An Aus-some trip around the world

It’s not very often that I find a serendipitous link to describe so cleanly the relationship between my last three trips. So, I could not help but share with you my aus-some last month.

In the space of 4 weeks, I was at South By Southwest in Austin Texas for a manic few days at the Interactive conference.  Then I hit the slopes at St Christoph, near Innsbruck in Austria for a joyful week of family holidays.  Finally, I sparked off down under to do some sales training in Melbourne, Australia (this week).  A veritably aus-some trip.

Here are a couple of visual representations of the journey.

Aus-some: Austin, Austria & Australia, The Myndset Digital marketing

 

And a different representation, for the fun of it:

Aus-some, Austin, Austria and Australia, The Myndset digital marketing

Could this be part of some higher cosmic sense, or just plain silly?

Twitter – Sweeping Growth as Business Tool

Twitter Logo

Twitter update – 7+ million users and growing… fast

Twitter has grown by a staggering 1382% in the span of one year, to have over 7 million monthly unique visitors, according to data from market research firm Nielsen. The research suggested that Twitter was becoming ingrained as a marketing and business tool, above its personal application.


The Nielsen research on the February traffic showed that I am plum in the middle of its most regular users: almost 42% of its users are 35 to 49 year olds, with a further 20% between 25-34. Interestingly, 62% of Twitter users visit the site while at work versus 35% from home.

Twitter on Apple iPhone

One of the primary success factors for Twitter is the mobility and ease of use (i.e. text messaging). In January this year, 735,000 unique visitors Twittered via their mobile. According to Nielsen, “The average unique visitor went to Twitter.com 14 times during the month and spent an average of seven minutes on the site.”

The Nielsen research had the other big growth winners: 240% for Zimbio the interactive magazine (that claims 15 million readers in its header but which Nielsen pegged at 2.8 million unique users) and +228% for Facebook (66 million). Multiply (+192%) was logged at 2.4 million and Wikia (+172%) at 3.8 million.

Aside from the traffic, proof of Twitter’s success is the entirely new vocabulary that has sprouted: tweet (n. a twitter entry), to Tweet (verb), Tweeps (n. twitter friends), Twirt (v. to flirt on twitter), Chirp Storm (n. popular twitter subject), Twatter (n. nonsense chatter on Twitter)… And there are a number of accessory sites, my favourite of which is twitturly which tracks the most tweeted URLs. Here you can find widgets and gadgets for Twitter (on Mac or PC)…

Debatable Blog

At a dinner party this weekend, I had quite the discussion as to the usefulness of twittering (see a complementary raging debate group, “Debatable,” on Facebook launched by Justin Kirby, UK). For myself, I see the interest in micro-journalism, a more personalised social bookmarking and a way to propagate good content or branded content (business use). Whatever the reasons, though, Twitter has definitively accelerated past the tipping point. Are you a fan of Twittering? What do you think? How should brands be taking advantage of this phenomenon?

The E-volution of the Book… Kindle, Sony, Google weighing in

The evolution of all media is fascinating to follow, but today I am going to zero in on the printed word.  Whether it’s the future of magazines, books, mainstream newspapers or even research & professional journals, the internet platform is causing radical paradigm shifts and there are some hefty decisions to be made/duked out for each category of the printed word.  For the book, there are two massively important phases: the democratisation of the eBook and internet referencing.  As beautiful as the Amazon solution has been for e-commerce, the digital reader platform is still in its nascent phase and has room to improve.  Nonetheless, there are a number of exciting functionalities that make the digital book much more viable for the regular book reader.   You can immediately download content through the wireless internet connection, search for the definition of word, open to a reference map, use RAM to search for words in a text, copy and clip text you want to remember, and when you go on a long trip you carry many books & magazines in one tidy place… and probably many other functions yet to be integrated.  And, importantly, technology has improved dramatically, including the lighting, font sizes and definition; and the price is now accessible, especially as the competition heats up.

