The Bionic Brigade

Fairly unnoticed by the public at large, a large portion of the American population has gone bionic. That is, sporting man-made body parts tailored to replace human organs or limbs.

“At some point in every person’s life, you will need an assisted medical device – whether it’s your glasses, your contacts, or as you age and you have a hip replacement or a knee replacement or a pacemaker. The prosthetic generation is all around us.Aimee Mullins

After years of wear and tear, some body components start to misfire and need to be upgraded. Replacing them with bionic elements is presently a fairly common practice. Some bodies are now fitted with sophisticated prostheses that mimic pretty well what genuine components do.

When I was a young child, I remember seeing decorated World War One veterans hobbling on crutches. Leg amputation was then the only way to salvage the body. These poor souls would be incapable thereafter to resume a normal life.

But now, war veterans and civilians alike can be fitted with artificial limbs and resume a fairly conventional life. Hip or knee replacement is as a common today as replacing a car battery. Prosthetic technology firm Touch Bionics has created a hand so advanced it can be controlled using a smartphone app.

Our local club is very special… For many reasons. One of them is the fact that probably half of our members are fitted with titanium devices. If some of us would go on a trip together, passing through the airport’s metal detectors would surely trigger a massive commotion. This would in turn greatly unnerve the authorities. Before long, hooded men bristling with weapons would order us to drop our Uzis and hit the deck.
And our case would not be helped by carrying suspicious metal spheres in our handbags.

Our bionic brigade is still fairly small but growing. Regardless of sex, creed or race, we accept anybody who can prove that they have what it takes to be called a Titanium man (or woman).

Alain

PS: We are also known as the Titanium Titans.

Let’s Make Fences Great Again.

“We will build a beautiful fence around the Pétanque field and make the Dog Park People pay for it.”

This is the persistent rumor that I heard last year in our club’s locker room. The purpose of this fence I was told, is to prevent thieving, drug dealing dogs to cross our field and go on a crime spree.

Some people did not believe that this would happen, but happen it will, very soon.

Herb, Brigitte and Charlie. Photo by Alain E.

This fence (unlike another infamous barrier) will be built, and we owe it all to the dogged determination of the Davantes/Moran clan.
Charlie and his daughter Brigitte are not from the wood matchsticks are made of. They are determined and resourceful and they managed to raise the prerequisite amount of money demanded by the county.

Everything new is sometimes difficult to accept; but eventually, even the naysayers will grudgingly admit that this was a project worth pursuing.

Over a hundred years ago, when the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris, some famous detractors (Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Gounod, etc.) called it a monstrosity. They clamored for its destruction and removal. The same ruckus was raised over the San Francisco  Transamerica Pyramid. But both buildings are now proud, beloved symbols of their respective cities.

There are two ways out of a problem: accept what’s happening, see the positive, and choose a peaceful state of mind; or fight against it, be miserable, and struggle against the universe.

I am convinced that our pétanque field will become a shining example of what all American “boulodromes” should look like. Spacious, well groomed, attractive and free from party-crashing bow-wows.
Don’t get me wrong! I looove dogs, but not petanque roving mutts. To avoid futile conflicts, we need to keep the hounds and the swines (cochonnets) separated.
A dog often wags its tail to show his approval. I think many tails will soon start wagging.

In all likelihood, when the fence is completed, I am convinced that all our club members will definitely say, “well-done mates”.

Alain

2017 Annual Lamb Picnic

So it is September again, the season’s languorous time of slowly retreating summer, falling leaves and gradually fading daylight.

It is also our club’s time-honored tradition of feasting on lamb and welcoming new would-be pétanque players. This picnic, by the way, would not have taken place without the generosity of a mysterious benefactor who donated some money to the club. Whoever you are, generous backer, thank you very much.

After taking note of Calvert Barron’s lament about my prolonged absence from the field, I tried my best yesterday to make amends and snap as many pictures I could. But still feeling a little wobbly on my legs, I used a small camera instead of Big Bertha and it shows. Sorry about that.

Tamara Efron, Ed Porto, Maryann Curley

The weather was hot and muggy (93 degrees) but nobody should complain considering what’s happening in Florida. Warmest thoughts for all the Floridians and Georgians.

A bunch of people still showed up to munch on lamb and compete in the tournament. Fourteen triplettes (42 people) were put together and set to go head to head against the competition.

