Presidential conventions

According to, “Federal taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $136 million to cover the cost of the major political parties’ presidential nominating conventions.”
Well amigos, that’s a lot of moolah… “A million here, a million there… Pretty soon you are talking real money.”

When it comes to politics, like most people, I am a babe in the woods; but I am not a total idiot either. I know that what people see at the convention has been preordained and blessed by the party bosses. So why this big circus on television?

With every institution on the face of the earth begging for money, why waste so much cash talking to people already acquired to the cause? Because after all, it looks like the convention is preaching to a choir of hardcore believers, not to the heathen.

A presidential convention likes to showcase a bunch of ambitious braggarts intent on proving than they are more royalists than the king. The more outrageous their comments, the more the zealots roar their approval. It is not unlike a “corrida” where every oratory pass is punctuated by enthusiastic “olés”.

Personally, I have the sneaky suspicion that a convention is a good excuse for normally straight-laced individuals to booze it up and blow some steam. And partially at the expense of taxpayers, because Congress appropriates $100 million ($50 million for each convention) to cover the cost of “security”.

As a flawed human being I understand that. But we are going through hard times, and wouldn’t be more reasonable to throw a few block parties and do away with this extravaganza? It would save taxpayers money, and the sorry sight of seemingly grown people gone wild.

Incidentally, the hanky-panky (eh eh eh) that happens at the convention stays at the convention! At least that’s what conventioneers hope for.

But ultimately, conventions are about money, and backroom deals.
Many delegates come to the Big Tent to lobby (pay) for a particular project. They are essentially saying, “I’ll give you some cash, but if you are elected, I want a piece of the pie”. And politicians will unabashedly take the cash and make promises that they don’t intend to keep.
But if you long for a piece of that delectable pie, you have got to be willing to pay for the ingredients, n’est-ce pas?

To sum it up, a convention looks like a Roman triumph when a victorious general came home and was heralded as a god after trashing the Barbarians. But in ancient Rome they celebrated after a victory, and not in anticipation of a victory.

As far as I know the Barbarians are massing at the gates and banging their shields with their swords.



The Petanque President

The American elections are about 2 months away and many voters are still sitting on the fence. Barack Obama is probably wondering what it would take to persuade those rascals to keep him in the “Casa Blanca”.

If I were a campaign advisor, I would have only one word for the Commander in Chief: pétanque.
Yes you heard me, I said pétanque! Because a dynamic presidential candidate should strive for innovation and originality.
Most of the former presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, the Bushes, Clinton) played golf, but they didn’t have any choice. A President has got to play golf, otherwise he will look like a stick in the mud.

To garner more votes, Barack should do something different: break away from old traditions and start with new ones.

By embracing pétanque (a plebeian sport), Bama would show the American people that, unlike the other guy, he is really one of them.
He could show everybody that he is a straight shooter while painting his opponent as a wimpy pointer.

A presidential campaign is about scoring points. Just think of what a few elegant “carreaux” could do (especially when shown in slow motion) for the incumbent.
And I already coined a name for the “pétanque president”: CaroBama.
Carreau-Bama, got it? The world would lap it up.

And the president (instead of engaging in useless debates) could challenge his opponent “mano a mano”. After seeing him shooting hoops, I have faith in his athletic abilities, and I think that he could easily whip Mormon Mitt.

Many celebrities (Mick Jagger, Brigitte Bardot, Yves Montand, Johnny Depp, Morley Safer, Konrad Adenauer, Peter Mayle, Georges Simenon, etc.) took up the sport and gained a significant boost of popularity after doing so. And so could Obama.

Bama should build a pétanque court in the back of the White House and (instead of growing potatoes) he could settle many of the world’s problems with a series of “winner takes all” tournaments. I know that “bare chest Putin” for instance couldn’t refuse a challenge.

Hello Vladimir! I am calling about Pussy Riot. Why don’t you release them? Niet? What about a little game of петанк then? If you win, you can send them to Siberia… if you lose, you let them go. OK? Da?
Atta boy Vlady, I’ll see you on the court!

Bashar? This is Bama calling… yes, the guy in the White House…about your pesky problem…

Like in medieval jousts of yore, winning a tournament would indicate God’s will and important matters could then be settled according to the winner’s (and God’s naturally) wishes.
This is just a suggestion mind you, but I think that it is worth considering.

If the Dems needs additional help, I can be found on the Marin Pétanque field, every Sunday from 1 to 4 pm.

Thank you Ma’am, just trying to help!


PS: To look at pictures of recent events, turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.