The two leading options at this point are Kindle 2 (from Amazon with 230,000 titles currently) and the Sony Digital Reader PRS-700BC (right).  As a quick analysis of the their sites reads, it is interesting to see Kindle focusing on the content (see the video) and ease of use.  Sony seems more interested in its technical specifications and the upgrading of the different products (they have already issued multiple model numbers).  You have to scroll down to the very end of their site to find that they have “thousands of eBook titles available.”  Based on these virtual observations, for now the Kindle (below) gets my vote for best presentation, and I love the free wireless access to wikipedia.  But, there are going to be plenty of other players jumping (the more expensive Fujitsu eReader with its colour screen, the iRex Iliad with superior hackability, the BeBook from Endless Ideas BV…).


On another front [page], another battle is being waged with books, this time with Google and the referencing of book content on the Internet.  Google has finally come out with its Google Books search function.   Having laid dormant for some three years in the lawcourts, since October 2008, Google Books is now live in beta format.  This function allows you to search for terms or names within a large volume of books.  The site is in beta testing.  Punch in your name, your brand or a specific term and you can find out where it is embedded in the database of over 7 million books.

With the settlement of October 28, 2008, the Google Books site states:  “Three years ago, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google Book Search.

Today we’re delighted to announce that we’ve settled that lawsuit and will be working closely with these industry partners to bring even more of the world’s books online. Together we’ll accomplish far more than any of us could have individually, to the enduring benefit of authors, publishers, researchers and readers alike. 

It will take some time for this agreement to be approved and finalized by the Court. For now, here’s a peek at the changes we hope you’ll soon see.”

The books are catalogued into two different types and, according to the agreement reached, you can either read some information on the book plus some snippets for Library Project books; or for Partner Program books, you can flip through a few preview pages, as if you were in a library/bookstore.  There is a mobile version of Google Books as well that works on iPhones and Android.  You can read more about the settlement here.

The bottom line is that the book — and its printed paper form — is not dead yet… but it sure is going to evolve.  Apparently, book publishers had a very reasonable year in sales last year (no worldwide data is publicly available it seems as this google answer says), but it strikes me that the tsunami is out there for the book world and, as iTunes and the iPod revolutionised the music world, so will the trio of Amazon, Google and Sony change the book world.  Perhaps book companies would be wise to take heed of the bloodbath in the music world to involve themselves in the changeover rather than fight against it.  Bookstores should be quick to find out how they will need to change their model… perhaps stocking digital readers and preloaded USB keys (for the Sony Reader).  And I will be curious to see how schools and universities move to the new e-platforms.

Convergence – In search of the Uber Consolidation

Convergence logoAre you like me, Seeking the Consolidation & Convergence of all Applications, Tools and Electrical Wires?

I enjoyed this article from Engadget “What Apple could learn from Palm Web OS” and it spurred me to consider my state of un-convergence, with the multiplicity of electronics that I lug around, different coloured USB keys to swap files, portable disk drives for backups, Apples and Dells, iPod and Blackberry, camera and video, work and home, Freebox and AppleTV, avi and wmv… The list of interdependent yet not connected items continues to gall me. When can we have the uber-converged mother-of-all tool?

Specifically, I dream of consolidating all my address book information whereby all my snail mail and email addresses and telephone numbers are simultaneously updated and accessible across every platform — think Plaxo on drugs. I think of centralizing all my digital communications so that, instead of jumping from Facebook to LinkedIn to twine to twitter to Hotmail and gmail, etc., I just have one email site to open and one preferred functionality to use — think universal netvibes. I wonder if it is time for me to abandon a fixed line at home (like 1 in 5 US households apparently) to concentrate on one mobile phone (nix one for work and one for personal use) so that I have just one telephone number to give out and have one less bill to pay (albeit the fixed home telephone is embedded in an internet and television subscription here in France). I am confounded by the number of different electric chargers that I must carry with me to support my blackberry, my iPod, laptop and earphone, etc. — much less when I travel abroad with all the different plug adaptors. I puzzle at the stash of USB connector chords that I have by my computer to connect the various apparatus with non-standard fixtures to my main computer (thank goodness for the USB hubs). And, if all that were not enough, I just want my laptop, desktop, television, iPod and mobile phone all to be the same. On this latter point, aside from the large keyboard, one can sniff that an economically viable answer is around the corner.

