This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
back from CR
I'm officially back from the Czech Republic. BTW, we no longer have "Czechoslovakia". That went away in 1993 as the two halves split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in something known as the Velvet Divorce. Be prepared for coctail party fodder by reading up on what's happened to all your favorite former Eastern Bloc nations. I do have, like a good "bad blogger", several parting thoughts on my recent travels, which I will post in the next few days.
The world speaks English, at least in the big cities. This, in my opinion, becomes a double-edged sword for Americans. Traveling is convenient. However, this also encourages English-only speakers to NOT learn the local language (why is this bad?....).
A more subtle danger for Americans is that we may actually believe that the rest of the world speaks "American English". Consider the following true-life event that occured the other night in Prague. Some colleagues and I went our for dinner. We ordered a cab for the trip home. The four of us get in, and tell the driver our destination: Intercontinental Hotel. The driver remains silent; the cab doesn't move. One of the guys says, "look, you have to say it like this: 'ho-tel-in-ter-con-ti-nen-tal". The difference? Without even knowing it, what we 1st said came out like "in-ner-con-nin-nen-nal". Talk about sloppy. We had all spent too much time in Texas. On a somewhat related note, why is Bon Jovi so much more loved outside the US than in the US? I guess 100,000,000 fans can't be wrong.
My itinerary called for traveling through the UK, Gatwick airport, south of London. The flight from Houston was to arrive 7AM and the flight to Prague was NOT until 5PM. Here were my options:
Wander around the duty-free stores for 10 hours.
Go into London.
After building a decision matrix, I decided to go into London for the day. I was already familiar with the Gatwick Express, an easy 30-minute non-stop train ride into Victoria Station. As a bonus, the train ride also takes you by Battersea Power Station which is:
I had made a decision that the ONE THING I would do in London was to check out the Tate Modern. Anything in addition to that would be bonus. It's interesting to note that the building was also a power station at one time, designed by the same guy that did the "PinkFloyd" one. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
Question for anyone reading this: If you had 10 hours in London, what would you do?
So I'm on my trip and I'll try to post interesting blog-like entries about my trip. I am, unfortunately, a very bad blogger. Were I a real blogger, I would have made a few "pre-trip" entries. I would have brought a decent digital camera and actaully take pictures and upload the pictures onto the blog.
In fact, I've taken up most of this entry with excuses. The only link I provide is for the conference. (Anyone interested in underground gas storage?)
We're looking at moving in the next few months to a year. That means we have the joy of looking for houses and putting up our own house for sale. That means we're likely to deal with realtors.
Now, if you are a realtor, or have a realtor in the family, do not be offended. There are many nice, hard-working realtors out there who do a good job. The world will still need realtors, at least in the near future.
There are, however, times when we civilians feel rather helpless when confronted by the professional realtor. They make us think that their secret ability to do whatever they do is worth the 6% of the price of the house. With their well-polished manner, market knowledge, and access to "stuff", we come to believe that they hold the keys to our future and success.
Well... time's are-a-changing. Thanks to geeky folks like you and thanks to our employers who make it possible to surf the web during work, many of us are starting to see (and demand) that we have direct access to the secret info that the realtor has. The Justice Department thinks so. Fresh off the heels of dealing with Microsoft and the mafia, they are going after the stronghold of the MLS (the secret info that keeps realtors in power).
The problem lies with what's often called the princial-agent problem. You hire someone, but that person does NOT have exactly the same goals that you do. And you can't seem to get your hired hand to actually act in your best interest. For example, you might not mind waiting 4 months to sell your house to get a better price. The realtor will almost always want you to lower your price for a quick sale. For you, a $20K difference is worth waiting 4 months. For the agent, the difference in their cut is only a few hundred bucks. They'd rather sell your house quick, and move on.
Not sure how the DoJ piece will play out. It's likely some sort of compromise will be reached. This is good news... for the consumers who want to take a more active role, we will likely see more choices, lower selling costs, etc. If you want (or need) the realtor to take care of a lot of stuff, maybe it's worth 6% to you.
I've played in a lots of bands. Here are some of the names (in somewhat chronological order):
Theory of Sax Blue Kiss Catch-23 Mirror Image Po and Co Pieces of Eight Pennywhistle The Hop-Ons Bee Stung Lips Fouth Wind The Martin Luthers Less Than Seven
What's with the numbers? Dunno. If you've ever tried to come up with a "band name", you know how much of a black hole that can be. Two of the band names deserve a quick "how did you end up with THAT name" stories.
Bee Stung Lips, which seems to have a life after we've stopped playing, was the renamed Hop-Ons. Boy, we're glad of that fateful day at Pizarria Unos (now some sushi place). We were SO BAD at coming up with band names, we decided to send it out for a market study. A list was created with the help of the waitress, bus boys, and other patrons. We credit our friend the bartender for including Bee Stung Lips on the list. The list went from 50, to 20, to 3, then a winner was selected.
An alternate version of the story has us sitting at a bar and the bartender going through his bar book alphabetically until Eric Garland passed out somewhere along the B's.
Less Than Seven is a Christian-influenced band, so many people venture a guess behind the enigmatic name. OK, here's the real story. A group of folks go to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. The bill comes back, and someone does the math. "It's about seven bucks a piece." The bill is reviewed by a college student on a budget. "No, no, no... It's less than seven, less than seven." Yes, the band was named after the price of the all-day buffet at Lucky Hunan.
1. Open your mp3 player application. 2. Select the "shuffle" feature. "Shuffle" your selection. 3. Log the 1st 10 songs (artist/album) in the response to this post. 4. Do NOT skip over that embarrassing song that came up. You MUST list the 1st 10 songs. Only exception is if you have an artist or album that is repeated. 5. Log your 10 songs in your own blog and encourage others to play this game.
My list tonight:
1. Losers (First Try) / The Cardigans / The Other Side Of The Moon 2. Dancin' / 8½ Souvenirs / Twisted Desire 3. Hollywood / Los Lonely Boys / Los Lonely Boys 4. It's Only Love / The Beatles / Anthology 2 (Disc 1) 5. Sympathetic Character / Alanis Morissette / Supposed Former Infactuation Junkie 6. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing / Vince Gill & Gladys Knight / Rhythm Country & Blues 7. Down Under / Men At Work / Brazil 8. Christmas Time is Here / Diana Krall / Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 9. Travelin' Light / Robert Earl Keen / Walking Distance 10. Mercenary Girl / Fastball / Keep Your Wig On
Hmmm... a few artists appearing in this shuffle made the last shuffle: Diana Krall, Men At Work, The Beatles, 8½ Souvenirs, Fastball. Also, I seem to have a lot Texas musicians. Both lists had 4 -- can you guess which ones?