Things I learned from visiting France

très grand chat domestique

Here are some things I learned from visiting France in May 2023. You world travelers likely already know some of these things.

Let me lay out the four places we stayed. We spent two nights at (#1) the Hotel Paris – Andre Latin Hotel, then two more at (#2) the Hotel Kyriad Auray (2), one night at (#3) Les Chtis Bretons, near Le Temple in Trédion (3), and the final night at (#4) Millennium CDG in Roissy en France. These were very different experiences.


When we got into room #1, I couldn’t get the lights to work. I asked the person at the front desk, and they asked if I had put the key card in the slot; of course, that’s how we got in.

No, the slot INSIDE the room. When the key is in that slot, the lights work. It’s a measure to keep people from wasting electricity. We also had to give the key to the front desk when we went out, then get it back upon our return.

It was good that we had three adapter plugs for European sockets.  Ours were called Travel Smart by Conair. We used all three. One was to charge my laptop, and another was for the white noise machine; we didn’t use it the first night, and we slept poorly even though I’d been up over 36 hours.

The third plug was to charge our phones and my watch. On May 9, days before our May 14 departure, I bought a SooPii 60W 6-Port Charging Station for Multiple Devices. It was advantageous.

I changed my phone carrier from Boost Mobile to TMobile nine days before departure. My phone worked everywhere we went in France except place #3, only five kilometers from the chateau, where we DID have connectivity.

I also got a Glocal Me hotspot and a 5G SIM card. This was not successful. So my wife could only use her phone when we were on Amtrak, the planes, three hotels, and the TGV TRAIN. Fortunately, our Wordle streaks remained intact.


I briefly checked out the television at hotels #1 and #2. Hotel #1 in Paris had a variety of channels, some in English, primarily BBC 4 and its spinoffs. There were also channels from Tunisia and, I believe, Iran.

The TV at Hotel #2 in Auray was all in French. The only English I heard was from Cannes. Michael Douglas was accepting an award, which was translated. But some offerings were American programs dubbed into English, including Grey’s Anatomy, Friends, and The A-Team. 

Radio was quite eclectic throughout the country. On the tour bus in Paris, between descriptions of the sites, the music ranged from Middle Eastern to the Parisian dance halls to hip hop lite. 


Food was abundant at Hotels #1, #2, and #4. They all served croissants and had machines dispensing coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Mainly #2 and #4 seemed heated toward their perception of the American palate. Carrot cake and brownies for breakfast? I LOVE carrot cake but wasn’t ready for it at 8:30 a.m.

In the lobby of Hotel #2 was perhaps the largest domesticated cat I’ve ever seen. It would wander among the diners, walking under the chairs. When it was petted, it would linger for a time. 


Driving in the countryside, from Auray to Erdeven to  Trédion, wasn’t too demanding for my wife. However, there were a LOT of traffic circles, and the signage was not sufficiently large to know which way to go.

We were dependent on the GPS. I would navigate because it was hard for my wife to drive and figure out where to go. “In 500 meters, take the 12 o’clock, ” I’d say. (Or “nine o’clock” or “three o’clock.”) 

In particular, when we went from Erdeven, where the wedding took place, to  Trédion, where the reception was 45 minutes away, was held, we would have never found the place. We were directed to caravan with other vehicles, but by the third circle, we’d lost the car we were supposed to follow.

Conversely, driving in Paris appeared to be insane, with bicycles and motorcycles cutting in between lanes. The fact that we never saw an accident was remarkable. The motorcycles rode on the lines between lanes. My wife was happy not to be behind the wheel there.

Radio silence on Election night

poli sci major breaks his pattern

radio silenceOne of the smartest things I’ve done recently was to declare radio silence on Election night. This meant going off the grid from 6 pm EST that Tuesday until 6 am Wednesday. No cellphone, no email, no live TV or radio. In fact, as it turned out, I saw no television at all. Since the cable defaults to the local news, I was afraid I’d accidentally learn something. So I just read.

