Cleaning house

I’ve been getting love notes from my ISP lately, about how much space I’m taking up on their servers. I have shared hosting, so I need to consider the needs of the many, versus the needs of the one (me).

After some initial irritation at being pinged every month or so about how much space I’m taking up (I did sign up for unlimited usage, after all), I took a look at what’s actually on my disk.

Seems I have a sizable proliferation of a whole bunch of crap for years gone by, which I never bothered to clean up. I was busy doing BIG THINGS, after all, and I figured that someday, oneday, I might actually need that stuff.

Turns out, I’ve changed my mind. I don’t need it. I haven’t needed it in years — some of it in decades. It’s time I cleaned up my act.

I’ve been spending this lovely afternoon in front of an open window, looking out onto my deerfly-infested back yard, wiping out old sites and WordPress instances that I thought would be a good idea, once upon a time, but never panned out. Some of the ideas were better than others. Some of them were dogs from the start. But ultimately, you can’t let the chance of eventually being wrong, keep you from attempting to be right.

And looking at all of my ideas along the way, it’s plain to me that my life priorities have shifted… away from technical implementations and roll-outs, for the sheer joy of doing it, to conceptualizing at a more abstract level those things which offer not only sheer joy, but also some pragmatic, utilitarian promise.

Doing stuff for its own sake is wonderful and fun.

Doing stuff because it holds water, it squares with reason, and it follows logically from one supposition to the next… and it continues to hold water even after being tossed around and roughed up a bit… now, that’s even more wonderful and fun.

One thing that strikes me, as I click on a subdirectory where I have installed a WordPress instance together with a handful of “helpful” plugins, is how much absolute glut there is in the system. These templated systems with their complement of useful tools and features are seriously bloated. Each function seems to have its own individual file, which may make it easier for the system as a whole to interact with, make it more modular and customizable, etc. But that comes at a price — bloat and glut and other consonant-laden words which convey a combination of dismay and disdain in a single syllable.

But holy crap — two words, I know — tinymce has a ton of moving pieces, which may prove useful to everyone and anyone who puts it to use. But geez. It makes getting rid of the thing quite involved via Filezilla.

I know, I know — I should just login via secure shell and do rm -r on the thing. I have done it for some disposable directories. But a part of me enjoys seeing all the different files and directories going bye-bye before my very eyes. Kind of like de-fragging a hard drive in 1999.

Well, in any case, tinymce is now gone, along with about 20 different directories packed full of all sorts of relics from my days of enthusiastic compulsive (?) starting-up of whatever came to mind. I’ve kept what I need.

For now, anyway.


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Cue the Heroic Dissonance

Thank you

It’s Memorial Day, and like many Americans, I’m taking some time to remember our fallen… our military heroes of all kinds. The newspapers have been displaying pictures of the Viet Nam Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery for days, now, reminding us all about those who have paid with their lives.

I think of my father-in-law, who carried German shrapnel in his legs till the end of his life. I think of his brother-in-law, who was in the Pacific Theater, and never liked to talk about it. I think of my great aunt, who didn’t serve in World War II, but traveled to France to help the country rebuild when the post-war dust was starting to settle. I think of the many, many Americans near and far who have sacrificed to some degree or another. And I think of what their sacrifice means to us all. I think about rewards and penalties, costs and blessings. I wonder what makes a hero.

In particular, I have been thinking of George Washington Bert, a distant cousin of my grandfather, who lost his life on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, 70 years ago this coming June 6. For his service, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. A short description of his life in our family geneology reads:

George lifted his agricultural deferment in 1943 and enlisted in the US Army. After serving in Africa and Sicily, he was stationed in England until the invasion of the Continent. He was killed in action on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in the vincity of Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy. According to the citation for his Bronze Star, “Realizing that he was facing certain death, Pfc. Bert remained on exposed beach and, by directing effective automatic rifle fire upon enemy gun emplacements, enabled his section to maneuver into strategic positions. In the performance of his heroic, self-imposed mission, Pfc. Bert was mortally wounded.”

