In praise of humility


“Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
 Ann Landers

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Some people seem to be unaware that there is a low-cost commodity widely available, yet too rarely used. This cheap commodity is called “humility”, a thoughtful quality that compels you to always take a modest view of your own importance.

Blaise Pascal

After a few minor accomplishments, some people have a tendency to (as the French so elegantly put it) «péter plus haut que leur cul » (to fart higher than their a**hole.) In other words, some individuals are too easily inclined to believe in their own superiority. It happens to many of us, in (hopefully) brief moments of aberration.

After winning a few games of pétanque, you start feeling like you are hot stuff. You view some opponents with a mixture of mild amusement and superiority.

Almost everyone’s instinct is to be overconfident and read way too much into a hot or cold streak. Nate Silver

And then you unexpectedly lose a game 1/13. Shocking! Then shortly after, you lose your second game 0/13.
Bordel! How could that be? Fanny? ME?

But those defeats are reality-sobering reminders. They are meant to keep you grounded. They remind you that no matter how good you think you are, there is always somebody better (or luckier) than you. And it is a very good thing.

Humility is a quality (not a flaw) that serves its followers well. You prove your worth by deeds, not by words. And keeping your mouth shut is always the best policy.

« Le moi est haïssable » (ego is hateful) said Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) a long time ago. It is still true today.

Never underestimate an adversary. Custer did, to his everlasting sorrow. View each opponent with respect. If fate is kind to you, accept it with humility. If you lose, take it in stride. Win some, lose some.

Try to always sprinkle all your actions with a dash of humility. People will respect you for it.

Alain 🎩

If you would have people speak well of you, then do not speak well of yourself. Blaise Pascal

 

Train wreck

 

The light you see at the end of the tunnel is the front of an oncoming train.” David Lee Roth

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We have right now in America all the makings of a spectacular Hollywood train wreck. The convoy is going too fast and the conductor is blithely ignoring advice and signals from railroad workers. It is a confusing situation for observers who know that something terrible is going to happen but cannot look away.

I have never witnessed a train wreck, but I have seen pictures of it. It can be horrifically spectacular.
But how could this happen in the first place? Didn’t the conductor realize he was going too fast? Did he misread the signals? Or worse, ignore the signals? Did he inhale some prohibited substance? Was he texting or twitting? Or (gasp) was he unqualified to drive that train?

No responsible grownup would behave that way… but does a grownup always reach an advanced stage of mental or emotional development? Not always it seems.

A train is only as safe as his conductor’s good judgment. Ignoring even a single signal puts the entire train and its passengers in jeopardy.

A good conductor does not scream at people to get out of his way. Neither does he threaten to run them over if they don’t move. He slows down, even stops to get a better appraisal of the situation.

But it seems that sometimes a George Custer syndrome is afflicting a train conductor. In a relentless pursuit of self-aggrandizement he disregards any warnings and forge full speed ahead toward a disaster waiting to happen.

Some lucid passengers noticing the reckless speed of train bail out as soon as they can. But it takes guts to jump off a speeding train (especially when some passengers personally vouched for that conductor) and some VIPs hesitate. They secretly hope for a divine intervention, but it is well known that God only helps those who help themselves.

Sometimes a mad train can  has to be stopped.

In Hollywood fashion gutsy stuntmen board the train (maybe by helicopter) and forcefully remove the engineer who is subsequently sent to Longwood House, St Helena to mull over his narcissistic past.

Is this going to happen to the American Mad Train? Many people are starting to lean toward this James Bondish denouement.