Sonoma Wine Country Classic

Yesterday, the Valley of the Moon Pétanque Club hosted its annual Wine Country Classic tournament. An event also dedicated to the memory of beloved Tino (Nunziato) Lofaro who passed away almost 2 years ago.
As expected, it drew a big crowd. Thirty eight (38) doublettes or 76 contestants to be precise.
The weather was good (not too hot) but in the afternoon the wind picked up significantly and blew clouds of dust all over the field.
The event was ably run and supervised by my good buddy, unflappable Patrick Vaslet.

The format of the tournament was “Select Doubles” and people teamed up with what I assume was (and I could be wrong) their BFF (Best Friend Forever). All the people were too numerous to mention, but  among the players I know I noticed the two Jean-Claude (Jean-Claude Bunand and Jean-Claude Etallaz) and the two Peters (Peter Mathis and Peter Wellington).
I also spotted Carolina Jones and Carlos Couto, Alain Gusella and Jean-Michel Poulnot, Steve Jones and Christine Jones and Antoine Lofaro and Luc Pouget.

Among the players, two lone all-female entries:
Erin Mc Taggart & Barbara Hall, and Antonia Paulsen & Colette Van Der Meulen.

As usual, 3 eleven points game were played in the morning to separate the Big Boys (and Big Girls) from the fray, and thirteen points elimination games were played in the afternoon.

Personally, I teamed up with a little known player named Tamara Semionovna and she did extremely well. We won our first two games (11/7 and 11/6) and for our 3rd game of the morning, we faced John and Cody Morris, a delightful team of father and son.
They beat us 11/9 but it was a real pleasure playing with such gentlemen.

16 teams ended in the Concours, 14 teams in the Consolante A, and 8 teams in Consolante B.

In the afternoon, in the first game of the Concours we faced Mickey and Nicole Coughlin. Shall I say more? They threw us out of the tournament with a resounding kick in the fanny. The almost unmentionable score: 13/0.

The final results communicated to me by Patrick Vaslet are:

Erin McTaggart

1st: Barbara Hall and Erin McTaggart
2nd: Yor Lee and Paul Maua
3rd: Mickey Coughlin and Nicole Coughlin
4th: Mone Lee and Pao Ly

Consolante A
1st: Peter Mathis and Peter Wellington
2nd: Antoine Lofaro and Luc Pouget
3rd: Steve Paulsen and Bill Miller
4th: Nan Walter and Etienne Rijkheer

Consolante B
1st: Thomas Moua and By Vang
2nd: Steve Jones and Christine Jones
3rd: Brendan Cohen and Marco Ilaria.

I find it exhilarating to find an all-female team at the top of the heap.
Congratulations to Barbara Hall and Erin McTaggart for besting the best male players of the tournament.


PS: I forgot to mention the 3rd all-female team in my report and I apologize for this.
The missing team was Shannon Bowman and Holly Sammons.




La politesse française

« Le manque de politesse est l’imitation de la force par l’homme faible » Eric Hoffer

Le français a longtemps été la langue des diplomates, et les français ont longtemps été réputés pour leur galanterie et leur politesse. Hélas, selon un sondage récent, ce sont des temps bien révolus.

Selon ce sondage, Charles de Gaulle, le deuxième aéroport le plus fréquenté d’Europe, est le plus discourtois de la région, alors que l’Aéroport de Copenhague est présenté comme le plus amical.

Une enquête publiée par le site de voyage Skyscanner montre que Charles de Gaulle, qui accueille plus de 60 millions de passagers par an, est l’aéroport le plus malpoli d’Europe avec un score de 4.86 sur 10. CDG se place même devant Moscou qui a toujours eu une très mauvaise réputation

Skyscanner a interrogé plus de 500 passagers qui ont voyagé pendant les 12 derniers mois, et leur a demandé d’évaluer les aéroports européens en fonction de la gentillesse de leur personnel.
La France caracole en tête (ce n’est pas un compliment) avec le score le plus bas de la région.

Voici le classement de Skyscanner :

Cinq (5) aéroports les plus discourtois d’Europe
1. Paris CDG 4.86
2. Moscow 5.03
3. Istanbul 5.91
4. London-Heathrow 5.94
5. Madrid 6.01

 Cinq (5) aéroports les plus amicaux d’Europe
1. Copenhagen 7.08
2. Amsterdam 6.92
3. Stockholm 6.68
4. Barcelona 6.46
5. Frankfurt 6.21

Il faut dire que Charles de Gaulle (inauguré en 1974) montre les ravages du temps et a grand besoin d’un « facelift », autant physique que spiritual.
Comparé a d‘autres aéroports internationaux, Charles de Gaulle fait maintenant bien piètre figure. Ce qui fut un projet d’avant-garde il y a environ 40 ans est maintenant en piteux état. Il est démodé, encombré et très mal balisé.
Et c’est toujours une déception d’arriver en France et d’être traité comme du bétail par un personnel continuellement grincheux.

