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The Anxious Underbelly of 2019 Egypt Journey

March 27th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Egypt, tourism, Travel

Rookie mistake? Shady operators? Inevitable issues?

Doesn’t really matter when it goes bad, does it?

Our last-minute visit to Egypt, which began well enough on Day 1, got a bit better on Day 2. A wet finger in the Red Sea, which is interesting but not Moses-like in impact, lots of sun while catching up on reading, soft-serve frozen yogurt, a quiet hour in an empty gym, pretty good beef bourguignon from the buffet …

Then came Day 3, straight out of the voluminous annals of “travel days that suddenly got quite unpleasant”.

To wit: [

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So, Over to Egypt

March 26th, 2019 · No Comments · Egypt, Fantasy Baseball, London, tourism, Travel

Most people do not really want to be known for hare-brained schemes, but eventually a body of work cannot be defended from the reality of bunny-level planning.

(Raising my hand.)

This began a month ago, thereabouts. A long time ago, when it comes to groceries, no time at all when it involves international travel.

It may have started with a “list of 10 countries” to see … for someone old enough to be thinking about a bucket list.

And then it just attained a life of its own, with a two-week stretch looming large. The original scheme did not work out, but it created so much momentum that after Destination No. 1 fell out of the running, it almost immediately morphed into a destination not dissimilar from the first.

So, maybe not Morocco … then what about Egypt!?!

As is necessary for all hare-brained schemes, it has to happen quickly – in this case, a week after booking – and certain dominoes must fall into place with alacrity, along with “available funds at this point in time” and … well, then one sunny afternoon you find yourself landing in Hurghada, Egypt, along with a 757-bellyful of your best East End pals from the heavily tattooed classes of Britain. And their pre-kindergarten children. (Did not see that coming.)

So, an idea of a sort of three-day toe-tap not at all far from France to say, “Yeah, I’ve been to Morocco” (as if that connotes something salutary) becomes a 13-day, four-flight, seven-day Nile river cruise with stops at a bunch of places associated with the oldest civilization on the planet.

How did that happen? Is it a good idea?

Guess we will find out.

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Baseball and Drawn Out Admissions that an Injury is Dire

March 24th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Baseball

Baseball injury updates. Hah.

At best the information disseminated to media is good ol’ fashion (very ol’ fashioned) American optimism.

At worst, it is a method for teams to get the player in question, as well as fans fretting over the loss of a key guy, to come to grips with something that can be, oh, dire, as athletic injuries go.

Anyway, the multi-step process goes something like this:

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Spending a Fun Friday Night with the Local Soccer Club

March 17th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, France, Languedoc, Paris, soccer

Living in western Europe, the assumption by most Americans, including this one, is that professional soccer teams must not be far from any point on the maps of England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

That assumption would be wrong.

Where we live, in the Occitanie region (previously known as the Languedoc) of southern France, plenty of rugby (!) teams are knocking heads somewhere nearby, but fully professional soccer clubs are thin on the ground.

In the top flight, there is Marseille, historically competitive, two-plus hours to our east, and Montpellier, surprise Ligue 1 champions in 2010, an hour away, and Nimes a bit further north.

But that is about it with, typically, zero Ligue 2 teams.

Till the promotion this season of relative newcomers AS Beziers from Beziers — the “big” town closest to where we live, barely a half-hour drive away.

We have lived in this area for more than three years without seeing a French club soccer match. But, with Beziers now fielding a Ligue 2 team, and the end of the season coming into focus for French clubs, we thought it our duty as (not actual) citoyens to go see this freshly professional club, even on a brisk and windy night, and after handing over 10 euros each we entered the Stade Mediterranee and took a seat in the lower bowl of the 18,000-capacity stadium.

And we not only immersed ourselves in the Beziers football world, such as it is, we saw the team win its first home match of the season in Ligue 2 — the second division in the French system and the only other, besides Ligue 1, to call itself fully professional.

We picked a game of some significance, it turns out, because the club formed in 2007 is fighting to avoid relegation and was playing host to a struggling Auxerre club.

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Come for the Salad; Stay for the Soft-Serve

March 15th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, bacon, France

This will seem crazy, to many readers, but when we get some time back in the States, I inevitably think about having a meal at …

… one of my favorite Mexican outlets … or enjoying dim sum at Capital Seafood in Irvine … or savoring some Lebanese, which we used to eat at least once a week, back in Abu Dhabi … but most of all I was thinking about …


Turns out, I am not the only 21st century devotee of the all-you-can-eat salad-oriented chain. Other consumers, younger, richer and hipper than moi, are at least as into it as I am, as this recent Los Angeles Magazine story suggests.