Convergence Mobility Telephone & Computers

Somehow, despite my fast typing and reading skills, I still feel like I am near to being submerged by the burgeoning number of sites and applications to which I have signed up. Is my webiquity catching up with me? On the application front, among the solutions that are out there and that are truly helping, there is hellotxt that creates“what am I doing” microblog messages for a wide variety of twittery applications — and can be updated now via the mobile. There is the aforementioned netvibes (est 8 million users) or pageflakes for storing a good portion of different applications such as Facebook, gmail and/or hotmail (albeit you still need to switch to the individual applications to read and write). Still, there is no full coverage system. Proprietary applications and stonewalling is clearly stopping the creation of the mega-consolidator. One thing is for sure; I am not alone in my desire, even in France. There was a study done by Accenture in France about the desire for telephonic convergence in France (no longer available on line).

Palm Pre TelephoneI gather that Palm has come up with a new palm PRE (coming soon, pictured right) all-in-one product. See here at Engadget and here on Mobiledia for more details. A friend at Nokia has reliably told me that the Nokia E71 “connected freedom” is a good alternative with the bonus of being available already. And, there’s the Touch screen qwerty Nokia N97 coming soon. Could it be that a hardware company can come up with the wherewithal to centralize all the different applications?

But, as urgent and (de-)pressing as the need for convergence is, the world of the web is expanding like the universe…to appear and operate on many different media…well beyond phones… on buses, tables, buildings, all electronic appliances… And newer still appliances and applications are sprouting up like mushroom so that, just when you think you have it all together and think you can converge onto one new glorious, unifying ubermetaplatform, you are going to be faced with the mobile book reader (Sony’s PRS-700BC or Amazon’s Kindle); the to do list consolidator that wirelessly feeds the “shopping list” on the kitchen fridge into your uber-PDA todo list; or a digital pen that magically transforms letters on a page into a typed document.

Just think about it. There are a billion people connected to the net now via their computers. The next billion internet connections will come on mobile platforms… Ready for mobile phone banking and mobi-creditcards (try wizzit which won the top prize at the NetExplorateur 2009)? On-demand shopping assistance, advice and ratings on your uber personal mobile device (try Big In Japan – Biggu – T-Mobile G1 on YouTube coming soon to Europe)? The third billion one has to imagine will have internet literally at, if not, in our fingertips. Everything will be wired.

Of course, there’s another topic brewing here regarding the convergence of branding, entertainment, advertising and consumption and how best to tackle the convergence from a marketing standpoint. But, better save that for another post.

What are your thoughts about convergence? What are your favourite tools? Or do you feel that it is just an interminable rat race and a way to get us to spend more money (think Vinyl-DAT-CD-mp3-mp4…)?

SMS & Healthy Loving Relationships

After getting drummed into our heads that using mobile phones may be carcinogenic, I am increasingly encouraged by recent studies saying that using the text (SMS) function is good for you! For its immediacy, the acceptance of shorthand (and errors) as well as the language of emoticons, SMS and Instant Messaging (IM) communication is a very real way of communicating.  Technology and the human touch is a topic I have addressed previously in a blog post.

So, if you text a lot AND you use the word “I” when you IM or text your soulmate, chances are that you are experiencing a healthy relationship, so says this latest study in US News. With a little imagination, the study would seem to reinforce the notion that you need to love yourself in order to be able to love someone else properly.

And, an article I found on the BBC says that, with the help of SMS / text reminders, a group of people suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder*) in the UK will be reminded daily to sit in front of their light box to give a little light to their gloomy conditions in the midst of the dark, short days of winter.