Alain

Mother’s Day 2017

 

As you all know yesterday was Mother’s Day and that most probably accounted for the fairly low attendance of the Marin tournament.
In spite of this, eight select triplettes trekked to our field and they were:

  1. Henry Wessel/Calvert Barron/Sandra Shirkey
  2. Jean-Michel Poulnot/J-C Etallaz/Dello Cueno
  3. Bob Crossley/Akira Okawa/ Stephan
  4. Hans Kurz/Honor Woodard/Dave Katz
  5. Patrick Vaslet/Shannon Bowman/Hallie
  6. Charlie Davantes/ Brigitte Moran/Herb Moran
  7. Peter Mathis/Wolfie Kurz/David Lanter
  8. Teri Sirico/Nancy Jencks/ Evan Falcone

Marin fielded only 2 teams.
Personally, I declined to play due to a stubborn backache. To remain in your good graces, I endeavored to take plenty of photographs. I hope that you will like them.

Sunday morning was unusually chilly with a cold wind that persisted until late in the afternoon.
The field was impeccably groomed due I surmise to Henry Wessel and Calvert Barron, Mark and Sandra Shirkey and as always Charlie Davantes.

In the absence of our president who is at the moment gallivanting in France, Mark Shirkey (vice-president) carried the atomic football and ran the tournament with the help of Liv Kraft.

Two games were played before lunch, followed by elimination games in the afternoon. Sonoma fielded two very strong teams while Marin did its best to fight the intruders with weaker forces.

Both Sonoma teams reached the finals and ultimately the Mathis team prevailed over the Vaslet team by 13/8. A very honorable loss.
Both teams played very well, but Sonoma fielded stronger artillery.

The 3rd place was highly contested with finally the Sirico team prevailing over the Kurz team by a very slight margin.

Final scoreboard:

1st place: Peter Mathis/Wolfie Kurz/David Lanter
2nd place: Patrick Vaslet/Shannon Bowman/Hallie Cohen
3rd place: Teri Sirico/Nancy Jencks/ Evan Falcone
4th place: Hans Kurz/Honor Woodard/Dave Katz

Alain 🎩

 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. No more music, sorry.

Flying fury

 

“Freedom lies in being bold.” –Robert Frost

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What is the difference between a herd of cows and airline passengers?
Practically none. They are all rounded up, confined and mistreated.

This was “economy class” a long time ago.

Flying used to be fun and glamorous. We had plenty of legroom, free meals, free drinks and pretty, smiling flight attendants to please us. Not anymore. All these time-honored perks are gone.

For most of us flying is now an ordeal (historically an ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence”)

Since most of us survive this unpleasant experience, it convincingly proves that we are innocent and should be treated as victims rather than offenders.

Lately we have witnessed, personally or on television, a string of incidents featuring flying rage. Passengers are becoming increasingly unruly and fight with flight attendants or other passengers at the slightest provocation.
It is hardly surprising since caged animals are seldom in a jolly mood. Put a bunch of beasties in a cramped area, and you can bet your bippy that fights will break out.

I have flown in all kinds of aircrafts, but it seems that over the years (probably due to climate change) the legroom between passenger’s seats has melted at an alarming pace. I am a rather small fellow and I should not feel constricted when flying “economy class”. But I damn do!

Like a fair-minded citizen I was naively thinking that, since aircrafts are becoming larger and larger, the legroom allotted to each passenger would also increase accordingly.
Fat chance!
I forgot “profit”, the Holy Grail so ardently pursued by airlines executives.
“Let them eat cake” is their secret slogan!

I am a capitalist. I believe in profits… but decent profits. Gobermouch CEO’s should not swindle passengers to pay themselves exorbitant salaries. And what about those obscene “golden parachutes”?

I feel that the time has come for the sons and daughters of the Boston Tea Party to board airplanes and throw excessive seats on the tarmac.This is the only way to convince airlines’ honchos to be more reasonable and put passengers’ well being ahead of that doggone “profit”.

Don’t be helpless lemmings anymore and complain, loudly. Flood airlines headquarters with forceful demands for increased legroom and comfort.
You would be amazed by the steep decrease of fighting aboard airplanes.

Have you ever seen fights in First Class? I rest my case.