While in SoCal, a few months back, I spent a chunk of one of my 15 or so days in/near San Bernardino eating lunch at the Souplantation there. The one down on Hospitality Lane.

That also would be the one near Loma Linda University, which is run by the Seventh-day Adventists, who recommend a vegetarian lifestyle. Lots of students and medical workers, it seems, do the Plantation thing, there in Berdoo.

What I take away from the L.A. Mag story, and my recent experience at a Souplantation store … is that it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

If anything, it is going through a renaissance.

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Going Off the Grid

March 13th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

So, disappearing is not impossible. Not yet!

And thank goodness for that.

Not to say it’s easy to go off the grid. I mean, completely off the grid. Like, no one can find “the you” of this moment. Even with so much of you well known to list-making authorities and rapacious commercial entities who want to sell you something — and then sell your data to other commercial entities.

We have seen two stories this week that demonstrate that, yes, an American can get lost, re-invent himself/herself and stay under the radar.

It is sort of a recurrent fantasy for some of us. One I will never act on, but like to consider.

If I wanted to opt out of the Age of Big Data … if I wanted to disappear … how would I do it?

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Tuesday, Wednesday Nights: Champions League to the Rescue

March 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Champions League, Fifa, Football, France, soccer

The world over, sports action tends to cluster around weekends. Friday-Saturday-Sunday are the heavy days because that is when more people have more time to spend paying close attention to whatever athletic endeavor matters most to them.

Monday-through-Thursday … not nearly as fun or hectic. Usually.

Then there is European soccer, which 12 weeks a year almost single-handedly turns Tuesday and Wednesday nights into Appointment Football, thanks to the European (Uefa) Champions League.

Which is the competition pitting the world’s best club teams in the most important club soccer competition. (And it isn’t close.)

Starting in September, the Champions League takes control of your television set, if you are any sort of soccer fan. And there you are, watching the 32-team group stage play in the middle of six weeks from September to early-ish December … and then the two-leg knockout rounds, which feature six midweeks of high-interest viewing from mid-February through early May.

The whole of it, aside from the final, is played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Tonight? Manchester City and Schalke, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. You may have heard of some of them.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Bayern Munich and Liverpool, Barcelona and Lyon.

All kickoffs at 9 p.m., in the western half of Europe, meaning we all will be staring at the world’s greatest teams and greatest players for two hours, followed by an hour or so of punditry and video highlights of the matches that will keep us up to midnight, easy.

Because what else are we going to watch on Tuesday and Wednesday nights?

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Best Wishes for ‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek

March 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

What I miss most about television here in France is easy access to the American game show Jeopardy!

I have been watching it since I was a kid, back when the show was hosted in New York by Art Fleming. It ran for a decade, went off the air, then returned in 1984, much to my excitement, and it had a new host:

Alex Trebek, a Canadian and former newsman, took over as the show was reincarnated in Los Angeles and was key in making the show one of modern TV’s most cherished institutions.

The big Jeopardy news this week is about Trebek, who announced a few days ago that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which is a formidable foe.

Trebek expressed his intent to fight the cancer to the best of his and his doctors’ abilities, and we wish him well in that battle.

In a video released a few days ago, he said: “Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.” [Read more →]

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Time for Lakers to Tank

March 6th, 2019 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

OK, yes. It turns out the Los Angeles Lakers needed more than LeBron James to be relevant in the 2018-19 NBA season.

With 18 games to play, the club is 30-34, having lost seven of its past 10, including a game to the Phoenix Suns, owners of the worst record in the NBA. Before they beat the Lakers, anyway.

You may recall that signing James last summer was supposed to be the catalyst for a return to the playoffs, at the least, for the first time in six seasons.

But James suffered the lengthiest injury of his NBA career, perhaps no surprise given that he is 34, a hamstring issue that cost him 18 games following the Lakers’ Christmas Day victory over Golden State. The Lakers lost 12 of the games James missed, and they have never really recovered, continuing to sink even with LeBron back in the lineup.

They now are 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final playoffs berth in the Western Conference, and they have been further exposed as a horrible defensive team, the worst in the league at free throws and a merely awful three-point shooting team.

So, what can the club do now to help itself?

Start tanking!

It’s not like they don’t know the drill.

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About Time: Getting the Town Bells Aligned

March 5th, 2019 · No Comments · France


We had been back in our village, in France, for a few days when one of us accomplished something a bit tricky:

Noticing the absence of something we had grown used to hearing.

To wit: The bells ringing in the city center on the hour and half-hour.

They were not ringing. At all. And had not been … for days. Though nobody else seemed to notice.

Or maybe they were tired of hearing the bells.

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