Finally, knowing the number of emoticons that are included in the TXT messages, it is no surprise that there is an emotional impact from the messages emanating from our handy mobiles. On another note, I have also heard more and more about the abuse of SMS between teenagers and the notion of sextext (as yet an unofficial term according to Urban Dictionary). Something to watch out for. Meanwhile, below is a table of TXT speak in case you need a refresher, but an easier resource is here at, what claims to be, the Largest List of Text Message Abbreviations. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to use the “I” when addressing your loved one.

*SAD affects around 2% of UK citizens and between 1.5-9% of US citizens depending on the state in which they live. According to the wikipedia entry, 20% of the Irish (2007 study) were said to suffer from SAD and 10% of the Dutch.

Typing Skills & Games – Credit to Lester Thurow

Typing not Stereotyping – A True Way to Advance…

Monkey Typing on KeyboardI have often wondered how my life might have been different had I not learned to type quickly and accurately. I will never forget a lecture I attended by Lester Thurow, former professor of Economics and Dean at MIT, back while I was at Yale (around 1986). He said that typing was far from an insignificant skill to possess as an executive. For many “older” executives–especially those who were not born into the need to type their school papers–typing is not a noble skill. There are still many executives who consider it below themselves to know how to type (much less how to use the computer, Outlook and internet…); those who think that typing themselves is a loss of time.

Typing HandsAu contraire, I find that typing fast and accurately is a tremendous skill and competitive advantage. Just to answer once more the question “how do I find the time to blog so much?” I say, first, that I make the time (part of my philosophy on time). But, right after that, I say that it is thanks to the fact that I can type up to 70 words per minute without (too many) mistakes. When combined with having the word retrieval (from the brain) stoked by some good coffee beans, the posts come fast and furiously for me.

Typing Hands - Finger chart for the KeyboardOn the professional front, this means that typing up memos, meeting recaps or e-mails is substantially less of a chore. That said, there are no shortcuts for rereading and proofing your written word. Of course, reading emails is another kettle of fish and knowing who to put in copy, etc., in your replies (managing the politics…) is a little more cumbersome. Nonetheless, typing faster is a competitive advantage anyway you cut it. It even helps me finger out my messages on my Blackberry. But my typing skills did not come “out of thin air.” I had to apply myself to learn how to type — and I did so consciously early on, without access to any of the fun ways to learn that now exist.

Facebook LogoAmong the fun typing games out there (and there are many), I enjoyed this one from Jon Miles, called Fingerjig. Of course, you can also play Fingerjig on Facebook and find out if you’re a better typist than your friends. It doesn’t test you for upper case, etc., but it is a reasonably fun and engaging way to see where you stand — and see if you need to improve!

So, if you are a student at school, the need to learn to type is pretty much obvious. A done deal. One of the areas I have been working on is finding ways to encourage our children to type quickly — and online games are clearly a great answer. Below are a few solutions that I found (even if some reside on a platform that has other painfully silly games) for kids and adults.

A good reference point is at “Only Typing Games” which has a nice little selection of online games that encourage typing skills.

-For the beginners…and of a younger age: Typing Monster from PrimaryGames and Dance Mat Typing from the BBC.
Qwerty Warrior Game-For the “older” kids, where one can challenge oneself to whichever level one has in typing, Crazy Keys or QWERTY Warriors & QWERTY Warriors 2 (the latter of which play on the aggressive killer instinct) from Crazy Monkey Games
-And, still for kids, there’s Alpha-Attack (from Miniclips)
-Then, for the less game inclined typer, a few “serious” sites courtesy of Touch Typing post from a prolific, if currently dormant, JEETBLOG. You can test your speed, or do some online tutoring here: TypeFaster or Keybr.

If you want to try your hand at your own typing speed, try this. It takes just one MINUTE!

70 wordsTypingtest

In any event, I promote typing skills, am proud of my own ability to type fast and believe that typing faster can materially contribute to the business world’s increased productivity. Typing should not be stereotypically left for assistants and secretaries!
What do you think?

