Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is the towel clean or dirty?

My wife put a clean towel on the rack in the bathroom that I use.

I took a shower. I soaped up good and then rinsed well. I used the towel to dry off. In my view, the towel was still clean since it had only been used to wipe off clean water after my shower.

Later, after working in the yard a bit, I washed my hands. "Yes, dear, with soap from the little pump container!" Then, I dried my hands on the same towel.

Question: Is the towel clean or dirty now?

My wife sees that the towel has been used, declares it dirty, and replaces it with another towel.

The one I used got dumped in the washer with other towels, a few of my smelly boxers and several snotty handkerchiefs. Water was added making a stew that I don't want to even contemplate.

When the towel emerged from the stew, my wife declared it clean once more and plopped it in the drier.

Question: Is the towel clean or dirty now?

This is just another illustration of the difference in men's and women's logic.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lightning Flashed (Flash Fiction)

Lightning flashed. The air was charged with electricity and the hair on my arms and nape of the neck tingled.

It was 1967 in Toulouse, France. I was an American who didn't speak French. I'd met a former Holiday on Ice ice skater who spoke English. He had invited me to have a drink with him and his former girl friend and skating partner on Place Wilson.

He and I were sitting at the outside cafe enjoying our drinks and waiting for her, when I spotted this gorgeous blonde walking along. I'm a male, so I watched.

To my surprise, the blonde walked up to us, gave the French air kisses to my friend and then looked quizzically at me and offered her hand. "Hi. I'm Claudine." That's when lightning flashed.

Was it love at first sight or lust at first sight. I'm not sure.

My friend had said that she was pretty. She was -- and then some. Her French accented English was enchanting.

We had a nice chat and set a date to do it again the following week. At that meeting, she said that she was being laid off work and was losing her small studio apartment.

She had said that she was a good cook. I did some quick math. Groceries for two would be cheaper than my eating out all of the time. Since I had a 3-bedroom apartment, I offered her shelter in exchange for her cooking and cleaning.

It took a month of persistent begging before the lightning's electricity reached her and she agreed to be my girl friend. I brought her back to the states with me, we got married and we're still together after all these years.

But, it seems like only yesterday that the lightning flashed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

France seen through American's eyes

Back in 1967, I received a phone call from Control Data's corporate offices asking, "How would you like to go to France for a year?" My initial response was, "Last place on earth I want to go." Famous last words.

They had remembered that originally I had joined the company to be a Customer Engineer on a small computer system at a remote site on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Their needs had changed and I'd trained on their 6600 super computer and was working at a site in Albuquerque. CDC had gotten an export license for six CDC 6600 systems and needed customer engineers to maintain them while they hired and trained French nationals to do the job.

I knew that the Albuquerque site was overstaffed. And, they were offering me a nice per diem and a free apartment. So, despite having a typical American's impression of France (i.e., not good) and knowing no French, I accepted their offer. Within two weeks, I had flown to Minneapolis for orientation and a physical, stopped by Chicago for a passport, driven my Chevy from Albuquerque to Florida where I traded it for a VW Fastback to be picked up in Paris, and arrived in Paris wearing my normal dress western suit, cowboy hat and boots. (With a bull whip in my luggage.)

An American in Paris conjures up visuals of old movies and songs. For this American, it could best be explained in two words: culture shock.

The company's Vietnamese hostess met me at Orly airport and took me by taxi to a small hotel. She gave me instructions on how to take the Metro (the Paris subway) to get to the office the next day. I had not exchanged any money, the hotel staff didn't speak English and I had a bad case of jet lag, so I slept the rest of the day and night. The next morning, I did manage to get the hotel to exchange a dollar bill for five francs so I could use the Metro and my adventures began.

The Metro was clean and back then there were no gang tags anywhere. I arrived at the office only to find out that I'd been assigned to a site in Toulouse. The name didn't mean anything to me. Pick up your flight tickets from the receptionist? Huh? Oh, Toulouse is 400 miles to the south of Paris. The site is at Sud Aviation, where they are building the prototype of the Concorde. Hmmm, okay.

First off, a guy's got to eat. Although I picked up an English/French dictionary, looking up menu items was too time consuming, so after learning that "bouf" was beef, I used my own patented P&P method for ordering food. P&P? That stands for Point and Pray. I just always selected something that had bouf or steak in it and pointed to it on the menu. One time that I did use the dictionary, I got a very shocked look from the waiter. I wanted mustard for my steak. I tried every pronunciation I could think of and the waiter did not understand. So I whipped out the dictionary, looked up mustard, pointed to it and turned the book so the waiter could read it. Unfortunately, my finger slipped one entry when I turned the book around and it pointed to "mustache" instead.