The lamb was prepared by world famous “rôtisseurs » Antoine Lofaro, Jean-Claude Etallaz and Serge Hanne. Thank you, gentlemen, for your efforts.

The tournament (panaché format) started after lunch. Panaché means that players switch partners every game. With a little luck you inherit experienced players, otherwise, you will have to green and bear it.

Three games were played after lunch and individual scores were kept for each player. To come on top and secure a prize, you had to win a maximum of games and then also score a maximum of points.

Keeping track of the scores were Christine Cragg and Liv Kraft. Thank you ladies.

This friendly tournament was a good occasion to renew acquaintances… and learn a few things. Even though I thought of possessing a decent French vocabulary, Maryann Curley taught a new word (anoure). Thank you MaryAnn.

Liza Moran is always a delight to talk to and I enjoyed listening to Noel Macovecchio’s wicked lawyerly tales.

I saw again with pleasure Jacques Rattaire, a far off club member, an excellent player, and an all around good guy. Anybody who rescues animals in distress rates high in my book.

I had a nice conversation with Caitlin Woodburry (who faithfully reads my blog) and Sabine Mattei.  Sabine’s dog is adorable and if she is not careful I might dognap the pooch one of these days.

I don’t know if you noticed, but Gustave Foucher (with an arrow sticking out of his butt) was trying very hard to impersonate Custer’s last stand.

My wife Tamara did an excellent pointing job and managed to snatch one of the first places in this tournament. She always tries to outshine me and she often succeeds, dammit!

The big winners

1st place: Tamara Efron, Ed Porto, Maryann Curley
2nd place: Jacques Rattaire, Jean-Philippe Wyek, Okawa Akira
3rd place: Henry Wessel, Wyatt, John Morrison

Altogether, an excellent day and.

Alain

PS: To look at photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen.

Hit them where it hurts

When a business is uncooperative, don’t hesitate to hit it in the nether regions.

I have found that a customer’s most potent weapon against an uncooperative business is a smart diatribe posted on social media. Assail the company’s image and shame it publicly.

If a firm does not respond to your phone calls or your email, let the public at large know about it. It works amazingly well.

A little while ago, trying to mitigate the medical expenses incurred by my cat, I signed up with a pet insurance company. I started to pay my monthly dues and shortly after my last visit to the vet, I submitted a claim.

Later on, I checked my claim’s status on the company’s website. Nothing seemed to have happened. I called to make sure that they received my request. After having been shuffled through different departments and put on hold indefinitely, I hung up. I then send an email inquiring about my claim.
No response.

La moutarde commença à me monter au nez! My nose started to get tickled by the mustard!

I found its corporate presence on Facebook and I let my anger spill.
Shazam!!

Before long I received an email from the insurance company apologizing for the delay and informing me that my claim was being processed. It follows that if a company ignores you, use social media to prod their thick hide. No insults necessary. Just the facts ma’am.

Social media can be a nuisance but in some cases, it can also be a potent weapon. If a company fails to address your concerns, use the power of the pen to chastise that outfit.
Consequently, you will enjoy some results, I guarantee it.

Alain

Appreciate what you have

To appreciate the light, you must have known the darkness… Mick Deev 

Most of us take ordinary activities for granted. We don’t really appreciate their true value until suddenly deprived of them.

Among the most traumatic deprivations that I can imagine are the lacks of freedom, food or sleep; if deprived of any of those activities you are bound to endure great stress. But there are many other activities that you will equally miss (love, friendship, social interaction, sex) if incapable of fulfilling them.

If you eat steak and lobster every day, you will gradually lose your taste for it. It is only when unable to do so that you will begin to crave it again.
Presuming that you are fortunate enough to draw a large monthly salary, I can guarantee that you won’t appreciate it as much as someone hitting a once in a million jackpot.

The same goes for sex. If you do the nasty twice a day, you won’t get the same gratification as if doing it twice a week. It is the relative rarity of the deed, not the frequency that makes it valuable. You need to hunger for something to properly appreciate it.

Lately due to some reconstructive surgery, I have been unable to walk without assistance, drive and of course play pétanque. All restrictive and frustrating constraints.
Frustration by the way often leads to aggression and I might have been feuding with my feline companion more than usual. When socially engaged, I felt that she did not empathize with me; she just flattened her ears, swished her tail back and forth and stared. She did not show any appreciation for past favors and this is not cool.