INSEAD – Celebrating the 15 Year Reunion (2008)

15 YEARS LATER : MY 15-YEAR REUNION AT INSEAD

I have just completed my 15-year reunion at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. There were some 59 fellow classmates (out of about 205) who came in from 16 countries (3 came from Australia). It was a lovely way to reconnect – among other things to remind us of the importance of facetime and networking. As big a fan as I may be for virtual worlds and social media networks, the prescient words of John Naisbitt in High Tech/High Touch ring as ever true today.

There were three themes that seemed to keep coming up, no matter the topic at hand:

– The financial crisis
– The work-life balance
– Sustainable development

On the heels of the record-setting one-day stock market swings (the DJIA gyrated from a low of 7773 to a high of 8989 only to finish down 1.5% on October 10th), a devastating eight days of doom and gloom and a drop of -22% on the DJIA, the financial crisis had a bearing on absolutely every activity discussed. How is the financial crisis going to impact sustainable development? Will the financial crisis hurt social media and “metaverses” (with Professor Miklos Sarvary)? There were no contrarians to be heard. The concept of a worldwide recession was widely used. Clearly, we have not seen the end of the bad news as it will now roll out into other fields, including a predictable credit card crunch and down swing in sales of large ticket consumer goods. And, of course, it certainly will have an impact on executive MBAs coming to INSEAD and current MBAs looking for jobs.

The question of work-life balance was systematically raised, and not just by Gen Y MBA students. I think my wife summed it up rather accurately: work-life balance is a myth. There may be moments when when you are able to achieve more family life, but you are inevitably compromising work and vice-versa.

And on sustainable development, much of the conversation seemed to be focused on reinforcing the existence of global warming, and less about the [clear cut] solutions. We heard from Mohan Munasinghe, Vice president of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 2007 along with Al Gore), who exposed the framework of “sustainomics.” The notion of sustainomics “draws on three basic principles: (1) making development itself more sustainable through immediate actions, (2) balancing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and (3) transcending traditional boundaries of academic discipline, space, time, and stakeholder actions, to produce the most effective solutions.” Of course, I am not sure of the application in my immediate world. Anyway, good to listen to. {Read more on the subject here}.

Bottom line, attending the reunion was grand. Reunions are about seeing old friends, but I also got a lot out of listening to some good lectures and panels on contemporary topics. One of the recurrent conclusions of reunions, though, it is clearly NOT a French thing. Of the 34 French classmates, a total of 7 came (un grand merci à vous d’être venus), of which 3 live overseas — and only a couple of the French came for the whole weekend–too many other priorities elsewhere! Without talking about their lack of participation in alumni giving, it is a shame that the French culture does not seem to enjoy these types of reunions. I am, nonetheless, hoping that for the 20th year reunion (2013) we will get a fuller turnout — and with a bit of luck will be talking about rosier economic times. Thanks to all of you who did come. We certainly have our work cut out for us to bring some order to the world. In the meantime, all 1993 INSEAD alum are welcome to join the Facebook INSEAD ’93 group (assuming the company Facebook survives the current management exodus).

See you next time.

Emirates Airline: Superlatives for flight to Dubai

Emirates Airline Lovemark?Emirates Airline Customer ServiceWow! I felt like I actually rediscovered the pleasure of traveling yesterday. And, ironically, I did so going on holidays in the economy class of Emirates Airline, on a brand new Boeing 777-300ER. Expectations were totally outpaced. I was left utterly and positively surprised, almost regretting the fact the flight was ONLY seven hours long… That sums up what I have to say about my very first Emirates Airline flight, EK074 from Paris to Dubai.