I often imagine what that day might have been like for my distant cousin twice-removed, but I cannot possibly. So, I simply say a silent “Thank you,” and get on with my blessedly mundane life.

Meanwhile, it’s also graduation season, with crops of new grads freed up to enter the workforce or commence their higher education. Like many others, I have been watching the YouTube videos of entertaining commencement speeches my friends have “liked” on Facebook, navigating heavier-than-usual traffic in Boston on the weekends, and wondering what sort of world our newly minted degree-holders are entering. Rolling my cart full of haphazardly bagged groceries past the newpaper rack at the grocery store, glancing at the pictures of military tombstones with “Heroes” in the headlines, I wonder if the newly graduated cashiers and baggers behind me have any idea what they’re getting into.

And it occurs to me, they might not — but not for the reasons we typically call out. Modern critics and social architects call attention to the “skills gap”, the lack of workers who can take on the “shovel-ready” jobs, the increasingly eclectic tone of exorbitantly expensive education. Yes, a young former co-worker of mine did take a class in “wine pairing” while in college. Yes, there are a ton of professional positions sitting unfilled, while yet more tons of professionally prepped candidates sit on their parents’ couches Netflixing away. Yes, there is a bias against manual labor that not only hurts our economy, but also narrows the viable options for the able-bodied.

But another sort of gap threatens productivity and earning power. I call it “Heroic Dissonance” — a complete and total disconnect between the expectations of those who work, and those who pay them to get the job done.

Heroic Dissonance is the disconnect between those who believe heroism is about how much you suffer, and those who believe it’s about how well you perform.

It’s the gaping divide between the perspectives of those who expect to be compensated for what they sacrifice for a cause… and the willingness of others to reward them for what they deliver.

It’s the conflict between those who believe their pay grade  should reflect how much they’ve given up, how much hardship they’ve endured… and those who tie earnings purely to results.

This divide is very real, and it has its costs. It kills morale, undermines work product, complicates mangerial dynamics, and it hinders cross-group interactions. It also makes meaningful negotiation all but impossible — the equivalent of a French-only speaker working out contractual details with a Mandarin-only speaker.

Let me give you an example: I once had two friends (who shall remain nameless) who co-produced a number of events. One of the collaborators had health issues which prevented him from doing much physical activity until the actual event took place. He didn’t have a lot of energy to start with, so any effort he put into preparation pretty much sucked the life out of him. His contribution was largely passive, until it was showtime, when he sprang into action … and wore himself out.

The other collaborator did more of the active legwork and promotion. He knew none of the events were going to happen unless he could provide extraordinary value to their clientele — and he went to great lengths to make that happen. People signed up, because of his ongoing work. And they kept coming back to events, thanks to that level of attention.

Heroic Dissonance was an ongoing source of friction between these two folks. Each of them was a hero in his own eyes — but for very different reasons. The total time and effort the active collaborator brought to the events was exponentially larger than the passive collaborator’s contribution. And yet the passive collaborator complained every single time that he was not being paid nearly enough for everything he sacrificed personally for the cause. He had suffered and sacrificed a great deal, so he should be paid half the net earnings, despite doing a fraction of the actual work.

From his point of view, he was right — he suffered more and sacrificed more than his co-producer. But in terms of time invested and actual value created, he was way off base.

I see this same disconnect played out in the “class warfare” dynamics of the day. Those who feel a person should be compensated for what sacrifices they make, and those who feel a person should be rewarded for what value they contribute, can hardly be expected to agree on who should be paid what — and why. Those who feel pay levels should match what they sacrifice to show up at work every day, are never going to see eye to eye with those who feel uncapped pay levels should inspire an individual to drive growth. Those who feel that no one person is 3000 times more important than another, are never going to believe that any executive — no matter how brilliant or powerful — should be paid 3000x the average company salary. And those who believe salary levels should be commensurate with the extent to which they support and grow the business, are never going to buy into earning caps of any kind.

