Thursday, August 29, 2013

A trip to Metz, France, with photos

I'll be moving to La Rochelle, France on Friday and be in London on business next week, so this will be brief and the blog will recommence as soon as I'm able. As usual, you can click on the photos for larger versions.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mailbag: A beginner's guide to moving to another country

Another mailbag post! A friend emailed me about someone about to lose her job and stated that she was interested in moving abroad, particularly Europe. Since she has no background, I decided to give her an overview of the process. I thought it might be useful to repeat this here. There's nothing in here that I've not written about before, but I thought a recap might be a good idea for new readers.
Public Domain Image

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sixfold increase in Americans giving up their passports.

The ignorant view of renunciation
Image in public domain
Bloomberg has a gloomy article about a sixfold increase in the number of Americans giving up their passports. Unfortunately, it starts out with the following sentence:
Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship surged sixfold in the second quarter from a year earlier as the government prepares to introduce tougher asset-disclosure rules.

Expatriates giving up their nationality at U.S. embassies climbed to 1,131 in the three months through June from 189 in the year-earlier period, according to Federal Register figures published today. That brought the first-half total to 1,810 compared with 235 for the whole of 2008.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Trip to Kiev (with photos)

As usual, click on the photos for larger versions.

I've had trouble updating lately because I've been traveling quite a bit, including trips to La Rochelle, here in France, Kiev, Ukraine, and Metz, France. Below are a few photos of my trip to Kiev. For some reason, my phone and computer have conspired to subtly alter the timestamps on many photos and they were added to my computer in a vaguely random order, thus meaning that it's very hard for me to know exactly when most of these were taken and making it much harder to provide a narrative.

We were only there for a few days for a conference, so this was very much a business trip and we didn't have much time to go sightseeing. The city itself looked lovely, though many places were in a curious state of disrepair. Fountains, streets, buildings — all seemed to have bricks missing, grass growing through the sidewalk and innumerable individuals hawking individual packs of cigarettes (for €1.50 a pack!), guessing your weight for money, or trying to get you to pose with tame pigeons for photos. So much of Kiev was a curious mixture of rich and poor.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti
The view across from Maidan Nezalezhnosti
The conference itself was lovely and they even arranged a river cruise on the Dnieper River for us. It was several hours of food, alcohol, and sight-seeing.

Mother of the Motherland, Kiev
For the geeks: yes, that's Larry Wall
Near the end of the cruise
Me (on the left) and a friend
Walking in a park in Kiev
At the Mafia Restaurant in Kiev
Walking around in Kiev
My lunch on the second day was curious. I had pot and beer for lunch. Literally. The menu listed the beer as "Dark beer" and one item was called "pot". It was described as a small and tasty miracle, so naturally I had to try it. Potatoes, dill, mushrooms, cheese and some unidentifiable meet.

Lunch, day 2: "pot" and beer

My wife and my daughter at a fountain
A restaurant we ate at.
Lunch time at the conference
The entrance to the conference venue
At a park in Kiev
My daughter riding a pony.
Luggage handlers wrapping the luggage
That last photo above was luggage handlers wrapping luggage in brightly colored plastic. If you don't travel much, you may not be familiar with this practice. The idea is that it's still easy to get into your luggage if security needs to do so, but you will see instantly that this has happened. Further, it makes opening your luggage just difficult enough to stop baggage handler thieves.

Who are these thieves? Airport employees! Can you name for me any other industry which charges a premium for your service and then you pay extra to help minimize the chance of the industry's employees stealing from you? How has our society gotten so messed up that this is considered normal? Instead of the airlines figuring out a better way of protecting your luggage from their theft, you get charged a small, extortionate fee to help minimize the chances of you being stolen from.

If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend Kiev. My wife and I stayed at a the Dnipro Hotel, a four-star hotel in Kiev. We had a small suite for the cost of a regular hotel room back in France. The staff were very friendly and the city in general was inexpensive. Pleasant restaurants offered steaks starting at €6! The mixture of Soviet-style "we have no personality" architecture along with some beautiful Ukrainian architecture, along with a fascinating history make Kiev a very interesting city. I only wish I had more time to explore it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Image of a beach in southern France.
The beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a small town on the southern coast of France. It's also the capital of the Camargue region, Western Europe's largest river delta. It's a lovely area famous for its horses, flamencos, and vicious mosquitos which could probably exsanguinate a cow were they not so busy draining my wife, daughter, and myself of blood. I have welts all over me and they're nothing compared to what my wife has. And that was with mosquito repellent. Missing the slightest bit of skin with said repellent is not a good idea.