From Frommer’s With Love

For our recent trip to Paris, I picked up a copy of Frommer’s French PhraseFinder & Dictionary as a backup in case my passable French skills failed me. Boy am I glad I did, otherwise Ashley and I may have accidentally misinterpreted the noise coming from the neighbor above our rental apartment one morning for a homicide in progress. Luckily, Frommer’s “Getting Intimate” section features such helpful translations as:

That’s it!: Oui, comme ça! (Wee kohm sah)
More!: Continue comme ça! (Koh~-tee-nue kohm sah)
Harder!: Plus fort! (Plue ohr)
Faster!: Plus vite! (Plue veet)

And thus we were saved from mistakenly calling emergency services and causing much embarrassment to both ourselves and the couple in question.

I was actually quite surprised with the inclusion of this guidance in Frommer’s. It’s a nice piece of foresight on their part and it certainly goes above and beyond the usual “can you tell me where to find the train station” phrases you expect in these types of guides. These guys have thought of everything someone on the prowl in France might require, including pickup lines:

Excuse me, may I buy you a drink?: Pardon, puis-je vous offrir une verre? (Pahr-doh~ pwee-zhuh voo-zoh-freer uh~ vayhr)
You’re very attractive: Tu es très jolie (Tueh ay tray zhoh-ee)

Practical phrases like:

May I come inside?: Puis-je entrer? (Pwee-zhuh aw~-tray)
Let me help you out of that: Laissez-moi l’enlever pour toi (Leh-say mwah law~-luh-vay poohr twah)

Less obvious, but no less important, “I’d like to avoid a ‘Crying Game‘ type surprise please” phrases:

You don’t have anything you want to tell me first, do you?: Y a-t-il quelque chose dont tu voudrais me parler? (Yah-teel kehl-kuh shohz doh~ tueh voo-dray muh pahr-lay?)
Let’s just be friends: Soyons amis, sans plus (Swah-yoh~-zah-mee saw~ plues)

And for those lucky enough to undertake the same performance given by our neighbours (see above), the inevitable awkward kiss-off phrases whose meaning transcend language:

I’m sorry I have to go now: Je suis désolé, je dois m’en aller maintenant (Zhuh swee day-zoh-lay zhuh dwah maw~-nah-lay meh~t-naw~)
I have to work early tomorrow: Je dois me lever tôt pour mon travail (Zhuh dwah muh leh-vay toh poohr moh~ tra-vie)

Combined with the “full list of body parts” (page 126), Frommer’s provides everything required to be a modern Casanova. Or at least the French equivalent.

Singularity Summit II

Looks like someone liked my writeup from last year’s Singularity Summit, because Ashley and I managed to score tickets to this year’s event. Oh, and Peter Thiel’s party. Yah!

This year’s lineup of speakers is quite different from last year. Whereas last year, I knew a fair number of speakers, their work, and their opinions, I’m quite clueless about many of this year’s speakers. That might be a good thing – while I’m not a huge follower of the singularity “community” as it were, many of the things I heard last year were not very surprising. Expanding the net to capture new speakers will give me the opportunity to see what other perspectives and work exist in the field.

(That, and I won’t have to listen to Douglas Hofstadter railing against Ray Kurzweil in thinly veiled personal attacks.)

Simpsons Extravaganza

With the Simpsons Movie just around the corner, the marketing buildup is approaching fever pitch. And I like it. Things to do in the Hollywood tie-in fun house:

  • Visit your local Kwik-E-Mart: A number of 7-Elevens are receiving a Kwik-E-Mart facelift for the release of the movie, complete with Simpsons-inspired products like Buzz Cola, Squishees, KrustyOs, and copies of Radioactive Man. Ashley and I visited our local Kwik-E-Mart in Mountain View (right across from the movie theater), and Ashley noted the barricades already in place for the inevitable nerd-riot that will unfold on the movie’s opening night.
  • Pick up a copy of Bazaar: The Simpsons are doing a full photo spread with the luminaries of the fashion world.
  • Visit a landmark: Hop on JetBlue, the official airline of Springfield, before Mr. Burns “improves” it. Maybe go to Britain and see the Cerres Abbas giant. Or visit Canada to see the CN Tower. Or just be done with it and go visit the official Springfield.

It’s all in good fun, and a hell of a lot cheaper than post-Harry Potter grief counseling.

DiSC Profile

I’ve been doing a little career introspection these days, thinking about my strengths and weaknesses as I plan where I want to go in life. Ashley suggested I take a DiSC profile (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness), so I grabbed one from The Consulting Team. The online test takes about ten minutes and provides you with an analysis of your personal behavioral work style, and categorized you in one of 15 classical patterns.

My DiSC profile was an interesting read, although not very surprising in its analysis. According to DiSC, I fit the “Result-Oriented Pattern” group. On the positive side, Result-Oriented people:

…actively seek opportunities to test and develop their abilities to accomplish results. Result-Oriented persons like difficult tasks, competitive situations, [and] unique assignments.