We’re at an impasse. In just about every corner of our society.

And I wonder if any of our grads are being prepared for a world where, yes, your earnings are in fact linked to how much others get from younot how much of yourself you give.

I wonder if they’ve been taught how to convey the value of what they contribute, in ways that their future bosses can appreciate, quantify, and convert into earnings increases.

I wonder if they’ve been warned that making a point, over and over, about how much you’ve sacrificed, how much you’ve toiled, how much you’ve suffered for the cause, is not going to make you look like a Hero in a business context. It’s going to make you look like a whiner, a poor planner, and a lousy self-manager who’s about as likely to get promoted as that yappy dog that lives next door.

I wonder if anybody’s mentioned to them that in the end, focusing on what you’ve lost for the Cause makes your life all about The Problem, while focusing on what everyone else has gained as a result of your efforts (be they large or small), makes your career all about The Solution. And bosses like Solutions. They like them a lot.

Maybe the message has gotten through. I tend to think there are people who instinctively pick up on these sorts of things — and they’re the folks you find in the corner office in a surprisingly short period of time. But all across society, we probably owe it to ourselves to mention these things to the next crop of wage-earners paying into the Social-Security pot.

My distant relative George Washington Bert was awarded a Bronze Star for the part he played in the success of D-Day. Would he have received the honor, if the offensive had not succeeded? Would he have been honored, if he had stayed on that beach, but been shot down before he had a chance to cover his section and let them get into position? Would he have received the Bronze Star, if he had done all he did, yet survived? What if he’d survived D-Day, but his gun had jammed and he hadn’t been able to do a thing? Would he have been rewarded just for showing up?

It’s impossible to tell. But these are the sorts of questions we all need to ask ourselves, as we pursue our careers and hope to advance in the world. What we are giving is one thing — what others get from us, can be something very, very different. And chances are good that others looking out for their own interests are going to focus on the latter.

If nobody else has mentioned this, then the latest crop of grads can hereby consider themselves warned. We live in a society which respects and celebrates personal sacrifice in pursuit of a shared goal. We declare our fallen “Heroes” and honor them in due course. We need those Heroes. The world would be a dismal, far more dangerous place if we had no Heroes who were willing to sacrifice for others.

But we conduct business in an economic climate which rewards those who create positive change for improvement and growth — with or without personal sacrifice. And in the eyes of an executive needing to stay in the black, someone who performs bottom-line miracles without breaking a sweat is a thousand times more of a Hero than someone who runs themself into the ground day and night to barely break even.

It doesn’t make one any more or less of a hero than the other. We just need to know which sort of heroism matters, and when– and then act accordingly.

To all those who have served, to their families and friends who have shared their sacrifices, thank you.

Today, yes, you are Heroes.

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Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job.

Just get a job

Words of wisdom from Mike Rowe, of “Dirty Jobs”.

A Fan Asks Mike Rowe For Life Advice… His Response Is Truly Brilliant.

I have to say from personal experience, his advice to a fan about how to find fulfilling work that suits your life  really works.

The fan writes:

I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do. I have always been a hands on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement, and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel.

And Mike Rowe responds in a thorough and well-thought-out manner which includes:

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.

The idea of just getting hired is key — especially in this job market. We’ve got truckloads of grads coming out of colleges and universities, all looking for something that suits them… and we’ve also got truckloads of recent grads playing X-box or Netflixing on their parents’ couches because they “can’t find anything”. Some of them have been “growing stale” for a number of years, as they don’t find exactly the right opportunity that matches their expectations.

Having entered the job market at a time that was unprecedented in its utter crappiness since the Great Depression (it was 1987, when the bottom fell out of the stock market and large-scale layoffs were rampant in the area where I lived), and having never been unemployed for longer than 2 weeks since early 1988, I can’t say I feel a lot of pity for recent grads — or their parents who allow them to languish.

What I’ve found, after more than 25 years in the workforce, is that just getting a job is a much bigger insurance policy against career stagnation, than refusing to “settle” for something that’s “beneath” me. Why?