My condition is slowly improving and with it the appreciation of what I can now accomplish. While still unable to play pétanque,  I can now walk and drive without too much trouble.
I look forward to showing up on the field and play a few rounds with any you.

The greatest accomplishment is not in never failing, but in rising again after you fall. Vince Lombardi

Do not take routine tasks for granted. Clean the cat box and take the garbage out without grumbling because you don’t know how lucky you are to be able to do so.

Alain

Hypocrites

Despite appearances, I am no saint. I seldom walk on water and I don’t love everybody. As a matter of fact there is a bunch of people that I actively dislike.

Among those are Hypocrites, dudes pretending to be what they are not, and doing what they tell other people not to do. Regrettably these Tartuffes thrive almost everywhere, especially in the field of politics and in the clergy.

I admit that it is difficult to be a politician without being a hypocrite, but why would you want to be in politics in the first place? To satisfy a burning desire to help your fellow men? Don’t make me laugh I just had surgery… A lust for power and its beguiling perks is the main motivation and has always been!

To get elected a politician needs to be a political chameleon. He has to charm fool as many people as possible, and he has to make good use of “alternative facts”.

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Fortunately, most of the statements made by a politico are recorded and can (and absolutely should) be used against him.
Beware of people claiming to have higher moral standards than you; they might be the worst offenders..

I would rather vote for somebody who frankly admits his shortcomings than for a lily-white bible thumping hypocrite.

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. Adlai E. Stevenson

Hypocrites are more dangerous than liars because they sometimes believe  what they are saying.

Alain

Riding along in my automobile

I have being driving since the dawn of time (or so it seems) and I always highly prized this privilege. Last month though, I had to undergo some surgery and was prohibited from operating a vehicle for a while. A mighty blow to my independence, especially since I am living in a quasi-rural area.

When you reside in a metropolitan area, moving around is no problem; public transportation is omnipresent. But when you live in close proximity to cows (yes), you face a different situation. Driving is an absolute must.

My steed has been inactive for about a month and the air in its stall is getting stale. It is high time to groom it and take it out for a ride, because yes Virginia, there is such a thing as galloping fever.

Photo by Alain Efron

No matter what your occupation is, you need to momentarily escape the confinement of your abode to remain connected with the outside world. And in California you need to drive to get there.

For the time being driving is an absolute necessity but in a year or two, this might not be the case. Driverless cars are starting to materialize and the public seems to be ready to accept them because who needs the hassle of parking?

A license for car riders might not even be needed  anymore.  A vehicle will be summoned by a smartphone and will magically appear on a doorstep. They will say: take me to the ballpark and continue a worry-free conversation with God or their business associates .

I don’t think that driving a vehicle will be missed. You won’t lose your independence and you will get rid of the costly inconvenience of ownership. Just like the horses of yore, individual cars will vanish and become another rental commodity.

But for the time being, I still need and enjoy the convenience of a private car. It takes me where I want whenever I want. And, as a bonus it gives me the pleasure to curse inconsiderate drivers in my native tongue. You could not do this in a driverless car.

Ten to 20 years out, driving your car will be viewed as equivalently immoral as smoking cigarettes around other people is today. Marc Andreessen

Alain

PS: I will start driving again in a few days.

His Master’s Voice

Photo by Alain Efron

If somebody from a distant planet landed on earth and undertook to write a report on its dwellers, he would probably record that they seem to be subservient to an intriguing little box called a cellphone.

The observer would not be too surprised though. On his own planet, machines of all sorts also mingle freely with its inhabitants and even compete with them. Some rightwing alarmists have voiced concerns that these “things” might even breed with them and eventually enslave the entire galaxy. But they are no concrete facts (so far) to substantiate these assertions.

There is no doubt that cellular phones are amazing entities capable of performing many tasks. But it is up to humans to keep them in check and decline to respond to their every request. If not, they can become extremely aggressive and seriously harm relationships. Like spoiled children cellphones must be disciplined and taught that there is a time and a place for everything.

If not restrained they will intrude on very facet of your life, spoil dinner parties, religious services, yoga sessions and even sexual congresses, a multi-consequential transgression to avoid at all costs.