Sud Aviation was an interesting place. The beer cooler - a fridge offering bottle beer for a franc (20 cents) on the honor system -- was located about 15 feet from our office. Yes, one could drink on the job. Although, the french looked at you rather strangely if you grabbed one before 8 o'clock in the morning. Lunch in the cafe was a four course sit down served meal with either beer or wine served, all for about 50 cents. The bathroom was coed. I didn't know that and on day one I was standing at the urinal and a pair of high heels went clickity clack behind me. Surprised doesn't cover my reaction.

There were a couple of stalls with doors and sit down toilets at the far end of the restroom for the ladies to use. The guys had stalls with a hole in the floor. Lesson: Don't stand on the footpads for that hole when you pull the chain to flush.

Oh, and be careful with your pants -- one of my coworkers lost his wallet out of his pants and it fell into the hole and I found him using Kimwipes to clean it and its contents. "How far down did it fall," I asked. "You don't want to know," was his answer.

In France, everyone shakes hands or gives air kisses on the first time to meet of a morning and also when you were leaving for the day. I refused to shake my coworker's hand for three days after that instance.

The shaking hands ritual was difficult for me. When you have to shake hands with 25 people every morning, I found that I lost track with whom I had already shook hands with. And, when you offer to do it for a second time, the French think you are nuts. As in: crazy American with no memory.

In Toulouse, I met a former professional ice skater at the bowling alley. He spoke English. We became friends. He introduced me to his former girl friend and ice skating partner. She moved in and we've been together now for 44 years or so.

Thanks to Claudine, I found out what France really was like. I got to visit her relatives in Paris that lived in very old buildings and meet Claire Sauntier, another relative, who was the first woman senator in France and lived in a very nice apartment. (On one of our visits back to France, she even took us for a private tour of the Senate.)

I learned to love seafood. I learned some French culture, like always saying, "Bon jour, madame" when entering a shop. And, a simple "Merci" goes a long way at almost any time. I learned to drive like a wild Frenchman, navigating roundabouts with reckless abandon -- even the circle around at Arc de Triump in Paris.

I learned that the French as super nice people and will open their arms, hearts and homes to you if you are polite. I learned that Paris french is like New York english - it is spoken fast and harshly. While in Toulouse, it is spoken slower, like a southern drawl. I learned that France is a beautiful country.

Everyone should visit France at least once in their lifetime.

Special Note: A lot has changed in France since I spent a year there. They have speed limits that are enforced with automatic cameras. They are particularly hard on drunk drivers now. In fact, sometime this summer a new law goes into effect that it is mandatory for every car to have a breath analyzer on board for drivers to use to test if they can legally operate the car. Most Americans are afraid to drive in France (in all of Europe, in fact), so it may not be a problem for you. Public transportation is available nearly everywhere, so it probably won't affect you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NSFW Corp's New Web Weekly

Paul Carr, who we took to the woodshed last month during the A to Z Challenge for his too-often use of the F-bomb, has released his NSFW Corp's new web weekly in beta.

NSFW is, of couse, the acronym for Not Safe For Work and we're betting that most work organizations have it on their web blacklist so that you won't be able to enjoy and laugh on the company's dime.

I signed up for the beta early on. Back then it was supposed to be apps for the iPad, Kindles and other tablets. They switched gears and made it regular HTML5 web pages -- a good decision in my humble opinion. This way, they won't have to tweak each application on the various devices as they change.

What is it? Well, it certainly is one of a kind. It will be a weekly with a cost of $26 a year. It is sort of a Mad magazine with words, not pictures (although the graphics are much in the twisted style of Mad). They claim it will be a news magazine with humor.

There is a waiting list of beta testers. Those that get chosen for beta access are being sponsored by various companies. Our sponsor is the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. Which is where Carr has chosen to house the NSFW team. So special kudos to the Downtown Project for spending $5 for me to enjoy the site for the next six months.

(Yes, I am worth it! Sure would like to see them also sponsor me for a free round trip to Vegas and free lodging in downtown Las Vegas. Hey, a guy can dream, right?)

My favorite among the first articles was the one on best practices for the Secret Service. It had this great laugh out bullet:

Agents are encouraged to follow the example of America's most famously sober former President. Instead of having that second beer, why not pour yourself a mineral water and illegally invade Iraq?

They are also doing a daily audio podcast and are transcribing them (which is a must for this poor hapless hearing impaired comic). The two I read were wickedly funny.

NSFW will no doubt morph over time. Being funny about the news of the day is difficult over the long haul. Paul seems to have recruited a good stable of writers. (But they get no individual bylines.) They are off to a good start. Here's wishing Paul and his startup team good luck.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

French Voting and Cars

What a car!

During the A to Z Challenge, we did a couple of entries about cars. One on cars we've owned and another on cars we'd like to have. Somehow, this car missed both lists.

My wife, Claudine, is a native of France. She was naturalized as a US citizen in 2000. That means she has dual citizenship and this year she gets to vote in two presidential elections -- in the US and in France.