Et pourtant, « La politesse coute peu et achète tout. »  Montaigne

La prochaine fois que j’irais en Europe, rappelez moi d’éviter Paris et d’atterrir a Copenhague.


A new look

Here we are. A new look!
After countless hours of intensive labor, the site of Le Cochonnet Marin has morphed into a blog.
The old website is still on line, but all new entries will be posted on this blog until I decide whether to continue with this format or go back to the website format.

I am watching you!

The basic difference between a blog and a website is that on a website the main page and all the other pages contain static information.
On a blog, the front page constantly changes. New entries will show up in a chronological order and the last post will appear on top of all the other entries.
On blogs (at least on majority of blogs) visitors can leave comments and interact with the “blogger”; this can be very helpful to the blogger in determining what to put on his site.

I like the look and the feel of the blog, but it has a few inconveniences.
Posting new entries is cumbersome and labor intensive. Inserting text and images require more steps and is more time consuming than the website format.
This program also lacks a variety of fonts to choose from, but altogether I think that this blog looks sleeker and more contemporary than the website!
I’ll let you judge.

I am trying to keep this site simple and uncluttered. A blog needs to remain spartan because after a while it can become untidy and difficult to navigate.
By the way, if you get lost while navigating, click on the “Home” button to bring you back to the “home page”.

Feel free to leave comments and suggestions. They can be very helpful to me.
When you leave a comment you will be asked to leave your name and e-mail address and whether you would like to be notified of new posts via e-mail. If you agree, you will be automatically notified of a new post.

Keep in mind that this site is a work in progress and that it will evolve as time goes by. I rely on my readers to let me know what they would like to see, and what could to be changed or improved.

Don’t forget to “bookmark” this site in order to easily get back to it.

Thank you for your attention.



Lamorinda, August 19, 2012

Yesterday I was at Lamorinda to compete in the first Annual Lamorinda Cup Tournament.
The format was Select Mixed Doubles and I had invited chicken farmer Sabine Mattei to be my wingchick.
This tournament attracted some heavyweights (Peter Mathis, Mickey Coughlin, Gilles Karpowicz, Alain Gusella, PJ Mallette, Dan Feaster, etc.) and the event promised to be lively.
Coffee and croissants were served before the tournament. Coffee was particularly welcome since it proved to be rather chilly in the morning. It became hot in the afternoon (hot enough to wear my shorts), and cool again after 5:00 p.m.

Etienne Rijkheer (who elected not to play) and “Carreau-Lina” Jones were the circus masters.
Since I was playing, it proved a little difficult to collect all the facts and tidbits, but here is what I remember.

Thirty three (33) select mixed doublettes enrolled to play. Three eleven points untimed games were to be played before lunch, and 13 points eliminatory games for the Concours and Consolante A and B in the afternoon.

After a rather inauspicious beginning (we almost lost our first game), Sabine and I won our first 3 games in the morning and were marshaled into the Concours.

After lunch, in our first game of the Concours, we faced le Facteur (Jean-Michel Poulnot) and la Factrice (Tamara Efron). It does my heart good to report that we brought them down to their knees. I might finally be able to sleep at night after defeating my longtime nemesis. It feels gooood to say so.

On our second game, we faced Trish and John Harris. Never heard of them, but we were told that they were good players. They were indeed.
After an auspicious start, we finally lost (10/13) to them after an epic struggle. The game hung in the balance until the last minute and we were defeated I am sorry to say, due to two capital errors of judgment of my part.
We lost and I am the only person to blame for it, but I don’t feel too bad barely losing to a team that made it to the finals.
Sabine did an excellent pointing job and should be recognized for doing so. Here is to you wingchick!

I would like to add that the Lamorinda field is very challenging (especially for those who are not used to it), and that’s where you separate the men from the boys. Winning in Lamorinda is indeed an honor.

Apéritifs and munchies were served after the tournament.

Final results (compliments of Etienne Rijkheer):

CONCOURS  (16 Teams)
1st place: Peter Mathis and Holly Sammons, VOMPC
2nd place: John Harris and Trish Harris, Oakhurst Pétanque Club
3rd place: Mickey Coughlin and Nicole Coughlin, Redwood Empire Boules Club
4th place: Carl and Linda Mottscheidler, Fresno Pétanque Club

1st place: Alain Gusella and Phim Nielsen, La Boule d’Or
2nd place: Beth Lysten and Daniel Genini, Lamorinda Pétanque Club
3rd place: Peter Wellington and Teri Sirico, VOMPC and Petaluma Valley Pétanque Club

1st place: By Vang and May Lee, Fresno Pétanque Club
2nd place: Carlos Couto and Carolina Jones, Lamorinda Pétanque Club

Thank you Lamorinda for a fun day and a job well done!


