Limited Brainpower Available

One of the key concepts in David Allen’s Getting Things Done method involves realizing that some tasks can only be done in certain contexts. For example, when the book was originally written, “needing a phone available” was a frequent context to use in categorizing your tasks (those were simpler times!). One of the other contexts that comes up is how much energy and mental alertness you need for a task; he even suggests creating a list of tasks you can do with limited brainpower.

Today was a “limited brainpower” day – between not having gotten enough sleep last night and my back still bothering me, I didn’t want to do anything needing a lot of mental energy.

I was surprised how much I got done – I “renegotiated” the price for SiriusXM service for another year (go to their website and choose for the “cancel” option; tell the nice customer service chatbot that you’re cancelling because it’s too expensive; wait for an agent to enter the chat and tell them the same thing; reduce the rate from $23.05 to $7.27 per month), changed our flights to Frankfurt in the fall to save $1000/person and give us an extra day there, visited the chiropractor (my back is better, but still not recovered), and even cooked a couple of meals.

And the materials for our solar system got delivered; they’re doing the installation tomorrow.

Home sweet home

Our trip home was boring. I asked BA for “mobility assistance” to keep me from having to schlep luggage around – it sort of worked.

In Paris, they let me sit down until they were ready to let us check in (they tell you to be at the airport 3 hours early, but they don’t start checking a flight until two-and-a-half hours before departure time), and then they told me to go sit out in the terminal and someone will come and pick me up. There were two other BA passengers waiting, so I joined them; after 45 minutes, no one had come to pick any of us up (and one of the passengers was getting worried about making their plane). I gave up and we walked to security, the lounge, passport control, and the plane – no problem.

In Heathrow, they picked me up on landing and took us through the Flight Connections and Security maze, which I really appreciated. My pusher, Mohammed, zipped us through Fast Track (which was working for a change) and to the front of the security line – and for the first time in a long time, none of our items required extra screening! He took us to the lounge and promised someone would pick us up an hour before the next flight. But no one showed up for quite a while after the promised time – due to problems with the escalators causing huge lift queues. When my new pusher arrived, we were off on a zippy trip to the B gates, where we discovered that our plane was going to use buses instead of a jetway. I probably would have ben fine, but they put me on a “high lift” along with the other passengers needing assistance and Diane took the bus.

A “high lift” is basically a bus that can lift its passenger compartment to plane door level so you can walk onto the plane. It’s not the most comfortable vehicle in the world, but it got the job done.

I felt pretty good when we got to San Jose, so I decided to skip the assistance. It was an easy walk to Global Entry and we were cleared in just a minute or so. And then we waited for our bags – I didn’t check my watch, but I’m sure it was at least 20 minutes before the first bag was delivered. Our bag came out fairly quickly after that, and we headed off to get a cab (no waiting, unlike ride-sharing).

And we’re home.

They make house calls!

As we were walking to the apartment after our trip to the Pompidou Centre yesterday, my back started hurting – not totally unusual, but definitely unexpected. And it kept getting worse through the evening, but it wasn’t really bad.

Until 4am, when I awoke in serious pain. Diane helped me get to the bathroom and take a couple of Aleve, and that let me go back to sleep. I don’t think she got back to sleep, though.

We had plans for today – we were going to go with Pete and Debbie and take one of the sightseeing boats on the Seine. And perhaps we’d squeeze in one more museum.

But when we got up around 7, I wasn’t feeling great and the weather wasn’t appealing, so we stayed around the apartment (passing up second breakfast!) and chatted. We walked to Penny Lane, a Mediterranean sandwich restaurant a block away; it was delicious, and I can’t believe they can pay their bills only being open for lunch five days a week! I noticed a lot of Israeli cookbooks (many in English) and asked the owner about them; he was born to Israeli emigrants to France. An interesting place and well worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

I suggested we walk to Galeries Lafayette to look around, but had to turn back after only a few steps – Diane, Pete, and Debbie went and enjoyed the views; I sat and iced my back, which helped a little.

By the time they got back, I was hurting again; I’d had my second dose of Aleve but it hadn’t kicked in. I asked our host if they could recommend a doctor and they said I should call SOS Médecins on 3624. When I called, Orange told me that my account had insufficient credit! I finally figured out that 3624 is a pay-per-minute number, so I couldn’t call it from either my French or American phone. I asked my host for more help and eventually got a regular number to call, 01 47 07 77 77.

You know how frustrating it is when you call a business and get told “our menu has changed” and “your call is important”? It’s worse when you’re in pain and the messages are in a language you don’t understand. My host told me to just stay on the line and eventually the call would be answered by a human being who might even speak English – and it happened!

