23 March 2012

Congratulations to Contest Winners!

Dear prize contestants:  

Recently I invited readers to submit entries suggesting the name of a St. Barths icon, a photograph of which was embodied in the piece.

The responses were numerous--and brilliant. Most contestants, however, asked for anonymity lest any prize winnings be discovered by taxing authorities, identity thieves, former spouses, current spouses, or would-be spouses. So this message is sent anonymously to all blogees but really directed to those who submitted entries.  You know who you are!

The Award Committee members (they have requested anonymity as well) have determined the entries to be uniformly excellent, and has decreed a full prize is to be delivered to all contestants.  The prize fund has been augmented by an offshore Super-PAC that enjoys, under local rules, authority to dip into Super-PAC funds for special circumstances such as these.

So, to each of you who have submitted an entry (and the deadline for submitting entries has been extended, so it is not too late to participate and thereby become entitled to your prize money):

Congratulations! You have won 100,000 British Pounds, and the prize money is waiting for you in a Cayman Islands bank!  Happily, the undersigned has been designated as the Procurateur of the prize account process and I am able to forward your prize money to the bank of your choice as soon as you pay the necessary license and export fees of 10,000 USD.  To qualify for your award, you need only print this email, sign it, add your social security number, the SWIFT number of your bank and  your account number, and give me a valid irrevocable power of attorney.  When I receive those documents (Fedex is acceptable) and am able to confirm the successful transfer of the export and license fees to the Procurateur's Account, your compliance with Contest Rules will be complete. Hurry! This offer expires at the discretion of the Award Committee.

This just in:!!! 

A journalist of note (who, like almost everyone else involved in this glorious enterprise, wishes to remain anonymous) has pledged funding for an additional 10% bonus to all contestants who submit, along with the foregoing documents, a photograph of their pet dog in a crate tied to the roof of one of their Cadillac automobiles.

A bientot.

14 March 2012

Frogs 3; Humans, 1

I have earlier reported on the influx of small orange/brown frogs in the downstairs powder room. I still do not know for sure why they hang there. (Btw, I mean they literally "hang there."  Remember those gummy toy frogs you threw at the wall and they stuck there, gravity to the contrary notwithstanding?  Our big-eyed  two inch long critters could be the model for that toy.)  In any event, the evidence (testimonial and otherwise) is piling up that the frogs are there because the frogs are everywhere.  Apparently they hitchhiked to St. Barths several years ago on some imported plant material, and are taking over.  Good news for the garden snakes, bad news for mosquito larvae. I guess there are no snakes in our bathroom, so we trade off mosquitoes for frogs.  Not such a bad deal.  

We warn our guests that when they use that toilet they may have company in there and the company they may encounter, as far we know, poses no physical threat beyond self induced surprise-generated aiming errors.  However, a comprehensive warning does not always do the trick.  Just the other day we heard a long scream.   Stephanie, who thinks the notion of cute little orange frogs is just adorable, had a different view when the little darling hanging on the wall jumped down the front of her loose blouse and she had to do a vigorous Victor Cruz salsa to get him out of there. But we are making progress: five-year-old Audrey, after an original scream, adapted and was willing to risk frogs to use that bathroom, though three-year-old Nick is not quite there yet.

But lately the frogs have upped the ante: One recent morning, Pinks and I were awakened at 4 a.m. by the wail of a smoke alarm.  But even in groping through the mental fog of disturbed rem sleep, I was alert enough to ask  “Why is the smoke alarm screaming at us when we do not have a smoke alarm?”  My Reason For Living's contribution to this scientific inquiry was to pull the pillow over head and mutter, "I dunno. Fix it."   Ahh, romance in the tropics.

It took a few seconds for me to recognize that the non-smoke alarm siren originated not in our bedroom, but in a three-sided shed attached to the downstairs bedroom. A puzzle, inasmuch as, like our bedroom, the shed too lacks  a smoke alarm. Ah, but I do keep the portable pool alarm lying on a shelf in that space.

While the local building code does not require smoke alarms, it does require pool alarms, be they permanently installed or portable devices.  They all work on the same principle: hanging from a bracket at poolside, a tube dips four inches below the surface of the water.  Inside the tube is a float. When the pool surface is calm, the float does what floats do, it floats.  No problemo.  But when the surface of the water is choppy, the float bobs up and down, and this sets off an alarm powered by stepped down house current in a permanent device, or a 9 volt battery in a portable one.

As a practical matter, it is an almost useless device.  It must be turned off (or, in the case of a portable one, removed from the pool) when people are splashing about in the pool, and turned back on/reinstalled when they are not, except i)when it is too windy, ii) the pool pump creates too big a ripple in the pool surface,  iii) Fido likes to jump into the pool, or iv) whatever. Thus the device's only value arises in the rare circumstance when none of the above is applicable, the device is alarmed, and a non-swimmer infant child falls or jumps into the pool and makes a big enough splash to aggravate the float, while adults are there to hear the alarm but did not see the kid go in the water. That ever happen?  I am sure it did. But c’mon.  Anyway, this is a device beloved to its manufacturers and their sales agents, along with insurance company lawyers looking for a way to help their clients avoid paying off on pool-accident policies. “Your Honor, we would be happy to pay for the loss of little Timmy, but for the fact that the Smiths neglected to turn the alarm back on … .”  Gag.  