Alain

Never kick a cow chip on a hot dayWill Rogers

Vive la France

 

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. ~Christopher Reeve

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Is it just me or did I really hear a universal sigh of relief when it became officially known that Emmanuel Macron had just been chosen by the French voters to become the next president of France?

Eric Feferberg/AP

It was a decisive rejection (65% vs. 35%) of extremes in favor of moderation. It was also an oblique rebuff to Trumpism and its ill-thought-out policies. The pathetic Utopists of the Left and the rabble-rousers of the Extreme Right were convincingly turned down by the French Electorate.
Nobody is quite sure if the vote was more a rejection of the malodorous National Front or a seal of approval for the newcomer, but this is totally immaterial. He won the Presidency fair and square.

The French have been an unhappy lot for quite sometime. High unemployment (up to 13% in some areas) high cost of living and insecurity have significantly dimmed their vaunted “joie de vivre”.

They (like anybody else in the world) aspire to basic necessities: full-time employment, decent wages, reasonably priced housing and affordable healthcare. None of those are a reality today. The main culprit is thought to be unemployment.

Due to its ridiculously litigious labor code, it has become extremely difficult for any Frenchman to secure a permanent job. No job translates into unhappiness, restlessness and ultimately, lawlessness.

The main obstacle to reforms have been the unions but “Earlier this year, the moderate CFDT overtook the militant CGT as the strongest union in the private sector. For the first time there is a possibility of a reformist majority within the French unions,” said Moec of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

 If Macron can convince the unions to loosen up their headlock on labor laws, everything is possible. Macron’s style is a gradual approach to solving problems but without quick results on the economy, he could struggle to deliver.

To his credit Macron is also a proponent of “equal pay for equal work” (requirement that men and women be paid the same if performing the same job in the same organization).
He also promised to have an equal number of men and women in his cabinet. This is refreshing, especially in notoriously macho French politics.

Some people have been wondering about his marriage to his wife Brigitte who is 24 years older than he is. In my opinion this was an extremely gutsy decision for both of them, for not everyone was so accepting of their relationship. And guts are what are needed for the extremely difficult task of managing the French presidency.

Best wishes to a daring young man and his equally daring and stylish missus!

Alain

2017 French elections

 

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” — George Jean Nathan

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When I vote, I vote for my candidate… or for the lesser of two evils.
I never abstain. To me, abstaining is not an indication of protest; it is more a sign of “laissez-faire”, letting things take their own course.
Basically, it means abdicating responsibilities and giving free rein to extremists.

As you may know, this weekend the French will vote again in the second round of the presidential election.
The two finalists are Far Right Marine Le Pen (National Front) and centrist Emmanuel Macron (Onward).

Macron is thought to prevail. If he does, he will be the youngest president ever in the French history. But, “les jeux ne sont pas faits. »
If I had to define a Frenchman by a single word, I would call him “cabochard” (pigheaded), one who will do as he pleases. And a cabochard is more inclined to let feelings prevail over rationality.

Marine Le Pen (48) succeeded her father Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the National Front in 1972. Over the years she has struggled to bring respectability to a party that was mainly known for its thuggish, fascist ways.
She partly succeeded, mainly by tapping the anger of the unemployed and a general fear of immigration and terrorism. If elected she vowed to pull out of the euro currency and apply major restrictions to the Schengen Agreement (free movement across European borders).

Emmanuel Macron (39), a former investment banker appeals to many by a moderate rhetoric, plans to lower taxes, reform work laws and expand health care. He also supports the open-door policy toward immigrants and tolerance towards Muslims.
In a France polarized by the fear of immigration, this could be his undoing.

He was briefly Minister of the Economy under Francois Hollande, where he pushed through business-friendly reforms, notably the right to work on weekends. He showed early grit by vowing at 17 to marry his schoolteacher (who was 24 older than he is) and by going through with his promise.