I should note that it was not my idea. The Weekly Sift guy, Doug Muder wrote on the day before: “I’m probably not going to watch the returns come in. I just can’t picture that experience being good for me.” Surely, I know the feeling, as did Arthur and Chuck. Mark Evanier was not unhappy that his power went out.

I wonder if others felt the same way. The television ratings for the midterm elections audience fell by double digits compared with 2018. As Variety noted, the “coverage provided [is] just the latest example of the broadening gap between polls of voters’ intentions and how citizens actually lean when they get to the booth.” The news anchors expected a “red wave” but did not anticipate a “blue wall.”

Here’s the weird thing from this old political science major, who always, well, at least since 1972, ALWAYS watched the returns: I didn’t miss it. Getting most of the results at 6 a.m. the next day didn’t alter a thing.

I say most because there were so many races that weren’t settled for a while. The US Senate race in Georgia will be a December 6 runoff. I’m going to quote Muder again. “49% of Georgians want Herschel Walker to represent them in the Senate. Seriously?” Now that the Senate will be in Democratic hands, punditry predicts a Warnock rout; probably yes, but I’ll wait for the actual votes.

A few trends

I was pleased that Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure to deny any constitutional protections for abortion. Meanwhile, voters in Michigan, Vermont, and California enshrined abortion rights in the states’ constitutions. FOX “News” guy Steve Doocy noted on November 3 that the Democrats would regret emphasizing abortion and democracy instead of “pocketbook issues.” On November 9, he said, “Abortion and democracy were foremost in people’s minds.”

One of the disappointments was the loss by Congressman Sean Maloney  (D-NY) in a district just north of NYC. Ultimately, I blame the state legislature’s Democratic overreach in their gerrymandering. The lines for the Congressional districts were tossed, and some Democrats ran in districts far different from where they ran two years earlier.

Did these consultants help the Democrats’ message? The Russian hacktivist group that called on its members to target the American Democratic party website on Election Day was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, a certain former President was quoted as saying about candidates he supported, “Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.” Apparently, he’s blaming everyone who advised him to back Mehmet Oz, including his wife.

They drive the conversation


Let me have a go at the question posed by the ever-interesting Kelly Sedinger. BTW, check out his daily poetry posts this month. 

Will the media in this country EVER stop letting the right-wing just define things any way they want and drive the conversation? (Thinking of terror alerts, “family values”, the “immigrant mobs”, CRT)

At a basic level, the media during my lifetime have been fairly conservative. Maybe that’s not the right word. Conventional is the better term. It supported American wars, for instance. I imagine World War II was an easy call. But the technology that brought Vietnam into American homes made the war less defensible. Still, it was a BFD when CBS News’ Walter Cronkite, “the most trusted man in America,” gave the continued presence by the US a thumbs down.

The Shock and Awe was the “brand” for the first Gulf War in the 1990s. Wasn’t stuff blowing up really cool, the audience was supposed to conclude. When the United States fought Saddam Hussein again in 2003, all of America and the world would be behind it, right? Well, yeah, except for the literally millions, including me, who took to the streets, on February 15 of that year to oppose it. Still, Freedom Fries won the narrative war, and the media, by and large, fell in line as cheerleaders until the war wasn’t going so well.

Values voters

I was particularly peeved with ABC News, which suggested back in the early 2000s that “Christian voters” were what some refer to as “fundamentalist.” “Fundamentalist,” I think is a lazy word here. A definition I found: “Fundamentalism is defined as strict adherence to some belief or ideology, especially in a religious context, or a form of Christianity where the Bible is taken literally and obeyed in full.” I believe I try, quite imperfectly, for the former – see Matthew 25: 34-40 And I know that the latter is impossible in this culture because if one started stoning people, they’d run into law enforcement.

Still, let’s go with the term fundamentalists, as I believe most understand it. They thought they elected one of their own George W. Bush. Seeing that political muscle, it must be what most of America wanted, the media in general concluded.


When djt was running for the White House in 2015, he would alternatingly spout some bigoted remarks with language suggesting that he understood the downtrodden, including the fundamentalists, whose values were supposedly being “buried” by the mainstream media.