Ensconced in row 21 with the family, I can only shake my head at the extent of the superior performance that Emirates Airline (EK) provided. If I were a competitor of theirs, I would be worried. From a business standpoint, when you take efforts to know what the ‘competition’ is doing or offering, you can get a wicked surprise. I suspect that if American Airlines (United Airlines has a best-in-class partner in Singapore Airlines) or Air France (which generally I enjoy very much) have fully checked out the state of advancement of Emirates Airline, they should be scurrying to invest. The boom in oil prices and the economies in the Middle East are obviously helping EK. In 2007, according to the Gulf News (Apr 20, 2008 article by Abel Ali), Middle East passenger traffic was +11.7%, and up a record +19.2% in December. EK’s ability to invest in state-of-the-art planes (just to absorb rising demand), as well as their efforts on customer service (and the training that goes behind it) will create a significant competitive advantage due to the life cycles of planes and the difficulty to change a corporate culture (not to mention a hideous industry climate?). In the case of EK, according to their website, they have been growing at 20% annually and have recorded every year since its 3rd year of conception (it was started in 1985).

In any event, this type of gap in performance will make a difference in my next booking. I have to believe that a superior Emirates Airline product will contribute to the success of Dubai, benefiting from its opportunistic location as a hub. [The airport works 24/7 and was absolutely bustling with activity when we landed at 1 a.m.]

EEmirates Airlines ICE Entertainment Systemvery economy class seat on this new Emirates Airline plane offers:
* A complete on-demand set of films (multiple categories), games, sitcoms and news… (As good as any good Business Class). Called ICE, the entertainment system has a digital wide screen option.
* A USB socket (never saw that in any business class before) — that anticipates a usage of the personal console as a personal computer.
* Electrical outlet (which is far from a gimme in business)
* A slick multi-size cup holder
* Coat hook on the side (so the jacket doesn’t hang between your legs). Smart.

Among the multiple surprises, we were allowed to fire up the videos while on the ground (I therefore didn’t even notice that we took off 30 minutes late). And we were able to watch the video throughout takeoff and landing. Unheard of, normally.

The kids were offered a whole kit of goodies — hand puppets, teddy bear, crayons, books and more… Between the goodies and the personal entertainment system, the kids felt like they were in Disney…

The kids also got a special dinner, including a Mars bar and a toothbrush…

The main screen featured the viewing from a camera attached to the airplane nose. It was not the first time I have seen this, but I say it is part of best practices. For the remainder of the flight there was a simulated following of the flight over the various geographies.

At the same time as Alexandra said she liked the crackers, I mentioned to the flight attendant that the Shiraz wine was good. Both of us were promptly re-served without even asking. Another surprise.

Even dinner was a result. With a choice between lamb and chicken, Yendi and I both chose the lamb stew (“tender cooked pieces of lamb served in a rich coriander jus”) which turned out to be a wonderfully zesty (and spicy) dish. I suspect that unadventurous palettes might have stumbled.

As I went past the business class seats, I noticed that they featured the same poorly located headphone socket as the one on the KLM flight I took a couple of weeks ago (prior blog post). So, not everything is perfect…

Moral of the story:
* innovation works (in different forms)
* great training of the staff is visible (and great recruitment, too, on YouTube)
* better to keep an eye on the competition

I will report back after the 3 other flights that we have on EK to see how consistent the service is (knowing that Dubai-Nairobi is surely an inferior route). Will see if it deserves lovemark status!

Anyway, here’s to making travel a childish pleasure. Anyone else know of an airline that can surprise thus?

Do you know about any other company taking an industry by storm?

Left brain versus Right Brain

Left Brain or Right Brain or Both?Are you left, right or whole brained?

One of my favourite ‘business’ books in the past couple of years was “The Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. (@Amazon, 2005). What I enjoyed about this book was a revaluing of the right side of the brain in business and management in particular. We have for so long been focusing on the more Cartesian, logical qualities of the brain; and, yet, as we can see in the shifting of the consumer mindset, there is a growing appreciation of luxury, of adventurous holidays, a new found importance in imagery & symbols: all qualities bestowed on the right side of the brain.

If you are not sure which side of your brain is dominant, there is a fun new on-line test you can take, which I have was sent on this Perth NowWhich side of the brain are you? site (as in Western Australia). It is a very rapid and visual Right Side versus Left Side of the Brain Test. (Note that this Perth Now article was published Sept 26 2007 – so it took 14 days to be circulated my way. Also it’s also available in Daily Telegraph Australia as of Oct 5) .