The results of this vote are extremely important because they will determine the fate of the European Union. If the candidate of the Far Right succeeds, it could spell the end of the Union, a renewal of divisive Extreme Right policies all over Europe and have worldwide implications.

It is hoped by many that this weekend won’t be a replay of the 2016 American elections scenario.

Alain

“Since the people vote against the government, the people must be dissolved.” Bertold Brecht.

 

The utmost importance of pointing

 

“The club expects that every man will do his duty.”

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With the re-apparition of long-awaited sunny days, I will never stress enough the importance of the “pointer” in the game of Pétanque. I know that I have talked about this before, but after losing countless encounters, I want to reiterate my belief in the value of the pointer.

In the game of pétanque players are basically divided in two very distinct categories. There are “pointers” (the worker bees, the skilled craftsmen) and the ”shooters” (the muscle, the gorillas, the gunslingers).
A gunslinger though, without the assistance of a skilled pointer is very vulnerable. With only 2 or 3 bullets at his disposition, he has to fire (accurately) and only as a last resort. Once disarmed, he is as harmless as a defanged cobra.

The first boule thrown by the pointer often determines the outcome of a game. A successful placement is both strategically and psychologically important. It forces the shooter to either fire a precious bullet or pressure the pointer to do better.
Psychologically, it is also subtly undermines the confidence of the other team.

Even when the pointer eventually manages to put a boule in the close vicinity of the “cochonnet”, not doing well with the first boule immediately tips the balance in favor of the opposite team. Each player has a limited amount of ammunition that needs to be used very judiciously. Each failed attempt to score is a wasted bullet and an added advantage for the opponent/s.

Women generally excel at pointing, and proficient players are sought and wooed for important tournaments. If I were in such a position, I would play coy and go with the highest bidder (cash or an all paid vacation to some swank resort).

I am not saying that pointing is the exclusive domain of women; they can also be excellent shooters. Last night for instance I had the pleasure to play with against Honor W. for the first time and she really impressed me with her shooting ability. Like a born shooter she throws her boule “au fer” and her batting average is more than respectable.
A real pleasure to compete with such a cool, elegant, accomplished player.

To sum it up, the shooter solely does not win a game. Without a good pointer, he is like a tank without infantry support. Very vulnerable to anti-tank fire.
Don’t forget that some shooters also have a very thin skin. After missing a few times they lose heart and fall apart. This is when pointers should take advantage of their disarray and point more exquisitely than ever.

Hail to all pointers! May they arm-wrestle petanque gorillas into submission every chance they get!

Alain

Genuine Nice Person

 

“La gentillesse, c’est de l’amour donné par petites bouffées.”
“Kindness is love given in small puffs.”

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Those who are close to me know that I am partial to dogs, cats, myriads of four-legged critters and GNP. Not “the total value of the goods and services produced by the people of a nation during a year but the other GNP: the Genuine Nice People.

In a world of fakes, phonies and con men it is nice once in a blue moon to come across a honest-to-goodness Genuine Nice Person. But unfortunately they seem to be a vanishing breed that needs protection.

Nice people don’t tout their niceness. It is up to you to discover them.
They are like truffles. You might have to dig a little to find them and appreciate them, but it is definitely worth the effort.

The main quality of a GNP is empathy, the ability to understand and share someone’s feelings. GNP listen and identify with your problems. They are kind, compassionate and discreet. You can confide in them without fearing that your most intimate feelings are going to be broadcast to the four corners of the earth.

A GNP is almost like a BFF, but in a better, improved version. You are born a GNP while a BFF is a (flaw-prone) manufactured product.
A BFF might judge and condemn while a GNP will listen and soothe, without ever passing judgment. In times of sorrow, we all need a sympathetic ear, and if you are lucky a true GNP will always be there to commiserate with you.

This year, without fear of contradiction, I confer the title of GNP to Liv Kraft, a bona fide Genuine Nice Person.
She is a delightful companion, a good pétanque player, a helpful club member, and a joy to be around. May she live forever.

