people were on the Cours Reynaud at either the café or the Hotel de France, so our area wasn’t super crowded, which was great for those of us trying to score “swag”

"Official" merchandise for sale

First these guys came by selling stuff, but we wanted the freebies that came later.

Credit Lyonnais, an official Sponsor

JM scored a great baseball cap from CL Considering that he used to work for them, he figured he even deserved it!

No idea who these people are.

Some of the cool things came by and didn’t throw stuff, but we enjoyed seeing them anyway.

Another Yeti

I love this little guy and would like one to drive around town.

This one was throwing candy

I would have liked to see this one make a narrow turn

Too bad they weren’t throwing out samples, since they’re from the Caisse d’Epargne, which is a bank!!

Really crackers!

Everyone was happy to get the samples from these guys, because it was lunchtime and we were all hungry!

Unfortunately, my camera battery was low, so I missed a few of the really outrageous Swagmobiles, including one with some very good looking, semi-naked men on it! The were selling detergent, and I am still trying to figure out a: what that had to do with the Tour de France and b: what that had to do with detergent!

Anyway, the Caravan, as it is called, lasted for about 45 minutes, then there was about a 45 minute break, which was perfect timing for us to go  home to grab a quick bite to eat, charge up the camera and get back in time for the main event. Those of you who have been reading me for long enough know that two years ago when the Tour came through town, JM missed the actual race because at the last minute my mom decided she needed to go up to the bathroom and before he could get her out of the house, the bikes went by and it was over! This year we told her if she wanted to come and see it, she could walk over herself. But she decided not to bother, so we were in prime position in plenty of time.

One of the people sitting near us was listening to the radio and he was able to tell us where they were, so we could get into position in plenty of time. There was a break away of about five riders who were 10 minutes ahead of the main peloton.

Then, as predicted, 10 minutes later the rest of the gang roared through:

And, that was it. It was all over until the next time they come to town. Maybe you can be here to see it for yourselves.

Ciao for now!

Randy (off to fight over the swag with JM)

The Collector

Unbelievably, it has now been almost eight months since our little Miz Peaches LaRoo waltzed into our lives. The time has really zipped by and she has made wonderful progress integrating into our little family unit.

Peaches settled and happy

I need another treat!

She is Border Collie through and through, so there are quirks aplenty, of course. She learns everything (whether we want her to or not) with lightning speed. She goes towards every action with joy and enthusiasm, consequences be damned. No one will EVER sneak up on us, as unlike her placid brother Shmoo, Peaches is protective of her family and will bark at the slightest noise. This is good if a burglar wants to get in; this is bad if we are trying to sleep with the windows open on a warm summer’s night.

New things in the home are greeted with a certain modicum of suspicion and must prove themselves to be not a threat. It took several days for the new fan we purchased for the television room to be accepted as a “good” thing and not a “bad” one. It was a bit touch and go for a while though, but we are now all able to enjoy a cool breeze while watching TV of an evening.

I was quite concerned about thunderstorms, as our darling Diva Maggie was completely terrorized by them and only managed to get through them with a dose of Xanax. In fact, that didn’t even totally calm her down, just made it so that she was a quaking puddle of terror. I was very pleased to note that Miz Peaches doesn’t seem to mind thunder in the least; following the lead of big brother Shmoo and snoozing peacefully right through even the loudest booms without the slightest twitch of an ear.

We still have to get through the 14th of July next week, of course, so fingers remain crossed for that. I am not expecting miracles, but luckily, as long as she is safely inside our house, she seems to feel secure no matter what is going on outside, and I’m hoping this will hold true for firecrackers and fireworks as well.

I am also very pleased that the Peach is totally reliable off-leash as long as her big brother is not free to roam. I’m afraid that Shmoo-Alexander’s roaming days are over now that he’s shown his true  colors and Husky spirit. Even an obedient Miss like Peaches can’t be expected to obey when her beloved brother is out in the fields having fun and chasing voles!

She has, however, developed a very strange habit. It started slowly. When I would go out she would take one of my bedroom slippers and put it on her cushion downstairs. Then, she would take both of my slippers. Soon, she started taking them and putting them up on the couch in my office, which has become “her” place. I began to put my slippers out of her reach after she couldn’t control herself one day and instead of just taking my slippers took a little nibble.

She graduated to JM’s slippers, then to his sports shoes, which she chewed to pieces. So he had to start putting those out of her reach as well. We thought the problem was resolved. But lately, while I am taking my shower, she has started to remove JM’s socks from the bedroom. Now, we don’t have a chest of drawers, he just keeps them on a piece of furniture with shelves, so it’s hard to have them totally hidden away.