And for those of who prefer the good old fashioned word questionnaires, here’s a decent and fast one: similar minds. And again from BlogThings.

Some blogging on Whole New Mind

  • Growing Ideas – Presntation Zen by Garr Reynolds. This site gives a very comprehensive review of the main arguments of WNM. I picked up this image below from G Reynolds — adapted from Dan Pink’s book WNM.

And while perusing Dan Pink’s blog, found this story about the Hair Pod, a tidy cabin for haircuts on the go. And I also found this interesting fact courtesy of Dan Pink:
–Only three countries in the world haven’t adopted the metric system: Liberia, Mynamar, and the United States. (Source: Good magazine)

Ah, the pleasures of being in the countryside

A trip to the village of Eymoutiers (pop C. 3000), in the Limousin area of France, for a weekend of relaxation with the family. This is the village about which I wrote in a prior post, where the Casino supermarket is open Sunday.

On the way down (via the SNCF) from Paris, unfortunately the electric cable of my laptop DELL computer malfunctions. Catastrophe, as I need it for Monday.

Moreover, my wife’s Motorola cell phone (with the Orange subscription) was not recharging anymore, either.

In distress, we head out on Saturday (what were we thinking) to the electronics store of the village. I laid out the computer problem. The lady (about 60 years old) looked at me.

“Computers? No, never been able to get to grips with them,” she says.

“Oh well,” I continue. “I have also a problem with the telephone.”

Her posture snaps back from defeat back to victory.

“Then,” I continue, “here is my mobile and the problem is that it is not recharging any more…”

The lady’s confidence deflates. “Ah, no, not big on mobiles either.”

My stress level rises a tad…

Afterwards, we drive to visit the touristy town of Collonges-la-Rouge (blessed with a rare sighting of the sun – a beautiful surprise for this rotten August). En route, we improvise a plan B, and make a pit stop in the town of Brive – the land of Rugby – to try to fix our technological woes.

Arriving right before midday, I visit the singular computer store, where I discover the disadvantages of using a Dell. The spare parts are available only on the Dell.com website. Screwed (at least for the weekend).

Challenge #2, fixing the cell phone. We find the Orange store of Brive. But, the relaxing nature of the countryside means that the stores are closed between midday and 2pm. We move fluidly on to the Plan C.

For lunch, we score a table (on the porch) at Le Corrèze, a busy restaurant in the center of Brive. Bad sign, we spend 20 minutes just to place our order; and the whole meal takes 2 hours (trying the patience of the children).

For entertainment, we have a waiter who acknowledges that he doesn’t like to answer more than any one question. Also, in the street in front of us, there is a growing procession of cars waiting, without honking, for a BUT (name of the company) truck to finish its delivery. The driver re-appears some 15 minutes later and makes no sign to thank the waiting cars. It is clear that in this part of the country, people have a different relationship with time. That said, I only have positive things to say about the quality of food served at Le Corrèze (excellent duck confit), all at a very reasonable price (40E for the 4 of us).

The good news at this point? The shops – at least the one which interested me the most, the Orange store – had reopened by the time we finally got up from the table.

But, alas, we were reserved one last glum experience. The Service Department was, miraculously, open. According to the very nice Claire, the solution was to call the Customer Service Dept (CS) — even on Saturday, the CS was open she assured us. And, with great fanfare, Claire suggested that there would be a new telephone delivered to our premises in Eymoutiers within 48 hours. Wow.

In spite of the growing euphoria engendered by the hope that great service still exists, the Orange Customer Service brought to us crashing back to reality. We had to call Motorola as they were, in fact, the responsible ones in this particular case. Of course, Motorola’s Customer Service department wasn’t available on Saturday. Therefore, we were 0 for 2 still.

Ah, the relaxation of countryside living. The delicious pleasures of nothing to do. Nothing that can be done either.

(English version of a post written in French on MinterDial.fr)