She is registered with the French consul in Miami and they keep her on their voting rolls. Those outside the country vote on the day before the French elections. Thus, on Saturday, we headed across the causeway to Tampa for her to vote. (There are 4 polling places in Florida - Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa.)

The voting place was Argosy University. They have a nice one-building campus just off the interstate in west Tampa on Howard Ave. It is a historic cigar factory building that has been restored very nicely.

We had been there two weeks ago so she could vote in the first presidential election where the cut the field from the ten running to just the top two. This week was the runoff between current president Sarkosy and his opponent Hollande. They use paper ballots that you stuff into tiny envelopes. So no one will know who you are voting for, you pick up paper from each of the two stacks for Sarkosy and Hollande, then put the one you're voting for in the envelop and discard the other in the trash bin. Claudine sneaked a look in the trash as she exited and she said there were more Hollande ballots in the trash than Sarkosy ballots. Now that is a real scientific exit poll result, eh?

It should be noted that everyone seems to think that Hollande will win -- although it will be close. Maybe those that live outside of France will decide the race? As we write this, they are still casting ballots in France, so it will be hours before the winner is apparent.

The highlight of the trip was when we pulled into the Argosy parking lot and discovered the restored antique Citroen. A real classic. We think it is about a 1954 model (we forgot to ask). If you know the year, add it to the comments.

I'm going to add that to my car wish list.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pictures and other stuff

Just a little catchup this morning...

Didn't get a lot of traction on yesterday's post about Doc Searls e-book pricing. Guess that means that the publishers can raise their e-book prices up to $30 and no one will complain. (But I'm still refusing to buy anything Kindle edition over $9.99 personally.)

Donna McNichol has a great post today with links to three sites where you can find free images.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Doc Serls New Book's Irony

I love Doc Searls and David Weinberger, two of the co-authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto. Both are fellows at Harvard. I follow their blogs and their tweets and buy their books. Except this time.

Doc's newest book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge has just been released. It's a book he has been working on diligently while at Harvard evangelizing about VRM -- Vendor Relationship Management. Harvard Business Review Press is the publisher.

VRM's premise is that the customer will take control of the supply/demand equation and will drive supply far more directly, efficiently, and compellingly than ever before.

Coincidentally, made the book available in hardcover and Kindle editions a couple of weeks early and within a couple of days of when the federal government brought suit against Apple and six major publishers for collusion in pricing of e-book editions. The Apple action resulted in Amazon having to raise their Kindle e-book prices from a $9.99 price-point to whatever the publisher set -- which has been for the past two years something close to $15. Is there a single Kindle owner that likes the new pricing? Obviously, no.

Harvard Business Review Press set the Kindle e-book price at $14.85 while currently Amazon is listing a $15.84 price for the hard cover. That price disparity does not make sense.

An e-book is just bits that can be stored and distributed for a couple of pennies, at most.

A hardcover book requires paper, ink, printing, bindings, hard cover, packing, shipment to Amazon, storage on the shelf, picking and packing by Amazon and delivery by UPS. There is no way that that can happen for $0.99.

Typically, if the book is a must have and the hardcover price is only a buck more, I'll opt for the hardcover and then when I'm finished reading it, I will give it to a friend or the library so that others can enjoy it. This means that the author, the publisher and Amazon lose out on a potential sale.

This time, I am opting to not purchase either. Why? I want to draw attention to Doc's premise. I want to be the customer that says enough of the greed regarding pricing of e-books. And, the ammunition that I am using is right there on the Amazon page for The Intention Economy where a major bullet says:

Soon consumers will be able to... tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost

Doc, I want to buy the Kindle edition from Amazon for $9.99. Would you please inform your publisher?

It would be exceedingly ironic if they don't listen after funding your research and publishing the book. If they believe in your premise, they should be leading a movement of listening to the customer versus following the greedy collusion crowd. (And, I'm betting you'd sell a lot more e-books!)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A look back at April's A to Z

It is May. That means the A to Z Challenge for April is done. Here's a recap.

Froggi Donna McNichol challenged me to enter the A to Z Challenge for April. I accepted. Although, at times during the month I was ready to shoot Donna.

It was an interesting challenge. A letter a day keeping the creative juices at bay - or something.

We managed to natter a bit about Apple, BASIC, gadgets and the F-bomb. We disclosed what cars we have owned and what cars we would like to own. And more. Much more. Twenty-six letters worth.

We were amazed at Donna's fiction on her My Write Spot blog as she typed her way into and out of all kinds of situations. Go peruse her entries.

We found some real gems among the other A to Z bloggers. MOV, in particular, managed to tickle my funny bone every day. Love the way she modified the challenge's icon graphic with "I survived" on the last day, with a caption that read "Winner: Most Exhausted Writer Award." (I think I got an honorable mention in that category!)

Many thanks to all of the people who dropped by and left comments. They were appreciated.