Three hearty cheers for her!

Skal Liv!

Alain

Low talker


“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” 
Oliver Wendell Holmes

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I have been a Seinfeld fan from the start and I still vividly remember many of the series’ episodes. I particularly recall “The Puffy Shirt”, the second episode of the fifth season.

In this installment, Kramer’s girlfriend (Leslie) says something to Jerry. Since she is a “low-talker” (a person who talks in a low, soft voice) and not really comprehending what she said, Jerry and Elaine just nod their heads in agreement… and Jerry ends up wearing a ridiculous “puffy shirt” on a popular talk show.

Over the years I have become let’s say a tad “acoustically challenged”. I don’t hear as well as I used to, but I am still in running condition.
I don’t pretend to have my cat’s auditory perception (who while napping can hear a mouse fart) but I still can hear you perfectly well providing that you are not a mumbler or a “low-talker”.

So yes, I have a beef (maybe a calf) with low-talkers.
It is not the responsibility of the listener to hear well, but the duty of the speaker to get the message through. By carefully monitoring his audience, an accomplished speaker will know if his message is received or not. If he notices a vacant stare somewhere, he should realize that he is not getting through and try again.

Like many slightly impaired people, when I don’t clearly understand what is being said, I politely ask the person to repeat what he/she just said.
But if for any reason I don’t grasp what is being said for a second time (just like Jerry and Elaine) out of embarrassment I might nod in agreement… with sometimes-unforeseen consequences.

“An older man had serious hearing problems for many years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the man to hear 100%.
A month later the old man went back  to the doctor who said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
The old man replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”

 So, if somebody seems to constantly agree with you, keep in mind that it might not be that you are exceptionally convincing, but rather that your interlocutor did not get a thing you said.
And you should ask yourself: am I a mumbler or God forbids, a “low-talker”?

Do you copy? Over and out!

Alain

A blast from the past

 

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it does not matter. Jack Benny.

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Some people dread birthdays while some rugged souls on the other hand grab the bull by the horns and push back against the encroachment of time. They won’t let mere digits hinder their way of life.

A couple of days ago I attended a birthday celebration hosted by Brigitte Moran’s clan. Her devotees went all out to commemorate Brigitte’s admission to the exclusive Geezer Country Club and give her a fiery send off to the geriatric orbit.

The theme of the party was the groovy 60’s and people were asked to show up in period threads.
I have always maintained that if you wait long enough (50 to 100 years), your dated wardrobe will come back into fashion, and this occasion proved me right. The only problem is that 50 years later your waistline won’t be exactly the same as when you were a young buck. But some people managed to dig out (or buy) vintage clothes and showed up decked with long hair, tinted shades, beads and platform shoes.
At the door I bumped into a tall, dark, longhaired hippy that to my amazement turned out to be Beatnik Herb (Moran). Great duds Herb!

The celebration started with an open bar followed by a sit down dinner.

After dinner an Afro wearing DJ opened the shindig with loud (very loud) throbbing musical pieces. Among the first people on the floor was Flower Child Brigitte who, in spite of a recent hip replacement, behaved like a teenager on Prom night.
She was followed by some (naturally reserved) people who suddenly moved like possessed by Beelzebub.

They say that age is all in your mind. The trick is keeping it from creeping down into your body. Unknown author.

For best costume (among the people I know), I recognized Monique Bricca, Herb, Brigitte, Tom Moran (loved those platform shoes) and Sandra Shirkey. I also liked the threads of a cool black dude whose name I don’t know.

To sum it up, it was a funky, outta sight party.

Joyeux Anniversaire again to a groovy chick! S.W.A.K!

Alain

PS: To watch photos of this event, click on the “My Photos” link located on the right side of this page. For best viewing, go Full Screen. No more music, sorry.
Click on the 2017 folder and on the arrow at the right top of the folder to watch the slideshow.