So-called smart phones are amazingly versatile devices capable of executing many tasks, but humans should avoid becoming too fond of them.
Cellphones should mainly be used to communicate with relatives, friends, coworkers and bookies. They can be a lifeline and a powerful psychological prop for seniors or people living alone knowing that they can summon help anytime.
A cellphone is like a pacemaker for these people, and whatever the reasons it should never be turned off.

On the plus side, cellphones can help with destination guidance, transfer of data, photos of accidents, or videos of civic disturbances.

But they can also be a great source of distraction and considerably increase the risks of accidents. And there are also more secrets hidden inside a cellphone than anywhere else. In case of loss it could become a serious liability.

Cellphones are generally thin and good-looking, and one finds it difficult to break up with them. To stay in good terms with your clingy device, keep it fully charged and take it out to a fancy place once in a while… and ask it to keep mum.

As they say in France: “Sois belle et tais toi” (be beautiful and keep quiet).

Alain

Back in the saddle again

All I want is a warm bed, a kind word and unlimited power. Ashleigh Brilliant

Almost exactly three weeks after my back surgery I am up and running… Well not quite… let’s say up and strolling… with a cane. Like Lazarus (but without the help of The Carpenter) I have risen from my sickbed and started walking again. Alleluia!

I can now climb up fairly easily the once daunting fourteen steps leading to the upper floor and annoy my ever-slumbering cat again. I have reclaimed my command post in front of my wide screen Mac and I am ready to churn out the hot stuff that you expect (?).

Tonight I will also move back to the conjugal bed that I had to abandon after being slit open by a mad medic. It is way more comfortable than the practical (but cramped) hospital bed that I had to use up to now.

My becoming mobile again might prove a mixed blessing for my wife. Faced with my newly regained independence, she will have to relinquish her almost absolute power (women hate that) over me, and incidentally half of the bed. I will also reclaim authority over the bedroom TV remote control. There are no small victories.

Any relationship you need to understand has always been a covert struggle for dominance. I am Napoleon and she is Ekaterina the Great, two people not to be trifled with, especially man-eating Ekaterina. So, we both keep our powder dry, just in case.

My consort by the way always dreamed to be a nurse and emulate Florence Nightingale but I doubt that Florence had much shut-eye and my wife values sleep too much to ever have pursued that path.
So it is a fair trade: she will (hopefully) relinquish power in exchange for uninterrupted nights of sleep.

See you soon on the field compañeros!

Alain

Women desire six things: They want their husbands to be brave, wise, rich, generous, obedient to wife, and lively in bed. Geoffrey Chaucer

Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated…

Despite my initial reluctance, my head nurse Tamara managed to drag me yesterday to Peet’s Coffee for a little coffee klatch in the sun.

Photo by Tamara

It was my first public appearance since my surgery, and leaning on a cane I hauled myself to the terrace and carefully lowered my backside into a chair. I have always been fond of sitting outdoors, sizing up passersby and assessing the charms of the girls floating by.

Next to Peet’s, there is a fitness center patronized mainly by women and there is a continual procession of yoga panted girls prancing around. Since Adam and Eve, every girl has been taught that “if you have got it babe, you must flaunt it” and they dutifully abide by this dictum, more or less openly.

They pass you by seemingly unaware of you gaze, but a quick sideway glance always betray them. They furtively make sure that you look at them. I always oblige because if you don’t, you might hurt their self-esteem.

Contrarily to common belief you don’t die when you stop breathing. You cross the Great Divide when you lose interest in the opposite sex. And this is very reassuring to me because in spite of my temporary setback, I still like to watch girls.

The art of girl watching should be taught in school, because there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. To do this properly, your glance should operate like a radar beam. It should rotate slowly and steadily in order to cover a wide area. It should be an easy and natural scan, a little bit like a slow motion golf swing or a tennis backhand. It should be smooth and effortless.

But not everybody is blessed with this talent though. In spite of years of practice, some guys still fail to swing properly. Instead of a low intensity radar scan, they use a high pulse repetition frequency device that scares and drives off the lassies.

In an ideal world, everything should be done with flair and finesse. But to do so takes a lot of rehearsing and there is no better practice than to keep doing what comes naturally to a true blue metrosexual gentleman.

Why not show off if you’ve got something to show? January Jones

Alain