At first, I guess she was running a test, because I would come out and find one sock on the floor. Then a couple of socks on the floor. Then I would find one sock in my office, but this morning there were about half-a-dozen of them in my office! Clearly, the OCD is kicking in! I’m sure that it means something to her, because she looks very irritated when I pick them up and put them back.

Border Collies; you’ve gotta love ’em!

Ciao for now and don’t chase too many voles!


Summertime, heat and the phone company

Not all of these really go together, but for us they seem to be interconnected this year.

First, the phone company. I have a simple philosophy about my phone and internet service: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I learned years ago back in L.A. that there is very little benefit to trying to save money by changing carriers. Sure, when everything is working you may save a few shekels, but if anything goes wrong you always seem to get shafted with the other guys, because they all rent their basic wires from the main phone company. So, to get things fixed, they still need to go through them and it just takes longer.

Thus, when we moved here I didn’t even question it; we went with France Telecom/Orange (or Wanadoo as they were then strangely called). Life plowed on, things worked all was basically okay. But we did make one mistake. When we briefly decided to try running a real estate business before realizing that a: we didn’t actually like selling real estate and b: we were never, ever going to sell a thing, we put our mobile phone into the name of the business, so it was a “professional” number. We had to do it, because we needed an official business number to have a company. When we closed down the business we weren’t as active as we should have been in reclaiming that number and Orange really doesn’t make doing that kind of thing easy.

We filled out a bunch of paperwork, but eventually the attempt failed. I would have let it ride, but I wanted to change my phone service to a different plan that I couldn’t get because it was only available for “individuals” and the phone number was a “professional” number. So there was only one thing to do; cancel our nice, easy to remember number that we’d had for over five years.

While talking to a rep at the Orange store he looked at our phone and internet service and said we could save money by changing all that around too. We were getting 8 Mb and we could get 20 Mb plus unlimited calling to the U.S., France, Europe, etc. with an internet line and wind up saving over 300 euros a year on our phone service. It really did make sense.

“Our Livebox is five years old,” I said, “should I change it?” “Oh no, it will be fine.” I asked several times; I explained we worked online; I was assured there was no problem. Do I even need to tell you what happened next?

Because, what for me seemed to be simply changing a fee structure, for the phone company is actually more complicated than that and entails canceling an old service and restarting a new service. It also meant that for the new speed to work properly, our phone line had to be perfect, and that’s where the old Livebox (modem) comes in. At 9 am Wednesday morning, our internet was working; at 9:05, it wasn’t.

Now, the thing about it is that it would work, then it wouldn’t work, then it would work, then it wouldn’t. I was convinced it was a hardware problem, but the people at telecom kept telling me it wasn’t. And, strangely, we went over to see if Mom’s internet was working and hers wasn’t either! So we called the phone company and they ran a test on her line that showed a problem. They sent a technician out on Friday and he showed a problem which came down to her Livebox having a fault. We connected my Livebox to her line and THAT showed a fault too. He connected a third modem and that one was fine, so, coincidentally, both of our Liveboxes were fried at the same time.

It turns out that they’re sensitive little creatures. They don’t like power surges and blackouts, both of which we get plenty of around here. We do have surge protectors, but I guess they’re not enough. I went and got new modems and when I connected them, all the problems were fixed, so that was clearly what was going on. I’m now waiting for several PUPS to come (battery power backups) that will protect against future highs and lows and hopefully keep things from going boom again in the future.

I did finally get a new mobile phone too and I can even remember the new number, but I don’t think JM can yet. But I think my philosophy about not messing with the phone company is still a good one!

Now, summertime and heat: after a slow start, both are finally here. I think a lot of us were convinced that we were going to have a summer like the one in 2006 where it stayed cloudy and cool most of the summer, but that is for sure not happening this year. Temps have been in the upper 80s and low 90s and although we get storms predicted, they don’t seem to materialize. So far, it’s staying cool inside and it does cool down into the low 70s at night, so we’re able to get comfortable.

But, if it stays like this it’s going to be HOT, HOT, HOT when the TOUR DE FRANCE comes through on Sunday 18 July! In fact, that’s the end of a week’s worth of Chalabre events starting with the first vide grenier of the summer this coming Sunday, 11 July. Wednesday 14 July is an aperitif under the covered market where new residents and old residents can meet and greet, followed by a light lunch and dancing at 2:00. Then on Saturday 17 July, contributors to this year’s short story collect “Histoire d’Eau” will be signing and selling books in the Town Hall. A special edition of “Histoire d”Eau” will be on sale with all proceeds going to help wildlife clean up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, there is a big update that hopefully makes up for my long silence.

Ciao for now and  keep cool.