Since Trump was perceived as “entertaining” – he HAD been a TV star, after all, and he was rich, right?! – the media covered his campaign with kid gloves. He had suggested he was going to run before dropping out in the past, so naturally, he’ll do it again. But what was past was NOT prologue, as he found his message resonating.

Meanwhile, every other week on ABC News’ This Week, one or another pundit would explain that djt had a “ceiling” of about 30% of the Republican voters, almost until March 15, 2016, when he essentially locked up the nomination. Still, he couldn’t really BEAT Hillary Clinton, who was the experienced candidate, so the press – and specifically NBC’s Matt Lauer – pressed on about her damn emails, while asking him either broad policy questions or puff personal biography.

He was elected. The mainstream media waffled trying to show “respect” to a president who clearly had contempt for them. And it wasn’t really until the last year, 2020, with his COVID “misstatements”, the Big Lie about the election, and January 6, 2021, that they really started to push back.

You asked

There are critics of the mainstream media. One was Eric Boehlert, who unfortunately died in a bicycling accident. Mark Evanier linked to Boehlert’s final piece, “Why is the press rooting against Biden?” which you should read.

This may explain why CBS hired djt sycophant Mick Mulvaney. The Democrats are going to lose the 2022 midterms, it is assumed, and the network needs Republican “access.”

The Problem, With Jon Stewart, addressed Where Does Mainstream Media Go Wrong? on the March 18, 2022, episode. Specifically, it’s in part about Critical Race Theory. The short version: a guy goes on Fox News to bemoan CRT. Sixteen days later, then-president djt echoes the message. Of course, when he says it, it’s echo-chambered all over the place.

All the news that fits

Sometimes journalism amplifies and sometimes reflects. An article in Nation Of Change tries to explain “Why conservative parts of the U.S. are so angry. Republican America is poorer, more violent, and less healthy than Democratic America. But Republicans’ blame is misplaced.”

“The right-wing canard that hardworking White people subsidize welfare-grubbing cities is backward. Democrat-voting counties, with 60% of America’s population, generate 67% of the nation’s personal income, 70% of the nation’s GDP, 71% of federal taxes, 73% of charitable contributions, and 75% of state and local taxes.” Tet the narrative remains.

Also, after a couple of years of COVID, with lots of uncertainty, increased violence, and the like, people are unsettled. They like the safe, the familiar, the “normal”. Certainly not the “immigrant mobs”, unless they look like them, or a potential SCOTUS justice who, it is alleged, wants to support criminals over “regular folks”.

Or probably Nixon

But it’s long been the narrative, going back at least to Reagan, about the welfare queen taking all of “OUR” money. “They” are not worthy. And members of the media are after all part of the community. As Kelly noted, America still has issues regarding race. When Black Lives Matter was “hot”, before Chauvin was convicted, some paid at least lip service to it. But as governors come out with their anti-CRT bills, the culture is perceived to have shifted.

For all the success of inclusion and fairness, there is a real pushback against it. A recent headline in one right-wing online publication was TSA to Get Gender Woke, a discussion about gender pronouns. Despite the notion that the media are “liberal” or, laughably, “leftist,” some journalistic platforms go the way the wind blows.

Modern journalism, more than ever, is tied to profit. Outlets often pinch the pennies when it comes to paying their staff, particularly editors, who are needed even MORE in the Internet age. When some push against the powerful, they risk losing access, which of course has long been true. The “noble tradition” of the fourth estate sometimes wins out. But it may be more subject to propaganda because it’s a lot cheaper to repost the press release or note what’s trending on Twitter rather than to push back against the tide.