Three big reasons:

First, it keeps your resume from developing any holes. Trust me, you don’t want holes in your resume. It tells the world that nobody wants you — and if nobody on the face of the planet has been interested in you for extended periods of time, why should prospective employers have an interest in you? They take their clues about your character and your work ethic and your desirability from your job history. So, if you plainly show that nobody was interested in you before, it makes prospective employers very, very nervous.

Second, it opens you up to potential opportunities to advance inside companies. I’ve taken plenty of jobs that were “below my skill level”  — and you know what? They’ve always parlayed into something bigger and better.

Every. Single. Time.

The temp-to-perm marketing admin position I took with a little B2B publishing company, about a year after I left school turned into a Cardpack Coordinator position that put me in charge of a growing direct marketing channel that expanded exponentially over the time I was there and brought in a whole lot of money. This came after a year of working temp positions that provided me a steady paycheck and distressed my concerned parents to no end, because I was being “shiftless” — or something like that.

The office manager position I took with a little software company turned into a position as the Head of Documentation for a software product that was way ahead of its time and got me hands-on experience with DOS (remember that?), Windows, AND Mac platforms.

Along the way, I’ve had a lot of “scut work” jobs that everybody said were “beneath me”. But you know what? They always  – always – always turned into something else. Something better. Because I figured out how to parlay them into a bigger and better opportunity — either at the company where they were located, or at another company that needed the kinds of skills I’d developed doing “grunt work”.

Third, it keeps you busy, and it keeps you hungry. There’s nothing like having to get out of bed every day to go off to a job you don’t like, to fuel your fire for self-improvement. If you hate your damn’ job, and you know you’re capable of so much more, it gives you plenty of incentive and energy to develop yourself for something better.

I got into web development that way — I was working a “good job” that had a lot of responsibility, power, and influence and looked great on paper, but I was miserable.

So. Utterly. Miserable.

So, what did I do? I found something I liked better, and I studied it like a mad person, each and every day. I had a 30-minute commute to and from my job, and I used that half hour each day to study up and learn the skills I needed in order to make my move. I practiced like a possessed person on the weekends. I was totally focused on Doing Something Else, and that desire for something better drove me, day in and day out.

After a little more than a year’s time, when my ability level was up to snuff, I revamped my resume and posted it online. And not long after, I got a call from a recruiter with a sweet opportunity that got me out of that hell-hole job pronto. It was a breath of fresh air — which I’d been earning with consistent hard work and dedication for quite some time.

I went from dreading going to work, to loving it. And even volunteering to go above and beyond. And the annual earnings goal that I’d set for myself a few years before (I intended to earn x-amount of dollars by the time I was 35), I reached a few years early.

Not only was I doing work I loved, but I was making a better living than I’d honestly thought I could make.

I doubt that would have happened, if I’d taken a job that “suited me fine” instead of that job I grew to hate. Sure, I could have found something half-way decent that I liked a little bit more, but that would never have fueled my fire for self-improvement, and if I’d stayed on an “okay” track, my present situation would be much more… modest, than it is today.

Ultimately, the thing that really matters to how successful you are — more than any qualifications you have or any career designs or ambitions or personal interests — is not where you are. It’s where you will be. What your potential is. And it’s about making sure others know you’ve got potential — so they can support and promote you.

That’s largely determined by what you bring to your work — which contributes to the greater whole. It’s not all about you. What you bring to it gets noticed. And the degree to which you contribute, determines your value, your hireability, and ultimately your long-term prospects.

In the end, what really makes it possible to find the perfect career, is to make yourself the perfect person for the job — no matter what job you’re doing at the time.

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Where there’s art, there’s just a bit more possibility…

Originally posted on Anthony Turi:

From the Archives… This article, the first of my ‘archived’ pieces on this site, was written in January 2007. It was inspired by a visit to the Tate Modern with my niece, nephew and my oldest friend, and my encounter at the Tate with Carsten Holler’s ‘Slides’ installation…

So my niece asked me to take her to the Tate Modern, because she’s working towards her Art G.C.S.E., and she wanted to see some of the paintings that she’s been studying. Her younger brother, naturally, also wanted to come, and I invited Cronain along too, to help out with the historical details and context.