Tantalus torment

Last night I was watching an episode of “Julia and Jacques cooking at home” where the legendary twosome were demonstrating the proper way to make “Crêpes Suzette”.
It looked mouth watering and I was salivating like a basset begging for a hot dog.
But this dish (like many others alas) is now off-limits to me!
Sugar, Grand Marnier, Cognac… Those things that I took for granted in my youth are not allowed to touch my lips anymore.
Alas, alas, alas!

For the last thirty years I have been afflicted with Type 2 Diabetes and I have to follow a very strict diet to keep that condition from worsening.
Sugar, carbs, alcohol… Those devilish aphrodisiacs are now strictly verboten.
Like Tantalus, I am constantly exposed to tempting dishes, but not allowed to satisfy my cravings. Over my head hangs Damocles sword and if I overplay my hand it will some day come crashing down on little old me.

I check my blood glucose every day and my glucometer is quick to tell me if I have broken my sacred covenant with the medical establishment. If the readings are out of the recommended range, I feel remorseful about my careless behavior.
Like all addicts, I swear that I will forsake sugar and all its vicious cousins forever.

But I am only human, and once in a while I fall off the wagon and surrender to debauchery. I indulge in some deadly sins; I will drink booze and have a sugar fix under the table. I do it quickly so that those watching me won’t notice, but my glucometer (my medical ankle monitor) does.

In the morning it will accusingly produce damning figures, and demand that I change my evil ways. I promise, but the flesh is weak… especially when Satan (in the form of Jacques) baits me with such scrumptious dishes.
Damn you Jacques… I mean Satan.
Let me confess, and let me have the absolution. I won’t do it again (soon), I promise…

But it is extremely difficult for somebody who was born in the land of Escoffier to keep those promises. I will sin again I know, but you will have to forgive me because there is no greater sin than to abstain from foods that make the Gods themselves cry.





Most of us live in a bubble called the “comfort zone”. That’s where people and things are familiar, and where we feel most anxiety-free.

But changes are unavoidable, and the transition from the comfort of our bubble to some unknown territory can be difficult and stressful. It is therefore better to embrace a new paradigm early than to fight an angry and futile rear-guard battle.

For the last 2 or 3 years I have been using an Apple application to produce this website, but due to fact that this program will soon be obsolete, I have decided to migrate to another piece of software.

As I said, changes can be painful and I am now compelled to tackle an unfamiliar program and relearn once familiar routines. It is not easy and (like Saint Michael) I am struggling to tame the dragon.

But the most satisfying undertakings in life are self-taught; when you are not coerced to walk in step and when instead, you take it upon yourself to learn and master a new discipline.

That’s why at “la rentrée” (when people in France–including government- are returning home after a long summer vacation) this website will have a new look. It will be more functional, easier to navigate, and have among many new features an “archival” capability. It means that you will be able you to look at articles, editorials, etc. that were published in the past and are not accessible on this site anymore.

Mastering a new program can be an arduous task and I am still struggling with a few features. But I am an obstinate bastard and the recalcitrant components are falling in line one by one.

I hope that very shortly now you will be able to feast your eyes on my new blog.

In the meantime, share this site with your friends and keep comments and suggestions coming. It is always greatly appreciated.

Hasta la vista!





Glücklich, chanceux, lucky, afortunado, udashni…

The word “lucky” exists in most languages and has many disciples. People who believe and pray for happy accidents.

Luck is this indefinable quality that brings good fortune upon somebody by chance, rather than through one’s own deliberate actions.

Be it in sports, finance, love, war, being lucky is a blessing that few can do without. Being accomplished at something is good, but being lucky is definitely better. All successful people have one day been enormously lucky.

But luck is a fickle lady. She has to be wooed properly. One date is not sufficient to win her heart. If you want more luck, you have to be more proactive and be more willing to take chances. “Luck, like the old Trabant car, generally only works if you push it. “

In pétanque for instance, in order to win, it is better to take a chance on a risky shot rather than to concede a point, for Lady Luck smiles upon the audacious. If you miss your target the Lady might be willing to grant you a few bonus points just for trying.

And you cannot win at the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

Luck has also something to do with being in the right place at the right time.

Seneca (Roman philosopher), wrote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

As an amateur photographer I try to always carry a camera with me, for you never know when the “one-in-a-thousand” shot is going to pop up. If a magnificent rainbow suddenly appears, you better be ready to bag it.

Like a flighty woman, Lady Luck will give you only a small window of opportunity to take advantage of her benevolent mood.

If you are not ready, you won’t be lucky.

To conclude:

I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?” Jean Cocteau



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