July rambling: “Tell Us How We Did”

time to use the F-word

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The U.S. could lose its top-level bond rating because of the Big Lie

Yes, this is fascism: The Atlantic’s conservative David Frum says it’s time to use the F-word; a dark warning

Military Chiefs Planned Joint Resignation To Thwart Trump’s ‘Gospel Of The Fuhrer’

Deadly Flooding Turns ‘Small’ German River Into a ‘Raging Monster’. Video by Roger Green (not me)

NBC News: Eighty years after a segregation wall rose in Detroit, America remains divided. That’s not an accident

Flight attendant harasses Muslim woman

DACA: One More Example of Broken Democracy

I lived in an airport for seven months

According to the EPA, clothes, and shoes account for more municipal solid waste than .plastic items

Now I Know:  Literally Nuts for Candy and The Problem with Lots of People Drinking Lots of Tea and  The Pink Hat of Fidelity and  The Biggest of Macs and  When It’s Better to Be in Fourth Place and The Problem With Stealing High-End Electronics and The Bugs That Make Danger Glow


Inside Big Tech’s angry, geeky, often petty war for your privacy

Hank Green: Should You Abandon Social Media?

I’m Breaking Up with ZOOM

“Tell Us How We Did”. Irrefutably TRUE

An Exploration of James Baldwin’s Life and Works Through the Powerful Lens of His House Chez Baldwin in St. Paul de Vence, France

Voice actors

Emmy’s Big Problem

Ken Levine interviews author Mark Harris who wrote the book MIKE NICHOLS: A LIFE here and here.

The Marvel Sacred Timeline

At The Washington Post, Harry Rosenfeld found himself handling the most important political scandal of the 20th century – Watergate – before joining the Times Union in Albany, N.Y. “HIRSCH MORITZ ROSENFELD and his Polish immigrant parents fled the violence engulfing Nazi Germany in 1939, and found refuge in the Bronx. He never forgot the price his family paid for freedom, never took American citizenship for granted. He developed a keen eye for unaccountable power and nascent oppression and embraced his responsibility to fight for the freedoms that made America a beacon of hope.” The last time I saw him in person was in 2017.

Jackie Mason, R.I.P.

Summary: No Exit – Jean-Paul Sartre

Central Warehouse

Cartoons: Human time and 10 ways to befriend a misanthropic cat and  explaining confusing things


Harlem – Duke Ellington. Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

Run Run Run – Kurt Vile,  from the album I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground and Nico; long version

Mighty River by Errollyn Wallen.

Dragon live album concert during two weeks in an Auckland hotel for quarantine clearance

Coverville 1365: The AC/DC Cover Story III

Just A Friend– Biz Markie, RIP

The Glamourous Life – Audra McDonald from A Little Night Music

Bohemian Rhapsody in Blue – Postmodern Jukebox

He’d Have to Get Under, Get out and Get Under  (to Fix Up His Automobile) – The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra

A medley of ten Hanna-Barbera theme songs performed by Alex Duquette  in two minutes

Jim Croce

The Music of the Night/Monster Mash – Big Daddy

Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media

Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.

There are uncomfortable parallels between the deaths of Emmett Till and Philando Castile, as the special “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement, and The Media” pointed out. The special was broadcast on NBC-TV March 24, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until a week and a half later.

Emmett Till, who narrator Lester Holt suggested every black person in America knows about – is that true? – was a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago who was visiting his uncle in rural Mississippi. He was lynched on August 28, 1955, after a white woman said that she was offended by him in her family’s grocery store. She has only recently recanted that tale.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a local Minnesota police officer after the car was pulled over on July 6, 2016, with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

In the Till case, it was the decision of Emmett’s mother Mamie to allow, nay, insist on photographers to take pictures of her now-misshapen son. In the Castile case, girlfriend Diamond Reynolds had the wherewithal to livestream ten minutes of video via Facebook.

The MLK special also noted the fickle nature of the mainstream press. It was only the black press that covered some of the seminal stories of the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955/56.

“When MLK’s peaceful protests aren’t covered by the national media in Albany, Georgia, he organized a children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama, making for some of the most powerful, iconic imagery of the civil rights movement.”

In general, the MSM was attracted if the action included white people – the freedom riders, e.g., or they can establish a clear good guy/bad guy narrative, as in the children’s march, when dogs and fire hoses were unleashed.

“Hope & Fury” pointed out the parallels between the bloody Selma march of March 7, 1965, and the demonstrations occurring after some young black children and men, with the social media-savvy demonstrators willing to challenge the accepted narrative in the latter case.

As Arthur noted: “The USA has so very far to go before achieving Dr. King’s dream. Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.”

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