While the analysis also nails some of the problems that I find myself struggling with on occasion:

Result-Oriented people are quick-thinkers, and they are impatient and fault-finding with those who are not. They evaluate others on their ability to get results.

Sigh – true, to a certain extent. I’m sort of relieved – this is something I’ve been working on, so at least there aren’t any nasty surprises. As always, knowing is half the battle.

There Goes My World Record

A little-known fun fact for the day: I am in the Guinness Book of World Records. Well, that’s not entirely accurate – I’m one of the 1322 guitarists that participated in Vancouver’s successful 1994 bid for a world record for the most people simultaneously playing the same song. The song was BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” and, to the best of my recollection, it went on for a deafening 77 or so minutes. Neither Robson Square, nor my hearing, nor my appreciation of BTO would ever be the same.

But all good things must come to an end, and yesterday Kansas City bested Vancouver’s record. I learned last night on The Colbert Report (where Stephen rocked out, incidentally) that on June 3rd, 1683 guitarists in Kansas City strummed their way through Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and into the record books.



And so ends my small part in guitar world record history.

The Heat of New Orleans

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks on the road – London (InfoSec Europe 2007), Salt Lake City (new hire training), and New Orleans (Gartner Compliance and Risk Summit). Luckily, I had evenings and weekends to take a little time to visit friends in London, and explore New Orleans.

New Orleans is a story unto itself. How appropriate that a summit on risk management would be held at the site of the US government’s tragic disaster mismanagement. The conference opened with Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge, who recounted the horrors of the Katrina disaster. While his account started dispassionately, academically, it slowly grew more passionate and angry as it proceeded (not surprising – he is a New Orleans native). I personally found some of his account shocking – in particular, the account of how a forward-thinking SPCA administrator had all of the animals tagged and removed from New Orleans in air-conditioned vans the week prior to Katrina. This was a situation that was not only predicted, but also could have been mitigated.

The people of Katrina are mad as hell, and they have every right to be.

Caramel in New OrleansThe sense of anger in the place is palpable. I would have thought that any survivor of Katrina would have only wanted to forget the tragedy and move on. Such is not the case, with everyone I talked to only too ready to recount their own TV mini-series worthy personal horror story. I spent an hour in Cafe du Monde speaking with Caramel, a chipper Katrina survivor poignantly wondered aloud how the public could let the Bush administration off the hook for a failure of such epic proportions, but less than a decade ago had been calling for the impeachment of a President’s who main failure involved a cigar and a lapse of judgment (or as Caramel put it “It’s just sex, he was just a man – nobody died.”). She had stayed at her home, refusing to go to the SuperDome, only later to be rescued from the roof of her home.

But despite all the justifiable frustration, Caramel is remarkably upbeat. While she cried during the conversation recounting the story of the rescue, she explained that these were tears of joy. Joy, not only at surviving to live another day, but to also know that if she could make it through that ordeal, she could make it through anything.

One can’t help but have respect for that attitude.

Coming for Tea

Just a heads up to my British friends (or those in the neighborhood) – I’ll be coming to London at the end of April to attend Infosecurity Europe. My itinerary has me landing on April 21 (Saturday), and I’ll be around until the following Sunday.

Who wants to hit the pub?

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Pt. II

A couple of years ago, an Egyptian teenager mistook me for Brendan Fraser through a botched Google search. I thought it was cute, so I blogged about it.

That was the end of it, at least so I thought, until I saw this comment on the post:

I was just sitting doing nothing one day, and I don’t know what made me go to some search site, and I typed my name in the search box. I got a few results, but one result actually had my full name in it. That result was this page I’m in now…

I read that little blog from you, and wow!! I can’t describe how I felt. I was that little kid back then. It’s me Ramy Al-Reedy, from Egypt, and so on.

As I was reading your blog, I was amazed. I don’t know who you are, I haven’t even looked at the rest of the website. (I promise I will after I finish writing this reply.) But the point is, knowing that someone out there once got an email from a little kid by mistake, and that this incident turned into a memory to him, this is something that put a big smile on my face. Maybe a smile which I needed at this point of time, and out of no where, undescribably (if spelt correctly) this happened.

I know that this little blog, is little to you, but it means a lot to me, that you were giving a shout to the actor or his agents, just to make the little kid smile.

I read that this incident made you feel sad. Don’t be sad my friend, in fact you made my day. Maybe this actor today means nothing to me, but you’re someone I look forward to get in touch with.

I have no idea about the date you wrote this blog, but I sure hope that somehow, someday you get this reply.

God bless the Internet.

What’s funny about this chance encounter is that I ended up actually running into Brendan Fraser’s father during my MBA at UBC. He’s a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade. I told him about Ramy Al-Reedy’s attempt to reach his Brendan Fraser, on the off chance he would pass it along to his son. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.