How did the manufacturers and insurers win this piece of useless legislation?  The usual way, I guess.  (What does St. Barths and the Town of East Hampton have in common? Yup, you guessed it.)

Bottom line, I know of no person who has ever turned this device on. 

Back to  my story:  So when I staggered into the pitch black shed with my penlight at 4 ayem, lifted the device from the shelf, and pushed alarm kill-switch, three things happened almost simultaneously; i) the wailing stopped,  ii) two small frogs leaped out of the open end of the device, and iii) I cut my toe on the wire shelf leg when I did my WTF! startled leap.  Whatever those frogs were doing in my pool alarm, their activity apparently actuated the float and engaged the alarm.  Hmm. Now that I think of it, if  I were startled, what about them? Talk about interruptus!

Live and learn:  I still cannot figure out how to keep the frogs out of the bathroom, but I am smart enough to pull the battery on the unused pool alarm.  Small victories count too, y’know.

A bientot.

02 March 2012


I studied French in high school for three years. I did poorly. After high school, I spent the next 50 years or so ignoring the language—until we settled in Paradise where French is the lingua franca. I have now faced up to the challenge. I am proud to say that after very few years, I have become  totally fluent – at least when it comes to asking for the check, saying "thank you" when I get it, and inquiring about the location of the toilet. Beyond that, I struggle unsuccessfully to overcome my ignorance.

One of the ways I work to improve my language skill is to read the local daily French-language newspaper.  I usually have no idea what I am reading, but every now and then I catch a familiar word.
Yesterday, Pinks brought home a copy of “Le News” printed in English!  But it is clear the paper is prepared in French and then translated into English by someone who speaks as much English as I speak French.  Kind of reminds me of those complicated toys that need assembly:  the toy is made in China, and the assembly instructions are set out in Chinese, then translated into Japanese, then Russian, and from Russian to English: “Embrace screw with large hole and engage.”  You get the picture.

In yesterday’s English language paper,  I found this gem:  “The electrical homulgation went from a recommended to a mandatory status…. Workers who are already homulgated benefit from a recycling." Ouch.

The French are not the only ones who have some difficulty  expressing themselves in simple English. Americans are wont to use neologisms where, for some reason, speaking plain English may be offensive to some. I am not sure when, for the first time, some genius newswriter described a military retreat as an "advance to the rear".  Perhaps it was not a journalist, but a General.  One would think the New York Times for sure would be above that kind verbal gamesmanship.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Perhaps as a result of right-wing attacks on the media in general, the Times news writers have become exceedingly cautious these days while its columnists seem not to hesitate to speak in simple language. I offer up two examples:
Remember the 2004 election?  At the Republican Convention, the organizers staged an effective college football halftime display with the use of “flip” and “flop”signs to castigate John Kerry.  From that  time on, the first meaning of ‘flip-flop” in the dictionary was no longer my favorite form of footwear.

So this year, when former Sen. Rick Santorum --apparently unable to find anything else deserving of the serious attention--elevated contraception to a campaign issue, the New York Times, on January 31, ran a front page article reporting that Mr. Santorum was willing to restrict the citizenry’s access contraception on a state-by-state basis.  But a week later Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that Santorum favored unrestricted access to contraceptives.  Huh?  So that day I emailed the following letter to the paper’s editor:
"To the editor:
 In his February 18 column, Ross Douthat writes Santorum  agrees  "that artificial birth control should be legal and available." But on its January 31 front page, the New York Times reported "Rick Santorum...favors allowing states to decide whether to ban birth control." Is the Times wrong or is Santorum, smelling the possibility of actually being the candidate, already flip-flopping leftward?  In either event, shouldn't your readers be informed?"

You would, I am sure, be shocked, shocked, to learn the Times neither published nor responded to my letter and we all remain in the dark as to whether former United States Senator Rick Santorum  really said he wants to grant to each state of the union the option to ignore any part of the United States Constitution it currently disfavors.  (Hmm. I thought we decided that question 150 years ago, non?)

Of course, the most dramatic flip-flopper in this campaign is not Rick Santorum, but newly minted “severe conservative” Mitt Romney who, once upon not so long ago, supported abortion rights, gay-rights, gun control, amnesty for undocumented immigrants,  mandated health insurance, Planned Parenthood, and a number of other Satan-inspired policies and institutions. But when the Times called attention to Romney’s stunning reversal of his views on all of the foregoing, they didn't call it flip-flopping, but instead used  my new favorite ”advance-to-the-rear” locution: they referred to Romney’s pandering as....ya gotta love this...“ideological migration." 

Do you think the paper has a special department monitoring this stuff? What would it be called? “Department of Cosmetic Language ”?  How about “Brain Fart Department?”  Or better still, in Romney's case,  the “L,L, POF! Department”.

Unsurprisingly, the French pay no attention to any of our politics.   Mention the Republican debates to them, or our presidential campaign in general, and they look at you as if you had two heads. They ain’t perfect, but the French do not believe in Satan, and they would not tolerate for a moment anybody who tried to tell them how to manage their reproductive equipment.  In the local Presidential campaign  (btw, the incumbent changed his mind and is running for another term), the issues are the environment, road construction, and traffic. Or so I am told by Murielle, my adorable hair cutter. She does a much better job than Mario on 52d Street.  And no matter how short she cuts my hair, I find it necessary to go back every week. Amazing, non?

A bientot.