Viking propositions no Cause for Alarm

I hope that this letter finds you happy and healthy. Here we continue to adjust to life back in the United States. More specifically, to life in California on the left coast. We’ve faced some subtle differences ...

“No Becky Anderson?” Nazy asked. “Are you sure this is CNN? How will I
Connect The World?”

“This is CNN America.”

“What about Michael Holmes, Isha Sesay, Richard Quest, Christiane Amanpour, Hola..”

“We’ve got Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett. We’ve got Soledad...”


“I know. I even miss Fionnuala Sweeney. I don’t know what’s happened in the world! In Zürich, we heard about the €uro Crisis, about Grεεk defaults, about Syria. My World was Connected, I sat at the International Desk. I knew that Quest meant Business. Now, we’ve crossed a semi-permeable membrane..”

“Excuse me..”

“... News about ‘events’ that occur on the other side of oceans can’t penetrate the membrane.”

“I saw something about Mali..”

“That’s because Erin thought it was a city in Montana.”

We also miss our International Herald Tribune: not available for delivery in Santa Barbara.

Other challenges have a pocketbook impact. For example, trying to get car insurance, I was on the phone with a (prospective) agent.

“There is no expiration date on a Swiss Driver’s License.” I countered.

“Hmm. Do you have a US driver’s license?”

“I haven’t lived in the US for 12 years.”

“We need to look at your driving record while you were in the USA. Do you know the driver’s license number for the time you were in, eh,” he clearly paused to look at my application, “eh, New Hampshire, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia or New Jersey.”

“I lived in New Jersey 40 years ago. Do
you remember the driver’s license number you had 40 years ago?”

“I was too young to drive 40 years ago.”

“Do you remember all of your old driver’s license numbers?”

“Of course. I’ve lived my whole life in Oxnard.”

“Oxnard?” I replied. “How exciting.”

Eventually, I was able to reconstruct the number of my New Hampshire driver’s license but the state only maintains records for 10 years. However, with the help of Tracy, a friend in Switzerland, I was able to get a letter (in English) saying that neither Nazy nor I had any driving infractions.This letter (and a different insurance company) led to a somewhat affordable insurance arrangement.

In Zürich, Nazy and I liked to walk along the lake. Here we have the Pacific Ocean and..

“It’s almost the same,” Nazy claimed.

“Lake Zürich didn’t have tides.” I replied. “Or pelicans, islands, whale migration paths..”


“We cannot see to the other side of the Pacific. And there are no crowds, no buskers, no ducks and no swans.”

We’ve been in California for several weeks. But we’re staying in Melika and Tom’s home, so it feels a bit like a holiday. We have found a place to live by The Mission. It’s..

large fridge

“Amazing, Nazy!” I exclaimed. “The Viking refrigerator is bigger than our entire Zürich kitchen.”

“And we have a garbage disposal. And cabinet space. And...”

What we don’t have is our ‘stuff’. It spent several weeks on a ship crossing the Atlantic, moving through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific Coast. We were elated to learn that it had arrived in Long Beach.
Momentarily elated. An email arrived from our handling agent:

Please note U.S Customs has advised that your shipment has been selected for an exam, these are random and not cause for alarm.

Unalarmed, I sent an email asking what this meant. The response was, eh, disquieting. It meant, I was informed, that there would be a delay in getting customs clearance. And, distressingly, it meant that we would be charged extra for the costs of the inspection. I sent an email asking the obvious questions: How long? How much? I was close to consternation. The email reply came quickly:

Unfortunately, we cannot predict the length of time U.S. customs may take to process your shipment and we have no power to influence their decision on the clearance process, and the cost is impossible to estimate.

For some reason, I found this to be cause for alarm. And cause for outrage. The US government, unlike every other government on the planet (except Eritrea) make expatriates pay income taxes while resident elsewhere. Now they want me to pay them to do their job. They should pay me for the delay they’ve caused.

While waiting for our furniture (and our invoice), I’ve taken note of a plethora of Proposition 65 warnings that are posted everywhere. The general idea is to warn citizens whenever they are near (dastardly) “chemicals” that may (possibly) increase their chances of developing cancer. In short: if exposure over a 70 year timeframe will cause one additional case of cancer in a population of 1,000,000 people, then a warning is necessary.
Prop 65

“It is, of course, unnecessary,” I claimed. “There is a similar chance of choking on a Big Mac.”

“I think I saw a warning about that..”

“.. or breaking an ankle walking along the beach. The real objective of this proposition is to generate income for lawyers who sue companies that fail to display signs. And, since the signs are everywhere, the ‘public’ will ignore them.”

“You didn’t ignore the signs..”

“Right! I laughed at them. It part of a general malady in America. There is an innate and inane (and insane) inability to understand
cause and effect. People worry about things do not cause problems - like acrylamide in coffee. [I saw the warning in Starbucks.] Acrylamide is not an additive and it’s not new. But it is subject to a proposition 65 warning. Warning signs are on new cars, all restaurants, hotels, they probably have one on the beach. But, at the same time, Americans are blind to obvious linkages; obvious cases of cause and effect.”


“It will not be safer if everyone has a gun. I had bodyguard with a gun when I visited Nigeria. That didn’t make me feel safe. It is not safer if everyone has a gun.”

“You’re going to make people who read this letter mad.”

“Cause and Effect,

A photo from the front yard of our apartment in Santa Barbara

tree by the house

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