Their first question was where to send the doctor. It was not easy to communicate the street name (Rue du l’Échiquier) – my pronunciation was so bad that it made it hard for the agent to understand the name when I spelled it using NATO phonetics! But eventually, information was exchanged and they said the doctor would arrive between 8-10pm.

And he did, and he spoke English well enough to understand me (it didn’t help that my voice is almost gone). He gave me a serious painkiller and several prescriptions to take for the next few days.

Which I had to have filled, which meant a trip to the 24-hour pharmacy at Place de la République. I was feeling much better and thought about walking the 15 minutes; then I came to my senses and we went there by Uber.

We had to wait in line for a few minutes; then one of the three pharmacists on duty called us over and started working on our prescriptions. If we’d been at a CVS at home, we’d’ve been told to go away for half-an-hour and then get into the pickup line and see if they got the insurance right; here, I never had to leave the counter, I had the prescriptions in 10 minutes, and the total cash price (without insurance) was about EUR 23, including an 8 Euro fee for night service. There are days I wonder about the American health care system.

We came back to the apartment by Metro and I was able to help finish packing (much better than earlier in the day!).

Pompidou and Circumstance

I’m feeling a lot better, so I thought it was worth splurging EUR 3.50 and trying one of the Covid tests I bought here – it showed “negative”, as did the one Diane tried. I am far from recovered (I’m going through Kleenex and eye wipes faster than I go through candy!), but it’s a good sign.

Today, we had second breakfast at La Baguette d’Hauteville, the boulangerie our host had recommended. I’d hoped to be able to eat there; Diane had hoped to be able to get hot chocolate. We were both disappointed, but took the “breakfast formula” back to the apartment and made do – it was good but not special.

We spent most of the day at Centre Pompidou, the National Museum of Modern Art. The art is well-signed in French and English, and the museum wasn’t crowded. And it has wonderful views over Paris.

We couldn’t finish it – not enough energy (it’s open until 9pm, so there was plenty of time!), but here are a few of the works which made an impression on me, even if I don’t know why in some cases!

Le Poète Philippe Soupault – Delaunay
La Chute d’Icare – Chagall
Les Mariés de la tour Eiffel – Chagall
La Palette – Richard Jackson

But the work which really drew me in is called “Sunday’s Crashes” by George Widener.

I was surprised to see a painting that looked so technical – so I researched Widener a little bit when I got back to the apartment. He’s “on the spectrum” and is a self-taught artist and a calculating savant who sees patterns in numbers and data an turns them into art. I found a fascinating article at We Make Money not Art that was well worth the read.

We stayed at the Pompidou until we ran out of energy.

Monet, Monet, Monet (and Morisot)

We’ve been having simple breakfasts in our apartment, but on Sunday morning, we decided to add something sweet. Our host had recommended the boulangerie a block away – but it was closed because it was Sunday. Google came to the rescue and offered a few places that were open (I don’t know if they’re open every day or if they just take a different day off), and we set off for the several hundred meter walk to M. Denis Artisan Boulangerie. We must have been going through dangerous areas, because I saw armor for sale in a shop window!

We didn’t need armor, but we did need a little patience – we weren’t the only ones looking for goodies. It was worth the trip and fueled us for our trip all the way out to the 16th arrondissement and the Musee Marmottan Monet.

We passed several memorials to WWII victims on the walk from the Metro to the museum – they still remember.

When we got to the museum, we decided we probably weren’t fueled enough and looked for a restaurant, choosing Madison Caffe, which fed us quickly and well.

There was no line at the museum (unlike the hour-plus line we saw at L’Orangerie) and the security inspection didn’t take long, either.

And then, finally, it was time to enjoy the art we’d come to visit. I could have taken dozens of photos, but I was more interested in being with the art than getting a great photo (the museum shop probably had those available!). But a few pictures demanded photos anyway, like “Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Caillebotte.

And Pisarro’s “Exterior Boulevards – Effects of Snow”.

There are many wonderful paintings in the museum (and the furnishings are pretty snazzy, too), but my two favorite artists there are Berthe Morisot and Claude Monet. I’m limiting myself to two pictures from each of them for this post, but it’s not easy.

Morisot: “Au Bord du Lac” and “Eugène Manet et fille dans le Jardin de Equigival”

And Monet: “Nympheas” (smaller than the Water Lillies at L’Orangerie, but quite impressive) and of course, “Impression: Sunrise”, which lent its name to the entire Impressionist movement.

The museum had a special exhibition of “Neo-Romantics” but it did not compare to their regular collection, so we zipped through it and took a walk through the park back to the Metro, enjoying Parisian families enjoying their Sunday in the park.