Times have changed. I can remember my niece being a little girl, and taking her to the playground at the local park. The usual images from such a montage are all present: helping her on to climbing frames, pushing her on the swings, watching her – and her brother…

View original 508 more words

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Spring is here – kind of

The path leads to spring… hopefully

Although today at 34 degrees F — roughly 1 degree Celsius — my walk to the woods didn’t feel like it. I had even considered not going for that walk, after looking at the temperature and seeing it was nowhere near yesterday’s. Saturday was fairly warm, and the continuous see-sawing of temps back and forth — between warm and not-warm — gets to be a little demoralizing. The last thing I needed was to walk out today and have my flagging spirits trampled yet again. It’s Sunday, after all, which means that another full week is ahead of me… and the idea of not having the free space to just BE and do things at my own pace, in just a matter of hours… well, that on top of cold weather felt like a little much.

But I went out anyway. Bit the bullet, pulled on the gloves, and walked out the road to the trail head. I wasn’t sure I was going to hike back into the forest, then decided on a whim to walk in to the beaver pond, make the circuit around it, and come back out — all in time to get home to mix up a Sunday brunch of chicken-apple sausages and scrambled eggs for our house guests.

March in New England is an interesting thing this year. It can’t seem to make up its mind, and it showed on the trail. The path was either a frozen solid sheet of ice, or it was a lacey mix of half-melted ice and snow, or it was clear of all cover except for last year’s leaves. I hip-hopped from one patch of leaves to the next, gingerly skirting the icy spots, and crunching through melting snow that sometimes spilled in over the tops of my hiking shoes and melted in little pockets of cold dampness around my ankles.

I hate those little pockets of cold dampness around my ankles.

So, I tried my best to keep to the leafier parts of the trail… and watch my step, because the going was treacherously slippery in places, and even though I do have ICE contact information on my cell phone (which was with me), I’d just as soon not test out that capability with the Bolton EMTs.

Signs of spring were indefinite, I have to say. The teaberry plants are always green, so seeing them sticking up through the snow seemed like a hollow announcement of nothing much. The ground was soft and spongy in places, as the earth readies for mud season, but there was still plenty of ice and snow; for all anyone could tell, it might just as well have been a warm spell in February. I did see a congress of about 10 robins in someone’s yard, but as soon as they all flew away, everything looked the same as it had two months ago. There is definitely less snow on the ground, these days. But they’re calling for more on Tuesday/Wednesday, so it’s cold comfort to gaze longingly at the glistening muck under that noncommittal gray sky.

Spring will get here when it gets here. But the thought occurred to me that I may in fact never be warm again. In my entire life.

My early spring bleakness notwithstanding, it was a good walk. I ate my daily apple while I ambled, and I pitched the core into the woods where some lucky squirrel or deer would find it. All the concentrated focus on the trickier parts of the trail warmed me up, and I emerged from the tree cover reminded — yet again — how much can change about your attitude, if you just make a start at things.

Before I’d left the house, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go out.

As I emerged from the woods, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back.

But our house guests were waiting, and I was getting hungry. There was sausage to cook, mushrooms and onions to sautee… and a mess o’ eggs with another cup of coffee would really hit the spot. And it did.

Spring will get here when it gets here. In the meantime, I’ve got more than enough to keep me busy.

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Back from France, and working through my jet lag

Oh, the places we go...

Oh, the places we go…

I just got back from another week-long trip to the Paris area. This was for work — as it always is. I’ve been to France twice in the space of a month — I was there the second week in February and the first week in March. I think I’m pretty much done with transatlantic travel for at least a few months.

