Year 1, Week 13: Back in Geneva


Back in Geneva and have been here long enough that it also feels like home. Fall colours a bit more advanced, some more snow on the Salève and Mont Blanc, and the same enjoyable walks. And a break in my mother-in-law’s treatment, so a more relaxed time than the previous month.

One side benefit of the 2012 election was staying up until the speeches, being super tired the next day, and able to collapse and sleep on the plane. A natural sleeping pill.

As for the election, like most people living outside the US, was happy to see Obama re-elected and some of the extreme Senate candidates lose. Also reassuring that despite Citizens United, the outside ‘dark money’ groups did not prevail. I also enjoyed the irony that the ‘numbers guy’ was defeated by a much more sophisticated, data-based campaign (here). Hopefully, both sides will be able to work better together now that the results are clear (Jonathan Haidt’s After the Election, Fear Is Our Only Chance at Unity on the need to understand the perspective of the other, and compromise as a result, makes the case).

I also managed to complete and submit my pension application and related forms. As always – why must it be so? – far too many forms, far too much repetition of ‘tombstone’ information, and this from my government employer who has known me for over 30 years. On the other hand, I am very appreciative of the good pension plan and related benefits, so griping over forms is small stuff.

More interestingly, going through the forms and benefits brought up the issue of time and risk. Some issues, like paying my pension deficiency (incurred during long-term disability), is essentially a bet on the long-term; others, like the supplementary death benefit, is more a short-term benefit. In the end, I hedged my bets and protected my short and long-term benefits, but it did provoke some bemused reflection on time and my expectations, and the usual mixed feelings regarding my odds and mortality. But stretched my normal approach of only planning 3-6 months ahead.

I started reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (my son lent me his copy). A delightful read, engaging in all aspects, and wonderful how Mitchell shifts his style to suit the period and story. Some favourite sections so far: the Sexsmith letters, so beautifully written, and the extremely funny tale of Timothy Cavendish (laugh-out loud in parts).

Reading the book, appreciate just how good the film adaptation was, capturing the essential, eliminating the non-essential, moving between periods yet maintaining the flow, and above all, keeping the feel and spirit of the book.

We saw the latest Astérix film, Astérix and Obelix: God Save Britannia. Not as good as the previous films (my favourite is Mission Cléopatre) but some of the French stereotyping of the English was particularly funny, as well as some story threads that were not pursued (e.g., César being under investigation by Senate auditors for his expense accounts). The usual solid French cast (who’s who in French cinema) and overall, an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

As today’s post falls on Remembrance Day, a moment to reflect on the ongoing contribution of our fellow citizens in uniform, including their families, and the sacrifices their service entails.


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