Of course, my new boss returns from maternity leave in mid-May, so I may need to make another trip then, but it will be good to have more than two weeks between trips. And the weather will be nicer — spring. Already, the trees were starting to blossom in Velizy-Villacoublay, and the temps were in the 60’s (F). Amazing. After the winter we’ve had in the U.S. — amazing.

Now I’m back and recovering. One of the toughest parts of travel for me is jet lag. I’m pretty keen on functioning at 100% in my everyday life, and nothing kills that more than being jet-lagged. The brain fog and fatigue are serious downers. So, I’m putting my cumulative experience to good work, and I’m dealing with it. And it appears to be working pretty well, at least so far. I’m feeling a whole lot better today, than I did the last time I was recovering. Maybe traveling more often is acclimating my system. But I think fine-tuning my recovery is paying off, as well.

I’m being a lot more deliberate in my recovery this time, than before. I’m getting extra sleep, eating plenty of protein, drinking plenty of water, getting some exercise, and adjusting my daily schedule to allow for more rest and fewer distractions. And it seems to be doing the trick.

It’s all a process, of course, and every time I learn something more. The key seems to be keeping to a set schedule, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time. It’s painful and awkward, but it passes. And it’s for a good reason — to help me normalize. At the very least, it gets me functioning like a regular human being again, instead of a veritable piece of luggage that’s tossed from one location to another in the name of global commerce.

After all, it is nice to be a human being — and feel like it.

It’s probably going to be a few days before I start to feel wholly human again, but this time, I seem to be getting there much faster than before. And that’s always nice.

The nicest thing of all is being home again. Yes, there’s snow on the ground. But it was 52 degrees yesterday, and it was fantastic to be walking around without a coat on. The spring melt is underway, and we’re resetting our clocks. Spring is just around the corner, and that makes recovering — if not easier — that much more enjoyable.

It is good to be home.

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Boulogne-Bound – Getting ready to go

My next home away from home – sort of

It’s back to France for me, this coming week. I’ll be staying and working just outside of Paris, meeting with team members who are based in the home office, thousands of miles from my Massachusetts home base. I leave tomorrow night, and I’ll be back on Thursday the 13th… in time for Valentine’s Day, and preparation for some weekend events.

It’s rare that we all get together as a one trans-Atlantic team. We’re usually so busy with our own activities, our physical paths don’t cross that often. That will be changing this year, as I’m making a couple of trips over in the next month.

Who knows if they will do the same? You never can tell. Company policy around travel tends to change, with access being open for a few months, then closed later on.

That includes hotel accommodations. Usually we’re consigned to the Novotel or Mercure or Ibis in Vélizy-Villacoublay. They’re not awful. But they’re also not great. And unless you have a thriving yoga or za-zen practice that gives you something to do in your room after hours, hanging out there after a long day of work can get a little grim. Some of the rooms are nicer than others. Some of them are akin to staying in a college dorm room, complete with funky carpets and carved-up furniture and blinds that don’t hang exactly right on the windows — if you are fortunate enough to have blinds.

I got lucky this time and will be staying in Boulogne-Billancourt, which is about 15 minutes outside of Paris, and another 15 minutes from the office. It’s going to be super-easy to get to the hotel by train and Metro, as it’s only a few blocks from the Metro stop. It’s also in the middle of a bustling town, near restaurants and shops, so I can actually live my life as a normal person — a real human being — when I’m there, instead of some cog-in-the-corporate-wheel grunt dumped at a hotel that’s sandwiched between the road to the local Ikea warehouse and the highway…. with a stunning view of the loading docks of the local mega-shopping center… with no decent restaurants or other signs of regular life in sight, only vending machine odds and ends to stave off hunger, and cable television and wifi to connect me to the outside world.

The one saving grace to the Novotel is that they offer cable t.v. with German shows, as well as French, so I get to catch up on other European events — and brush up on my German.

I’m really looking forward to staying in Boulogne this time. It’s a whole lot simpler to get to than the other hotels in Vélizy-Villacoublay, where the home office is located. And I expect it to be much more pleasant. The cab ride from the airport to Vélizy will cost you dearly, and taxi drivers don’t always take credit cards.  Plus, they sometimes like to jack up the meter right out of the gate, so your bill is sky-high by the time they find their way to Vélizy. Sometimes they circle the town for an additional half hour, because of construction routes blocking direct access.

If you just sit back and let them charge whatever, you can burn through your “emergency” stash of Euros in short order… And end up at a hotel that doesn’t have quick access to an ATM, unless you’re willing to walk 10 minutes to the nearest shopping center. It’s not terribly far, but it is a hike. And if it’s raining… well, you get the picture.

To avoid this, I’ve been practicing protesting vehemently in French — Monsieur — Arretez vous ! C’est tres tres chere ! Basically protesting that they’re charging me too much, and they need to stop the cab immediately, so I can get out and find another. I’d probably be in for a fight, though, because I’ve seldom crossed paths with a Paris taxi driver who wasn’t at least a little bit cranky. The pleasant ones I don’t quite trust, because it seems like they always turn. It doesn’t take much, apparently. But with access to the train/metro and bus, I get to bypass the unique joy of cabbing it in the Paris area.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to taking a cab to Vélizy, if you’re willing to take the time and you’re not in a huge rush. You can take the train and the bus, like I did the first time I was there, three years ago. True, it took me quite a while to figure it out, and I was completely turned around, and the person I was traveling with was not at all comfortable outside the USA (making things a little strained for everyone involved), but now I know how it’s done.

I’m certainly hoping my stay in Boulogne-Billancourt will turn out well. Here’s hoping. No, there’s not as much hoping as there is planning.

Preparation is everything.

I’ve got my list of What Needs To Get Done today, including returning library books that are due, confirming flight and international phone plan details, making sure the bank knows I’ll be in Europe for the next days (so they don’t cut me off if I try to use my debit card to pay for food and lodging), and moving files around from my various devices to make room for more photos and files I’ll pick up on my trip.

Oh, and there’s also the ever-popular dump run. The trash in the bins in the garage needs to get gone, before I am.

So far, I’m on schedule. I’ve got several items crossed off, already, and it looks like I’m going to have time to take care of other items in a systematic and logical manner. The worst thing, when getting ready for a trip — especially one that takes you into a different time zone where people speak a language you don’t know very well — is being rushed and frazzled and hassled.

Once upon a time, I found it invigorating to live on the edge. After having walked that fine line for many a year, now I really appreciate the utter luxury of a well-prepared trip.

And that’s what I’m focusing on now. I don’t have a lot of time in France. I’ll be landing on Monday morning, taking the train/metro to the hotel, checking in and putting everything in order at my room, then cabbing it to the office where I have meetings on Monday afternoon. I had considered flying out Saturday night and having Sunday to rest, because I absolutely detest (je deteste !) being jet-lagged and operating at anything less than 100%.

But this is going to be a short trip, and it may be generally unpleasant, since the weather isn’t looking promising (40’s and rainy), so I’m going to suck it up and do my best under less-than-ideal circumstances and keep focused on what really matters.

Anyway, I’ll be home on Thursday evening, and then I’ll have four days to rest and recoup. I’m taking the day off on Friday, and I have Monday off as well. So it should work out okay, I reckon.

For today, though, it’s all preparation and taking care of business, while banks and libraries are open, and the weather is clear. They’re calling for snow tomorrow (of course), which will delay things a bit if I’m out and about, so today I’ll do all my running-around, while tomorrow will be an “in” day.

If all goes according to plan — and I don’t decide to improvise out of boredom or some strange idea that it would be more fun if I veered off-course — I should have a reasonably luxurious start to my trip tomorrow, with all of my own ducks in a row… leaving me some space to let others around me do their thing.

If I have my bags packed properly with the right supplies, and I have all my own various and sundry pieces in place, everyone else can do as they please, and I’ll be able to adjust.

Because you never do know what will happen, when others start to riff on their own theme.

Oh, look at the time – time to fly.

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